About Me

My name is Beth Terry, and I live in Oakland, CA. In June of 2007, while recovering from surgery, I read the article and saw the photo that changed my life. The article was entitled, “Our Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic… Are We?” and the photo showed the carcass of a dead sea bird, its belly full of plastic pieces: bottle caps, cigarette lighters, even a toothbrush. I looked at my own life and realized that through my unconscious overconsumption, I was personally contributing the the suffering of creatures I hadn’t even known existed.

albatross chick carcass dead from eating plastic

That week, I committed to stop buying new plastic, and a passion and blog were born: My Plastic-free Life (known originally as Fake Plastic Fish.)

Finding Alternatives

I’ve been blogging away here ever since, collecting and tallying my own plastic waste (in 2011, my plastic waste was 2% of the U.S. average) and researching plastic-free alternatives (see my ongoing Plastic-Free Guide).   I enjoy reviewing alternative products from ethical companies.  Please see my Advertising/Review/PR policy for more information.

Targeting Companies

Personal responsibility is crucial, and I don’t believe we can solve our plastic problem without it.  But even greater results are achieved when consumers come together to demand change from the corporations that produce the stuff.  From the beginning, I took the time to write and call companies asking for less plastic packaging.  And in 2008, I spearheaded a massive campaign, Take Back The Filter, to ask Clorox to take back its plastic Brita water filter cartridges for recycling, as was already being done by the Brita company in Europe. The campaign was a success for all involved, and Brita filters can now be recycled in the U.S. and Canada.

Collecting Plastic

Living with less plastic is really not as hard as it seems, but our awareness of disposable plastic in our lives can be transformative. To that end, I threw down the gauntlet last May and invited Fake Plastic Fish readers to collect and tally their own plastic waste for a week and upload the results to a new Show Your Plastic Trash web site. How can we know where we need to go if we don’t know where we are to begin with? Solving the plastic pollution problem will require more than individual personal actions. But individual actions and personal awareness are essential for creating the kind of world in which we want to live and the impetus to spark bigger actions.

Presentations

I enjoy giving presentations on living with less plastic and why, despite what critics sometimes say, our personal actions do make a difference.

Plastic Free Book

June 2012 saw the release of my first book, Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too (Skyhorse), a practical guide to ridding your life of plastic.    Read more about the book and order your copy here.

Other places you’ll find me ranting about plastic around the web:

Twitter: @PlasticfreeBeth
FaceBook:  Beth Terry or  My Plastic-free Life fan page or  Plastic Crap Wall of Shame
YouTube:  Bethfly
Flickr:  FakePlasticFish

Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I’m a lot preachier than I mean to be, and afterwards I feel like a jerk. Really, I’m no different from anyone else who cares about the planet.

 

 

Feel free contact me directly.

106 comments
fritzlinda
fritzlinda

Thanks for the great tips, I'll be following you on twitter, Beth!  As a farmer of fresh edamame I'd purchased some collapsible bins to deliver produce in to avoid soggy boxes and ended up coming up with a system for carrying groceries I call CRESBI crates.  It replaces plastic bags and cheap reusable ones (we offer a 10 cent credit towards a CRESBI crate because most reusable bags can't be recycled and end up in landfills, we weave them into pet rugs or use as "packaging").  Since most people don't examine things as deeply as you've done the CRESBI crates appeal to them because they avoid the hassle of too many plastic bags plus they can save time, their products and even their health. The strap is made in America so we can brand it and so I do a lot of cold-calling on businesses. I've got a new competitor since this spring with deep pockets and a long retail history who's hussling an inferior crate just to reap profits, I can't even get my product on QVC Sprouts and they've been on QVC twice; they got into Home Depot but many of their crates were returned because they broke so easily and were so flimsy.  Any ideas for me to win out and get more people aware of a company who cares more about the planet and not about the profits? Amazed at what you did with the filters! (I did almost make it onto Shark Tank!). Thanks, Beth!

Su Bing
Su Bing

I am a professor in China, it is welknown that it is getting more and more serious here using plastic. Driving along any way in my living place, plastic bags are lying in the field, and the wind could blow them flying in the air which is not a pleasure.

