Make Your Coffee or Tea Plastic Free

Every morning when you wake up, what do you pour into your cup? 

For many of us, an early cup (or a few!) of coffee or tea is a daily ritual. But did you know that along with your morning brew, you might also be sipping on a hefty dose of plastic?

A major focus of this Plastic Free July—a global month-long movement to encourage people to engage in solutions to plastic pollution—is the ubiquitous single-use plastic coffee (or tea) cup. So this month we are highlighting why it’s important to cut plastic out of your “morning brew” routine—and we will show you how to do it!

Get Plastic Out of Your Cup

Single-use plastic items, including the cups commonly used to hold coffee and tea, are rarely recycled and instead mainly end up in landfills and the environment, or are incinerated. Plastic pollutes the environment, where it contaminates shared resources such as water and soil, and harms wildlife.

And not only is plastic bad for the planet, it’s bad for our health: Plastic does not break down but instead breaks up into infinitely smaller pieces, which people inadvertently ingest along with food and beverages, inhale when we breathe indoors and outdoors, and absorb through our skin. Plastic pollution disproportionately burdens people of color, rural, and low-income people with toxic pollution.

These plastic particles accumulate in our bodies—including in our bloodstreams—where they leach toxic chemicals known to harm human health, such as phthalates, bisphenols, and UV stabilizers. These toxins are known to cause reproductive harm, neurological damage, and can increase the risk of cancer—among many other ill effects.

Unfortunately, there are many ways plastic particles may be brewing in your coffee or tea. From the cups used to hold beverages bought “to-go,” to the at-home machines and accessories used to make your own brew, plastic may seem unavoidable. But with the right information, you can make choices that minimize your exposure to plastics in your favorite morning beverage.

Choose Reusables Over Single-Use Cups

Do you buy your coffee or tea to go in single-use beverage cups? If you do, you’re ingesting plastic along with your coffee or tea.

Single-use cups are often made of paper on the outside, and inside are lined with a thin coating of plastic meant to insulate your drink and prevent hot liquid from leaking out. Scientists have demonstrated that a 12-ounce paper cup’s plastic lining sheds more than 1.5 trillion tiny plastic particles into the liquid it holds. They found that these tiny toxic plastic particles shed more rapidly when the liquid inside the cup is hot.

Thankfully, many coffee and tea shops are making it easier for customers to bring their own non-plastic (stainless steel, ceramic, glass) reusable cups for refill. Others offer standard ceramic, metal, or glass mugs for use if you can take the time to enjoy your coffee or tea inside the shop, such as PPC Business Member Wild Trails Coffee in BC, Canada. There are also reusable takeaway cups, such as those from PPC Business Member and Earthshot nominee Vessel, which can be returned and reused indefinitely. If you can make your morning brew at home, it’s even easier to choose to reuse! 

Some of our favorite non-plastic reusable cups for coffee and tea include:

  • Ceramic mugs or ceramic thermoses, such as those made by Soma
  • Stainless steel mugs or thermoses, such as those made by PPC Business Members Klean Kanteen or Carry Your Bottle
  • All-glass thermoses, such as those made by Tupkee

Make Your Morning Brew Plastic-Free

Here’s how:

1. Find plastic-free coffee makers and accessories

Many coffee makers—especially electric automatic models—are now made out of plastic. Plastic is cheap and insulates hot liquids, but these qualities create a toxic tradeoff. Just because the market is flooded with plastic coffee makers does not mean you need to use them.

There are plenty of coffee makers and accessories out there that can help minimize your exposure to plastic. Some may seem expensive to purchase initially. But because they are made with no-to-little plastic, they are long lasting and you will save money in the long run (as long as you take good care of them). Additionally, with a little research, it’s possible to buy these or similar products secondhand or from alternative sources for less than the retail price.

