I’ve stopped watching the news for awhile – tired of the endless political background noise like kids squabbling on the playground. Who has the ball now? They’re not playing by the rules. They’re just thinking of themselves. I’d laugh, except the ball they’re holding hostage is our planet, with mankind fast becoming an endangered species.

I’ve been surprised that so many Heart Wood readers say they’re really disturbed by what the future looks like in my speculative novel. When I wrote those scenarios over five years ago, I looked at current trends, then projected them out into the future, imagining what life would be like for my great-granddaughter if we did nothing to change the course on our planet.

But the future is already here – much faster than any of us imagined. Take your pick: crazy destructive weather patterns, sea level encroaching on our dwellings, plants and animals slipping away forever, diseases ramping up-fertility down…on and on.

I hate living in despair. Like Harmony in Heart Wood’s present time (yes, she and I have a lot in common) I could fill my desktop with scientific studies, sign email petitions, and donate money to organizations with the strength to apply pressure. But that does not satisfy my soul’s need to do something tangible.

That’s when I developed my “One Small Thing” project. It’s not much, but it’s something I can do.

Does printing this warning to consumers on the plastic mailing envelope absolve the producers of having to find non-toxic solutions?
Just whose problem is this?

My Small Thing #1: I don’t drink water in disposable plastic containers.

If I’m offered one, I politely decline, then briefly share why: I’m concerned that hormone disruptors in plastics are leaching out and altering reproductive systems. Microplastics are now everywhere: high in the atmosphere, deep in our oceans, even baby poop is loaded with microplastic particles (1). No plastic (including disposable water bottles) ever goes away. They’re more likely to saturate our lives as microplastic particles or end up in the humungous island of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean.

 So now I ask: “Is your tap water safe to drink?  Do you have a glass? Yes?  Then I’ll have some of that, thank you!”

My Next Small Thing #2: Eliminate plastic containers for food storage.

Now that #1 is under my belt, my Next Small Thing is eliminating plastic containers for food storage. This is a bit harder, but I’m about 95% there in my refrigerator. It drives my husband crazy, but he has the job of removing the glued labels on empty food jars so I can reuse them for food storage.  Sadly, it’s getting much harder to buy food in glass containers anymore (like catsup and mustard). Plastic is easier for shipping – it’s lightweight and doesn’t break.

A sneak peek at my refrigerator shelf

Whenever I can, I bring a glass container to stores (like natural food stores) where I can refill them. There’s even a local store entirely devoted to refilling your containers with personal care, cleaning, and other non-food products. (Gaia SOAP Supply:  https://www.gaiasoapsupply.com/ in Nevada City, California), where over 97,000 plastic bottles have been reused and refilled since 2010! 

If you’re thinking of starting your own Next Small Thing project, here’s a few things I’ve found helpful:

  1. Keep it simple and doable.
  2. Involve your family and/or friends.
  3. Lead by example and share what you’re doing whenever you can.
  4. When it becomes a way of life, go on to the Next Small Thing.
  5. Keep in mind that what you don’t do can be as important as what you do.

I’m now deciding what my next small thing will be. How about you?

(1) https://www.wired.com/story/baby-poop-is-loaded-with-microplastics/

Purchase Heart Wood at your local bookstore

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Print and eBooks from online retailers: HERE on Amazon.

Contact the Author at: heartwoodnovel@gmail.com

BLOG – Sign up to follow at:  https://shirleydickard.com/blog/

WEBSITE:  https://shirleydickard.com/


  1. Thanks Shirley! All good info here. Yes, plastic is such a huge problem and it feels like impossible to do anything about it so I like your “one small thing” idea. I like Peligrino bubbly water but I only buy the glass bottles if it. But I’m going to try and up my game a little. It’s not easy, so many things come in plastic. But I am trying to do better and liked your ideas!


    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Have you considered buying a Soda Stream bubbly water maker so you can make your own carbonated water? It involves only one re-eusable plastic water bottle, and the Co2 cannisters are returnable and refillable. It’s a fairly small unit that fits on the countertop easily. We saved so many plastic bottles from going into the landfill.

  2. Thank you, Shirley. I will make an effort to follow your lead. My one small thing, in the overall grand scheme, is working very hard to prevent the re-opening of the Idaho Maryland Mine, which will be very destructive to our environment here in Nevada County. I would urge your readers to make themselves aware of what this project has in store for us, if approved, by visiting minewatchnc.org for more information.

    1. Hi Mary, Yes, I’ve been following the antics of Rise Gold in trying to reopen the Idaho Maryland Mine. There’s a huge number of people working passionately to stop the mine from re-opening. And there’s a huge number of reasons why it’s not good for the environment or the community. Thanks for all your work, and keep me in mind – I can consider it for an upcoming blog. In the meantime, readers can learn more at minewatchnc.org .

  3. Really good Shirley! Plastic is ubiquitous. I’ve attempted to eliminate plastic. This helps reenergize me. Thanks. How is Dick? Thanks for the check (and cute card of your kitchen)

  4. See you at 10 this morning, my friend. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful blog “One Small Thing.” All doable. All matter. Until very soon. Kit is baking banana bread for Dick and you as we speak. It will still be warm when deliver to our table at Three Pines.



    Sent from my iPad


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