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I live in awe of Beth Terry and I think once you meet her, you will too. If you don't know who she is, check out her blog, My Plastic Free Life and you will find a site that is dedicated to helping the rest of the world kick the petroleum based, lifetime of waste, killer plastic habit. What you won't see is the woman I have come to know as a caring soul who was raised by a family that strengthened who she was meant to be from a very young age allowing her to make the impact she is making on mankind.
The Washington Post says Beth Terry's new book is "really, really, really earnest, and yet . . . it’s also practical and hopeful, with a kind of cheerleading charm." I say it is a necessary read on the road to a greener lifestyle.
Come with me as I chat with Beth Terry and get a taste of a plastic free, greener lifestyle.
A Chat with Beth Terry, Author of Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too
EB: In your book, Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, you talk about "that magic place called “away”" where your plastic trash went but you didn't see or have to think about. Aside from reading your book, what do you think needs to happen to mainstream America to get consumers thinking about "that magic place called "away""?
|Beth Terry -|
To me, the most important thing is for those of us who have "taken the red pill" and seen the truth about our trash to tell our stories to our families, our friends, our communities, through our blogs or other media outlets. Humans resonate with human stories. I can show you an image of a town in China that has become a toxic waste dump for the West's plastic "recycling," but letting you know how sad it makes me feel and speaking from my heart to the people I care about will hopefully have a greater impact than simply reporting news and splashing sensational images across the media. Unfortunately, many of us have become desensitized to information overload. That's why I think we have to find a way to make it personal and to set an example for what is possible, which is what I'm trying to do through my blog and book.
EB: When you were a child, you wrote a play about the environment that your classmates acted out and through the work you did after college, clearly cared about living a green life. Yet, like many of us, at some point that care for the planet and its wildlife seemed to get buried. On page 5 of the Introduction you write, "And then, somehow, I lost those early convictions. The practicalities of making a living took over. My priorities changed. By the time I saw the photo of that dead albatross chick, I had become the kind of person who would choose double plastic bags at the grocery store on purpose and even gloat a little about her post-tree-hugger status." When do you think the disconnect occurs in people and how do you think it can be prevented?
Beth: Back in the 80's, during my brief stint as a canvasser with Clean Water Action, I remember sitting in a bar with my fellow co-workers and watching the Bush v. Dukakis election returns coming in. We were all bleeding heart Democrats, so as the night wore on, we found ourselves getting more and more depressed. A self-described "yuppy" woman at a table nearby leaned over to us and said, "Oh, I used to be as idealistic as you guys. But you'll see. In a few years, when you start making money, you'll become more practical and conservative." At the time, I thought, "no way that will ever happen to me." And then it did. I got burned out and quit that job to become an accountant. I stopped thinking so much about environmental issues. I still cared, but I stopped trying to do anything about it.
Maybe the disconnect happens when you realize how big the problem is and start to think that your personal actions won't make any difference. Maybe it happens because we expect change to happen too quickly, and when we don't see immediate results, we give up. But what I'm discovering is that for a lot of women, especially, caring for the planet and the safety of the beings on the planet becomes important again after they have children. There are so many moms who are waking up to the harmful chemicals their children are exposed to everyday. I myself don't have children, but I do think it was a similar maternal instinct that initially drove me to want to solve the plastic pollution problem. And what both of these examples boil down to is connection. When we feel connected to other beings on the planet, we want to do what we can to make it as safe and livable as possible.
And then, we have to look at the actions we take in a different light. The last chapter of my book is called "9 Reasons Our Personal Changes Matter." We can be tempted to think that what we do won't make a difference in the long run. But there are lots of ways in the short run that reducing our plastic consumption can make us healthier and happier!
EB: Since so many people go into an office to work each day, can you offer a few tips to help them get their co-workers and companies excited and on-board to decrease plastic use from 9-5?
Beth: The very first thing to do, before focusing on your company or your co-workers, is to look at your own habits and practices. Do you bring your lunch in a reusable container? Do you buy bottled water or carry your own reusable bottle? Do you recycle at the office like you would at home? One of the first things I did after starting my plastic-free project was to bring reusable utensils and dishes to work to use in the lunchroom instead of disposables. And I went to a thrift store and bought a bunch of super cheap secondhand forks, spoons, and knives and ceramic mugs for other people in the office to use. Another thing I did was to get a recycling system set up in my workplace. While recycling is not the answer to our plastic pollution problem (In fact, Chapter 4 of my book is entitled, "Why Can't We Just Recycle It All?"), for our workmates, it might be the best place to start.
Another strategy might be to look into ways to save money. For example, how much could your company save by installing a water filter instead of purchasing bottled water? Even water in 5-gallon cooler jugs costs a lot, and those jugs contain BPA. At the law firm where my husband works, he encouraged the managing partner to not only cancel the firm's bottled water contract, but to purchase stainless steel water bottles for everyone in the office. It was actually less expensive in the long run.
EB: In chapter 10 of Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, you talk about personal responsibility as it pertains to facing environmental challenges. Do you think Americans need to pass more laws at the Federal level to help propel society as a whole forward toward environmental stewardship - or is that going too far and infringing upon personal rights and freedom?
Beth: For me, your freedom ends where my health and well-being begin. So yes, I do feel we need to pass more laws to protect the environment. Our planet belongs to all of us, and your pollution affects me. I would like to see restrictions on single-use disposable plastics; updated toxic chemical legislation that requires companies to prove their products are safe before placing them on the market; Extended producer responsibility legislation which makes companies responsible for the full life cycle of the products they produce; and I would also like manufacturers of plastic products to be required to disclose all of the chemical additives in their products. Right now, we as customers have no way of knowing what chemicals could be leaching out of plastic products because companies are not required to disclose any of the additives they put in. And believe me, the number on the bottom of a plastic item does not tell you the full story. It only tells you what kind of plastic it is, but not what else has been added to it. I talk a lot about that in my book.
EB: What do you say to people who seem to believe the necessity to live greener does not exist and say things like, "There is no Pacific Ocean garbage patch. That is just a lie made up by crazy environmentalists trying to run my life." or, "Something is going to end the world anyway, why should I stress about it?"
Beth: Honestly? I don't engage much with people who think that way. My dad asked me once if I wasn't just preaching to the choir, and I responded that I know I'm preaching to the choir, but there is a lot of stuff the choir doesn't know! There is a huge movement of people who hear stories about the dangers of plastic and are concerned but don't have any idea what they can do about it. Those are the people I want to reach. Because those are the people who have been waiting for a book like mine. Honestly? This is the book I wish someone else had written for me five years ago when I was just starting on my plastic-free journey.
Beth has made it possible for us all to be green and start on our plastic free journey so don't wait to start to make changes. Get your blueprint to a plastic free lifestyle by picking up your copy of Beth's Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too today. Then pass it on to a friend. Be sure to RT this post and share it on Facebook because together, we can all make this planet a better place for all.
Check out more great posts from my green friends about Beth and her new book, Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too
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