Beth Terry

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Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1220pm (central) every Wednesday at WDAY.com or, if you’re in North Dakota or western Minnesota, listen on your radio at AM970 WDAY.

GREEN TIP: Plastic is generally toxic to produce, toxic to use, and toxic to dispose of. Learn how you can make safer choices.

Plastic products are everywhere. More and more we are discovering there are health risks that make these convenient products not so desirable. Plastics are releasing harmful chemicals into our air, foods, and drinks.

While studies are showing the health risks of plastics, they are also overtaking our landfills.

Every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists (except for the little bit that has been incinerated, which releases toxic chemicals). In the ocean, plastic waste is accumulating in giant gyres of debris where, among other thing, fish are ingesting toxic plastic bits at a rate which will soon make them unsafe to eat. Source: Healthy Child Healthy World

According to Healthy Child Healthy World, the best thing to do is to reduce your use of plastic. Look for natural alternatives like textiles, solid wood, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, etc. Also, look for items with less (or no) plastic packaging. If you do buy plastic, opt for products you can recycle or re-purpose (e.g. a yogurt tub can be re-used to store crayons). And, get to know your plastics – starting with this guide:

The most common plastics have a resin code in a chasing arrow symbol (often found on the bottom of the product).

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): AVOID
Common Uses: Soda Bottles, Water Bottles, Cooking Oil Bottles
Concerns: Can leach antimony and phthalates.

HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Milk Jugs, Plastic Bags, Yogurt Cups

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl): AVOID
Common Uses: Condiment Bottles, Cling Wrap, Teething Rings, Toys, Shower Curtains
Concerns: Can leach lead and phthalates among other things. Can also off-gas toxic chemicals.

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Produce Bags, Food Storage Containers

PP (Polypropylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Bottle Caps, Storage Containers, Dishware, Yogurt Containers

(TIP: You can recycle some of your #5 plastics including your used Brita pitcher filters through Preserve’s Gimme 5 recycling program.) 

PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam): AVOID
Common Uses: Meat Trays, Foam Food Containers & Cups
Concerns: Can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols

Other this is a catch-all category which includes:
PC (Polycarbonate): AVOID– can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA). It also includes ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), Acrylic, and Polyamide. These plastics can be a safer option because they are typically very durable and resistant to high heat resulting in less leaching. Their drawbacks are that they are not typically recyclable and some need additional safety research. New plant-based, biodegradable plastics like PLA (Polylactic Acid) also fall into the #7 category.

Source: Healthy Child Healthy World

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

My Plastic Free Life
Beth Terry is the founder of My Plastic Free Life and, upon learning how plastics were adversely impacting wildlife, she decided to try to completely reduce the amount of new plastic that came into her home. This site has tips on how to reduce plastic consumption. Her Top 2 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste: Bring your own shopping bag and give up bottled water.

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: Avoid buying school supplies that are made from WDAY Green Tipspolyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl). The health risks of PVC are prevalent throughout the life span of this unnecessary toxic plastic. From the manufacturing process, the use and the disposal, PVC causes health risks for the communities near the chemical plants, our children and our environment.

According to the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), PVC plastic is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats. When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.

CHEJ has created a Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies to empower all of us to make smarter, healthier shopping choices for a toxic-free future. The guide lists the most common back-to-school supplies made out of PVC plastic and suggests safer PVC-free alternatives.

WHAT TO AVOID:

• Products that are labeled with the words “vinyl” on the packaging.
• The number “3” inside the universal recycling symbol.
• The letters “V” or “PVC” underneath the universal recycling symbol.
• Other toxic plastics to avoid: polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics.

For additional information:
CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic.
Beth Terry’s informative summary on the evils of PVC, New Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Rather than recycling or tossing PVC items, like old vinyl curtains and floor tiles, in the trash, Mike Schade, CHEJ’s PVC campaign coordinator, recommends disposing of them in hazardous waste landfill sites. Call your sanitation department or state environmental agency to see where you might dispose of hazardous material.

