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Updated Paperback Edition with foreword by musician Jack Johnson!
“I am excited to see a second edition of Plastic-Free by Beth Terry. Beth’s book, with its ingenuity, hands-on examples, and humor will serve as an inspiration and educational resource to readers. The pages that follow provide a toolkit for actionable behavior change at home, work, and in the wider world.” Jack Johnson, musician, co-founder of the Kokua Hawai’i Foundation
Readers Guide: Download a free Readers Guide for your book group with over 50 questions to get you thinking and discussing!
Updates: As I mention in the Author’s Note, while the principles of plastic-free living are timeless, the specifics can change. Resources change, websites move, companies go out of business, campaigns succeed or fail. Visit the Updates Page for changes and corrections since the original hardback edition went to press in early 2012. (The new paperback edition already includes these changes.)
If you find the information on MyPlasticfreeLife.com to be useful, why not buy the book? Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too (Skyhorse Publishing Company) is a practical guide to ridding your life—and the planet—of plastic.
Like many people, Beth Terry didn’t think an individual could have much impact on the environment. But while laid up after surgery, she read an article about the staggering amount of plastic polluting the oceans and decided then and there to kick her plastic habit. Now she wants to teach you how you can too. In her quirky and humorous style—well known to the readers of her popular blog, My Plastic-Free Life—Terry provides personal anecdotes, stats about the environmental and health problems related to plastic, and personal solutions and tips on how to limit your plastic footprint.
Terry includes handy lists and charts for easy reference, ways to get involved in larger community actions, and profiles of individuals— Plastic-Free Heroes—who have gone beyond personal solutions to create a change on a larger scale. Plastic-Free also includes chapters on letting go of eco-guilt, strategies for coping with overwhelming problems, and ways to relate to other people who aren’t as far along on the plastic-free path. Both a practical guide and the story of a personal journey from helplessness to empowerment, Plastic-Free is a must-read for anyone concerned about the ongoing health and happiness of themselves, their children, and the planet.
People who are just waking up to the problems of plastic will find the step-by-step approach useful and non-intimidating. Those who are a lot further along the path will find plenty to further challenge themselves. Everyone will be inspired by the interviews with some amazing activists and entrepreneurs who are going beyond personal changes to have an even greater impact in the world. And look for tips from MyPlasticfreeLife.com community members.
View Photos of the Hard Copy Book
Take a little tour of what goes into a plastic-free book.
A Message to Parents
While most of the content in the book is appropriate for all ages, there is some material you should be aware of. In Chapter 8, I deal with feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the plastic pollution problem and share how at one point, I started drinking the vodka and Everclear I bought for cleaning. There’s also a story in that chapter about wine in a Klean Kanteen. The chapter then goes on to discuss healthy ways of coping instead of numbing with substances. You might want to read that chapter first and decide whether it’s appropriate for your kids and how much guidance you should give them if you let them read it.
The only other iffy thing I can think of are a few brief references to plastic-free adult products in the “Personal Care & Household Cleaning” chapter. Just be ready to answer questions if they arise. Honestly? They probably won’t.
