living in the Zero

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You walk through your daily grocery store, though there are many workers, you find the store to be under stocked and littered with trash. It becomes difficult to walk through the isles as the trash begins to pile up, deeper and deeper until you can barely breathe. This is the reality for many aquatic animals living the in oceans due to the growing amount of plastic pollution and death of natural resources.
9.1 Billion tons of plastic have been thrown away since the beginning use of mass produced plastic in the 1950’s, according to earthday.org. Plastic continues to stack up in landfills, causing for some to turn to a zero waste lifestyle to lower the amount of trash that ends up in landfills and oceans.
Zero waste living is defined as hosting a more sustainable lifestyle by lowering the amount of items thrown away daily. Those who live this type of lifestyle pick items that can be 100% recycled, reused, or composted. By reducing the amount of single plastics being thrown away daily, there is a reduction in liter making way into the ocean, or being burned in a landfill. Some items people will use to prevent the use of plastics are glass jars, reusable cloth bags for produce items and grocery bags, or bamboo cutlery and toothbrushes.
Downtown restaurants in Columbia recently made efforts to lower the use of plastics by refusing to serve plastic straws unless otherwise asked. The Hidleburg is one of the many to stop serving straws, posting a notice throughout the main floor of the building stating they would no longer provide straws without being asked in efforts to help lower plastic pollution.
Destiny Dollinger is a senior who works part time at T.G.I.Fridays. The servers are instructed to not serve straws unless requested. Dollinger said, “Restaurants should not immediately supply straws. At the restaurant I work at, we don’t give straws unless the requested by the customer, so if they need it, they just let us know.
Plastic straws are one of the many single use plastics eco-conscious people refuse due to the impact they have on the environment. These plastics are created for convenience and are thrown away after a single use. Plastic straws and cutlery are made out of recyclable plastics, however are too lightweight to successfully be recycled, ultimately making these items become garbage to be placed in a landfill or incinerated. These plastics continue to be thrown away and sit in landfills for thousands of years depending on the type and amount of plastic in the item.
These single use plastics are convenient and easy to find and use, stores and restaurants sell and distribute these plastics for consumers. Rhondell Tipton uses these pieces of cutlery and straws even though he acknowledges that these plastics can be harmful for the environment. “You get [plastic utensils] at restaurants and stuff, and I don’t want to just drink from a regular cup. Also if you have big parties at your house you don’t want to have to clean a bunch of dishes,” he said.
Students learn about the advantages and disadvantages plastics have on the environment, but few have accepted a full zero waste lifestyle. AP Biology and zoology teacher, Rachel Tinsley, teaches students how to be more environmentally conscious. She commented, “My big job is to educate that there is a problem.” She continued, “I bring my blue bags because the school does not provide them, so I hope kids throw away their recyclables in there.” Battle influences this decision to become more eco-friendly with the choice of recycling any plastics or aluminum cups and cans in the recycling bins placed at the end of each hallway and in the commons area. Classes based around environmental sciences are also available to students who wish to learn more.

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