by Eartha Steward

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March 28, 2012
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Ask Eartha: Reusable challenge kicks off Monday

In honor of Earth Day, we're launching the 21-Day Reusable Challenge. The challenge is to kick the habit of using disposable items for 21 days - starting on April 2 and ending on Earth Day, April 22. At a minimum, no plastic bags, no water bottles and no Styrofoam. OK, we know if you're reading this, chances are you already do your part to reduce waste. But ask yourself, can you be doing more? What about that take-out container from yesterday's lunch? Or how about persuading your friends or family to take the challenge? Below is some background info on why reducing disposables is so important.

Can't live with them, can't live without them. Or can you? Relying on disposable bags is a downright dingy habit. While single-use bags might provide short-term convenience, they're a major source of pollution in production, use and disposal. Together, paper and plastic single-use bags represent a major draw on resources, both physical and financial. All of which could be avoided if more of us remembered to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) every time we shop.

It's estimated more than 17 million barrels of oil are wasted annually to produce around 900,000 tons of plastic to meet the demand for bottled water in the United States. Even more alarming is the massive amount of waste; 86 percent of plastic water bottles aren't recycled. While the demand for bottled water is up in the U.S., the EPA has found that 90 percent of domestic tap water is safe to drink. Furthermore, studies show that at least 40 percent of bottled water is just tap water anyway! Bottled water is as convenient as bringing your own reusable stainless steel bottle with one big difference - one purchase of a reusable bottle can save you hundreds of dollars in bottled water bills and keep hundreds of plastic bottles out of our landfills and oceans.

Styrofoam is bad news for the environment. It's made from petroleum, litters our favorite places and takes up landfill space. With a useful life of about as long as it takes to get your leftovers from the restaurant to the refrigerator, foam take-out containers are pesky polluters! In addition, Styrofoam has also been known to leach toxic chemicals into our food and drinks, especially when heated. Next time you order food to-go, demand a better alternative like aluminum foil - or bring your own container.

All of these disposable items are contributing not only to our landfills, but also to the growth of the Pacific Garbage Patch. Estimated at twice the size of Texas, the floating continent of plastic trash wreaks havoc between California and Hawaii. Like something out of a sci-fi movie, experts have found that in this plastic "soup" zone, there are 46 times more man-made plastic than nature-made plankton. The only solution is to stop adding to the pile and cut back our single-use plastic habits.

That's why we're asking you to take our 21-Day Reusable Challenge. From April 2-22, ending on Earth Day, stop using as many disposables as possible - especially plastic bags, plastic water bottles and Styrofoam. And on Thursday, April 19, come celebrate your success at our annual Earth Day Action Fair at the Silverthorne Pavilion. The event feature booths with local nonprofits and green businesses, fun activities for kids, music and a chance to connect with environmentally-minded folks.

For more info on the 21-Day Reusable Challenge and the Earth Day Action Fair, check out

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The Summit Daily Updated Mar 28, 2012 04:08PM Published Mar 28, 2012 04:05PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.