Starfish and Unicorns

Would it sadden you to know that microplastics now contaminate our entire Planet, from the depths of the ocean to the peaks of Mount Everest?
300 million metric tons of plastic are produced every year. That’s roughly the weight of the entire human population. So it’s no wonder that trillions of degraded bits of plastic are lurking largely unseen in the environment.
Even back as far as 1971, marine biologist Ed Carpenter noticed thousands of strange white specks floating amongst the seaweed in the Sargasso Sea, 550 miles from any mainland. Upon closer investigation, he discovered they were tiny bits of plastic.
If plastic was found that far from land, then he concluded that it is all over the place.
It’s so simple to palm this off as a “global issue”, and to feel that the problem is far greater than any individual person can solve. But the really tough question is “How can I reduce my own use of microplastics by 10%, or 20%?"
Have you ever heard the starfish story, by Loren Eiseley? It’s a wonderful analogy for this global dilemma. Here is how it goes….
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean. Approaching the boy he asked, “Young man, what are you doing?”
“Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die,” the boy replied.
The man laughed to himself and said, “Do you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the surf. Then, he smiled at the man and said, “I made a difference to that one.”
The moral of this story is that every one of us can make a difference, even if that difference affects one person, or in this instance one millionth of a larger problem.
This is not Unicorn thinking! Every single action we take does make a difference, and it does have a ripple effect out into the world.

But how big is this issue…really?

Well, would it surprise you to know that for the very first time, microplastic pollution has been discovered deep in the lung tissues of everyday people? Microplastics particles as small as 0.003mm in size were found in 11 out of 13 people undergoing surgery. Autopsies are also showing similarly high rates of microplastics in lung tissues.
Laura Sadofsky, researcher at Hull York Medical School and senior author of this study said, “We did not expect to find the highest number of particles in the lower regions of the lungs, or particles of the sizes we found. It is surprising, as the airways are smaller in the lower parts of the lungs, and we would have expected particles of these sizes to be filtered out or trapped before getting this deep.”
But microplastics don’t only find their way into our lungs. They have also been found in the placentas of pregnant women. In a study on pregnant rats, these microplastic particles were found to pass rapidly through the lungs and from there into the hearts, brains and other organs of the foetuses.
Microplastics have also been detected in human blood for the first time (in a study from March 2022). This demonstrates that these tiny particles can indeed be ingested in our food and water and breathed in, and can travel around our body and lodge in our organs.
Now, that’s a problem, because in lab studies we already know that microplastics cause damage to human cells. In fact, a 1998 study of lung cancer patients found plastic and plant fibers (such as cotton) in 97% of cancerous tissue, and in 83% of non-cancerous tissue.

Where do microplastics come from?

Microplastics come from polypropylene (used in plastic bags and plastic pipes), and PET (from plastic bottles). They also come from the tiny microfibers shed by synthetic fabrics, and even the beads put into commercial toothpaste.
The list is endless, and the problem is huge. So what can you do? The answer is elemental, dear Watson:


Avoid single use plastics, such as water bottles, plastic shopping bags, straws and utensils. When you go shopping, bring your own woven basket or reusable natural fibre carry bag. I have a lovely silk shopping bag that I purchased at least 15 years ago, and it’s still going strong! When you grab some healthy takeaway, make sure you BYO cutlery. And of course, ensure you have a good quality glass or aluminium water bottle that you carry with you, to save on buying bottled water in plastic bottles. I love re-using my 750ml glass NingXia Red bottles as my water bottles.


When you are making up spray bottles to use around the home (such as your favourite air freshener or household spray), choose glass bottles rather than PET plastic. Check out this beautiful “Yin Spritz” recipe that we shared in The Oil Temple blog:
Yin Spritz: Add 15 drops of Surrender oil and 2-3 drops of Geranium Bourbon oil into a 60ml glass spray bottle. Mix with 1 tsp of Witch Hazel and top up with distilled water. Spritz yourself to your heart’s content with this heavenly mix in order to calm your mind and enter into a flow state.


Make sure you recycle your plastic containers. Give them a good rinse out, remove any sediment from them, and pop them in your recycle bin.
If you are a Young Living fan (as I am), their products are all highly concentrated, and a little goes such a long way. For example, their Thieves Laundry Soap and Thieves Dish Soap are both triple-concentrates – one bottle is equivalent to three bottles of your equivalent commercial product. And the 426ml sized bottle of Thieves Household Cleaner makes up 14.2 litres of household spray, whereas the 1.8 litre refill makes up 60 litres of household spray!
This is yet another way to cut down on the number of recyclable plastic bottles that you use each year. And even better, the contents are 100% plant and mineral based with no nasties, so they are gentle on our skin and kind to our Planet.

Are you new to this journey with essential oils? Would you like to know more?

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