The Problem With Plastic

The Problem With Plastic

It's widely accepted that as a nation becomes more modernized, it produces more waste.  This is most easily seen when you consider the world's top producers of waste - the United States, China, Germany, and Japan.  On a micro-level, consider your own day-to-day life.  How often do you stop for a coffee?  How many foods do you buy that are wrapped in plastic?  And what about shopping bags?  One trip to the grocery store for a week's worth of groceries could need up to 10 plastic bags to carry it all.

Garbage is everyone's problem.  Why?  Because it doesn't stay where you put it.  If you burn it, dangerous toxins are released into the atmosphere and are carried around the world.  If you bury it, the same thing may happen as the products break down and seep into ground water.  And if you toss it out the window as you drive down the highway?  It will most likely end up in a stream, river, or ocean.

Garbage on Beach

There is nothing more upsetting and frustrating than cruising the lake on your SUP only to find the perfect inlet for lunch ... that's covered in garbage.  That's why we at Stillwater Outdoors want to share a few easy ways that you can help reduce the amount of waste we produce each year to ensure a healthier, cleaner world for all of us to enjoy.

Ten Ways to Help Keep Our World Clean

1.  Recycle

This one seems obvious, but very few of us do it regularly.  Taking the time to separate out recyclables means less waste being dumped in landfills.

2.  Reusable Bottles

Along the same line as recycling, reusing is probably one of the easiest and best ways to reduce the amount of waste we produce.  Instead of buying recyclable water bottles and then recycling them, why not purchase a reusable bottle made of metal or glass that can last for years or even decades?  This small change will reduce the demand for water bottles that could potentially end up where they don't belong.

Plastic Straws

3.  Say No to Straws

Unless you have a disability that requires it, consider saying no the next time someone asks if you'd like a straw (or tell them not to include one in your next drink).  Americans use 500 million drinking straws a day!  That's enough straws to fill 46,400 school buses with straws every year.  

Check out the Be Straw Free Campaign for more information.

4.  Reusable Shopping Bags

Though they may cost money up front, being able to use the same shopping bags over and over will save money in the end.  Shopping bags are a major polluter of our water bodies and pose serious threats to the wildlife and ecosystems around the world.  Pick up a few reusable bags and leave them in your car to ensure you always have them on hand for even impromptu shopping trips.

Farmers Market

5.  Buy Bulk Foods

Many of us would rather spend more on prepackaged sliced mushrooms than to slice them ourselves.  And what about that fruit that neatly sliced and diced and ready to be unwrapped and eaten?  Though it may save us time, it costs far more.  Not only are you paying extra for the convenience of such things, but you're also increasing the amount of waste that leaves your home every day.  Instead, buy unwrapped foods or select items that are packaged in easily recyclable or reusable packaging.

If you want a great resource for more ways you can reduce the waste in your home, check out Small Footprint Family.

6.  Eat Out Less

Not only is this healthier for you, but it's healthier for the environment.  How many fast food containers and soda cups have you seen littering the side of the road?  Too many.  If you don't have the time to cook dinner every night, consider cooking meals on the weekend to freeze or refrigerate for the rest of the night.  Just be sure to store them in reusable glass containers.

7.  Clean Up Our Streets

We often pass litter crews doing their best to collect the garbage on the side of the road, but far more of our infrastructure is left untouched.  Why not make a weekend of it?  Gather a group of friends, fire up the grill, and have a BBQ after taking an hour or so to clean the stretch of road in front of your house.  Many hands make light work, and a little reward never hurt.

Cleaning a Beach

8.  Clean Up Our Beaches

Same idea, different locale.  Organize a beach clean-up at the start and end of summer to help keep our beaches clean, safe, and fun.  Talk to local businesses about the event.  You may be surprised by how many want to help or sponsor your group.

9.  Stop Junk Mail

You don't want it.  I don't want it.  The environment certainly doesn't want it.  In fact, we're not entirely sure who wants it.  If you find your mailbox filled with junk mail every day, check out this website to make it stop.

DMA Choice

 People of the Earth

10.  Be Conscientious 

It's not hard.  Be diligent.  Be thoughtful.  Be aware of what you buy, how you use it, and what ends up tossed aside.  Be resistant to marketing ploys to get you to buy that kitchen gadget you will never use and to upgrade your wardrobe every season even though you only wore that sweater once.  And most importantly, be kind.  To yourself.  To others.  To our world.

We know that change can be difficult, but even the smallest step made in the right direction is progress.

Remember ... We can do this.

Please share this infographic with friends and family to help raise awareness of the plastic problem.

Plastic Problem

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6 Ways to Reconnect with the World Around Us

6 Ways to Reconnect with the World Around Us

Technology is wonderful, right?  No more paper maps (that never fold back the way they are supposed to), no more clipping coupons, no more waiting for ... well, anything really.  With the internet, the world is literally at our fingertips, just one tap, swipe, or voice activation away.

