The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

Category Archives: Discussion Questions

April 16, 2014

Is Saving Money a Good Reason to Go Plastic-Free?

When I give talks, one question people frequently ask is whether it costs more money to go plastic-free. My answer: a few things cost more initially, but in general, I save money living this way.  In fact, I was thinking about adding a whole section to my plastic-free presentation about ways to save money.  But I haven’t done it because I got to thinking… is that actually a good strategy?  Or could it backfire?  I’ll explain what I mean later in this post.  I’d love to get your feedback.  But first, yes, there really are ways to save money.  Here are just a few…

Plastic-Free Ways to Save Money

A really good quality water bottle made from stainless steel or glass might be a bit pricey, but I save money in the long run because bottled water actually costs more per gallon than gasoline!  A 32-pack of Aquafina is $35 today on Amazon, which means I would make back the cost of a Klean Kanteen water bottle in about… Read the rest

February 27, 2014

Is It Cheating to Stock up on Restaurant Burritos?

So, I’ve talked and written a lot about how Americans seem to be addicted to the convenience that plastic packaging affords us. I know I sure was… eating frozen microwavable meals in plastic trays, energy bars in plastic wrappers, and water in plastic bottles. But I need to confess something. Just because I gave up plastic doesn’t mean I am not above a little convenience. It’s just that now, my idea of convenience looks like this:… Read the rest

November 10, 2013

Thinking About Toothpaste at a Meditation Retreat

It’s been a busy two weeks, and I haven’t had a spare minute to write a blog post. I shouldn’t actually be writing one now because I’m at a silent meditation retreat, and it’s not really allowed.

But being here at the retreat center, a place I’ve come twice a year for the past 14 years or so, I remembered something that happened here 9 or 10 years ago, and thought I’d share.… Read the rest

September 7, 2013

When is Plastic NOT Moop?

This will be my penultimate Burning Man post for the year. I think. (I have one more in mind, but who knows if I’ll get a burning desire to say even more after that? Or less?)

I have a discussion question for you, but first, a little background and lots of pictures. (I don’t think there is any nudity in these photos, but let me know if you see some and I’ll remove it. This blog is rated PG even if my life isn’t always.)

Reducing our plastic footprint was the theme of the Earth Guardians camp this year. Toward that end, we had Annie’s plastic footprint sculpture

I gave two talks on plastic-free living on and off the playa…

Karima from the Plastic Pollution Coalition was there, taking pictures and working on quantifying Burning Man’s plastic footprint.

So was my friend Tracey whom I camped with last year and who had worked very hard to deplastify her business.

Several people came up to me during the week who … Read the rest

December 11, 2012

What Will It Take To Solve the Plastic Pollution Problem?

I had lunch today with Pam Marcus, the founder of Lifefactory, a company that makes reusable glass water bottles and baby bottles.   She is also one of the organizers of the Plastic Pollution Coalition’s “Think Beyond Plastic Innovation Competition.”  There is a $50,000 prize at stake for the best idea for reducing plastic pollution, whether it’s the invention of a new material or a technology or a process or… whatever.  And I got to thinking… what will it really take for us to reverse this mess we have gotten ourselves into?

Look, it’s all well and good for us to reduce the amount of plastic we personally use in our daily lives.  And that has been my project for my own life, and this blog, and my talks, and my book for over 5 years.  But are our personal actions enough to stem the tide of new plastic that is being dumped onto the earth every day?  Are they even enough to keep each of us safe from toxic… Read the rest

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… Read the rest

May 10, 2012

What Can Environmentalists Learn from Bad Kitties?

I’m back from my meditation retreat, where one of the common admonishments is “Don’t push the river.”  What does that mean?  To me, it’s about being in the flow and not exerting more effort than necessary to live peacefully and mindfully in the present moment.  After all, the river’s gonna flow whether you push it or not, right?  Recently, I’ve discovered that it’s often not necessary to dam the river either.  I’ve learned both of these lessons from my cat.  And now I’m wondering how we can apply them to environmental activism work.

Bad Kitty / Good Kitty

Arya is sweet and cuddly and naughty beyond belief.  I love her mightily, and until recently, have fought with her every single morning for the past two years.  She climbs on my desk, and I shoo her off.  She crawls under my desk and gets tangled up in the electrical cords, so I shoo her out.  Then she’s up … Read the rest

April 27, 2012

Get a Bag and a Receipt: When Social and Environmental Justice Collide

What does the Trayvon Martin murder have to do with sea turtles choking on plastic bags or the toxicity of bisphenol-A?  At first glance, not a whole lot.  And it’s not the kind of  news I would normally write about on My Plastic-Free Life.  But listening to the April 17 episode of the American Public Media radio program The Story last week, I suddenly made a surprising connection.

The host of the show, Dick Gordon, interviewed one of his regular contributors, African American high school teacher, Reuben Jackson, who shared the difficult feelings that came up for him after hearing about the murder.  For anyone who doesn’t listen to the news and hasn’t been following this case, Trayvon Martin was an unarmed African American teenager who was shot and killed by an overly-zealous community watch coordinator, George Zimmerman, while returning from a convenience store because he looked suspicious in his hoodie.  … Read the rest

April 4, 2012

What Do You Think of the Plastic Produce Packaging at Trader Joe’s Nowadays?

Six years ago, Michael and I got a notice that a Trader Joe’s grocery store was going to be opening down the street from our house. This was back before I had woken up to the problems with plastic, and the news thrilled me. I had visions of all the fresh salads I was going to buy on my way to work every day. And then a few months later, I saw a photo of a dead albatross chick filled with plastic, and I started attempting to live plastic-free.  By the time the new Trader Joe’s opened, I could no longer shop there. The only department where I could find anything not packaged in plastic was the liquor aisle.

What seemed to be the most egregious misuse of plastic was in the produce aisle. While most grocery stores–even mainstream stores like Safeway–carried loose produce, Trader Joe’s seemed to only sell produce in plastic-wrapped multi-packs or plastic net bags. And while some of its produce containers were made from PLA, a compostable… Read the rest

December 19, 2011

Michelle has refused over 10,000 plastic items! How many have you refused?

A few weeks ago, reader Kay Pere left the following comment on Facebook:

Beth: I’ve received your “Show Your Plastic Trash Challenge” update emails for a while now. I was hoping it would be encouraging to see so many other people working to reduce their plastic waste. Instead, it’s making me feel vaguely discouraged knowing that even after weeks and weeks of effort so many are still taking pictures PILES of wrappers, tubs, bottles, taps, bags, etc … How do you deal with this and keep your chin up? Just by knowing that it’s better than it would have been?

I agree that seeing how much plastic waste people still end up with while doing their best can be disheartening. But what the Show Your Plastic photos don’t show is how much plastic these guys have actually REFUSED while doing the challenge. One participant, Michelle Cassar from Portugal, sent me a list of all the plastic items she has refused in the past few… Read the rest