Did any of you catch Oprah’s 2009 Earth Day show?
After interviewing Fabien Cousteau about plastic in the oceans, she had a few “Aha! moments”:
Oprah will think differently about using plastic things: http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Oprah-Talks-About-Plastic-Bags-and-the-Environment-Video
Oprah wants to go beyond washing out her zip lock bags: http://www.oprah.com/media/20090422-tows-oprah-aha-moment
I was excited and moved to see this issue garnering the attention of an audience as large as Oprah’s. So moved, in fact, that I wrote her a letter… and then recorded it on video. Now I just have to figure out the best way to reach her with it:
My belief is that once audiences see the horrific images of what plastic does to the environment, they will want to know what they can do. Let’s let Oprah know that there are many of us out here already going beyond washing out plastic bags.
Please feel free to forward this video or embed on your own website. Leave a comment. Better still, how about recording your own video response? The more the better. Let’s help her see that this movement is vast and growing and full of ordinary people who care.
And if you know anyone connected to the Oprah team, do let me know. I’ve already received some great suggestions this weekend from people who saw the video through Twitter or Facebook. But the more avenues, the better.
I have to admit, making the video was easy. Once the idea came, it pretty much made itself. Posting it publicly, however, has been a little scary. Honestly, I feel kinda naked. But the letter represents the truth of the moment. I don’t think it’s actually mine to hold back.
Will you share your truth, too?
For those unable to hear the video message, here is a transcript:
April 24, 2009
Thank you so much for your beautiful Earth Day show bringing awareness to the problems of plastic in our oceans. This issue first touched me personally about two years ago, and I feel compelled to share with you my story and also to make a request.
Back in June of 2007, I was at home recovering from a hysterectomy. Realizing that I would never have my own children, I wondered what other positive thing I could birth into the world instead. I had tried all sorts of things in my life, and that winter I had actually trained for and run a marathon. But at this point, lying on the couch, unable to exercise or do anything else, I felt kind of lost.
And then one night, I was at my computer and stumbled upon an article about plastic in the ocean and the photo that would change my life forever: the carcass of a dead albatross chick, its belly full of plastic — bottle caps, cigarette lighters, fragments of bags and containers, even a toothbrush — out there in the middle of the Pacific where few humans have contact. I looked at my life and realized that I was contributing to the pain of other creatures without even knowing it.
That night, something new did come into the world. I started a blog, Fake Plastic Fish and began collecting and tallying my own plastic waste each week and analyzing it to see what plastic I was using and what I could do without. Once I had recuperated physically, I started making field trips to stores, recycling centers, anywhere I could learn about what our options are for reducing our plastic consumption and plastic waste. Everything I learned, I shared on the blog.
At first, reducing was difficult. All of our convenience foods — energy bars, frozen dinners, whole roasted chickens — come packaged in plastic. I had to develop a different mindset and turn from what was fast and easy to foods that were more wholesome and came in less packaging. I started shopping stores like Whole Foods and local natural food stores where I could fill up my cloth bags from their bulk bins instead of buying prepackaged foods. And I learned to carry my own bottles, containers, utensils, and even glass drinking straw with me to avoid disposables.
I went beyond bottles and bags to making my own cat food, washing my hair with baking soda and water (it really does work!), cleaning with vinegar in glass bottles, lemon juice, baking soda, and composting all my food waste to avoid plastic garbage bags. I drove my friends crazy, but I never told them what to do.
And then I broadened my reach. Finding that some things, like my plastic Brita water filter cartridge, could not be recycled, I started a campaign to urge Brita to take back and recycle its filter cartridges (Take Back the Filter at www.takebackthefilter.org). This January, Brita developed a plan to do just that. And I was privileged to deliver over 600 used Brita filters entrusted to me by supporters all over the U.S. and Canada to Brita reps in Oakland for recycling.
Sending back unwanted plastic packaging to manufacturers, writing letters to companies asking for less plastic, joining with environmental group Green Sangha ) to promote healthy alternatives to plastic, connecting with other bloggers, such as the women of the Green Moms Carnival (http://organicmania.com/green-moms-carnival/) who have accepted me for being a “mother of the earth” even though I don’t have my own children, and urging other bloggers to take on the No Plastic challenge and help spread the word, I am doing the most I can with the little time I have.
It’s a full-time job. But I already have a full-time job — as an accountant for a local Bay Area home care agency. And this is where my story takes a turn. Because one night, walking home exhausted from work and realizing that I had many hours of work ahead of me to prepare for Oakland’s Earth Expo the next day — I had promised a display and a costume about plastic — it crossed my mind, as it has many times in two years since I started this project, that I could just stop. Quit. I could give up the blogging and activism and reaching out to strangers. I could just stop doing it. I could go back to my private little life of watching movies, playing with my kitties, and hanging out with my husband. What’s wrong with that?
But no sooner did the thought cross my mind, than I was stopped dead in my tracks by an inner voice that said,
“You can’t quit because none of this belongs to you. The activism… the blogging… the reaching out… you don’t do them; they do you.”
Eckhart Tolle speaks of awakening to your life’s true purpose. In that moment, I knew that I had. Nothing had changed. And everything had changed. I will continue to do the actions I need to do to spread the word about plastic in our environment. But now with the certain knowledge that these actions are not mine. They are, rather, an expression of my true place and purpose in this world.
Oprah, I don’t remember ever making the decision to start Fake Plastic Fish. One day, I saw that photo, and the next day I was creating a blog and tallying my plastic. Our left brains want to claim credit for the things we do. But truly, the universe works through us to get its work done, not the other way around.
I’m writing to you now not only to share my story but also to make a request. I will continue to do the work that needs to be done, but I don’t have the audience that you do. Will you help me reach more people to show them the possibilities of living mindfully with less plastic by mentioning my story and Fake Plastic Fish on your show, website, or magazine?
I want to help people go beyond bottles and bags. I want to help people be mindful of the materials of the world that come into their lives, to think about what they purchase and to know where it comes from and where it goes.
Ultimately, my purpose is not plastic. It’s to be an example and an inspiration to others. Just as you do every day.