Manual coffee makers that require you to drip, percolate, siphon, press, or pour over are the styles most commonly made of glass and/or stainless steel, helping you to avoid plastic. Some good manual coffee maker and accessory options include:

  • Manual stainless steel burr coffee grinders, such as those made by Waldwerk (this is a manual grinder from Germany, ships internationally) 
  • Electrical stainless steel burr coffee grinders such as those made by Fellow Ode Brew (this electric grinder like most a plastic hopper but the burrs inside are stainless steel)
  • Manual ceramic burr coffee grinders, such as those made by Porlex
  • Glass pour-over carafes, such as those made by Chemex
  • Glass siphons, such as those made by Yama
  • Single-cup stainless pour-over brewers, such as those made by Sumptown Coffee Roasters 
  • Single-cup glass pour-over brewers, such as those made by Pure Over
  • Stainless steel and glass french presses, such as those made by Public Goods (most french presses have a small amount of plastic at the seal, which largely does not touch the coffee inside) or Bodum
  • All-stainless steel french presses, such as those made by Mueller
  • All-stainless steel percolators, such as those made by Farberware 
  • All-stainless steel stovetop espresso makers, such as those made by Alessi

If you prefer automatic coffee makers and accessories, it’s a bit harder to find plastic-free options since these machines are largely designed with plastic. Even steel espresso machines typically have plastic hosing inside to carry hot water. Drip machines minimize hot water’s contact with plastic. These two automatic options best limit your exposure to plastic by being mostly made of stainless steel and glass:

2. Find plastic-free tea brewing tools and accessories

Single-use tea bags may seem to be made of paper. But in reality, the majority of tea bags are made from plastic. With each plastic tea bag you steep, scientists have found that nearly 15 billion plastic particles are released right into your drink. This is a significant number of plastic particles, and concerning, again, given the dangers these particles pose to the environment and our health.

The best way to avoid toxic plastic in your tea is to purchase loose-leaf tea and use fine stainless steel strainers, such as those sold by Package Free. Not only are these strainers simple, but they are also inexpensive and widely available. 

You might also consider a ceramic mug-and-strainer combo, such as those made by Euna Living. Plain glass, ceramic, or cast-iron teapots such as those sold by Susteas are also excellent brewing options as long as you avoid painted or enameled options—which may contain toxic cadmium and lead. If you prefer a press-type model, try a brewing pot such as those made by Rishi Tea & Botanicals.

If you want to use tea bags without the toxic plastic, check out reusable organic linen (a fiber from the flax plant) or cotton tea bags, such as those made by Marley’s Monsters or Net Zero Co. Simply place your own loose tea leaves inside, and steep like you would a conventional tea bag (without all the plastic!).

Consider What Goes Inside Your Cup

Once you’ve established your plastic-free coffee or tea routine, the next step is to consider what you’re putting in your cup.

The fast-accelerating climate crisis is making it more challenging to grow coffee and tea, with droughts, flooding, heatwaves, and storms ruining crops and damaging the lands where coffee and tea is grown. For example, Kenya, which grows nearly half of all tea consumed in the UK, is expected to lose more than a quarter of its optimal tea-growing lands by 2050 to climate-related disasters and change. Climate catastrophes also disproportionately harm underserved communities, including groups like women, Indigenous peoples, and low-income people—who often depend on farming crops, including tea and coffee, for their livelihood.

Unfortunately, many people working on coffee and tea farms are mistreated by their employers, and are sometimes forced into labor. What’s more, even when workers are paid for their hard labor (most tea leaves and coffee beans are painstakingly picked by hand), the conditions on these farms commonly range from harsh to inhumane. Some workers have little to no access to adequate water, food, shelter, bathrooms, and other necessities. 

Additionally, one must consider the deforestation that goes hand in hand with the expansion of cropland, as well as the rampant application of pesticides and use of plastic in farming coffee and tea. Landscapes have been completely stripped of their natural health by coffee and tea growing—especially in Central and South America, Asia, and Africa, where much coffee and tea is grown—and polluted by pesticides and plastics used in growing.

Being informed about these issues is the first step to making positive change. Speak with your dollars by buying organic, fair-trade coffee beans and loose tea in non-plastic packaging from companies that are transparent about their practices and sourcing. For example, Arbor Teas has a wide selection of ethically sourced, organic teas in non-plastic compostable packaging, and Café Mam offers a selection of organic, fair-trade coffees grown in Chiapas, Mexico, in plastic-free packaging.

Make Today a Plastic-Free Coffee or Tea Day

Thankfully, with the right information, a little planning, and preparation, you can set forward a morning coffee or tea routine free of plastic and toxic chemicals that’s also considerate of the people who picked each bean or leaf in your favorite morning drink.