I like your move and want to do something like you.

Su Bing

ClareAlice
ClareAlice

Oh My Goodness!! BETH TERRY THANKYOU!! I have just discovered you now. 

I, too, was deeply impacted and somewhat transformed when, in about 2010, I learnt about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 
I'd long been a waste reduction person at heart since my high school days in the 1990s when I learnt about the rapidly shrinking spaces we have left for dumping rubbish.  I was one of those kids who picked up rubbish on the street just to make sure it got to a recycle bin.
However my passion for the subject escalated when, while working as a radio producer for a talk show, (in Sydney Australia) I heard about the GPGB , saw the photos of the plastic-choked bird carcasses, and we in fact got hold of Charles Moore to do a phone interview with him. 
His discoveries blew my mind. 
Then and there, I wanted to become an emissary for plastic-free-living. 
I was single at the time and so it wasn't too hard.

I started writing with only pencils because they were made of natural substances and I couldn't find a pen that didn't have plastic.
I started getting rid of all the plastic containers in the house and researching things like metal / wooden lunch boxes. 
I started wrapping my sandwiches in paper and stopped buying gladwrap.
I had a growing list of tasks in my head for slowly replace all the plastic in my life with natural substances. 

However, not long after, I got married, and then adjusting to life with a new hubby and step children became my priority. 
The idea of organic sugar-free food and chemical-free cleaning products were enough to send my new family into a panic alone... But eschewing glad wrap, plastic lunchboxes, plastic toys, textas & pens? They would have thought me mad. I could see that my idea of being a Plastic Free Prophet wasn't going to work, at least, not then and there. 

So the whole idea went on the shelf and here I am , three years later, still buying plastic things.

Beth, I am so excited to have discovered your blog today. You've reminded me how important this cause is, and I think I'm going to start again, finding ways to slowly shift over to a lifestyle that cares for our planet. 

Thankyou again.
Your latest new fan! :-)
Clare

SadieShine
SadieShine

I am in awe of your site and your amazing list that you generously compiled and shared. I am excited to begin this lifestyle for our planet and hope to help my daughter understand now at an early age (she will be 4 in December) that we need to stop consuming plastic. Thanks.

SadieShine
SadieShine

I am in awe of your site and your amazing list that you generously compiled and shared. I am excited to begin this lifestyle for our planet and hope to help my daughter understand now at an early age (she will be 4 in December) that we need to stop consuming plastic. Thanks.

Thoughts on Becoming a Yarn Consumer - Sakeenah
Thoughts on Becoming a Yarn Consumer - Sakeenah

[…] Reviving crochet in my life has changed my habits of consumption. Prior to becoming a yarn addict, I tried hard to avoid buying anything new, joining The Compact for a year and striving to curb my use of plastic – thanks for the inspiration, Beth Terry. […]

Plastic-Free Ericka Moderator
Plastic-Free Ericka Moderator

@Stevi Would love to see some pics of your re-fashioned clothing. I too enjoy buying my clothes from thrift stores, it's a lot of fun!

Stevi
Stevi

I just finished reading "Plastic: A Toxic Love Story" by Susan Freinkel, and she referenced your story and website in her book.  I think what you're doing is wonderful, and you have my full support.  Over the last few years, being unemployed, I have resorted to reading (from the library of course), anything I can get my hands on related to ecology, simplicity, recycling, politics, and living lightly on the earth.  Over 200 books later, I've learned one major thing...our country runs on greed; not on the good of the people or of the planet.  God won't have to intervene.  We will destroy this planet on our own if something isn't done to stop the mass destruction of our planet.  It isn't an easy road to start on, but a road we must take, and I am personally doing everything I can to live lightly and conscientiously on our beautiful planet.  Good luck to you in getting the "word out".  My prayers are with you.

My Plastic Free Life
My Plastic Free Life

[...] her efforts in reducing plastics, at least she posted several videos about her on U.S. television. Her aim with the blog is to collect and tally her own plastic waste, research alternatives to plastics and [...]

