The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
December 25, 2010

Wanna Hang Out With Me?

Invite me to your party. I’ll be the one who heads straight into your kitchen, opens the cupboard, and takes out a glass to use instead of plastic. I’ll rummage through your drawers for reusable silverware. Or I’ll take out the little bamboo set I carry in my purse. Your guests will find me charming.

Bring me homemade Christmas cookies in a plastic bag, and I’ll dump them out into another container and thrust your bag back at you, making you swear to reuse it. You’ll thank me for pointing out your mistake.

Or leave me treats in a plastic Ziploc bag on my desk chair at work, and I’ll regift them to a co-worker instead of bringing them home. Maybe you’ll never find out unless you see the link to this post on Facebook.

Arrive at my parents’ house with an abundance of groceries to cook a holiday dinner, and watch how I thank you by taking pictures of all your plastic bags and containers and posting them on my blog.

Threaten to mail me a Christmas present, and listen to me go off in a scenario that might (purely hypothetically) go something like this:

Dad: I forgot to get to the post office to send you and your brother your gifts.

Me: Dad! Don’t send me anything!

Dad: Why? You want me to wait and give it to you when you come to visit?

Me: No! Don’t give me anything. Why? What did you get me? Is there plastic in it?

Dad: It’s books. But forget it.

Me: Anyway, I didn’t get anything for you.

Dad: Screw you. Don’t come visit.

Me: My visit IS your gift.

I’m fun. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with me? But seriously, there’s a balance, you know? A balance between being a dick about things wrapped in plastic, to paraphrase Colin Beavan in the No Impact Movie, and a kind person who appreciates the efforts people make to connect and share. There’s the me that is hesitant to hurt my friends’ feelings and then there’s the me that thinks, “Come on people. I’ve been doing this for over three years. I really, really, really don’t want your freakin’ plastic!”

It’s Christmas Eve. I wish I had a nicer post to write. I just got back from a friend’s party, and it was great. She had all reusables and cloth bandana napkins and there was barely any plastic in sight. And yet, as always, I was on guard, just in case. How I sometimes wish for the old days when I could go to a party and just have mindless fun with my friends, not thinking or caring about our capital “I” Impact. How I wish I could be excited when my dad tells me he’s sending me a gift, or feel the thrill of sending him something without worrying about how it will be packaged.

Those mindless days are over. I can’t go back to not knowing about how my actions affect the planet. But WE are the planet. And what does it matter if I save a few plastic cups and alienate everyone I know? How does that help the planet in the long run? This is not a new topic. I’ve written about it before and will probably keep wrestling with the balance between environmental convictions and personal relationships for the rest of my life.

It’s a few days after the solstice. The days are short, and the lack of sunlight puts me in a brooding mood. Sometimes I wonder if I’d like Christmas better if it came in July instead of December. But then I remember that the whole point of Christmas is celebrating the birth of the light. We’re coming out of the darkness. I’m excited and freaked out by the plans and challenges coming up in 2011 and by how much more there is for me to learn and share. If I’m a pain in your butt, it’s nothing personal. Just the growing pains of a being who’s not yet fully formed. A work in progress… as are you. Right?

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56 Comments on "Wanna Hang Out With Me?"

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Michelle
5 years 4 months ago

It would be a relief to have you visit. If your ever thinking of a trip to Europe, I´m in a beautiful spot on the West Coast of Portugal. Oh, to not be the only “weirdo”

I mean it, if you come get in touch.

:-)

5 years 4 months ago

I had to revisit this. By far one of my favorites you have written so far.

Alyson
5 years 4 months ago

No, you probably would have outstayed your welcome pretty quickly in my house. I wished to be encouraged for the efforts I’ve done so far not critised for not doing enough! Whilst I value you for the information you’ve imparted so far, I don’t fancy you nosying through my cupboards, tut-tutting.

