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October 28, 2008

Voices of the Plastic-Free Blogosphere, Part 1

 

Today, Enviroblog’s Lisa Frack begins a week-long experiment to live completely plastic-free. I was happy to meet with her while she was visiting Oakland last week and give her a few pointers. But don’t let me be the only one. Check out her blog and give her your best tips!

Two weeks ago, I called for more plastic-free bloggers, and many of you responded. So many, in fact, that it would be an injustice to try and cram everyone into the same post. So this week, we’ll hear from the first 8 bloggers who contacted me. Next week, I’ll post Part 2. And hopefully, as more people join the Plastic-Free Bloggers and Plastic-Free Posse, these posts can become a regular feature.

Imagine the change we can make throughout the blogosphere if more people take on the challenge of reducing their plastic consumption and reporting their results online. We’re creating a plastic-free meme that hopefully will ripple out into the consciousness of not only individuals but businesses and bureaucrats alike.

Plastic-Free Bloggers
(blogs primarily dealing with plastic)

Plastic Is Forever. Erin and Kerry are old friends from college who now live miles apart (Los Angeles and New York.) Erin says, “The impetus to make a BIG change, to hold myself accountable and blog about it came after listening to the book The World Without Us,iconby Alan Weisman with my friend and fellow blogger Kerry as we were on a road/hiking trip. After hearing about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch we knew we had to eliminate plastic as much as we could.”

Citizen Green. Linda Anderson’s son, Joel Paschal, explored the North Pacific Gyre this past winter as a member of the Alguita crew and continued with Marcus Eriksen on his plastic bottle Junk raft to bring attention to the issue of plastics in the marine environment. Linda figured that “if Joel can risk floating across the Pacific, then I can do something here in Indiana to reduce plastic in our lives.” So she started her blog to talk about ways to get rid of plastic in everyday life.

Plastic Is Fantastic. Clara is a St. John Ambulance member in South Leicestershire, England. She decided to give up plastic as part of the Amalfi Challenge, a personal development program for young people. Why plastic? She says she’s always been aware of it, but it wasn’t until she “nipped into the Supermarket earlier this year on a damn cold windy day to try and buy some fruit” that her eyes were opened. “Do bananas and oranges really need wrapping in plastic?!” And yes, the title of her blog is meant to be ironic.

Plastic-Free Posse
(Blogs that cover a range of subjects. I’ve linked to their plastic-labeled posts here.)

Kale for Sale. Katrina lives in San Anselmo, CA, where she blogs about food and eating locally. Her photos are spectacular! She says, “When I realized we had less plastic waste as a result of eating from the farmers’ markets and not the grocery store, it became a game to see how much more plastic we could reduce. The realization began about a year ago.”

The Gamble Life. Maya Gamble describes herself as “a displaced Texan, mom to two amazing little boys, wife to the truly fabulous Chris, knitter, sewer, environmentalist, dreamer, and striver.” Around the time that she learned of the “plastic soup” out in the North Pacific Gyre, she also came across the No Impact Man blog and Fake Plastic Fish and was “immediately struck.”

Mumbled Rantings From the Evol God of Nollij. Ian Hopper from Novato, CA adds humor and pop culture to the mix. I love that he came to the Algalita presentation two weeks ago in a Trogdor T-shirt. He told me that he’d been attempting to reduce his plastic consumption for quite some time, but it wasn’t until he read the article Plastic Ocean that he “swallowed the red pill” and was changed forever.

A Slice of the Pie. New Jersey blogger, Kel, describes herself as “Mother, Sister, Daughter. Part Time Writer, Part Time Desktop Publisher, Part Time Medical Billing Clerk, and Full Time Homeschooling Mother of four.” She says that while she’d been environmentally aware for several years, it was finding Fake Plastic Fish through the No Impact Man blog that inspired her to change her plastic ways.

Cousin Yellowstone’s Recital of Recyclables. Cousin Yellowstone notices recyclables by the side of the road or on hiking trails, and instead of leaving them there, picks them up and brings them home. The blog is mainly a tally of those items. Yellowstone discovered Envirowoman’s Plastic-free blog last year, and was immediately inspired, but says that “turning that inspiration into actual action has required time.”

I asked these bloggers a series of questions about the challenges of going plastic-free. Here’s what they told me:

EASIEST CHANGES TO MAKE

Nearly all the bloggers agreed that switching from plastic bags to reusable grocery bags was one of the easiest steps, followed by carrying a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water. Here are a few more easy ideas:

Erin: No more plastic take-out containers. This step is easy but requires forethought; No more bite-size candy, hard candy, or mints wrapped in plastic.

Kerry: Bringing her own coffee mug. Also, eating more fruits and veggies so she doesn’t need processed, packaged food.

Clara: Reusing plastic bags, paying more attention when shopping, and reducing the amount of product she uses, “i.e. not just cramming my toothbrush full of paste even though some always falls off,” so that each package lasts longer.

Katrina: Not buying food in plastic [note that for other bloggers, this step is more challenging] and using bar shampoo instead of bottled.

Maya: Giving up plastic containers and plastic wrap and carrying organic cotton produce bags.

Ian: No shampoo (using baking soda & water in a reused plastic squeeze bottle), no new liquid soap dispensers (refilling from a bulk container at the store), and buying milk in returnable glass bottles.

Kel: Phasing out plastic cups, bowls, and plates, and replacing them with glass and ceramic ones and looking for plastic-free or reduced plastic alternatives to new products.

Cousin Yellowstone: Buying loose produce at a nearby farmer’s market instead of pre-bagged produce at the grocery store and switching from juice to whole fruits.

BIGGEST CHALLENGES

Erin: Plastic-packaged food. Even though she likes fresh veggies and making food from scratch, it’s still a daily challenge. And an even bigger challenge for her is staying positive while seeing so many other people use plastic everyday.

