Living without Plastic – and Teaching Others How to Do It
In June of 2007, I saw a photo (see above) that changed my life and shocked me into action.
The photo was of the carcass of a dead albatross chick, its belly full of everyday plastic pieces like bottle caps, cigarette lighters, and even toothbrushes. That photo touched me as no other image of environmental degradation ever has, and it is with me every day as I work towards ending the plague of plastic pollution through my blog, Fake Plastic Fish, as well as through campaigns I have organized to combat the continuing flood of plastics into the marketplace and into our lives.
The American Chemistry Council would have us believe that the development of plastic has only made our lives better. Through their multimillion dollar “Plastics make it possible” social media campaign, they are targeting young people in their twenties and thirties who they feel have not heard enough positive messages about plastic. Yet the industry conveniently ignores the downside: plastic pollution in our oceans; plastic harming wildlife like sea turtles, birds, and fish; plastic that litters our streets and clogs our landfills because it never biodegrades; and chemicals from plastic that can leach into our foods and beverages via plastic packaging and plastic dishware.
Since that fateful day in 2007, I have vowed to personally live with as little plastic waste as possible. In 2009, I ended the year with only 3.7 pounds of plastic waste… less than 4% of the U.S. national average. This video shows the actual plastic trash I accumulated this year (including recyclables) as well as a few explanations of how I did it.
I’m hoping that in 2010, I can end the year with even less plastic waste. I realize that one person’s changes don’t make much of a difference in reducing the total plastic trash inundating our planet.
But my hope is that by my example and by broadening my reach, I can encourage others to act, thereby boosting the effects of my own changes exponentially.
One of the ways I envision reaching a wider audience is through writing and publishing a book on my experience living life with less plastic. A book that would not only show how it can be done, but also how rejecting the convenience-based throw-away culture we find ourselves part of today, we can actually find our lives more fulfilling. Plastics make possible a lifestyle full of empty promises and hollow values. Living mindfully of the choices we make through our purchases and automatic habits can have impacts on our lives greater than the good feeling we get from “saving the planet.” But I’m not making any promises… just inviting you to begin the journey with me.
Beth has been nominated for a Deserves Changes award and you can help. Just go vote for her, and her wonderful project, here.
She was nominated by Gail Johnson of GlassDharma, the company that makes reusable glass drinking straws to replace disposable plastic ones, and this is what she wrote.
” I would like to nominate Beth Terry as someone who Deserves Changes in her life because she has acted as a change agent in the Bay Area but reaches worldwide in her influence with her blog, FakePlasticFish.com. Her beginning statement is: “Our oceans are filling up with plastic: plastic that harms wildlife and never biodegrades; plastic that enters the food chain and leaches toxic chemicals. This blog is a record of my journey to live with as little unnecessary plastic as possible. Won’t you join me? Fake plastic fish may be cute, but if we don’t solve our plastic problem, they could be the only kind we have left….”
“At a time where many people feel overwhelmed and want to take the head in the sand approach to the environment, Beth has educated and offered many options for people to apply to their daily life such as using glass drinking straws instead of plastic.
Beth Terry, in addition to her blog Fake Plastic Fish and her activities around plastics, is a contributing editor for BlogHer and has served on their conference Green Team. She was also responsible for creating the “Take Back the Filter” campaign for Brita water filters, working with Brita and Whole Foods Market in Oakland to develop a viable recycling program for Brita water filters. She was given an award for this work by the city of Oakland.