Oh, Is That a Thing?

5 Ways We Can Stop the Assault on our Oceans

The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations
— John Paul II

The Story

I asked for paper at the grocery checkout several years ago. You remember those days when baggers asked you – paper or plastic?

The paper/plastic onus is now on the customer. Failing to say PAPER, means you get plastic. Heaven forbid I forget my bags. But it happens and once I realize it I must begin my checkout line mantra – paper, paper, paper, or I will forget during the checkout confusion.

Amidst the chaos of swiping or inserting my plastic credit card, searching for my plastic loyalty card, and trying to remember where I parked, it’s a wonder I leave with my sanity let alone paper bags.

Back to the story.

When I asked for paper, the young man bagging my groceries raised an eyebrow and questioned my selection.

 “More dead trees?” he asked.

Oh my. I stopped mid-checkout pandemonium and jumped straight into my teacher shoes. If I had a Bill Nye the Science Guy mask, I would have put it on.

“Trees,” I replied, “are a renewable resource. Plastic bags are manufactured using oil, a non-renewable resource. Once we consume the remaining oil resources, there will be no more. Can’t grow oil. We can grow more trees.”

A pleasant discussion followed about the term “non-renewable,” and I was out the door, paper bags in hand, searching the parking lot for my car.

The enlightenment of this young man took place long before I understood plastic grocery bags had become a much deeper problem than trees and oil. A recent photograph of plastic bags in the Mariana Trench – the deepest part of the ocean – is awakening the world to yet another human-wrought tragedy.

Another story.

Before Christmas my daughter accompanied me to Home Depot to buy our Christmas tree. I asked the young lady who trimmed the trunk, to not put plastic webbing on it. (Everything must be bagged now, even Christmas trees)

As young folks do, or don’t, she was oblivious to my request. The tree was delivered to our truck cocooned in orange plastic. Much to my daughter’s mortification, I asked the young lady to remove the plastic,  I thought I asked nicely.


Here is the conversation that followed.

My daughter: “Mom, you could ask in a nicer tone,” and then to the young lady, “she doesn’t like plastic.”

Young lady: “Why?”

My daughter: “Because it’s bad for the earth.”

Young lady: “Oh, is that a thing?”

I nearly lost it but managed to stay silent while the young lady removed the plastic.

“Is that a thing?”

Yes, it’s a thing. And that thing is strangling the planet. Our oceans are becoming saturated in plastic waste as they swallow eighteen billion pounds every year. Beaches are plastic cesspools. Debris is vomited up by the oceans then swallowed again at next tide. Rivers slog along laden with plastic fishing nets, water bottles, and plastic bags.  The millions of marine creatures affected are helpless to stem the onslaught.

We are suffocating our planet with plastic and our kids don’t have a clue what is happening around them.

I live in the desert, yet am consumed with ocean health because the world is more than just the ecosystem in which I live

The global community is awakening to the problem, and many countries are taking steps to ban single-use plastics. But what about the U.S.?

Aside from California and Hawaii, state legislatures are pushing back under pressure from – you guessed it – plastics manufacturers and the plastic bag industry. In 2017 Michigan became the seventh state to ban single-use plastic bag bans. Did you get that? States are banning community bans. Wow! And my state of Arizona is among those seven.

Community efforts to ban single-use plastics are being squashed by state legislatures because those politicians hold a narrow view of their job – being re-elected with money from big companies.

Unlike our state politicians, I can see a bigger picture. When it rains, the plastic bags, cups, lids, and straws littering the dry riverbeds of my desert home wash into the waterways and dump into the seas.

Yes, the message is dire, but there must be a glimmer of hope. It’s up to each of us to fan the glimmer into a flame. Legislatures don’t have to ban single-use plastics, we can simply stop using them.

Efforts are underway to solve the massive problem we’ve created, but to restore health to the planet every one of us must take personal responsibility. We can do it. We MUST do it.

How can we begin to end the assault?

1.  Educate! Building awareness is key to changing a culture of waste. National Geographic magazine has made a commitment to the problem, but you don’t have to be an international magazine to educate.

2.  Recycle all plastics: Pack up the film used to wrap everything from soup to nuts and take it back to the grocery store. Most stores have a bin for the filmy bags and all those unnecessary wrappings. 


Make sure your trash removal company recycles. If it doesn’t, find one that does.

3.  Refuse single-use plastics:

If you must have a straw, buy reusable straws

Make a spork your ‘go to’ utensil when you’re on the road

Say no to plastic water bottles. BYOB (or cup)

4.  PickUp3 – Beaches, roadways, hiking trails, etc. When you are out and about, pick up three pieces of litter and recycle.

5.  Contribute to cleanup efforts 4Ocean is an organization founded by two scuba divers who saw a problem and are taking action. Check them out here.

#PickUp3 - Pass it on.