The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

November 1, 2012

Confession of an Anti-Plastic Activist Caught Red-Handed With a BPA-Lined Can

I just got back from a week on the East Coast doing book promos and visiting family, and all I got was this stupid Facebook photo

Don’t you hate it when the environmentalists don’t rinse out their recycling?

Two days ago, my sister Ellen posted that photo and caption and tagged me.  It would have been funny, if it weren’t my Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup can.  My first reaction was utter embarrassment (for being caught eating out of a can lined with BPA or some other mystery chemical and even more, for eating Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup in the first place), and I asked her to untag me.  Instead, she posted a comment:  Just kidding! That’s my soup.

But it wasn’t her soup, it was mine.  Granted, I didn’t buy it — I found it in a cupboard in my dad’s house — but still… how can I go around advising people to avoid BPA-lined cans if I can’t always resist them myself?  So, after untagging myself and then feeling all weird and guilty, I suddenly realized… or maybe I should say remembered… that it’s precisely those times when I feel weird and guilty that I can learn the most about myself and human behavior and motivation.

See, anyone who has read this blog for a while or who has read my book knows that I never claim to be perfect.  I’ve confessed all kinds of eco-“sins” along the way.  Binging on flamin’ hot cheetos during a road trip with my dad.  Taking long, hot showers.  Eating too much bread.  Craving fast food.  Buying new stuff.  (Hmm… I just realized that many of the items on that list involve food.  Interesting.)  And I’m nothing if not honest about my short-comings because pretending to be “perfect” doesn’t help.  In fact, I think it’s counterproductive.

But somehow, with the publication of my book this year and subsequent media attention, I fell into the frame of mind that I have to be the expert and that I have to be perfect — or at least appear to be perfect — at living without plastic.  Even while I’m assuring other people that they don’t have to be.  Even while writing that guilt doesn’t help because it creates the illusion that we are separate from the rest of the world, wrong, at fault. That guilt can subdue us into inaction, causing us to hide our perceived faults instead of trying to figure out the root causes of our actions.

So here’s my confession:  My childhood comfort food — which I still occasionally indulge in when I feel stressed out or depressed — is this trashy combination:  Pasta or rice covered in a mixture of tuna, cream of mushroom soup, and American cheese.  My siblings think it looks like vomit and have teased me about it since I was a kid, but it’s just an easy version of my mom’s tuna casserole that made me feel safe and loved.  Nowadays, I use plastic-free cheese and grains or pasta from the bulk bins.  But the tuna and soup come in cans, and the soup has to be Campbell’s.  (Yes, the same company that refuses to reveal what chemical they are going to use to replace BPA.)

My primary solution is meditation.  On the days when I sit and meditate for at last 15 minutes in the morning, I’m much more mindful during the day, less likely to get stressed out, and less likely to do things that really don’t match my values.  But on the days when I skip meditation… like every day I was in Maryland with my family… I’m more likely to forget who I am and fall back into old patterns.  Throw a hurricane threat on top, and anything could happen.

Good thing I’m leaving tonight for my semi-annual meditation retreat.  Three days of silence, stillness, and noticing my own breath.  And being as honest as I can possibly be.

Do you have any secret vices you’d like to share?  Go on.  It’ll feel good to unburden yourself.  Or at least make me feel better.  :-)

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Hello, I’m just a new guest to this site; but I felt I had something to add to the comments. for Eden Organic products. They’re the company my family and I use for our canned materials. They’re very transparent in their business practices and products, compared to most other companies. I buy some of their items in bulk, as they can be hard to find locally. They do not use BPA in their linings; and they explain the vegetable based substitute they use. It was something used widely some time ago; but BPA, being cheaper, became the replacement for,… Read more »


My apologies for any typos. Also, I suppose I should mention, I live in Pennsylvania, USA.


