(The following post includes an affiliate link to the book I’m reviewing, in case you decide to read it for yourself.)
Imagine your daily routine without plastic. Could you do without that bottled water in the vending machine, or a packet of ketchup at the fast food restaurant or the bag the checker offers you at the grocery store? Imagine what Earth Day would be like without our dependence on petrochemical plastics.
We’ve all been there, immersed in the convenience of a plastic-filled lifestyle. Author Beth Terry enjoyed all conveniences of the plastic-filled life herself, until she saw the photo of an albatross chick that had died a cruel death because of mistaking human plastic garbage for food. Thus began Terry’s life-changing journey of living without most of the new and disposable plastic items that the modern world offers us. Like the accountant that she is by profession, she started taking stock of exactly what plastics she was using in exactly what amounts and deciding what she could do about them.
In her book Plastic Free, this author and blogger points out that the average person generates between 88 and 120 pounds of plastic waste each year. Terry has found ways to cut that down to just two pounds of plastic waste each year. She has inspired people to try habits as simple as reusing cloth tote bags for groceries, as tedious as making your own ketchup and mustard, and as innovative as recycling a plastic item you sell as a business owner. Terry notably convinced the Clorox company to recycle its Brita water filters sold to US customers.
The depth of detail in Plastic Free is enough to open your eyes to our global plastic problem and to provide you with enough gee whiz facts to impress friends at the next dinner party. Did you know most chewing gum is made from plastic materials? I didn’t, either, until reading this book. Did you know that the triangular chasing arrows on a plastic item don’t necessarily mean it can be recycled? Did you realize that aseptic packaging is often not recycled and why?
Terry has researched the environmentally destructive impacts of plastic manufacturing, transportation and disposal as well as the safety implications of habits like heating food in plastic containers. She makes a compelling argument for at least shifting some of our convenience habits to more thoughtful plastic-less ways of doing things. And the book is chock-full of tips and tricks to help the rest of us make some changes.
I admit I’m not ready to commit to making my own mustard or taking my own containers for restaurant take-out foods like Terry does. She does inspire me to continue toting reusable shopping bags and slowly replacing household plastics with more sustainable materials. She reassures me that frugal strategies like buying secondhand plastic outdoor toys for my kids can be eco-friendly solutions for those of us on tight budgets.
Plastic Free is a great read if you want a closer look at the real story behind our modern plastic conveniences. Terry’s lifestyle may not be for everybody, and she readily admits that. I’ve shared with her myself, for instance, that I try to send waste-free lunches and snacks for my kids; yet sometimes life calls for single serving packaging. When those times come up, Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too encourages me to think twice before sending yet more plastic to the landfill.
You can follow Beth Terry’s adventures on her blog My Plastic Free Life!