Brian
Brian

I became aware of the ocean pollution problem when viewing videos on youtube of Capt. Moore. Another one who had my mellow harshed. I have been uncomfortable for years by the prevalent amount of packaging in stores but didn't quite make the connection to the ocean. I always thought plastc bags were a bad idea as well as plastic bottles for drinks. We are so awashed with it it's almost unavoidable.  Recently I began shopping at Whole Foods where I can buy milk in glass returnable bottles and meat packaged in butcher paper.  These are the small but steady changes we need to make.  We need to urge manufacturers that we buy from to make all possible changes to packaging. Bottled water needs to fade into history, a highly profiting & polluting idea that should be killed off. So many people are ignorant of what is happening. I am starting to write articles on sustainability and wildlife conservation.

 

 

DIY Plastic-Free Deodorant « Trash Backwards
DIY Plastic-Free Deodorant « Trash Backwards

[...] I went looking for plastic-free, safe, and effective deodorant, I turned first to Beth Terry and her Plastic-free Living Guide at her incredible blog My Plastic-free Life. Following her [...]

Marni
Marni

It's awesome what you're doing, congratulations!

KLIZF
KLIZF

The picture you show is quite unbelievable. It shows a bird skeleton packed full of plastic, so full in fact that there would no longer be any place for the other internal organs. The only plausible explanation is that  the plastic were placed there by somebody before taking the picture. The cause to eliminate plastic is good but to make fraudulent photos to prove it is very evil indeed.

KLIZF
KLIZF

The picture you show is quite unbelievable. It shows a bird skeleton packed full of plastic, so full in fact that there would no longer be any place for the other internal organs. The only plausible explanation is that  the plastic were placed there by somebody before taking the picture. The cause to eliminate plastic is good but to make fraudulent photos to prove it is very evil indeed.

BethTerry
BethTerry

Hi Kristen.  I just depends on what kind of plastic it's made out of.  Polypropylene doesn't contain BPA, whether it's recycled or not.  I wouldn't avoid recycled reusable bags either.  PET #1 plastic, which disposable water bottles are made out of, doesn't contain PET.  That said, I'm not encouraging you to go out and buy new bags made from plastic, but using what you already have is fine.

Kristen West
Kristen West

Hi! I just had a quick question-- in the short guide to plastic living on your home page, you mentioned using a bin for your compost that was made of RECYCLED plastic. Do recycled plastics still contain Bisphenol A? I use bags made from recycled plastic bottles to carry groceries; should I start avoiding those too? Thanks!

BethTerry
BethTerry

HI. I would love to learn more about your project.  Please email me at beth [at] myplasticfreelife [dot] com!

EcoTales
EcoTales

HI Beth, 

I love your sight we are busy spreading the word in the UK and your sight is full of brilliant ideas, suggestions and articles. Thank you from www.ecotales.co.uk 

 

JacquelineNeves
JacquelineNeves

I used to think that all plastic could be recycled so I put it all in the recycle box, but, then I found out they only accept some things and the rest is to be put in the garbage, it makes me feel sick, it's wrong, so I have been trying to come up with ideas to reuse the plastic and find ways to use less. I have been reusing plastic boxs and other things for about 20 years, I buy lot's of second hand things for my home and business, I reuse as much as possible to create my jewellery, but I need to do more and Im always looking for new ideas.  Your website is great and now I have so many new ideas to change the way I live. Thank you so much for doing this! God bless you!

                         Jacqueline Neves

JacquelineNeves
JacquelineNeves

I used to think that all plastic could be recycled so I put it all in the recycle box, but, then I found out they only accept some things and the rest is to be put in the garbage, it makes me feel sick, it's wrong, so I have been trying to come up with ideas to reuse the plastic and find ways to use less. I have been reusing plastic boxs and other things for about 20 years, I buy lot's of second hand things for my home and business, I reuse as much as possible to create my jewellery, but I need to do more and Im always looking for new ideas.  Your website is great and now I have so many new ideas to change the way I live. Thank you so much for doing this! God bless you!

