Support Animals and the Planet with the Ten Year Challenge

Written by: Ali McNamara, RVT, Hospital Clinical Coordinator, Vista Veterinary Specialists

Earlier this year, social media was swarming with the comparing and contrasting of the #10yearchallenge. It’s fun, right? A good opportunity to compare funny hairstyles, remember memories from college, or even have a good belly laugh. But what about when you compare, contrast and maybe realize something so small is actually VERY big.

Let’s talk about your trash

In light of the #10yearchallenge let’s take a minute to talk about your trash. I know, I know what you are thinking, “My trash?” Isn’t this supposed to be about animals? Well, actually it is. And actually, your trash has more effects on this planet and the animals in it than most people think.

When I say your trash, more specifically I mean single use plastic. What’s this? This is your Starbucks cups, your plastic baggies that hold your carrots for lunch, even your shampoo bottles you purchase monthly. But, let’s slow down a minute and talk about why all of this matters.

How much plastic is in our ocean?

According to, in March of 2018, a study was performed by UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). This study gathered information surrounding the amount of plastic found in our oceans every year. Do you even want to know?…Approximately eight metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans; and that is just yearly! What if you added up two years? Or five? Or, what if you added up ten? Don’t do that math!

So what does this have to do with animals?

Okay, okay. For people who aren’t about the numbers, let’s circle back. Plastic. Animals. Ocean. I’ve thrown a lot at you all at once. What do all these things have to do with one another?

Well, as human beings, naturally we look for the path of least resistance. In the 1960s plastic was introduced as a shipping method, but fast forward to the 1980s about ¾ of the super markets were now using them for their everyday customer, and the consumer was loving it. It was convenient right?

Still not connecting for you yet? Don’t worry… let’s talk about the animals now. At this point you get it — plastic is clearly overused. But here’s the thing: it’s not just overused, it is literally killing our oceans and the planet’s entire ecosystem. This isn’t about politics or climate change, this is about the simple facts.

One area in particular that is suffering the most is the coral reef. In a nutshell, a quick Google search will provide you with a bunch of scientific terms resulting in the fact that the coral reef is the foundation of our oceans. They are the backbone. Essentially our ecosystem needs them. We need them. The coral reef is often referred to as the “rain forests of the ocean.” They provide homes, shelter, and food for so many different species; things cannot, and quite frankly, will not function with out them.

A study done in 2011 (so almost a decade ago) stated that if something is not done now, by 2030, 90% of our coral reef is going to be gone. Wait, I know what you are thinking… it’s 2019. So, here is my question to you. What will that #10yearchallenge look like?

Plastic: you can do without it

Trash and pollution isn’t the only thing harming our oceans, but it is one area that your average every day person can control. I’m not asking you to throw out every piece of plastic in your life. I am asking you to stop, and think… can I go with out plastic?

For starters, can you go with out your weekly purchase of a flat of plastic water bottles? What if you invest in the upfront purchase of a reusable water bottle, which, in turn, would actually save you money?

What if instead of putting your carrots in that plastic baggie, you invest in reusable glass containers and gave up the plastic baggies altogether? But, hold on, here is my favorite. Don’t give up your Starbucks, just simply bring your cup. Most places actually pay YOU, the consumer, when you bring your own bag or cup!

But I’m just one person

I’m not asking you to move mountains, I’m simply asking you to be mindful of your consumption. Most people think, “Oh, I am just one person, how can I actually matter?”

Well, here is the hard truth. You do. We all do. We have no other options at this point, there is no #planetB.

So, do your part, because if you don’t, our #10yearchallenge won’t be a funny hair style, or a good belly laugh, it will be a devastation for us all. This is no longer an option between “paper or plastic,” this is a global crisis.

As one of my favorite’s once said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

-Ali McNamara, RVT
Hospital Clinical Coordinator
Vista Veterinary Specialists