Single-use plastics--we all know what they are-we use them and we toss them out every day--candy wrappers, straws, water bottles, coffee-to-go lids, plastic cups, diapers, plastic bags--we may toss them without thinking about them in just a moment, but they will be here the rest of our lives, and centuries after we are gone. Single-use plastics are bad all around for the environment: on the front end, they are made from fossil fuels. A recent report showed that plastic production contributes to planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions at every point in its life cycle. Though plastic has been around for a long time, it didn’t become widely used until the 1970s, meaning we can live without it! Now, we produce 300 million tons of plastic each year worldwide, half of which is for single-use items. This exorbitant avoidable waste is not sustainable. Sadly, 91% isn’t recycled, ending up back in the environment. Worse, plastics don’t ever disappear, they just break up. Over time, sun and heat slowly turn plastics into tiny fragments known as microplastics. They end up in the water, eaten by wildlife, and inside our bodies. In animals, they cause punctured organs, and often, death. Beached whales have been found with stomachs full of plastic trash. Alarmingly, plastic has been found in the stomachs of 90 percent of the seabirds tested and 100 percent of the turtles. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by weight in 2050. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently admitted plastic goods contain probable human carcinogen. Litter on our streets and in our rivers ends up in our oceans water, and ends up in us! Just ten rivers carry 93 percent of the world’s total amount of plastic that enters the oceans via rivers each year. But we can do all do something that makes, surprisingly, a big difference. Your own elimination of single use plastic will save thousands of pieces of plastic from seeping into our environment every year! This wave of banning single-use plastics is sweeping the globe—Some places are going so far as to ban single-use plastics entirely. This is one environmental change you can truly have an impact-you don’t need to wait for world leaders to act. Start with yourself. Identify single-use plastics, and eliminate as many as possible. Then ask your family to do the same. Approach the head of your school with your list in hand, and ask your school to do the same. Then write two letters: One to your city and one to a local business, and ask them to do the same. What will these bans accomplish? They prevent millions of tons of plastic from entering our environment. Here’s a list to get started, but add your own ideas! Eliminate Single-Use Plastics • Purchase a reusable water bottle. • Always pack a reusable bag when shopping. • Reduce your use of plastic takeout containers. • Buy in bulk. Avoid individually packaged goods, like snack packs. • Avoid plastic wrap by storing leftovers in reusable containers. • Buy a metal or bamboo reusable straw. Pack it alongside reusable cutlery (like wood, bamboo, or metal chopsticks). • Talk to the owners of the restaurants or coffee shops you frequent. Ask if they have nonplastic alternatives to plastic straws, stirrers, or bags. If enough people keep asking, they’ll get them. • Let companies that make your favorite products know that you care about the packaging. Tweet, call, or send letters to these companies to ask them to switch to more durable, recyclable, compostable, renewable, and/or recycled-content packaging with less fossil fuel–derived plastic.