What’s the Big Deal about Plastic Straws?

straws colorful, Photo by Bilderjet on Pixabay
Photo by Bilderjet on Pixabay

There was an article this past Sunday in the Chattanooga Times Free Press about a coalition of aquariums across the United States that are striving to reduce the use of plastic straws. The coalition is called the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) and is a collaboration of 22 public aquariums in 17 states, including the Tennessee Aquarium. They are “committed to advancing conservation of the world’s ocean, lakes, and rivers through consumer engagement, business leadership and policy changes.”

Aquariums are awesome and full of wonder and thousands of children go through them daily. So they are poised to be leaders in positive change, and this is a great example of that! One of the things they’re doing is asking restaurants and others in the hospitality industry to reduce the use of straws by only giving them out upon request, instead of automatically. They’re also asking individuals like you to sign this pledge to stop using plastic straws.

My son in awe at the Tennessee Aquarium when he was just 2 and a half. Photo by me.
My son in awe at the Tennessee Aquarium when he was just 2 and a half. Photo by me.

“Partnership companies have eliminated more than 5 millions straws per year,” the article says. But in the United States alone, we are using 500 million disposable plastic straws per dayThe article refers back to a recent study about microplastic pollution in the Tennessee River, which I’ll write about in a future post. The article also mentioned that the Tennessee Aquarium has switched to recyclable paper straws.

But the article failed to explain why plastic straws are such a problem, and here’s why I think that. They posted a poll through the online version of the newspaper, asking “Do you thinking banning plastic straws is helpful?” The results: Yes 49%, No 51%. I was so SAD to see such results. After all the recent media about disposable plastic straws, people still don’t understand the ramifications of single-use disposable plastic?

Well, I seek to change that and help people understand. Let’s be the change together!

Colored plastic straws sorted by color. Image by Marjon Besteman-Horn from Pixabay
Image by Marjon Besteman-Horn from Pixabay

So what’s wrong with plastic straws?

First, the sheer amount of them! Just like with all single-use disposable plastic products, it’s the over-consumption and the over-dependency we have on them. Think 500 million straws per day. That’s more than one straw per person per day in the United States. Our consumption has gone way overboard and has created a waste stream that is too large for us to keep up with! Second, they are not recyclable at all.

But I’m not here to judge. And I’m not here to shame you. I’m here to encourage you to START TODAY. Politely refuse those plastic straws – if everyone refuses just one straw per day, we’ll more than cut our usage in half! What if 75% of refused them every day? I’m no mathematician, but that’s a lot of waste that just wouldn’t happen.

“Between 170 and 390 million straws are used per day in the United States.” –Living Without Plastic: More Than 100 Easy Swaps for Home, Travel, Dining, Holidays, and Beyond 

I threw my disposables into the trash/recycling receptacle like I’m supposed to – isn’t that enough? How is it ending up in the rivers and ocean?

I think one of the critical issues with all the media about single-use disposable plastics is that the biggest question is often not answered: How does the plastic end up in the ocean in the first place?

Most people assume that once they’ve placed their disposables into a receptacle, those disposables go to the proper facility. What people don’t know – and I didn’t either until just a couple of years ago – is that that item may not make it to the recycling facility or landfill. And that’s out of our control, so isn’t it impossible to do anything about it?

No. It’s not impossible by any means. The best way to guarantee that your single-use disposable plastics don’t end up in the ocean is…

To just not use them! Refuse them. Find an alternative. Then you do have control. We have the power to be the change.

So back to the question – how is it ending up in the rivers and ocean?

There are so many causes! Spillage from recycling that has been transported across the ocean for years to Asia; plastic products shipped across the ocean to the U.S. have spilled from ships; the fishing industry; trash and litter that gets blown or washed into water streams such as rivers, that then feed into the ocean; illegal dumping; people leaving trash on beaches, waterways, and from personal watercraft; microbeads washing down drains; and debris from natural disasters and floods. Plastic bags are picked up by the wind and blown into waterways that flow into the ocean.

Single use disposable plastic straw found buried in the sand, Hilton Head Island, October 2018. Photo by me.
Single-use disposable plastic straw found buried in the sand, Hilton Head Island, October 2018. Photo by me.

