The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
November 1, 2012

Confession of an Anti-Plastic Activist Caught Red-Handed With a BPA-Lined Can

I just got back from a week on the East Coast doing book promos and visiting family, and all I got was this stupid Facebook photo

Don’t you hate it when the environmentalists don’t rinse out their recycling?

Two days ago, my sister Ellen posted that photo and caption and tagged me.  It would have been funny, if it weren’t my Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup can.  My first reaction was utter embarrassment (for being caught eating out of a can lined with BPA or some other mystery chemical and even more, for eating Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup in the first place), and I asked her to untag me.  Instead, she posted a comment:  Just kidding! That’s my soup.

But it wasn’t her soup, it was mine.  Granted, I didn’t buy it — I found it in a cupboard in my dad’s house — but still… how can I go around advising people to avoid BPA-lined cans if I can’t always resist them myself?  So, after untagging myself and then feeling all weird and guilty, I suddenly realized… or maybe I should say remembered… that it’s precisely those times when I feel weird and guilty that I can learn the most about myself and human behavior and motivation.

See, anyone who has read this blog for a while or who has read my book knows that I never claim to be perfect.  I’ve confessed all kinds of eco-”sins” along the way.  Binging on flamin’ hot cheetos during a road trip with my dad.  Taking long, hot showers.  Eating too much bread.  Craving fast food.  Buying new stuff.  (Hmm… I just realized that many of the items on that list involve food.  Interesting.)  And I’m nothing if not honest about my short-comings because pretending to be “perfect” doesn’t help.  In fact, I think it’s counterproductive.

But somehow, with the publication of my book this year and subsequent media attention, I fell into the frame of mind that I have to be the expert and that I have to be perfect — or at least appear to be perfect — at living without plastic.  Even while I’m assuring other people that they don’t have to be.  Even while writing that guilt doesn’t help because it creates the illusion that we are separate from the rest of the world, wrong, at fault. That guilt can subdue us into inaction, causing us to hide our perceived faults instead of trying to figure out the root causes of our actions.

So here’s my confession:  My childhood comfort food — which I still occasionally indulge in when I feel stressed out or depressed — is this trashy combination:  Pasta or rice covered in a mixture of tuna, cream of mushroom soup, and American cheese.  My siblings think it looks like vomit and have teased me about it since I was a kid, but it’s just an easy version of my mom’s tuna casserole that made me feel safe and loved.  Nowadays, I use plastic-free cheese and grains or pasta from the bulk bins.  But the tuna and soup come in cans, and the soup has to be Campbell’s.  (Yes, the same company that refuses to reveal what chemical they are going to use to replace BPA.)

My primary solution is meditation.  On the days when I sit and meditate for at last 15 minutes in the morning, I’m much more mindful during the day, less likely to get stressed out, and less likely to do things that really don’t match my values.  But on the days when I skip meditation… like every day I was in Maryland with my family… I’m more likely to forget who I am and fall back into old patterns.  Throw a hurricane threat on top, and anything could happen.

Good thing I’m leaving tonight for my semi-annual meditation retreat.  Three days of silence, stillness, and noticing my own breath.  And being as honest as I can possibly be.

Do you have any secret vices you’d like to share?  Go on.  It’ll feel good to unburden yourself.  Or at least make me feel better.  :-)

129 comments
Mom2Babes
Mom2Babes

Hello, I'm just a new guest to this site; but I felt I had something to add to the comments. edenfoods.com for Eden Organic products. They're the company my family and I use for our canned materials. They're very transparent in their  business practices and products, compared to most other companies. I buy some of their items in bulk, as they can be hard to find locally. They do not use BPA in their linings; and they explain the vegetable based substitute they use. It was something used widely some time ago; but BPA, being cheaper, became the replacement for, obviously, many companies. The ingredients are amazingly better than mainstream choices like Bush's or Campbell's (I've found). Compare nutritional information from three cans: EdenOrganic Garbanzo Beans--Bush's Garbanzo Beans--Bush's low sodium Garbanzo beans; and you'll see what I mean. Are Eden Food's products more expensive? Yes. Most definitely. Is paying a few extra cents worth it? YES! For the health of my family, esp. my children; and to stretch the muscle of my purchasing power. I refuse to by Campbell's (at the very least) canned products, or any other canned goods that do not specifically state BPA free lining, and explain. I'm just a tiny voice in an enormous consumer/marketing concert. But, perhaps, more and more tiny voices will join me; and the big companies will truly hear. We'd rather know what we're buying; and we'd rather choose the most natural options. There is a company that cans tuna with BPA free lining. I can't recall the name; and I don't have any in the cupboard at this time. The white albacore is like 3.50 a can. I usually only buy small quantities of this for my kids' lunches on occasion. But, generally, I prefer to purchase frozen seafood items, or catch fresh fish locally and freeze them. If you hadn't already, edenfoods.com might be a web site worth a little exploration. (No, I'm not some spokesperson for them. They're canned options just happen to be the best I've found, aside from my own veggie garden canning. And I thought I'd share after reading the above.) BTW, don't feel guilty. My grandparents house is stocked with food items and containers that make me cringe (she esp. likes to reuse plastic food containers---like coolwhip tubs---as her "reusable" storage stuff for fridge and freezer!). Sometimes, it's just everywhere.

BethTerry
BethTerry

Hi Karen.  I haven't heard of plasticizers in glass.  Do you remember where you read it?  Could you please send me a link?

greenphillyblog
greenphillyblog

Thanks for your honesty! I'm actually 'coming out' with my dirty not-so-green habits post soon! But yes, it's definitely impossible to be perfectly green/plastic free and I'm glad you wrote about your experience! (and if everyone tried being green "most" of the time, we'd be a LOT better off!

greenphillyblog
greenphillyblog

Thanks for your honesty! I'm actually 'coming out' with my dirty not-so-green habits post soon! But yes, it's definitely impossible to be perfectly green/plastic free and I'm glad you wrote about your experience! (and if everyone tried being green "most" of the time, we'd be a LOT better off!

Karen
Karen

I have read, but do not have proof, that there are plasticizers even in glass.  I bought some new Ball canning jars, and have noticed that when I have something that is semi-hard in there, like lard, which I try to get out with a spoon, that the side of the jar "gives" when I press against it with the spoon.  I'm thinking glass doesn't normally do that . . . which makes me think that there might actually be plasticizers in the glass.  Which is disappointing, because my main reason for using glass is to avoid the plastic.

MarieG
MarieG

I am so glad you posted this! I think we all have these guilty little secrets that are in our lives and let's face it, we live in a modern world and were brought up in one. There are things from our "former lives" (before we became, minimalists, green, plastic-free, whatever) that we have already been tainted with and there is no going back. We can't miss what we have never had, but that is the problem, we have already had them. So, we do our best, but no one is perfect. When I was studying to be a yoga instructor my teacher told me a story about the Swami who taught her and how she found him one day sitting on the beach eating a bag of Doritos! I love that story and it reminds me of yours. We learned how healthy being a vegetarian is, junk food is bad, etc. etc. and he was eating Doritos. We are all human and it is good to be able to admit it.

 

MarieG LifeSImplyBalanced.com

MarieG
MarieG

I am so glad you posted this! I think we all have these guilty little secrets that are in our lives and let's face it, we live in a modern world and were brought up in one. There are things from our "former lives" (before we became, minimalists, green, plastic-free, whatever) that we have already been tainted with and there is no going back. We can't miss what we have never had, but that is the problem, we have already had them. So, we do our best, but no one is perfect. When I was studying to be a yoga instructor my teacher told me a story about the Swami who taught her and how she found him one day sitting on the beach eating a bag of Doritos! I love that story and it reminds me of yours. We learned how healthy being a vegetarian is, junk food is bad, etc. etc. and he was eating Doritos. We are all human and it is good to be able to admit it.

 

MarieG LifeSImplyBalanced.com

judith
judith

As long as we keep trying and keep motivating other to try. 

Mandy Mullen
Mandy Mullen

I'm new to this blog and so glad found it too. Know exactly what you mean about about trying, and failing, sometimes spectacularly, at becoming plastic free eg forgetting my cloth bags when I go supermarket shopping. Question: I am trying to find canned tomatoes that are BPA free (in Australia). So far no luck. Every time I open a can I'm greeted with that white lining - so disappointing and unnecessary. Any advice would be appreciated.

Mandy Mullen
Mandy Mullen

I'm new to this blog and so glad found it too. Know exactly what you mean about about trying, and failing, sometimes spectacularly, at becoming plastic free eg forgetting my cloth bags when I go supermarket shopping.

