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Have you been at the beach or in a parking lot and noticed those Y-shaped green plastic pieces on the ground? Have you wondered what they are? Don’t get grossed out, but they are used flossers! Created as a convenience item for people to “floss on the go,” they often end up littering our shorelines, parks and public areas. It makes one think that we’re not being very responsible to our planet.
Too many items like these flossers are designed for single use, and end up in our area landfills, or worse, littering our lives. It is amazing how much waste is generated each year. In 2018 alone, more than 292.4 million tons of materials and products were discarded, reported an Environmental Protection Agency study. Broken down by materials, paper/paperboard topped the list at 23.1%, followed by food, plastics, yard trimmings, metals, wood, textiles, and glass.
A 2021 story in the Washington Post claimed that one third of all the food in the U.S. gets wasted, and that fixing that problem could help fight climate change. “About $408 billion worth of food, grown on 18 percent of U.S. farmland with 4 trillion tons of water, never make sit to someone’s stomach.” And that “the carbon footprint of U.S. food waste is greater than that of the airline industry—accounting for about 8 percent of all greenhouse emissions.”
“When food rots in a landfill, it produces huge amounts of methane—a greenhouse gas at least 28 times as potent as carbon dioxide,” the author said. “But in compost bins, microbes convert that organic matter into nutrient-rich soil, keeping the carbon out of the atmosphere and producing valuable fertilizer.”
How do We Change to Be More Responsible to our Planet?
One of the best, and easiest, ways to reduce waste is to look for alternatives to single-use products. Grab cups or glasses for water instead of buying bottled water, take a reusable grocery bag to the store, or use washable cloths for cleaning.
Think of the “three Rs” when making your choices: Reduce, Reuse or Recycle. How can you reduce the amount of waste you produce? Choose items with minimal packaging or lessen the quantity of food you discard by purchasing less or making better food choices, and composting what you can. Opt for glass plates and cloth napkins over disposables. Recycle perfectly-good items back into the community by donating them to charities with stores. This not only keeps items out of landfills, it helps to raise money for community-based causes. Support this reuse by shopping at thrift stores—you’ll get a great product and a bargain.
Becoming more responsible to our planet is a matter of making better and informed choices. Start by making little changes, like recycling, or bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. Don’t purchase large amounts of food at each visit. Make a meal plan instead. Package your food or lunch in reusable containers. Instead of tossing out damaged items, fix them instead. And stop littering. These are all small changes that can make a big impact.
Related: 9 Simple Ways to Reduce Waste in Your Home
As a medical practitioner, Dr. Liliana Calkins is dedicated to the health and well-being of her patients. She’s also aware of how much she, and we all, can do to help create a healthier environment overall and be more responsible to our planet.
Dr. Liliana Calkins, DDS is a board-certified orthodontist and a sleep medicine specialist with Airway and Sleep Group.