                         Jacqueline Neves

Nick70va
Nick70va

Dear Beth,

 

Only thing that comes to mind bout your site is to paraphrase the song and say "I been waiting for a site like this"

While in the past couple of years I have made strides in my lifestyle by reducing my direct and indirect carbon and plastic footprint, i sure needed a site like yours, motivate me to fine-tune some plastic aspects of my life.

 

I sure will make sure to send you site info to as many ppl in my circle as they would listen.

 

Thank you again.

 

NIck

 

Nick70va
Nick70va

Dear Beth,

 

Only thing that comes to mind bout your site is to paraphrase the song and say "I been waiting for a site like this"

While in the past couple of years I have made strides in my lifestyle by reducing my direct and indirect carbon and plastic footprint, i sure needed a site like yours, motivate me to fine-tune some plastic aspects of my life.

 

I sure will make sure to send you site info to as many ppl in my circle as they would listen.

 

Thank you again.

 

NIck

LiveGreen
LiveGreen

You have inspired me to collaborate with the people in my community and start a new environmental drive out here! Thank you so much, Beth! 

 

LiveGreen
LiveGreen

You have inspired me to collaborate with the people in my community and start a new environmental drive out here! Thank you so much, Beth! 

 

Book Review – Kicking The Plastic Habit – Author B
Book Review – Kicking The Plastic Habit – Author B

[...] Beth Terry’s book: Plastic Free :: How I Kicked The Plastic Habit And How You Can Too is an honest, practical and tremendously resourceful guide about ridding ourselves of the evils of plastic in our lives. [...]

plimages
plimages

Here is the response I recieved from Highwood Crossing.

<<<<

 

Thank you very much for your email and for your on-going support of our organic products. We appreciate hearing about how our customers use the items we make and how we can improve our products and service to you. 

 

The packaging issue that you raise, is something that we also struggle with on a regular basis...

 

The challenge that we face is trying to find an environmentally friendly container that is reasonably priced, will keep our products fresh, transports well and looks good on the store shelf. While plain paper bags are environmentally friendly and inexpensive, they offer a poor barrier to oxygen and moisture and as a result, the quality and shelf-life of our products is greatly reduced. Plain paper bags also tend to look very "shop worn" after shipping and being handled a few times on the store shelf.

 

Our decision to use the deli tubs is based on the fact that the product can be easily seen, the container can be opened and re-sealed many times, it provides an excellent oxygen and moisture barrier to keep product fresh, reasonable cost, and they can be easily re-used and/or recycled. 

 

Because of the same concerns that you raise, we do offer both the Power Grains and Steel Cut Oats in a 1kg kraft paper bag with an OPP film liner. While this is technically not a "plain" paper bag, it does offer an excellent barrier to oxygen and moisture and keeps our products fresh for much longer than just plain paper. (The downside to this bag is that because it has a laminated liner, it is not accepted at all recycling programs.) Not all stores carry our products in this type of packaging, but it is available and might be something that you would like to bring to the attention of your local grocer.

 

We are also looking at a kraft cardboard tube container with a metallic-foil liner to replace the deli tubs. Unfortunately, with this type of package you cannot see the product, they are a lot most expensive and like the laminated paper bags, they are not able to be recycled at all locations. 

 

Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to write us about our products. As a small company with limited resources, this type of feed-back helps us when we are making decisions concerning packaging and other factors. If you have any other observations or suggestions, I would certainly welcome your comments.

 

Best regards,

 Tony

 Tony Marshall

Highwood Crossing Foods Ltd.

>>>>>>>>>>

plimages
plimages

Here is the response I recieved from Highwood Crossing.

<<<<

 

Thank you very much for your email and for your on-going support of our organic products. We appreciate hearing about how our customers use the items we make and how we can improve our products and service to you. 

 

The packaging issue that you raise, is something that we also struggle with on a regular basis...

 

The challenge that we face is trying to find an environmentally friendly container that is reasonably priced, will keep our products fresh, transports well and looks good on the store shelf. While plain paper bags are environmentally friendly and inexpensive, they offer a poor barrier to oxygen and moisture and as a result, the quality and shelf-life of our products is greatly reduced. Plain paper bags also tend to look very "shop worn" after shipping and being handled a few times on the store shelf.

 

Our decision to use the deli tubs is based on the fact that the product can be easily seen, the container can be opened and re-sealed many times, it provides an excellent oxygen and moisture barrier to keep product fresh, reasonable cost, and they can be easily re-used and/or recycled. 

 

Because of the same concerns that you raise, we do offer both the Power Grains and Steel Cut Oats in a 1kg kraft paper bag with an OPP film liner. While this is technically not a "plain" paper bag, it does offer an excellent barrier to oxygen and moisture and keeps our products fresh for much longer than just plain paper. (The downside to this bag is that because it has a laminated liner, it is not accepted at all recycling programs.) Not all stores carry our products in this type of packaging, but it is available and might be something that you would like to bring to the attention of your local grocer.

 

We are also looking at a kraft cardboard tube container with a metallic-foil liner to replace the deli tubs. Unfortunately, with this type of package you cannot see the product, they are a lot most expensive and like the laminated paper bags, they are not able to be recycled at all locations. 

 

Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to write us about our products. As a small company with limited resources, this type of feed-back helps us when we are making decisions concerning packaging and other factors. If you have any other observations or suggestions, I would certainly welcome your comments.

 

Best regards,

 Tony

 Tony Marshall

Highwood Crossing Foods Ltd.

>>>>>>>>>>

plimages
plimages

Now I've done it and it is all your fault. <g>

 

Before I read your book, it always annoyed me that a company selling organic products would have the nerve to use plastic packaging. After reading your book, I e-mailed Highwood Crossing, www.highwoodcrossing.com and using your example, complemented them on their great cereals and then said I wonder why a company who makes a fantastic organic product would even think about packaging in plastic and that my experience with their product would be even better if the plastic packaging was replaced with plain paper packaging.

 

This is so easy to do. I don't know why I never thought of it before. Hopefully  I am not the only one who has contacted Highwood Crossing about it.

 

Thanks, Beth.

plimages
plimages

Now I've done it and it is all your fault. <g>

 

Before I read your book, it always annoyed me that a company selling organic products would have the nerve to use plastic packaging. After reading your book, I e-mailed Highwood Crossing, www.highwoodcrossing.com and using your example, complemented them on their great cereals and then said I wonder why a company who makes a fantastic organic product would even think about packaging in plastic and that my experience with their product would be even better if the plastic packaging was replaced with plain paper packaging.

 

This is so easy to do. I don't know why I never thought of it before. Hopefully  I am not the only one who has contacted Highwood Crossing about it.

 

Thanks, Beth.

BethTerry
BethTerry

Fantastic!  What was the response from the restaurants?

Stevi
Stevi

Good for you!  Me too.  Doing what I can, and "badmouthing" the plastics industry.  I agree with you about the bottled water thing.  Suggest you read "Bottlemania" by Elizabeth Royte (author of Garbage Land...also another good book.)  Lots of eye-opening information to share with others.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @KLIZF Unfortunately, this is absolutely true and has been documented by many different researchers.  Midway Island is strewn with similar carcasses.  The stomachs are full of plastic. You can watch an actual dissection of one of these birds here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bRZm9AYSuU  Where are the internal organs?  They have decomposed.  All that is left is the plastic.

BethTerry
BethTerry

@KLIZF Unfortunately, this is absolutely true and has been documented by many different researchers.  Midway Island is strewn with similar carcasses.  The stomachs are full of plastic. You can watch an actual dissection of one of these birds here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bRZm9AYSuU  Where are the internal organs?  They have decomposed.  All that is left is the plastic.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Hi Kristen.  I just depends on what kind of plastic it's made out of.  Polypropylene doesn't contain BPA, whether it's recycled or not.  I wouldn't avoid recycled reusable bags either.  PET #1 plastic, which disposable water bottles are made out of, doesn't contain PET.  That said, I'm not encouraging you to go out and buy new bags made from plastic, but using what you already have is fine.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

HI. I would love to learn more about your project.  Please email me at beth [at] myplasticfreelife [dot] com!

BethTerry
BethTerry

@JacquelineNeves  Thank you!