This Plastic Free July, how will you incorporate reuse as well as health, environmental, and ethical considerations into your daily coffee or tea routine? We hope this blog has given you plenty of ideas for getting started in taking your plastic-free morning routine to the next level.

Guest blog by Kathryn Nelson, Plastic-Free Mermaid

Who is Plastic-Free Mermaid?

I haven’t used single-use plastics in over a decade (13 years and 4 months to be exact!) and I’ve phased out most other plastics from my life in that time as well. I make most of my own products, track down natural materials to replace common plastic items, and when I can’t find a substitute, I settle for repurposed or second-hand plastics. It is such a rewarding lifestyle.

I feel fortunate to have learned about plastic in college, and that my career took me into conservation work. Today, I continue to lobby for change and communicate about how toxic plastic is to our environment and our bodies.

During my research on plastic’s impacts on the human body, I learned that little developing humans are the most susceptible to the toxic effects of plastic—meaning pregnant people and their fetuses, babies, and children. 

With so many polluting elements linked to plastic’s long, disastrous life span, plastic pollution can feel overwhelming at times. For support over the years, I have attended many of the plastic science and activism events hosted by Plastic Pollution Coalition and other organizations, joining a diverse group of people collaborating to create a safer world. I always dreamed of raising an ultra crunchy, garden dirt-covered, vegetable-eating, naked, nature baby, but I wasn’t there yet, let alone able to support other parents and their children. When Plastic Pollution Coalition published its Healthy Pregnancy Guide in collaboration with Made Safe, I was relieved to read and share a fabulous resource for learning both risks and solutions.

Mermaid to Mama

My pregnancy began in October 2021, when I was living in Byron Bay, Australia, a gorgeous little surf town. The quaint town had a flourishing local food system, hills filled with organic farms that grew fruit, nuts, veggies, and had regenerative agriculture projects. It’s where I learned that raising animals could actually be carbon positive if done with well-planned regenerative design. At local markets, clever makers of wooden spoons and homemade soaps and natural beauty products all gathered to share their plastic-free gifts and their goods. I also had a little garden where I grew my own food, and worked with nearby farms to order paper bags of oats, flour, rice, lentils, and other grains and legumes. My community was nature-oriented, and living in alignment with the Earth off the grid was our shared dream. 

It was manageable for me to live a plastic-free, zero-waste, low impact lifestyle. Over the seven years making Byron my home, I had found my rhythm, knew my sustainable allies, and had established systems for maintaining a balance of growing, making, and supporting community members. 

With me being freshly pregnant, my partner Dylan and I decided to leave this nature-lovers paradise. COVID had just struck the town, and lockdowns were very intense in Australia. We were worried it would be hard to leave, access medical care if needed, and impossible to see friends and family outside of our state. We packed up and moved to Oahu, Hawaii, halfway between mainland U.S. and Australia—so our friends and family could still visit us. Plus Dylan’s parents live on Oahu, so it made sense to be close to our baby’s grandparents. 

Oahu is, of course, also a nature-lovers paradise! I arrived in my first trimester with immense brain fog, low energy, and zero knowledge of the island’s food systems or ecological state. I quickly realized I had to let go of my expectations for an immediate perfect sustainable lifestyle on my new island home. 

Nourishment

It took me a few months, but slowly I was able to identify my plastic-free allies around the island. I visited a few farmer’s markets and got to know what grew locally and which farmers would sell me their organic produce without plastic. Eventually, I visited all the grocery stores in my area and learned what I can get plastic-free and organic at each. I can get flour, rice, and lentils in paper sacks and organic heirloom tomatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, apples, and kale from one big chain grocery store. I can get fresh baked sourdough, organic bananas, juice, peanut butter, and a few other plastic-free items from another major retailer. I get fresh eggs from a friends’ farm. I get cheese from the local dairy and they let me bring my own container. Fresh sourdough pasta is sold in small batches at our local pizza shop. I get fresh macadamia nuts in my own jar from a farm by Dylan’s canoe club. Everything else I order from the island’s farm co-op that delivers in a cardboard box. 

