Welcome to Earth. How Can We Help It?

Going “green” in an increasingly grey world



Lindsey Naples

I own an unholy amount of clothing…specifically sneakers. More specifically, Vans sneakers. I don’t skateboard (unless you count the one time when I was 11 that ended with a hill I didn’t see and a hospital visit), but they’re some of the most comfortable sneakers I’ve ever worn.


An artsy shot of my favorite pair of Vans.

I also live on Earth. So, imagine my joy when I opened an e-mail from Vans to find they’re making efforts to protect the environment! I was thrilled to see a graphic that read “The Future Starts Today” and a link at the bottom encouraging me to explore the goals the company is striving to achieve to reduce their footprint. Good for you, Vans!


Company goal; source: Vans

What Does This Have to Do with Print?
I think we’ve established after my realization last year that print is everywhere, I can pretty much connect this industry to anything. So, what do shoes I love have to do with the print industry? Packaging. And packaging directly impacts the environment with single-use plastics.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) defines single-use plastics as “goods that are made primarily from fossil fuel-based chemicals (petrochemicals) and are meant to be disposed of right after use—often, in mere minutes.” Things like plastic drink bottles, bubble wrap, those annoying things that hold soda cans together and terrorize marine life—that’s all packaging. They literally have no other function aside from that; they’re made to use once and toss, never to be thought of beyond that.


But if you did think about them beyond that, do you know what you’d find? (Nightmares, more than likely.) They aren’t biodegradable, so when they breakdown, they just become micro particles of plastic living in the environment. According to Green Peace, “microplastics, smaller plastic particles that result from single use plastic breaking down, pollute our water sources and even our food.” It’s a problem for everything that inhabits this planet: plants, animals, us.

And there is a lot of it. Science Daily estimates there are “24.4 trillion pieces of microplastics in the world's upper oceans, with a combined weight of 82,000 to 578,000 tons.” To put that into perspective, the Saturn V rocket (Apollo 4 mission in 1967) caps out at 3,100 tons when fully fueled and ready to go. That is the equivalent of roughly 26.5 rockets in the ocean—and that’s the minimum estimated weight. Reread that sentence.


Source: The Toronto Star


But What Does This Have to Do With Me?
You live here, for starters. And regardless of your opinions on all of this, are you really okay with living on a literal pile of garbage? No? Awesome, because helping reduce the amount of single use plastics is pretty easy!


Unfortunately, you can’t really do much about what companies use in their packaging. That’s on them to rethink (a la Vans, Walt Disney World, Hyatt, and many more that are making strides to reduce this issue). But for the everyday person who (I assume) does not run a global business, there are plenty of ways you can contribute. For instance, using a reusable bag when you go shopping, swapping out products for more environmentally-friendly versions (bar soap instead of liquid soap, a reusable water bottle, etc.), and just being conscious and consistent in your recycling habits can all have an effect.

Plastic is not your fault, but it is a massive burden. So do what you can to lessen some of that weight—even if it’s just being mindful of what’s in your hands.


Happy Earth Day!


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