Praise for Plastic-Free
Library Journal: After learning how plastic pollution in the ocean harms wildlife, environmentalist Terry committed herself to buying less plastic in 2007 and began blogging about her efforts at MyPlasticFreeLife.com (formerly known as Fake Plastic Fish). Here, she bluntly chronicles her experience reducing her plastic waste from almost four pounds monthly to two pounds annually and creates a focused guide for all of us hoping to reduce our own plastic consumption. Though it includes an informative overview of the plastic problem, the book’s real strength lies in the practical tips Terry shares. While she started with baby steps that many of us already take, she has developed sophisticated strategies for upholding her principles and presents what she learned through her years of personal experience and product research. She offers new, repurposed, and homemade alternatives to plastic products and highlights innovative entrepreneurs and plastic-free heroes. VERDICT Works like Charles Moore’s Plastic Ocean are increasing awareness of the mounting plastic problem; Plastic Free offers concerned readers inspiration and concrete steps they can take to combat it personally. Recommended.—Bonnie Poquette, Milwaukee
“The problem or the solution starts with each one of us. We can choose to live a life of mindless consumption, becoming consumed by our possessions, or we can choose to live an inspired life, always working to create harmony with our environment. In Plastic-Free, Beth Terry shares the story of her path to a life filled with less plastic and more harmony. Anyone who reads this book will be motivated to follow her lead.” —Jack Johnson, musician, cofounder of the Ko¯kua Hawai’i Foundation
“I’ve been struggling to rid my home of plastics for years. This book makes it so much easier!” —Linda Ronstadt, musician, Plastic Pollution Coalition member
“Friendly, fun, and informative, Plastic-Free is a tutorial on how to cut plastics from your life. Beth empowers us to implement change in our own lives and save the world at the same time. Refuse disposable plastics!” —Dianna Cohen, visual artist, creative director and cofounder, Plastic Pollution Coalition
“Tempted to bring your own reusable silverware to take-out joints but dread the eye-rolling it may generate? This book is for you. With sass and intelligence, the anti-plastic crusader Beth Terry guides readers toward the road less consumptive, offering practical advice and moral support while making a convincing case that individual actions to lighten our environmental impact do matter.” —Elizabeth Royte, author, Garbage Land and Bottlemania
“We’re so addicted to plastic, it’s hard to imagine doing without it. But Beth Terry dared to imagine, and with hard work, humor and lots of trial and error—turns out there’s no easy way to make your own liquid hand soap—she broke the plastic habit. Her book is informative and inspirational—an ideal combination for anyone hoping to follow a less plastic path.” —Susan Freinkel, author Plastic: A Toxic Love Story
“We could have such lovely things in our lives. Why do we settle for crap made from plastic? Beth Terry is the pioneer when it comes to building a life filled with the things that truly matter.” —Colin Beavan, author, No Impact Man, and founder of the No Impact Project
“This is the tool that we’ve all been waiting for to ease the transition to going plastic-free. Time to wake up. Peace.” —Rosanna Arquette, actor, Plastic Pollution Coalition member
“The use of plastic is enmeshed in our American way of life. Kicking any habit is tough, but kicking a habit that is invisible in its ubiquity is even more difficult. In this important and enjoyable book, Beth Terry walks the reader through her trials and travails and shows what the average person can do to rid themselves of plastic. Along the way, she creatively demonstrates that ridding one’s life of plastic is not only good for the planet but also good for the health and the pocketbook of the American consumer. This book is inspirational and has helped me kick my plastic habit not only when shopping but throughout my daily life.” —Congressman Steve Cohen, Tennessee
“Beth Terry is one of the most inspiring people on the planet. Her wisdom about plastic-free living is a beacon of hope for what’s possible. Everyone should read this book!” —Stacy Malkan, cofounder, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of Not Just a Pretty Face
“Inspiring. Empowering. And most of all, liberating! Finally, here’s everything you need to know to live a healthy, safe, plastic-free life. Kudos to Beth Terry! She’s definitely my plastic-free guru!” —Diane MacEachern, author, Big Green Purse
“Beth is the most knowledgeable person on plastic, particularly disposable plastic, that I know. Her journey to getting rid of disposable plastic is inspiring and amazing, but she also makes it doable for the rest of us. When I first met her, I lived my life pretty nontoxic, but I still used a lot of disposable plastic. Her efforts inspired me to eliminate disposable plastic too, and faced with choices, I always ask myself WWBD (or What Would Beth Do)? She is the standard by which I measure my ‘greenness.’ “ —Jennifer Taggart, www.thesmartmama.com, author of Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure
“Plastic-Free tells a story that could inspire everyday behavior change for all of us. Small steps, leading to one big milestone—a planet free of plastic pollution. The power lies with each of us to take these steps. It is that simple.” —Daniella Dimitrova Russo, cofounder and executive director, Plastic Pollution Coalition
ADDITIONAL REVIEWS: Check out what the media have to say about Plastic-Free.
“Order Your Copy Now” Where do you tell us how much it will cost?