Have you noticed plastic straws have been in the media lately?

Our family hasn’t used plastic straws since before it was the trend, and I’m happy to see others coming on board. We mostly just don’t use straws but we do carry a reusable stainless steel straw with us for when we need it.

If you Google “plastic straws” you will get an array of news stories either supporting the end of plastic straws or arguing against (since it is only one small part of the greater problem of single-use disposable plastics). If you Google “plastic straws ban” there are even more articles about cities and states that are either implementing or working on a legislative plastic straw ban. I’m not going to summarize either of those searches here because, frankly, it would take me several posts to write such a summary. However, I encourage you to read up on it – after you finish reading my post first, that is. The following meme will make a lot more sense, too.

Forest Gump on straws, I couldn't stop giggling at this, so I'm reposting it here.
I couldn’t stop giggling at this, so I’m reposting it here.

I believe that many of these things cannot be legislated solely, that there must be a drive that is tied to economics. Disclaimer: I am not an economist. But here’s what I think: If consumers are asking businesses they patronize to stop using certain items, such as single-use disposable plastics, the consumer also has the power to not patronize that business. If consumers refuse to spend money at a business because that business does not do or provide what consumers want, then that business will be forced to change if they want to maintain profitability.

Starbucks is one company that is striving to end use of plastic straws by 2020. Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash
Starbucks is one company that is striving to end the use of plastic straws by 2020. Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

Ok, so what steps can I take?

First, let’s support the Aquarium Conservation Partnership. You can do this by signing the pledge: https://pledge.ourhands.org/.

Second, refuse. Just say no thank you. To all single-use disposable plastics. Because recycling is not the answer. Only about 9% of our plastics get recycled. That means 91% is not recycled!

Third, if you must have something commonly produced as a single-use disposable plastic, like a straw, please buy a reusable one. Paper disposables and supposedly biodegradable straws are a better option, but it’s still going to be thrown away after one use. Try one of these (these are affiliate links): stainless steel straw; glass straw; or a bamboo straw.

Fourth, tell others! Tell your friends, your co-workers, your favorite restaurant, the local coffee shop, your local school. So many people to tell!

Fifth, participate in clean-up efforts. Join the Litterati. Maybe you’ll keep some of the trash you pick up from entering the ocean.

Last, stop supporting businesses that just won’t get on board. Go somewhere else.

Final Thoughts

I think that we all, collectively, have the power to create change just by modeling. Now I don’t mean on the runway – think in the psychological sense, or if you’re a parent – you want to model the best behavior. Refuse that straw. Be polite, of course. But just say no. If everyone starts refusing straws, businesses won’t have the need to order as many. Then the plastic straw manufacturers will have to produce less. And then less will end up in the landfill, in nature, and in the oceans. It will be a utopia! Ok, maybe not, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. And let’s all sign the pledge to refuse straws when we go anywhere – to the coffee shop, restaurant, or movie theater.

Be the change! And as always, thanks for reading.

This post contains affiliate links. Proceeds help me pay for the cost of running the blog.

Breaking Up With Dawn

Last updated on August 13, 2020.

Dawn soap
Dawn dishwashing liquid soap

I’ve used Dawn dishwashing detergent my entire adult life. It seemed to work better than every other brand I  tried. The concentrated version seemed to go a lot further than other brands, therefore giving me my money’s worth. Even after I started reducing the number of products in plastic packaging that I buy, I kept buying Dawn. I use it not only to wash dishes, but I also use it in my Easy DIY all-purpose cleaner.

And, I was supporting clean up efforts and saving wildlife after oil spills, right?

I believed that Dawn products were helping clean and save wildlife after oil spills. And I think they do in some cases, as well as raise money to donate toward rescue efforts. According to this 2010 article in the Washington Post, Dawn is legitimately used by the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). “After a 1971 oil spill, the California-based nonprofit group began experimenting with products including paint thinner and nail polish remover to find the least traumatizing method for cleaning oiled animals.” So in 1978, the IBRRC started a relationship with Procter and Gamble, the makers of Dawn. From the IBRRC’s blog: “Through trial, error, and our tenacity to find a solution, we discovered that Procter and Gamble’s Dawn dish soap, was the golden ticket! It was inexpensive, effective, readily available, and Procter and Gamble was excited to learn about this somewhat unusual use of their product.”

