Good news Lower Mainlanders. We are hosting a friends and family premiere of our documentary: From the Waste Up- Life Without Plastic on April 15th at Vancity Theatre. If you have been a blog reader you are considered family. Tickets are 15$ and available (cash only) at the Soap Dispensary on Main Street. Doors and reception at 7pm, show at 8pm. Photobooth, prizes, shwag, and all that good stuff. Sorry, 18+ only as our film is not yet classified- proceeds from the night will go towards paying for classification. See you there? If you are far, I will announce film fest showings here when we get there.

Dear people of Apple Park,

I am your ideal customer. I don’t buy a lot of things, but when I do, I look for sustainability and quality. The price tag often goes unnoticed, because buying less I can afford more. Plus the health of my baby and Earth is worth every penny. I’ve been searching for a plush toy for my 14-month old boy that fits the bill.

There is so much crap out there and I have yet to find a good one. Some of the Waldorf stuff is nice, but a stiff ball of cotton and wool isn’t super cuddly. Plus I would like an animal, not a human.

Dilly Dally on Commercial Drive in Vancouver just got your Picnic Pal bunnies in. I noticed them right away. Could it be?!

Cute. Check.

Cuddly. Check.

Not packaged in plastic. Check.

Package printed with soy ink. Nice touch.

Organic cotton cover. Check.

Corn fiber filling. Now we’re talking!

But wait! Plastic pellets mixed in with the fibers!? I knew it was too good to be true.

My apologies, but your advertising is misleading. Eco-friendly, sustainable, and organic plastic is not. Nor is it “good for the whole Earth” to borrow your words.

First, I’m sure you know what plastic is made from. And furthermore, perhaps you know that plastic is a material that doesn’t biodegrade…ever. Those nurdles, as the pellets are called, escape from the manufacturing process in vast numbers and now pollute every beach imaginable. For thousands of years I might add. Just have a stroll and sift next time. Wouldn’t you feel bad if a baby turtle’s first food was a plastic pellet from your bunny?  Or having our children and their children, make pellet, instead of sand castles?  Sadly that is not that much of an over exaggeration.  What more?  In the ocean, those little nurdles act like magnets for pollutants. So much so that you can have a plastic pellet up to a million times the concentration of toxins- like DDT and PCBs- than the surrounding water. Give that to a fish that thinks it’s food, then put that fish on the plate of our young ones.

You are so close, but your money is still in my pocket. What is preventing you from going the distance? Would the bunny suffer without the pellets? Finding an alternative to those pellets would be awesome and would set a positive example for other toy companies. While you’re at it, can you find a cool alternative to the recycled plastic eyes too? If so, I’ll buy two.

I am posting this letter on my blog, Plastic Manners. My readers are also potentially your customers, with 44 dollars in their pockets. Having said this, you have some time; the average Jane customer may not notice the dirty little secret yet, but I assure you they will. With wooden and organic toys on the rise in popularity, there will not only be increasing competition out there soon, but an increasing number of careful label readers, as well as skeptics, of broad, yet empty, claims of sustainability.

You make a “Green Promise” on your website: “Safe for children, better for the environment, and always beautifully green.” Here is your chance to not only get ahead of the game, but deliver on that promise.

Thank you for your time, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Sincerely, Taina Uitto

I’m still on a major kick about plastic free clothing and have become an obsessive label reader. Did you know, for example, that the run of the mill plaid shirt is now most often polyester blended. What I’ve found is that the trendier/larger the brand- as per perusing the local surf shops- the cheaper the material. No surprise really, but somehow still. Draped in plastic we are.

Doing some last-minute filming, I had the great privilege of going to the dump the other day. A lovely garbage warrior agreed to take me to the open pit, that is, to the tip of the volcano where the trash is yet not buried. She drove her little car like a madwoman over the heaps of what used to be and, in the case of plastic, still is and will be. My stomach flipped out of fright, but also and odd excitement. Maybe its because trash is private; no one wants you snooping in their bin. But safely at the top of the mountain- which by the way used to be a lake- the region’s dirty little secrets are exposed.

I hope that everyone goes to the dump at least once in their life. It is revolting and endlessly fascinating.

Construction debris. A slab of red meat. Bags upon bags upon bags. Mattress. Plastic laundry hamper. Dead seagull. Croc. Sock. Pen. Stuffed toy. Croc. More bags. Wraps. Film. Croc… What is going on here! How many of those stupid plastic shoes can one population discard at any given time?!

Does everyone know the shoe I speak of? Gives you a spotted tan. Looks completely foolish…

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Has anyone ever studied whether plastic chemicals leach out and absorb into sweaty feet? Will I get an angry letter from the company?