Stevi
Stevi

If you want all the information you can possibly absorb on this subject, get on your local library's website, do a search (which is very easy to do), have your library card ready, and start reading and learning.  I have read hundreds of books on this subject.  As they say, "knowledge is power".  You will find many similarities between books, which in my opinion, means the facts are true and the research is solid.  Good luck on the road to sustainability!

John Treck
John Treck

 @LiveGreen Agree with you! Thanks Beth!

BethTerry
BethTerry

 @plimages Great!  Let us know what response you get.

fritzlinda
fritzlinda

@BethTerry @fritzlinda CRESBI crates are made of virgin polypropylene. I initially looked at using recycled plastic but the strength of that material cannot always be consistent and I wanted CRESBI crates to be the last piece of plastic you'd ever need to buy and also one that was appropriate for food products.  Would love to try making them out of something non-fossil fuel (aluminium? wood?) but they'd need to be something people could afford, that could handle temperature extremes (like being dishwasher safe), and would last forever.

Trackbacks

  1. Simple Living News Update says:

    […] Fake Plastic Fish […]

  2. […] just published an interview with plastic-free living super hero and star blogger Beth Terry, who is an invaluable advisor to the Plastic Pollution […]

  3. […] extended producer responsibility, as well as actions that we as individuals can do.  PPC advisor Beth Terry, author of the blog Fake Plastic Fish will be one of the panelists, specializing in the latter […]

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  5. […] our host Beth Terry of   Fake Plastic Fish suggested the topic, I found myself thinking — shoot — what am […]

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  7. […] sticking to this one, the original photo of a dead albatross chick that got a lot of people into trash activism. It comes from the travels of Captain Charles Moore, founder of Algalita Marine Research […]

  8. […] years ago, I read an article and saw a photo that changed my life and helped me realize that I had the power to make a difference.  The article was about the […]

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  11. […] referring to, please educate yourself. There is a wonderful blog dedicated to this subject called fake plastic fish if you need a place to […]

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  16. Cuines del món » El supermercat més ecològic says:

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  17. […] és que, tot i que la majoria de gent a la badia de San Francisco no arriba als extrems d’aquesta senyora d’Oakland que fa tres anys va decidir intentar viure sense generar absolutament cap […]

  18. […] Baking Soda Thanks to Beth Terry and her Plastic-free Living Guide at her incredible blog My Plastic-free Life, baking soda, plain […]

  19. […] upon a blog, My Plastic-Free Life, and was very intrigued  by the concept. How could this woman, Beth Terry, eliminate plastic from her life and have a positive impact on the […]

  20. […] (the average American generates at least 100 pounds of plastic waste per year!). Ever since she saw a photo of a dead sea bird with its belly full of plastic pieces, she resolved to stop buying any new plastic and has been spreading all kinds of important tips and […]

  21. […] I went looking for plastic-free, safe, and effective deodorant, I turned first to Beth Terry and her Plastic-free Living Guide at her incredible blog My Plastic-free Life. Following her […]

  22. Plastic, Plastic Everywhere And In Our Air | Moms Clean Air Force says:

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  23. […] Beth Terry’s book: Plastic Free :: How I Kicked The Plastic Habit And How You Can Too is an honest, practical and tremendously resourceful guide about ridding ourselves of the evils of plastic in our lives. […]

  24. Plastics In The Great Lakes | Moms Clean Air Force says:

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  25. DIY Plastic-Free Deodorant « Trash Backwards says:

    […] I went looking for plastic-free, safe, and effective deodorant, I turned first to Beth Terry and her Plastic-free Living Guide at her incredible blog My Plastic-free Life. Following her […]

  26. […] her efforts in reducing plastics, at least she posted several videos about her on U.S. television. Her aim with the blog is to collect and tally her own plastic waste, research alternatives to plastics and […]

  27. […] Reviving crochet in my life has changed my habits of consumption. Prior to becoming a yarn addict, I tried hard to avoid buying anything new, joining The Compact for a year and striving to curb my use of plastic – thanks for the inspiration, Beth Terry. […]

  28. […] known existed. That week, I committed to stop buying new plastic, and a passion and blog were born: My Plastic-free Life (known originally as Fake Plastic […]