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March 20, 2009

Voices of the Plastic-Free Blogosphere, Part 4

 

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written a Plastic-Free Blogosphere post, and there certainly are more folks joining the ranks. So here’s Part 4 in this ongoing series. The first three posts can be found here:

Voices of the Plastic-Free Blogosphere, Part 1
Voices of the Plastic-Free Blogosphere, Part 2
Voices of the Plastic-Free Blogosphere, Part 3

Plastic-Free Bloggers
(blogs primarily dealing with plastic)

Please Pass on the Plastic. Like so many others, Michelle Walrath started her blog because she was upset after learning about the Pacific Garbage Patch. And through her work with a non-profit called Environmental Grassroots Education, she learned about how dangerous many chemicals and plastics are in our lives.

Besides blogging, Michelle, with her husband, recently worked with a team of filmmakers to produce a new documentary called Tapped, which they are hoping will be picked up by festivals. Tapped examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil. Please check out the trailer. It looks amazing!

The Unplastic Life. Jessica was inspired to eliminate plastic when her friend Kerry started the blog Plastic is Forever (profiled in Part 1 of this series). “At first, I thought she was crazy, but the more I read, the more I was convinced that plastic was a real problem and that I could do my part to help solve it.” Jessica’s grocery store adventures will make you smile, as will her trials on the South Beach Diet, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to plastic-free living. As she opines on the blog,

South Beach-ing can conflict with Plastic Dieting since lots of the things they advocate involve wasteful plastic. String cheese, for example. Jello-cups. Salad in a bag. This is interesting because the South Beach Diet is supposed to be about a healthier lifestyle. And plastic never feels healthy.

No Plastic For A Year. Fake Plastic Fish readers met this blogger, Katie Woollven, last week when she guest posted about her work with the Hawaii Wildlife Fund. Marine debris is a big problem for the state of Hawaii. Katie helps to organize beach clean ups near South Point and to ID the fishing nets that wash up on shore and try to figure out where they came from.

She first became aware of the plastic pollution issue in the summer of 2007 while working as a naturalist for the Monterey Bay Aquarium‘s Science Under Sail program. The scale of the problem hit home when she learned that the Pacific Garbage Patch was twice the size of Texas. Katie is from Texas and had driven from Houston to El Paso enough times to know that this was a very big deal.

The program also conducted plankton tows every day, and actually found small pieces of plastic in some of the samples. But it was the acrylic tube containing the stomach contents of an albatross chick that got her. It was full of lighters (plural!), bottle caps, toothbrushes…. In her words, “That’s not right.”

Katie’s blog invites participation. Each week of her plastic-free year, she invites a different “buddy” to try it out with her for a week and post his/her experience on the blog.

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

Going Green Mama. For Indiana resident Robbie, the idea of reducing her plastic consumption began as a clutter issue. She says, “…I was getting buried in a sea of grocery bags! I knew I had to cut it out somehow.” From that simple realization, an environmental awareness emerged. Now Robbie notices all kinds of plastic waste beyond disposable bags. Some of you may remember her campaign against disposable timing chips at the OneAmerica Mini-Marathon.

She says that unfortunately, Indiana is not only slow to adopt recycling programs, but in some cases, its towns are reducing the types of items they recycle due to the recession. This makes reducing consumption even more important!

Cre8 and Re-Cre8. Carmen Jenkins’s blog offers DIY projects to “create useful items and to re-create old items into something new and functional.” She says that while many experiences within the last 10-20 years have opened her eyes to environmental issues, taking her family to see the film WALL-E recently has had the most biggest impact. “…the questions raised about the impact of our throw-away culture and disconnection with the earth are very profound.”

The film got her thinking about the choices she was making for herself and her family and motivated her to act. While she has no plans to completely eliminate plastic from her life (and neither do I, for that matter), her goal is a drastic yet thoughtful reduction.

Carmen lives in the D.C Metro area where, she says, the biggest environmental challenge is waste that gets into the Chesapeake Bay, Anacostia and Potomac Rivers.

Party of Six. Colorado blogger September (aka Seppie) had been reading Fake Plastic Fish for several months. But it wasn’t until she read about the tragic consequences of plastic waste in the Pacific Garbage Patch that she, like me, had the strongest reaction and became motivated to make changes in her life. And wow, did she go for it! Check out her post about phoning the owner of a take-out restaurant at home for permission to bring her reusable container to pick up dinner.

Unlike Robbie in Indiana who wishes her state would get moving with recycling, Seppie says that where she lives, all plastics (#1 – #7) are picked up at the curb. She wonders if this policy creates the illusion that all plastics are actually being recycled and therefore, residents can consume as much as they want. (Note: some areas collect all types of plastic and then sort out the recyclable from the non-recyclable at the facility. Non-recyclable plastic is then landfilled, unbeknownst to well-meaning citizens.)

As I usual, I asked these bloggers a series of questions about the challenges of going plastic-free. Here’s what they said:

EASIEST CHANGES TO MAKE
(Besides the obvious grocery bags and reusable bottles)

Michelle: Giving up bottled water (got a filter and stainless steel / glass water bottles); changing out the PVC shower curtains (replaced with cotton and bamboo); cut down on take-out food (replaced with meal planning and a freezer full of food); minimal tupperware (glass storage instead)

Jessica: Asking for no straw when eating out is the easiest change and avoiding plastic bags since reusable ones are so common now.