Kerry: Planning ahead for picnics, barbecues and tailgates. And “straws are my plastic downfall — I never remember to say ‘no straw.’”

Linda: Researching the facts to make sure she is learning and blogging the truth.

Clara: As someone who is “chronically crippled,” relying on “quick fix” short cuts to get things done, “i.e. mops with inbuilt floor wash detergent,” many of which are full of disposable plastic.

Katrina: Getting out of the habit of plastic produce bags and finding alternatives to keeping things fresh in the fridge without them.

Maya: Kid stuff — plastic toys, stickers, markers — and all the related plastic packaging. She says, “I don’t even shop that much and I still find myself with plastic packaging, trying to figure out some way to reuse it!”

Ian: Trying to convince his wife to come on board the “No Plastic Train.”

Kel: Finding that for a working single parent of four, time and money are often bigger factors in purchasing decisions than plastic content or packaging. Food packaging ends up being the majority of her plastic waste.

Cousin Yellowstone: Breakfast. Both breakfast cereal and soy milk come packaged in plastic.

INSPIRATION FROM THE PLASTIC-FREE BLOGGERS

In their own words —

Erin: You can do it and you will have a ripple effect! People I know tell me all the time that I have changed the way they look at plastic and that they think twice sometime before using excess plastic. Start small-think big.

Kerry: You can make a HUGE difference by eliminating “one time use” products from your life! Let’s be plastic free from sea to shining sea!

Linda: It is easy to lessen one’s consumption. Pick one item at a time and figure out how to do without it. We used to do without most of this plastic not so many years ago. Now disposable plastic has become a habit that we can break.

Clara: If you don’t give a damn about the damage it’s causing the environment, about the future, about saving yourself money, then just think of it as a fantastic way to meet interesting people (and it’s less humiliating than trying line dancing).

Katrina: Start with what you know you can change. Something easy so you can succeed and feel good. The next step will come easier and the changes that seem impossible will become a piece of pie. Local apple pie!

Maya: [I let people know] that they will feel really good about such small and easy changes like no water bottles or plastic store bags.

Ian: I try to find the common ground between myself and whomever I’m speaking with and try to find a target issue. If I can get someone thinking about reducing plastic in ONE area of their life, it’ll spread like a virus to the other parts of their life hopefully! If I were to pick one thing to encourage people to reduce their plastic, it would be to encourage them to read the “Plastic Ocean” article.

Kel: Anyone can lessen plastic consumption, and every bit really does make a difference.

Cousin Yellowstone: Look at the plastic items in your trash can or recycling bin, and choose one type you could easily avoid in the future. Plan ahead for eliminating that one type of plastic waste, and don’t get overwhelmed with trying to eliminate all plastic from your life at once.

And here’s a final thought from me. When I was participating in running races, I never thought I would actually come in first. And I never thought of myself as competing against the other runners, but with them. Knowing there were people ahead of me kept me going. And knowing there were others behind moved me faster. The adrenaline pumped, and I had better finishing times than I ever did during solo training runs.

What does this have to do with plastic and blogging? Everything! The more of us out here running the plastic-free race, the more inspiration there will be for each of us to do better. We learn by example. By seeing what others up ahead have already done and by knowing there are others behind who are looking to us to point the way. Let’s keep the momentum going!



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10 comments
nollij
nollij

Hey Beth, you put a wikipedia link to the "red pill", but I prefer THIS LINK instead. I'm as big a bicycle advocate as I am a plastic free advocate and Todd Fahrner of Clever Cycles in Portland (formerly of SF) has been somewhat of a guide for me back into the world of car-free or car-lite.. which goes rather hand in hand with plastic-free!

nollij
nollij

Beth, I'm honored that you put me up this entry! I'll be linking back to this article later today. Right now, I'm up too late.. as usual.

Peter - Australia
Peter - Australia

In regard to plastic take away food containers....use them many times over for freezer storage and for take to work lunches, and then if broken they are PET [2] and recyclable anyway. What is the hassle?You Americans are among the world's worst recyclers / reusers. Is it just called laziness??

Anna
Anna

Hey Beth,I'm finally getting back to my plastic blog as well: http://byotalk.blogspot.com/Took a long hiatus, as I was up to my ears with our JUNK raft: http://junkraft.com/building/fundraising for a few months, then blogging all summer while the boys were at sea!Your name came up few weeks ago, we gave a presentation at NYU, and No Impact Man introduced us - what an inspiring guy!Cheers,Anna

froghair
froghair

I too, have been a reader for awhile, and while I've tried to live in a relatively eco-friendly way, I know there's much more I can do to curb my consumption of plastics. One thing I really wonder though is how to buy certain foods without plastic. Cheese comes to mind. Even at the farmers market, cheese comes in a little plastic tub or wrap. Does anyone have advice on this?

jennconspiracy
jennconspiracy

Easiest change - compost all your wet waste, recycle everything and STOP using plastic trash bags. Even though I use bio bags for cat waste, World's Best Cat Litter still hasn't responded to me on their use of plastic bags.

seoulless
seoulless

I've been quietly following your blog for a few months now, and I must say it's inspired me to make some changes of my own. This post here definitely has inspired me to start writing about it more in my own blog - people need to start looking at the impact they make on this planet!

SusanB
SusanB

Great new feature, Beth.

ruchi aka arduous
ruchi aka arduous

Hey, this is a great feature. I will put up a plastic post later this week!!

knutty knitter
knutty knitter

I am finally dealing to plastic bread bags. That is the only way bread comes around here so I am trying to mostly make my own.The real challenge is providing bread for 4 peeps when suffering from a bad cold! Result - one more plastic bag but at least it was only one.viv in nz

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