Frequently Asked Questions
(Last Updated 11.13.2009)
I have set up this FAQ so that most answers link to one or more relevant blog posts. I hope you find this list helpful. And if you can’t find what you need here, please leave a comment. I hope to continue updating this list as the need arises.
- So who are you and why did you create My Plastic-free Life anyway?I’m Beth Terry from Oakland, CA. Please read my post, Tales of an On-again Off-again Activist, which pretty much explains who I am and how I became conscious of all the plastic in my life.
- What are the goals of My Plastic-free Life?There are basically 4 goals:
- To reduce the need for new plastic to be produced since petroleum is a non-renewable, polluting resource, and the production of plastic wreaks havoc on our eco-system.
- To keep existing plastic out of our waterways and landfills where it can cause further harm.
- To limit my exposure to toxins that can leach from certain types of plastic.
- To educate others about these issues so that my actions can have a farther-reaching impact than those of a single individual acting alone.
- Those are pretty big goals. How do you plan to accomplish them?By following my 4 R’s:
- REDUCE: If at all possible, do not buy any new plastic items.
- REUSE: Safely reuse existing plastic as many times as possible before throwing it away or recycling it. (Some plastic, like PVC, is not safe to reuse.)
- RECYCLE: Recycle whatever plastic I can that cannot be reused. Recycling is the last resort and not the best solution to the plastic pollution problem.
- REPORT: Report my successes and failures as honestly as possible on this blog.
- What’s wrong with plastic anyway?Good question. Here are some answers:
- Can’t we just recycle all of our plastic?We should recycle whatever plastic we can before throwing it away. But recycling plastic is actually downcycling. It degrades as it’s recycled so we still keep needing to create new virgin plastic.Here is a series of posts on recycling, based on my trips to local recycling and transfer centers. I plan to visit several more facilities this year and post whatever I learn.
- What’s the weekly plastic tally, why are you graphing your plastic waste, and what happens to all the plastic after it’s tallied?I think it’s educational for me and others to see just how much plastic we actually consume even when we’re trying hard not to. It’s a visual representation of one individual’s plastic impact on the world. Even after two years, I’m still using up products packaged and bottled in plastic that I purchased before this project began.None of the plastic I collect is thrown into the garbage. At the beginning of the project, I recycled anything that was allowed by the City of Oakland. But after learning about conditions in China where much of our recycling ends up, I decided to hold onto all of my plastic waste, whether theoretically recyclable or not. Everything goes into a box (there are now 3 boxes, actually, under my dining room table) for later exhibition. What will I do with it? Well, some of it has gone into my plastic sea monster costume which won the costume contest at the 2009 SF Bay to Breakers. Much of it can also be seen in this humorous YouTube video: Fake Plastic Fish’s Big Plastic Hangover
- Some projects, like those of Colin Beavan of the No Impact Man project and Vanessa Farquharson of Green As A Thistle, have an end. Does My Plastic-free Life have any kind of timeline and will you return to using plastic at the end of it? My Plastic-free Life does not have a timeline because the changes that I’m making are permanent lifestyle changes. Some bloggers take on an extreme challenge for a finite period of time and at the end of the project, re-incorporate some previous ways of living. These kinds of projects can be very useful and instructive, helping us learn just how far we are willing to go.But from the beginning, My Plastic-free Life has taken a more pragmatic approach. I hope to keep learning and blogging for a long time and making practical changes that I can sustain without too much deprivation and distress. And I’m hoping that these are the kinds of things that other people can try for themselves too without feeling overwhelmed by the idea of giving up plastic entirely forever, eating completely locally, never buying anything new ever again. This fish tank is filled with moderation.
- Still, it can’t be easy. What’s been the most difficult lifestyle change you’ve made so far?I’d say giving up certain kinds of breads that only come in plastic bags. Pita bread. Tortillas. I tried making my own pitas, with less than stellar results and haven’t tried again for quite a while. I’m planning on trying my own tortillas, but I just haven’t been motivated to bake. Fortunately, we do have great fresh artisanal bread here in the Bay Area that is sold in paper, so it’s only certain flat breads I’m missing out on.Oh, and Haig’s Spicy Hummus continues to taunt me when Michael (my husband) brings it home in plastic tubs. Yes, I can make my hummus. Yes, I know it’s easy. And yes, I do sometimes make it. But it’s not like Haig’s. It’s just not.
- You mentioned your husband, Michael. He is not doing the plastic project with you?Michael is his own man and follows the dictates of his own conscience. In fact, here’s the man in his own words: I Think We All Do That Sometimes. In my weekly tally, I don’t include plastic that he’s bought for himself unless I have gained some benefit from it myself.
- What’s the best way for me to start using less plastic?Great question! Why not start by collecting and tallying your own plastic waste for a week to see where you might want to start. If you’re really brave, you could take the Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash Challenge and answer the questions on the site to analyze what kind of plastic waste you’re generating.Next, check out the Plastic-Free Guide, my ongoing list of the changes I’ve made in order to live as plastic-free as possible. I’ve tried to organize it in order from simple changes that make a huge impact to smaller, more subtle or difficult changes. Of course, we don’t all have the same feelings about what’s easy or difficult, so read the list and choose the things you yourself can tackle right away. Add a few more once you’ve mastered the basics.
- So is there any plastic you still haven’t given up?Yes. Much of it related to our cats. Check out the items that are included at the bottom of the Plastic-Free Guide. This list will change as I find plastic-free alternatives or encounter new challenges.
- What’s the best way to look up specific information on your web site without having to scroll through all your many blog posts?That’s another good question and let’s just say I’m working on it. I do try to label my posts into categories, and those categories are listed on the right sidebar. Another good way is to use the Google Search Bar on the blue menu bar to find references to topics you are interested in. In the future, I hope to have the posts organized into an alphabetical index which can be easily browsed.
- Speaking of your menu bar, I notice some links go to a “This page is coming…” page. Are you ever going to complete those pages? That’s the plan. And it’s related to the above question of site organization. I add and update pages as time permits. Having the links in the menu bar in advance serves as motivation for me.
- I notice there are some ads on this site. What’s your advertising policy? Please refer to my Advertising/Review Policy page.
- Do you have a plan in case of zombie attack? Not as yet, although we are working on it. Suggestions?
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