Editorial: Make pledge to reduce plastic use for Earth Day

After a series of environmental disasters in the United States, a series of "teach-ins" occurred across the country on April 22, 1970, attempting to raise awareness and transform attitudes about environmental issues.

Forty-eight years later, we continue to mark April 22 as Earth Day, having made significant progress in cleaning up our water and air.


These days, many of our elected leaders push back against abstract notions of man-made climate change, despite an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence to the contrary, perhaps because they struggle to see it with their own eyes. That's far different from the late 1960s, when people were dying of respiratory illnesses due to polluted air in New York and a river caught fire in Cleveland because of oil and industrial sludge that had been dumped into it — events that spurred the creation of Earth Day.

Regardless of elected and appointed environmental leaders' attitudes, residents can take matters into their own hands when it comes to taking care of our planet by making small changes that, collectively, can make a big difference.

One simple thing to do is stop using plastic bags and water bottles, and replace them with similar reusable items.

The theme of Earth Day 2018 is to address the dangers plastics pose to the environment and end plastic pollution. Plastic bottles can take as many as 500 years to decompose and plastic bags can take twice as long. Beyond that, when improperly discarded, these items get into the Earth's soil and slowly release toxic chemicals. In some cases, animals may come upon shards of the bags, eat them and choke and die.

The Earth Day Network notes that, if nothing changes, by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish.

And let's be honest, how many times have you seen a plastic grocery bag caught up in the branch of a tree, flapping in the wind, or blowing across the street, or caught up in a sewer drain? In addition to an environmental hazard, they're also an ugly eyesore.

Shifting how you think about plastic can also save money. Bottled water is expensive. You can buy a re-fillable water bottle for $5 to $10 and fill it from the tap whereever you are. Heck, you might even be able to get a decent one for free — vendors at community events often give away water bottles as door prizes or at their booths. A reusable water bottle can also keep you healthier. When you're thirsty, you may be more likely to refill it with water than buying a sugary soda from the office vending machine.

And while Carroll County has not, and likely never will, institute a plastic bag fee or tax like some jurisdictions, including nearby Montgomery County, many grocers in Carroll and other stores like Target offer a nominal discount when you bring your own bags. Those nickels can add up quickly over time and quickly cover the cost of a reusable bag (not to mention, they hold more, so it means less trips lugging bags into the house after you're done shopping).

Those interested in reducing their carbon footprint by limiting the use of plastic in their lives can visit to take the End Plastic Pollution Pledge, including taking a quiz to learn more about your own plastic consumption and creating a personal plastic plan to track progress, as well as learn how to encourage others to do the same through social media.