Dawn’s advertisements all pull at our heartstrings. One moved me to tears, which I originally shared in this post. The URL for that specific video has changed frequently, so I decided to just let you search “dawn oil spill commercial” on youtube.com where you’ll find many of these commercials.

Oil covered bird. Photo by Mike Shooter on Shutterstock.
Oil covered bird. Photo by Mike Shooter on Shutterstock.

Procter & Gamble heavily markets this campaign now toward conscientious consumers. I’m not saying this is wrong as it’s always awesome to be part of the greater good! But it is good marketing and it’s the main reason I’ve used Dawn for so long.

But Dawn is supposedly petroleum-based – so does that mean they’re part of the problem? 

NPR did a segment on this very issue after the BP oil spill disaster in 2010, looking at the story in detail and interviewing people from both sides. The overall conclusion was that yes, Dawn does help remove crude oil from the animals. But this is because the grease-cutting part of the solution is made from petroleum, according to Procter & Gamble, who was interviewed for the segment. There are alternatives to using petroleum products but need testing. Meanwhile, rescuers and veterinarians are sticking with what works – because, in the end, they are trying to save the animals’ lives. It’s a very good segment, please check it out.

Yet others find the product to be hypocritical. “Because Dawn is a petroleum-based soap, critics are concerned that the bird rescue groups are fighting oil with oil,” according to the Washington Post article. Shea Gunther from mnn.com wrote his opinion: “Every bottle of Dawn used to clean a bird actually adds to our nation’s demand for oil. Not only are we using an oil-based product to clean oiled birds, but we’re increasing the incentives for companies to drill for more oil, making it more likely that there will be another spill. Which, incidentally, will be great for Dawn’s marketing. It’s one big beautifully incestuous circle.” Well said, but I can understand the arguments from both sides. I support any effort that saves wildlife but I want to decrease the demand for petroleum!

oil rig, Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash
Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

What about animal testing?

I found an online post about Dawn from a site that questioned Procter & Gamble’s animal testing practices. The author wrote that Dawn’s commercials for saving wildlife were not footage of actual wildlife and that it was a “simulated demonstration.” I went back and watched the same commercial above. Sure enough, that caption with “no oil used,” does briefly appear. The author indicated that they verified this with the American Humane Association. “They intentionally covered at least three animals with tempera paint and corn syrup to simulate oil, just so they could wash them on camera.” Ugh, seriously?

That post concluded that the company does animal testing sometimes when required by law and should be boycotted. I happen to agree but conversely, the company has indicated that it is advocating for ending the legal requirement of testing on its website.  But if you’re animal rights person and want to be plastic free and toxic free, here’s a list of Procter & Gamble brands so you’ll know which ones to avoid.

rabbit, Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash
Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

What about the ingredients in Dawn?

I decided to check into the ingredients of Dawn through the Environmental Working Group, or EWG. Dawn Ultra Concentrated Dishwashing Liquid (Original), the very product I normally buy, received a D rating (on A-D and F grading scale). One of the main concerns was the lack of ingredient disclosure. There are not many laws in the United States regarding chemicals in household ingredients and products. Procter & Gamble is not required to tell us what is exactly in their product. Many companies like to keep their ingredients and formula a secret, to prevent others from copying. EWG’s Top Scoring Factors for this Dawn product were “Poor disclosure; May contain ingredients with potential for acute aquatic toxicity; respiratory effects; nervous system effects.”

Procter & Gamble claim to be using biodegradable surfactants in Dawn and claim to be trying to improve and reduce packaging. They have additional information posted about their sustainability efforts on their website.

Plastic-free dishwashing?

