Jesse Locks
Special to The Union

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October 1, 2009
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See Jane Do: No more plastic - Are you up to the challenge?

Beth Terry is an everyday woman living in the Bay Area.

Three years ago, after reading an article about the rise of plastic in the world's oceans, she realized that her own actions might be contributing to this problem.

Terry made a choice. She challenged herself to eliminate her use of plastic, while documenting her experience on her blog Fake Plastic Fish.

What began as a simple personal test has grown into something much larger. In addition to inspiring women and men around the country to take their own plastic challenge, Terry started a campaign that changed how one of the world's largest corporations reuses one of its plastic products.

Women influence 85 percent of what's bought in the United States. Terry put her purchase power to the test.

Q: How did reducing your use of plastic become your mission?

I saw a photo of an albatross chick. The carcass was completely full of plastic pieces, plastic bottle caps and plastic lighters. It hit me so hard, and I felt that this is what I have to do.

Q: Tell us about your blog and Brita.

On the blog I do several things: I tally my plastic waste using myself as an example, and I write about plastic alternatives and campaigns.

I had a Brita water filter and I wondered how it could be recycled. I went online, and the recycling program was only in Europe. Clorox bought the North American branch of the company, and they were not providing a way to recycle in the United States.

I wrote to them and asked why can't we recycle Brita water filters here? And they said, "We don't have the infrastructure for that."

I put a call out on my blog asking if anyone wanted to start a campaign. We set up a petition and the Web site, and asked people to send us their used Brita water filters.

Q: What happened?

We ended up collecting over 16,000 signatures and over 600 Brita water filters. In November, I got a call from a Brita manager, and he said

"I want you to be the first to know that we have teamed up with Preserve, the company that makes recycled toothbrushes. They're going to take the Brita water filters and make them into toothbrushes."

Q: What does that say to everyday women about making a difference?

You don't have to be somebody special to get your voice heard. Especially now with the Internet, it makes it much easier for anyone to take a stand and be a leader.

Q: What is the plastic challenge?

Once you see what plastic you're collecting over a week, then you have an idea of what your impact is. What is it about your lifestyle that's causing you to use so much plastic? Is there anything you could substitute or give up?

We look at our own plastic and take responsibility for it. It's not about guilt; it's about seeing that our consumer society is set to make it hard for us to live without plastic.

It makes us think, "How can I speak out for what I want? How can I write to companies or create a petition or write to my elected officials or get involved in a campaign?" It has to start with our own personal actions.

Q: What's your message to women around the world?

Own your power. There is so much we can do. We just have to believe that our voices are powerful and matter. This isn't just about plastic. It's about anything that's important to you.

None of us realize the impact that we're having on other people. There are ripples caused by every single thing we do.


See Jane Do is a multi-media program capturing the stories of everyday women doing extraordinary things. Our one-hour radio program airs at 1 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month on KVMR 89.5FM. For more stories, podcasts and to sign up for our newsletter, visit

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The Union Updated Oct 1, 2009 01:34AM Published Oct 1, 2009 01:16AM Copyright 2009 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.