1. How did you get started on the My Plastic Free Life project?
Five years ago, I saw a photograph that changed my life. I was stuck at home recuperating from a hysterectomy and entertaining myself by browsing the Internet. Eventually, I stumbled upon an article about plastic pollution in the ocean. Not exactly entertainment, but it hooked me. I hadn’t heard about this problem before. Scrolling down the page, I was shocked suddenly by image of a dead albatross chick, its carcass full of everyday plastic pieces that it had mistaken for food… bottle caps and things I used and threw away on a regular basis. A maternal instinct kicked in that I hadn’t even known I had, and in that moment I found my purpose. I couldn’t continue the mindless consumer lifestyle I had been living. So I decided to see what it would be like to try and live without acquiring any new plastic products or packaging. And I also began collecting my plastic waste (both recyclable and non) each week to see what my plastic footprint was. I honestly had no idea. That is how the blog My Plastic-Free Life began.
2. What are you working on right now?
My first book was published last year. Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too is basically the guide I wish had existed when I was first starting my plastic-free journey. It is an accumulation of what I have learned over the years, presented in a very logical, organized, yet sometimes humorous way, so that anyone can easily understand the problems with plastic and get started on the steps to reduce their plastic footprint. Nowadays, when I’m not doing my accounting job, I travel the country with my book to give talks on plastic-free living and inspire people to make a difference. And I continue to research plastic and plastic-free alternatives and blog about my discoveries at MyPlasticFreeLife.com.
This week, I’m super excited about an open letter to Richard Branson I posted on my blog regarding plastic on Virgin America airplanes. A couple of days after my post went up, Branson himself responded on his own blog! Through the Plastic Pollution Coalition, I have scheduled a Skype meeting with him and his team to discuss ways Virgin America can be a leader in reducing plastic in the airline industry. This is just one example of what can happen when we speak up! I’ll keep you posted on the results of the meeting.
3. Why are you passionate about toxic chemicals and our health?
Plastics are full of toxic chemicals — some of which are known and some of which are held as a secret by the petrochemical industry. Plastics may contain hormone disruptors like Bisphenol-A and phthalates, as well as other additives like heavy metals (lead, cadmium, etc.), antibacterial chemicals, flame retardants, and possibly thousands of other additives used to affect the qualities of the plastic product. What’s really frightening is that most of the additives in plastics are never disclosed to the public, so there’s no way for us to know if any particular plastic product is actually safe. Even products labelled as BPA-free may contain additives that are just as bad or worse than BPA.
4. Why are you part of Women’s Voices for the Earth?
Women have incredible power that many of us don’t realize we have. Through the choices we make in what to buy — or not buy — we can demand safer products. But it’s not enough for each of us individually to make changes. We need to make our collective voices heard. Women’s Voices for the Earth is an organization working to do just that.
5. What’s the biggest change you hope to make in the world?
My hope is that the personal changes I have made will be magnified by the example that I set. I want people to realize that they have choices, and that those choices matter. And I especially want women to realize that our voices are powerful if we just speak up.