Category Archives: Rethinking Plastics News

Carol Misseldine – Environmental Hero

Carol Misseldine has been an environmental luminary for years.  Trained in the comprehensive framework of the Natural Step, she has been a strong and clear voice for constructing our lives and our society with understanding and respect for both the abundance and the limits of nature.

Carol began her career of environmental leadership with the Michigan Environmental Council.  When she took the post of Executive Director there, the annual budget was about $70,000.  When she left four years later, the budget had grown to nearly $1 million, with a commensurate increase in the agency’s effectiveness.

As Sustainability Director in the office of Oakland mayor Jerry Brown, Carol initiated one of the state’s first municipal single-use bag ordinances as well as a foam food-ware ban.  Later, as Sustainability Coordinator for Mill Valley, she catalyzed the City’s adoption of a similar foam ban and the elimination of plastic water bottles from City offices, parks, and functions.

When the State budget crisis cut short the plan of the Ocean Protection Council to fund a Master Environmental Assessment (MEA) on single-use bags, Carol personally raised over $100,000 to fund the completion of this pivotal report.  The MEA has influenced dozens of California municipalities as they have contemplated and, in many cases, passed plastic bag bans.

Carol combines her passion for the health of the planet with careful study and the ability to see broad patterns side by side with the particulars.  Her combination of deep caring with deep mastery of ecological principles has made her a much loved and sought-after speaker in the Bay Area and beyond.  Leaders in the field, from elected officials to city planners to nonprofit advocates, listen to Carol and seek her opinion on issues of sustainable practice.

Ever searching for new ways to restore the environment, she leads the community in ever-new initiatives.  The first recipient of the Humane Society University’s Animal Policy and Advocacy Graduate Certification, Carol has embarked on her latest campaign – Less Carbon, More Compassion – promoting an end to Confined Animal Feeding Operations and inspiring citizens to adopt a plant-based diet.  These two steps together represent one of the most important ways we can save the climate, improve our health, and affirm our fellowship with other creatures.

We are fortunate to have Carol Misseldine as a leader in the community, reminding us to look deep in our hearts and to imagine a truly healthy and compassionate world.

Rethinking Plastics training


Thursday evening workshops, May 3, 17, & 31

Are you tired of seeing plastic junk leaving stores and going straight to the garbage can or, worse still, to the gutter?  Have you been imagining how much cleaner and healthier our world would be if producers were required to take back products that have reached the end of our useful lives?

Green Sangha’s Rethinking Plastics campaign has been inspiring shoppers, business owners, heads of school, and civic policy makers for six years to reduce their plastic footprint.  Our initiatives have included the Fairfax plastic bag ban, waste reduction at the Marin County Fair, elimination of plastic produce bags from Bay Area markets, and the BYOBag campaign in Marin.  Join us in the next phase of our campaign as we take on Extended Producer Responsibility, Getting Off the Bottle, and ending take-out foam foodware.

Since 2006, Green Sangha has made nearly 300 presentations to over 8000 students, community leaders, and eco-activists on the costs of plastic addiction and the path to sustainability.

You can take part in this campaign, whether as a volunteer at tables, a speaker at social clubs and city council meetings, or a member of our strategy team.  To support your informed engagement, this spring we are offering Rethinking Plastics Training, beginning with a presentation by Heidi Sanborn, co-founder and Executive Director of the California Product Stewardship Council, on Thursday, April 19, 7-9 pm, at the Kreps Center, Redwood High School, 395 Doherty Drive, Larkspur.

In 1905, Heidi says, 7% of New York City’s waste consisted of manufactured items.  In 1960, these items grew to 62% of US trash.  By 2009, they reached 71%.  Consider just one small piece of that waste stream:  over 340,000 cell phones thrown away every day in the US.  This is a recipe for disaster.

The recipe for sustainability?  Education, awareness, and action.  To increase your awareness and develop your capabilities for decisive action, Rethinking Plastics Training will follow Heidi’s talk with three Thursday evening workshops, May 3, 17, & 31, also 7-9 pm, in San Rafael.

