The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
November 23, 2009

Okay, So It’s Not the Cover of the Rolling Stone, But Still…

Have you ever written a letter to the editor? It’s something each of us could do, and with the Internet, it’s easier than ever.   So why was last month the first time I ever tried it? Oh sure, I leave comments on blogs and online newspaper web sites, but I had never sent a letter to be published in print until the article “An Ocean of Plastic” appeared in the October 29, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, of all places.

Now, we’re not talking about a couple of small paragraphs. Kitt Doucette’s article about Captain Charles Moore, the North Pacific Gyre, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and the problems of plastic pollution is a 4-page spread in the center of the magazine, right after Madonna. I wish I could link to it so you can read it for yourself. Unfortunately, Rolling Stone doesn’t publish all its articles online. At this point, the only way to read it is to buy a back issue.

So anyway, it’s a great article. But one sentence on the third page caught my attention:

When was the last time you spent an entire day without using a piece of disposable plastic?

I jumped on it. I had to. I read so many articles about the environmental problems in the world that rarely contain any hopeful information about what we as individuals can do about them. I fear that readers end up depressed, hopeless, and unmotivated to take action. What’s the use of that? Normally, I would have found the magazine’s web site and left a comment. But because this article was not online, I had to do what I’d never done before… write an actual letter to the actual editor. Fortunately the editor had an email address or it might not have happened.

So, here’s a shortened version of my letter, which was published in the current (11-26-2009) issue of Rolling Stone.  Click on the image to see the full page as a PDF.

Beth Terry's Letter in Rolling Stone Magazine

And here is the original letter that I sent:

from Beth Terry
to letters[at]rollingstone[dot]com
date Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 5:05 AM
subject An Ocean of Plastic
mailed-by gmail.com

Editor:

In his article, “An Ocean of Plastic,” Kitt Doucette asks, “When was the last time you spent an entire day without using a piece of disposable plastic?” My answer: yesterday. And the day before that. And the one before that. It’s not impossible to get off the plastic-ridden consumer treadmill of mass consumption, but it does take dedication. I’ve been blogging ways to live with less plastic at Fake Plastic Fish http://www.fakeplasticfish.com. com) for over two years in response to learning about the plastic in the ocean.

It’s great to bring awareness to the problem of plastic pollution, but let’s give readers some solutions as well. A half a century ago, people lived well with much less plastic. We can do it again.

Sincerely,

Beth Terry

I’m very pleased that the editor chose to include my letter. But I wish the reference to Fake Plastic Fish had been included to provide RS readers some solutions and demonstrate that it is possible to live with very little disposable plastic. So far the weight of my plastic waste for 2009 is under 3 pounds. Think I can keep it there through the end of the year?

23 comments
Billie
Billie

Woohoo! A long time ago in university, I wrote to the editor in response to a letter that was printed in the Letters to the Editor section. I wrote about what it felt like to be sexually assaulted by someone I knew. I ended up in the Editor's Comment on Page 2. I still have that newspaper as well as the newspaper letter that prompted my passionate response. I have yet to be prompted again to write but it sure feels powerful to be heard! .-= Billie´s last blog ..Happy Vacation =-.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Melaney. I happen to use these bags for everything from produce to flour and sugar: http://www.reusablebags.com/store/acme-bags%E2%84%A2-produce-snack-organic-cotton-muslin-p-689.html and http://www.ecobags.com/Organic-Cloth-Drawstring-Produce-Bag-Medium?sc=2&category=35 The only reason I use these particular bags is that an organization to which I belong, Green Sangha, happened to be selling them. You can also find many people making and selling cloth bags on Etsy.com. Just search for "cotton produce bag" or "cotton bulk bag." I agree that Drugstore.com calling Zip Locs "eco-friendly" is total greenwashing. I just left my own scathing review of the product, but it's not yet showing up on the site. Maybe it has to be moderated. .-= Beth Terry´s last blog ..Okay, So It’s Not the Cover of the Rolling Stone, But Still… =-.

