Life: An Update on Reducing Plastic

It’s been a couple of months since I read How to Give Up Plastic and was inspired to reduce the plastic usage in our home so I thought I’d share how that’s going and some of the things we’ve replaced.

Shampoo! Well, I haven’t given up shampoo but I did make the switch to a shampoo bar. So far, so good. I bought a lavami shampoo bar (mostly because it was decently priced and something I was able to get) and I like it. It smells good (I’m very particular about scents) and lathers up nicely. More recently, I found someone at our local farmers’ market who makes shampoo bars and I like his even better. They seem to last a little longer and offer more conditioning. The market only runs through September so I think I’ll be stocking up for winter!

I had heard that when making the switch, your hair goes into a kind of detox and gets a lot oilier but this hasn’t been my experience. I am very low key about my hair; I wash it every 2-3 days and I don’t use any other products in it, so I do think that probably helped.

Conditioner! With the lavami bar, I definitely noticed my hair needed conditioner. I tried an apple cider vinegar rinse but it did nothing for me and I hated the smell. The bar I got locally seems to condition better. I use a couple drops of argan oil when I need to smooth out some frizz. It works best for me when I rub it in my hands and then on my hair, rather than directly in my hair.

Plastic Bags! We’ve been good for a while now about bringing our re-usable shopping bags to the grocery store. We also bought re-usable mesh bags to put our produce in so we don’t have to use the plastic produce bags provided. But what to use in our garbage can? For a while I was buying garbage bags but that always felt really dumb. Why am I buying something just to throw it away and create more plastic waste? So I stopped buying them and have been using bags we already have to line our cans. This hasn’t been a super satisfying solution since they rarely fit right (especially in our larger kitchen can) and since we’re reducing our plastic bag usage, theoretically we’ll eventually run out of bags. I don’t want to simply throw our garbage straight into the can because I feel like that makes a greater mess for our garbage workers to deal with and I want them to like us! I looked into biodegradable bags but apparently those aren’t actually good to use when going to a landfill. Anyone have a good solution?

Toothbrushes! I bought bamboo toothbrushes for Peter and I and when I took them out of their little paper boxes…they were wrapped in plastic. So frustrating! Apparently a completely plastic-free toothbrush is impossible without returning to boar bristles so unless I can find another bamboo option, I’ll probably stick to regular plastic toothbrushes.

Sandwich bags! I already reuse all our ziplock bags as much as I possibly can. I also bought reusable sandwich bags that can go in the washing machine. We use beeswax wraps (locally made!) instead of cling wrap as much as possible. The woman who makes the beeswax wraps also just started making bags from them and I’m so excited about that.

Soap! My next step is to start using soap nuts for our laundry. Has anyone tried these before? Any tips? We use bar soap in the shower but do use liquid soap in our bathrooms and for dishwashing. I purchased nice soap dispensers and now buy the liquid soap in bulk for refills. Still plastic waste but at least somewhat reduced.

Things to work on: Food packaging. This is so hard to avoid. We live in a small town so there aren’t necessarily a ton of shopping options and we try to support the ones that are locally owned as much as possible. Things like cereal and cracker and spice packaging are just always there. Some of those soft plastics we can take in for recycling so I need to make a habit of collecting those and keeping them until we can take them in.

Kids toys. We don’t necessarily buy that many toys for the girls and when we do we try to be mindful about keeping things minimal. We try to find things they can use for a long time and play with in a variety of ways. But little plastic toys creep in. Goody bags from birthday parties. Prizes from the dentist. Things I don’t want to say they can’t have but also things I know they won’t miss when they disappear in a few weeks.

Toiletries. Aside from shampoo, there is also toothpaste and lotion and cleansers and razors and make-up and and and… Once you start noticing it, there is a lot of plastic in our bathroom. I’ll admit, I’m reluctant to make changes here because I’ve chosen many of these products carefully for how they work for me and my skin or face or whatever. I think my next step will be to switch deodorants and I’m going to try a new night cream.

So, small steps, but I think they matter. It does drive home how the real answer to reducing global plastic usage lies with the manufacturer. But by choosing to spend my money with companies who are making an effort, I do hope it sends a small but loud message.

Are there any ways you avoid plastic in your home? Any plastic-free products you use and recommend?

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10 thoughts on “Life: An Update on Reducing Plastic”

  1. I wouldn’t worry a ton about toothbrushes, as you only switch them out once every three months and use them loads during their lifespan. I’m not willing to risk an iffy brush on my teeth, because if the bristles aren’t good quality, they start diminishing the strength of your teeth — and you only get the teeth you’ve got. Instead of a focus on just plastic, I try to reduce and reuse lots of products. Instead of buying plastic storage dishes for leftover food, I keep the jars from other products, like salsa. They fit easily into the dishwasher, are glass (so you don’t get this micro-scratches that hoard bacteria), and I’m not throwing away a product or buying a new one. I think I literally have only one container that was purchased.

