We’re nearing the end of Plastic Free July — a global movement to encourage individuals to reduce plastic waste and stop the habit of using single-use plastics  — but that doesn’t mean we’re halting our efforts to prevent plastic from entering our oceans on both an organizational and individual level. Plastic waste is found in the stomachs of over 50% of the world’s sea turtles, ingested by more than 90% of seabirds, and is tangling and choking whales, sharks, and other marine animals. We’ve been sharing tips all month on what you can do to prevent plastics from entering our oceans and killing our sea turtles and want to pose the question: what will you do to make every month plastic-free? 

1. Bring the bag.

?Problem: Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, yet 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually. Fewer than one percent of plastic bags are recycled, and don’t break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment.

?Solution: Bring the bag! By remembering to bring your own reusable bags, you are eliminating a source of single-use plastic bags from entering our oceans and waterways.

2. Invest in a reusable water bottle.

?Problem: Humans buy about one million plastic bottles per minute! Only about 23% of plastic bottles are recycled within the U.S.

?Solution: Invest in a reusable water bottle! Not only are they good-looking and functional, you will save an average of 156 plastic bottles from entering nature annually.

3. Say NO to balloons.

?Problem: Year after year, balloon-related litter is one of the most prevalent and identifiable items found ingested by local wildlife. Animals like sea turtles, coastal birds, and fish are often found entangled in the ribbon attached to balloons.

?Solution: Pledge to stop using balloons. There are many eco-friendly alternatives to balloon releases include planting a tree, playing music, and lighting a candle.

4. Refuse plastic straws.

?Problem: Americans use over 390 million straws every day, and the average lifespan for a straw is 30 minutes. Straws take from 200-500 years to decompose and continue to be a threat to wildlife as they photo-degrade into microplastics.

?Solution: Let waitstaff know ahead of time you don’t want a straw. Purchase environmentally-friendly straws and carry them with you.

5. Bring your own utensils.

?Problem: It is estimated that the United States wastes 40 billion individual single-use plastic utensils every year. After just one single use, most of them are thrown out and end up in landfills and in our waterways.

?Solution: Bring your own utensils! Enjoy eating knowing your durable, convenient utensils are waste-free.

6. Help keep nature clean.

?Problem: Single-use-plastics frequently do not make it to a landfill or are recycled. A full 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans; the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.

?Solution: Keep an eye out for trash, plastic, and other marine debris when you are on the beach or hiking in nature and dispose of any waste you find responsibly.

7. Support eco-friendly legislation and leaders.

?Problem: Laws and regulations designed to protect wildlife and wild plans work! But senseless rollbacks — spearheaded by political leaders — that put profit over the health of the environment and communities are destroying the natural world.

?Solution: Support environmental legislation and elect officials who will stand behind eco-friendly initiatives!  

8. Opt for reusable produce bags.

?Problem: Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. It only takes about 14 plastic bags for the equivalent of the gas required to drive one mile.

?Solution: Reusable produce bags have enough durability that you can use them for years to come. They can be washed, cleaned, dried and then be used again!

9. Bring your own cup.

?Problem: Paper cups are not recyclable because of the plastic liner. If an individual purchases a disposable cup every day, this creates about 23 pounds of waste per year.

?Solution: Bring your own cup or use a reusable mug when you purchase a beverage.

10. Try an eco-friendly toothbrush. 

?Problem: Over a billion toothbrushes end up in landfills every year in North America. Plastic toothbrushes are made from a combination of plastic material derived from crude oil, rubber and a mix of plastic and cardboard for the packaging.

?Solution: Toothbrushes made of bamboo are a renewable alternative that has the added benefit of being 100% biodegradable.

11. Opt for soap bars.

?Problem: From production to packaging, liquid soaps require five times more energy for raw material production and nearly 20 times more energy for packaging production than bar soaps do. 

?Solution: Replace liquid soap with a widely-available, eco-friendly alternative — soap bars!

12. Support sustainable businesses.

?Problem: Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. A fifth of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions are backed by public investment.

?Solution: Support businesses that do not develop environmental threats for current and future generations.

13. Make every month plastic-free!

?Problem: Plastic pollution impacts critically endangered sea turtles at every stage of their life. Hatchlings are blocked by debris as they emerge from their nests on the beach and sea turtles drown from becoming entangled in discarded plastic bags, nest, and fishing line.

?Solution: To prevent another sea turtle from becoming a victim to plastic, we must make personal lifestyle alterations to fight for these species. Strive to make every month plastic-free!