On the page you come to after clicking the link.
The book is $21.95. I’m going to try Barns and Noble to see if they have it on nook or amazon to see if they have it on kindle.
Since I have been diagnosed with stomach cancer (no stage yet since Drs. just found out) whats the best to beat it is to go toxic free in everyway I could fine. There is so much in our life that is high in toxic not only food, but all type of plastic is an enormouse one. My husband & I have decided to do food fasting. But what about fasting from plastic?! So, I will be putting that in my fasting too. Yes my Brothers & Sisters, I will beat cancer!! ✌️2U2 🚴🐣 😇
HAY TRY THIS!! go to the site, http://www.thelaststraw.store BEST STAINLESS STEEL STRAW ON THE MARKET!!!!!!!!
We need more Beths in this world.?
Aw. Thank you. I needed that today. ?
There isn’t enough options for people that are allergic to plastic the health food store doesn’t have any meat cheese
or almost anything that doesn’t touch plastic even cans are lined with plastic
Hi Ms. Terry, I’m a dairy farmer and I just read you book this week. It is a great resource. I’ve always considered myself to be fairly eco-aware… I studied environmental science in college, I’ve used reusable cloth bags for 9+ years, I haven’t bought bottled water in forever and I’ve cloth diapered both my children… still, this book gave me so many more ideas that I can try and ways that I can be frugal. I’ve recently started trying to be more of a “homesteader” so many of the topics you discuss overlap. It has also made me start dreaming big about where I’d like to take my dairy farm in the future with possibly opening our own creamery with glass bottles or boyo container vender machines like they have in Europe. Thank you!
Thanks Terry!! This is a wonderful resource! Looking forward to following your work.
Hi Angelo. It is not available in PDF format, but you can get it digitally on Kindle or via Kobo. It is not yet available in other languages. A publisher would need to purchase the rights from the American publisher, Skyhorse, in order to translate it.
Hi, Terry, it is possible buy your book in pdf format, there are copies in other languages?
Hi Ishka. The online shop Life Without Plastic sells a stainless steel ice cube tray. https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/stainless-steel-ice-cube-tray.html?aff=106
somewhere here I read something about plastic icecube trays. I remember when icecube trays were made from metal and had either rigid or collapsible inserts to divide the ice. What ever happened to those? They were much better.
susan lehnen I use glass jars in the freezer too. But I also use some airtight stainless steel and glass containers that I purchased from the company Life Without Plastic. Here is my review of the stainless ones: https://myplasticfreelife.com/2008/09/plastic-free-in-freezer-airtight/ And here is my review of the glass ones: https://myplasticfreelife.com/2011/06/airtight-glass-food-storage-containers-review-giveaway/
The stainless ones come in many different sizes, from small to massive. I use both kinds in the freezer. They are relatively expensive compared to glass jars, but will last a lifetime.
We grow and process much of our own food. The best solution i have found for freezing is to use freezer safe ball jars. but they are bulky. Has anyone come up with a better solution?
I ordered the pack on 8/8/13 but got a message that more books need to be received from the publisher. Could I get an Estimated Time of Arrival about that? I don’t want to forget that I ordered it or be forgotten as well.
I am a contributing writer at Natural Health Magazine and I am doing an article on cleaning plastics safely. I am going to discuss plastic alternatives, as well, and would like to interview you.
Do you have any time in next few days to speak?
Hi Cathy. Sorry… have been out of town. Would love to do an interview. Please email me on my contact form.
@Lisa Nelsen-Woods I didn’t find it in iBooks but if you have an iPad you can download Kodo books app :)
Do you realise that most of your clothes are made from recycled plastic or have plastic parts, the inside of your fridge is plastic, most of the interior of your car is plastic, if you were to end up in ICU, your life could depend on the plastic pipes, bloodbags etc – all made from plastic? etc etc etc.
