I don’t know how or when I first learned about Beth Terry and her ambitious endeavor of trying to rid of plastic from her life. But I found out we both had a visceral reaction when we saw the images of plastic debris filled dead albatross carcasses. I saw them via Chris Jordan’s work, Midway: A Message from the Gyre and she saw it on, of all places, Men’s Health magazine, while recuperating from an unfortunate medical procedure, a hysterectomy.
Armed with the horrible images of dead albatrosses carcasses etched in her mind, Beth became really sad and decided to do something about it. “The day I saw that photo, I committed to looking at my own plastic consumption and plastic waste and figuring out what changes I could make. How much plastic was I using (I had no idea), and how much could I actually give up?”
So this ambitious and meticulous accountant from Berkeley CA. set out on her journey in 2007, trying to find the answer and tallied how much plastic she was using. In doing so, she started writing about her progress and her commitment to reduce, possibly eliminate plastic on her blog. (formerly known as “Fake Plastic Fish” because if we don’t stop filling up our oceans with plastic they could be the only kind of fish we have left.”) And while I ‘try’ but still struggle with the endeavor, she went from being “addicted” to plastic to using only 2 lbs. of plastic a year – that’s less than 2% of an average American’s plastic consumption!
Can you imagine? That’s equivalent of 2 lbs of coffee beans I consume every month!
So, while I also felt profoundly sad seeing dead albatrosses, it was Beth’s actions that inspired me to reduce plastic from my life in a more decisive way. She’s the one who got me interested in Glass Dharma straws, who made me proud to use Zero Water filters since they take back my filters for recycling, who inspired me to make grocery bags out of flat sheets (and make produce bags so I don’t use the plastics to carry home organic produce), and who constantly make me think twice about my own plastic consumption.
And it was only a matter of time before she decided to publish all her knowledge and experiences in a how-to-reduce-plastic-from-your-life book, appropriately titled, Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and You Can Too.
The Book: Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and You Can Too
I will not go into details of her book as I think you MUST read it for yourself to see how great this jam packed reference-like-funny-poignant-and-yet-not-too-preachy-practical-advice-filled book is.
There, that’s my review.
Seriously, you MUST ready it because my feeble attempt to describe how wonderful the book is, doesn’t justify the breath of information she delivers. Beth’s obsessive nature to make sure every stone isn’t left unturned is reflected on her meticulously researched and referenced facts that took her 5 years to accumulate. She researched every aspect of how plastic affects our lives with a fine tooth comb. After five years of writing about plastic on her blog myplasticfreelife.com, petitioning Brita water filter company to accept their filters for recycling (and winning the battle), speaking at TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch and even dressing up as a Plastic Sea Monster for San Francisco’s Annual Bay to Breaker’s Race (and winning it!), the knowledge and passion she showed in the book is nothing less than extraordinary and encouraging. But make no mistake; the book is not to convert you or make you feel guilty about your life with plastic. The book is designed to gives you easy actionable steps to follow with brilliant guides to keep as a future reference.
This page illustrates just one of the ways in which she engages you to think about your habits regarding plastic.
Every footnote is referenced, pages of resources and indices in the back are invaluable. I also love the “rent/borrow/share” directory with links, the section on the difference between silicone and plastic (Good to know she’s on the same page as I about silicone), directory of plastic free clothing and accessories, plastic free shipping alternatives, and a quote from yours truly about how I feel about green crafting. (And for the record, she LOVES ETSY! Yay!) All the products she mentions in the book, she tried and used. She wasn’t paid to mention any of them or is she an affiliate for any of the products. She admits trying 85-90% of the recipes and tutorials in the book.
If you don’t know how important it is to eliminate plastic from our lives, for our health, and for the planet’s health, then, you definitely should pick up a copy. You can buy a digital version of Plastic-Free (like I did for my desktop but you can download it to a Kindle or a Kindle app on your iPad) that have hyperlinks that you can click to go to or you can buy the signed copy (signed with her refillable fountain pen) so she can donate $2 to Plastic Pollution Coalition. Or you can order a copy from BuyGreen. The book is plastic free, packaging and binding are plastic free. No glue and no toxic ink was used and compostable cotton thread was used to bind the book so you can compost the whole dang book afterwards…not that you should since you’d want to keep in your library as a reference book until it biodegrades naturally.
So who is Beth, really?