And yet, technology pulls us away from the world.  We see everything through a screen and are bombarded by information, most of which we never actually wanted.   Rather than watch an event we pay hundreds of dollars to attend (like a concert), we watch it through our phones.  We see birthdays, first steps, and even our food through the lens of a phone.

Taking picture with smartphone

This new world is our children's world.  And frankly, I think it's a terrifying one.

Not that I'm against technology.  I love streaming movies just as much as the next person, but as we connect with the rest of the world, we disconnect from the world itself.  You know ... trees, grass, dirt, nature?  Sound familiar?  Most of us have memories of playing outside as children, letting our imaginations run wild as we create pirate ships out of fallen logs, slay dragons with our mighty broadsword branches, and do all the things kids are supposed to do.

Now, instead of playing pretend, many children are checking their social media accounts, watching YouTube videos, and are growing up far faster than ever before.

Is that a good thing?  Time will tell, but many are saying no.  No it is not.

So how do we fix it?  How do we disconnect from the world of technology and reconnect with the world around us?  Stillwater Outdoors has a few suggestions to help you and your family get started.

Man hiking down trail

1.  Lead by Example

This one can be hard, but it is by far one of the best ways to get kids excited about the world around them.  Schedule some technology-free time for yourself and do something that interests you - ride your bike, visit a park, read a book, take a walk.  If your kids see you doing it, they'll be more likely to do it as well (or at least may groan a little less when you make them do it since you're following the same rules).

Kids making crafts

2.  Plan Themed Activities

Pick something that interests your kids and then for that week/month, plan activities around that interest.  If your kids like water plan a visit to the local pool, a trip to the aquarium, a craft activity creating fish out of various materials.  Letting your kids pick the topics or activities gets them involved.  Utilizing the same theme for a longer period of time allows for a more in-depth look at the topic and more time for fun activities.

United Way, Volunteering

3.  Community Service - As a Family

This one is perhaps one of the most important ways to reconnect.  It helps to teach kids compassion, empathy, and kindness (and parents as well).  Although there is nothing wrong with donating to a local shelter or food bank, it can be beneficial to go one step further and donate your time.  Having children work to help others, to see how their efforts can change someone's life, is truly an awe-inspiring experience.  It lets kids know that what they choose to do in life does matter, that they can make a difference, and that everyone, regardless of background, deserves respect.

United Way helps communities all around the globe by focusing on education, income, and health.  On their Get Involved tab, you can search for volunteer opportunities right in your community.

kids splashing adult with water

4.  Visit Somewhere New

This is a wonderful way to spend a weekend.  Have the family choose a new spot (or take turns picking the next location) and go explore.  It could be a park, a national forest, a beach, a library, anywhere really.  Set boundaries early on (miles from home, cost, and so on) to keep things fair.

This is a particular favorite of mine as I tend to frequent the same places again and again.  It's not that I'm adverse to change, but habit oftentimes gets the best of me.  By choosing new locations to explore, I'm expanding my comfort zone, having new experiences, and am showing my daughter that the unknown doesn't have to be frightening.  Sure, we may have no idea where to park, how to participate, or what to buy, but by figuring it out as we go, we are teaching her how to solve problems, be flexible, and, most importantly, have fun.

dragon fruit, cut to show inside

5.  Try Something New

This could be a new type of food, a new game, or even participating in a new event.  As I mentioned before, it's easy to slide into the same routine day after day, week after week, so why not schedule one day where the family does something different?  Food is an easy way to start.  Pick out a new recipe, have everyone help make it, and then try it out.  Not every choice will be a winner, but it's a great way to spend time together and make a few memories.  If you don't know which recipe to start with, why not have your kids choose an ingredient to give you a starting point.  It helps make grocery shopping a little more exciting when they get to choose the secret ingredient.  Then have the kids research what it is, how to cook it, and pick a recipe.

children visiting grandparents

6.  Visit Family

I know, I know ... it's not Christmas.  Or Thanksgiving.  But when did it become the rule that visiting family only happens on holidays?  Go visit a family member you haven't seen in a while, but go with a purpose.  Do they have a particular skill that the kids might find interesting?  Do they have family stories (even embarrassing ones about yourself) that the kids might love to hear?  As a child, I used to love sitting around the campfire, listening to the adults in my family tell stories from their youth.  There is something oddly satisfying in learning that your father used to tease his sisters as much as you tease yours.

 

There are a million other ways to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with the actual world and what works best for you and your family may not work for others.  Hopefully, this list will give you a few ideas to try the next time you see your kids staring at a screen or hear them complain about being bored. 

We'd love to hear about your tips and tricks for reconnecting.  Contact us today or join our mailing list for more information.

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