Thanks for your honesty! I’m actually ‘coming out’ with my dirty not-so-green habits post soon! But yes, it’s definitely impossible to be perfectly green/plastic free and I’m glad you wrote about your experience! (and if everyone tried being green “most” of the time, we’d be a LOT better off!


I have read, but do not have proof, that there are plasticizers even in glass. I bought some new Ball canning jars, and have noticed that when I have something that is semi-hard in there, like lard, which I try to get out with a spoon, that the side of the jar “gives” when I press against it with the spoon. I’m thinking glass doesn’t normally do that . . . which makes me think that there might actually be plasticizers in the glass. Which is disappointing, because my main reason for using glass is to avoid the plastic.

Beth Terry

Hi Karen. I haven’t heard of plasticizers in glass. Do you remember where you read it? Could you please send me a link?


I am so glad you posted this! I think we all have these guilty little secrets that are in our lives and let’s face it, we live in a modern world and were brought up in one. There are things from our “former lives” (before we became, minimalists, green, plastic-free, whatever) that we have already been tainted with and there is no going back. We can’t miss what we have never had, but that is the problem, we have already had them. So, we do our best, but no one is perfect. When I was studying to be a yoga… Read more »


As long as we keep trying and keep motivating other to try.

Mandy Mullen

I’m new to this blog and so glad found it too. Know exactly what you mean about about trying, and failing, sometimes spectacularly, at becoming plastic free eg forgetting my cloth bags when I go supermarket shopping.
Question: I am trying to find canned tomatoes that are BPA free (in Australia). So far no luck. Every time I open a can I’m greeted with that white lining – so disappointing and unnecessary. Any advice would be appreciated.

Beth Terry

HI. The problem is that every can is going to be lined with something. Tomatoes are corrosive, so there must be a lining. Some companies are finding alternatives to BPA, but there is not enough information to know if the new linings are any safer. Can you find tomatoes in glass?


you should try this recipe for cream of mushroom soup (vegan cream of mushroom soup recipe from The Wicked Good Vegan has been removed because the site is broken 2017-08-05). it’s amazing, much better for you, and it tastes SOO freaking good. and best yet, the only ingredients i can’t find in bulk for it (you probably could in northern cali) are the fat (i use coconut oil) and the wine. oh, and wild planet foods sells tuna in a glass jar. the jar looks small, but it actually packs a lot of tuna in it, probably because they don’t… Read more »


Cheese, it’s hard to find cheese in Duluth MN that isn’t surrounded in plastic. Also, sour cream – my husband can eat it like ice cream!
If you acted like you were 100% plastic free I don’t think I could read your blog.
You are an inspiration and a reminder to be mindful & forgiving.

grumpy rumblings

You can make that casserole from scratch– I think it’s in the Best Recipe American Classics. It is so worth it. I haven’t been able to have the version with canned goods since.

Donna S

I completely appreciate this blog. Sometimes it is hard to be 100% perfect. My family is on a journey to zero-waste, and it is HARD. The deck is stacked against you. I admire your dedication AND honesty!

Eve Stavros

Yeah, totally guilt ridden when my friend brings home a Sweet Frog’s frozen yogurt, peanut butter flavor, home just for me in a (ugh) styrofoam cup. But I eat every spoonful anyway! Trying to get her to switch to another shop that uses paper cups.


I totally appreciate your honesty!!! It’s so much better than trying to live a fake life!! I just wanted to add that Campbell’s soup has recently donated nearly $800,000 to the NO on 37 campaign in CA…. I’ve been working for months on the YES on 37 campaign to get labeling on all GMO foods!! Not only did Campbell’s donate in order to maintain secrecy in their cans while they feed Americas families toxic swill, they also closed their plant in my town of Sacramento. They laid off nealy 800 people into an economy that is still at nearly 12%… Read more »


Thanks for posting this. Every dollar we spend to junk food companies, they will use against us. For many years I never buy/eat junk and GMO and it does not make my life fake.