A friend on mine told me that he went to tour factories in China. One factory, he said, was solely dedicated to making the plastic hanger for said type of shoe. It might look something like this:

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Reflect on that for a second. AN ENTIRE FACTORY! All that oil, energy, pollution, manpower…dedicated to the disposable hanger on a plastic shoe. This boggles my mind beyond many things, and I am so very often boggled. There you have it.

Stanley Park is a lovely little joint. I take my baby to the park to stare at introduced species scurrying around hiding nuts away for the winter.  You can meander trails, walk the seawall, swim, feed ducks bread if you think that to be wise.  It’s the kind of place that enables coyotes to live amidst the huge cedar trees in the middle of downtown Vancouver.  What could be cooler than a coyote in a city..(a coyote in pristine wilderness I guess).  Regardless, it is a lucky night if you and all your tame should come across one and its wild.

My least favourite question media asks is: how does plastic get in the ocean?  I don’t like the question because I don’t have a great answer.  I want to say “It just does, so stop asking me that and quit trying to find excuses for not doing something about it.”  But, I bumble something like: I am told that 80% of the trash out there is land-based, getting into the ocean via water and wind.

Looking at the gutters in any city gives you a good idea.  And so does this photo from e.g. the LA river.

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But still you think, 5 gyres worth is an awful lot of trash…it couldn’t possibly be from our civilized folk here (or there where you are!).  And maybe you don’t live in LA.

Stanley Park provided one clue that would allow me to recount first hand how the stupid stuff gets in the Big Blue from our seemingly clean neck of the woods.

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When you concentrate all the surface matter of the park into one place, you realize how much plastic crap makes the cut.  Appalling!  The sea is right behind this image and these piles continued for about a city block.

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There I am!  Amdist the garbage and leaves.  Help me Beth Terry!  Yes, I did manage to climb out of the pile, but I googled, “Beth Terry how does plastic get in the ocean” to no avail.  What do you say when someone asks you the question?

…and now we wait to see if Beth reads my blog ;)

I will never forget my first go at Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. That oddly orange goodness that somehow adheres to an all-too thin macaroni. I was nine, and my family had just moved to Canada. And so began a new love affair with North American packaged processed foods… Even if my mom always put way too much milk in and it was more like KD soup.

Slurpees too*. I couldn’t believe my fresh-off-the-boat luck when the neighbour kids showed me the ropes. I lost my slurpinity to a sweet cream soda, so brilliantly pink you wonder how my flesh didn’t turn so. Like a flamingo, or salmon.

Since quitting plastic there have been countless moments of temptation. They usually involve a slow sulky saunter past the desired item, with a possible longing caress of the package..as if to say, I am here, sweet perogie but I cannot have you. You must remain there in your suffocating sack for someone else to conveniently enjoy. Then, generally you exchange some kind of affirmative glance with your partner and move along.

When I was pregnant, the one and only time I got super sick was after I gave into a rare craving for packaged instant noodles. I spent the evening throwing up on the driveway. But I can remember the days when I ate those ones with the plastic film over a styrofoam cup. You pour boiling water in, after which these desiccated lumps of long past-due vegetables float to the surface, swimming in this kind of salty oily brine. I can picture that al-dente wrinkly pea bobbing in there, next to a small cube of carrot. What an unnatural shape for a carrot. Like really truly that is sick food.

My boyfriend and I recently thought it would fun to just go shop for any groceries we wanted, regardless of their packaging. But then we tried to list the things we would actually buy different. Neither could come up with much of anything. We agreed we wouldn’t enjoy any of those old things we thought we missed so dearly. Having seen the light, that food just doesn’t taste good anymore.

But the perogie! Say it ain’t so!? We had some in the freezer as a prop for our documentary. After, we ate them. Quite frankly they were gross. It came as a surprise when even my boyfriend- a total food pig- didn’t go for the last few in the pan.

It was a good 26 year stint.

* You can get plastic free slurpees. Bring your own glass and straw. They won’t know what hit them, but just take a sip, smile, and slam the change on the counter before they can argue.

My 10-month old son has a wicked collection of non-plastic toys.  Natural rubber, wood, metal, and wool.  I’ve written about this before, but it drives me crazy to see “organic” toys stuffed with plastic pellets (nurdles) or polyester.  Quite frankly, I want to stomp on those toys in the store.  Organic my ass.  Pardon me.

