By Anne-Marie Asselin
Blue Organization X TAIGA, for Plastic Free July
July represents vacation time for many, but just because we switch from our work to play clothes, doesn’t mean we have to forego our responsible consumption habits. Actually, tit’s an even a better time to double our efforts and significantly reduce our reliance on plastic. Read on if you want to learn how you can take part in Plastic Free July and help preserve our beautiful St. Lawrence River.
The June solstice and full moon are now behind us, meaning summer is officially here! Outdoor parties, fishing, camping, road trips... Water enthusiasts are embracing their element: canoeing, kayaking, SUP, kiteboarding, snorkelling, etc. While all this is exciting, it’s important to remember that no matter what sport we prefer or whether we practise for recreational, cultural, or economic reasons, we all have a duty to preserve and care for our waterways. Protecting what we love and knowing that our actions have a positive impact is good for the soul and very effective against eco-anxiety.
“Picnics” can also be synonymous for “one-time use.” How many times a week do you order fast food? How many times have you eaten from a Styrofoam container on vacation? Or even, how many bottles of water have you ended up buying because you forgot your own? These questions aren’t meant as judgmental, but serve to remind us of the ubiquity of plastic in our lives, especially during summertime. The good news is … there are solutions!
A simple way to reduce single-use plastic is to look at our lifestyle habits. Statistics have shown that Canada is the third-largest producer of waste on a per capita basis in the world, before China and the United States. With only 9% of plastic recycled worldwide, the ocean and the St. Lawrence wind up accumulating vast amounts of waste generated from our unexamined lifestyles. Sadly, the situation is only getting worse. Global plastic production is on the rise. It has almost doubled since the beginning of the millennium and is expected to quadruple by 2050. To help solve this problem, reducing the use of disposable and single-use plastics at the source is a good place to start.
So, what can we do?
1-Purchase a high-quality reusable water bottle
We’re pretty lucky - water is a free resource in Canada. Why pay to drink from a plastic bottle when you can just carry a reusable one and fill it up for free? The environmental reasons are obvious, but what if this could also improve your well-being and that of the wildlife around you? Moreover, plastic containers release plastic microparticles into our food and drinks meaning thatyou could consume the equivalent of a credit card a week (5 grams)!
- Pick up a piece of trash
No matter what sport you play, garbage is often nearby, and all you have to do is pick it up. It's an easy habit to adopt and one that really helps preserve the environment. The impact can be as direct as preventing an animal from suffocating or choking on a piece of loose plastic. Even your SUP board, with its bungees at the front and back, can be your ally to help you carry trash found in the water and in hard-to-access shorelines that are often polluted due to currents and climatic variations. Pick up as much trash as you can and dispose of it when you get back on dry land.
- Dispose of your waste properly
When on vacation, recyclables often end up in the trash, either because campsites aren’t set up with a proper system, or because the location lacks a recycling bin. If this is the case, keep your plastic waste and dispose of it in your blue bin when you get home. When camping, carry a couple of (reusable!) bags to sort out recyclables, and waste at the source. It's much simpler and better for the planet!
- Deposit-return your cans, they are 100% recyclable!
Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, and is a metal that requires a lot of work and resources to extract and transform! In fact, the production of secondary aluminum (from recycling, for example), requires up to 95% less energy than primary aluminum and allows a significant reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Among the many advantages offered by the properties of aluminum, one is that it can be recycled almost indefinitely without loss of quality.
- Avoid bioplastics or so-called "compostable" containers
Although these seem like a good alternative, a report released in April 2020 by Éco Entreprises Québec has shed light on this myth: a biodegradable or compostable plastic remains a plastic. It cannot be composted in municipal facilities, and it becomes waste. If you put it in the recycling bin, you risk contaminating plastic that could have been recycled. In short, plastic, whether it is compostable, biodegradable or neither, has a large ecological footprint and is a false solution.
- Say "no thanks" to plastic
Coffee cups, bags, utensils, straws, laundry and dish soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, etc. A lot of what we use daily can be substituted with reusable, bulk, non-packaged products or by choosing alternatives to plastic. A funky tote bag, a bamboo toothbrush or utensils, a shampoo bar without packaging, bulk detergent, etc.! It can be a very rewarding challenge to reduce your daily dependence on plastic! Acting on behalf of a greater cause always feels good, and knowing that you’ve just avoided a plastic waste that will take more than 400 years to decompose feels even better!
- Leave it cleaner than when you found it
Last year's filthy shoreline on the Gaspé Peninsula is hopefully a thing of the past. If you have the privilege of enjoying Quebec's natural resources, then please, always leave the area that you're visiting cleaner than when you found it. It’s the least you can do to honour the beauty of the Quebec landscape and the wildlife that inhabits it.
- Take care of the shoreline
Riparian strips and coastlines are rich in biodiversity and often threatened by shoreline erosion. Beaches, dunes and grasslands provide natural habitats for all kinds of species and help prevent shoreline erosion. By staying on marked trails, we can avoid stepping into a swallow or plover nest, for example. Stay away from wildlife, and most importantly, keep your motorized vehicle far from the shoreline to avoid destroying important vegetation, wildlife, and impeding on the essential quietude of the surrounding ecosystems.
- Participate in a cleanup
Many cleanups are scheduled throughout the province this summer! Join us if you can! The Blue Organization is resuming its cleanup events thanks to its association with several athletic, community and corporate groups, such as TAIGA, ApneaCity and Guru.
Besides cleaning shorelines, we will be recording all the trash picked through our collection protocol. Total quantity and a qualification of everything found will be assessed at each event. A good deed for the planet that also allows us to issue political recommendations adapted to our local reality!
- Spread the word!
Everyone can have a positive influence on the planet. If you’re unable to join a shoreline cleanup, you can also organize a small cleanup on your street, or around your lake, river, park - all initiatives are good!
Social networks are great for sharing experiences. Share your achievements and initiatives with your friends. You'll be surprised by how influential and impactful your actions can be!
Have a great #plasticfree summer!