You Can Always Help The Environment, No Matter Where You Are

I love nature and the environment, every single part of it. I'm just a closet environmentalist. Which is why I spent the last day of my honeymoon cleaning up the sea.

The day after our wedding, my husband and I were lucky enough to escape to a pristine island in Polynesia. Our room was directly on a mile-long beach of white sand, with the perfect, crystal clear sea surrounding us. It was by far the most beautiful water I've ever seen in my life. We kept pinching ourselves to see if it was real, because it was more stunning than any doctored photograph could ever be. Day after day we would wake up, look at the perfect blue water, stroll a meter to the perfect white sand, and spend a perfect day chillin' with it all.

Then. It happened. I'd heard of these currents before, the ones that inadvertently pick up the ocean's plastic and draw it all to the middle of the Pacific, there forming an island of plastic and trash the size of Switzerland, but given how insane that sounds, I've never been able to visualize it easily. But a mini version arrived on our beach to show me just how real the predicament is.

Two hours after we woke up on our consistently unscathed slice of paradise, the currents changed, bringing in tons and tons of trash to the very same pristine water and sand we had been enjoying for days on end. At first we were shocked and just watched what was happening, jaws dropped and bikini clad. Then we looked at each other and realized we could help — we had to help.

We picked up every piece of plastic that had drifted towards us. The supply was endless: bottles, pens, peanut butter rappers, lids, diapers, bags. The list goes on and on. At a certain point, we decided to divide and conquer, with him managing the shore and me the congealed islands that had formed in the water. After a few hours we had cleared bag after bag of plastic in our line of site, which we hauled to an area in front of our room for the hotel to pick up. We were wiped, sore (me especially, after swimming around with a bag and spearing floating plastic), and dumbfounded.

We finally returned to our chillin' spots and just gazed in silence, our minds focused on what had just happened. This island of plastic in the Pacific clearly exists, which led me to two thoughts: First, why haven't our world’s billionaires chipped in and picked some of it up? And second, we must each do our part to prevent this from growing.

It's always possible to help the environment, no matter where you are or what your schedule is; you just have to figure out what's realistic and works for you and your form of environmentalism. You have to pick and choose your battles so you don’t go insane, and even more importantly, so that helping nature survive is something that fits into your daily lifestyle as opposed to dictating the way you live.

I, for one, know I'm guilty of using plastic water dispensers, which is due to the rusty pipes in our loft. That's my honest, and still unavoidable downside. So when back in New York City, I make up for it by picking up trash on the sidewalks, small and large. I pass on bags in my shopping and errands, instead adding items to my purses and totes. Most importantly, I always opt to pass on extra napkins, coffee cup lids, receipts, cup holders, cards, and the various small bits of daily life we dispose of almost immediately after we get them, and thus end up floating as islands of plastic in the sea.

Individuals actually can make a difference. I saw it and felt it with my own eyes on my honeymoon. But we have to decide to do it, from the closet or out in the open, so that the world can remain an open sea of beauty for us to enjoy for centuries to come.

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Lauren Imparato
Lauren Imparato
Lauren Imparato — author of RETOX and one of the "100 Women in Wellness to Watch" and Elle’s "This...
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