When I am near any one of these places, I stop by and stock up. I don’t always have fresh pasta or organic fruit in the fridge. Sometimes I have to plan meals around what I was able to collect and buy, instead of what I am craving. I am happy with this system; it serves me. And when I want a treat, we bring our reusable forks to the food trucks that serve food on compostable paper plates. Or we go to a diner to lather some fluffy pancakes in syrup and pray they don’t serve butter in single-serve, single-use packets.

On occasion, a cafe would not want to serve us with our own cups or bowls, so I would politely leave and bring my business elsewhere. I used to argue (with a polite tone and cheeky smile) for the planet in such situations, explaining how I am supporting our shared resources of water, air, and earth by abstaining from convenient plastics and would appreciate some cooperation for my efforts. After the past few years, I feel more compassion for the stress people are under and that people have their own health concerns that might compel them to use plastic—though I want them to know there are alternatives out there.

Early in my pregnancy, I couldn’t keep down vitamins and couldn’t bear the idea of eating sugar-packed prenatal vitamins, so my midwife made me a special iron tonic (yellow dock root, nettle leaf, red raspberry leaf, dandelion leaf, dandelion root, molasses, water) and a bitter green tea with much of these same herbs. I found a glass jar of calcium and magnesium derived from marine plants. I was drinking tons of water and even inherited a gigantic stash of coconuts from our neighbors, so my body was teeming with natural electrolytes.

I had my nourishment covered. I felt good. 

Toxin Free

We are already exposed to a plethora of environmental pollutants on a daily basis that we would never consent to being exposed to, yet we are never asked and are rarely informed by polluters. Our soil and plants are sprayed with toxins to kill weeds and bugs, toxins seep into our groundwater that are irretrievable, and then more chemicals are added to our drinking water. Not to mention the plastic microfibers that make their way into our water systems from each household and business washing synthetic clothes and linens. Our air is filled with harsh, unknown fumes from industrial activities. We breathe in plastic particles from tires at stop signs. We breathe in toxic chemicals when we smell someone’s shampoo or perfume or washing detergent that contains the nasty ingredient “fragrance.” 

We are bombarded by toxins. Instead of falling into a pit of despair, I do my best to minimize exposure. I take what I can control and I do my best to keep things simple and natural. We don’t need fancy products for every task or room of the house. Simple ingredients that we can pronounce and recognize keep our bodies safe. 

As I prepare for a precious little being to join us, I wanted to ensure our family’s home was as safe as possible from toxins and any chemical threats. I cannot rip up the existing carpet, which looks synthetic, so we laid some rugs made from natural fibers atop it. We removed the synthetic curtains and replaced them with wooden blinds. We invested in linen sheets and organic cotton mattress covers. Our wooden furniture is sustainably grown and organically treated. We bought mostly second-hand furniture and appliances, opting for the safest materials—like metal, wood, ceramics, or glass—over plastics whenever possible. 

We filled our home with plants and keep our windows and doors open to help filter the air and prevent any plastic dust from hovering. I sweep regularly to get in the habit of having clean floors where our baby will soon be crawling around and exploring his brand new world. I use diluted vinegar with a few drops or tea tree or eucalyptus oil to mop my floors, clean my counters, toilet, shower, and windows. I cut old towels from the thrift store into squares for my washing and wiping. I bake sodium bicarbonate into washing powder for my dishes and laundry. More of my plastic-free, toxin-free cleaning hacks can be found here.

Baby Stuff

Nothing could have prepared me for the extreme amount of STUFF—lots of it brand new and made from plastic—that people buy for their babies. So much of this feels unnecessary and another toxic trait of our consumer culture. 

If we were still in Australia, I know that I would have received many second-hand clothes and other items for my baby, complete with instructions from my helpful friends. Here in the U.S., I’m a bit more on my own and in the dark. Building my registry was a research project I didn’t budget time for! Slowly I came up with a list of things we could use with links to secondhand items from online thrift sites. Some items I recommend are here if you are curious. 

I navigated intense marketing and fear-mongering warning me what would happen to my baby if I didn’t make the purchase. My best friend in Australia keeps it super real with motherhood; she said all I really need is a carseat, and maybe a baby carrier—that’s it. Strap baby to you, and carry on with life, she explained. I do plan to exclusively breastfeed for as long as possible to invest in my son’s immunity, our bond through skin to skin contact, and as a birth control method. We are studying elimination communication, so we can learn our baby’s rhythm and cues for when and how he needs to relieve himself. We will use cloth diapers in these early days as we all get to know each other; however, it seems many cloth diaper brands have switched to using cheaper plastic! That was disappointing, although I did manage to find some wool diaper covers to fit over the old school 100% cotton cloth prefolds.