You can read about plastic in her book but I wanted to share a little bit about Beth, the person, so you’d understand how she’s just like us and not some obsessive lunatic who wants to take on the plastic industry. Well, she does want to do express her honest opinion about plastic but seriously, who is she?
I chatted with Beth over the phone and here is a glimpse of what her eco-battles and eco-confessions are.
What else DOES Beth care about besides plastic?
Organic vs. plastic dilemma – Should we buy organic if it’s wrapped in plastic? Why does organic foods have to be wrapped in plastic?
Waste - glass and metal reduce waste since you can reuse. Reduce clutter. (She wasn’t using her printer at all so she gave it away on Craigslist.) Uncluttering by donating is her biggest way of reducing waste in her life.
Energy – we have limited natural resources so conserve.
Water – availability of clean drinking water is a huge issue.
What DOESN’T Beth care about, that much?
Obviously she cares deeply about BPA – a hormone disruptor found in plastic – but that will not stop her from buying recycled toilet paper. She believes buying recycled paper is far more important for her than to worrying about the minute exposure to BPA from recycled toilet paper. And since she has practically no exposure to plastic, doesn’t buy canned food or even takes receipts from stores, BPA exposure is not much of a concern to her in her life. But obviously, that’s just her and does not advise others to follow suit.
Car – nothing about it is good for the environment but she chooses to live in the city where public transportation is available. She takes Mass transit and bikes everywhere (she actually biked across town with a huge bag of styrofoam peanuts to return them back to the company to inform and educate them about plastic packaging.)
What items does she want to buy but won’t?
Netflix TV adapter – can’t justify her ‘want’ to buy the gadget that required so much resources to build
She is addicted to her mobile device. She does all her social media on her smartphone, listens to podcasts, plays solitaire, and listens to spottily. She actually falls a sleep with it. (Not telling this to my teens!!)
What can YOU do make a difference?
Do what you can and are manageable. Buy in bulk and not single serving sized items. Buy bigger packages to create less waste. Make things yourself. Mend and fix. (She fixed her dishwasher all by herself!) Cook from scratch.
All these things are something you can do to reduce plastic from your life. (I get the feeling you don’t’ have to be rich or smart to be green. You just have to move away from “I’ll-have-someone-else-do-things-for-me” mentality.)
I had the pleasure of meeting Beth at a BlogHer conference in NYC two year ago. I was taking care of a dying neighbor and Beth had just driven across the country with her dad after her family moved her ailing mom to the East Coast. We shared our stories of taking care of aging elderly patients and confessed out plastic sins. Beth confessed to eating (and damning them for adding plastic weight to the month!) Flaming Hot Cheetos while driving across the country and I bought Poland Springs Pods that Jean wanted. After laughing about our stories, I came to view Beth as a real gentle human being and not some perfect staunch extremist. She’s just very caring about everything.
Like I said earlier, I struggle with trying to live without plastic. Things get complicated for a family of four with different lifestyles and habits. But I set the tone in the family and I am constantly trying to “educate” my family about plastic. Some things are easy to do, like buying bulk from Whole Foods but it doesn’t carry everything I want to buy. So I buy some items in plastic, albeit in bulk, from wholesale clubs. But that’s one way I eliminate a little bit more plastic from our lives.
I think we are worse than the dead albatross in the Gyre for sure. Yes, the poor birds couldn’t escape the plastics that they had nothing to do with, 2000 miles away from us – but we are swimming in plastic every day and dying from the effects slowly.
So read her book and learn how to eliminate plastic or at least reduce plastic. Recycling is not the answer. Refusing and/or reducing first is.
Disclosure: I bought the digital version of the book with my own money and no monetary reward was given to me for this review.
Here is the Plastic Free Readers Guide to refer to when reading Beth’s book.
Here is what others are saying about Beth’s Book
GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED
Giveaway for Beth's book: Plastic Free:
- Must be aged 18 or older and live in the contiguous US to be eligible to win.
- Giveaway is open to email subscribers only.
- Giveaway will end at 12:00 AM EST on Monday, July 2, 2012
- Rafflecopter will be used to keep track of your entries and choosing the winner.
- No purchase is necessary to enter the giveaway.
- You must respond within three days after giveaway is closed to be eligible.
- The winner will have the option of receiving a Kindle Digital version (paid by me) or a signed hardcopy from Beth.