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The Fourth "R"

By Nhu Bui and Hannah Guyton, Interns, Citizens' Environmental Coalition (CEC)

You've probably heard all about the three R's to save the environment. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. It's been drilled into our heads since childhood, and these steps are undoubtedly crucial parts to creating a sustainable society. However, this month we are focusing on the lesser-known fourth R: refuse*. Today marks the beginning of Plastic-Free July, a global challenge to decrease the huge amount of plastic pollution around the world. About a truckload of plastic enters the water every minute, warns Greenpeace, and scientists estimate that our oceans will hold more plastic than fish by 2050 if we continue at our current rates. As important as things like recycling are, the very best way to keep single-use plastics out of the landfills and our streets is to have never used them at all.

This Plastic-Free July is quite different than any we have ever experienced. In the midst of a pandemic, it is harder than ever to escape single-use plastics, according to a recent article in The Economist; you're probably having items delivered from websites instead of risking a trip to the store, or wearing a disposable face mask every time you leave the house. It's all a part of our new normal. But not only that, the pandemic is also hindering garbage processing, as many waste and recycling workers that would usually deal with all this plastic waste are out of commission. The entire waste industry joins countless others that have been upended by the pandemic, according to Rice University's Baker Institute, as reported in Forbes.

Our circumstances may make participating in Plastic-Free July harder, but that also makes it even more important. How can you be a part of the challenge? Here are some ideas:

  • Join Nurdle Patrol! What is a nurdle? Visit or search the web for "Diane Wilson Nurdle."
  • Speak up! Voice your support by JULY 3, 2020 for expanding the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico to protect marine life from pollution.
  • Stay informed! The CEC is co-hosting an online viewing of the Story of Plastic, a film that takes a closer look into what happens after plastic enters your trash can. (More info soon!)
  • Invest in reusables! Forgoing disposable spoons, forks, straws, and cups not only saves money and the environment, it allows you to add a personal touch to your everyday routines.
  • Like and follow Zero Waste Houston on Facebook to keep up with the Houston zero waste community.
  • Say no! If you're ordering takeout, tell the restaurant not to include plastic utensils and plates in your delivery.
  • Attend a local beach or park clean up. Our member organizations organize these regularly. 
  • Vote! Use your ballot to back candidates and policies that are determined to phase out single-use plastics.
  • Plog. Pick up litter while you jog, walk, or paddle. Get outside, exercise, pick up trash, and make the world a better place all at the same time.
  • Take the Interfaith Environmental Network of Houston Plastic Free EcoChallenge that is shared on our calendar
Be sure to join the CEC and partners for a virtual movie night to watch The Story of Plastic on July 23 and join us for Trivia Night on July 29!


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