Melaney
Melaney

I'm trying to live with less plastic, at least for starters, and have been looking for reusable cotton produce bags in stores. I have not found them. So today I decided to buy some online. I started at Drugstore.com because they're offering free shipping and they have a "Green & Natural" section of their online store. Guess what reusable bag came up first, in the Eco-Friendly section? Ziplock plastic bags. They have a big green "Eco-Friendly" logo next to it. Go figure. It makes me so mad when companies try to trick consumers into thinking they're buying something "green". If you or your readers have a favorite reusable produce bag I'd like to know. I'm leaning towards unbleached cotton because I've heard it can even hold flour or sugar. I need something to take with me to the bulk aisle in the grocery. .-= Melaney´s last blog ..I'm back.... =-.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Thanks, Martin. The Beth Terry who comes up first is the motivational speaker who bought BethTerry.com before I even knew the web existed. Turns out, she is an awesome person, and actually comments on Fake Plastic Fish sometimes. We are both happy to share our name with each other. .-= Beth Terry´s last blog ..You’ve Got Your Reusable Bottle. Now What? =-.

Martin
Martin

Great letter. If it's any consolation, they do say you are Beth Terry from the internet... I Googled your name and FPF was above the jump on the 1st page. I did the same for my own name and gave up after going through page after page without finding my blog. I did find what Facebook thinks might be the wrong Martin Higgins on page 5. He's pretty wrong :( .-= Martin´s last blog ..My New Reusable Shopping Bags =-.

Nick Palmer
Nick Palmer

Hi Beth, I'm still plugging away at the plastic fibres in teabags problem. I've had several responses, which I've published on my blog, from major tea retailers in the UK and they all use teabag paper containing about 3% plastic. I reckon the same applies in the USA. Apparently they need this plastic fraction so that the bags don't split on their extremely high speed packing machines which heat seal the bags. I suggest they think about getting different packing systems! I was told the extraordinary fact that in the UK if a product is 95% or greater compostable it can legally be classified as compostable. Most people would think this term meant fully compostable. It's fooling the public. Nick Palmer .-= Nick Palmer´s last blog ..Tetley tea folk comment on this humble blog =-.

Aaron Shaw PhD
Aaron Shaw PhD

Wow, I am really impressed by this! .-= Aaron Shaw PhD´s last blog ..Baby Animals of the Day! Baby Porcupine! =-.

BillyO
BillyO

Good for you. I think the turning point for me was when I was watching one of those wilderness survival shows and the host (who was demonstrating foraging), was looking for plastic bottles and cast off tin cans to use for his camp. This was in a remote part of the world and he explained that there are almost no places left where plastic waste cannot be found. I was thinking last night about how great it would be if I could just compost all of the plastic stuff I get stuck with everyday. The individual who develops a cheap compostable plastic substitute will do very well. .-= BillyO´s last blog ..Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Colored Water Bottles =-.

Ellen Halloran
Ellen Halloran

It's true that a half century ago people lived well with much less plastic. I like to watch old films from the 1940s and 1950s and I always look at the interiors, the sets, the places lived in by the characters and I see almost no plastic. In fact , a few weeks ago I watched Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt" and I couldn't identify one single piece of plastic in the home of the prosperous family at the center of this movie. How did things change so suddenly?

autumn
autumn

hey, maybe they will take the next step and publish an entire article by you on the real nuts and bolts of HOW to do it! im fwding this very webpage to them as an invitation to hire you as a guest environmentalist writer.

Joules
Joules

I saw this article in the publication and was also impressed by the story - very thorough. Good job on the response, and congrats on your first Rolling Stone appearance!

Tanya
Tanya

Hip hip HORRAY!!! That is awesome Beth! :)

Amber
Amber

Hooray, Beth! I'm going to have to search out Rolling Stone and read the article and your letter. And I'm sorry they didn't post the reference to your blog, as well.

axelle fortier
axelle fortier

Most libraries will have that copy of Rolling Stone. .-= axelle fortier´s last blog ..Shame =-.

monkeyjen
monkeyjen

hootie hoo!! good job! cya thxgvg

abbie
abbie

Congratulations! Too bad they didn't put in the FPF link to give people some real options, but it's a step in the right direction! .-= abbie´s last blog ..Where does our meat come from? =-.

Mark
Mark

YOU GO, gIRL!

EcoYogini
EcoYogini

WOOT WOOT :) That is awesome. You never know what will happen if we speak out. :)

clizbiz
clizbiz

That's fantastic, Beth! Yeah, I agree that it would have been nice of the editors to include your link - it would have been a great resource for readers. Still, they probably have some editorial guideline that has them remove all perceived efforts at self-promotion out of the letters. Not uncommon. I'm so glad you added to the conversation. You're a fantastic leader on this front. I'm heading to Long Beach later today (where Capt. Moore is based) and will see if I can track him down.