The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

December 1, 2010

Letter from Will Terry, a “normal guy and not some tree-hugging freak”

Last Friday night, my brother Will and I were hanging out on the phone discussing our book-writing aspirations: his dream of writing children’s books (He’s already a fantastic illustrator of books that other people write.  See the end of this post for an amazing demo) and mine of creating a plastic-free book to inspire or at least entertain the masses.

Will Terry illustrator

Will’s not a treehugger, but unable to avoid my plastic-free influence, he wants to help me figure out the best way to speak to a wider audience of people — people like him who care, but maybe not yet enough to act.  So he wrote the following letter to you guys.  Overlooking spelling, punctuation, and the fact that he was most likely drunk on half-cooked brownie mix when he composed it, what do you suggest?

Dear Fake Plastic Fish readers:

I was thinking about plastic the other day partly because I had run out of things to think about but also because my big (big as in older not heavier, taller, fatter,or meaner) sister just spoke at the TEDx conference, and I’m proud of her. I started to think about my own relationship with plastic and that became painful because I’m a slacker by nature — so then I thought about my dog because that was more fun. But then I knew I was avoiding thinking about plastic which forced me to think about plastic more — then I couldn’t get it out of my head. Oh yeah — I forgot to mention that I was on my daily walk, and so I knew I had to have a personal conversation with myself to finally confront my plastic usage so I could get on with thinking happy thoughts — like soap.

I’ve always rationalized my plastic usage with 3 arguments, and mentally I usually only need the first one to content myself. 1) I’m a family man raising 3 boys  – I have a wife, a dog, a mortgage, and I have little time left over to worry about plastic. 2) I run my own illustration business, and I usually work 60 — 80 hrs/week.  I’m sure that living plastic free will cost more — extra money that I don’t have. 3) I consider myself a “normal guy” not some tree hugging freak… if I start down this road I’ll have to change… change isn’t fun.

Ok — before you all start picking up stones hear me out — I don’t stand behind any of those ideas. It’s taken me 44 years to confront those irrational thoughts, and I’m doing it because of the awesome example my big sister is setting. I’ll admit that being busy is no excuse for environmental carelessness. I remember making a life choice when I was about 7-8 years old not to litter. It felt cool to label myself at the time – “I don’t litter.” I’m sure that I need to do the same sort of thing with plastic.

The money excuse — I know — lame — it will probably cost less in many cases to avoid using unnecessary plastic.

The environmental wacko thing — also lame — it’s been my way of avoiding the crucial conversation I’ve needed to have with myself.

So here’s what I’m asking Beth:  knowing me, my lifestyle, and guys like me — could you give me 3-5 of the most important and highest impact ways I can reduce my plastic usage? I can’t live like you overnight but perhaps you could give me the most important baby steps. I think if you can get a guy like me to make environmental lifestyle changes you’ll be successful getting other “normal” dudes on the bandwagon.

Here’s a little more about Will to help you understand who we’re dealing with here:

He likes winter sports.

Will Terry illustrator

He likes his dog.

Will Terry illustrator

He likes Photoshop.

Will Terry illustrator

No, I mean, he really, really likes Photoshop. And making videos.  Even if you have no suggestions for Will regarding plastic, watch this video just because it’s awesome.

A Fairytale from will terry on Vimeo.

So, um, Will’s not exactly normal after all. But then, is there really any such thing?

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When you are looking to buy something pick the product that has less plastic packaging. If there isn’t an alternative then look for the product that has the plastic that you can recycle (ie: gum wrapped in plastic that can not be recycled vs gum not wrapped in plastic but comes in a blister pack that can be recycled).

Don’t drink bottled water. Bring your own stainless steel container.

Use bars of soap instead of body wash. I promise that the Old Spice dude will not hunt you down.


I’m just reading this now, but I completely understand the problem and I often feel the same way! After living with environmentally-conscious Germans, I have tried to convince my parents in Texas to use less plastic and the easiest ways I have found: No plastic bags –> backpacks and canvas bags work great! (And yeah, it IS annoying when the cashiers give you strange looks….but who cares, right?) Less cosmetic products in plastic bottles –> bar soap, etc. No plastic water bottles –> metal bottles are fantastic! (I think the same for real coffee mugs, and wish coffee shops would… Read more »

Zack Terry

Well Im Will’s son, so if he’s on the wagon then i guess i kindof am by default… but now i guess i just have 1 more reason to grow a big ego. Im an environmentalist haha!

Chantal Plamondon

Hi Beth, So sorry for commenting this late in the game but I just wanted to say that I was so urtterly impressed to read about your brother and his absolutely incredible talents. I spent a good chunk of time looking at his website and watching the videos. He is quite an inspiration for young kids. I love how he has brought a passion to amazing levels and living off of it. Regarding his attitude toward plastic, he seems on the right track! He has generated a great amount of good ideas in your blog which is wonderful! Nothing I… Read more »


Beth, you are so lucky to have a brother who is at least supportive if not on board. My brother is a right wing, global warming denying, “corporate power is good and war is better” wacko who thinks I’m absolutely off my rocker. (But I guess that feeling is mutual.)

I would offer suggestions, but I think the other readers pretty much have it covered. The only thing I can think to add is to just make the non-plastic choice whenever possible. If there are 2 brands, and one comes in plastic while the other comes in paper… choose paper!


Thank you for introducing your brother. His Photoshop video is SO amazing…WOW!


I would say one very important (and pretty easy) thing to do is to always use reusable bags. Not just at the grocery store, but bring one when you go shopping at other types of stores as well. Also, make or purchase reusable bags to use for fresh produce. These are also extremely useful if you shop at the farmer’s market.

Will Terry

WOW! I never thought there would be so many responses to my rambling letter. My sister is really setting a good example isn’t she? I could tell you stories about our childhood -about “pre good example setting” Beth…but this probably isn’t the place….plus I live in a glass house. After I read my letter on this site I started to regret using the phrase “normal guy and not some tree hugging freak”. I really wanted to get the point across that I have been afraid to make changes in my life – not to tear down others belief systems. Change… Read more »


BRILLIANT video…thx Began my green consciousness with “I don’t litter” too. Besides what others mentioned, here’s what I do to make me greener and what I suggest for you: FREAK OUT about plastics!! 1. Repeatedly remind yourself that buying plastic products IS littering. Find videos of the huge garbage patches in the oceans and graphic illustrations of the mountains of non-biodegradable waste each of us can generate in one year/one lifetime. 2. Repeatedly remind yourself that science has proven plastic is downright harmful to our bodies. If plastics leach into foods from packaging, including BPA can liners, do we really… Read more »


Good to see your brother getting involved Beth! Wow Will your really love photoshop! & look how you use it, awesome indeed! I also had a sneek peek at your site, so here are my suggestions for you. 1. For your skiing /boarding gear, hold on to what you’ve got & then once it’s really had it, like really had it! Go second hand for your next lot. (lots of money saved!) 2. For your dog, take newspaper rather than plastic bags to pick up his poop. One more reason you won’t need them. 3. As a family you probably… Read more »


BAR CONDITIONER: Conditioner became routine when detergents replaced real soap in shampoos. Because detergents strip the hair and scalp completely of oils, it is necessary to re-coat the hair and scalp with oils to stop irritation and breakage (esp split ends). If you use real soap – bar soap, or castille soap like Dr. Bronner’s, then you may not need conditioner at all! But if you do, you can use plain fairly traded coconut oil or shea butter – just melt on the fingers and apply where needed. Shea helps with hair structure by nourishing the scalp, while coconut is… Read more »


Ooops, I already use bar shampoo, I meant BAR CONDITIONER.



Where can I get bar shampoo?

Sarah "Angry Butterfly" Schumm

I”ve never seen anyone use photoshop like a paint program! Wow. you seriously might have just changed my life, artistically that is. How inspiring! Everybody has pretty much said all my suggestions I think, but here’s the order I did them in and the degree of difficulty each one was, if that helps, so far: 1. Reusable shopping bags (easiest) 2. switched back to bar soap from body wash (easy for me, but ex husband would not get on board) 3. stopped buying sodas, juices and eventually milk in plastic bottles. (not that hard, but still a little sacrifice at… Read more »


Here are some easy things I do: 1) Carry reusable bags with you. Some are small enough to fit easily in a coat pocket, so you always have a bag with you if you need it. 2) Don’t buy single-serving sized food. I know my own kids love single-serving sized food (string cheese, little yogurt, etc.). But it’s cheaper to buy family-sized packages, and it’s not that hard to dole it out into containers that are manageable for kids. Or adults, for that matter. 3) Carry a water bottle and some cutlery, so that you don’t need disposables. And if… Read more »


