A Note From Our Chapter Chair
As I think about the 50th anniversary of the Sierra Club Connecticut Chapter, I reflect on the environmental issues the world faced back then, compared to today. In 1972, rivers were on fire, our ozone was turning into Swiss cheese, and air pollution was choking major cities like Los Angeles. Earth Day brought hundreds of thousands of people out to demand environmental protections. The world took notice and acted to save our environment. The U.S. government passed the Clean Air and Water Acts.
Fast forward to today, and our environmental concerns range from massive to microscopic, but are equally urgent.
Climate change has brought raging wildfires, rising seas, and super storms and looms with approaching deadlines for our planet and species. At the same time, all individuals are living in a toxic soup of chemicals, ubiquitous in our everyday life, with exposures coming from plastics, personal care products, thermal receipt paper, and even from the food we eat and the air we breathe.
Microplastics threaten our world as much as extreme climate change impacts. If you doubt this, you need to read the recent report from Environment and Human Health, Inc., “Plastics and Microplastics: A Threat to the Environment and Health”. Microplastics are inside us, cannot be avoided, and have serious consequences for our health. They are everywhere, in our rivers, oceans, marine life, all the way up the food chain. As those millions of plastic bags and wrappers, single use Styrofoam containers and straws and laundry microfibers are discarded, they break apart but don’t break down. When you see those plastic patches in the ocean, know that there are masses of tiny microplastics below the surface to dwarf what can be seen. They get smaller to the point where they can no longer be seen with the eye, so small that we breathe them in the air. They are now calling these tiniest of plastic bits, ‘nanoplastics.’
Microplastics include microfibers released from our clothing during laundry, as many of our textiles, like rayon, polyester, and fleece, are now made from petrochemicals.
There are things you can do to help prevent microplastics from getting into the water and air. You can buy a filter to catch the fibers released from your clothing when you do your laundry, you can use fewer plastic products and recycle responsibly (Not sure if it can be recycled? Go to RecycleCT.com and download the handy app which will answer all your questions about “What’s In? What’s Out?”)
You can join in our 50th Anniversary Clean Up CT Campaign
Join Sierra Club Connecticut's 50 by 50 Community Clean Up Effort and organize a clean up in your town, or DIY by cleaning up your own favorite spot. Register and we will include you in the Campaign and send you a thank you treat! Send us a picture and your story if you like!
You can also act to support policies which will reduce plastic before they get into the waste or water streams. Over 40% of all plastics are single use items. You could work with your town to pass an ordinance banning single use plastics and straws, as many Connecticut towns did to ban plastic bags before the state legislature followed suit.
Or you can help our Legislative Committee advocate for state policies to reduce plastic waste. Right now, there is a bill before the Connecticut General Assembly Environment Committee, S.B. 118, An Act Concerning the Use of Certain Polystyrene Products. Polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) items are bulky, single use plastics that cannot be recycled. Taking them out of the waste stream would be of help to our municipalities, now struggling with high tipping costs, and it would reduce the overall waste management crisis that our state is trying to address.
Polystyrene contains the chemical styrene that has been linked to cancer, vision and hearing loss, impaired memory and concentration, and nervous system effects. These are released when the item is burned in a trash incinerator, or when it is used, as in a Styrofoam cup of hot coffee. Sierra Club supports S.B. 118, but would like to see it strengthened to include a wider range of polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) products. If you care about this issue, let your legislators know. Sending an email or calling and leaving a message takes just a minute or two, and even a few contacts from constituents can focus a lawmaker’s attention on an issue, and often earn their support. Learn more about the raised bills that Sierra Club Connecticut is following in this month's Legislative Update.
Less than 10% of plastic is recycled, we MUST do better!
Past or present, Sierra Club Connecticut works towards a better world for all! I look forward to making progress this year, and in the years to come!
Check out our Event page and see what’s coming up this Spring.
Susan Eastwood is Chapter Chair of Sierra Club Connecticut.