On the road toward a plastic-free life.
June 23, 2011

I remember bumping into Greenpeace volunteers several summers back at the grocery store.  One of the volunteers said that he had to stand in the sweltering heat collecting signatures about climate change when he could be playing with his kids because nobody else was willing to speak up for them and for the world they stood to inherit.

A few months ago I tuned into public radio in time for an interview with Susan Freinkel, the author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story.  This is not a review of her book, because quite frankly I’m only about two chapters into it.  They have been a riveting two chapters, but it’s hard to recommend a book based on that, isn’t it?

No, this is about the interview.  The interview where a woman said that she made a decision to spend a day entirely plastic-free, but ten seconds in realized that it was an impossible feat: the toilet seat was made of plastic.  So instead, she compiled a list of everything she came in contact with during the course of an ordinary day that contained plastics.

The result was a book.

I learned a lot of little facts in the interview – like the fact that dry cleaning bags have suffocation warnings because people tried to recycle them as mattress liners for infants who, in turn, suffocated – but I also came home and felt…frustrated.  What about the people?  Don’t we have the right to a plastic-free lifestyle if we want one?  And, given the science about the need for sustainability and the harms of plastics and plastic production, shouldn’t a plastic-free lifestyle be easy?  And isn’t living plastic-free more ecologically responsible, anyway?

Since my toilet seats are made of wood, I tried to go plastic-free the following day.  It was harder than I thought.  Light switches!  Receipts!  Stovetop knobs!  The waterproof part of cloth diapers!  CD cases!  The keyboard!  The car-seat!  Garden pots!  Are there any plastics in clothing tags?  What about my cell phone?  Book jackets?  What exactly are ‘synthetic fibers’ in couch cushions made of?

I’ve long been a fan of Beth Terry’s website and my family has gradually been eliminating plastic from our lives, so I thought that I would have an easier time of living plastic-free than most.  But it proved impossible.

For the very first time, I felt like I understood that Greenpeace volunteer.  It made me…sad.

My plastic-free life | Rise above plastics | Susan Freinkel’s website | Susan Freinkel on Facebook


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  1. By Sarah on June 23, 2011

    Good luck with that! I’ve thought about it many times, but unless my husbands gets on board and we go self sufficient (me dream) it ain’t gonna happen! :-(

  2. By on June 23, 2011

    Thanks, Sarah =)  I’m lucky in that Donald is totally on board - he’s as wary of the various chemicals and their properties and effects on human and environmental health as I am…but I have to admit that he doesn’t seem too excited about certain parts of it.

    Like tupperware.  I think he’s going to miss his tupperware.

  3. By Leslie Crane on June 24, 2011

    This is a total bummer and a reality check.

  4. By on June 24, 2011

    My senior year of high school, some plastics company was giving away a scholarship. You had to write an essay on how plastics have influenced your life. A friend of mine won the contest by writing about a normal day and all the plastic she come in contact with from her alarm clock and toothbrush in the morning all the way through to the end of the day. I never read the paper myself, but I remember thinking about it when ‘the issue of plastics’ first really came to my attention.

    I remember when I first made the effort to start reducing, I wondered what difference it would make to get rid of Tupperware and plastic cups. What difference would it make to use stainless steel canteens and glass bottles if virtually every other item I touched was plastic… But I started to reduce anyway… And still am… And I know like every other thing we’ve done to make our home more chemical free… More environmentally friendly… Every little bit helps. That again, we are changing demands for products, making a positive influence on friends and family and headed in a positive direction.

  5. By Tracy Roberts on June 24, 2011

    So if the light switch is already in your house and you are not buying new ones, you cant touch it???

    Thanks for the link, we also are moving towards this.  I would love to hear more of your tips though like food containers, they are my nemesis!


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