Thanks for your honesty :) We are just starting to go plastic-less and already I am struggling. My biggest area of conflict is my hobby. I make cards and I really really love it. The bulk of the stuff I like to use to make them is plastic related – both through their packaging and in their content; Glitter, punches, stamps, glue, ink, and I imagine even the cutting dies probably have coating on them since they don’t really look like metal. Even the paper is not good, although I could get creative their with reusing. I hate to give… Read more »


Hi Beth, it does make all of us feel better when ‘the expert’ not only trips up but comes clean! It is such an overwhelming journey, being mindful about everything we use. I know a lot of it is second nature to you now, but I wonder if you could maybe do a run through of your average day in a future post, highlighting your plastic-free solutions to daily living? That would be a real help for a novice like me..


Ok, Beth, so now I have to tell you about the most ridiculous plastic “FAIL” of my past year. Out running around going from event to event with my homeschool kids (some days just end up stacked too full, even with careful planning). We wanted to try to meet some friends at the park, since it was during the rainy season and this one non-rainy day needed to be taken advantage of. I can’t remember what happened that kept me from making food to take with us, but I ended up needing to pick up food while we were out… Read more »


Ha! I used to have a “green blog” but I had to give it up because it was making me totally crazy! (Well, that plus the fact that a group of Realtors in Florida tried to sue me because they had trademarked one of the words I used in my blog name – not kidding.) Anyhow, I started to feel guilty for EVERYTHING I did! Even exhaling CO2 felt like an eco-crime! I fear the swath of eco-sins in my wake is deep and wide. Where to start? Well… I caved in and bought chocolate for the trick-or-treaters… Hershey’s kisses… Read more »

My Plastic-free Life

Hi Mary. The problem is not that I don’t know how to cook without opening a can. I do! And I do it all the time! I generally don’t eat food in cans. The point here was that sometimes I get this craving for this one particular food, and if I’m stressed out, I give in to it.


The fact that you are 99% perfectly plastic-free is the charm. Don’t sweat the occasional can. Hallowe’en has burdened my household with two 6-year old’s worth of plastic candy horrors. I don’t want to stop my child from tick or treating. I just don’t. My kids already feel that I make them live like freaks by with holding normalcy in the form of plastic toys, plastic wrapped crackers, store bough granola bards etc. So while I’d love to get invited to some fabulous all-inclusive plastic-free Hallowe’en party, it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe never. Speaking of parties, how’s this for plastic-free… Read more »

Beth Terry



You think that’s trash? You don’t know trash! I’ll show you trash… ;-)

Vade in pace.

Beth Terry

@opaque4 Good point. It’s all relative.

Mary Wilson Farkas

Learn to cook without opening a BPA can. It can be done.


No one is perfect even the best choices have trade offs that have consequences. I think it is great you let us in on your secret. We all need to remember this is a long road but it is worth the journey even if includes some BPA along the way.

Melissa Brown

Whole foods makes a pretty good cream of mushroom on the hot bar. I know it’s not Campbell’s, but maybe it would be a good substitute? You could bring a jar, and take it home to freeze for a rainy day.

Melissa Brown I made a bunch and froze them to use in casseroles.
I know what you mean. I can make plastic free instant soup (vermicelli in a box and better than bullion) but I still crave ramen.


I read this post about an hour ago, and just heard this on NPR. I just had to share!