Katie: Actually, for Katie, reusable bags was not so easy. Being forgetful, it took her two years to remember to bring them! The easiest switch was Oyin’s Funk Butter instead of deodorant. (This is a new one to me!) She wanted to switch anyway to avoid aluminum. Oyin’s comes in a metal tin.

Robbie: Making her own baby food instead of buying non-recylable plastic tubs of baby mush has been surprisingly easy.

Carmen: Refrigerator storage. Carmen has a love affair with glass jars for storage, and her refrigerator and cabinets are now full of them.

Seppie: Switching to local milk in glass bottles, switching to cloth bags for produce and bulk stuff, buying yogurt in a glass jar. She says,

In general, it’s pretty easy to look for the lower-plastic option for stuff we’re buying anyway. For example, a couple of weeks ago I was looking for some cheap vodka. I’ve got no brand preference, so I just bought the one that’s in glass bottles instead of plastic.

BIGGEST CHALLENGES

Michelle: Wrapping and packaging that comes on everything we buy.

Jessica: Dairy products and meat are a real challenge. So are pencils and paper. She runs a tutoring program.

Katie: Living on an island (Hawaii) is difficult because everything is shipped there from 2000 miles away… usually in plastic. She likes finding solutions within her community, but sometimes it is slow and difficult. They also use a lot of plastic at her job, which she feels powerless to change.

Robbie: Ridding herself of her diet soda habit. She says,

It’s a long-standing problem, though I’ve largely moved to drinking from cans instead of 2-liters now (which at least are somewhat better recycled). My goal for this Lent was actually to quit drinking Diet Coke, which has been a challenge, but many 12-packs and plastic bottles have been “saved” – not to mention, I’m able to use that money for better causes! It’s a challenge to make a major adjustment, particularly when it’s an ingrained habit, but like any change, you pick yourself up when you falter and try again.

Carmen: Finding good ways to freeze things. In her family of five with two working parents, freezing is an important aspect of eating locally and reducing their food waste. She hasn’t yet found good alternatives to plastic for long-term freezing of items such as berries, sauces, etc. (Carmen — have you tried Life Without Plastic’s airtight stainless containers?)

Seppie: Plastic is everywhere! Frozen fruit for smoothies comes in plastic. Prescription bottles. Dry erase markers for school. Toys for older children. (She tries to find them used.) Coca Cola, although she’s recently found a cola in glass bottles. (Seppie — have you looked into a soda maker?)

INSPIRATION FROM THE PLASTIC-FREE BLOGGERS

Michelle: Plastic is laden with chemicals that build up in our bodies over time. Do not MESS with this. Eliminate plastics, one day at a time and you will never regret it.

Jessica: Just being conscious of plastic use will help you make anti-plastic choices. Avoid soda bottles and plastic water bottles. Take a backpack, reusable bag, or cart to the grocery store.

Katie: It’s fun! It’s healthy! Start small and just keep going!

Robbie: It doesn’t happen overnight, and like any major change in your habits, taking baby steps makes a difference and will help you stick to those changes.

Carmen: Some of the lifestyle changes that you make lessening your plastic consumption will bring you great pleasure. It may be changing your garbage bag every two weeks versus every day, it may be enjoying fresh made bread from your bread box, it may be the money you save in your budget by purchasing less convenience foods, or it may be listening to your child explain to another shopper at the grocery store how they are taking care of the earth by bringing their own bags. While many aspects of eliminating plastic can be inconvenient and challenging, there are many unexpected joys along this journey.

Seppie: Try just one little thing at a time. Start with something easy, and when that becomes a habit, make another change. Don’t get overwhelmed and give up. When you screw up, just take a deep breath and keep moving in the right direction. Remember why you’re doing it, and the fact that every single piece of plastic that you have ever encountered, even when it was used for just ten seconds, still exists in some toxic form on the earth. Doing something is better than doing nothing (or, doing nothing is better than doing something plastic??? I dunno, something like that…)

Please check out these blogs and lend support. If you blog about the joys and challenges of living with less plastic and would like to be included in the next Voices update, please contact me and let me know. There’s room for a whole lot more!



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7 comments
Ruth
Ruth

Thanks for sharing these! I like to see how other people are approaching these challenges, and I liked the advice to start small and not get overwhelmed. I think one of the main things is to stay aware and just think about what we're doing.

lucia
lucia

Hi Beth,I've posted recently about the plastic free blogosphere, called it antiplastic activism myself. I think you may want to have a read through, as i got some opinions from the other side of the argument. lucía

ALMOST MRS AVERAGE
ALMOST MRS AVERAGE

What a great post Beth and as John said - it's wonderful to see so many people here focusing on reducing plastic. Thanks to all the work that you do and sharing your knowledge, I have a special award waiting for you at The Rubbish Diet. Please feel free to polish and share. As ever, I am in true admiration of all you have done. You are an inspiration Beth :-D x

John Costigane
John Costigane

Hi Beth,Great to see all the newcomers adding to the trend and further impacting the plastic use.With Easter approaching, over here the Easter Eggs are large in the supermarkets. There has been a geat move this year with Zero Waste Easter Eggs now a reality. Plastic packaging has been eliminated in a decent percentage (~20%, by layout). The one certainty is that once established, these Eggs will become the norm.

Daisy
Daisy

Sounds like a challenge, but a reasonable one. I'm working on remembering my own shopping bags; I used one today. It's so easy; I have to kick myself when i forget.The freezer is an issue, too.

Lisa Sharp
Lisa Sharp

Hopefully someday I will get better at this whole no plastic thing. I'm getting there. :)

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