Question: I am trying to find canned tomatoes that are BPA free (in Australia). So far no luck. Every time I open a can I'm greeted with that white lining - so disappointing and unnecessary. Any advice would be appreciated.

dora_g
dora_g

you should try this recipe for cream of mushroom soup (http://www.thewickedgoodvegan.com/2011/11/22/vegan-cream-of-mushroom-soup/). it's amazing, much better for you, and it tastes SOO freaking good. and best yet, the only ingredients i can't find in bulk for it (you probably could in northern cali) are the fat (i use coconut oil) and the wine. oh, and wild planet foods sells tuna in a glass jar. the jar looks small, but it actually packs a lot of tuna in it, probably because they don't bother packing it with all the other crap that's in the can.

dora_g
dora_g

you should try this recipe for cream of mushroom soup (http://www.thewickedgoodvegan.com/2011/11/22/vegan-cream-of-mushroom-soup/). it's amazing, much better for you, and it tastes SOO freaking good. and best yet, the only ingredients i can't find in bulk for it (you probably could in northern cali) are the fat (i use coconut oil) and the wine. oh, and wild planet foods sells tuna in a glass jar. the jar looks small, but it actually packs a lot of tuna in it, probably because they don't bother packing it with all the other crap that's in the can.

MariaKunze
MariaKunze

Cheese, it's hard to find cheese in Duluth MN that isn't surrounded in plastic. Also, sour cream - my husband can eat it like ice cream!

If you acted like you were 100% plastic free I don't think I could read your blog.

You are an inspiration and a reminder to be mindful & forgiving.

MariaKunze
MariaKunze

Cheese, it's hard to find cheese in Duluth MN that isn't surrounded in plastic. Also, sour cream - my husband can eat it like ice cream!

If you acted like you were 100% plastic free I don't think I could read your blog.

You are an inspiration and a reminder to be mindful & forgiving.

grumpy rumblings
grumpy rumblings

You can make that casserole from scratch-- I think it's in the Best Recipe American Classics.  It is so worth it.  I haven't been able to have the version with canned goods since.

Donna S
Donna S

I completely appreciate this blog.  Sometimes it is hard to be 100% perfect.  My family is on a journey to zero-waste, and it is HARD.  The deck is stacked against you.  I admire your dedication AND honesty!

Donna S
Donna S

I completely appreciate this blog.  Sometimes it is hard to be 100% perfect.  My family is on a journey to zero-waste, and it is HARD.  The deck is stacked against you.  I admire your dedication AND honesty!

Eve Stavros
Eve Stavros

Yeah,  totally guilt ridden when my friend brings home a Sweet Frog's frozen yogurt, peanut butter flavor, home just for me in a (ugh) styrofoam cup. But I eat every spoonful anyway! Trying to get her to switch to another shop that uses paper cups.

Eve Stavros
Eve Stavros

Yeah,  totally guilt ridden when my friend brings home a Sweet Frog's frozen yogurt, peanut butter flavor, home just for me in a (ugh) styrofoam cup. But I eat every spoonful anyway! Trying to get her to switch to another shop that uses paper cups.

EcoPeaceful
EcoPeaceful

Thanks for posting this. Every dollar we spend to junk food companies, they will use against us. For many years I never buy/eat junk and GMO and it does not make my life fake.

Curlyredheadgirl
Curlyredheadgirl

I totally appreciate your honesty!!! It's so much better than trying to live a fake life!! I just wanted to add that Campbell's soup has recently donated nearly $800,000 to the NO on 37 campaign in CA.... I've been working for months on the YES on 37 campaign to get labeling on all GMO foods!! Not only did Campbell's donate in order to maintain secrecy in their cans while they feed Americas families toxic swill, they also closed their plant in my town of Sacramento. They laid off nealy 800 people into an economy that is still at nearly 12% unemployment!! It is so unbelievably easy to make your own soup, even Cream of Mushroom. Make your own! Boycot Campells!

trapcd
trapcd

Thanks for your honesty :)  We are just starting to go plastic-less and already I am struggling. My biggest area of conflict is my hobby. I make cards and I really really love it. The bulk of the stuff I like to use to make  them is plastic related - both through their packaging and in their content; Glitter, punches, stamps, glue, ink, and I imagine even the cutting dies probably have coating on them since they don't really look like metal. Even the paper is not good, although I could get creative their with reusing. I hate to give it up but I hate to keep doing something that I know is not good environmentally.

trapcd
trapcd

Thanks for your honesty :)  We are just starting to go plastic-less and already I am struggling. My biggest area of conflict is my hobby. I make cards and I really really love it. The bulk of the stuff I like to use to make  them is plastic related - both through their packaging and in their content; Glitter, punches, stamps, glue, ink, and I imagine even the cutting dies probably have coating on them since they don't really look like metal. Even the paper is not good, although I could get creative their with reusing. I hate to give it up but I hate to keep doing something that I know is not good environmentally.

