Plastic straws, plastic cups, plastic wrapping around various food items... it's everywhere. It's honestly hard to avoid. My somewhat new "plastic free for the sea" lifestyle is still holding on strong, and I have been able to avoid single-use plastics by just turning down straws at restaurants, bags at grocery stores, and carrying my own Save The Mermaids reusable water bottle. Also, I use a bamboo reusable utensils kit that I found on to-goware.com, which I bring with me essentially everywhere in order to avoid plastic utensils.
It's truly driving me crazy. People don't even think about how much plastic they're using in a day. And why would they? People are so busy with their fast pace lives and they aren't even educated on the effect plastic has on the environment. I talked my father's ear off about this problem we have, and how a single plastic gyre (whirlpool) is the size of two states of Texas. He went to the store the next day, and came home with plastic-wrapped snack foods, Pure Leaf Tea bottles, and grapes/strawberries wrapped in plastic. I couldn't believe it. He made a good point, though: the stores don't give you many other options. Yes, he understands he didn't have to buy the Pure Leaf Tea (we can make our own tea at home), and the snack foods aren't even all that healthy for us anyways. It is really difficult, though, for people to find other options other than plastic wrapping when stores such as Ralphs, Albertsons, etc use it nearly exclusively.
However, I've seen the farmers' markets on State Street of Santa Barbara and locally for me to, and I know we could buy fresh fruit and veggies from these places without plastic wrapping. The only issue is that these farmers' markets aren't an everyday occurrence and it's just really hard to hunt them down all the time, but if that's what it takes then I believe it is worth it. Even in the aforementioned stores, there are better options. Find the "locally grown" area of where the fruits and veggies are. These aren't wrapped in plastic, and are often organic and healthier anyways. Bring your own reusable tote bag (if you don't own one, buy a few on http://www.pacificmmc.org/store or on savethemermaids.org/store/) to the grocery store. Buy almonds and other nuts without the wrapping! Many stores put them in huge bins now and you can put as much as you want into a bag (bring your own!). Plant your own herbs, and make your own bathroom essentials. It's pretty fun to become a chemistry wizard in mixing the essential oils necessary for hair and skin products. Think about it: if you don't want weird unknown chemicals in your body, why would you want those on your hair or skin either?
Some people don't see plastic as a huge problem. They throw their trash "away" and they think it's gone. But is it? Where exactly is "away," and how long till it comes back? It is so critical that people realize that our ocean is connected. We are connected by currents. Odds are that the trash we mindlessly throw away will come back to haunt us one way or another. Whether it washes up on our beaches, the beaches at our next vacation destination, or winds up affecting our food supply... it'll be back and stronger than ever. Stop using recycling as an excuse. Barely any of the plastic we use is actually recycled. Essentially, water bottles are the only plastic item that can truly be recycled (not even the bottle cap can be!). But, this doesn't mean they always are. There is too much trash to keep track of. It is out of hand, and we have to stop these problems at the source.
My next goal is to form an anti-plastic bag committee through my city council. I have no idea how seriously they will take one 17 year old girl, but I believe it is worth it to try to ban plastic bags in my community. It's just becoming so excessive. I would like to believe that one girl who decides against using single-use plastics would change the state we are in right now, but I'm not that ignorant. We have to get more people behind us, and banning it on a city and county level is the only way to truly make a difference.
You can do the same in your community and if you need help, the mermaids at savethemermaids.org would surely be more than happy to assist you. We can be the change!