Beth Terry

Too funny. But I doubt my little 7-year old inner child would appreciate dried porcini mushrooms. :-)


thank goodness you are not perfect.. nothing as intimidating to someone trying to reduce gradually than a role model who is judging and perfect.If people think ” i could never do what she does “the next thought is often” so i might as well not bother trying “..keep sharing your doubts and human failings as much as possible… <3


OK, OK, here it is . . . pasta, real Italian pasta NOT whole wheat, glutton free stuff, smothered in Campbell’s tomato soup. Mmmm, mmmm good! And I’m vegan for crying out loud. I haven’t indulged in this junky concoction for a few years but I have used Amy’s Cream of Tomato soup which does have cream and probably in a BPA lined can. I haven’t done this in a couple years only because I mostly steer clear of grocery stores especially in moments/days of weakness. Personally I’m not striving for perfection, I don’t even know what that might look… Read more »

Beth Terry

I confess a lot to Michael too. I’m so grateful to be in a relationship where I don’t hide anything. He knows all my faults and somehow accepts me anyway. :-)


@Beth Terry We are truly blessed to be in a relationship with imperfect, supportive, loving people ; )

My Plastic-free Life

Melissa Brown do you have a recipe for cream of mushroom? And honestly, it’s probably not even worth it because this is more of an emotional thing than nutrition thing. Only Campbell’s has the taste I am craving. Nothing else tastes the same. I’m not saying it’s good… I’m saying it’s what my inner child wants. :-)

My Plastic-free Life

Melanie A. Adcock upcycling would not make me feel better. I have still added to the demand for GMO-laden food in BPA-lined cans. And since I don’t need a pencil holder, doing that wouldn’t reduce any of the impacts of production.

Melissa Brown

I made a bunch of freezer mason jars of vegan condensed soup from the kitchen stewardship website. I’ve been craving some kind of creamy mushroom pasta lately too…


Thank You Beth. I love you for what you do. And now even more so. Thank you for your honesty.


A technical question – can you tell by looking at the interior of a can whether it is lined with BPA or not? I’ve seen cans that have a whitish obviously plastic lining and others that appear to be bare metal. Since they aren’t going to tell you if there is a BPA lining is there a visual rule of thumb?

Beth Terry

No, you can’t tell by looking. All cans contain some kind of lining. Either BPA or something else. The problem these days is that many companies will not reveal the alternative chemicals they are using, and those chemicals may be just as bad or worse.


Thank you for sharing this with us, Beth. It just reconfirms that you are human. My vice is savory snacks, I allow myself to cheat on these occasionally.
I am currently reading your book and am awed by the amount of research you have put into it, kudos to you!

Christy B

Heroes are real people and real people make mistakes – we can’t aspire to be more like someone we admire if we think they are perfect since perfection isn’t attainable.

I’m sure you have, but just in case, have you tried Lisa & Henry’s tuna? It’s in BPA free cans.

Christy B

Henry & Lisa’s!! Can you believe I didn’t include a link?!

Beth Terry

Good to know. I’ll contact them and find out what they are using instead of BPA. Unfortunately, all cans are lined with something, and it turns out that some of the alternatives are just as problematic. I’ll see what they say. Thanks for the recommendation. But honestly, tuna is so wrong that I really need to just stay away from it entirely. I mostly eat vegetarian… except when I can’t resist. :-)

Lisa Lake

I too have my vices – though I purposely don’t keep them secret. I am known to most of my family and friends as the most devoted environmentalist and social activist they know….yet….I am ‘addicted’ to McDonald’s french fries! Granted I only eat them a few times a year, but I love them. Years ago (before I knew as much as I do now) I found I could replicate the fries with a certain mix of spices and McCains skinny fries — but McCains is at least equally as shameful a company as McDonalds and of course the fries come… Read more »

Beth Terry

Too funny. I totally understand the impulse to hide. I think there’s a line between sneaking around not wanting people to see us doing things we think are wrong, and doing them openly in such a way that people think we endorse those things. There must be a way to be honest about both our aspirations and the reality of our actions.


Do you read INGREDIENTS? It is full of GMO, Bovid mammary gland secretions, pesticides. How somebody educated can have cravings for this stuff? I thought people who can not read and write eat this stuff.

Beth Terry

I guess you too have now learned something… even people who read and write can have cravings for foods they know are unhealthy. Cravings have nothing to do with intelligence but emotion. Have you never met a highly intelligent obese person? I know plenty of them.


