We are into the fourth month of JAKWellness12 challenges and this month’s theme is Earth. What does the Earth have to do with wellness? The better question is, what doesn’t it have to do with wellness. Spending the majority of my childhood outside exploring gave me a deep sense of appreciation for nature and our planet. The reality is, the planet needs our help in a drastic way. When I first read this article in New York magazine last summer I was pretty distraught. Chances are you’ve probably heard about it, but if you haven’t read the article I encourage you to do so. Climate change is so much more than sea levels rising, and there is no doubt, we are contributing to the problem. No need to feel hopeless though, because there are so many things we can do and changes we can make in our daily lives to protect the future of our planet. So am I a hypocrite? Trust me, as I said in my Earth Day newsletter, the fact that I make a living off of consumerism is not lost on me. I am striving to be a more thoughtful and conscious consumer, to focus on quality over quantity and reducing my impact in a variety of ways, which leads me to this week’s challenge. I am hoping that these challenges will not only inspire you to create changes for a week, but maybe also some habits that stick around for good. Don’t forget to comment every Monday that there’s a new challenge and you’ll be automatically entered to win my monthly and year-end giveaway. 

Maybe you saw this news about the whale that died in Southern Thailand found with 17 lbs of plastic waste in it’s stomach. Our use of plastic, particularly single use plastics is not only staggering it is choking wildlife and our planet. Believe it or not, over 90% of plastic containers are not recycled, and most plastics do not biodegrade, which means it can last for hundreds and even thousands of years. Many cities, towns and countries are taking matters into their own hands and banning single use plastics like straws, bags, and cutlery, but this alone is not nearly enough. My challenge for all of us this week is to eliminate as many single use plastics as possible. Here are some suggestions (and facts) to help you get started:

Jess Ann Kirby tries to minimize single use plastic use with glass or paper straws instead of plastic ones

-Bring your own bags. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen me joke about how I feel like I’m saving the planet when I remember my re-usable bags at the grocery store. It took me a while to consistently remember, but once I made it a habit, it was just a part of my normal routine. You’ve probably seen by now the prediction that by 2050 there will be more plastic waste in the ocean than fish, that is TERRIFYING. In Newport, plastic bags have been banned, but only to be replaced with paper. Think that’s a good option? Think again. Paper bags produce double the atmospheric waste as plastic bags, so they are not really a better option for the environment. I love baggu bags and keep a few stashed in the car and at the house. Lots of stores now use tote bags instead of shopping bags when you make a purchase so I always save those to use for grocery shopping. Wash your bags regularly because they collect bacteria over time.

-No more plastic straws. In the US alone, 500 million straws are used every day. What’s worse, most plastic straws are not and can not be recycled, and it can take up to 200 years for them to decompose. So next time you get your coffee or drink, skip the straw. I have these glass straws we use at home.

-Bring your own coffee cup or make it at home. I used to buy a coffee pretty much everyday when I worked in the city, sometimes twice in one day, it was part of my routine (and a desperate attempt to get out of the office even for 5 minutes). But coffee cups are incredibly wasteful. I’m not just talking about plastic here but also paper cups (and styrofoam which is hands down the worst offender). Some fun facts: 6.5 million trees are cut down every year to make paper cups and it takes 4 billion gallons of water to make them. Bring your own mug to your coffee shop (many also offer discounts when you do this). You can also save yourself some money and make it at home, this iced coffee recipe is still a favorite.

-Skip the plastic water bottle. Americans purchase 50 billion plastic water bottles a year, the majority of which are not recycled. Skip the plastic and use something like a S’well bottle or glass BKR.


Have other suggestions and ideas for eliminating single use plastics? Let me know in the comments. Looking forward to hearing how everyone does with this week’s challenge next Monday!