I was sick as a dog this weekend and spent all day Saturday on the couch watching videos. Many readers, after reading about my purges (here and here and here) of #3 PVC containers and a MultiPure water filter system containing PVC, recommended Blue Vinyl to me. But I just never had time to sit down and watch it until I was too sick to do anything else.
Wow. Thank you to everyone who recommended this film. And for those who haven’t seen it, run out NOW and get it. Rent it from Netflix, borrow it from the library or from a friend who has
it, or buy your own copy to share with your friends. (If you purchase via links in this post, My Plastic-Free Life earns a small percentage!) I just ordered mine, as this DVD is one piece of plastic I hope to get a lot of use from.
Watching this film gave me such hope for what we can do as individuals if we put our minds to it. It’s the personal story of the filmmaker, Judith Helfand, who reveals right from the start that she’s had a hysterectomy from cancer linked to drugs her mother took while pregnant. Right then, I felt I had a certain bond with this uterine-free sister woman. When her parents decide to replace the rotting wood on their house with blue vinyl siding, she begins a years-long campaign to learn as much as she can about the hazards of vinyl and finally convinces them, after they’ve already finished the house, to actually remove the vinyl siding and replace it with reclaimed wood.
Along the way, we travel from her home on Long Island, NY to Louisiana, where most of the PVC in the U.S. is produced and many workers and residents have been made sick; Venice, Italy, where another huge PVC plant has made workers sick; to the SF Bay Area where she searches for the least toxic building materials to replace the vinyl. Throughout the film, major points are illustrated with charming animations by Emily Hubley, who also animated another of my all-time favorite movies, the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And Blue Vinyl is peppered with Judith’s own sense of humor, as she carries her one piece of vinyl siding along with her everywhere she goes.
I call it a toxic love story because the film is not just about an environmental issue, but also about the relationship of a daughter with her parents and the push/pull that happens in families. Her story reminded me so much of myself and my own parents. How she tugs on them to change their minds, and how in the end she has to learn to let go and let them be who they are. Just the fact that they actually allowed her to pull off the siding and replace it was amazing to me, despite the ironic epilogue which I won’t spoil.
When you do watch the DVD (and I just know you will because it’s so great and I’m telling you to) be sure and watch the extras, including the short video about Greenpeace’s non-toxic Habitat for Humanity home built in Louisiana. (It’s on the second “page” of extras so you need to click “Next” to get to it.) It will leave you feeling inspired and hopeful for the future.