CHEJ also suggests returning PVC products and packaging to retailers and manufacturers. “We recommend consumers contact manufacturers and let them know that PVC is an unacceptably toxic material and that it should not be used in production,” says Anne Rabe with CHEJ. “As consumers, they can also send that message by not purchasing products packaged or made from PVC.” Look for the number 3 in the recycling symbol or the letter “V.”

This is becoming an easier task already. Rabe points out that there are a number of PVC alternatives already on the market. For example, Ikea now sells non-PVC shower curtains exclusively.

Some manufacturers have already heard the calls for a halt to PVC use in production. CHEJ has successfully worked with Victoria’s Secret and Microsoft to eliminate PVC from their packaging and is currently in talks with Target, Sears and Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has already committed to eliminating PVC in its private-label-product packaging in two years.

Source: CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic

My Green Side’s weekly web pick:

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ)
CHEJ’s overarching goal has consistently been to prevent harm—particularly among vulnerable populations such as children. If a safer process, material or product exists it should be used. They believe that everyone, regardless of income, race, religion, or occupation, has a right to live, work, learn, play and pray in a healthy community.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a different favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at WDAY.com.

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by Wendy Gabriel

Since waking up to her own plastic consumption and impact on the planet two years ago, Beth TerryBeth Terry has been working to inspire others to live mindfully with less plastic via her blog, Fake Plastic Fish on which she tallies her own weekly plastic waste and details the steps she’s taken to find healthy reusable alternatives to plastic, inviting any and all to come along for the journey.

What put you on your current path toward a plastic-free existence?

One photo: the carcass of a dead albatross chick out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that was filled with tiny plastic pieces, like bottle caps, lighters, even a toothbrush… the remnants of our daily lives. I realized that my own lifestyle could be contributing to the pain of creatures thousands of miles away, creatures I’d never even heard of before seeing that photo.

What has been your biggest obstacle in your quest to become free of plastic?

My kitties! I’ve switched to preparing homemade food for them. I purchase the chicken in my own stainless steel container that I bring to the butcher shop and add baked yams, butter, and a supplement powder just for cats. The supplement comes in a plastic bottle, but it lasts several months. The biggest issue has been cat litter. The one biodegradable litter that comes in a paper bag is not attractive to them. They’d rather use the floor. So we continue to buy corn-based litter that comes in a plastic bag.

I love your list of ‘Plastic free changes to date’ on your website! What are one or two changes that people could start with on their journey to being completely plastic free?

I always hesitate to recommend anything as a simple step because what is easy for me might not be so for someone else. So, here are my Top 3 Steps for beginning a less plastic lifestyle:

1. Read the article Plastic Ocean to see for yourself why plastic is a problem. This is the article that has changed me and many others forever.
2.  Collect your own plastic waste for one week, without judgment or guilt. At the end of the week, examine it as a scientist would. What does it say about your lifestyle? What kinds of things would be easiest to give up or replace? Plastic bags? Plastic bottles?
3.  Learn a new mantra: Bring Your Own. Start with the easiest thing to remember. Is it a reusable water bottle? Reusable travel mug? Reusable grocery bags? Pick one thing that you will bring with you each time you go out and practice bringing it every time. Once that becomes a habit, add another reusable item. Soon, you’ll be like me with reusable bottle, bags, container, utensils, and even glass drinking straw. But don’t try to do it all at once… unless going whole hog is your thing!

I highly recommend your website for information and inspiration on becoming plastic free. Can you name other sources of information?

Absolutely! First, of course, is the article I mentioned above, Plastic Ocean.

A new feature-length movie I highly recommend is Addicted to Plastic, which is now available for purchase on DVD.

A shorter film with great information on plastic in the oceans is Synthetic Sea from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. The whole AMRF site is a great source of information on this issue.

For a list of other bloggers attempting to live with less plastic as well as articles and other resources, please check out the right sidebar of Fake Plastic Fish, which is constantly updated with relevant links.

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