Cost of the training is $100 ($80 for Green Sangha members; $40 for prior Rethinking Plastics attendees).  Following these sessions, participants may make short presentations on plastics to an in-house group.  All successful presenters will be invited to speak on behalf of Green Sangha, with a small stipend for each talk given in the community.

To register or for more information, contact our Program Director Elizabeth Little, or (510) 532-6574.


Beth Terry speaks at Plastics 360


Plastic-free blogger Beth Terry will speak at the Plastics 360 conference taking place this Friday March 16 and Saturday March 17.  Beth’s book, Plastic-Free:  How I Learned to Live without Plastic, and How You Can, Too, comes out this spring.  Beth’s talk on Saturday is titled “Nine Reasons That Personal Changes Matter.”

Joining her will be:  Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic:  A Toxic Love Story; Chris Pincetich, PhD, marine biologist with Sea Turtle Restoration Project; Kim Scheibly, Outreach Director of Marin Sanitary Service; Tom Wright of Sustainable Business Practices.  And, just back from a three-nation tour of Central America, speaking on toxicity in plastics:  Nancy Buermeyer, senior policy analyst with the Breast Cancer Fund.

To lighten the day and keep us inspired and proactive, Maeve Murphy will open Saturday morning’s workshop with deep meditation.  Debra McKnight Higgins, yoga teacher and nonprofit consultant, will lead us in a mid-day yoga stretch break.  Pam Kramer of Integrated Transformative Practice will close the day with a guided study session, reflection, and brainstorming for action.

Friday evening is free; Saturday is $40 (Green Sangha members and students $20).  Come to learn, expand, and stretch your horizons!  For more information and to register,  click here.

Stop Trashing the Planet!

Join us for a seminar on:


An Environmental Forum of Marin (EFM) seminar, co-sponsored by Green Sangha

Sat, Mar 31, 9 am to 1 pm.  Marin Sanitary’s Environmental Classroom, 535 Jacoby St., second floor

In 2000, a Worldwatch Paper estimated that 50,000 to 100,000 synthetic chemicals were in production, with approximately 3 new chemicals being added every day.  Where do all these chemicals go when we are done using them?  The EPA has developed an annual report, the Toxic Release Inventory to help citizens, businesses, and policy makers get a clearer idea of what is going into the environment by the millions of tons every year (see their 1:13 minute video here).

The 2010 TRI report showed that disposal or other releases of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals increased by 50% from 2009.  What does this mean to our health, and to the integrity of life-support systems around the globe?

Come hear Dr. Marion Guyer of Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Chris Pincetich of Sea Turtle Restoration Project, and Monica Wilson of  GAIA (Global Action for Incinerator Alternatives) as they describe the risks posed in particular by toxic substances in plastics used by each of us daily, and by the careless burning of plastics that still occurs around the world.  Then hear special guest Hilary Staples of the Biomimicry Institute share stunning possibilities to help us conceptualize and bring about a shift to life-sustaining materials — quieting our cleverness, listening to nature, and substituting deep knowledge and creativity for synthetics.

Cost:  $20; students with current ID $10

RegistrationSaturday Seminars

Plastics 360: film night & conference

What are the effects of plastic in our daily lives?  What can you do to protect the environment and your health?  Hear local leaders in conservation and resource recovery describe issues and solutions.  This year’s conference takes place on March 7 in Berkeley and March 16 in Lafayette.  For a full description, click here.  (Last year’s conference is described below.)

Join us for a comprehensive introduction to the latest research on plastic in the oceans, innovations in bioplastics, how recycling fits into the picture, and ways that we each can shift to life-sustaining materials.

Who should attend:  students, teachers, business managers and owners, civic leaders, citizen activists, and anyone interested in sustainable living.

Friday, March 16, 7-9 pm.   Introduction & film night.  No charge, but reservations required!   Contact or call (510) 532-6574 to register.

