Simplify Your Life by Using Less Plastic

by Tammy Strobel on April 29, 2010

An Interview with Beth Terry

For the past month, I’ve been interviewing amazing bloggers about minimalism, location independence, financial freedom and more. Every Thursday, a feature interview is posted on RowdyKittens. Last week, I spoke to Leo Babauta from Zen Habits and mnmlist. This week the feature interview is with Beth Terry from Fake Plastic Fish. We talked about plastic, cultivating superpowers and how every individual can make a difference.

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Tammy Strobel: What prompted you to stop using plastic?

Beth Terry: Back in June of 2007, I saw a photo and read an article that changed my life. The photo was the carcass of a dead albatross chick whose body was full of plastic pieces. My heart just broke. And I realized that my personal actions, buying a lot of disposable plastic on a regular basis, could be contributing directly to the suffering of creatures I hadn’t even known existed. Global warming wasn’t tangible to me. The plastic inside that chick was.

Tammy: A number of my friends would love to cut plastic out of their lives, but don’t know where to start. Can you recommend 3 actions people can take to decrease the amount of plastic in their households?

Beth: 1) Bring your own grocery bags to the store and stop taking plastic produce bags. You don’t need a separate bag for each item. Apples and oranges get along fine together during the short ride home, as do broccoli and green peppers. If you need a produce bag for smaller items, you can use cloth bags or wash and bring back the plastic bags you already have.

2) Cut out bottled beverages and carry your own stainless steel water container or travel mug. I myself prefer a travel mug because it is so versatile. I can get hot or cold drinks in it. Your mileage may vary. Make friends with water fountains and have the gumption to go into eateries and ask for free water in your own container.

3) Look at all the processed foods, frozen foods, energy bars, cereals, etc. that you buy and figure out which things you can cut out. Eating whole foods instead of processed is healthier and helps us reduce waste, plastic and otherwise. If you have stores that sell foods in bulk bins where you can bring your own bags and containers, use them. If not, skip individual serving sizes and buy the largest size packages you will actually be able to consume. They use much less plastic than individual servings.

Tammy: I know you’re working on a book. Can you tell us a little bit about the book and why you decided to write it?

Beth: The book is in the planning stages. It is part personal journey, the things I have learned through learning to live mindfully with less plastic, as well as a guide for peopled who’d like to get started themselves. It will be much better organized than the information on Fake Plastic Fish!

Tammy: Has using less plastic simplified your life or made it more complex?

Beth: Well, it’s done both, actually. I do have to think more about what I buy and be prepared. But once those habits are in place, they become automatic. It’s simplified my life because I find myself shopping a lot less and buying a lot less stuff.

Tammy: Has your family been supportive of your project?

Beth: For the most part, yes. In the beginning, they were skeptical. I think they were worried I was judging them. But because I realize that I am in no way perfect, I don’t feel I have a right to judge others. I just want to be an example. And my family sees that. I think they are proud of me, actually. I have a funny video on my web site: an interview with my husband about how he feels about my plastic-free ways. It’s here.

Tammy: What books are you always telling people to read?

Beth: Hmm… not many books except for Bottlemania and now The Story of Stuff.

There are more movies:

And coming up: I have a small part in the film BagIt, which is still in production.

Tammy: Do our personal actions really make a difference?

Beth: Yes! Here are a few reasons why…

a) We know they are the right things to do
b) We want to live in harmony with nature
c) We become more invested in the outcome of our actions and have the will to push for changes on a larger scale.
d) We see the limits to personal actions and realize in what areas we need to push our governments and businesses to reduce the amount of waste they create in the first place.

Tammy: Everyone has unique skills; skills that I call superpowers. What is your superpower(s)?

Beth: OMG. My superpowers are both blessings and curses.

a) The ability to get by with very little sleep, for one thing. It’s necessary when you are a blogger, activist, and also have a job as an accountant.

b) An obsessive nature and single focus that can at times drive me and others crazy, but that also helps me accomplish what I set out to do. A dogged persistence.

c) A naivete that compels me to try new things even if they seem impossible.

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