Dawn dish washing soap has been one of my hold-over’s from going plastic free that I haven’t been able to kick yet. Then this weekend, I ran out. I used to buy the economy size bottles, tricking myself into believing that buying a larger plastic bottle was better than lots of little bottles. But I was unable to find that size again at my regular grocery store. And short of running around to Target or Walmart or searching online, I decided maybe this was a good opportunity to try something different. Here were my options:

Seventh Generation dish soap. Photo by me.
Seventh Generation dish soap. Photo by me.

Ugh! My only choices were plastic, plastic, and more plastic. However, this store also carries Seventh Generation brand dish soap. If you’re not familiar with this brand, they use ingredients they believe to be safe and healthy as well as using post-consumer recycled packaging – and I love that! This bottle that I purchased is a plastic bottle marked “100% recycled plastic.” They also list all of their ingredients on the back of the package. Last, Seventh Generation does not test on animals.

Unfortunately, before using this product at home, I checked the EWG’s site to see if they’d tested it. Sadly, it only received a C rating, meaning “some potential for hazards to health or the environment. At least some ingredient disclosure.” While they found their ingredient disclosure good, they found that this dish soap has ingredients that have some concerns, mostly aquatic toxicity, respiratory effects, and skin irritations. Seventh Generation does follow the regulations for the EPA Safer Choice certification, but EWG still found concerns.

I tried it anyway since I’d already purchased it. It cleans great and I like the smell! And it is not tested on animals; it comes in 100% recycled plastic; and it has much safer ingredients than most of the brands on the shelves of most stores.

washing a fork, Photo by Catt Liu on Unsplash
Photo by Catt Liu on Unsplash

What am I going to do next?

Dawn and most other major brands of dishwashing soap are going to have the same issues with plastic packaging, animal testing, and unsafe ingredients. With all of those things combined, I am going to try going plastic-free on dish soap after I use this bottle of Seventh Generation. Because even that 100% recycled bottle has an afterlife. And there is no guarantee that that plastic bottle won’t end up floating in the ocean someday.

I decided to check with an expert on being plastic-free, as well as an expert on zero waste. What would they do? Beth Terry from myplasticfreelife.com says on her blog that you can use bar soap, or even just baking soda! Bea Johnson from zerowastehome.com has a recipe for liquid soap used for both hand and dishwashing in her book. I learned about a company called Fillaree from Kathryn from goingzerowaste.com, which is a subscription plan for dish soap using your own container. Fillaree offers refills in their stores but also by mail! They also use environmentally and human safe ingredients. What a neat company!

I am going to try using bar soap and baking soda next! I’ll update this post once I’ve used all of the Seventh Generation dish soap and try this new alternative.

What about you? Can you try a new solution for washing dishes plastic-free, toxic free, and animal-friendly? Join me in the adventure and be the change. Please share other ideas as well! Thanks for reading!

Update, March 15, 2019: We have been using plastic-free bar soap for a couple of months now to wash dishes. And it’s working good! We just rub the scrub brush and Skoy cloth against the soap and then wash our dishes and pots. I’ve been trying different brands but we have been favoring good old-fashioned Castille bar soap.

I’m also now using baking soda for cleaning pots, especially those that have stains or black areas. I learned this advice from Beth Terry at myplasticfreelife.com, and it does work – look how clean I got this pot!

 

Sea Turtles are Endangered

Sea Turtle swimming in the ocean. Photo by Erin Simmons on Unsplash.
Sea Turtle swimming in the ocean. Photo by Erin Simmons on Unsplash.

Sea turtles are endangered, which is probably not news to you, but the reasons why they are endangered may be new to you. According to a study done by Oceana.org, sea turtles “play an important role in ocean ecosystems by maintaining healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs, providing key habitat for other marine life, helping to balance marine food webs and facilitating nutrient cycling from water to land.” I don’t think I need to preach to you about their importance, but I do want to help people understand what we can do right NOW to help.

Sea turtles have been on the Earth for about 110 million years, and now human activities are to blame for their decline and endangerment. According to seeturtles.org, 6 of 7 sea turtle species are threatened or endangered due to human behaviors and activities. Here is a list of the biggest threats:

  • Entanglement in fishing gear
  • Poaching and illegal trade of eggs, meat, and shells
  • Turtle Shell Trade
  • Coastal development
  • Artificial Light
  • Coastal Armoring
  • Plastic and other marine debris
  • Ocean pollution
  • Global warming

I’d like to delve into each of those a little bit more, to give you a bigger and better picture of what’s going on.

