Our summer issue took on one of the most pervasive problems facing our planet today: plastic pollution. We uncovered what happens to exported U.S. plastic waste, how bans on single-use plastics impact working communities, and how the microplastics from our clothing, food, and household objects end up in the ocean. We named the major forces responsible for this problem, highlighted innovative re-uses for the plastic that’s already on the planet, and shared hopeful visions for a plastic-free future that keeps accessibility at the forefront of the conversation.
There’s no question that systemic change is needed to put an end to plastic production and pollution, but tackling a challenge of this scale requires participation at all levels. So we’re thrilled that more than 900 readers joined the YES! team for July’s Plastic-Free EcoChallenge, cutting back on single-use plastic in their lives, cooking zero-waste meals, and taking action to help others understand plastic’s impact. Online, we asked readers to share the ways they’re fighting for change in their own communities—and heard from YES! readers across the globe.
I started a citizen science project called Micro Investigators, where we take primary school kids out to their local rivers and take water samples for microplastics. We then work with high school students to extract the microplastics in the lab, and the results are posted on a citizen science data hub, raising awareness of microplastic pollution across all levels of education and in the community. (Kids are also great at sharing what they learned with their families.) We believe that the key to fighting microplastic pollution is making the invisible visible—because you can’t care about things you can’t see, and you can’t protect the things you don’t care about.—Christine L., Invercargill, New Zealand
We “consumers,” homemakers, and individuals are near the end of the plastic production, distribution, and use chain, and I believe the ultimate answer lies at the head of the line. So, I contact my elected officials with the message, “Support clean and sustainable energy, not oil and gas, keep fossil fuels in the ground. More and more of your constituents share my convictions.” But probably most importantly I contact manufacturers! I make telephone calls and send emails. My message is this: “I like your product, but your plastic packaging is a deal-breaker for me. And I know that I am not alone in my desire to unsnarl plastics from my life and from our planet. More and more buyers are rejecting plastic packaging.” I have also contacted packaging manufacturers associations with this message: “Use your energy and innovation to create packaging that is part of a closed-loop system, plastic-free, recyclable, returnable, compostable. More and more citizens want sustainable methods—get on board or be left holding the plastic bag.”
I believe that the most powerful leverage lies with the makers of products bought by members of the public. I refuse, re-use, and recycle too, of course, and I will keep up with those practices, but if the stuff keeps coming down the line, I end up feeling overwhelmed like Lucy and Ethel working on the candy conveyer belt. Hey, maybe packaging could be made of chocolate! —Kathleen W., Chardon, Ohio
I made reusable, washable fabric sandwich and snack bags for everyone attending our family reunion. My brother texted that he uses his to keep his cell phone dry when he’s out gardening on a wet day! —Beth S., Cincinnati, Ohio
are those editors featured on YES! Magazine’s masthead. Stories authored by YES! Editors are substantially reported, researched, written, and edited by at least two members of the YES! Editorial team.