Book cover: Plastic FreeThere’s no question that plastic is convenient. But as we learn more about the impact of plastic and plastic waste on people, animals, and the planet, it’s clear that it’s important to find alternatives that do more good and less harm.

Self-taught plastic-free expert Beth Terry first decided to do something about all the plastic in her life when she saw images of baby Laysan albatross bodies on Midway Island, full of bits of plastic trash. Since 2007 Beth has been writing about her plastic use and her triumphs and challenges in striving to live a plastic-free life.  Now Beth has compiled her expertise into her (mostly) plastic-free book: “Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012).

Beth uses her own story as a springboard for exploring our unhealthy love affair with plastics. In addition to a brief but useful overview about plastics and their impacts, she tackles plastic bags, bottles, and the challenges of recycling. Beth also offers strategies for freeing ourselves from plastic in our kitchens, bathrooms, and elsewhere. She includes a variety of helpful resources, and Beth repeatedly highlights the importance of choosing “the steps that feel right for you” — there’s no guilt trip anywhere in this book. One entire chapter is devoted to how to cope with feeling overwhelmed.

The format is very reader-friendly, breaking down information and suggestions into clear, short chunks and including fun and useful photos, checklists, recipes, and quick tips. There are also brief stories of plastic-free heroes and tips from other people working to reduce their relationship with plastics.

Beth doesn’t pretend that the solutions are easy (some actually are, though). But she also highlights the many ways we can make a difference and emphases why our personal changes matter (as well as how we can get involved in helping change systems).

I was reluctant to read Beth’s book, because I was afraid it would be too disheartening and overwhelming, but I quickly found myself excited to try several of her suggestions and to renew my commitment to reducing my use of plastics.

Beth offers great advice for continuing to strive to make choices that do the most good & least harm. She says, “How do I keep trying when the end result is in doubt? By focusing on the present moment. By realizing that my efforts might not create the result that I think I want but that I have to keep trying because it is who I am. It is the right thing to do. And because living a life respecting the earth and protecting her creatures is something I have to do. Now. No matter what the outcome. Because if we don’t try, we are certain to fail.”