Can You Avoid Plastic Pollution In A Pandemic?

reusable washable shopping bags

Last week, my husband unloaded eight paper shopping bags filled with plastic-wrapped food. After decades working on sustainability – and the last four years focused on single-use plastic, including a TEDx talk last year and another in 2017 – the sight made me physically ill. This is the third week of shelter in place for most of the country, including Los Angeles, where I live. And while most of us spent the time battling alternating bouts of terror and boredom, the plastics industry was in attack mode. As the New York Times described, “The plastic bag industry, battered by a wave of bans nationwide, is using the coronavirus crisis to try to block laws prohibiting single-use plastic.”

Coronawashing. That’s a new one.

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Mommy Greenest TED Talk, Too

When I put Mommy Greenest on pause in 2017 to focus on consulting with companies and non-profits, I had no idea I would miss blogging so much. Now that I’m entering the next chapter of motherhood — the one where my kids go off to college and I wonder what the hell happened — I need a place to write about it, and Facebook doesn’t count. 

In the last few years, my work promoting sustainability — and rallying against plastic pollution — has become more prominent, especially after two TEDx talks. I remember the first time I spoke publicly, when I addressed a group of supporters as Executive Director of Healthy Child Healthy World, and my legs were shaking so badly that I worried the audience would see the podium trembling. It wasn’t that I was afraid of speaking, but the subject matter was too important to screw up: I used the analogy of the canary in a coal mine to describe how the increase in children’s illnesses should alert us to the fact that toxic chemicals in the environment threaten us all.

I felt the same way about my 2017 TEDx talk. By that point, I had done many speaking engagements — one in front of 1,200 people! — but this was the first time that the full 18-minute talk had to be memorized. My idea worth sharing was, “Can one straw change the world?” Just like that first time at the podium, my overwhelming fear was that I would misspeak a statistic or inadvertently encourage viewers to misinterpret the theme.

As I shared in last year’s TEDxSantaBarbara, that’s exactly what happened.

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Plastic: 4 Facts You Should Know

seahorse plastic earbud

photo: National Geographic

Have you heard the stats on plastic? One million plastic bags used every minute around the globe. Three million water bottles used every hour in the United States. Five million straws used every day in America. Plastic production increased 2,000 percent from 1964 to 2014. More than 300 million tons of new plastic produced annually and less than 10% recycled.

Plastic overconsumption is affecting our environment—and our health. Reports show that eight million tons go into the ocean each year (the equivalent of a garbage truck full every minute) and that if we don’t do something about it, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

In the last two years that I’ve spent focused on this issue, I’ve come to understand the bigger picture about plastic pollution—and what we can do about it. If you care about climate change, your health or animal welfare, you need to know these four facts about plastic. [Read more…]

Watch My TEDx Talk!

I feel so honored to have been chosen by TEDxSantaBarbara to share my vision of how one straw can change the world. What are you doing to fight plastic pollution? I’d love to hear about it. Thanks!

More Plastic in Oceans Than Fish?

I was startled when I read this prediction: By 2050, we’ll have more plastic in oceans than fish. Today, by weight we have about 20% plastic in oceans, as compared to fish, which is still a startling statistic. But a new report shows that we may have passed the tipping point. Why–and what can you do? Read on! [Read more…]

MN Takes Silver with #Microbead Ban

Yesterday, Minnesota announced a ban on plastic microbeads, nearly a year after Illinois became the first state to ban them. With New York’s Microbead-Free Waters Act pending, more states are set to follow suit, as lawmakers act on the microbead pollution problem.
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Top 10 Recycling FAQs Answered

Girl drinking soda through a red strawI am not great about remembering my reusable water bottle. Unless I’m going on a picnic, I tend to forget it in the car whenever I resort to plastic bottles or cups, I make sure to recycle them—even if it means carting them home in my purse.

You might think I’m crazy, but the truth is nearly 80% of plastic water bottles aren’t recycled, and plastic makes up 80% of the trash that pollutes our oceans. Hopefully the fact that I just signed Food & Water Watch’s Take Back the Tap pledge to pack reusable water bottles this summer will keep me in line. (Want to join me? Sign here!)

But what about the rest of the plastic? Even the most seasoned treehugger can be stumped by a straw. Does it go in the blue bin or the black? If I’m recycling, do I need to wash it first? Here are easy answers to some frequently asked questions. [Read more…]

What Are Phthalates? Nix Them in 3 Easy Steps

rubber duckCan a rubber ducky make your kids fat? A 2012 study found a connection between a chemical found in PVC and kids’ obesity: Children with the highest level of the common phthalate di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) in their blood were nearly five times as likely to be obese as children with the lowest levels.

But what are phthalates? These chemicals, also known as plasticizers, are used to soften plastic. (Want to know why that your old ball gets brittle? That’s because phthalates have leached out of it.) They also serve to help personal care products penetrate the skin, as well as preserve synthetic fragrances. [Read more…]