It’s officially #PlasticFreeJuly so here are some of our top tips from our Action Line story “Become a watchdog of waterways.” We want to inspire people to lighten their impact on aquatic ecosystems and animals. One thing you can start doing right away—stop plastic pollution at the source. We are encouraged by notable cities like Boston, Austin, Cambridge, Chicago and Seattle that have banned single-use plastic carry-out bags (unfortunately this doesn’t include plastic produce bags), and so have the entire states of California and Hawaii.

In addition to advocating for similar legislation where you live, here are some other things you can do:

Use reusable cloth carry-out bags, (like FoA’s tote bag) when shopping for groceries, takeout, clothing, etc. and reusable produce bags
Each person uses on average more than 700 plastic bags a year, according to Sandra Meola of NY/NJBaykeeper. Whether it’s single-use or thicker plastic bags, or even paper bags, all of them end up as waste. Interestingly, single-use plastic grocery bags were not introduced into the U.S. until 1979 and didn’t become mainstream until 1985, according to “How Plastic Became So Popular,” an article published in The Atlantic magazine in 2014. Society can survive without them! Some reusable cloth and mesh produce bags we found that can be purchased online are: Ecobags;;;;

Carry a reusable water bottle
Each week Americans buy enough plastic water bottles to circle the earth five times, according to the EPA. Reusable glass or stainless steel bottles are better for our waterways. There are plenty of water filtration systems to ensure water from your tap is healthy and tastes great. And since a lot of places have refillable water stations now, you can save money too. Here are a few bottle recommendations from NY/NJ Baykeeper: Love Bottles; Faucet Face; Life Factory; bkr; Klean Kanteen and Pura Stainless. 

Skip the straw
Americans use 500 million plastic straws per day. Meola reports that straws are one of the most common items found during their cleanup efforts. Say, “no straw please” when ordering a drink at a restaurant. Contact the manager of your frequented food service establishments and ask them if they would be willing to only provide straws upon request. She offers these glass straw options: Glass dharma; Simply Straws and reuseit.

Pack a waste-free lunch.
Do away with throw-away lunch packaging. Each child who brings a brown bag lunch to school every day generates 67 pounds of waste each year. Replace juice cartons with a thermos. Friends of Animals Insulated lunch bag with Velcro closure and a handle to carry is just $7.

Bring your own to-go mug with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or restaurant.
It’s a great way to reduce lids and plastic cups.

Ask your community to support a single-use plastic carry-out bag ban or plastic foam container ban
On March 12, 2018, Greenwich, Connecticut, a town right in FoA’s backyard, became the second Connecticut municipality (Westport was the first) to ban single-use plastic carry-out bags. Jurisdictions that have instituted similar bans have seen significant changes. One year after Los Angeles County implemented its single-use plastic carry-out bag ban, there was a 95% reduction in the distribution of all single-use bags, including a 30% reduction in paper bags. San Jose has seen an 89% reduction of plastic bag litter in storm drains, a 60% reduction in creeks, and a 59% reduction in city streets.

Rid your school of Styrofoam trays
In 2013, NYC announced the decision to eliminate 860,000 Styrofoam trays used per day in all 1,800 public schools, sparking the formation of the 6-City Urban School Food Alliance for collectively purchasing compostable plates to drive down cost and maximize purchasing power of the six cities. As of September of 2015, NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, and Dallas eliminated half a billion Styrofoam trays per year from landfills. Take the first step to rid your school of Styrofoam by starting a Cafeteria Ranger program. Get started here.

Check labels on personal care products and non-prescription drugs.
President Obama signed the Microbead Free Waters Act in December 2015 that is phasing out all plastic microbeads by July 2019. Until then, avoid products that say polyethylene and polypropylene on the ingredient label. Check out NY/NJ Baykeeper’s plastic free product database. 

Participate in the next International Coastal Cleanup, Sept. 15, 2018, or start one of your own.
Every year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, hundreds of thousands of volunteers comb lakes, rivers and beaches around the world for trash. For over three decades, more than 12 million volunteers have collected over 220 million pounds of trash. Visit this site for more information. And Surfrider Foundation Chapters often hold cleanups monthly or more frequently. Visit this site for more info.