I love this post! I will show it to my very non-tree-hugging boyfriend. I’ve finally got him using canvas bags in the grocery store but it took awhile. In the end, it was him standing in line at our local hippie grocery store and realizing he was the only one who didn’t bring his own bags. Ah, the power of public shame! All the tips above are fantastic but here’s another that Beth may even reject. When I first moved to Colorado, my dad went to Costco and helpfully bought me about 6 boxes of Ziploc baggies. I use them… Read more »


These are my top 5, and I have three kids:

1. Reusable shopping bags.

2. Bring glass/stainless straws out with you or skip straws altogether.

3. For breakfast: bulk oatmeal or other hot cereals instead of processed cereal with plastic liners.

4. Bar shampoo, and bar soap instead of liquid for at-home handwashing.

5. Skip fast food, especially because most of the kids meals come with crappy plastic toys. Come up with a list of fast dinners you can prepare at home (quesadillas, pancakes, pasta with sauce from a jar, etc.).


Make your three boys the leaders of this effort. Plastic-free is a lot harder if your whole family isn’t on board, so why not take advantage of the potentially boundless enthusiasm of youth! Set up challenges for them to find alternatives to plastic in your lives, have (friendly!) competitions.


Wow! That video was so amazing!!!!!!!!=)


Hey Will- Just listen to your Big Sister and do whatever she tells you. Barring that,
My top three things to reduce plastic
#1- Remember to carry your own reuseable bag always. Just say no to plastic bags- If one slips in there- re-use it!
#2- No plastic water bottles- Carry around a Kleen Canteen
#3- No soda bottles( Or cans)- I know Beth has a Soda CLub Soda maker- these things are so cool- I have even discovered how to use it with out plastic syrup bottles from Soda Club!
And terry- Normal is sooooooooo 1980.

Condo Blues

Will, Did you know that every time you use plastic a puppy gets hit in the head with a hammer? I bet Beth didn’t tell you that because she is a cat person and I totally made that up but it got your attention didn’t it? My suggestions: 1.How about looking in your trash can (‘cuz saving plastic trash for a week is kinda hippie treehugger) and seeing what you can painlessly replace or modify? 2. Buy the largest size possible/in bulk. For me, that means I have to buy a few things in a large plastic bottles because the… Read more »


Love your video, Will! What a talented family. Beth the writer, you the artist! I’m not sure I can add anything to the excellent tips here, but I can tell you how we started. First, we stopped with the plastic shopping bags. We use canvas and a couple of nylon (yes, I know, plastic!) bags that I can keep in my purse and in our glove compartment. I started just by trying to remember most of the time, then switched to not buying anything that I can’t carry out of the store if I don’t have my bags with me.… Read more »


My tip: I’ve found switching from plastic water bottles to a stainless steel one very easy and it saves so much plastic. Also: switching from shower gel to a bar of soap – easy, so many soaps to chose from, most are sold in paper, and prevents trash :-D


Following Jennie’s suggestion to shop second hand, aside from thrift shops and swap meets, there’s:
Craigs List = free wanted and items for sale listings
Freecycling email lists in most communities
stores like Mountain Equipment Coop that have ethical policies and allow you to sell or swap your awesome MEC outdoor clothes and equipment for free.


I think the most important thing is just to be more aware. Be more conscious of what you consume, what materials constitute what you purchase, etc. Track your plastic for a week or a month! & definitely, reusable shopping bags & reusable utensils, cups, bottles.


One thing to consider: refusing plastic bags can be TOUGH if the cashiers you’re working with are not used to meeting people who want to reduce their plastic consumption. You can’t just drop your reusable bags on the conveyor belt, or have it in your hand ready to go while checking out. Unfortunately, in many cases you need to say “I brought my own bag and don’t want any plastic ones” before the cashier has a chance to reach for one. You don’t have to give them a crazy hippie tirade or argue with them about it, you just have… Read more »


Its very rarely an overnight transformation and especially with kids. i have 2 girls and apparently my 5yr old saw some movie at one of her summer camps about trash and there being so much trash the characters in the movie ended up living on a pile of trash. This is the thing we bring up whenever we deal with plastic w/ the kids. We still have a looonnng way to go–but we are making changes a little at a time. The way i’ve approached it is through ‘procurement’. :) Addressing it through purchasing. Basically whenever i purchase i try… Read more »


