By Lisa E. Papp

ocean plastic waste

We are drowning in our plastic and trash waste!

I first wrote an Earth Day article in 2015 and have updated and shared it once a year since. As each April 22nd approached, I would feel a sense of frustration and even anger. It seemed that media and corporate advertisers got busy urging more recycling and promoting supposedly green, eco-friendly products in order to “celebrate” Earth Day.  The media would report on climate change. People would attend demonstrations to call for stronger environmental protections. Events were organized to plant trees, clean up trash, and give us tips to reduce our overuse of the Earth’s resources. But after Earth Day … what happens? Is it just back to “business as usual?”

I’m always striving to learn more about science and our environment and see how I can tread more lightly on our Planet Earth. In 2018 I saw Annie Leonard’s Guardian UK Op-Ed entitled “Our plastic pollution crisis is too big for recycling to fix.” Something I had long-suspected was confirmed. We think we’re doing a good thing by recycling our plastics. But, as Annie Leonard reports … “Every minute, every single day, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters our oceans. In the name of profit and convenience, corporations are literally choking our planet with a substance that does not just ‘go away’ when we toss it into a bin. Since the 1950s, some 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide, and to date, only 9% of that has been recycled. Our oceans bear the brunt of our plastics epidemic – up to 12.7 million tons of plastic end up in them every year.”

great pacific garbage patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (one of many floating trash islands in our oceans) covers almost 1 million square miles!

Recycling Just Doesn’t Work

Much of our plastic and other materials that we proudly deposit into recycling bins actually ends up in landfills. From there, some plastics make their way into our waterways and oceans. Once in the water, plastics break into small pieces that end up being swallowed by turtles, dolphins, whales, and fish and can kill them. And, with the fish we catch for our food, we’re eating the plastic too.

Some corporate CEOs, politicians, and individuals deny climate change science altogether. Fortunately, there’s a rising tide of people who are not so short-sighted. Leaders around the world in science, government, corporate and non-profit sectors, and concerned citizens and environmental activists of all ages, are speaking out and taking more action in a spirit of stewardship for the Earth and all the life that depends on it. 

We Can’t Ignore Climate Change

I have been called “Debbie Downer” after I, apparently, ruined conversations and entire dinners by talking about subjects like over-consumption, environmental destruction, and climate change (or “global warming”). I wasn’t trying to be annoying or depressing or a bad dinner party guest. It often felt as if we were avoiding addressing the tough topics and, instead, were “fiddling as Rome burned” by continuing our, seemingly, “happy-go-lucky,” over-consuming lifestyles. I wanted to be able to freely share my feelings of sadness and discouragement about the harm we are doing to our Earth … our home. I wanted to learn if other people felt the same way and if they believed in the importance and urgency of taking more action. I now know that many people feel the same frustrations, sadness, or despair and are taking steps to do better.

“As the environmental crisis accelerates, and as protest movements like #YouthStrike4Climate and Extinction Rebellion make it harder not to see what we face, people discover more inventive means of shutting their eyes and shedding responsibility. Underlying these excuses is a deep-rooted belief that if we really are in trouble, someone somewhere will come to our rescue: ‘they’ won’t let it happen. But there is no they, just us,” writes George Monbiot. He encourages protests and civil disobedience in order to force a political response because “no one is coming to save us.” 

Talking Isn’t Enough, We Must Act

More ACTION is needed, by many more of us, every day … not just when it’s convenient or on an annual march or event celebrating Earth Day. I need to do much better, too. I just took stock of the plastic packaging that I’ve saved (Yes … SAVED!) over the last few years. Since I first learned that recycling doesn’t work, I have tried to buy less, buy used, and avoid buying things that come in plastic containers and/or wrapped or shipped in plastic packaging.

Using the plastics I’d saved, I decided to create some art projects that made an environmental statement. I volunteer with my Whatcom County, Washington Habitat for Humanity chapter. A “Trashion Show” will be included as a part of their annual fundraising auction. I’ve partnered with a fabulous clothing designer to create a Trashion Show garment using the plastics and other materials that I’ve collected and some used fabric. When I surveyed all the plastic I had, I saw that I am responsible for buying quite a lot of plastic! It was sobering. I need to do much better!

Should those of us with proportionally more money, more resources, and affluent lifestyles who are using more of the Earth’s bounty do more than the “average person” to change our behaviors and cut our consumption? YES! Should we share ideas, and try to educate and encourage others to do more? YES! But it’s not just up to us, as individuals. Corporations and governments must be taken to task and must do much more to enact more environmentally-friendly policies, produce less, pollute less, or stop polluting entirely. 