Yes, you are correct. If I was in the hospital there would be many plastic materials that I would rely on to help save my life. Clothing can be purchased without plastic materials however. Working on ways to eliminate single use plastics like cups, straws, silverware, food, hygiene products and toiletries, these are areas I try and make an impact on in my everyday life in order to limit waste. We are a throw away nation where many of us think very little about how we dispose of something. In order to protect our planet and our own species, finding ways to limit the amount of waste we create is immensely important.
I Recently purchase two of your books from Amazon (so I can spread the word), disappointed that they arrived in a box with 3 plastic Fill-Air Extreme pouches which were entirely unneeded. I did send a comment to Amazon as well. Love the book. Thank you
Thanks for helping spread the word on plastic. I’m sorry to hear the books you order through Amazon came with plastic pillows.
@Lynn Hi Lynn. I do know that all the libraries are covering my book in plastic. It would be great if everyone who notices would mention it to the library and ask them to look into a more sustainable alternative for protecting the books. Here’s what I wrote about this topic a while back: https://myplasticfreelife.com/plastic-free-how-i-kicked-the-plastic-habit-and-how-you-can-too/
Dear Beth –
I just read, scanned, flipped through and totally enjoyed reading your book over a snowy weekend in Chicago.
Amazed…..you left me dazed and amazed and really ready to continue my “use reusable bag additction” EVERYWHERE I go.
But did you know….the book I got from my local library is COVERED IN A PLASTIC PROTECTION SHEET? Yup!! Probably because it is hard-cover. But did you know that the soft cover books I took out are not covered in plastic protection? Now there is probably some sort of plastic in the softcover but YOUR BOOK at MY LIBRARY is covered in plastic. So……just thought it looked a bit ironic because of the title and all.
LOVE LOVE LOVE the book! Thanks for all the great information!!!
Hi Beth! I just got your book out of my local library…I couldn’t find it in the nonfiction stacks, and I spent 15 minutes running around looking for it on displays before thinking to check the newly acquired section. D’oh! It was right there.
However, I noticed something off almost immediately- your beautiful plastic-free book…was covered in plastic?! It’s standard library practice to do that, sadly. What are your opinions on this? Is there another way to keep the books undamaged without covering them in shrinkwrap?
I’ve been enjoying your book and just wanted to comment on shopping at local independent grocery stores whenever it’s possible. When you shop at a smaller market not only do you support the local economy, the cashier knows you – and your eccentric ways when it comes to bagging or not bagging groceries. It’s good to have familiar faces when you’re trying to go green and not have to explain your motives to a different cashier every time.
Thanks for all the advice and information!
I love the Costco offers no bags but only boxes that their products came in to the store originally
Nan, hope you enjoy it!
Lisa Nelsen-Woods, there’s also a Kindle app for the iPad. Stephanie Moram read it that way, I believe. Or maybe it was on her iPhone. Not sure now. But I do think there’s a Kindle app for iPad. And I have no idea why it’s not on iTunes.
The iPad comes with their ereader iBooks. I checked iTunes and I don’t see Plastic Free listed :(
Thanks.I’ve been refusing plastic bags in shops for decades and refuse to buy stuff if it comes with plastic packaging. Even then, my house fills with plastic bags which just arrive by forces other than me. This gives me more bags than I can possibly use.It’s easy with a bit of thought (So, now, it’s automatic) but it’s amazing how even the most ‘Alternative’ friends find it very difficult to kick the automatic habit. I keep handing them their bags back and saying ‘Please, just put it in your car/bag for later’.Me – I love plastic. It’s a wonderful and magical (Though ultimately toxic and unsightly) material which I’ll miss when it runs out. I’m just don’t think ‘love’ for something is best shown by throwing it away. Good luck.
my granddaughter just started a “plastic hurts” club with her friends. she’s working on eliminating plastic shopping bags from Ithaca. We visited our mayor and he’s behind it!
I’m looking for andI can’t find the cost of the book or where to buy!
Hi Margot. If you look at the sidebar on the right, you will see lots of links for purchasing the book from online retailers. You can also request it at a local bookstore. Or you can order one directly from me, which is also one of the choices on the right if you scroll a bit. The cover price is $19.95. Right now, I have copies but the publisher is sold out, so we are waiting for a second printing to arrive in a few days and then Amazon and other retailers will have it in stock again.