Doing vs Being

I slept a lot in my first trimester. By the time I rounded the corner into my second trimester, I was so ready to be exploring and enjoying the island. I wanted to stay active to keep up my energy levels, strength, and fitness. I was going on walks, surfing, big swims (keeping my freediving quite shallow), practicing vinyasa yoga, lifting weights at the gym, and going for a weekly run.

I do believe that when we invest in our health and fitness, we are drawn to healthier foods. But I certainly had days and even weeks where I had no energy to cook or prepare any of my favorites. We ate out to avoid messing up the kitchen and just kept it easy. Nachos, green curry, veggie burgers, pad thai, sourdough pizza. I had to work through some guilt around eating so much food that I didn’t know much about—was it local? Organic? Plastic-packaged? Cooked in seed oils? 

My midwife reminded me that this is all a part of the process of letting go. Surrendering. Trusting the process. Receiving. Not focusing on what I think I should have, but what I need in the moment. Presence. This is all the wisdom I will need when our baby decides it is his time to arrive and my home birth adventure begins. 

Now, at nine months pregnant, with 20 days until our due date (right, I thought I would birth at nine months too! This extra month business is wild!), I take it day by day, hour by hour. I get in the ocean at least once a day for a little swim to experience the weightlessness and move my body. I still get to my yoga practice a couple times a week. If a friend calls from Australia, I take a walk and can still manage a decent distance. Mostly, I am resting, reading my books on Hypnobirthing and Elimination Communication (Diaper Free Baby), or watching a show. 

I have made a surprising comeback to the kitchen, where I’ve been whipping up fresh scones, cookies, and cakes from scratch. And the nesting phase has struck, where I am sweeping, dusting, and mopping regularly! 

And I have been allowing myself rest. Allowing myself to surrender to this initiation into motherhood. Releasing my ego’s attachment and identification with all of the activities and things I do, and instead, just being. Being present with how I feel. What my needs are moment to moment. Talking and singing to baby. Meditating. Resting. Less doing. More being.

Nine Months

He will join us soon. So I am enjoying these last weeks, days, moments with a big belly, knowing he is growing inside of me and I am nourishing him with every breath and bite and blissful emotion. 

It’s a gorgeous unraveling of self to make space for the new identity. The girl I was must die for the woman to birth her child. I honor this incredible rewilding. I honor this beautiful primal experience where I feel my ancestors and the women before me like I never have before. I honor this divine opportunity to trust my body to do what it is designed to do. I honor this rite of passage into this next season of my womanhood. 

Join my community where I teach natural living and will soon share my experiences in mothering.

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There’s no entry fee. Deadline for submissions is August 1, 2022.

Are you a TV writer who wants to share positive, inspiring visions of a better future for people and nature on screen? Do you envision a world free of plastic pollution? Well, now’s your opportunity to inspire change by entering the Blue Sky Scriptwriting Competition!

Instead of the typical dystopian hellscape of a scorched earth, polluted by plastics, plagued by injustice, and wrecked by war, can you envision a new utopia?

If our efforts to create a more just, equitable, sustainable world free of plastic pollution are successful, what will the world look like 25 to 50 years from now? At Plastic Pollution Coalition, we are doing all we can to make that world a reality. We know that because life imitates art, we need a culture shift in the arts and entertainment to help give rise to the systems change we need now. 

What brave actions will get us there? What new stories could we tell? What problems might humans face in the future—and how will they overcome the challenges we currently face? Now’s your chance to show the world!

About the Contest

We’re calling on TV writers to show us how they can Flip the Script on Plastics for a new, brighter future that could be featured on the screen.

Plastic Pollution Coalition’s friends at Hollywood, Health and Society are now accepting submissions for their Blue Sky Scriptwriting Contest.

In partnership with the Future of Life Institute and the Writers Guild of America East, Hollywood Health and Society is offering fellowship grants for television scripts that focus storylines in a world set between the years 2045 and 2100. They are looking for stories set in a future that people would aspire to live and thrive in, to help encourage us to make the changes we need now to get there.

Five fellowships of $7,500 each and one grand prize of $20,000 will be awarded. Selected writers will also receive mentorships and expert consultations for script revisions.

Writing to Inspire a Better Future

It can sometimes be challenging to envision a brighter future like the one described here while living in a world so often dominated by doom and gloom. But the research, innovations, policies and grassroot efforts necessary to change things already exist. People leading positive changes are showing us that it is possible to create a better world. And since we are human, there will still be plenty of drama and comedy to go around—showing us that entertainment and depicting an inspiring new reality can go hand in hand.

Writers may tell whatever stories they want to in a pilot script for a TV show set in this “Blue Sky” future. The only requirement is to show audiences how society has gotten there, along the way. 

How to Enter

To enter the contest, writers must submit the following materials:

  • 30- or 60-minute pilot episode script set in a “Blue Sky” future. 
    • Your script can be a comedy or a drama.
  • Logline 
    • One sentence description of the story and premise.
  • Brief treatment 
    • Include a description of key characters and how the premise unfolds over a few episodes.

The material must embrace the world we need by incorporating themes of:

  • Racial equity,
  • Climate change mitigation or adaptation,
  • Advancements toward peace, and
  • Beneficial use of artificial intelligence (A.I.).

For additional rules, terms and more information, and to submit an entry, visit the Blue Sky Scriptwriting Fellowship website.

There’s no entry fee. The deadline for submissions is August 1, 2022. 

The winning writers will be announced in October of 2022 at the annual Sentinel Awards. The grand prize of $20,000 will be awarded in early 2023.

This contest is sponsored in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

If you are an active member of the entertainment industry, we also ask that you take a moment to sign our Flip the Script on Plastics Pledge to show your support of our initiative.

Company Sets a Higher Standard for the Health & Beauty Industry 

By Joshua Scott Onysko, Founder and CEO of Pangea Organics

Last year, my organic body- and skincare company Pangea Organics went plastic free! While many health and beauty businesses are still wrapping their products in plastics, at Pangea we have transitioned to recyclable aluminum and glass, and compostable wood pulp. We mark our products with a small sea turtle icon, indicating they are completely plastic free, and thus compatible with #LifeAfterPlastic.

Inspired by Sea Turtles

My connection to sea turtles is personal: When I was 19 years old, I moved to Costa Rica and Nicaragua to work with a conservation team on the Caribbean coast, and we’d stay up all night to guard egg-laying sea turtles, protecting them from poachers. I’ve also been a longtime scuba diver and seeing plastic pollution in our oceans entangling the inhabitants was (and still is) devastating to me.

Sea turtles are harmed by plastic items people use everyday, including plastic packaging and other single-use plastic products like straws, face masks, and bags. Plastic is a physical danger to sea turtles, causing entanglement and entrapment, and choking and bodily blockages. But plastic is also a chemical danger to sea turtles, exposing them to a constant stream of toxic chemicals, with which plastic is made and which leach out into nature and living bodies.

Our Transition to Plastic-Free Packaging

At Pangea, we hold ourselves to a standard of continuously raising the bar to push for real change in the beauty industry. Over the past year, we transitioned Pangea (as well as our sister brand, Alpine Provisions) to completely plastic-free packaging to hold our organic, fairly sourced, and cruelty free body- and skincare products. 

The transition to plastic-free packaging was a significant investment for us to make, and we have paid attention to every detail—down to the custom aluminum cap on our tubes. The caps are a first-to-market innovation, two-and-a-half years in the making. All of our secondary packaging is also fully recyclable and/or compostable; the molded fiber clamshells used on all our glass bottles are made of wood pulp and completely compostable.

The Problem with Plastics

In my opinion, every company should be working to eliminate plastics from their businesses. More than 400 million metric tons of new plastic are produced globally each year. Instead of being truly recycled, about 79% of plastic has been historically dumped in landfills and the natural environment, about 12% has been burned (incinerated), and much plastic is shipped “away” to become someone else’s problem. Most often, plastic waste is sent to BIPOC, rural, or low-income communities. Plastic is not truly recycled like other materials: We need to refill, reuse, repair, share, and enact and enforce legislation that holds the plastics and petrochemical industries accountable for the pollution they have created.