Jo
Jo

Hi Beth, it does make all of us feel better when 'the expert' not only trips up but comes clean! It is such an overwhelming journey, being mindful about everything we use. I know a lot of it is second nature to you now, but I wonder if you could maybe do a run through of your average day in a future post, highlighting your plastic-free solutions to daily living? That would be a real help for a novice like me..

Blessed
Blessed

Ok, Beth, so now I have to tell you about the most ridiculous plastic "FAIL" of my past year.  Out running around going from event to event with my homeschool kids (some days just end up stacked too full, even with careful planning).  We wanted to try to meet some friends at the park, since it was during the rainy season and this one non-rainy day needed to be taken advantage of.  I can't remember what happened that kept me from making food to take with us, but I ended up needing to pick up food while we were out and about.  I had full intentions of getting something fairly healthy and low-plastic--but then a massive low-blood sugar attack hit me, and when that happens, I can barely think straight, and need to get food ASAP or I am not a safe driver.  In my befuddled state, I tried to think of what worthwhile food was on the way to the park. . . could not come up with anything, and ended up stopping at Taco Bell.  I bought food for myself and my kids, realized I did not even have a cloth bag or anything to hold it all, so had to take plastic bags.  I bought a Coke because I wanted some immediate sugar to hit my bloodstream, and realized I did not have my travel mug with me either, so had to take their plastic cup and plastic lid.  I refused the straw, however, because I did have my own with me.  So I get to the park at set on the table (in front of my friends--how embarassing!!!) several small bags of Taco Bell and a big plastic cup of Coke--with a Dharma glass straw stuck in it. 

 

Talk about incongruity!  My friends had the decency to laugh with me, not at me, and easily forgive my poor planning and eco-health fail.  : ) 

BethTerry
BethTerry

@condoblues Yes, I think you should. Wasting food is not eco-friendly either.

EcoCatLady
EcoCatLady

Ha! I used to have a "green blog" but I had to give it up because it was making me totally crazy! (Well, that plus the fact that a group of Realtors in Florida tried to sue me because they had trademarked one of the words I used in my blog name - not kidding.) Anyhow, I started to feel guilty for EVERYTHING I did! Even exhaling CO2 felt like an eco-crime! 

 

I fear the swath of eco-sins in my wake is deep and wide. Where to start? Well... I caved in and bought chocolate for the trick-or-treaters... Hershey's kisses & Reese's peanut butter cups - pretty sure they weren't  made with ethical chocolate. But they were wrapped in foil instead of plastic - does that make up for the dozen of them that I scarfed? Didn't think so...

 

My comfort food of choice is SpaghettiOs - terrible, I know. It's funny, most people's comfort foods are things their mom's made, mine is the only food I could prepare for myself as a child. Wonder what that says about me...

 

But the worst is probably the Finish Powerball Tabs. They're terrible... each one individually wrapped in plastic. But here's the thing... they WORK! I get to just toss the dishes into the dishwasher with NO pre-rinsing (even baked on cheese) and my life-long battle with the dishes has finally come to an end. It's been months and I still do a "happy dance" in the kitchen each time I pop one of them in the dishwasher.

 

I guess on some level I think it's all a balancing act. We each do what we can, and work to "move the center" more to the green side.

EcoCatLady
EcoCatLady

Ha! I used to have a "green blog" but I had to give it up because it was making me totally crazy! (Well, that plus the fact that a group of Realtors in Florida tried to sue me because they had trademarked one of the words I used in my blog name - not kidding.) Anyhow, I started to feel guilty for EVERYTHING I did! Even exhaling CO2 felt like an eco-crime! 

 

I fear the swath of eco-sins in my wake is deep and wide. Where to start? Well... I caved in and bought chocolate for the trick-or-treaters... Hershey's kisses & Reese's peanut butter cups - pretty sure they weren't  made with ethical chocolate. But they were wrapped in foil instead of plastic - does that make up for the dozen of them that I scarfed? Didn't think so...

 

My comfort food of choice is SpaghettiOs - terrible, I know. It's funny, most people's comfort foods are things their mom's made, mine is the only food I could prepare for myself as a child. Wonder what that says about me...

 

But the worst is probably the Finish Powerball Tabs. They're terrible... each one individually wrapped in plastic. But here's the thing... they WORK! I get to just toss the dishes into the dishwasher with NO pre-rinsing (even baked on cheese) and my life-long battle with the dishes has finally come to an end. It's been months and I still do a "happy dance" in the kitchen each time I pop one of them in the dishwasher.

 

I guess on some level I think it's all a balancing act. We each do what we can, and work to "move the center" more to the green side.

