To the editor: This July, consider pausing your participation in one of the most destructive environmental problems we humans have created.

Plastic has become an integral part of almost all of our daily routines, from brewing or buying your morning coffee to making dinner. In 2022, it often mediates our interactions with our coworkers and friends through masks. Plastic use has an array of detrimental effects. The idea of recycling was a marketing ploy by large corporations that sell us plastic, and investigations show it doesn’t work. This means plastic waste ends up in landfills, leaching hazardous chemicals into our soil and drinking water. Some might flow into garbage patches in the ocean, choking wildlife and killing the foundation of marine food webs. Microplastics end up in our bodies and are now found in placentas and newborns.

What would it mean to work toward living plastic free? It may seem impossible, but environmentalism is not about perfection. Instead, it is about taking concrete steps toward a better world. For some, it could be a reusable mug, asking for a dine-in option at your local cafe, bringing reusable bags at the store or shopping at the farmers market to avoid plastic wrapping. For others, it could be volunteering for or donating to an organization that works toward a zero-waste community, asking local businesses if they want to learn more, or talking to family and friends about why this issue matters.

We often hear that individual action is not as important as decisions by corporations and that pressuring those in power to create legislation is the best way to spur large scale action. Nevertheless, these pieces of legislation require smaller steps that push the envelope by people like you. Without the example of reusable bags, legislators would never have understood that realistic alternatives exist to single-use plastics. We have a surprising amount of agency as consumers and must utilize it in order to create the change we dream of.

Consider taking the Plastic Free July pledge as an individual or group, because your decisions matter. If you’d like to learn more about Plastic Free July, register for Berkshire Environmental Action Team’s Green Drinks Zoom event on Tuesday June 21 from 6 to 7 p.m.

Regina Fink, Pittsfield

The writer is a program associate with Berkshire Environmental Action Team.