We need corporations to step up and show real accountability for the mess they’ve created. Companies like Coca-Cola, Unilever (they own over 1,000 brands), Starbucks, and Nestlé that continue to mass-produce throwaway plastic bottles, cups, and straws, are the worst offenders. “Drink companies produce over 500 billion single-use plastic bottles annually; there is no way that we can recycle our way out of a problem of that scale.” writes Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.

How can we take more positive action? We can choose to stop buying from companies producing so much waste.  You can email and post on social media to these companies asking them to change or telling them you will no longer support them. Some of the companies may be able to change their products and packaging and others will not. And, if their response to you is “We recycle” or “You can recycle our cups, packaging, etc.,” you can share info from Annie Leonard’s Op-Ed or this article, if you like.

So, I DO NOT care if a few people consider me a “Debbie Downer” sometimes. I’d rather think about, talk about, and work on what are really the most crucial issues of our time … climate change and the way we relate to our Earth. 

earth rob schouten

“Earth” painting by Rob Schouten –









There’s Still Hope

I do have hope and I want to acknowledge the positive! There are many beautiful things in our world and so many wonderful people, organizations, and businesses who are consciously being kind to our Mother Earth. Whether raising families, growing our food, providing valuable services through companies that are doing good work in the world and are more “green” and sustainable, teaching, volunteering and giving back, promoting cleaner energy sources, and working to solve our many challenges, there are so many people taking positive actions every day.

The late Barbara Marx Hubbard (visionary, author, activist, and one of my mentors) encouraged people to be Sacred Activists. One of the many important and inspiring things Barbara said was  “Everything you do counts forever. You are an expression of the whole process of creation; you are a co-creator.”

With every thought we think, all the words we say, and the actions we take, we are envisioning and co-creating the world we live in right now and the world we want. It’s all connected. We are all connected! Even though there is much to do, we can choose to be positive, do good work in the world, and focus on Love, Peace, Gratitude, Kindness, and Compassion for ourselves, each other, all beings, and our Mother Earth.

My highest wish is for all of us to live respectfully and harmoniously with each other and this precious planet that supports us. Do you agree? My husband, James K. Papp, shares this vision with me. 
Peace ~ Lisa E. Papp


lisa papp

Lisa E. Papp

Lisa E. Papp is an artist, writer, and activist. She is also the Co-owner and Marketing Director for Planet Papp, LLC – – promoting her husband, James K. Papp’s books and award-winning photography and her art.



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Annie Leonard is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA and the creator of The Story of Stuff movement. – A global ocean cleanup operation that’s stopping plastic pollution at its source, before it ends up in the ocean. Through worldwide support and the purchase of 4ocean bracelets, they’ve pulled over 4 million pounds of trash from the ocean & coastlines to date. – Supported by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation


The Bullitt Foundation – Denis Hayes, President and CEO. The Foundation’s Mission is to safeguard the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest. The Foundation is located in the Bullitt Center in Seattle, the greenest commercial building in the world. 

Catching the Sun – Solar industry documentary.

Climate Justice Field Manual (Free Download) by Jill MacIntyre Witt: ~ Climate justice is a term used for framing global warming as an ethical and political issue, rather than one that is purely environmental or physical in nature. trains and empowers climate activists across the globe, mobilizes communities, and catalyzes a global solution to the climate crisis.

The Connected Universe documentary film, Director Malcom Carter. This film explores new understandings in scientific theory that reveal a bigger picture of interconnection than we have ever imagined. 

Cradle to Cradle – by William McDonough – Company by company, product by product, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is changing the way we make things.

The Great Disruption – Why the Climate Change Will Bring On the End of Shopping As We Know It and the Birth of a New World – by Paul Gilding

The Holy Universe by David Christopher – “The Holy Universe connects the dots between challenges faced by ancient cultures and those confronting us today, in ways that inspire us all to take action.” ~ John Perkins, Author of “Hoodwinked” Inquire Within – A Guide to Living in Spirit and Deer, Tree, the Shaman, and the Sun by James K. Papp, Author and Photographer – Pachamama Alliance is a global community and 501 (c)(3) non-profit offering people the chance to learn, connect, engage, travel and cherish life for the purpose of creating a sustainable future that works for all. Since 1995, founders Lynne and Bill Twist and many volunteers, have stood with our indigenous allies to protect the lungs of the Earth, while also working to shift the worldview through transformational programs (many are free). Donations are used to protect indigenous lands and to share their educational programs with people who are ready to take bold, effective action in the world.

Plant-It 2020 is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit foundation performing worldwide tree-planting at $1 per tree seedling, donates fuel-efficient cooking stoves to needy families, and provides education. – Thank you to Rob & Victory Schouten for use of the beautiful “Earth” image by Rob Schouten.