(Last Updated 06.06.2018)
I have set up this FAQ so that most answers link to one or more relevant blog posts. I hope you find this list helpful. And if you can’t find what you need here, please leave a comment. I hope to continue updating this list as the need arises.
I’m Beth Terry from Oakland, CA. Please read my post, Tales of an On-again Off-again Activist, which pretty much explains who I am and how I became conscious of all the plastic in my life.
There are basically 4 goals:
- To reduce the need for new plastic to be produced since petroleum is a non-renewable, polluting resource, and the production of plastic wreaks havoc on our eco-system.
- To keep existing plastic out of our waterways and landfills where it can cause further harm.
- To limit my exposure to toxins that can leach from certain types of plastic.
- To educate others about these issues so that my actions can have a farther-reaching impact than those of a single individual acting alone.
By following my 4 R’s:
1) REDUCE: If at all possible, do not buy any new plastic items.
2) REUSE: Safely reuse existing plastic as many times as possible before throwing it away or recycling it. (Some plastic, like PVC, is not safe to reuse.)
3) RECYCLE: Recycle whatever plastic I can that cannot be reused. Recycling is the last resort and not the best solution to the plastic pollution problem.
4) REPORT: Report my successes and failures as honestly as possible on this blog.
Good question. Here are some answers:
What’s Wrong with Plastic Anyway? This post lists the main problems with plastic from creation to disposal and beyond.
The Perils of PVC. What’s PVC and why should we avoid it?
Bisphenol-A (aka BPA): What is it? Where is it? Why do we care?
BPA-Free Does Not Mean Safe. Most Plastics Leach Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals.
Woman Drinks Wine… Why plastic wine corks and screw caps are problems for the environment.
Is Your Laundry Polluting the Ocean with Microfibers? How the fibers shed from synthetic clothing are making their way to the sea.
And here’s a link to a PDF version of the IATP Smart Plastics Guide, which lists the different types of plastics and explains which ones are the most harmful and why.
We should recycle whatever plastic we can before throwing it away. But recycling plastic is actually downcycling. It degrades as it’s recycled so we still keep needing to create new virgin plastic. Here is a series of posts on recycling, based on my trips to local recycling and transfer centers. I plan to visit several more facilities this year and post whatever I learn.
Recycling Part 1: Wait! Are you sure that’s recyclable?
Recycling Part 2: Lessons from the Davis Street Transfer Center
Recycling Part 3: Further Lessons from the Davis Street Transfer Center
Recycling Part 4: A Visit to California Waste Solutions
Recycling Part 5: Only in San Francisco
Is Recycling the Answer to Holiday Waste?
For the first few years of this project, I collected, tallied, and graphed all of my plastic waste each week. It was educational for me and others to see just how much plastic we actually consume even when we’re trying hard not to. It’s a visual representation of one individual’s plastic impact on the world. At the beginning of the project, I recycled anything that was allowed by the City of Oakland. But after learning about conditions in China where much of our recycling ends up, I decided to hold onto all of my plastic waste, whether theoretically recyclable or not. Some of the collected plastic ended up in my plastic sea monster costume which won the costume contest at the 2009 SF Bay to Breakers. Much of it can also be seen in this humorous YouTube video: Fake Plastic Fish’s Big Plastic Hangover
My Plastic-free Life does not have a timeline because the changes that I’m making are permanent lifestyle changes. Some bloggers take on an extreme challenge for a finite period of time and at the end of the project, re-incorporate some previous ways of living. These kinds of projects can be very useful and instructive, helping us learn just how far we are willing to go. But from the beginning, My Plastic-free Life has taken a more pragmatic approach. I hope to keep learning and blogging for a long time and making practical changes that I can sustain without too much deprivation and distress. And I’m hoping that these are the kinds of things that other people can try for themselves too without feeling overwhelmed by the idea of giving up plastic entirely forever, eating completely locally, never buying anything new ever again. This fish tank is filled with moderation.
I’d say giving up certain kinds of bread that only come in plastic bags. Pita bread. Tortillas. I tried making my own pitas, with less than stellar results and haven’t tried again for quite a while. I’m planning on trying my own tortillas, but I just haven’t been motivated to bake. Fortunately, we do have great fresh artisanal bread here in the Bay Area that is sold in paper, so it’s only certain flatbreads I’m missing out on. Oh, and Haig’s Spicy Hummus continues to taunt me when Michael (my husband) brings it home in plastic tubs. Yes, I can make my hummus. Yes, I know it’s easy. And yes, I do sometimes make it. But it’s not like Haig’s. It’s just not.
Michael is his own man and follows the dictates of his own conscience. In fact, here’s the man in his own words: I Think We All Do That Sometimes. And here’s a funny video interview I did with him wherein he tells me I remind him of Ned Flanders. In my weekly tally, I don’t include plastic that he’s bought for himself unless I have gained some benefit from it myself.
Great question! Why not start by collecting and tallying your own plastic waste for a week to see where you might want to start. If you’re really brave, you could take the Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash Challenge and answer the questions on the site to analyze what kind of plastic waste you’re generating. Next, check out the Plastic-Free Guide, my ongoing list of the changes I’ve made in order to live as plastic-free as possible. I’ve tried to organize it in order from simple changes that make a huge impact to smaller, more subtle or difficult changes. Of course, we don’t all have the same feelings about what’s easy or difficult, so read the list and choose the things you yourself can tackle right away. Add a few more once you’ve mastered the basics.
Yes. Much of it related to our cats. Also certain medicine bottles, plastic caps from glass bottles, a bit of unavoidable packaging here and there. For the most part, I’ve found ways to avoid almost all of it.
I do try to label my posts into categories, and those categories are listed on the right sidebar of the blog. Another good way is to use the Search Bar on the blue menu bar to find references to topics you are interested in.
Absolutely. There’s a subscription link at the top of this page. Just click the button that says “subscribe by email.” Or click here.
Please refer to my Advertising/Review Policy page.
Why yes. Read about my plastic-free presentation here.
Sure. Probably. Contact me to discuss. And have a look at my press kit.
Not as yet, although we are working on it. And anyway, how do you know it hasn’t already happened?