Just thought you should know, I received an email from my library that they have ordered My Plastic-Free Life based on my recommendation! In such a green-minded community as Charlottesville, how could they not?
@Eve Stavros Fabulous! No don’t be surprised if they cover it in plastic. :-)
Congratulations! Thoroughly enjoyed my kindle version. Now waiting for my autographed paper version to lend to others!
Hi Peggy. Someone told me that their book from Amazon arrived plastic-free. But Amazon is difficult and can’t guarantee what packaging they will use. But June 15 is here now! You should be able to order as many copies as you want from your local bookstore. Or you can order via BuyGreen.com without plastic packaging: http://shrsl.com/?~24j2
Have you been able to work out anything with Amazon to ship plastic-free?
I received my autographed copy. Thank you! I wanted to order some more copies and can’t yet acquire it at my local independent bookstore because they said the release date to them is the 15th.
Sarah! Yes! It will be in bookstores. The best thing to do is go to your favorite local bookstore and ask them to order it. I know it will be in Barnes & Noble but I’m not sure what independent bookstores are going to order it. The publisher is reaching out to all they can, but it’s best if they hear from their customers.
Are you selling it in any stores? I want to support a bookstore that carries it.
Yes, got it from Amazon. Will definitely rate it after I read it!
Awesome! Emily, did you get it from Amazon? If so, and if you like it, will you rate it and write a review? If you don’t like it, then never mind. :-)
Hi Beth, got my copy in the mail today!! So excited. Started reading it in the subway!
Congrats, Beth! This book does a great service to our Planet.
I just read your book in two days. It is really good, but there was one downfall (which has nothing to do with you or your book at all)…….I actually got the copy from the library and my library wrapped your book in a plastic sleeve. It seemed weird reading a book about avoiding plastic and there I am sitting with a book wrapped in plastic. Let me just say, I learned a lot and have been making small changes but really need to jump in and work toward a more plastic and chemical free life.
Hi J. Yeah, I know about the libraries covering the book in plastic. I actually blogged about it when I found out. https://myplasticfreelife.com/2012/06/when-a-plastic-free-book-is-covered-in-plastic/ I’m glad the book was useful to you, despite the plastic!
Beth, I eagerly awaited a copy of your book from our regional library system. When I picked it up at my local branch, I found that the paper cover had been – gasp – covered in plastic!! I know libraries do this to increase durability so books will last through many users, but I couldn’t help marveling at the irony of it.
Yep. All the libraries are doing it because of how the book is bound. I actually wrote a post about it. Yes, ironic. https://myplasticfreelife.com/2012/06/when-a-plastic-free-book-is-covered-in-plastic/
Currently reading your book. My first impression was picking it up from the library covered in plastic. I was about to comment on that when later that same day you posted about companies shrink-wrapping them and libraries putting plastic jackets on them. Anyway, I just wanted to mention that I was very excited to watch the documentary “Bag It” on Netflix as soon as I got to that part, but it’s not on there. Has it been removed from Netflix, maybe? Just thought I’d make sure you were aware of that.
Hi. I can see Bag It it on Netflix. It’s here: https://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/Bag-It/70153545 Can you access that link?
@Beth Terry No, I can’t. It just takes me right to the Netflix home page. Hmmmm….
@Beth Terry Is it perhaps not available in Canada on Netflix?
Oh, that’s possible. I don’t know. I was going to ask you to make sure you were logged in to Netflix. If you’re not logged in, it might just take you to the home page. But it also could be that it’s not available in Canada. Perhaps you could request it.
Done!….wrote a review of your book, Beth, and I’m almost done reading it…..still loving it!
Jane I’m so glad you like it! Would you consider giving it 5 stars on Amazon and maybe writing a positive review? That will help me sell more copies to people who may not know about me or My Plastic-Free Life!
That’s great Beth! I can’t wait to read it.