5 years 4 months ago

I want to thank you for this post. I identify with this so so much, and it’s of enormous help to have super-powered voices publicly chewing on this problem too. Know that lots of people are listening out here, and we’d all have you to our parties. (Those of us who HAVE parties…)

5 years 4 months ago
Not much of a party-goer, but I am a teacher, and there’s plenty of food-sharing, lunches, snacks, birthday treats, etc. in the teacher’s lounge. I have made a project out of declining any kind of disposable anything. I am sure I annoy the crap out of my coworkers. I always show up to the lunch table without my own gear, and then say, incredulously, “oh – disposable plastic plates? Oh, I can’t use those! Oh, let me go and get my own stuff.” Just to make a point that I EXPECTED that we would be given washable stuff, and that… Read more »
ECline
5 years 4 months ago
Anna Fay – I am with you. I’m currently visiting family, and it pains me to see their use of plastic and, well, it isn’t disregard for the planet, but more unawareness of the consequences of what they do. I try to help, but even I hear myself and feel that I sound a little preachy. For instance, my mother uses a small plastic grocery bag under the sink for trash, and then she ties that off and puts the little bag in a larger trash bag. Completely unnecessary, but she says that it makes it easier for her. She… Read more »
5 years 4 months ago
I have similar issues (although not just around plastic…’Gee, ground beef sloppy joes sound really, umm…thank you for making them for the family party. Yeah, maybe I’ll have some in a little bit…yeah, you’re right, I am pregnant and I should eat something.’ *gag..gag..cows that ate other cows ewwww!…gag*). Your comment asking whether it is worth it to save a few plastic cups while alienating everyone you know is spot on. That is a tension I live with right now as my parents think I have either gone crazy or been brainwashed by Al Gore. They are completely overwhelmed with… Read more »
Anna Fay
5 years 4 months ago
I work at Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and eat a pretty darn near 100% organic diet.. because of what I know from the time I have worked there. Scary stuff, kind of similar to chemicals in plastic! I have also been studying plastic for the past year as well. My interest first drawn by the Pacific Garbage Patch and an interview of Captain Charles Moore on The Colbert Report… I wrote a paper on it, which turned into an even bigger paper on plastic. My life has changed and I feel amazing! My Dad says he “believes me”… Read more »
Whiskas
5 years 4 months ago

I do all that stuff at parties, but I still have lots of mindless fun!

Jen
5 years 4 months ago
The problem with getting really in to environmental issues is that it’s easy to cross over into mental illness. I was recently in a mom’s group with this woman who ONLY talked about organic food. It got to be so ridiculous that you could tell people were avoiding her. I think she got it and stopped coming to the group. It’s not like the rest of us are anti-organic and in fact, I do try to buy organic, but this woman was totally out of control. It’s easy to get so worried about the planet or health that you risk… Read more »
5 years 4 months ago

ECline, those are hard decisions to make. I hear the same story from a lot of parents. For myself, I regift or donate the plastic presents I receive. But I guess it’s harder with kids. Others have addressed this issue in the comments here. Maybe I should think about writing a blog post on it to generate more discussion.

ECline
5 years 4 months ago
You inspire me. I am only beginning on my journey, but am committed to reducing our waste and eliminating plastic as much as possible. Tell me this…what do I do with the gifts we were given? I am kicking myself for not telling parents in advance to PLEASE not buy our toddler son plastic monstosities. We just received this massive plastic train set, and I was planning on buying a used, wooden one later for his birthday. What do I do? Ask for the receipt to return it? Donate it? I would donate, but struggle with the thought that it… Read more »
Elizabet
5 years 5 months ago

I adore you, too! I’m about to give up plastic, for the month of January (50%) and February (90%) — but I’m leaving myself that 10% for the sake of sanity and toilet paper. Thank you for being such an inspiration! <3

5 years 5 months ago
Beth, You are a beautiful pain in the butt. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have very similar experiences. I felt like a qrinch when my town ( Mill Valley) had to have thier anualy snow festival ( beautiful Idea). When I saw that a huge truck with a few strongs guys dumping the ice out of small plastic bags into the snow machine. I could not believe every body wasn’t running over there screaming STOP “We don’t need this snow to celebrate.” I think there must of been more than 150 bags of ice, not even mentioning the… Read more »
Hilde
5 years 5 months ago
We don´t use disposable things for parties here in Germany, it would almost considered as an offense to your guests. Wrapping and storing is quite another thing, but I actually received a gift by mail wrapped in paper and sent in a tin tied up with string! During the last twenty years or so, I cuold watch disposable cups, plates etc creeping in our daily life by american companies like Starbucks, McDonalds and so on. I remember the first time I went to the USA about fourty years ago, I saw all the people in the street eating and drinking… Read more »
5 years 5 months ago

I know how you feel. I went to my son’s friend’s birthday party and when I saw the balloons, all I could think was, “Worldwide helium shortage!” It’s really hard to enjoy yourself when you know/care too much.

