Want to Use Less Plastic? Our Readers Have Ideas
Welcome to the Climate Fwd: newsletter. The New York Times climate team emails readers once a week with stories and insights about climate change. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.
Hey there, everybody! Let’s start with some good news: In a major deal, seven states in the American West agreed to cut their use of water from the Colorado River in the face of a 19-year drought. The drought contingency plan, years in the making, was announced on Tuesday by Brenda W. Burman, head of the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that was ready to step in and force water reductions on the states if they couldn’t cut a deal.
The victory, though, may be short-lived, because the reservoirs of Lake Mead and Lake Powell are already at less than 40 percent of their capacity and climate change is threatening to make matters worse. “We all recognize we’re looking at a drier future,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
O.K., so the good news isn’t that good. But isn’t that pretty common these days?
Once again, parts of our world look like a disaster movie, but all too real, such as the incredibly destructive cyclone in southern Africa and the flooding in parts of Nebraska, South Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Scientists will need to study these events, but it’s already been documented that climate change can increase the likelihood of extreme precipitation.
Months after the Camp Fire, California’s deadliest wildfire, the causes of the disaster are still under scrutiny from state investigators, and from my colleagues Ivan Penn, Peter Eavis and James Glanz. They found that the state’s biggest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, cut corners for years in maintaining its power lines, which have been linked to several deadly fires.
Changing weather patterns are also increasing fire risk. “There is a climate change component to this,” said Michael W. Wara, director of the climate and energy policy program at Stanford University and a member of a state commission examining the cost of wildfires. But he added, “there’s also a failure of management and a failure of vision.” If you take a look at that story, you’ll find amazing graphics from Keith Collins and Jugal K. Patel.
We want to hear about how climate change is affecting your community, too. Send us your thoughts here.
Finally, we reported on last week’s protests by young people to call for stronger action on climate change. Check out the striking photos from around the world, and the story from our colleague Somini Sengupta. And, read on to find out about one of the strikes you may have missed.
Beyond Greta: Students around the world get a taste of activism
Kawika Ke Koa PegramCreditKeoni Aricayos
In last week’s student climate protests, Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, got a great deal of attention for inspiring a movement that brought young people to the streets around the world. But each of the local marches had leaders, too, and who knows what they will do next?
The protest in Honolulu certainly wasn’t the biggest, at about 400 participants by his estimate. But surely none of the protests was more heartfelt. It was organized by Kawika Ke Koa Pegram, a 17-year-old high school student, who spent weeks spreading the word from school to school on Oahu.
In a telephone interview he told me that, because of a scheduling conflict at the State Capitol, he couldn’t hold the rally in the middle of the school day. So the event began at 3 in the afternoon. This worked out, he said: “It allowed the protests to be a little more accessible to those who weren’t necessarily willing to skip out the whole day but wanted to support the message of the movement.”
He didn’t go to school that Friday, however, in order to prepare for the event. He told me that he didn’t take that lightly. “It was a really hard thing for me,” he said. “I understand the value of education.”
But he added, “The message we’re trying to send as a movement is that this is much bigger than school.”
Those at the rally heard speeches from politicians and a climate scientist from the University of Hawaii, and from activists as young as 11. Kawika didn’t give a speech, but he told me he was proudest of the tweet he sent out the day before the event:
Tomorrow. 3-5. We fight.
For our future.
For our animals.
For our mountains.
For our seas.
For our friends and loved ones.
Tomorrow we fight.
One thing you can do: Your tips for going plastic-free
After Eduardo Garcia shopped plastic-free for a week, we asked our readers for other tips on avoiding plastics. Hundreds of you responded, with suggestions for toothpaste, sunscreen and many other products. Here are some of your ideas (we plan to use more in future coverage).
Jasmyn Trent of Philadelphia provided these five simple solutions:
1. Bring a set of nonplastic utensils from home to keep at your desk/work space instead of grabbing the plastic utensils either at work or in a takeout restaurant. I’m fortunate to work in an office with access to a sink to wash my utensils at the end of each work day. But taking them home to wash and transporting them back wouldn’t be too much trouble.
2. Bring your own spoon/stirrer and never have to waste another one of those little plastic ones!
3. Keep a tote or nonplastic shopping bag at your desk for quick purchases made during the workday.
4. Keep reusable shopping bags in your car so you don’t have to rely on your memory when unplanned shopping trips arise.
5. Keep a mug at your desk for your workday caffeine fixes to avoid the wasteful disposable cups. Same goes for a reusable water bottle to cut down on cups and plastic water bottles.
We also heard from many readers about containers, clothes and more:
“A suggestion: get collapsible containers to carry in your purse for restaurant leftovers.”
Maria Nissen, Suffolk, Va.
“Rather than trying to be plastic-free in our clothing use, as all fabrics have environmental costs, I have decided that the best approach is to use clothing as if it was very valuable, much more valuable than its actual cost. This involves choosing carefully, buying only pieces that are going to be used extensively and for a long time, taking good care of clothing, repairing rather than replacing and reusing discarded clothing for other purposes such as rags.”
Anne Carter, Ottawa
“I cook soups and lunches and freeze them to take to work. I have used plastic tubs for years but as they break and wear out I have been replacing them with canning jars. As long as you leave room near the top for expansion, you can freeze with them.”
“I stopped buying tampon brands that have plastic applicators. I’m now about to switch to a menstrual cup to eliminate tampon waste completely.”
“I am on a very low budget, being disabled and below the poverty line. I watch the seasons and eat what’s local in season, which is easily put in cloth bags. Yogurt is tough to buy without plastic, so the plastic containers get used again and again — to put paint in, as a storage area for compost, as a storage space for leftovers.”
Pat Booth, Branford, Conn.