I once long ago also wrote about an experience when I saw this tiny little guy obsessively, addictively (?) sniffing a scented soft plastic toy.  You know the type…phthalates galore.  Horror.  Maybe he was unawares.  But it surprises me to no end, when I see my friends with kids (hi guys), who are more than well aware, letting their kids suck on all kinds of plastic crap.  They’ll even say, “Oh, we have a lot of plastic crap.” and describe how it gets to their houses via other people.  But ultimately, aren’t you in charge of what stays in your house?  Or are you governed by those mysterious others that bring the toys in.  Gah!  And then flame retardants in things like nursing pillows and kids pyjamas?  Don’t get me started on those.  Just one thing…another reason to avoid synthetic materials, which are more likely to be doused with these awful chemicals.  If you care, watch this fascinating talk.  My favourite part is when she says up to 10% of the weight of a kids pyjama can be flame retardant.  Orrr maybe the ad for the DDT nursery wallpaper.

Plastic is bad for unborn babies too.  This was the latest article I read, which warns that the risk of miscarriage increases by 80% when moms are heating food in plastic.  Now this applies to not just say Tupperware in a microwave, which I would hope no one does anymore (?)…do they??  But think hot food in a styrofoam take out container.  My brother told me a story yesterday- he had gone to get sushi and they stuck the scalding hot tempura straight onto a styrofoam plate.  When he opened the food, he noticed the styrofoam was melted to the food.  He took the married items back to the restaurant, who seemed totally oblivious to why this might be a problem.

Buy used when can is still one of my rules, and yesterday I bought my guy a skookum wooden kitchen.  I didn’t sort through the bag of accessories that came with the set, but when I got home I made a few discoveries.

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Hey baby!  Suck on this! A cheap play water bottle.  It can “help maintain your energy at a night time level”…meaning kind of dopy?  That’s probably right.  And just for the record, a “glass” of water to me comes in a glass.

And then this:

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My first reaction was, no joke: Holy hell, he’s not playing with that!  There’s BPA inside that soda can!  Oh right, it’s ‘just a toy’.

Dear Natasha, British Student,

Thanks for sending me a message on my Facebook page.  Sorry I haven’t posted anything fresh in a little while.  Just been busy, but still doing plastic stuff.

And don’t worry.  I am not discouraged by those who criticize my efforts.  Like the super original guy who says “how can you use a computer if you don’t use plastic?” or the moron who said “don’t worry plastic industry, I will just double bag everything from now on.”  I don’t even bother reading those comments most of the time.  I could get real rude, real fast, and it is a complete waste of time most of the time.

On that note.  My documentary isn’t going to be for those aforementioned dummies, or for the masses really either.  I don’t plant to dumb anything down or simplify the message.  But those who get it, will get it good and I can’t wait to share what we have in store for you.  I think you will enjoy it.   Still on track to finish by end of year…and there is still time to donate.

It’s been a great media month.  We made front page of the Vancouver Sun with this story. Today I spoke on a morning talk show.  I enjoyed insulting the talk show host’s poly-blend shirt.  I’m doing an interview next week for a BBC documentary.  (Fancy!)  A few speaking arrangements coming up in the next few months- looking forward to those too.  The presentation gets better every time.  I just added this gem to it this morning:

 

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The answer is yes, but perhaps for different reasons.  Plastic is my passion, my obsession.  Many days I wish it wasn’t, but I think I would have to live on another planet for that to be the case.

In completely unrelated news, although it can be considered a little nutty, I went into a dollar store today just to ask the lady there if she was bothered by the smell of plastic. I can detect it more than two blocks away and it makes me so nauseous that I would walk two extra blocks just to avoid its vicinity.  Me: “Are you bothered by the smell in here?”  Her: “What smell?”  I thought so.

And that is all I have for you today.  But Monday, I will be starting a Rethink Refuse series.  So visit again soon.

I do this mainly for me and my son, but go public for not only a good laugh, but because I get emails like yours that remind me that other people “see” too.

Keep fighting the good fight… Peace.

I’ve been mulling over this one comment someone left here. In short, he/she said I depressed them. So I want to clarify what my blog is about.

I don’t sugar coat my feelings for plastic. I am not some crazy angry hating person, but I do not pretend to like the material. Sure, I too have some non-disposable plastic items around the house, like plant pots, which did not make the purge alongside the kitchen and bathroom wares. But I don’t like them either and when their days here are done I will not acquire new plastic ones.  I am continuously purging.  Like at the moment, learning what a humongous problem our synthetic clothing is, I am getting rid of all my poly-everythings.  Did you know that with each laundry load we release thousands of micro plastics into the water.  They end up in the sea, so much so that these micros are becoming the most abundant, and creepily invisible, form of plastic pollution.  It is also the stuff that will come back to us the fastest…like in our seafood.  Read more.

