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White House Announces Phase Out of Single Use Plastics in National Parks

At OneGreenThing, one of our goals is to stop talking AT younger generations and to encourage everyone to listen TO younger generations, from 20-something Millennials to Gen Z and Gen Alpha, the generations who will inherit the Earth.

As part of our continued commitment to elevating voices of GenZ, we are asking our summer interns to share key climate news. Today, meet Hudson Baker. A Montana native studying psychology and environmental science at William & Hobart Smith Colleges in upstate NY, Hudson is passionate about sustainability and aims to spend as much of his free time out in nature & the wilderness as possible. He is a SAGE.

By Hudson Baker:

Enjoying Arches National Park, Utah. Personal photo: Fowler Family.

On June 8th, 2022, as a celebration of World Oceans Day, the Department of the Interior announced they will phase down the sale of single use plastics within National Parks, Wildlife Reserves and other forms of public lands. This will eventually accumulate to single use plastics being removed all together, which is estimated to occur by 2032. This change will not only make the public lands we cherish more aesthetic, but will also work to protect the wildlife that inhabit these lands by mitigating litter and plastic-based toxins from leaching into waterways. This decision overrules the harmful 2017 policy enacted by the Trump administration that ensured that national parks could not ban plastic water bottles. This ban is even more important than it may initially seem when you consider that less than 10 percent of plastic makes its way to recycling facilities, with the rest ending in either landfills or nature spaces. The national parks should work as magnificent natural spaces, as untouched by humanity as possible— this new policy works as a step towards this dream.

Speaking as a young adult who is passionate about the environment, I often find myself feeling overwhelmed by the climate journey that lies ahead. What could I do that could make a tangible difference in the nearly-unfathomable problem that is the climate crisis? Well, this recent victory regarding single use-plastics works as a testament to what can be accomplished by the efforts of motivated individuals. This phasing down effort was a product of over 300 organizations and 70,000 people calling the Interior and demanding reform.

As fantastic as this news is, we should not grow complacent in this victory. There is still a long way we can go when it comes to enacting policies that reduce plastic pollution - 14 million tons of plastic end up within the ocean each year, leading to disastrous effects on aquatic animals and the animals that feed on these creatures. This new policy shows that we can truly make a difference in enacting change, let us now do all that we can to further reduce plastic consumption to ensure that we leave this planet healthier and better than how we found it.

When looking at how you can make a positive change to the plastic waste problem, it is important to consider what your service superpower is. Take the Service Superpower Assessment to determine how you can make a positive change by putting your talents to work.

  • Adventurer: Get outdoors and pick up plastic in your favorite park or wilderness area, or organize a group to join you!

  • Beacon: Write the Department of the Interior to say THANK YOU for their support for the policy and urge them to continue to reduce plastic consumption within the United States. If possible, Inspire friends and family to do the same!

  • Influencer: Share this briefing on social media and start a dialogue with your followers.

  • Philanthropists: Support a local organization or recycling group that works to diminish plastic within your community and environment, and highlight these groups to friends and family.

  • Sage: Speak with young members of your community about their concerns of environmental degradation, particularly at the hands of plastic pollution. From this dialogue come up with a consensus on what to do!

  • Spark: Share articles and stories relating to this newfound policy and similar policies to those within your network.

  • Wonk: Look into graphs pertaining to plastic consumption within the US, and perhaps how much single use plastic has been consumed within national parks. From here, share your findings with those around you!


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