Since plastic was first invented in 1907, over 8.3 billion tons has been produced, of which 79% has either wound up in a landfill or the natural environment.

About a third of this plastic are single-use products such as straws, cutlery, and shopping bags. Plastic bags now kill over 1000,000 marine animals a year and the Great Pacific garbage patch has grown past 1.6 million square kilometers.

Unfortunately, plastic production on Earth is showing no signs of slowing. According to The Guardian, plastic production is set to skyrocket over the next 10 to 15 years, with over 360 million tons produced in 2018 alone.

One way we can work to decrease the amount of plastic produced is to change how and where we shop. Greenpeace has taken the lead by ranking 20 of America's top supermarket chains in terms of how they're fighting the plastic crisis.


Unfortunately the news hasn't been positive. Across the board, "U.S. supermarkets are failing to adequately address the plastic pollution crisis they are contributing to," Greenpeace said in a statement.

"Grocery retailers across the country sell obscene amounts of products in throwaway plastics every single day, yet none of them are acting with the urgency needed to address the pollution crisis they're causing," Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner David Pinsky said in a statement.

"Not only do these companies have the resources to reimagine their stores with refill and reuse systems, they can use their buying power to pressure consumer goods companies like Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and Unilever to act as well," Pinsky continued. "The question is whether retailers will take responsibility for this mess, and act."

The supermarkets were ranked on a scale of 1 to 100, and the top performer, Aldi, received just a 34.6. Aldi achieved a top score by instituting several initiatives that most others do not: a specific plastic reduction target, a more comprehensive plastic reduction plan, greater transparency, and commitments to implement reuse and refill systems.

Here are the top and bottom 5 supermarkets according to Greenpeace.

Top 5:

1. Aldi

2. Kroger

3. Albertsons

4. Trader Joe's

5. Sprouts

Bottom 5:

16. Giant Eagle

17. WinCo Foods

18: Meijer

19. Wakefern

20. H.E.B.

Greenpeace doesn't just want to prompt supermarkets into taking action, it believes that's our job as well.

After learning about your local store's record, it asks you to take the scorecard to your supermarket to show the store's ranking to the store manager. Greenpeace also asks you tell the manager that "customers want to see less single-use plastics and more refill and reuse options."

Greenpeace also suggests you take photos of ridiculous single-use plastic packaging and post it on social media at #BreakFreeFromPlastic.


Even if our local supermarket isn't doing all it can to reduce its plastic footprint, we can all improve by shopping with reusable bags, purchasing loose fruit and vegetables, and shopping at farmers' markets when possible.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

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Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.