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Bellingham Library Presents Book Talks on Plastic Purge

May 31, 2017 07:00AM ● By Amy Bartelloni

Reference Librarian Cecily Christensen with the book Plastic Purge

story & photo by Amy Bartelloni, Contributing Writer

As part of the library’s participation in “Make Public Libraries Science Resource Centers in their Communities,” an Institute of Museum and Library Services Grant Program administered through Cornerstones of Science, a series of book discussions was held addressing the book Plastic Purge: How to Use Less Plastic, Eat Better, Keep Toxins Out of Your Body, and Help Save the Sea Turtles by Michael SanClements. The book falls under the topic of recycling, a focus of the grant, though programs will be offered through September on topics of alternative energy and water resources as well.

Reference librarian Cecily Christensen facilitated the discussions. After reading several books on the topics covered by the grants, she chose Plastic Purge as a community read for its ease of language. Christensen explains that this book was the most readable for those without a science background.

“What I like about the book is that it gives you things to do to save the environment that are doable,” she says.  She goes on to explain such things as filling up a reusable water bottle as opposed to using disposable plastic bottles and remembering to use cloth bags instead of plastic at the store, which are important steps to help reduce our use of plastic.

Author Michael SanClements is a senior scientist at the National Ecological Observatory Network and an adjunct assistant professor at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado Boulder. When contacted by Cecily, he was excited to help.  He sent a video, played during each book discussion, explaining why he wrote the book and how he came to do it. His background is in science, and his experience studying glaciers in Antarctica in 2009 inspired him to share the beauty of science with more people. He wrote articles for publication in The New York Times and Backpacker; then, his six-part series of articles for Grist on the topic of living without plastic waste for three weeks, which is nearly impossible in our society, led him to a book deal.

“I highly recommend that you try, for your own experiment, to take a piece of paper and from the moment you get up in the morning until the moment you go to bed at night, write down each time you touch something plastic during the day.  It will blow your mind just to see how truly ubiquitous it is,” SanClements says in the video. It’s a topic he touches on in the book, as well as what plastic is doing to the environment and our bodies, how to use less plastic, recycling, and the differences among plastics.

Christensen notes that people in the book discussions have seemed to like his funny, down-to-earth writing style and have been surprised at how much plastic we use every day. She has fielded discussions on the statistics of recycling and how other countries in the world approach recycling, but it’s the tangible things we can do that seem to resonate with most people.
For those who have questions, she points people to a document at the DPW website,, which includes a chart on what can be recycled. Other Cornerstones of Science programs on the topic of recycling will be ongoing through September, and listings can be found on the library’s calendar.





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