Beth Terry confesses that she’s shy. An accountant in the Oakland, California, area, this sprite of a woman is the unlikely David to the Goliath of plastic over-use. In 2007, though, after seeing a disturbing photograph, Terry had the light-bulb moment that made her want to try living a plastic-free life. She documented her experiences and experiments in a blog, now known as My Plastic-Free Life, and has written a book called Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too.
In our fair town, plastic bags were banned as of November 1, and our local food co-op brought Beth Terry to town to share her expertise. I knew I’d be out mushroom hunting earlier in the afternoon (more about that tomorrow) and didn’t know if I’d get back in time, so I downloaded her book and started reading it in advance of her visit. Hubby and I were already working to reduce our plastic waste, but My Plastic-Free Life has given me even more ideas.
For example, our co-op allows us to bring our own containers and buy items in bulk. This has allowed me to reduce my usage of plastic containers for automatic dishwashing detergent, laundry soap, protein powder, and more. However, I am a soda junkie (I’m not kidding, I’ve tried numerous times to quit), so what can I do? As a result of reading Terry’s book, I’ve learned that I can make my own. With some experience making kombucha under my belt, I feel comfortable with trying the fermentation method of soda, which creates the lowest environmental footprint.
Still, despite my good intentions, I’ve become painfully aware of the many ways that plastic finds its way into our lives. My Thanksgiving shop was an eye opener! Thankfully, I redeemed myself somewhat later in the day when I made my own toilet bowl cleaner and all-purpose cleaner, using re-usable containers.
Terry stresses that she doesn’t try to tell anyone what to do, and she doesn’t attempt to “guilt trip” people into living the way she does (she brought a two-pound bag of plastic to the presentation, which represented ALL of her plastic waste for 2011). She wants to demonstrate what’s possible over time, and suggests that we start with one or two small changes and go from there. She didn’t go cold turkey and doesn’t ask that we do, either. Collectively, if we all do SOMETHING, we will make a big difference.
Terry’s book is matter-of-fact and packed with resources for plastic-free products you may not realize are available. She also shares stories of some of her heroes. If you’re thinking about reducing your environmental impact or the toxic load in your home, this book is for you!
This is fascinating. It’s something I’ve been working toward for several years. I already use common household items for cleaning – baking soda, vinegar, etc. – but I never thought about how it reduces my use of plastic. A great side-effect! I’ve used canvas grocery bags for years and a few years ago, I got mesh bags to use for produce. Then Whole Foods came out with small canvas bags for bulk items, so I bought a few of those to use. I buy all kinds of things in the bulk section – flours, beans, rices, spices, nuts… so I… Read more »
When I started using canvas bags a few years ago, I quickly realized how much easier it was to bring the groceries in from the car. That alone made me a quick convert! I throw my bags in the same washer load as my towels, and I have enough bags to always keep a clean supply.
I think that the homemade cleaning supplies work GREAT! I use recipes from a book called Clean House, Clean Planet, and they work pretty well. I’ve had that book for years and years.
We buy in bulk and recycle our plastic, but I have to admit that we still use plastic bags. We use them for collecting kitty litter. I don’t know what we’d use in place of that. Any ideas?
Good question. I remembered that Beth Terry mentioned having cats, so I went to her blog and did a search. Here’s her take on your question: