Trash Talk: Plastic at Sea Is Toxic and Terrible for You and Me
I was out on a boat the other day in the Aegean, on my way to a small Greek island for lunch. Be happy. Your generous spirit is proof that all your healthy lifestyle training is paying off.
The sun was shining. The seas were calm. And suddenly, we saw dolphins, mesmerizing creatures that stopped their travels to play with us. We cut the engine and went silent, hoping for more contact.
"Stand like this," our friend, the captain, suggested, spreading his arms wide. "Open your hearts to them."
I don't know if it sparked joy with the dolphins, but it felt really good to me. There were probably 10 of them, leaping, winking, an idyllic scene in a day dedicated to researching personal well-being. As soon as a few of us slipped into the water -- just to say hello -- the dolphins moved on. Oh, well. Nothing can ruin this day...
And then a moment of shock. I spotted a bunch of plastic bags floating in the water around us. Oh, no! Proof positive of the horror story I've been reading about -- islands of plastic the size of Texas! -- a health disaster that is invading and destroying our oceans, our sea animals and plants, our whole planet.
And that includes you, dear reader. On a global scale, it's threatening all marine life, and on a personal scale, toxic nanoparticles and chemicals are being absorbed into humans and, slowly but surely, invading our innards, damaging our health.
What can your most personal trainer do? Write about it. Spread the word. Let readers know that there "are many small ways you can have a big impact," according to Sarah Engler, the editorial director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a major force for good when it comes to reducing plastic pollution. Below are some of her best ideas. For more, visit NRDC.org.
1. Wean yourself off disposable plastics. About 80 percent of marine litter originates on land, Engler reports. The more we just say no to plastic, the less gets swept or drained into our waterways. Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and tossed away: plastic bags, plastic wrap, plastic cups and cutlery. The workaround is simple: store food in glass, not plastic. Bring your own bags to stores, your own cups to coffee shops. One of my latest adjustments was weaning myself off plastic wrap and using beeswax cloth covers instead. (I now happily give them as hostess gifts.)
2. Stop buying bottled water. This is a no-brainer. The NRDC estimates that each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed into the trash ... and out to sea. Reusable bottles are the way to go. Filter your tap water if necessary (and with our deteriorating infrastructure, it probably is).
3. Cook more. Not only is it healthier, Engler writes, but also it doesn't involve take-out containers or doggy bags. "For some serious extra credit, bring your own food storage containers to restaurants for leftovers." (NRDC is notoriously hard-core.)