The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
March 18, 2008

Blue Vinyl: A Toxic Love Story

I was sick as a dog this weekend and spent all day Saturday on the couch watching videos. Many readers, after reading about my purges (here and here and here) of #3 PVC containers and a MultiPure water filter system containing PVC, recommended Blue Vinyliconto me. But I just never had time to sit down and watch it until I was too sick to do anything else.

Wow. Thank you to everyone who recommended this film. And for those who haven’t seen it, run out NOW and get it. Rent it from Netflix, borrow it from the library or from a friend who has
it, or buy your own copyiconto share with your friends! I just ordered mine, as this DVD is one piece of plastic I hope to get a lot of use from.

Watching this film gave me such hope for what we can do as individuals if we put our minds to it. It’s the personal story of the filmmaker, Judith Helfand, who reveals right from the start that she’s had a hysterectomy from cancer linked to drugs her mother took while pregnant. Right then, I felt I had a certain bond with this uterine-free sister woman. When her parents decide to replace the rotting wood on their house with blue vinyl siding, she begins a years-long campaign to learn as much as she can about the hazards of vinyl and finally convinces them, after they’ve already finished the house, to actually remove the vinyl siding and replace it with reclaimed wood.

Along the way, we travel from her home on Long Island, NY to Louisiana, where most of the PVC in the U.S. is produced and many workers and residents have been made sick; Venice, Italy, where another huge PVC plant has made workers sick; to the SF Bay Area where she searches for the least toxic building materials to replace the vinyl. Throughout the film, major points are illustrated with charming animations by Emily Hubley, who also animated another of my all-time favorite movies, the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And Blue Vinyl is peppered with Judith’s own sense of humor, as she carries her one piece of vinyl siding along with her everywhere she goes.

I call it a toxic love story because the film is not just about an environmental issue, but also about the relationship of a daughter with her parents and the push/pull that happens in families. Her story reminded me so much of myself and my own parents. How she tugs on them to change their minds, and how in the end she has to learn to let go and let them be who they are. Just the fact that they actually allowed her to pull off the siding and replace it was amazing to me, despite the ironic epilogue which I won’t spoil.

When you do watch the DVD (and I just know you will because it’s so great and I’m telling you to) be sure and watch the extras, including the short video about Greenpeace’s non-toxic Habitat for Humanity home built in Louisiana. (It’s on the second “page” of extras so you need to click “Next” to get to it.) It will leave you feeling inspired and hopeful for the future.

Disclosure: My Plastic-free Life is now a Barnes & Noble affiliate, which means that if you purchase the film via the B&N link on this page, you help support this site with a small percentage.

8 comments
bert
bert

Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace (yes, you read that correctly!) and currently the leader of Greenspirit Strategies, states “PVC/vinyl windows and doors are the greenest choice.” He goes on to say that, "“Recent life-cycle studies show the health and environmental impacts of vinyl building products are comparable to or less than the impacts of other competing products.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqdbTbeWDUg&feature=related

CindyW
CindyW

Hope you are feeling much better. Being sick sucks. Thanks for writing about the video. Very cool. I have to check it out. I wonder why movies like this never make it into most households.

General Jack D. Ripper
General Jack D. Ripper

Have you ever wondered, Mandrake, why I drink only distilled water or rainwater?

Anonymous
Anonymous

I just went to my library's website and placed a hold on the movie! Thanks for the recommendations.

Vanessa
Vanessa

Thanks for the great suggestion for Netflix. Hope you're feeling better.

arduous
arduous

Cool. I will definitely have to check it out. Thanks for the rec!

christy b
christy b

Mycopy is so old it's on VHS and I don't have those extras - bummer! Maybe it will be one of the films from Earth Circle Cinema - which I found on your blog and joined, thank you very much - and I'll get to see the extras then.My favorite part was when a salesperson was trying to explain that PVC was table salt, just as safe, no big deal!!For those that hate documentaries, the way this one is shot and edited is very engaging and anyone that I have had watch it loved it. Also, the same is true for "The Corporation" - different approach but even people who hate documentaries love it!I watched this documentary years ago, sent it to my sister and the awareness that it brought changed both of us. Thanks Judith.