Columbia, SC Edition
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Practicing Palmetto Pride … Responsibly!

July is recognized as National Parks and Recreation Month, and rightly so. Individuals and families all across the state are loading up the SUVs, washing off the RVs, and packing coolers and travel bags, preparing to hit the beaches, state parks and vacation rentals like marching ants with high anticipation and excitement—summertime madness!

We have a gem of a state—one well known for its alluring natural habitats and awe-inspiring beauty. It’s no secret … South Carolina is a popular destination hot spot for people throughout the nation as well as those from many parts of the world. Tourism reports and national reviews bear witness to this fact.

Let’s do all we can to protect and preserve our state’s natural national treasures this summer by practicing litter and pollution prevention. Senseless and careless acts can not only be dangerous and destructive to our state’s delicate natural habitat but also deadly to its wildlife.

The research data and conducted studies are compelling. As much as 160 million tons of trash is thrown away every year in the U.S., approximately 3.5 pounds per person each day. Paper products alone account for more than 40 percent of this garbage discarded along roads, on city streets, in parks and into the nation's rivers and waterways. The magnitude of the problem is growing daily, in large part due to litter items that do not readily disintegrate. These items can remain a threat to both the environment and wildlife for decades. While wood and paper products biodegrade at a moderately fast pace, plastics and other synthetic materials do not. According to studies, it can take as many as 450 years for one plastic bottle to decompose—extremely disturbing, given the sheer volume of plastic bottles and containers tossed out as trash on a daily basis.

Let’s dive deeper. Wildlife can be injured or killed by the trash we throw away. Some of the most common litter items are paper bags, plastic bottles, containers, cardboard boxes, food wrappers, newspapers and scrap paper. Countless wildlife species are injured or killed by discarded items that look and seem to be harmless. According to the Humane Society, raccoons often find themselves stuck in plastic ring beverage holders—suffering severe injuries that many times result in death. If digested, the consumed plastic can result in lethal intestinal blockages. Unfortunately, numerous wildlife species, such as seagulls, egrets, pelicans, turtles and fish (fresh and salt water), die due to blockages, strangulation and lacerations each year. Common domestic animals, such as dogs, cats and cows, can also be negatively impacted.

The good news is that this tragedy is preventable. Working together … we can change things this summer. Take time to examine the products you purchase for your scheduled activities, parties and festivities. Try to make conscious consumer purchases that minimize the impact to wildlife and the environment. Cut up or tie plastic bags and six-pack holders into knots to prevent injury to small animals. In addition, put lids on bottles and jars, or plug holes before disposal. Why not take it a step further? Get involved in community cleanup projects, support sustainable agencies and organizations, or teach others about the importance of protecting the environment and its inhabitants. And, as always, reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible. Let’s practice Palmetto Pride … responsibly!

Doing my part,

Annette Briggs

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