In 1972, the United Nations designated June 5th as World Environment Day. The early 1970’s were in many ways, the birth of our modern day environmental movement. We had the first Earth Day in 1970 and in the United States, under President Richard Nixon, the Environmental Protection Agency was established, as was the first federal clean air and clean water act. There was no ambiguity, no party divide, the environment and all it stood for was worth protecting.
According to the United Nations: “The celebration of this day provides us with an opportunity to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and communities in preserving and enhancing the environment.” As Climate Mamas and Papas, we know that today, 46 years after the first World Environment Day, our environment and by extension our species remain under extreme threat. In fact we have reached a point where we humans are the primary forcing agents on our natural world and scientists are telling us we have entered the Anthropocene, the age of man. As such, we also know that many people feel overwhelmed and powerless in the face of this existential threat.
World Environment Day is an opportunity to bring back power, to educate and to inform on ways and ideas for individual and collective action. Each year, the United Nations chooses a theme and this year’s World Environment Day’s theme is “Beat Plastic Pollution.”
Global Plastic Pollution by the Numbers (United Nations data):
- Up to 5 trillion plastic bags used each year
- 13 million tons of plastic leak into the ocean each year
- 17 million barrels of oil used on plastic production each year
- 1 million plastic bottles bought every minute
- 100,000 marine animals killed by plastics each year
- 100 years for plastic to degrade in the environment
- 90% of bottled water found to contain plastic particles
- 83% of tap water found to contain plastic particles
- 50% of consumer plastics are single use
- 10% of all human-generated waste is plastic
These statistics are sobering and staggering, so what can we do? We each need to take steps to move away from single use items, and to move forward to a circular economy, where “everything old is new again.” We all love games, so let’s start today and make World Environment Day this year, a chance to share a game with a real world, critically important goal: #beatplasticpolution.
The game is “Tag” and the steps are easy.
1. Choose which type of single-use plastic you’re ready to give up.
2. Take a selfie (photo or video) with a reusable alternative that your ready to embrace.
3. Share your selfie on social media with #beatplasticpolution and #worldenvironmentday
4. Tag three of your friends to challenge them to do the same within 24 hours. Thanks for helping launch the global movement!
Here’s what were now using at ClimateMama, starting today. TAG, you are it!
On a community level, take a look around your school or place of business; are there single use plastic items that seem to be part of “life” at your school or office? Talk about it with your friends, colleagues and peers. Come up with a plan and get rid of those straws, bags or plastic dishes, cups and utensils. YOU can make this happen.
Also, consider taking your plan one step further; this is a longer term process and can take months. YOU can do it! Help your town or city eliminate straws, plastic single use bags or styrofoam. There are many great examples of cities doing just this, from small cities like Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, to large cities like Vancouver, Canada, it can be done.
Nationally and globally too, where there is a will there is a way. Many countries have already taken important steps in this direction. Check out the United Nations World Environment Day website to find wonderful stories from around the world.
- Plastic bag bans are already in place in more than nearly 100 countries; proving just how powerful direct government action on plastics can be.
- Governments must lead, enacting strong policies that push for a more circular model of design and production of plastics.
- The private sector must innovate, adopting business models that reduce the downstream impact of their products.
- Citizens must act as both consumers and informed citizens, demanding sustainable products and embracing sensible consumption habits in their own lives.
Here are three great organizations we have identified (the first two of whom are our partners!) that have wonderful resources to peruse and use. We highly recommend you look at these resources and explore ideas and options with the kids in your life:
- Young Voices for the Planet: Two videos in particular, The Last Straw and Team Marine share powerful stories of kids banning plastic straws and plastic bags and raising awareness of why these actions are so important to us all.
- Plastic Pollution Coalition: a growing global alliance of individuals, organizations, businesses, and policymakers working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals, waterways and oceans, and the environment. Find tools you can use in your community; no need to “reinvent the wheel.”
- National Geographic’s multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Check out National Geographic Kids too.
Check out some of the suggestions above, and don’t forget to peruse our past suggestions from World Environment Day; there are so many things you can do to celebrate our planet and so many ways to protect and sustain her. Bring your neighbors together; consider organizing an event to share information about ways to reduce single use items. Hold a fundraiser for your event or for your local environmental organization or green team. There are many free tools available on line that can help.
Let us know what you are doing so we can share it with our Climate Mama community!
Together we are so powerful.