  • Film shorts:  Addicted to Plastic (selection); We can recycle plastic (Mike Biddle); Bring Your Canvas Bag (Tim Minchin)
  • Moderator:  Chris Pincetich, PhD, Sea Turtle Restoration Project

Where:  111 McInnis Parkway, San Rafael, 94903

Saturday, March 17, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm.   Conference.
Fee:  $40 ($20 for Green Sangha and EFM members, and students with current ID).  Register here.

  • Celebrating Plastics.  Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic:  A Toxic Love Story
  • Marine Litter.  Chris Pincetich, Ph.D., Sea Turtle Restoration project
  • Plastics in Our Bodies.  Nancy Buermeyer, Breast Cancer Fund
  • Does Recycling Work?  Kim Scheibly, Marin Sanitary Service
  • Bioplastics – Our Future?  Thomas Wright, Sustainable Business Practices
  • Nine Reasons That Personal Changes Matter.  Beth Terry,
  • Transformational Events.  Mary Munat,
  • Putting It All Together.  Pam Kramer, ITP International
  • Plus!  Opening meditation with Maeve Murphy and Mindful movement with Debra McKnight Higgins

WhereSt. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 3 Bay View Avenue at Golden Gate, Belvedere, 94920

Refreshments:  BYO lunch!  We will provide coffee and beverages.  (BYO mug if you can.)

Reservations:  Click on the links above or call (510) 532-6574, or write

° Environmental Forum of Marin – leading Marin’s environmental conversations for over 40 Years,
° Sea Turtle Restoration Project, protecting and restoring endangered sea turtles and marine biodiversity worldwide,


Plastics Awareness Symposium

Green Sangha & 5 Gyres Present:
Sunday, Feb. 12,  2:00 to 5:00 pm

The average US citizen uses between 300 & 700 single-use plastic bags per year.  That means Mill Valley residents go through about 7 million plastic bags in just one year!

Plastic bags can be monstrous

What impact is this having on our planet, our oceans, and our bodies? Attend the Plastic Awareness Symposium at GROW on Sunday, February 12, to hear from local activists and plastic pollution experts.

Learn simple ways to replace plastic in your home.

2:00 pm

  • Presentations from plastic pollution experts and recycling guru Devi Peri
  • Update on the California and Marin County single-use bag ordinances and other initiatives with Stephanie Moulton-Peters, Mill Valley City Councilmember
  • Q & A

3:00 pm

  • Fun & festivities for the whole family!

At the Grow Art & Garden Center, 254 Shoreline Highway, Tam Junction in Mill Valley.

Free and open to the public.  Bring your kids!  For more information, call the GROW Center at 415-888-8471

Throwaway plastics -- .such a drag

Aoede Creates Beautiful New Song About Plastic Pollution

Aoede Blue Gold song about plastic pollutionBlue Gold

Listen to Blue Gold

Written by: Lisa Sniderman/Aoede

It starts with a flick
flick a lit stick
stick is thrown down
down to the ground
washed away, washed away
Out of sight, out of mind

It starts with a bag
Un-degradable bag
Bag is blown down
down to the ground
washed away, washed away
Out of sight, out of mind

So tell me, does it all come down to you
And tell me, tell me,
What can we do
to keep you free to be

Blue gold it’s your time to shi-ine
Blue gold nature’s swell design
Blue gold it’s your time to rise-
And high time we realize

Soiled six-pack rings
rings bob and sink
some seagull’s caught
caught like some drink
Far away, far away
Out of sight, out of mind

Red, orange and blue
Blue plastic stew
Birds bite and chew
Chew this strange brew
Far away, far away
Out of sight, out of mind

So tell me, does it all come down to you
And tell me, tell me
What can we do
Are we too blind to see

Blue gold it’s your time to shi-ine
Blue gold nature’s swell design
Blue gold it’s your time

You ebb and you flow
You’re high then you’re low
You crash and you curl
You’re an ever-changing world

You ebb and you flow
You’re high then you’re low
You gleam and you glide
Take me for a ride-on your