Started reading it today – downloaded to Kindle App on my Android phone. It’s a great book, Beth. Congratulations and thank you for all your hard work in putting this information together for us.
i can’t wait to get a copy in my hands!!!
This is so exciting, Beth Terry I am goign to share this with my friends – my copy is on pre-order & i am so looking forward to getting this book!
Just finished reading it on my Kindle. I enjoyed reading it. How cool was that that the Kindle version was already released but the hardback doesn’t come out until June? I’ve preordered a copy of the hardback as well; after reading how the publisher tried to make it plastic free, I’m curious to see what it looks like. Interesting fact I saw: the book is printed in China….You know, whenever I read on a product that ‘s “environmentally friendly” or “printed on recycled paper” and then I see that the product was made in China, it always leaves me wondering if I can trust that the product’s label is reliable….still gonna buy the hardback anyway. Did you know on the Kindle, the total page count came out to something like 7,000 pages….took a while to download. The picture quality of the photos in the book came out really nice on the Kindle Fire. I’m curious if the photos in the hardback are in color as well or black and white.
Anyway, I’m glad I bought the book. It’s a keeper and I don’t say that about many books. Good reference book, too. I wonder how long it took to write it? I was also really impressed back the way you researched it and your use of footnotes; so many environmental books lack the footnotes, which I think tend to lend credibility to a book.
Hi, LauraY. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. Will you please write a review for Amazon and, if you are so inclined, give it a 5-star rating? That is how I can get more people to order it!
Yes, I wonder about the book being made in China, too, but I think most books these days are produced there and I didn’t have any choice of what book printer the publisher used. I was just thrilled they wanted to work hard to get the book made without plastic. The publisher sent me a photo of a prototype. I’ll add it to the description above so you can see it. And YES, the book is 4-color throughout and the formatting looks so much better in the book than on the Kindle!
I also don’t like books that are not well-researched and I tried very hard to find references to back up every claim in the book. That’s important to me in my blog posts, too. How long did it take me to write? I could say 4-1/2 years, if you count all the research I had already done since 2007. I did a lot more research for the book itself, and that took me most of 2011. I did most of the actual writing in about 3 months and took time off from work to get it done. It was difficult for me because it’s very different from writing a blog post. On a blog, there is not the same amount of pressure to get every single word right because you can always edit or write another clarifying blog post later. Not so with a hardback book!
I think the book is an amazing guide for kicking the plastic habit. I agree with earlier posting which questioned why the books had to be printed in China and whether the full life cycle of the book was considered? There are many other options for printing, that would not travel so far and which would support locally independent methods and would have less “mileage” to get from point A to B. I wonder if it is printed on 100% post-consumer fibre?
I understand the publisher works in a certain way so I guess my main point is for people to keep asking this type of question and ask it to publishers, too, otherwise there will be no local printers and bookmakers left, if all that publishers (and customers) look at is the bottom line. I think this type of thing is totally in keeping with the overall goals of what we want for a world that is “plastic free” and if there is a second printing of this book due to popularity, maybe this can be done.
Hi, Coralie. I totally hear you and agree with you. But I will say that if I had insisted on publishing this book in the United States, it would not have been published by a major publisher. That is a sad truth. So the question was whether I wanted to get the book out to as wide an audience as possible, or self-publish it and limit its reach. Right now, Barnes & Noble has agreed to include the book in the New Arrivals section in their stores. That is fantastic because it will reach people who don’t read blogs and who choose books from actual bookstores. There are many people who are not online and who I could not reach otherwise.
So what I’m saying is that we have to make choices and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, you know? Once, a long time ago, I criticized Diane MacEachern’s book Big Green Purse because it wasn’t 100% post-consumer content, and she gently educated me on the reality of the publishing world and how little power authors actually have in how their books are produced. I am extremely fortunate that I found a publisher, at a connected NYC publishing house, that was psyched to do it plastic-free.
But this is an important topic, and in the future, I will bring it up with them. Thank you for pushing.
And just one more point of clarification… please keep in mind that for people like me who have never published a book before, it’s less a matter of me choosing the publisher than the publisher choosing me. You know?