Emily
5 years 5 months ago
Beth – I have been following your blog for a couple of years and because of you I am so much more informed and make better choices. In my neighborhood there are people that don’t even recycle (basic eco 101 as far as I’m concerned) – at work people grab styrofoam trays to hold their styrofoam plates (totally unnecessary). However, I have noticed that with my efforts that people do notice and I do see people changing their ways after they see what I do. It must hurt that you have so obviously changed your life and are now living… Read more »
5 years 5 months ago

You are welcome in my plastic free guest room anytime! I might even turn the heat up a bit from the frosty daytime temp of 58 for you :)

D.C.
5 years 5 months ago
This is an issue I’ve been struggling with lately too. At parties I usually politely ask the host for a real glass and explaining why isn’t usually necessary since they know me :D In the past I would have tried to bring reusable party cups and hide the plastic throwaways behind them, and guilt anyone I knew well into using them. While some of my friends still have those cups and use them at their parties, I know feel that’s a bit overboard. People really don’t like to be lectured and it often turns them off from what you’re trying… Read more »
5 years 5 months ago
Beth – thanks for paving the way. I am just starting my eco journey (about 2 months now) and I am continually trying to think of ways to reduce all my waste, including plastic. For me the one plastic that is hard to get rid of is the children’s toys… However, my daughter did get a wooden castle this Christmas, picked especially for the non-plastic nature. But it was still wrapped in plastic. Right now I am really focusing on the packaging waste from food, and have big plans for my yard in the spring! Anyway, Merry Christmas!
5 years 5 months ago
This whole issue makes me really angry, but not for the reason you might expect. Why does it have to be SO HARD to make good choices? My family was unable to give me things without plastic. I was unable to give others things without plastic. I can’t even go to a Sierra Club holiday party without there being plastic cups and silverware. It’s absolutely impossible for people to do things without disposable plastic if they aren’t aware and it’s only slightly less impossible for people to do it if the ARE aware. Industry has made sure plastic is EVERYWHERE,… Read more »
Helen
5 years 5 months ago

I totally feel your pain and frustration–the holidays are crazy with excess and waste. I’ll hang with ya anytime!

Ginny
5 years 5 months ago

Keep up the good work Beth. You will always be welcome in my home.

5 years 5 months ago
Beth you are welcome here anytime (and you are also welcome to tell me what to do with any plastic that’s in my house!) I feel your pain on trying to find the line between being a nag and reminding folks that this is how I live. Yesterday my boyfriend made bacon and said “I’m out of paper towels” and I nearly jumped for joy! I gave him several suggestions for draining the bacon without paper towels but he just said “Oh I’ll make do now but I’ll buy some when I go to the store later.” It was all… Read more »
5 years 5 months ago
Merry Christmas, Beth – and I so hear you! Get this for irony: a friend gave me a beautiful bracelet made from recycled plastic, but it came in a throwaway plastic box!! Along with a note about how “eco” the bracelet was. Huh? Anyway, I “inoculate” people when I go anywhere: “I’m just warning you, I don’t eat meat” or whatever. I also inoculate people before they visit: “Hey, you know me – I’m trying to be totally eco. So no paper towels around here…” It’s gotten to the point now where my dinner guests just automatically clean their plates… Read more »
Grace
5 years 5 months ago

It’s a balance, isn’t it? Learning to be vigilant about our own life and walk without turning away the very people we want to teach.

I think one of the very best things about your mission is how you focus on yourself & your own plastic use—it’s very inspiring to others, who then consider their own plastic footprint.

Blessings to you in 2011. :)

Traci
5 years 5 months ago

Happy Holidays Beth!

More people need you to visit and point out all of their shortcomings and environmental impacts. I’ve been so disgusted lately with the materiality/consumption habits of the average American. I’m so thankful for your site. I had or so I thought been an advocate of the environment that is until I discovered your site and become aware of a much greater impact. I can happily say that I’ve made a significant number of positive changes over the past several months and am planning even more over the upcoming year.