Building an Eco-Conscious Company

It’s been my lifelong dream to build a health and beauty brand with the highest quality clean ingredients, and support small organic farmers around the world. When I was young, my mom kept a coffee-table book about organic ingredients. One day, it inspired us to make a small batch of organic soaps by hand together, out of our garage. We started selling the soaps in our local farmers markets, and to our delight, they continually sold out.

This organic soap making experience led me to start researching the health and beauty industry, and I decided to travel the world. On these travels, I began to build relationships and a vast network of organic farmers in over 50 regions. After two years of traveling, I knew the business I wanted to build needed to support small, organic, regenerative farms with fair labor practices.

Meaningful change can start with making one informed, conscious decision. I want to inspire all industries to put the Earth and our health ahead of profit and start to rethink and redesign how we package our products. And I want consumers to know that they can be empowered by their choices, including the purchase of high quality health and beauty products that do not contain toxins or plastics. 

How You Can Help

People can be a part of solutions by investing in reusable, refillable, and truly recyclable plastic-free products. Give Pangea a try! We hope consumers and brands alike will join us in our #LifeAfterPlastic mission. We are strongly aligned with the work of Plastic Pollution Coalition, and are proud Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Members. We know change starts with information and education, and people who are passionate about a cause.

This World Turtle Day, we’re bringing attention to the sea turtle icon we place on our plastic-free packaging as a way for us to educate and encourage conversations about the impacts of plastic pollution, which are vast. Not only do plastics harm turtles, but all life on Earth. It’s more important now than ever before to make safe, healthy, and affordable plastic-free products widely available. Pangea, our name, is symbolic of our vision: Bringing the world back together again.

On this Earth Day and every day, people all over the world are tapping into their concern for the planet to make lifestyle changes that lessen their environmental impact. One result of widespread ecological awareness is that more people than ever before are asking for products and services that are cleaner and healthier for humanity and nature. Access to such goods and services—when they are made affordable and equitably distributed—can make the transition to a more sustainable life possible for all of us.

Many companies are responding with new marketing and ways of doing business, such as changing how their products and services are produced, packaged, and offered. This includes more reusable and refillable options, which are part of solutions to the plastic crisis. However, other products, particularly some of those used to replace plastics, are marketed as green but in reality can be just as harmful as conventional plastics. Unfortunately, some things now associated with healing our environment do more harm than good, and only distract and delay us from actions that truly do help.

What is “Greenwashing?”

Many activities, organizations, and products bear a green sheen without any substance behind it, or oversell their positive environmental impacts—this is “greenwashing.”

Companies commonly “green” their businesses by packaging unsustainable products in natural-colored or themed packaging, or labeling plastic products as recyclable when in reality they are not. For companies and industries, it’s important to be transparent about the actual impacts of their products and activities. For consumers, it’s important to know how to tell the difference between products and services that actually help, and those that are only made to look like they do.

Corporations Mostly Recycle Myths, Messaging, and Deceptive Tactics—Not Plastic

One powerful example of greenwashing with regard to the plastic pollution crisis is recycling. It seems like every Earth Day, the top corporate plastic polluters launch new campaigns where they tell us that cleanups, recycling, and what they call “advanced chemical recycling”—although more appropriately called “advanced plastic burning”—will solve the plastic pollution crisis. But plastic is pollution from the moment it is created, and we cannot recycle our way out of the problem.

Most plastic collected as recycling becomes pollution, as more than 90% of plastic is landfilled, dumped, incinerated, or shipped overseas—with huge consequences on our health, and driving deep racial and class injustices. Less than 10% of plastic is actually recycled. Yet, companies keep pushing the message that recycling will fix things; check out Coca-Cola Wants You to Recycle Soda Bottles. That Won’t Keep Plastics Out of Your Body, as well as “Plastics Recycling is a LIE.”

People working in the plastics and petrochemical industry have created green-sounding nonprofit organizations like Keep America Beautiful, soliciting not only donations but also volunteer time. Donated time and money to these faux-environmental groups is often dedicated to cleanups, and anti-litter and recycling education. People are made to feel good engaging in these activities, because they are told they are the “right” thing to do. For more information about the tactics used by the plastic industry to block real action to stop plastic pollution, check out Changing Market Foundation’s excellent “Talking Trash” report.

