Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day - Water

Today is
Blog Action Day. From the Blog Action site: "Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action."

In supportive of this movement, I've updated a post I originally published over two years ago. I think it's still applicable.

A Brilliant Smile

Every morning when I stumble into the bathroom and brush my teeth, my only concern is waking up (oh to be able to run back to a warm, comfortable bed). I don't think about the fact that my toothbrush is made of plastic or that in a lifetime, most people will go through over 1000 toothbrushes. Nor do I think about the fact that 50 million pounds of toothbrushes end up in US landfills each year.

Plastic toothbrushes in landfills are, all by themselves, a concern. Plastic anything in a landfill is a real problem. But there's more. Did you know that every year approximately 14 billion pounds of trash are dumped into the ocean ... a large percentage of which is plastic? In an article entitled "Trashed", Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation states, "... I now believe plastic debris to be the most common surface feature of the world's oceans. Because 40 percent of the oceans are classified as subtropical gyres, a fourth of the planet's surface area has become an accumulator of floating plastic debris."

Walk any beach and you're sure to see some plastic. Go out on a boat and you'll probably see some floating plastic. But, besides being an unsightly mess, what are the consequences of plastic in our oceans? Plastic is not biodegradable. It does, however, break down physically ... to very small particles. We're talking the size of a fish egg ... and even particles as small as the diameter of a human hair. These tiny particles of plastic persist in our environment for years ... maybe forever.

Perhaps at this point you're saying ... well ... so what ... it's now the size of sand. But guess what ... fish are consuming it ... and it's lethal. And ... there is now a real concern that it's getting into our food chain. Remember the warning awhile back about putting plastic water bottles in the freezer and how toxins leach out of the plastic into the water causing all kinds of health problems? Well ... those toxins are now leaching out into the ocean waters ... and into marine animals ... and plants ... and into our diets. Definitely not good!

So how does all this relate to my toothbrush? Well, plastic ends up in the oceans in many different ways. Recreational boaters, merchant ships, the military, garbage barges and our sewer systems all contribute. Some of the biggest culprits are plastic manufacturers. They use small plastic pellets in their manufacturing process and a lot of these pellets have been found in ocean waters.

So here's how it all relates to my toothbrush. If I don't buy plastic toothbrushes (demand), the manufacturers won't make as many of them (supply) which means they'll require less plastic pellets which means that there will be less opportunity for those pellets to find their way to the ocean. Whew ... we got there!

All of this is to say ... there is a better way. Instead of buying the standard plastic toothbrush, buy an Eco-friendly version from a health store. One can also buy them online through a company called Preserve. Another idea ... buy a toothbrush with a replaceable head ... yes, it's made of plastic but the body is reusable ... for a long time ... and much less plastic will get tossed out every 3 months (the recommended amount of time after which one should replace their toothbrush).

Who knew that being mindful with a toothbrush could help the world's oceans? Now that's cause for a brilliant smile!