Photo: Life less plastic

David Suzuki Foundation shoreline cleanup (Credit: Lana Gunnlaugson)

By Lana Gunnlaugson, Marine & Freshwater Program Coordinator

It's ridiculous to see how much plastic is on so many of the products we use these days. I never really noticed the plastic world we live in until a friend of mine decided to make her New Year's resolution a plastic free one. Just look around and all you will see is plastic. Stickers on apples have a plastic coating, the little windows on our mail are plastic, the lining in our canned goods are, well you guessed it, plastic. Plastic, plastic, plastic.

And we have all heard the issues around plastic. BPAs lead to cancer; there's a garbage patch roughly the size of Texas floating around in our Pacific ocean; birds are mistakenly killing their young by feeding them plastic. Today I even read about seven whales that were found washed up as a result of plastic waste that built up in their stomachs. Sadly, the news wasn't surprising — I have done enough shoreline cleanups to say that one of the most commonly found materials is plastic.

So often I get asked what we can do about these issues. The David Suzuki Foundation has given Canadians helpful tips about recycling, using reusable bottles and totes, but it is going to take more than this, Canada. With a shift in our values, we could approach the problem from the root rather than just finding just a band aid solution. I personally have been encouraged to consume less and to choose the products that I do buy more wisely. I hope that the next time you are shopping you will consider making this shift too.

February 8, 2010

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Feb 09, 2010
10:09 AM

Plastic water bottles are one of the biggest problems. Billions are made every year, consuming vast quantities of resources, and generating a lot of waste. Recycling is not the answer here, that just consumes more energy, and doesn’t stop the production and distribution of this unnecessary and wasteful product. The only sane option is to ban this product. After all, 20 years ago no one bought them anyway.

Does the David Suzuki Foundation have an official position on plastic water bottles, and if not, would it consider calling for a ban? Most of the changes required to prevent climate change are going to be extremely difficult, and this is likely to be one of the easiest options we get. Thanks.

Feb 09, 2010
2:28 PM

Thanks for this post. I appreciate it Lana.

Indeed plastic is EVERYWHERE (including in places you would never expect!), and it is disturbing how desensitized we have become to its pervasive presence. What amazes me is that you can be talking to someone about the health and environmental issues relating to plastic, while that same someone nods and puts your organic produce in a plastic bag and then asks you if you would like it doubled.

Telling most people that you are trying to live without plastics is like speaking a different language; “What do you mean, no plastic?”. Correct me if I am wrong, but is that not messed up? How did we get to this point of feeling like we could not live without it? The better question, however, is how can we continue to live with it?!

The good news is that living without plastics (and I am mostly referring to single-use disposables) is more than possible. The better news is that it feels good. I dare you to try it, and share your experiences with others! Spread the word.

Feb 11, 2010
11:17 PM

I’ve use direct action for clean up where it’s most needed. Enough talk — do something. One person CAN make a difference. I did. How? Visit my blog / direct action campaign in Morocco: http:/

Feb 15, 2010
1:55 PM

Healing the problems of plastic pollution will absolutely take more than recycling or bringing a canvas bag here or there. We need systemic change, surely. But I also believe that each one of us must start with ourselves. Asking ourselves what changes we are willing to make in our own lives and, to quote what has now become a cliche, being the change we want to see in the world.

Reducing our plastic consumption and plastic waste CAN be done! With bloggers out here attempting to live plastic-free lives — like Plastic Manners, Life Less Plastic, Plastic-Free NYC, and my own project (which I’ve been working on for the past 2-1/2 years) there are plenty of examples to inspire.

Naysayers will claim that personal changes don’t matter. And in the scope of the bigger picture, a few of us bringing our reusable containers everywhere and refusing to accept anything in plastic packaging is not going to make a dent in the ocean plastic problem. But it’s my belief that without individual action, those systemic changes we need so desperately will not have the support needed to get them passed.

Feb 16, 2010
3:36 PM

Great project Fake Plastic Fish! I totally agree with you and Morocco Explorer that it all begins with individual action. Keep up the great work and thanks for the support:)

Feb 16, 2010
3:44 PM

I like the idea of going on a plastic diet. It’s a simple thing that anyone can take on to help protect species like caribou or grizzly bears. Because so many critters habitats are being cut down for oil and gas exploration, why not try use a little less petroluem products, like plastic. And when I say simple, I should clarfiy. The stuff is ubiquitous. Need a little inspiration? Watch the film Addicted to Plastic!

Feb 17, 2010
9:32 AM

We can keep plastic out of the landfills and the oceans by knowing which kinds can be safely reused. Here’s a simple tip sheet: An easy way to remember which plastics can be safely reused is: ‘Two, four, five, keep the Earth alive!’.

Mar 08, 2011
11:30 AM

I agree. You’ve just made me realize that even apples has a plastic with it. The realization is actually coming in too slow for people. It is definitely going to take a long time to really clean it up. Besides, plastics did not accumulate overnight. It just slowly grew into the monster it is now. We just continue on campaigning the correct use/disposal of it, and keep our fingers crossed that more people would change sides.

Mar 01, 2012
11:50 AM

I really like your web. Healthy living is very important in our life.

Mar 15, 2012
5:45 PM

Many Canadians DO a lot of recycling! But I notice the recycling attempts in the U.S. were pathetic 2 years ago when I visited. I was appalled at the lack of recycling. Perhaps more help from our neighbor would be helpful :)

Mar 30, 2012
12:18 PM

I'm a student at Memorial University of Newfoundland doing a major in Geography. I totally agree that plastic has to disappear but not in the ocean where a gyre the size of Texas has formed. It makes me sick to think about all the plastic not being recycled in the right way. If we are not going to properly dispose of it then the solution is to ban it. Just think about it all the plastic waste in the ocean could of been recycled and the money spent on the digging of wells in Rwanda. The women there have to travel for miles in there bare feet to a muddy hole for water that is infested with all sorts of water born parasites. ITS TIME WAKE UP YOU ANTHROPOGENICS AND REALIZE HOW LUCKY WE ARE TO EVEN HAVE WATER. NO MORE WATER BOTTLES! WATCH ON YOU TUBE THE PACIFIC GYRE GARBAGE PATCH. NOW THAT'S A WAKE UP CALL.

Dec 29, 2013
8:49 PM

I have been trying to be a more conscientious consumer, more environmentally friendly and responsible for sustaining the planet for the next generations to come.

I thought I was doing a fairly good job of it.

Having abandoned plastic bags a few years ago, I purchased “green bags” and have been using them when shopping. I foolishly thought that because the bags had “environmentally friendly” slogans printed on them, that they were just that—- environmentally friendly.


Today my daughter showed me the label inside some of the bags I had purchased. They are 100% polyester!!

I am horrified and mortified that I assumed the big box chain/favorite grocery store was being honest with their slogan on the outside of the bags and was lulled into thinking I did not need to read the label before putting my hard earned money towards the purchase.

Read labels on everything is my motto for 2014. Assume nothing. Go back to the basics of our forefather’s time. No more plastic/polyester bags!!

Jan 31, 2014
8:19 PM

Have you ever walked through a store like Zeller’s, Wal-Mart, Target and just noted the plastic? It’s a struggle to even open a toy. Toilet paper double-wrapped. Why? Changes also have to be made with packaging practices at the manufacturing levels. We never needed it before.

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