Entanglement and Bycatch

Entanglement is exactly what it sounds like, that is, entanglement in fishing nets and gear. Up to 40% of all animals caught in fisheries are discarded as waste. Bycatch refers to animals that were not the target catch – for example, dolphins getting caught in tuna nets. “Despite ‘Dolphin Safe Tuna’ labeling, approximately 1000 dolphins die as bycatch in the Eastern Tropical Pacific tuna fishery each year,” according to seeturtles.org. The World Wildlife Fund explains that “modern fishing gear, often undetectable by sight and extremely strong, is very efficient at catching the desired fish species—as well as anything else in its path.” Most often the animals die. There are some protected species, such as the dolphins I mentioned, but it is not a perfect system and the whole industry needs to find solutions. The number of turtles dying from these practices is not fully known, but it is estimated in the hundreds of thousands annually! It is a threat to all species of sea turtles.

What can you do? Try to only buy responsibly caught seafood. Inform and encourage your family and friends to purchase seafood only from responsible fisheries.

Poaching and Illegal Trade

In some countries, turtle meat and turtle eggs are a food source; in others, turtle eggs are collected by people for income in order to feed their families. Sometimes during nesting season, hunters will watch for nesting females. Once located, they will wait until the female turtle has finished laying her eggs, then kill her for the meat and take the eggs as well.

What can you do? If you travel somewhere, don’t buy food or products that use turtle, as that supports the practice. Organizations and governments are educating tourists and local inhabitants about the endangered turtles around the world. You can help by supporting the causes that protect and monitor sea turtle nests. You can help by spreading the information and helping to educate others about the problems. Participate in eco-tourism!

Turtle Shell Trade

This relates to poaching and illegal trade but is specific in regards to products made from turtle shells, aka tortoiseshell; and is usually specific to the Hawksbill sea turtles. Citing recent studies, the Sea Turtle Conservancy indicates that “scientists estimate that hawksbill populations have declined by 90 percent during the past 100 years.” This has been outlawed by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) which is an international agreement signed by 173 governments. However, the black market demand for turtle shell is still high.

What can you do? Don’t buy items that might be made from turtle shell or other turtle parts (including skin). Of course, those products likely won’t be labeled “turtle shell” or “hawksbill shell” but if you suspect, just say no and walk away. Unfortunately, the alternative is plastic, which I am trying to eliminate from my life. So be more minimalist and don’t buy either! You’ll remember your trip or vacation without a bunch of souvenirs anyway. Here’s a handy infographic put out by Travel For Wildlife to help you avoid turtle shell products:

How to identify & avoid Hawksbill Turtle Shell infographic

They also made this very informative video, so please share it on social media with your friends and family!

Last, you can sign a pledge with Too Rare To Wear – I signed the pledge today! They, too, have wonderful resources about how to identify real turtle shell vs. fake. Again, maybe just don’t buy either – it’s not worth the risk!

Coastal Development

Coastal development is exactly what it sounds like. “Half of the world’s population lives on or within 100 miles of a coastline and this number will likely increase dramatically in the next decade,” according to seeturtles.org. Human presence deters turtles from nesting where they would normally. Additionally, humans create pollution and waste – whether it’s litter or waste-water runoff, light pollution or danger from vehicles driving on beaches.

What can you do? Whether you’re just vacationing at a beach or residing there, you need to educate yourself about habitats in that locality. First, follow the girl/boy scout rule of “leave it cleaner than you found it.” That means to leave no trace! And pick up after other people too, because it’s the right thing to do. Second, always limit light on beaches (this will allow you to see the stars, too!). Are there conservation efforts ongoing? Are there laws prohibiting certain practices to protect turtles? If so, make sure you follow the laws or best practices. You’ll be making a difference. If you’re going to live coastal, this is even more important – search the internet for where you live so that you can do the right thing, and be the change.

No laws or conservation efforts where you live? How about starting those efforts? You can partner with a local aquarium; lobby city or town council to get signs posted near the beach access points; even host a local seminar at the library and invite residents!

