A muse on the little ways we can make a difference.
Following the international celebration of Earth Day, April 22nd, let’s ponder what that means as individuals here in Delaware, and what we can do to truly make noise and a difference – just with little things.
We kindheartedly recycle what we can, pay attention to Styrofoam to-go containers (hint: it’s not nerdy anymore to bring your Bento Box to dinner out with neighbors), and start using metal straws instead of the plastic ones that have a horrible reputation well-deserved. They clog waterways, suffocate unassuming wildlife that mistakes it as food, and even upends ocean ecosystems.
Our beloved sea turtles, for example are gravely affected by consumption of plastics, and its toxic offspring, “microplastics.”
My husband and I, admittedly for convenience are huge, occasional drive-through McDonalds breakfast fans, not for the quality, but usually because we are in a hurry to visit all of these new Delaware sites where I drag him. The dog rides along and is a favorite guest of the drive-through, cheering those very hard-working staff with her funny face.
But he always makes a statement in the drive-through with an adamant, “No straws!” And then we drink our orange juice from plastic cups, thinking we are making a difference by drinking our juice through metal straws. It’s ironic and amusing to me, but when I began to ponder what such simple gestures can make, I’m intrigued by the statistics. (I recycle the cups, by the way.)
The statistics I uncovered were astounding. Environmental groups estimate that every single American uses an “average” of 1.6 plastic straws a day! Think about that the next time you order a glass of water on a hot Delaware beach day. Yikes. Good thing, though: most restaurants are only giving straws upon request.
In our fragile coastal Delaware, such habits unfortunately translate into useless waste and, more importantly, significant damage to our waterways, waterfowl and the water quality of our many estuaries – the signature land/seascape we all desire to protect.
Reducing single-use containers, utensils and throwaway plastic bags in our state is the mission of Plastic Free Delaware, and it makes no bones about how individuals, even children not yet cognizant of the contaminated earth they are inheriting can contribute to a healthier environment. But through these PR initiatives and education, changes are happening, and you can assist.
Delaware State Parks department, for example has instructions – laws, actually, for “Carry In, Carry Out”, a stronghold effort to teach residents and tourists alike that they are entirely responsible for how they handle their consumption and resulting waste (bottles, plastic bags, potato chips, etc.). Look around: there are no trash cans, and for that reason. Birds and other wildlife would equally be affected by humans’ throwaways. It disrupts natural environmental order.
By now you are aware that Delaware has eliminated most plastic bags at grocery stores and restaurants, although there are exceptions allotted to small businesses and takeout, carryout situations.
Ptery Iris, an expert on Delaware’s native and invasive plants dedicates and volunteers her time to inform participants on the University of Delaware’s Osher Lifeling Learning Institute’s platform. She emphasizes the importance of these simple steps we can all take to help wildlife.
Don’t be shy about bringing your Bento box with you next time you go out and receive a too-generous portion. Put those reusable grocery bags in your trunk religiously after using them so that you won’t forget them – ever. Make housecleaning solutions such as vinegar, water and a small drop of bleach instead of purchasing toxic chemicals that will eventually affect your groundwater and our ocean’s water,
Educate yourself on Delaware’s recycling rules and opportunities for everything from those annoying Styrofoam peanuts to electronic batteries.
It will make you proud of our coastal privileges and views, while knowing your small contribution is actually global.
by Bridget Fitzpatrick