My Plastic-free Life
My Plastic-free Life

Hi Mary. The problem is not that I don't know how to cook without opening a can. I do! And I do it all the time! I generally don't eat food in cans. The point here was that sometimes I get this craving for this one particular food, and if I'm stressed out, I give in to it.

My Plastic-free Life
My Plastic-free Life

Hi Mary. The problem is not that I don't know how to cook without opening a can. I do! And I do it all the time! I generally don't eat food in cans. The point here was that sometimes I get this craving for this one particular food, and if I'm stressed out, I give in to it.

TraceyTief
TraceyTief

The fact that you are 99% perfectly plastic-free is the charm. Don't sweat the occasional can.

 

Hallowe'en has burdened my household with two 6-year old's worth of plastic candy horrors. I don't want to stop my child from tick or treating. I just don't. My kids already feel that I make them live like freaks by with holding normalcy in the form of plastic toys, plastic wrapped crackers, store bough granola bards etc. So while I'd love to get invited to some fabulous all-inclusive plastic-free Hallowe'en party, it hasn't happened yet. Maybe never.

 

Speaking of parties, how's this for  plastic-free failure? I offer to provide the plates and cups for a party at my daughter's daycare where they serve snacks in styrofoam disposables. I bring my stainless steel cups, mugs bowls and plates. I am prepared to bring them home dirty to wash. The principal breaks open a plastic bag of plastic cups and for some strange reason offers the people asking for juice a choice. ALL BUT TWO PEOPLE ALL NIGHT CHOSE PLASTIC!!! I went home with two cups and two bowls to wash. The bowls were used by Xana and Bram - I was in charge of them so they had no choice. And everything went in the garbage. Food, Recyclables. Trash. 

 

 

 

 

TraceyTief
TraceyTief

The fact that you are 99% perfectly plastic-free is the charm. Don't sweat the occasional can.

 

Hallowe'en has burdened my household with two 6-year old's worth of plastic candy horrors. I don't want to stop my child from tick or treating. I just don't. My kids already feel that I make them live like freaks by with holding normalcy in the form of plastic toys, plastic wrapped crackers, store bough granola bards etc. So while I'd love to get invited to some fabulous all-inclusive plastic-free Hallowe'en party, it hasn't happened yet. Maybe never.

 

Speaking of parties, how's this for  plastic-free failure? I offer to provide the plates and cups for a party at my daughter's daycare where they serve snacks in styrofoam disposables. I bring my stainless steel cups, mugs bowls and plates. I am prepared to bring them home dirty to wash. The principal breaks open a plastic bag of plastic cups and for some strange reason offers the people asking for juice a choice. ALL BUT TWO PEOPLE ALL NIGHT CHOSE PLASTIC!!! I went home with two cups and two bowls to wash. The bowls were used by Xana and Bram - I was in charge of them so they had no choice. And everything went in the garbage. Food, Recyclables. Trash.

greenforu
greenforu

No one is perfect even the best choices have trade offs that have consequences. I think it is great you let us in on your secret. We all need to remember this is a long road but it is worth the journey even if includes some BPA along the way. 

greenforu
greenforu

No one is perfect even the best choices have trade offs that have consequences. I think it is great you let us in on your secret. We all need to remember this is a long road but it is worth the journey even if includes some BPA along the way.

Melissa Brown
Melissa Brown

Whole foods makes a pretty good cream of mushroom on the hot bar. I know it's not Campbell's, but maybe it would be a good substitute? You could bring a jar, and take it home to freeze for a rainy day.

Melissa Brown
Melissa Brown

Whole foods makes a pretty good cream of mushroom on the hot bar. I know it's not Campbell's, but maybe it would be a good substitute? You could bring a jar, and take it home to freeze for a rainy day.

Mom2Babes
Mom2Babes

My apologies for any typos. Also, I suppose I should mention, I live in Pennsylvania, USA.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Hi Karen.  I haven't heard of plasticizers in glass.  Do you remember where you read it?  Could you please send me a link?

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @Mandy Mullen HI.  The problem is that every can is going to be lined with something.  Tomatoes are corrosive, so there must be a lining.  Some companies are finding alternatives to BPA, but there is not enough information to know if the new linings are any safer.  Can you find tomatoes in glass?  

BethTerry
BethTerry

@Mandy Mullen HI.  The problem is that every can is going to be lined with something.  Tomatoes are corrosive, so there must be a lining.  Some companies are finding alternatives to BPA, but there is not enough information to know if the new linings are any safer.  Can you find tomatoes in glass?

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@opaque4 Good point. It's all relative.

BethTerry
BethTerry

@opaque4 Good point. It's all relative.