There are many other items I do not have around the house. I do not have reusable cups with plastic lids, for example, unlike said commenter. I read a lot about this stuff, but don’t claim to be a chemist or ‘ologist of any sort. While who knows, the toxic effects of repeatedly sucking on the same area of worn plastic may be minute or none for all I know, I choose not to take that risk. Nor do I even like the feel or taste of said experience. I certainly will not impose that on my child either, who relies on me for these types of decisions. Old Tupperware is another good example, and I wonder if commenter uses those for e.g. hot foods. Useful, sure. Smart, unlikely. There are many other better materials for food and beverage related activities, which is often the point.

I don’t believe in just take small steps- “just bring your own bag”. Ugh. If we all stop there and feel great, this problem will persist as long as the plastic. Forever. Plus you will never experience the benefits. Go hard or go home. If this message does not please you -because oh how impractical!- then go read elsewheres where you can gain reinforcement for your own thinking. By all means, because I will not sell you a willy-nilly approach here. I honestly will not judge you if you are not ‘there yet’ in your actions but frig yes if you even get what I am saying: then we’re getting somewhere. Or, just have a laugh and we’re better off already.

If I describe something, I am attempting to give you that visceral experience too. Taste it, feel it, smell it- for it’s freaky that most people don’t even notice. There are only a handful of us people in the entire world seriously attempting to live plastic free by choice. So if we few don’t point this stuff out then forget getting anywhere. Let’s just all hold hands and keep recycling together till the end of days.

I am well aware that all kinds of consumption has its costs..forestry, mining etc. Trust me, I studied that in university for 8 years and am thoughtful in those aspects of my life too. However, I feel this particular material- plastic- has its uses and consequences that are particularly unacceptable, for the health of the planet including humans. I believe it is also leading the human experience awry in many ways. Take food for example, and what distance plastic allows us from it.

There are other blogs with solutions galore- or buy Beth Terry’s book. She has loads of tips. While I have many tricks up my sleeve too, I suck at updating my solutions page. I find the task of entering every little non-plastic doodad somehow annoying and perhaps not always that useful. I’m better at setting the scene and I also want to give the reader some credit- you can figure this stuff out yourself, in your own area wherever you may be. Much of the beauty in all this for me has been rediscovering creativity -a certain survival skill- long forgotten, buried under layers of convenience. I will always and happily hold your hand if you ask, and I always tell the story of something awesome, but I dare you to try. Going without is cool too. That’s there as well, dusty and unused.

If you like what you hear and want to see what life without plastic is like, you might enjoy our upcoming documentary, From the Waste Up- Life Without Plastic.  While we are well into post production, we still need funds to make it happen by end of year.  Watch the trailer. Consider a donation so we can reach a wider audience.  Donate here.  Thank you kindly.  Other ideas for collaboration welcome.

Two weeks left of our fundraising campaign for our feature-length documentary: From the Waste Up- Life Without Plastic. We are at just under $6000, and I am still crossing my fingers to get to $10 000, which would buy us just enough editing time. Here are the top ten reasons why I think this movie is worthwhile.

1. The story needs to be told. There are very few of us in the entire world living life without plastic.

2. Our film will inspire others to get involved.

3. Watching 7 families navigate our plastic world will show others how to. And I think people need to learn.

4. It is funny. You will not leave depressed, rather entertained. None of us can do this without having a little fun.

5. No bar graphs will be shown. While you will learn facts, this movie is about people.

6. Future generations will have a historical record of a time when people had to go out of their way to avoid disposable plastics. We hope that they will think our times were ludicrous.

7. The topics of consumerism, waste, and convenience are endlessly interesting. Not to mention the concept of going without.

8. No pie charts will be shown either. But blackberry pie is a significant lesson in the story.

9. The 20 some-odd people featured in the film have put themselves ‘out there’ for others’ benefit. Their efforts should not be…wasted.

10. Disposable plastics clearly need to go the way of the dinosaur.

There are many other reasons, but if you agree with any of the above, perhaps help make From the Waste Up happen with a small donation.

See what plastic-free guru Beth Terry says: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2013/05/from-the-waste-up-a-movie-about-learning-to-live-plastic-free/

Watch the trailer and donate here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/from-the-waste-up-life-without-plastic–2/x/2938522

Thanks for reading.

Somehow this plastic scrubber made it past the no plastic sign on our driveway. First, I don’t like how it feels on my hands and, second, it sucks and I just wanted to say that. That little cactus root scrubber has survived for 2 years of intense outdoor kitchen living. Its still going strong but what’s good is that I don’t care if a piece of root falls off the brush. We live in the forest where there are many root friends for it to party with. The ugly(!) plastic scrubber is on its third week and clearly already crumbling its gross green plastic bits into our earth.

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Plastic refusers

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