Blue gold it’s your time to shi-ine
Blue gold nature’s swell design
Blue gold till the end of time
Blue gold nothing more divine
Blue gold it’s your time to rise…
and high time we realize…

It starts with a wave-
A new wave of change

Press release

Blue Gold is currently being featured at :
Oikonos:  and Oikonos Education

Coastal Commission Coastal Cleanup Day: (to add this song to your myspace page, click the +)

Aoede/Lisa Sniderman June 2009
Vocals, Backing Vocals,
Acoustic Guitar: Lisa Sniderman
Electric Guitar: Peter Dominguez
Bass: David Sands
Drums, Percussion: Randy Burk

How much trash do you make?

This morning I got an e-mail from Dan Jacobson, Legislative Director of Environment California.  Dan’s group helped raise a public outcry when the Governor wanted to close all our State parks for budgetary purposes.  His group also published an important report on Toxic Baby Bottles, showing that five major brands of plastic baby bottle leached the neurotoxin BPA into infants’ milk.   

Dr. Mercola shares this picture of a baby with a polycarbonate bottle. The WHO recommends breastfeeding of babies for the first two years of life. Do we need to be using so many bottles?

 So, when Dan asked for my input on a survey, how could I refuse?  My response is below.  You can respond, too:

One of the real heroes of waste reduction these days is Beth Terry (   You can see what Beth  is doing every day to reduce her trash footprint by watching her 5-minute video on her 2009 plastic trash (total under 4 pounds). 

Beth says, "my new collected plastic for the year comes in at 3.7 pounds," about 2% of the average American's trash.

 Here’s the survey from Environment California, and my replies:


What are some everyday things you do to cut your use of plastic and other trash that might end up in the Pacific?   

I eschew plastic at every opportunity!  I never buy any beverage, oil, cosmetic, or herbal product in a plastic container.  (Plastic lids, however, have become impossible to avoid, even on some glass jars.)    

My friends at Marin Farmers' Markets are really into reusable container of all sorts!

 I buy milk in glass bottles, bread in paper bags (yummy artisan bread), grains in bulk.  I make my own yogurt, too — much easier than I ever imagined.    

 I never use bottles like these! 

What are the most interesting and creative things you do to cut waste? 

 I tally the number of times that we take the trash bin to the curb for pick-up each month.  On a good month, we’re at one pick-up or less.

Today I’m starting Beth Terry’s plastic challenge — capturing every piece of plastic that I am about to throw away or recycle, and keeping it in a bin (I’ll wash food-stained pieces before storing!).  At the end of 12 months, I’ll make a tally and weigh it all.

 What are some common barriers you’ve experienced to maintaining a small trash footprint? 

Packaging is the number one item:  styrofoam cushioning in boxes, hard plastic casing around small office purchases, plastic bags around newspapers even when it’s not raining; non-recyclable, non-compostable milk cartons. 

All this junk. Ugh!


The second issue is the difficulty in repairing or recycling items that break or malfunction.  For example:  flashlights, mugs, school binders, tools. 

What are some ways you help reduce trash at your work, school, church or community center? I have always tried to leave little trash behind.  After a month taking care of a friend’s house in 1996, I had only one small paper bag of garbage to put on the curb (I put it in my neighbor’s garbage can instead).  In 2004 I joined Green Sangha, a group dedicated to helping individuals live more consciously and harmoniously.  The next year, I co-founded Green Sangha’s Rethinking Plastics campaign.  We have given over 200 talks in the community, educated business owners and employees, consulted with schools on waste reduction, and advocated for civic change.  We helped pass the plastic bag ban in Fairfax, and are collaborating with EcoMom Alliance,, Teens Turning Green, and the County of Marin on the BYOBag Marin campaign. I’m also working with our local middle school, Davidson in San Rafael, on an End to Litter.  Too often, we see things like this bag lying on the ground:   

 What information would make it easier for you and the groups you are part of to cut waste? An itemized list or chart of the costs of throw-away items, in terms of energy expenditure, materials wasted, extraction (mining, logging, drilling), and toxicity, along with the less measurable dimension of non-biodegradability.  Then, a comparison to reusable items of various sorts (sustainable vs. synthetic, for example).

