Plastic & Me: Walking the (Privileged) Walk - Products, Reviews & a Brief Rant Against amazon.com
I always considered myself environmentally conscious. I was toting my own reusable grocery bags - and produce bags! - well before Californians banned the plastic bag in 2016. I've used refillable hand soap dispensers (and now make a point of only buying refills that do not come in hard plastic) for years! I've had a compost heap in my backyard since 1997! Then Greta Thunberg came along and I started thinking more about the choices I make and how I can reduce my consumption. I want to pause here and acknowledge that I am in a privileged position when it comes to having the time and mental energy to consider how my choices impact the environment and privileged to have a degree of financial security that allows me to make the sometimes costly choice to eliminate plastic in my life. I would also like to say that, when possible, I am shopping from brick and mortar stores. However, much of what I have bought is not available in my neck of the woods. When I do shop online, I am NOT shopping from Amazon, instead choosing to support the companies making these products directly whenever possible, or the environmentally conscious websites selling their products. As a former longtime bookseller, I have many reasons to dislike amazon.com and have boycotted them since the mid-90s. Now that they their business practices, not to mention the tremendous carbon footprint they are leaving as well as poor treatment of employees are being exposed, I am glad I made the choice I did.
Thinking it would be a simple first step, I decided to eliminate hard plastics in my life as much as possible. I started in the bathroom, making a bulk order of bamboo toothbrushes from Zero Waste Cartel. After much research, I went with this brush both for cost and the fact that the bristles come in three colors, meaning my husband would be more likely to remember which brush is his. And, as a lifelong user of Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Liquid Soap (peppermint, always) I switched to the bar soap to avoid the plastic packaging.
Next, I turned to Package Free Shop for mouthwash, which my husband can't go a day without. I purchased Georganics (a British company, thus from a distributor in the US) spearmint mouthwash tablets, which come in a glass container. While they aren't quite the same as the plastic bottled brand I had been buying, after a 3 month trial period, my husband agreed on a subscription order, which offers a reduced price. While browsing the Package Free Website, I decided to try shampoo bars made by Canadian company, Unwrapped Life. I have long hair that is going grey at the top and color treated on the ends, which is a lot to address. I have purchased and used up half of many different products in hard plastic over the years (which cluttered up my shower) and found no one thing I absolutely love. Now I have. As the website says, "Shampoo bars are the sh*t!" I love mine so much that I cradled the remaining slivers in my hand each time I showered as I waited for my new shampoo bar to arrive. I started with The Hydrator. The bar is small and you will immediately feel foolish for spending $14.00 on it when you see it BUT mine lasted for 4 MONTHS and I wash my hair almost every day! I purchased a shampoo bar locally that was twice the size and half the cost and it does not leave my hair feeling and looking as good as The Hydrator does. I just subscribed to get one every four months and also bought The Fixer to try. And my shower looks amazing with all the plastic bottles cleared out...
These bars smell amazing and have a range of natural ingredients and essential oils. They also contain sulfates (the thing that makes lather and cleans), but apparently not the really bad one - SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate). According to Unwrapped Life, their shampoo bars contain the "gentler surfactant, sodium coco sulfate. The EWG skindeep database has a better rating for sodium coco sulfate than SLS - it's generally considered to be less irritating due to larger molecular structure." If you want to read a more in-depth explanation of SLS, SCS and why Unwrapped Life uses it in their shampoo, co-founder Hayley McKenzie explains here. Personally, I am going to work on eliminating the plastic from my house before I begin testing out shampoo bars without SCS.
Future goals: dental floss (totally doable), conditioner, face soap, deodorant, toothpaste. I've done some research and toothpaste tablets do not have fluoride, which I need. I am searching for toothpaste that comes in an aluminum tube that tastes good and is affordable.
Unachievable Goals: Contact solution.
Cleaning Products: I have long used tablets in my dishwasher (Trader Joe's brand) and made the switch to pods for washing my clothes a while back.
Dish Soap: I have used Dawn for decades and it WORKS. But, I was willing to have to use a bit more soap and work a little harder to get the grease off in the interest of eliminating the hard plastic bottles. I tried more than a few different dish soaps...
etee Dish Soap Concentrate: plant based and zero waste, it comes in a cool wax tube that is fun to squeeze out and the smell is not unpleasant. I tried three tubes, really wanting it to be a winner, but moved on. I do have their cellulose cleaning cloth and Loofie Scrubber I will try in lieu my Scotch-Brite sponges.
Clean Cult: Hoping this might be my source for several things, I tried their dish soap that comes in a milk carton. It worked great, but I didn't need any other products and couldn't justify having just one thing shipped to me.
Blueland: Besides being earth friendly, they are light on packaging - everything comes as a tablet you drop into water, from hand soap to window spray to bathroom cleaner. I purchased the home cleaning kit which was reasonably priced and easy to use. Unfortunately, one of the three plastic, refillable spray bottles cracked and leaked all over the cupboard under my kitchen sink. And I don't really use the spray bathroom cleaner or the glass cleaner - I have an old Windex bottle filled with vinegar and water that works on just about everything. On top of that, the hand soap, which I was most excited about, seems to be clogging up the pump upon refilling it.
Ultimate Solution: Method Dish Soap refills. I use the hand soap refills and it never occurred to me to see if they make dish soap! The scent is a bit strong, but I'm happy with how it works, overall.
Future Goals: Find a replacement for Soft Scrub with Bleach, the one cleaner I use for bathroom and kitchen.
The Kitchen: I switched to glass storage a while back and have had metal straws for years. I've also been using beeswax wraps for a few years and just bought two silicone storage pouches that I am loving. My biggest challenge has been policing myself on buying food in hard plastic. I don't buy grated parmesan in hard plastic tubs anymore, I grate my own now. I also stopped buying salsa in hard plastic tubs. I experimented with some varieties in jars, but prefer to make it fresh. I try not to buy packaged produce or produce wrapped or bagged in plastic (from lettuces to potatoes to carrots) when I can buy it loose and use my mesh produce bags. I get my husband's sandwich meat cut at the deli counter and wrapped in paper. What throws me off are things in boxes that I don't realize have plastic containers inside (mochi, for one.) I now buy peanut butter, honey and, ketchup and maple syrup in glass and replacing other items that I can buy in glass when possible.
Future Goals: Raise my awareness of the many forms of plastic in the grocery store and reduce use further.
Unachievable Goals: I make a batch of pesto every week and, as much as I hate it, I will not stop buying basil in those plastic clamshells. And I can't grow enough of my own to meet my weekly needs.