As Earth Day approaches, York Region is adding its voice to a global community by encouraging residents to rethink or skip using straws as part of your commitment to a sustainable lifestyle and healthy environment. You’re also invited to use #loveyr and #skipthestraw for other ways to celebrate Earth Day.

End Plastic Pollution is the international theme of Earth Day 2018 on April 22. “From poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones, from littering our beaches and landscapes to clogging our waste streams and landfills, the exponential growth of plastics is now threatening the survival of our planet,” Earth Day Network says on its website.

“Of the plastic products used and taken for granted, plastic drinking straws are among the most unnecessary. So, if possible, skip the straw,” York Region says in a statement. Plastic straws are among the top 10 items picked up during litter cleanups. They should be put in the garbage and not in the recycle bin but most end up on the ground where they can stay for up to 400 years before they disintegrate. York Region offers these tips:

Return plastic bags. Each day, Ontarians use an estimated seven million plastic bags, which can take up to 1,000 years to break down. York Region’s Plastic Bag Take-Back program allows residents to return their plastic bags to retailers to be recycled and reduces the number of bags sent to landfill.

Get your tap water on. York Region’s water is monitored around the clock to ensure it’s safe, clean and in compliance with the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards. To find out more about drinking water, visit york.ca/drinkingwater. Need a refill? If you’re in the Town of Aurora check out their new water refilling stations at aurora.ca/refill.

Reduce food waste. Preparing a simple meal plan and shopping list before heading to the grocery store can result in less food and money being wasted. Prevent food from wilting or dying in your refrigerator by making a plan to eat it first. Proper storage and knowing about best before dates will help stop spoilage and wastefulness. For more tips on reducing food waste, visit york.ca/goodfood.

Out with the old; in with the old. Take advantage of Curbside Giveaway Days, yard sales and online searches for used items. Find out if there’s one happening in your neighbourhood by visiting york.ca for curbside giveaway days.

As part of Earth Day 2018, Earth Day Network has released an online Plastics Pollution Calculator (https://www.earthday.org/plastic-calculator/) for consumers to calculate the amount of disposable plastic they use in a year and make plans to reduce the waste. The following are among the tips it offers to lessen your plastics impact:

• Ask yourself every time you’re considering buying a disposable plastic item: Do I absolutely need this? Can I use something else that I already have? Could I buy something that I can use long-term instead?
• Research products and choose not to buy those containing microbeads. Choose products with natural exfoliators instead.
• Consider changing the way you wash your clothing to reduce the number of microfibres that are released, wash synthetic clothes less frequently, purchase items made of natural fibres when possible.

Photo courtesy of Waste Reduction Week Canada