New Years Resolution: Conscious Consumerism

Key West, Florida

Key West, Florida

The holidays are here, the most wonderful time of year! Along with spending time at home and with family we get a chance to start a brand new year with a new and fresh resolution for the months ahead. A few weeks ago I went to a trash pickup hosted by Debris Free Oceans. I was completely amazed at the amount of trash in the streets, only a rainstorm away from being swept into the storm drain and flushed out into the ocean. We only walked a few blocks and had garbage bags full of trash! If you follow any social media platform you’ve likely seen the heartbreaking video of the sea turtle with a straw up its nose, or the photos of the infamous sea of trash—The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which spans nearly the size of Texas. Plastic especially is literally everywhere and really hard to avoid. I’ve become more aware of it after the trash pickup and decided that this year’s New Year Resolution will be to be more actively conscious of the plastic that I consume.

Consumerism in general is fueling global decline. Marine debris is especially troublesome—from its ingestion by marine life to debris entanglement—and has profound impacts on food webs, interfering with ecosystem and human health. Furthermore, there are many socioeconomic impacts—affecting beach tourism, the fishing industry, and recreational boating and fishing. Though I’m spending the holidays in the snow, in New York on the Canadian border where I grew up, living in Miami for the last few years, this hits me particularly close to home. 

If you’re wondering where to start, or how to make a difference, try using reusable bags at the grocery store, you’ll even receive a discount at most stores for using your own bag. Restaurants are some of the worst. Ask for no straw, and when it comes to packaging food to go, ask for no styrofoam containers and no plastic bag. Use a thermos for your coffee; it will stay warmer longer anyways! For Christmas presents this year I got my family aluminum straws, reusable BPA-free ziplock bags, and beeswrap, an alternative to saran wrap. These simple changes in your daily life are easy enough to implement and really have an impact.

Another way to be mindful is to buy sustainable products. Many brands are using innovative ways to upcycle—using waste materials to create new products. Alchemy Goods uses recycled bicycle inner tubes to make stylish bags. Some clothing lines, like Patagonia, use pre-consumer factory wool and cashmere to make new products. Instead of succumbing to the Fast Fashion Industry—fast, disposable and cheap clothing, which can be attractively affordable—try buying second hand clothing from Thredup. Or shop other sustainable brands here.

Google your local recycling center and see which plastics they recycle, all centers are different. If you look at the number stamped on the product (1­–7) you can find out where you can return certain objects. Though recycling is helpful it’s not the best solution to the problem as recycling can be very energy intensive. Especially with plastic, it is usually much cheaper to produce the same product new than it is to recycle in entirety producing a fresh supply of the same material. The most important thing you can do is be mindful and try to reduce your consumption to begin with.

If you live in Miami, join Debris Free Oceans on their next trash pickup, they are an inspiring group of people. If you don’t, look for one in your area, or host one! Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you all!