I just wanted to throw out a suggestion that no one has mentioned yet! *Shop second-hand. This reduces new plastic (which I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about from Beth!). Also, with a family, it reduces the amount of money you need to spend to get the things you need! Heck yes – saving money!!! For example, say you decide you need more tupperware. Second-hand stores have tons of tupperware, but maybe not as you would picture it – you know those Christmas tins that cookies and chocolates often come in? They’re everywhere in second-hand stores and make great tupperware!… Read more »


Will, when you said you decided at 7 not to litter you won my heart! I don’t know about five things but #1, I think, is to make whatever you use that is plastic last forever. We have some plastic party cups with a balloon pattern on them that we got for a birthday party for one of our kids about 20 years ago. They are still in use! This goes to show the longevity of plastic even if it is used intensively. Better to have the stuff doing something productive than in a landfill or drifting in the ocean.… Read more »


I *heart* photoshop too!! The video is awesome! Getting rid of plastic can definitely be hard at first. It took me quite a while of thinking about it (and by thinking about it I mean slowly going from total rejection “plastic isn’t really that bad” to “maybe I shouldn’t put plastic in my microwave” to “let’s get rid of as much plastic in our house as possible.”) to actually take any action. The first thing (other than not putting plastic in my microwave) I did was to slowly start getting rid of plastic in my kitchen (Tupperware, dishes, bowls, utensils,… Read more »


We’re FAR from perfect in our plastic usage, but we just keep working at getting better a little at a time. Giving it all up at once is setting yourself up for failure. 1. If you are like many people, buying bottled drinks is a favorite thing. First off, sodas aren’t good for you anyway, but if you can’t give them up, go with aluminum cans and recycle those. Buy milk in paper cartons to reduce the plastic there. As for water, one of the things people really seem to like is cold bottled water. We keep a reasonably large… Read more »


1. Carry little light weight reusable bags ex Chico Bags on a caribeener $5 2. Carry a little reusable cutlery set ex Onyx ethically-made $6.75 3. Carry a stainless steel water bottle or thermos $5-15 or reuse a glass juice bottle 4. Use a stainless steel lunch box ex Onyx ethically made Lunch Box & Food Storage $9.75 5. Wean yourself off plastic by using packaging as selection criteria. Choose first reuse, repair, then if buying choose bulk, then no packaging, then paper packaging, then complain about plastic packaging. Ask store staff for non plastic packaging. Act all… Read more »


Hi Will, Ditto on the bottled water, single serve and plastic shopping bags. Key is to think about options – bar soap vs shower gel in plastic bottle (inspired here), or powered laundry detergent in cardboard box you can recycle vs liquid in big plastic jug, saying no to a plastic straw and one crazy example – with 2 leopard geckos to feed, we try hard to bring our own reusable cricket bag to the store when it’s time to replenish to avoid the use of another plastic baggie or the “crickets to go” option in plastic cases. PS –… Read more »


Here’s a few easy suggestions (at least they are easy for me and my family): 1. Just say “no” to plastic bags whenever you are buying something. Even if you don’t remember your reusable bags and the salesclerk wants to put 2 small items in a large plastic bag, tell them “no”! Carry it out of the store with the receipt in your hand. 2. Explain to your kids that you are limiting the amount of plastic in your lives. You’d be surprised how often the kids will remember reusable bottles and reusable bags when you don’t remember. 3. Buy… Read more »


Very cool video.
Top idea I can think of is to stop buying it.
Stop picking up those things thinking hey this is cool and then going through the checkout; do you really *need* it?

Angie Tschopp


Bravo. Here is my two cents.

1. Re-usable bags
2. Re-usable water bottle
3. Homemade cleaning products ( I clean my entire house with white vinegar, baking soda and occasionally a little borax)
4. Eliminate ALL processed foods from your home ( I have two boys 14 and 7) not easy, but they will tell ya ” Mom, won’t buy it!”
5. You really must start to look at plastic much like garbage.- it’s nasty…period

Laura M

Thanks for writing to us, Will. :) Here’s my two cents: **Bring your own real dishes and silverware. To the family BBQ, to the take out place, to wherever you need to eat food off of something. **Work on reducing food plastic. Single use, just say no. Choice between the apple or the presliced apples in a plastic bag? You know what to do. **Write letters to government. I am not great at this one myself but changing legislation is a big deal and can change stuff for the better. **Carry reusable bags. Here’s a little tune to help you… Read more »

Sandra Lee

Very touching, Will. Welcome aboard the plastic-less express! Yeah, top 5 ideas sounds great.