Full house at the Pacific Grove reduction of plastic use forum. St. Mary's by-the-Sea's own Melinda Manlin in the back row.

Full house at the forum. Our own Melinda Manlin in the back row.

Just about 100 people filled the room at the PG Museum of Natural History on 10 July for presentations on environmental concerns, most especially those involving plastic in our waste stream, our oceans—including the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary —and in our day-to-day lives.  Sustainable Pacific Grove, co-chaired by Denyse Frischmuth and Colleen Ingram, sponsored this gathering, and speakers came from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Regional Waste Management District, PG’s Beautification and Natural Resources Commission, and the Surfrider Foundation.

The City of Pacific Grove continues to work on a draft ordinance to ban single-use plastics from hotels and restaurants; there is a sense that this might pass into law within the next few months; Monterey, as well as other cities in the state, already have such regulations in place.  In the meantime, the speakers encouraged individual actions that can have a real impact on the amount of plastic (and other resources) consumed, reminding the audience that all plastic is derived from oil or gas sources and thus contributes to climate change.

Here are a few ideas, easy for people to inject into their daily routines:

* Purchase a reusable dry cleaning bag (a tremendous amount of plastic goes into covering individual cleaning orders);

* Pick up a FREE cloth produce bag at the PG farmers market and use it over and over;

* Ask you newspaper delivery person to stop wrapping the paper in plastic bags unless it is raining;

* Choose glass or aluminum, both highly recyclable, over plastic;

* When purchasing things such as yogurt or liquid soap, buy the largest size possible so as to reduce the number of containers;

* Use bar soap instead of liquid soap;

* Choose laundry detergent in cardboard boxes—highly recyclable—instead of hard plastic jugs;

* Bring your own reusable cup to the coffee shop;

* Use a steel or aluminum water bottle instead of plastic.


Shockingly, only about 9% of the plastic consumed in the US is recycled, so it is not a sure thing that the plastic box holding the grapes you just bought will ever be anything but landfill.  Consumers can affect a lot of change by thinking before buying and also by speaking and/or writing to business managers expressing your interest in reducing the use of plastic packaging. Individual action can be persuasive and powerful.