By Ian Butler, Riptide Correspondent
Through years of educational activities by the Pacifica Beach Coalition, Pacificans have a pretty solid understanding of the problems inherent in plastic. From plastic fouling our beaches to killing sea turtles and creating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, we know more than most that plastic has a downside.
But after doing many beach cleanups, we all inevitably start asking the same question: How do we stop this insanity before it happens? An important piece of the answer is found in Beth Terry’s excellent book Plastic Free—How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too.
Yes, we already live in a community that has banned takeout Styrofoam and plastic bags at the checkout counter. Many of us have moved past the ridiculous bottled-water fad, but we still see the damaging effects of our throw-away society every time we walk on the beach. We want to do more, but what does the next step look like?
In 2007 Beth Terry had an epiphany after seeing photos of a dead albatross chick on Midway Island, its stomach filled with “small pieces of plastic that had no business being out there in the middle of nowhere. Pieces of plastic like those that I myself used every day.”
At that moment she realized that she was part of the problem: “But what could I do? I knew that while I couldn’t personally go out and clean up the gyre, I could start with myself.” So she undertook the daunting task of living her life, as much as possible, without plastic. She started a blog, now called MyPlasticFreeLife.com, and began sharing what she learned. Eventually it evolved into her book.
Plastic Free is essential reading for those inspired by Charles Moore, discoverer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff. As Beth puts it, “There are so many books and movies these day alerting people to the environmental problems we face, but few offering real, practical solutions. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a lot of them!”
And that she does. From food to cleaning products to beauty care, Beth has already spent seven years figuring out what might work—or not. With a lighthearted and often humorous style that cuts through our natural defensiveness, she doesn’t take herself too seriously. “I didn’t write this book to tell anyone what to do,” she says, “but as an invitation to join me in this journey of personal discovery.”
And lest we assume her discovery was a smooth path to change, Beth bares her darkest hour: “One night, around 2 AM, I found myself at the 24 hour Longs Drugstore down the street, frenetically pacing up and down the aisles…desperate to find something not made out of plastic.” Anyone who has been to a drugstore lately can imagine the absurdity of Beth's predicament. It’s exactly how an albatross might feel.
Plastic Free is available at Florey’s Book Co., 2120 Palmetto, Sharp Park, Pacifica.
Watch my "Wavelength" interview with Beth on Pacifica Community Television (PCT).