Artificial Light

As mentioned above, artificial light from human presence is a big problem for turtle nests. Sea turtles depend on a dark and quiet beach for nesting. If there is a lot of light, turtles will choose a less optimal nest site, which reduces the chances of the baby sea turtles surviving. Also, hatchlings have an instinct that leads them in the brightest direction which is normally moonlight reflecting off of the ocean. Excess lighting from the nearby buildings and streets draw hatchlings toward land instead, where they will likely die from predators, humans, or even swimming pools.

What can you do? Eliminate light whether you’re a property or homeowner, tourist, or beach walker. Make your property low light, don’t use flashlights or phone lights on the beach, and encourage others to do the same – especially during nesting season!

Here is a video from the Sea Turtle Conservancy about how to eliminate artificial beach lighting:

Coastal Armoring

Beaches are beautiful and the place many people want to be, myself included, someday. Coastal areas are prime real estate and many beaches in the world have been heavily developed. Coastal armoring refers to sea walls and similar structures that protect real estate property, but they are harmful to sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy explains: “Sea walls directly threaten sea turtles by reducing or degrading suitable nesting habitat. They block turtles from reaching the upper portion of the beach, causing turtles to nest in less-than-optimal nesting areas lower on the beach where their nests are more susceptible to wave action and more likely to be covered with water.”

What can you do? If you’re a developer or building a home for yourself, please always first check with local legislation. Many coastal places in the United States already have existing legislation sometimes called Coastal Zone Protection, Dune Protection, or Dune Management. You can search the internet for the area you are residing in or visiting for information. If your area of interest has no protections or current legislation, how about proposing it to the local council or government? Please don’t build anything without first doing careful research – there’s a ton of organizations out there that can advise or point you in the right direction. Do your homework, and the turtles (as well as other wildlife and humans and the environment) will reap the benefits. Be the change.

Plastics and other marine debris

Well, this topic is what my blog is all about: plastics and other human-made waste. Hundreds of thousands of marine animals and fish, as well as over 1 million seabirds, die each year from ocean pollution and ingestion or entanglement in marine debris. This includes turtles. Most plastic waste reaches the ocean via rivers, and up to 80% of this waste comes from landfill-bound trash. How does that happen!?!? I’ll get into that in another post.

Plastic bags are a huge factor when it comes to sea turtles. Why? Because turtles eat plastic bags. They mistake them for jellyfish. Many species of turtles do not have taste buds, in case you’re wondering why they can’t tell by taste. See the videos below. The first one shows you the difference between a jellyfish and a plastic bag floating in the water.

The next video shows you turtles eating a jellyfish, to give you visual context.

What can you do? My number one recommendation for the first thing you should change to make a difference: use reusable bags only, and don’t accept plastic bags from anywhere! Getting rid of plastic bags does and will keep making a big difference on so many fronts, so I can’t stress this enough!

Plastic bag from Walmart lying on the beach. I photographed this bag myself and yes, I did pick it up. At high tide that afternoon, it would've washed into the ocean and potentially harmed a sea turtle.
Plastic bag from Walmart lying on the beach. I photographed this bag myself and yes, I did pick it up. At high tide that afternoon, it would’ve washed into the ocean and potentially harmed a sea turtle.

After plastic bags, start eliminating all plastics from your life, especially single-use disposable plastics. I have a ton of resources and My Plastic Free Life has far more! You can also buy plastic-free products from Lifewithoutplastic.com. Stop using balloons; don’t leave behind litter or beach toys when visiting the beach; participate in beach clean-up events (or do it on your own); refuse all disposable items. Be the change!

Ocean Pollution

Although trash and plastics are one component, there are many, many other ways in which human activities pollute the ocean. Waste and by-products, like toxic metals, PCBs, petroleum products, agricultural and industrial runoff of contaminants such as fertilizers, chemicals, nutrients, and untreated waste; are all major problems for ocean and land dwellers. These are also causing major human health problems (many major diseases can be tied to these chemicals – again, another topic for another day). Oil companies are a big contributor to pollution, above and beyond oil spills. Oil companies are the devil, and I will explain that thoroughly in another post.