5 years 5 months ago
Very honest Beth~ And I appreciate you more then I can type in a few words~ You have inspired me so much and not only am I getting better at caring for our planet but I am spreading the word and sometimes being kind of annoying to my friends and family. But all in all they appreciate it and I share a lot of what you share with us and they are thrilled to discover so many sustainable options~ We are all growing wiser and more evoled. And let me just say one more time. I Appreciate you so much~… Read more »
LF
5 years 5 months ago

Come on over – :)

5 years 5 months ago

this is exactly what I go through every day. I’m so grateful for what avoiding plastic has done for my life, but at the same time I sometimes just want to feel normal (ha!), like I can do something without having to think about plastic. and my anti-plastic antics are just icing on the cake of my alienation of everyone I know. but it’s a lifetime commitment, and I look forward to seeing it through.

p.s. merry christmas!

It is hard to let it go and get a glimpse of that giant forest when gazing at a couple of trees. This brings to mind Jonathan Bloom of http://wastedfood.com being unable to leave the requisite 3 black eyed peas on his plate at a new year’s celebration. I had to leave the living room this morning and hang out in the kitchen for an hour or so after my kids opened their repulsingly packaged toys from their father, (my husband) today. I knew I should be with my kids, but I was too pissed off to let it go.… Read more »

Love how you stick to your guns and continually share your passion. It helps all of us work-in-progresses figure out our own path. We are all a work in progress-that’s what life is all about. Happy and a merry to you Beth!

Annie
5 years 5 months ago
Oh, this really hits home for me now. My dad confronted me on the phone a couple of days ago about how “ungrateful” I’ve been about how hard they’re trying to conform to all of my expectations and demands. The final straw was my snapping at them for giving us some bags of chips as a gift. Turns out they’ve been resenting a lot of my convictions, including my vegetarianism (for the last 22 years?!) and especially how I constrict their ability to give my son gifts. My dad would really love to let him walk through the aisles of… Read more »
Cath
5 years 5 months ago

If you’d like a sunny and plastic-free Christmas, come to my place next year! I ran the dishwasher four times yesterday so we’d have enough plates, glasses and cutlery for the guests who turned up at various times all afternoon. My kids enjoyed using the Glass Dharma straws they found in their Christmas stockings. My guests had to be creative in taking their leftovers home as I had no plastic wrap or plastic bags to put the food in. We had a brilliant day. :)

Cath in Australia

sui
5 years 5 months ago

Beth, I love you and I love this post. I definitely know how this feels… my family kind of gets annoyed at me for my sermons on plastic. I would definitely hang out with you. Happy Christmas, Beth :)

Sharon
5 years 5 months ago
Your family has to catch up with you. You have been doing “plastic free” for three years and it’s time this fact sunk in with your family. Thanks to your blog we were much more aware of waste and packaging this Christmas, and everyone chose a simple present without packaging (if at all). It felt great not to be weighed down with excessive stuff. A lot of what we did was to try to give a gift that was more experiential (such as a session with a life coach or an Oxfam shop gift voucher.) For the first time it… Read more »
5 years 5 months ago

Oh, and Merry Christmas too :)

viv

5 years 5 months ago

I have used exactly one plastic knife in my life. I don’t intend to go there again but had no real alternative at the time.

I do have plastic cups and we do use them – they are around 10 years old and counting. They seem to recycle fine through the dishwasher :)

We simply don’t have a culture of paper/plastic plates so it isn’t an issue fortunately. I get no kudos from that because that is how it has always been!

viv in nz

Denise Yribarren
5 years 5 months ago
Merry Christmas Beth! I would be so honored if you would indeed visit me at home. On your website, You have a long list of plastic alternatives. I keep this list on my refrigerator to inspire me if I flounder. Sometimes one just needs a “second set of eyes” to point out a simple alternative in the use of plastic in the kitchen. Then you say to yourself: “why didn’t I think of that?” This is what your website does for me! If you get as far as Phoenix, Az, the guest room is all yours. Gratefully, Denise
Lily
5 years 5 months ago

You can always hang out with me!!

5 years 5 months ago
As you know, you’ve got to communicate your message, or no one ever gets it. I remember having a garden party years ago, and someone there called someone coming over to stop by the dollar store for plastic cutlery, cups, plates and “real” ketchup and mustard. I refused to use them, and *OMG* did the dishes as needed. I had the horrors around here for years before I free-cycled the plates, cups and cutlery, along with those annoying disposable chopsticks and soy sauce packets that sneak over here behind my back.. I bought a set of stainless steel cups, side… Read more »
5 years 5 months ago

Right. We’re ALL works in progress. And we’re all struggling to balance. I don’t think anyone ever gets it right. The best we can hope for is to get it BETTER.