Obese persons are not intelligent about their body, health, environment. But it depends what you consider intelligence. It was joke about read and write, I guess my humor is not so funny. But I find GMO, Bovid mammary gland secretions, pesticides cravings very funny . LOL. It so funny, so I am not sure should laugh or cry.

Beth Terry

I think you might be missing the point of the post. It’s not to defend Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, but to say that when we fall short of our goals, we should be honest about it. Do you agree?


It seems to you I am not understanding your post and cravings, so I going take advise of GGirlGGreen and “go somewhere else”

Christy B

your response claiming that obese people are not intelligent about their bodies, health or environment reminds me of the GOP claiming that women are not intelligent enough to take care of their own bodies.


”Stupid is as Stupid does” Forrest Gump.


We are not all perfect, and we are not all vegan or vegetarian. Would I eat Campbell’s soup? No? But that doesn’t mean that I am better than Beth! She is just being honest, and showing us that even the most eco-friendly, non-toxic living people sometimes stumble, and are not perfect. My vice is all-dressed chips (it’s a Quebec thing). I have read the ingredients and know they are far from good for me, but sometimes I just want them. Does this make me stupid and uneducated? No, actually I am making an educated decision based on the knowledge I… Read more »


@EcoPeaceful going green and getting healthy does not have to be an all or nothing endeavor. We all have our vices and I would rather admit to them than lie and pretend perfection. I have a weakness for neon orange Cheetos that I give into occasionally. Woman cannot live by organic bean sprouts alone.


Every dollar we/you spend to junk food companies, they will use it against us . I also can not live by organic bean sprouts alone, but i am also do not live by junk food propaganda. I do not even know what is Cheetos is. For many years I never buy/eat junk and GMO and still i am alive.


I wish we were all perfect but humans are bot perfect. I love Beth for her honesty because it is real. Show me a green blogger who professes to be perfect, and I will show you a fake.

So here is my confession Beth…

Stephanie and I were trying to hide it from you but let’s put it all on the table! EcoPeaceful, care to join us in this confession fest?

Beth Terry

LOL! Wow. Plastic Ross bag and McDonad’s food and plastic McDonald’s bucket. You win. ;-) Nope. None of us is perfect. If people think you have to be perfect to care for the planet, they might not even try.


if somebody never buy/eat junk and GMO than they are fake, did i understand you right?



Christine Jarc

Geez girl, when it comes to karma points, you are ridiculously laden with points on the good side. Guilt is hard to lose, though.


I absolutely commend you imperfection. It is more welcoming to those who balk at the immensity of living eco-consciously. Don’t punish yourself overly, and yes, tend toward 100%, but absolutely no one is 100%. Thank you for this post. :)

Beth Terry

Thank you!

Wayne Banks

We’re all human and your confession just reminds me that we are all allowed to forget or even cheap a little – but also makes it easier to continue with a reduced plastic life…… and chocolate is my confession, as I still allow myself the odd bar or four!!


I bet a lot of East cost eco folks are using not so eco stuff right now either by need or by (stress induced) choice. On the night of the hurricane, I remembered to buy a manual can opener so we could open a can of refried beans to make burritos with chicken and produce that may spoil if we had a blackout instead of making them from dried beans. I keep an “emergency” can of refried, black, and garbanzo beans in the back of the cupboard for those rare times I can make dried. I haven’t posted the recipe… Read more »

Beth Terry

@condoblues Yes, I think you should. Wasting food is not eco-friendly either.

Nancy Nathan Baldwin

Ugh yeah I get it. Totally get it. Damn Pepsi gets me every single time.

Nagashree Manwatkar

I love the confession. We can’t be perfect. But tending to is a good thing. Keeping up our good work is the more important part of it.

Melanie A. Adcock

What if you upcycle the can into a pencil holder or other crafty project? Would that make you feel less guilty?