What can you do? Stop driving so much, or at least carpool. Use mass transportation. Ride a bike. (I, myself, have to work on this – I drive quite a bit.) Tell the oil companies to go to hell. Reduce how much meat you eat and how many animal products you use, because agriculture creates a lot of waste, methane, and chemicals. Buying from a farmer’s market locally or even growing your own food can reduce the amount of fertilizer and pesticide chemicals from large producers that make it into our water (because smaller farmers don’t always use such harsh chemicals, and I doubt you do in your own garden).

Global Warming

This is a sensitive topic because it is so tied to politics these days. In my humble opinion, whether global warming is a natural occurrence or induced by human activities does not matter – it is happening! At an accelerated rate, which means many species cannot evolve or adapt quickly enough. This means the possible extinction of plants and animals and fish that are necessary to Earth’s balance. I’m not going to go into details about this topic, but please feel free to Google it and read up about it. For now, just know that it is a real issue, regardless of the cause.

What can you do? Use less energy and use less gas. Eat less meat and reduce your water use. Those are the first steps – start there!

Turtle on beach, Photo by Isabella Jusková on Unsplash
Photo by Isabella Jusková on Unsplash

Last, here is a quick list of 10 things you can do to help sea turtles from seeturtles.org.

I hope this lengthy post has been helpful. Please feel free to leave a comment or question or idea! Thanks so much for reading.

Weekend trip to Hilton Head Island

Sunset in Hilton Head
Sunset in Hilton Head

Our family loves Hilton Head Island (HHI) for a variety of reasons. First, my husband and I got married there. What drew us there before marriage was that dogs are allowed on the beach during the day, after Labor Day. But then we discovered some other things about the island, besides its natural beauty, cleanliness, and great restaurants.

One thing that impresses us is that there are no billboards or neon signs littering the landscape because ordinances keep signs low and unobtrusive. No building can be taller than the trees. Hilton Head also has a sea turtle protection project. The town requires light structures visible from the beach be covered or turned off between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am during nesting and hatching season, which spans May through October. Lights out for Turtles provides information for visitors that can promote the survival of the turtles.

Full rainbow!
Full rainbow!

We’ve taken many trips to HHI, including this past weekend, and we had a wonderful and relaxing time. Of course, we saw beautiful sunsets and sunrises. We witnessed a full rainbow, which was my first time seeing one (see my pitiful attempt at a panoramic image above). We saw a stingray trapped in a tidal pool, which was cool to see up close. But we alerted someone who was able to move it back to the ocean so that it didn’t die. And we saw a ghost crab up close – so cool!

A Clean Beach

I mentioned that HHI is very clean, especially compared to other beaches we’ve been. Since we are a family that cleans up litter and trash, we pay attention. So for a clean beach, here’s some of the trash we picked up and posted to Litterati:

Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? Well it wasn’t, comparatively. We found straws which I’ve determined to be the most evil single use disposable plastic thing in use! We found cigarette butts, pieces of Styrofoam, and microplastics. The image of the bag of trash was from a garbage can that blew over during high winds and the trash scattered. We collected all we could but it was far too windy to try and photograph each piece. The contents of that were mainly single use disposable drink bottles. We found some beach toys, as we usually do. (My friend in the South Outer Banks collects abandoned beach toys in her area). I promise we didn’t take these from someone! They sat abandoned for a long time, and I didn’t want them to wash out to sea during high tide!

Plastic Bag Ban!

On our last evening, we stopped at the ice cream shop. As I was paying, I saw a sign posted by the register, and I think I startled the clerk with my excited reaction!

Plastic bag ban ordinance in Hilton Head
Plastic bag ban ordinance!

The Town of Hilton Head Island passed this ordinance in January 2018. It does not ban all plastic bags, such as produce and meat bags; however, it is a huge, progressive step in the right direction. Eating my ice cream, I felt inspired – could I get that ordinance passed in my city? What a huge task that would be…but maybe I could do it.

I’m thinking it over. If I try for it, I’ll definitely be posting about it here regularly.

All photos in this post were taken by me.