Stop Being a Garbage Person. Break Up With Plastic.

Nebo’s always been a bit green, but this year we went full-on, leafy-AF, forest green. With the help of Georgia Tech students, we launched an environmental impact study that gave us tons of insights about when and where we waste. We’re really serious about lowering our carbon footprint. And that’s why in 2018, we pledge to cut the amount of energy, emissions and waste we produce by 10 percent.

To meet this goal, we’ve added compost bins to cut our solid waste, and we’re pretty much a paper-free office. For real, Mr. Epson and Mrs. HP hardly ever run. We recycle everything we can and we donate our electronics. Maybe it’s because we’re led by two veg-heads and a half-hipster who think they can "change the world" (sorry Brian, Adam and Kimm). Either way, many of us live close to the office and we drive hybrids and fuel-efficient compacts to get here.

Making Plastic Passe

We also know that big changes happen on a local level, so this World Environment Day, we’re taking the challenge to “Beat Plastic Pollution” seriously. Our office uses metal cutlery, compostable utensils and glass plates. (I would know, I accidentally smashed one on the floor last week.) We’ve even created a plastic bag recycling program and we bought paper straws for those who insist on sipping from tiny tubes.

I know what you’re thinking. “Why all the plastic hate? Plastic is the best! It keeps our food fresh, carries things, holds stuff, looks pretty...” And yes, in the better-living-through-science age that also gave us fast food and exurbs, plastic seemed like a miracle material.

It was cheap, flexible and moldable — suited for thousands of uses, from Tupperware to Barbie-doll boxes to candy wrappers. But plastic also comes from petroleum — the same fossil fuel responsible for rising temperatures and meteoric carbon footprints.

And plastic doesn’t break down. Just ask the dinosaurs. They peaced out 65 million years ago and we’re still burning their organic matter as fuel! Since plastic was invented in the 1890s, almost all the plastic ever created is still in existence. We’re talking 8.3 billion tons. That’s the size of 25,000 Empire State buildings, 80 million blue whales or 1 billion elephants.

Unfortunately, lots of this nondisposable junk is swirling around in ocean gyres. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now twice the size of Texas. And though plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it photodegrades. The sun breaks plastic up into smaller and smaller bits. This microplastic is impossible to filter. It enters the digestive systems of countless sea creatures and floods the oceans with toxic chemicals.

Keep it in the Car

Plastic is seriously convenient, but like fast food and other time-is-money inventions, this convenience is built on an invisible ocean of waste. The average plastic bag is used for a comically brief five to 20 minutes.

Now I’m by no means an eco-hero, but I try to not be a garbage person. I drive my Prius less than 10 miles a day. I live in a small home stacked on top of other homes. I recycle everything I can. But this plastic bag thing was a thorn in my side.

About a year ago I decided to break up with plastic bags. I bought a basket for my trunk and filled it with my stash of reusable cloth bags. Before I entered a store, I would pop my trunk and grab a few totes. Let’s be honest though. I forgot — a lot. This led me to buy more cloth bags in-store because — themes! Cute monsters for Halloween, bunnies for Easter… I could go on and on.

But after a while, the trunk-bag-groceries habit became pretty solid. I’ve even become a pro at estimating how many bags I’ll need per trip. And all the tragedies that used to befall me when I used plastic bags never happen with cloth bags. No more slashed sides and salsa on the sidewalk. No more spilled milk. No more red rings around my fingers from plastic handles. Reusable cloth bags are sturdier, more durable, more reliable, more comfortable and better for the environment. And they fit more stuff. It’s like a win, win, win, win, win.

And that little bin under my sink that used to hold my stash of plastic bags? It’s empty! Cloth bags have become a habit and I’m never going back.

Ending an Ocean of Waste

Literally, eons of human history hummed by without so much as a plastic shopping bag, a plastic water bottle or a damn straw. Because it turns out the ancients knew better. We have actual mouths people. We don’t have to drink through wasteful, pinky-sized pipes.

None of us deserve a Nobel Prize for our BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) efforts, but I’ve already left hundreds of plastic bags on the rack, and that feels pretty darn good. If nothing else, curb your addiction because plastic is passe. It’s the new smoking — the new SuperSize Me. And that feeling of moral superiority you get when you whip out your cloth bags at the checkout line is priceless. (It doubles if you use cloth bags AND buy spinach).

Being environmentally conscious isn’t hard. It’s all about those little things. Like picking out the gouda with the least amount of packaging. Carrying your own trendy water bottle. Choosing fruit that’s not encased in plastic. Covering your dishes with washable bowl covers instead of plastic wrap.

These things matter to that great big garbage patch in the sea. They matter to the whales and the sea turtles and the otters and the not-so-cute animals like anglerfish, goblin sharks and red-lipped batfish. (Trust me, look them up.) And they matter to you and me, because everything in the ocean eventually washes up on shore. 

That’s why Nebo, and many of our employees, are just saying no to single-use plastic. Because “if you can’t reuse it, refuse it.” And that’s why we’re gifting all of our employees who take the Plastic Pledge with reusable, Nebo-themed cloth bags. We’re trying to save the ocean, one piece of plastic at a time. Because the world — and every plastic bag in it — is a terrible thing to waste.

Written by Laura Newsome on June 7, 2018


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Written by
Laura Newsome