Meanwhile, industry trade groups linked to the deceptive nonprofits spend much time lobbying against legislation that could help curb plastics production. In this way, the industry continues perpetuating the myth that the public is the cause of plastic pollution, when their production of plastic is really the cause. This approach also glosses over the severe and unjust human toll of plastic being made on our planet. Recycling and other false solutions offered by the plastic industry distract and delay fundamental solutions to the plastic crisis: most importantly, turning off the tap on plastics production. (For more information on corporate greenwashing, check out the film The New Corporation.)

How to Avoid Greenwashing

Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Use of unclear branding words, such as “green,” “chemical-free,” and “natural”
  • Made-up seals of approval on packaging that convey sustainability but are meaningless
  • Beautifying logos or advertising for products or services that have a clear negative impact on the environment with elements of nature, such as animals or flowers
  • Products obviously made of plastic and dangerous chemicals (like cigarettes) with eco-friendly labels
  • Sometimes companies making products that harm people and the environment also make “green” versions of their products, but that doesn’t make up for their overall negative impacts
  • Data or claims that seem overstated, exaggerated, or misinformed

Make Positive Changes on Earth Day and Every Day

When you’re looking for products, services, and other purchases to help the planet, look for companies that embody the values we need to make positive change—such as eliminating plastic and other packaging from products, and offering refill and reuse options for the things you shop for, from food to personal care items. Many businesses exist that are helpful to people while having a lower impact on the planet; take some time to check out Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Members, like Ahimsa, Pangea Organics, and Meal In A Jar

When you’re searching for businesses genuinely operating with minimal impact on the environment, look for those that:

  • Provide transparent information about their business sustainability practices
  • Do not make products with toxic materials or chemicals
  • Have reliable third-party certification of their products and services, such as the Blue Standard
  • Rely on fair labor practices to run their business
  • Design products for reuse, refill, and repairability instead of disposability
  • Avoids use of plastics, especially single-use plastic packaging

You can make a positive impact this Earth Day by taking action to address plastic pollution. Use your knowledge of greenwashing to help guide you to better choices this Earth Day and every day.

The gift-giving season is upon us and you don’t need to spend a small fortune on waste-creating products to show your family and friends you care. This season, give the ones you love something meaningful with these plastic-free gift ideas.

1. Have a Favorite Houseplant? Gift a Clipping in a Jar of Water for Propagation!

Propagating a plant clipping in a jar of water can be done in just a few easy steps and makes a perfect gift for friends and family. As houseplants grow, they can begin to take up a lot of room in your home or office. Clipping a plant can help you save space and also makes for a great legacy or heirloom gift for the whole family. Learn more here.

2. Have A Favorite Book You’ve Already Read? Pass It Along!

Books make for excellent gifts—and books that have personally affected and enhanced our lives are even better. This holiday season, pass along your copy of a favorite book so someone you care about can enjoy it as well.

3. Who Says a Gift Needs to Be a Thing? Gift an Experience!

Research has shown that people are happier when they spend money on experiences rather than things. So consider forgoing a material gift for one of the following amazing experiences:

  • Tickets to a Concert, Symphony, or Live Theatre Experience
  • Escape Room Reservations
  • A Relaxing Massage
  • Passes For Mini-Golf, Bowling, or Go-Karts
  • Movie Theater or Sporting Event Tickets
  • Specialty Tours or Wine Tasting Reservations
  • A Yoga, Pilates, or Martial Arts Class
  • A Hot Air Balloon Ride

4. Gift Yourself!

We all know someone who could use an extra night out from the kids or an elderly neighbor who could use a visit. Maybe you have a friend or family member who is hosting a party and could use help whipping up an extra special meal. Or maybe you know someone starting a project who could use your talent in writing, graphic design, or organizing a cluttered room or garage. This holiday season, give your time and expertise to the ones you love.

5. Donate to Plastic Pollution Coalition in Honor of a Friend or Loved One

Help create a more just, equitable world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals, waterways & oceans by making a donation to Plastic Pollution Coalition. We’ll do all we can to keep giving back by working to make the world a better place for your friends and loved ones.

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