Working together to aim for a plastics-free Vashon

While the problem is way larger than consumers can solve, we can affect some change on a personal and local level.

Editor’s note: Green Briefs is an ongoing series of commentaries provided to The Beachcomber by The Whole Vashon Project. Find out more about the group at

We read that microplastics are now found in our blood.

Microplastics are affecting human reproduction and microplastics have been found in the depths of the oceans which could threaten the earth’s cooling. These are more examples of the consequences of fossil fuels. We are seeing what happens in the geopolitical arena regarding oil and now it is our health that is being held hostage.

Try finding basic products like a loaf of sandwich bread that isn’t wrapped in plastic. Single-use plastics — cheap, convenient, and lucrative for oil companies — are filling up our landfills and leaking into the environment. Plastics are one leg of the climate crisis. It’s alarming, scary and frustrating.

Every day, I read more stories about the issue, so I am hoping we have reached a tipping point. Citizens, legislators, and institutions realize we cannot continue on this path. As with the tobacco and drug companies which put the blame on individuals, the plastic industry looks to consumers to solve the glut of plastic by recycling.

We cannot recycle our way out of this and certainly not at the pace the industry continues to manufacture. Repurposing plastics releases toxic chemicals into the air and often recycled items are turned into non-recyclable items such as carpets and clothing. Plastic degrades over time and sheds micro-plastics with each reuse. They end up in our food, in the air and in our bodies.

I’m always looking for alternatives to the daily use of plastic in my life. I tried living without plastic for a year. It was ridiculously difficult, but I did discover alternatives. The most satisfying was how receptive our supermarkets, which have bulk sections, were to allow customers to bring containers from home and avoid the plastic bags.

While the problem is way larger than consumers can solve, we can affect some change on a personal and local level. We also know markets change when consumers vote with their wallets.

I was reminded of the resourcefulness and energy of the Vashon community when reading The Beachcomber’s Earth Day issue. I am eager to tap into that energy to contribute what I can to help our community reduce plastic waste. While it is hopeful that the United Nations is addressing the issue globally, why can’t we address it on a micro-scale on our little island?

This is why I am reaching out to others in the Vashon community who are interested in tackling this issue locally. I do not have any specific goals or answers — that is why I would love to enlist interested folks to join me. Ideas that come to mind are as simple as sharing information on plastic-free products and encouraging our merchants to carry these products. I’m loving my toothpaste that doesn’t come in a plastic tube, but instead, consists of tablets packaged in paper.

We could be more ambitious and approach legislators, invest in companies that are developing compostable materials, help our schools, clinics and institutions reduce single-use plastic and reach out to other communities to get ideas. For instance, the town of Concord, Massachusetts, banned the sale of disposable plastic water bottles in 2013.

All the major environmental organizations are great sources of information about activism that is happening around the country.

In collaboration with Zero Waste Vashon and The Whole Vashon Project, I envision monthly meetups where we set goals as a group and/or as individuals. Think of it as the anti-plastic book club — except we don’t discuss books but instead talk about ways to reduce plastic in our community and in our lives.

I came across this great quotation, “The thing about climate is that you can be overwhelmed by the complexity of the problem or fall in love with the creativity of the solutions.”

There are so many creative folks on Vashon! If this interests you please email me at

Celia Congdon has lived and worked on Vashon for many years and raised her family on the island. “Progress not perfection” is her go-to motto.