Earth Day 2017: You can help the planet by doing this one little thing

Essaouira sandy beach at sunrise with abandoned bottle casting long shadows. Reflections in shallow
Activists urge us to avoid single-use plastics.
(Rosmarie Wirz / Getty Images)

Want to make a difference this Earth Day? Just do your best to cut down on the “single-use plastics” in your life.

That’s a clunky term the experts use for all the disposable plastics that we use and discard every day, such as bags, water bottles, coffee cups and food containers. These plastics clog up landfills and pollute our oceans. Even when they break down, they can end up in our food supply, and, most alarmingly of all, show up in our bodies. Critics say the plastics act as hormone disrupters, and have been blamed for triggering early puberty in children.

“It’s difficult to do,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network, which started the annual Earth Day movement 47 years ago. But cutting back will have an effect, she said.

Currently, about 350 million tons of plastic are produced each year around the world, but only about 10% is properly recycled and reused, according to the network.


So just start by looking for ways to avoid disposable plastics. Cloth bags, aluminum or glass water bottles and commuter coffee mugs are three smart ways to go. And look for ways to reuse other plastics. (The plastic liner in your bathroom and office waste bins might be good for a few reuses, for example, if you dump the contents in your main trash bag before hauling it to the curb.)

It’s a cliche, Rogers said, “but every little bit really does add up.”

What’s your favorite way to lessen your reliance on disposable plastics? Share your ideas for possible inclusion in an upcoming Saturday section. Email me at