    Clothes: most of my clothes come from Goodwill or garage sales. I try to avoid buying new clothing because I know so many people do, often feeling forced to keep up with the latest season and switching their wardrobe frequently. I think that if we cannot reduce our own waste, it’s good to reuse the “waste” of others at used places. None of our furniture is new. It’s all from salvation stores or garage sales. We’re not a matching household, but everything is nice, functional, and clean. E-waste is a big issue. People get new phones, TVs, tablets, and laptops at an alarming rate. My husband and I keep our devices for many years, much longer than most tech savvy people like us do.

    I use cloth bags at the store, and if I have to get the plastic ones, those collect Kitty poops later. I’m not sure about trash bags in a large bin — I’ve never heard anything about reducing the use of those. As for shampoo/conditioner, I always try to buy a brand that has large containers (if you survey your store, you’ll see some are quite small). Buying in bulk is always a winner!

    Another one that is more personal you can learn about on flexfits.com. Not as plastic friendly as a Diva Cup, but much better than tampons or sanitary napkins. Plus, I’m just not willing to boil a Diva Cup in my cookware. Sorry, feminism!

    1. This is awesome – thanks for the ideas! I tend to think of buying bulk as a way to save money but you’re right that it’s also environmentally friendly. I think I’m going to give up on toothbrushes for now. (Finding non-plastic ones, I mean. I still use a toothbrush.) Plus I just got one from the dentist. We do the same for containers – I don’t think I’ve ever bought a container. Either we got them as wedding gifts or we use jars we’ve collected. At this point, we probably have too many but I also use them to store little toys in, hair ties, play dough, the list goes on…

      Your point about clothes and furniture is good too. A lot of our furniture is second hand and we’ve really only purchased it as needed. Home decorating is not really my thing so I’m happy with our well-worn, functional pieces. I get the majority of the girls’ clothes second hand too and as much of my own as I can. A couple of years ago I decided to give up fast fashion and buy our clothes from companies that treat their workers fairly. This tends to mean I spend more on individual pieces but it’s also decreased how much I buy new.

      In the city near us there’s a big children’s museum called Science World and one of their current exhibits is all about garbage and recycling and the numbers around electronics surprised me when we were there recently. That’s something that I tend to forget about. Another argument for buying items that are well made and will ideally last for many years rather than the cheaper option that breaks in a year.

      I actually made the switch to the Diva Cup a few months ago! I love it but then felt weird talking about it on the internet! I use an old pot that was going to get sent to the thrift store to boil it so I totally understand your hesitation.

    2. Yeah, I don’t talk much about Flex Fits online, but then I think of all the women I know who are likely still using tampons, and I want to shake them. Tampons are awful products, like, leftover from uncivilized times. Blech.

    3. Hahaha, it’s true. I’ve always hated them. When I actually made the switch I wanted to go around proclaiming the awesomeness of the menstrual cup but that also felt very weird to do. Flexfits sounds like a great alternative too and I’ve never heard of them before.

  2. I’m switching our family to bar soap in the bathrooms instead of liquid soap and this has been an easy fix. I’m just using up our liquid soap from before and then fully making the switch. I have pretty oily hair so I don’t think I can make the full switch to shampoo bars but I fully support others who do! LOL Electric toothbrushes actually use less plastic because you just change out the heads every few months, I had my last one for 13 years so that’s something to consider…

  3. We’ve been working on this too – at the same time as slowly moving toward more natural home/body products. In some cases this means less/better packaging (win-win), for instance I highly recommend Nellie’s powder laundry soap, it comes in a metal cannister, cleans very well, made locally in N Van, and one small plastic bag inside but one can lasts us 6-7 months. In other cases, eg some cosmetics and deodorant, cleaner ingredients hasn’t meant less plastic yet. Our recycling centre recently started taking soft plastics/overwrap, and I have been both amazed and aghast, it’s such a large volume we collect in our family so the fact that it’s now recyclable is so much better than previously being garbage, but seeing it all in one place I am now very motivated to find some options with less plastic packaging to begin with. Do you follow Jillian Harris on IG? She has been talking a lot about this exact topic recently and I like the questions she poses and the resources she finds because usually local/Canadian since she is in Kelowna.

    1. I only know Jillian Harris from the Bachelor! I’ll have to check her more recent stuff out. There is one place on the Coast that takes soft plastics but I need to be better about collecting it and saving it to take there.

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