Plastic Free On MV: Inspiring Islanders To Change On Martha’s Vineyard

I have known Nina Carter Hitchen for a number of years from all sorts of things. This amazing mom of 6-year-old twins has slowly and consciously been evolving towards a Zero Waste lifestyle. I always get to see snips of this process, amazing pics on instagram, inspiring snack containers at soccer, but recently I learned the true breadth of her process.

Plastic Free On MV Nina Carter Hitchen

At Living Local a couple of weeks ago, she had a Plastic Free on MV table. Here, she brought many of her prized, non-plastic items from her daily life. As I was talking with her about something totally different, people started to approach her and ask questions, lots of questions. It was amazing to watch the excitement they gained from her knowledge.

Plastic Free on MV

People know that plastic is bad for us, for our environment, but the problem seems so abstract, like, you as one person, can’t make a difference. However, for Nina, it began, one thing at a time, and she has learned how to be the change and is now inspiring and helping others to do the same.

Plastic Free on MV

How did this passion ignite? When she was pregnant with Ondine and Dylan, her mother gave her a printout from a website about what plastics were harmful and what were “safe” to have around the house, and use when pregnant. Interestingly enough, none were actually good, just “safe.”

Plastic Free on MV

She thought to herself, and began to pay more attention to what she used. Then, when one of her dear friends was diagnosed with cancer, the friend went on a strict macrobiotic diet, which made her very careful with her foods, and what the foods were packaged in. This diet did not allow for anything with plastics because they “off gas,” release broken down chemicals into the food contained in the packaging. Another “aha” moment.

After extensive research, Nina was really surprised to discover all the studies that highlight the dangers of plastics, not only for the people, but for our environment. For example, by the year 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic then fish in our oceans. Whoa – just one reason recycling is so important.

This change did not happen overnight, the goal to quit plastic is six years in the making and continuing.

Changing Your World – One Item At a Time

So, she decided that she was going do more to eliminate plastic and waste in her life. It started out small, recycling as much as possible, buying things in glass, because glass can be recycled forever, whereas plastic will always be plastic, and will basically never disappear fully no matter what it’s form.

Plastic Free on MV

Then, she began eliminating plastic containers, using the glass ones from purchases, and augmenting when necessary. She also added stainless steel containers into the mix. This is easier than you think, it just takes a little more time to find the products in glass, and the products are usually higher quality and more healthy, so a win-win.

Plastic Free on MV

Then it was on to figuring out how to not but items packaged in plastic which gets very tricky on MV. However, she has learned some tricks and is happy to share. For a number of items, especially the basics like flour and oatmeal, Cronig’s Market has a good bulk section. Get some canvas bags, also available from Cronig’s or Amazon, and you have plastic free packing.


Buy fruits and veggies not in plastic when possible, and use reusable fruit and veggie bags, available at the same places listed above. Also, don’t use plastic bag when getting your groceries. If you don’t have a produce bag, you can let those babies be free. The produce is dirty anyways and needs a good washing.

Plastic Free on MVFor cleaning products, invest in some glass bottles, yes there will be plastic for the handle and spray part, and make your own. Most recipes are surprisingly easy, and so much better for your home, family and pets. You will know every ingredient.

Fresh Bacon from Shiretown

Want to keep going? Bring containers for your lunch meat to the grocery store, get unpackaged, fresh bacon from a local butcher, like Shiretown Meats. Bring containers to restaurants that you know have large portions, or bring your own containers for takeout (that might be a challenge for me).

MochaMottsNina is full of ideas, and it takes a couple tries to remember and modify your routine but once you do, it feels good. I don’t do enough good every day, so this is a little way.

From her, I have learned to have metal straws with me for drinks if needed, have a coffee to go cup in my car. There’s a sort of bag of “be good to MV” in my car, loaded with shopping bags, produce bags, and more. It’s now just part of me.

Plastic Free on MVYou can go even further. There is silk dental floss, bamboo toothbrushes, you can make your own toothpaste and mouth wash that have been proved affective — all in glass if you want. Choose products, whether at Reliable or shopping online at Target, that have glass or metal containers which you can save find other uses for or recycle.

Plastic Free on MV

Can you image how few times you’ll be having your trash collected? Add composting to your things-to-do list. This is super easy, but can be gross. I must confess, my husband is in charge of this at our house. For Nina, her compost goes into a lidded jar on the counter, then outside almost daily. Mine go into a bucket outside by my deck. Some people have a container under the sink. Hey whatever works.

plastic free on MV

For Nina, this process has allowed her to really know what goes into her family’s life. It has lead to a lot more beauty. The colors of fresh, naked items are always brighter. She has challenged herself to make things that she could not find, like bread or tortilla shells or pudding cups. She spends more time with her children creating things together, and each week has some new adventure for her quest to be “zero waste.”

plastic Free on MV

Though I am not as, how shall I say, dedicated, as Nina is, but I am proud to do what I can when I can. I knew I had a little passion for this when I made us save our recyclables when we were on vacation in Florida last Winter. I collected them for a week, and had a very hard time finding a place to take them. However, find it I did. My children understood that this means something.


I still buy things in plastic and use plastic, um hello Legos and Barbie Dolls and lipstick, but I do my best. I forget my straws sometimes, but I sometimes remember to ask the server for no straw in my drink. I do like straws for iced coffee and frozen cocktails. I don’t need a straw. I use it once and it stays forever. Seeing Straw Free MV stickers on Island businesses remind me too!

Plastic Free on MV

If you’d like help reducing your plastic/waste, Nina can help. She is a “zero waste” consultant and can help you make the changes you want. There are so many more things that she learned along the way. Things that are surprisingly easy to do.

Plastic Free on MVReading this, you might think she’s got time to burn, but she has a family and works. Interestingly, she recently finished school with a degree in interior design. Ultimately, it is her goal to help design and create, plastic free, waste free, beautiful healthy homes for people. It is possible, just a choice. It might take more time at first, but it becomes part of your life.

Plastic Free on MV

It might slow you down a bit, inspire you to connect with the moment, be more thoughtful. I know she inspires me, and I am grateful for her sharing her knowledge.

Plastic Free on MVAuthor’s Note: Nina informed me that with smaller companies like esty and ebay, you can request PLASTIC FREE shipping. How easy is that! Also, how great is ebay for recycling? It’s an endless treasure trove of amazing used items!

50 Things You Should Stop Buying & Start Making

I also found this handy article on-line, 50 Things You Should Stop Buying & Start Making. Could be fun to add somethings with a long, grey Winter looming on the horizon.

You can learn more about Plastic Free On MV, including services through Facebook and instagram, @littlehouseonthevineyard. Also thanks for some great pics. Don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Linked In, Google+, Pinterest and Youtube.

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