Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Book of the Week: Beth Terry goes "Plastic Free"

Since June of 2007, Terry has been engaged in one long, grand experiment to rid her life of plastic. She's chronicled her adventures in a blog, now called My Plastic-free Life. And now we get the book version.

Book of the Week: Beth Terry goes "Plastic Free"

Beth Terry freely admits that she was an addict.

Her substance? Plastic.

She ate plastic-wrapped junk food. She drank coffee from disposable cups with plastic lids. She wore high-tech clothing made, at least in part, from plastic. She generated bins full of plastic trash, "But what did I care? I didn't see where it went. It just disappeared to the magic place called 'away.' "

That was a long time ago. Since June of 2007, Terry has been engaged in one long, grand experiment to rid her life of plastic.

She's chronicled her adventures in a blog, now called My Plastic-free Life. And now we get the book version.

Her first two steps, the ones she found made the most difference, were to switch to refillable water bottles and reusable grocery bags.

I've written about Terry before, and some readers found her a tad obsessive. She began making homemade mustard, for instance, because she couldn't find any that didn't come in plastic jars.

And so much more, all of it detailed in a warm and chatty style in the new book, "Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can, Too."

Terry started her project mostly for herself. She felt responsible for her own plastic footprint -- the fossil fuel use it entailed, the trash problem it caused, the chemicals that she worried were leaching into herself and her environs from it -- and she wanted to change. The blog brought her views to a wider audience, and now the book serves as a guide to still more.

She writes a lot about plastic bottles -- our "drinking problem" -- and plastic bags, and why it's not okay to just recycle it all, and why bioplastics aren't really a better alternative.

It's loaded with tips (how to make your own cosmetics, for instance, since most come in plastic) and, as a finale, a chapter titled "Nine Reasons Our Personal Changes Matter."

A funny sideline: The publisher made every attempt to reduce the plastic incorporated into the book, of course. It's got a stiff cardboard cover and what must be non-plastic thread to stitch the binding. But as the book started to come out, Terry found that some outlets were wrapping it in plastic to protect it! Ditto, some libraries were adding plastic covers.

So Terry's battle continues. She's aghast at the packaging, but she's resigned to the library covers, on the theory that protecting the books so more people can read them -- instead of buying new -- is good.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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