Bring Your Own Bag Day

More trash still 8-09

Have you ever felt depressed by all the bags that people use, day after day, and how many of them get loose in the environment?  Plastic bags are high-count items each year in the California Coastal Cleanup.  We’ve all all seen bags littering our parks and blown up against highway fencing.

Redwood Landfill, the final resting place for garbage from Marin and Sonoma Counties, has an employee dedicated full-time simply to patroling the property and recovering plastic bags and other plastic packaging that has gotten loose!

The average Californian, according to the Integrated Waste Management Board, throws away about 552 plastic bags a year.  This may seem like a small number — less than 2 a day — but when you add up the numbers that we all use together, the amount is overwhelming:  19 billion plastic bags per year in California, or 600 bags per second.

Shopping cart

But you may also have wondered, “What good is it for me alone to stop throwing away bags?”  The answer is:  it’s a good start, and let’s get everyone else involved.  That’s what Bring Your Own Bag Day is about, on Saturday, December 19, 2009. 


It’s a joint project of the County of Marin, EcoMom Alliance, Green Sangha,, and Teens Turning Green, in conjunction with Day Without a Bag, an action by Heal the Bay, Earth Resource Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, and others.

It’s a day dedicated to raising community awareness and showing how we all can reduce waste, clean up our streets and parks, and eliminate toxic inputs from our lives – simply by bringing our own bags.

What’s the goal? 

  • Stores will measurably reduce the number of bags they give away on Saturday, December 19. 
  • Customers will develop the habit of bringing their own reusable bags instead of counting on costly, environmentally-polluting single-use bags. 
  • Eventually, we will see elimination of free bags every day of the year – saving stores money and conserving precious resources.

Tote Bag

How can stores and markets get involved? 

Participating businesses can:

  • Proclaim BYOB Day through signs outside stores, displays at check-out counters, in-house newsletter messages, PA announcements, and checker scripts.  Green Sangha has provided sample text and scripts, and a customized message that Safeway will broadcast in all their Marin County stores is copied below.
  • Make reusable bags available and prominently displayed at their check-out counters.  In Marin County, the JPA on Hazardous and Solid Waste has already given away 10,000 canvas tote bags.  They will donate even more on Saturday.
  • Give a generous credit for each reusable bag a customer brings (10-15 cents); add a surcharge on all non-reusable bags that the store dispenses (we suggest a minimum of 25 cents, to catch customers’ attention and reinforce the point).
  • Join our working group of businesses, civic officials, and eco-activists to work on the proposed county ordinance to ban single-use shopping bags and to make BYOBag a daily reality.

Participating stores in Marin County include:  Delano’s, Good Earth, J. Crew, Marin Farmers’ Markets, Mill Valley Farmers’ Market, Mill Valley Market, Mollie Stone’s, Nordstrom, Palace Market, Safeway, Whole Foods, Woodlands Market.  Municipalities that have issued official proclamations include the County of Marin, City of San Rafael, and the Town of San Anselmo. 

Here’s what Safeway is putting on their loudspeaker announcement in every Marin County store on Saturday: 

Good Morning Safeway Shoppers…just a reminder that today (Saturday) is Bring Your Own Bag Day – a special community project brought to you by the County of Marin and a number of other local nonprofits.  Safeway is proud to be participating in this event and we will be giving away one free reusable bag to our first 250 customers today!  We are doing this at all of our stores in Marin County. 

“It’s also a good opportunity to remind you that Safeway does sell re-useable bags and we have a number of types to choose from. Come take a look at our checkout counter and complement your purchases today by buying a few additional re-useable bags.”


Reusable bags save everyone money, and conserve natural resources.  They're often easier to use, too!

Reusable bags save everyone money, and conserve natural resources. They're often easier to use, too!