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Plastic Purge Synopsis:
In July 2011, ecologist Michael SanClements took on a dare to live without creating any plastic waste for two weeks. He quickly discovered that it was just about impossible not to have any contact with plastic—it’s literally everywhere and in everything we rely on for everyday life: phones, computers, even places you wouldn’t expect, like the lining of a soup can or milk carton, even a paper coffee cup. In Plastic Purge, he shares what he learned over the course of his experiment.
While it proved impossible to completely eliminate plastic from his life, SanClements did learn there are many ways to drastically reduce the amount of plastic we use and discard, and the health benefits as well as the environmental benefits make it a goal well worth pursuing.
From a health perspective, many plastics contain compounds like BPA and phthalates, which are easily absorbed by the body, and have been shown in studies to be associated with obesity, insulin resistance and a host of reproductive health problems. And the substitutes used in so-called “BPA-free” plastic may have even more harmful effects.
To sum it up in a more digestible way, SanClements groups plastics into three categories:
The good—things like your phone, camera, medical equipment, ski bindings, etc, which will last a long time and whose performance is greatly improved by plastic
The bad—plastic food storage containers, shower curtains, and other items that can release BPA, which is absorbed by the body
The ugly—single-use items like grocery bags, which are easily avoidable
With encouraging advice and a broad range of suggestions, SanClements shows how to protect ourselves and our loved ones from potentially harmful chemicals lurking in plastics everywhere, and at the same time, to eat a bit healthier, create less waste, and make wiser choices about the plastics in our life.
Info from Michael SanClements’ bio:
As an ecologist, I study the connections between different components of our planet, including us humans. My work has taken me many places; in fact, it’s quite literally taken me to the end of the Earth. Between 2009 and 2011, I spent five months in Antarctica conducting field research on dissolved organic matter, a compound which is present within all natural waters on the planet, and plays a critical role in many important processes within the environment. In addition to my work in Antarctica, I have participated in a number of studies examining the effects of air pollution on the forests, lakes, and streams of North America and Europe.
While I love my job, I’m happiest when training for my next trail ultra-marathon with my dog Hank, catching some live music, getting a new stamp in my passport or waking up in my sleeping bag. Combined with a deep love for books and ideas, these are the things that have shaped me personally and professionally. More importantly, they motivate me to work toward the preservation of our natural world and its inhabitants.
My education consists of a B.S. in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana, a M.S. in Soil Science from North Carolina State University and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from the University of Maine. My research has appeared in numerous peer reviewed journals and I have presented scientific papers at over a dozen international conferences on ecology and the environmental sciences.
Beyond research, I try to increase awareness of ecological issues and the need for sustainable environmental practices through journalism, outreach activities and introducing people to the joys of outdoor recreation. My writing and photography have appeared in The New York Times, Backpacker Magazine and as a highly viewed and commented six part series on the use of plastics for Grist, a leading environmental news source.
Mike SanClements is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and Associate Director of the Hydrologic Sciences Graduate Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Praise for Plastic Purge:
“We’ve never liked plastic, and Plastic Purge is a fantastic compilation of all of the reasons why we ought to seriously rethink our collective passion for it. SanClements provides clear, practical direction for anyone who wants to live a healthier, plastic-free life. We’ll be following his advice closely.” ~ Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith, authors of Slow Death by Rubber Duck
“A fantastic guide to understanding plastics’ role in an increasingly toxic world, including how to comfortably avoid prolific but unnecessary plastic products.” ~ Crissy Trask, author of Go Green, Spend Less, Live Better
“A breezy yet highly informative trek through our plasticized world.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
“In hip, conversational tones and with an ‘oh wow!’ sense of incredulity about plastic’s stealthy omnipresence, SanClements pens an eye-opening exposé of this product’s damaging properties.” ~ Booklist
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photos: Plastic Purge