Fake Plastic Fish

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: When you go shopping make it a priority to bring your own bag!Bring Your Own Bag

Anytime you plan to make a purchase, bring your own bag.

  • Grocery store
  • To the mall
  • To the farmers market

There’s a lot of pressure when you’re at the checkout counter and they ask “paper or plastic.”

PLASTIC BAGS: plastic bags don’t biodegrade – that’s the process of breaking down completely into organic material which is then assimilated back into the soil. Most plastic will photo-degrade. This means, over time and when exposed to ultraviolet rays from sunlight, the plastic material’s chemical “chain” starts to break down resulting in microscopic particles that mix in with the soil. How long that process takes is not clear.

  • Every single piece of plastic ever manufactured is still on the planet.
  • It is in use, intact in landfills, as windblown litter, and also contaminating global river systems and oceans.
  • There is an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic in each square mile of ocean. Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food.
  • Each reusable bag used has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime.

Introduced just over 30 years ago in 1977, the ugly truth about our plastic bag addiction is that society’s consumption rate is now estimated at well over 500,000,000,000 (that’s 500 billion) plastic bags annually, or almost 1 million per minute.

  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually.
  • An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags. That’s more than 1,200 bags per US resident, per year.
  • Four out of five grocery bags in the US are now plastic.
  • The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
  • There are over 3,300 deaths of children each year in the US alone who die from asphyxiation from plastic bags.
  • The simple act of saying NO to plastic bags is something everyone can do.

PAPER BAGS: The production of a paper bag consumes 1 gallon of water (PER BAG) – which equals 50 times that of plastic bags.

A lot of resources are used to make the paper:

  • Trees
  • Chemicals
  • Electricity
  • Fossil fuels

Add to that the chemicals, electricity, and fossil fuels used in the shipment of this raw material and in the production and shipment of a finished paper bag.

Wendy’s web pick of the week:

Fake Plastic Fish

Fake Plastic Fish has wonderful tips for living with less plastic.

I had the honor of interviewing the founder, Beth Terry, and she is an amazing woman who is on a mission to educate the world about the evils of plastic.

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 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at WDAY.com.

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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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As writers, we know that part of good stewardship is sharing information, but Save the World!even the most intelligent among us can not make change without DOING something.

So The Good Human & Twilight Earth, along with The Grass Stain Guru, Lighter Footstep, My Green Side, The Smart Mama, A Little Greener Every Day, Fake Plastic Fish, Allies Answers, and Natural Papa have teamed up to carry our message with one united strong voice. The message is that there are great organizations out there which are suffering in this economic downturn through decreased donations…and they need our help! So we have decided to give you, our readers, a voice and a choice. We have decided to take on a very simple fundraising mission, and we are asking you to donate just $1.00.

A single dollar; that’s all.

Who cannot afford a buck even in these times? We know you can spare a dollar to help out our fellow humans!

But how do we all decide which charities to give 100% of all monies raised to? Well, we are going to put it to a vote and let you guys decide. The 10 websites participating have chosen 5 charities for all donors to vote for, and we are going to let you guys choose which two of them will receive the all monies donated.

Our purpose in doing this is three-fold

  • It gives YOU a voice. As loyal readers and stewards of our environment, we want to offer you the opportunity to make a difference without breaking the bank.
  • It gives the two charities with the most votes some much appreciated funds to continue their mission
  • It allows all of us an opportunity to connect as a community of like-minded people working for the common good of ourselves, our families and our planet.

If the community of folks who care about our planet cannot come together to rise up to a challenge, who will? That is why we are asking you for a $1 donation. While $1 may seem insignificant all by itself, by pooling our resources together we really can make a difference in these tough economic times. $1 is less than the price of a candy bar and can usually be found under the seat cushions of your couch. Won’t you help 2 of these charities with your $1 donation? (Now, if you want to give more, please – feel free. We won’t stop you! And by all means, send this to everyone you know so we can raise even more!)

Clicking below will take you to the poll and a Paypal donation link asking you to choose which of the 5 charities your favorite is. We ask that you please donate a dollar to the charity pool if you are going to vote, and know that even if your absolute favorite does not finish first or second, all the money donated will be going to worthwhile causes. If everyone we know who reads our sites, our Twitter feeds, our Facebook sites, etc. donates just $1, imagine the impact we can have as a group. And please, spread the word!

The 5 charities that we’ve selected are Healthy Child Healthy World, Environmental Working Group, Sustainable Harvest, Kiva and Water for People.

Voting is now closed for this campaign. Thanks to all of you who participated!

Times are tough and our collective might can really help them out. The results will be tallied two weeks from today, and we will write another article detailing the amounts and the two charities who garnered the most votes and will be receiving the money collected. It’s only $1, so please donate!

Please take a moment to vote for your favorite and to donate just a single dollar to these charities.

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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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