Book review: Plastic Free, How I Kicked the Plastic Habit

Compared to the average Jane, I’ve considered myself fairly well-informed about the damage done to people and planet by plastic. Then I read Beth Terry’s book, Plastic Free, How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, and I realized how underinformed I really was.

Simply put, Plastic Free is an eye opener. No matter how much you already know, this book will show you more. Plastic in the forms we know it today has only been around since the 1930′s.

In less than 90 years, plastic has invaded every single aspect of our lives—from the glaringly obvious like plastic bags, bottles, caps, wraps, toys and tech equipment to the pills we swallow, the straws we sip from, the clothing we wear, and the books we read. It’s in wine corks, boxes, sponges, brushes, backpacks, carpet, furniture—I seriously doubt there is an end to the list.

We no longer seem to be able to live without plastic. So what’s wrong with that?

Beth does a great job of explaining the problems which basically come down to two issues: “plastic is made from fossil sources, mainly petroleum and natural gas, the extraction and processing of which can cause massive environmental damage or in the case of natural gas, allows methane to escape into the atmosphere, where it is a cause of global warming up to thirty-three times worse than carbon dioxide.”

Secondly, plastic contains toxic chemicals. The FDA’s banning of BPA in baby bottles is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to plastics that impact human and Earth health.

Beth delves into additional problems of course including the fact that plastic manufacturing plants harm workers and pollute communities, plastic is not biodegradable and pollutes the ocean and that recycling doesn’t do what it should which is to reduce the production of new plastic.

But Plastic Free doesn’t simply burst our bubble of complacency around what was (and still is) considered a marvelous scientific achievement, then leave us wringing our hands.

Leading by example is Beth’s forte as she embarks on a voyage to banish as much plastic as possible from her life.

We get to watch over her shoulder on what proves to be an emotional journey of evaluating where she is and figuring out what she can change to get where she wants to go.

It’s the same journey that we took when writing Celebrate Green! and that others are taking as they tackle a variety of issues around sustainability.

Some of Beth’s ideas may fall on deaf ears, just as ours do. But the important takeaway from Plastic Free, whether or not you strive to live that way, is that each of us in our individual actions played a role in getting us where we are. And each of us can make choices for a better future.

After all, how hard is it to:

  • Order drinks with  “No straw please”
  • Use cloth napkins at birthday parties
  • Substitute vinegar and baking soda for many household cleaners (and avoid buying cleaners in plastic bottles)
  • Consider used instead of new when it comes to plastic items we “need”
  • Choose plastic-free binders and notebooks
  • Stand up against bottled water and plastic bags
  • Buy metal bottles, cups and mugs instead of plastic
  • Support the green economy with our wallets

Plastic Free is jam packed with ideas not only to alleviate the tyranny of plastic, but to invigorate us in choosing alternatives. If you are ready to take steps towards a plastic-free-er life, this book provides an inspiring road map.

If you found this review helpful and think others might too, please tweet: RT@CelebrateGreen Highly recommends Beth Terry’s book “Plastic Free.” No pain, lots of gain from ridding lives of plastic.

Note: I purchased a copy of Plastic Free to review.

Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and authors of  Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, and founders of Green Halloween®.

About the Authors