Readers should not get too excited, or complacent, about the banning of single-use plastic bags in Steamboat’s bigger stores. It is simply an essential, local step toward greater sustainability.
Single-use plastics — shopping bags, straws, water bottles, six-pack holders, clamshells for food, etc. — are terrible for the environment, wildlife and ultimately, us. Beaches and river banks are littered with our trash, and there are giant concentrations of plastic trash that kill all manner of wildlife. Biologists regularly find birds with stomachs full of plastic, and now, whales.
Fortunately, there’s a huge and growing number of materials that can readily be substituted for plastics — all of which are biodegradable. It is simply a matter of customers pressing businesses and corporations to make the switch. An example is Walmart adopting LED light bulbs, which has led to massive declines in old-fashioned light bulbs — much to the dismay of Republicans.
If you’re looking to invest your money into a field with massive growth potential, I’d try hemp. It grows incredibly fast and can be used to create biodegradable plastics, animal feed, cooking oil, fibers for paper, clothing, packaging and pressed into long-lasting blocks and boards for construction.
And if you’re concerned about climate change, hemp could completely replace the timber industry model of growing a forest for 20 years, cut it down and convert those wood pulp fibers into paper, cardboard and toilet paper. Trees could be left unharvested so they can lock up greater amounts of carbon dioxide as they get older and bigger. An acre of hemp creates the same amount of fiber as four acres of trees, in one growing season, as opposed to 20.
Demand more of the businesses you frequent and give yourself more credit for flexibility and how quickly you can change your shopping habits.