Plastic Free July is a global movement that has inspired more than 100 million participants in 190 countries to refuse single-use plastics for the entire month of July (plasticfreejuly.org). From rural mountain towns in Montana to bustling coastal communities in the Galapagos Islands, people from around the world are united by the mission to slow the ever-increasing waste stream of plastic from polluting our ecosystems.
At this point, most of us are aware that plastic is an environmental nightmare, from sourcing it to disposing of it. Knowing that plastic is just as problematic as it is present in our lives can leave people feeling overwhelmed and powerless in the fight against the prolific pollutant. Refusing single-use straws and remembering your cloth grocery bag can seem like futile drops in a very large, daunting, plastic bucket.
At EPI’s program site in the Galapagos, our staff, alumni, and partners took this year’s Plastic Free July to the next level by engaging the community in clean-ups, policy, and competition.
Plastic Pick Up
EPI worked with 100 local students on a community beach clean-up, where they removed roughly 1,050 pounds of plastic from the beach. That’s 1,050 pounds of waste diverted from the nostrils of sea turtles, bellies of whales, and beaks of seagulls.
Joining or organizing a trash clean-up event in your community is a fantastic way to maximize your impact on plastic waste reduction, whether or not you reside on a picturesque island. Ridding riverbanks, lakeshores, trailheads, pastures, schools, roadways, and your own backyard of plastic are of equal importance in the global clean-up effort.
Supporting Plastic Bans
How much easier would it be to refuse single-use plastic if it wasn’t allowed in your community in the first place? With the help of EPI, 30 students from Santa Cruz high schools supported the Galapagos Council to enforce a single-use plastic ban for local stores and vendors.
If plastic bags, straws, or other common types of single-use plastic bans are yet to be enacted in your hometown, contact your local representatives with your growing concern about the presence of plastic in your community! You do not have to be an elected official to be a positive agent of change.
In what can be a depressing fight against global plastic accumulation, sometimes a little friendly competition takes the edge off. EPI invited three high schools in the Galapagos Islands to join Plastic Free July efforts by competing in a plastic-free traditional meal preparation challenge. Students got creative with their package-free shopping and learned how possible it is to reduce plastic from daily consumption habits.
Cooking without plastic can be a fun personal challenge at home, too! Searching for ingredients that aren’t wrapped in plastic typically leads people to local farmers' markets, where you tend to purchase food that is better for both you and the environment.
Plastic Free July and Beyond
Seeing EPI Galapagos use waste reduction as an opportunity to gather, educate, and rally the community in the name of conservation inspires us at all of our program sites to think more critically about our plastic consumption. Helping people change their habits, whether it's the food they purchase or the time they spend volunteering, can last a lifetime.
Plastic reduction shouldn't stop with the end of July! What can you do to reduce year-round?