Merry Christmas!

greg
5 years 5 months ago

oh yea, I forgot there was an opened bottle of wine so I freecycled it!! Now I have a plastic cork to try to recycle somewhere! g

greg
5 years 5 months ago
I would love to know more people like you, Beth, and would have a plastic free, compostable party with everyone who thought like we do. I have a new baby girl and am amazed and horrified that everything for babies comes from China and is either cloth or plastic. I have tried returning so many gifts, Target told me no more returns. I hate it, you think my friends would realize how green I have become, but not preachy yet. My own Mom thinks I am nuts using G diapers and composting the wet ones. I just brought home some… Read more »
5 years 5 months ago

You’d be welcome at my parties! I’m having folks over today, and rather than resort to paper plates, I’m scrounging up all the plates I have and having some friends bring a few extra. A good deal of my friends already travel with a ren faire type plate & utensil get up, so nobody minds or thinks it’s odd. What matters isn’t if we have all matching, seasonal plates (disposable, of course, because who has room to store?) what matters is that we’re all together, mismatched borrowed plates and all.

autumn
5 years 5 months ago

trust me. you would not enjoy coming to my place for a party, if i had ever were to have one. there is little plastic, little wood, no dead animal product, little electric, little water. little anything at all…but very much openness and heart and a very sweet ALIVE animal. we probably best meet outside and have a nice walk. xoxo

Issa
5 years 5 months ago

@andria Ooh, I love the idea of An Anti-Waste Consultant. Fantastic!

5 years 5 months ago

The only winter holiday I celebrate is my birthday. So, I found a nice set of silverware – 38 pieces! – that matches the set I have (1967 Oneida Community Plate “Silver Sands”). I was pretty disappointed when it arrived wrapped in piles of bubble wrap because the seller did not acknowledge my “do not use plastic packaging” request. :(

andria
5 years 5 months ago

I love this! I think you should COME to my home and point out all the things that need changing especially over the holidays! An antiwaste consultant :) But realizing I’m very new so a big work in progress and with three young children everything takes forever, even change. My longterm goal is to raise 3 girls who think reduce, reuse, recycle is a norm, not just a goal.

Issa
5 years 5 months ago

I’d hang out with you! I haven’t really gone to work on plastic, yet, but I’d appreciate your watchful eye. My thing is disposables in general, and I sometimes drive my friends crazy. For example, I don’t let anyone bring disposable dishes to my get-togethers, so if it’s a big gathering, we’ll end up having to do dishes in the middle. It frustrates my friends, but it’s definitely worth it to me not to be generating a big pile of trash.

5 years 5 months ago

Merry Christmas Beth,
You would love my house. No plastic this year. Everything is at my dinner is made from scratch. No, plastic wrap and the glasses are real.
Enjoy your Christmas. You are one of a kind!

Sari

Meg
5 years 5 months ago

You are always welcome in my home :D

Merry Christmas!

5 years 5 months ago
:) I’ll hang out with you. My family says I’ve been doing the same thing. We’re not as good at it as you are, and we’re still working on eliminating the plastic. Luckily, disposable dishes aren’t all that common in Canada, not like they seem to be in the US. You wouldn’t need to rummage around for reusable cutlery or plates or cups, because that’s all I’ve ever had. Do people in the US seriously stock them for daily use? We bought our plastic travel mugs in order to be eco-friendly about two weeks before I started learning about the… Read more »
5 years 5 months ago
Beth, I’ve been following you for a long time and I think you’re doing very well. This is what you believe in what you want to do, and by your actions making a point, it causes ripples of change. Without your actions, no one would even be aware of it if you didn’t point out that you DON’T want plastic and actually mean it. Imagine if you let anyone and everyone hand you plastic? You’d feel bad but think: I don’t want to ruin the relationship… but then it changes nothing. They don’t know that you’re NOT into plastic and… Read more »
5 years 5 months ago

You will be happy to know that one of my friends who has been seeing me reduce my plastic waste gave me a set of titanium silverware on a carribiner for Christmas. It came in plastic, but perfect is the enemy of better, right?

Anna Fay
5 years 5 months ago

I adore you Beth! I’ve been a plastic hater for a year now, and it’s like I opened a huge can of worms. The world is so much different now, and I feel compelled to help spread the knowledge. Your blog is an inspiration and I hope I can grow to become that inspiration for someone else too.

Thank you for all that you do & happy holidays!

Anna Fay

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