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Earth Day Series- Plastic Consumption Calculator

3/28/2022 by qrelihan

      For the third feature story in the Earth Day blog series, I chose to focus on the topic on Plastic Consumption & Pollution. The official Earth Day website has a Plastic Calculator feature where you can calculate your daily, monthly and yearly plastic consumption.  I am going to include my personal results from the Plastic Calculator and then I am going to set some goals for myself to reduce my plastic consumption.  I encourage you to take two minutes and fill out the Plastic Calculator as well, as you may be surprised at how much or how little plastic you consume.  To help me reach my goals and encourage you to set some of your own I am going to include some ways that you can reduce the amount of single use plastic that you use.


      The chart on the left is what my daily consumption of plastic looks like, and the far-right column of that chart is what I am committing to reduce each day.  The chart on the right is a list of my monthly usage of plastic items however unlike the plastic I consume daily, some of the plastic I use monthly cannot be reduced. For instance, feminine products and diapers are not items that can easily be reduced and therefore will not be the focus of my reduction goals.  Instead, I am going to focus on items that can be swapped for reusable options such as using silverware to stir coffee instead of plastic stirrers.  I encourage you to use this link Plastic Calculator - Earth Day for the official Earth Day site where you can calculate your own plastic consumption and set some reasonable goals for yourself.

Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Consumption:

  1. Swap plastic shopping bags for reusable ones
  2. Skip the plastic straws when possible – instead buy your own reusable straws or encourage your favorite coffee shop to purchase compostable straws or ones made from recycled straws
  3. Rinse food containers before recycling them so that it won’t contaminate the rest of the recycling stream
  4. Shop locally for food and opt for foods that are in season in order to reduce plastic packaging needed to keep food fresh for transportation
  5. Swap plastic water bottles for reusable ones whenever you can
  6. When buying products online opt for less packaging when it is an option


Why Should You Reduce Your Plastic Consumption?

      Not only does reducing your plastic consumption mean less plastic pollution in the oceans, but it also has many other benefits for the environment as well.  For instance, plastic production requires oil and is very energy intensive, therefore the less plastic products you consume the more energy you save.  In fact, 8% of oil production goes to manufacturing plastics therefore whenever you can swap single use plastic products for reusable ones. 

      The impact that plastic consumption and pollution has on the environment is long lasting since plastic never fully breaks down.  Plastic will break into smaller pieces and remain in the environment forever since it cannot naturally be broken down.  These tiny pieces of plastic can cause more problems, especially for marine life when it gets into their food and wreaks havoc on their bodies. Not only can it get into marine life’s food, but it also has made its way into human’s diet.  For example, people that drink tap water ingest 4,000 plastic particles annually while individuals who only drink water from plastic water bottles ingest an additional 90,000 plastic particles (National Geographic 2022).  Therefore not only are single use plastic products bad for the environment but it is also bad for human health as well.  My challenge for all of you this Earth Day is to find one single use plastic product (grocery bags, water bottles, take out containers etc) and swap it for a reusable product. 


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