By Terry Lin
Did you know every piece of plastic that has EVER been produced still exists in the world? It has been found in the deepest parts of the ocean and the highest mountain peaks.
For the last 5 years, I've been closely monitoring the updates on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a term for the accumulation of plastics floating in the Pacific Ocean. At one point, it was estimated to be the size of Texas. Last I read, the combined size is now three times larger than France.
This isn’t a reality I want to accept, for myself or future generations. Which is how we came across the 5 Gyres Institute. This year we pledged to give back 1% of our total sales revenue, by joining 1% For The Planet, a global movement inspiring businesses to support the environment. We are fulfilling this promise by teaming up with 5 Gyres. Their goal to eliminate plastic pollution is shared by all our employees.
To kick off our new partnership, I spoke with 5 Gyres Co-Founder Anna Cummins about plastic pollution, how to embrace new positive habits, and ways to get involved at a local level.
On embracing new habits…
Terry: There are just a handful of times in our lives where we are open to change. This is one of those times. Let’s get people thinking about how to make our world a better place.
In our home, we’re cooking so much more and thus producing way less packaging waste. It’s the little changes that take a gentler approach to the earth, and can lead to a bigger impact.
We’re also driving way less (and have fewer places to go). Fewer accidents, the sky is clearer. It’s shown us that we don’t need to drive as often. We’re forced to be more efficient with our time out in the world.
Anna: If you'd asked me what habits I’d like to embrace from this stay-at-home environment yesterday, I'd have said, "spending more time in the garden, spending more time reading with my daughter, playing more music, thinking about what my local community needs".
Today, I'd say just trying to be more patient and accepting of not getting enough accomplished! I’m learning to be okay with today's journey.
On turning used plastics into something beautiful…
Terry: We live near Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Since we’ve been sheltering in place, my daughter and I go for daily walks. I bring a bag so if we see garbage, we make sure it doesn’t “become a snack for sea turtles,” as my daughter Piper tells me.
When I was in design school, we had a project where we collected garbage transformed it into something beautiful. Plastic was the medium that elevated our projects. Why not try it as your own project? How fun would it be to start an IG feed on that?
Anna: My daughter is a big crafter; her favorite place to go (pre-COVID) is the Rediscover Center, where kids can create projects with cast-off materials. Now that we're home, she set up her own "maker space" corner. We save cardboard, egg cartons, packaging from the inevitable deliveries, etc.
Yesterday she created a "box turtle" from an Amazon box, and today she is cutting up cereal boxes to send postcards to her friends from school. With the heat kicking up, we built her a "pool" in the backyard, and she's using a neighbor's plastic bottles (we don't have these in the house 😉) to make flotation devices. The internet is an infinite source of ideas here!
On impacting bigger change…
Terry: At Outer, we’re hyper-conscious of the materials that go into our products. Every Outer sofa relies on recycled plastic bottles, and we’re looking at releasing new products made entirely of recycled plastic bottles. Partnering with 5 Gyres is another way we’re inspiring positive change from a commercial standpoint.
What are some ways you encourage people to become active in supporting our planet?
Anna: First and foremost, every single one of us has the power to vote. This is the single most important thing we can do to ensure our voice is heard!
Next, I'd remind people to get involved on a local level. What is your city doing to curb single-use plastics, or limiting fossil fuel extraction (for those of us living in oil and gas states), and/or protecting the health of vulnerable communities affected by industrial activity?
Tap into the nearby organizations working to change local or national policy, and get active!
Ultimately, our true work on Earth is not our job. Our job is what we do. Our true work is to look after each other, our planet, and our future generations. I hope this conversation inspired you as much as it did all of us at Outer. Stay tuned for more ideas on how to curb plastic consumption, and make a difference in the way we preserve and protect our planet and its resources.