Through her Ted Talk and blog at My Plastic-Free Life, Beth Terry, author of Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can, Too has reached tens of thousands of people who are now striving to live as plastic-free as they can. Beth could have taken her deep desire to help the planet in many directions. Instead, she chose to focus on the one thing she felt most passionate about and where she believed she could truly make a difference.
Beth is a beautiful example of someone who chose a specific path, and became a leader, an educator, and a go-to expert.
Beth Terry already lived an eco-friendly life when she saw a photo of a young albatross washed ashore on the beach. The bird’s stomach had decomposed, exposing its inner contents. Blue and orange plastic caps and other bits of plastic revealed the likely story of its demise.
Beth is not sure why that particular photo had such an impact on her. Perhaps timing had something to do with it. A recent hysterectomy dashed her hopes of birthing children. The idea that a mother albatross unwittingly fed toxic trash to her babywas a turning point. Beth realized she’d played a role in the death of this baby bird, and committed then and there to doing more.
While Beth believed her carbon footprint was already light – no children, no car, financial support for Greenpeace – she started to look at the plastic she used every day. Beth created a spreadsheet and tallied her waste, starting a blog so she could post her journey publicly.
Attempting to live a plastic-free life is not without challenges.
Beth first had to decide where to start. It seemed impractical to throw out the remainder of the products she had, she used those up first and replaced them as they ran out.
Plastic shopping bags and bottles seemed easiest to give up next. An occasional runner, Beth trained herself to bring her own stainless steel bottle or forgo the water altogether for shorter runs. When running errands, she eliminated the habit of sports bars for quick energy.
“One of my biggest Aha! moments came when I realized that I would be okay if I didn’t always get what I wanted when I wanted it.”
Beth has not eliminated all the plastic from her life, but while most of us would describe our own plastic waste in terms of the number of recycle bins we put out every week, Beth talks about dental floss and the plastic cap on her vinegar bottle.
She’s reduced her plastic waste from the average of 100 pounds per year to less than two pounds.
“I’ve had to ask myself some hard questions and I have found that I can survive without some things. Some of what I have given up – like processed food – has been a bonus for my health. I have learned to make household cleaners, soap and tomato sauce.”
Beth proudly announces the checkbook cover she recently made. What she can’t make, she looks for in companies that offer plastic-free options.
Beth is the first to say she is not on a mission to judge others for their habits.
She wishes only to showcase alternatives and to use herself as an example of possibilities. When she chose this lifestyle, Beth never even asked her husband to do the same. She shared why she was doing it – the harmful chemicals not only leach into our bodies but into the ground and potentially our drinking water, the toxins released in the recycling process, the photo of the bird – but she shared in the context of personal commitment only. What she found over time, however, was that her husband climbed aboard.
Beth Terry is the founder of My Plastic-Free Life. View her TED Talk through the TEDx Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The Savvy Path blog features one topic a month from many different perspectives. This month we are featuring BPA. Peruse more ideas and tips here: