Updated: Jan 31, 2019
There has been a gap since my last post, as I was enjoying the holidays with limited technology distractions. Over the past couple of months, a number of people have asked me how I went from refusing plastic straws to going zero waste. For those of you who do not know me, I will share a story that will give you a glimpse at how my brain works.
I’m an Italian who is very passionate about feeding people. For my birthday in February, I decided to have friends over for a meal. Very simple, but always a success. Next thing you know, everyone is dressed as Olympians (I was the Nancy Kerrigan of the group), divided into teams, and participating in minute-to-win-it Winter Olympic Games of our own, on top of eating a big meal. As you can see, small ideas tend to snowball into big productions.
Every time I said no to a straw at a restaurant, I felt powerful (yes, this sounds ridiculous, but I mean every word). Trying new things and being untraditional is very fun. Accomplishing things you never expected is exciting. Like that time I went vegan for 40 days, just because I knew I could do it...even if I had enough gas to power a jet engine (“TMI Miss Thang” - Target Lady). Challenging ourselves is like a breath of fresh air! So, when I saw people living without a trash can I thought, “I can do that.” And then I did.
Since I already mentioned gas in this post, we might as well jump right into toiletry talk. Bathrooms tend to be overloaded with waste. This comes in many forms: beauty products that you don’t like, but do not want to toss, empty packaging, soap, lotion, and countless cleaners, each with a specific purpose. There is waste, or soon-to-be waste everywhere you look.
To answer the most popular question: YES, I use toilet paper and will continue to. The type I buy is made from recycled paper, so I am still making an effort, but am not willing to go without.
As previously mentioned, as I run out of a product, I replace it with an a zero-waste alternative. A couple months ago I ran out of shampoo. Rather than replacing it with another plastic shampoo bottle, I purchased a shampoo bar. I had never heard of them before, but it works marvelously, and actually gets much more sudsy than my previous shampoo. I just wet the bar and lather it directly in my hair! The texture of my hair felt a little different than before (probably because I used free & clear shampoo) but my hair adjusted. The last time I washed my hair, it felt like it was back to normal.
All in all, I gave it two months, and it was a huge success. My hair is very thick, wavy and let’s be honest...always a little chaotic, so what works for me may not work for you. There are many different types of shampoo bars, so through a little experimentation, you can find your perfect match.
Sidenote: My hair girl told me to shampoo twice when I wash my hair. Did you know that? I thought the rinse and repeat was so people would run out of shampoo faster. She convinced me. Maybe because I only wash my hair every 4 days, but the style lasts so much better. If you are washing your hair every day, we need to talk. I used to be one of you, but that is just too much time. Train that hair.
If you are completely grossed out with everything I’ve said about shampoo bars, I understand. Some of you out there are thinking, “I MUST HAVE liquid shampoo.” There is a natural option that comes in an aluminum container that you can send in for refills. While shipping is not ideal, at least bottle won’t be adding to the waste issue. Or maybe just get wild and go for the bar.
There are no other products I use daily on my hair. Pretty low-mane-tenance (Alex, if you are reading this, I can feel you giving me the look of un-amusement). Occasionally, I use dry shampoo when I need to get an extra day out of my hair, maybe every couple months. As I run out of my current bottle, I will keep you posted on my DIY replacement. There are a number of good options that I already have in my pantry!
For body wash, I use Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap. This is sold almost everywhere in a plastic bottle, BUT many places carry this in bulk. As I finish my bottle, I take it to the local natural grocery store (Nature’s Own for those of you in KC) and fill my bottle. They offer a number of scent options, but I use peppermint for everything, including washing my retainers every morning. I really wish my orthodontist was reading this. This soap also comes in bar form if you prefer. I always used the bar before I found the liquid in the bulk section. The beauty of the bars is that although they are in packaging, they make sure its ALL paper and 100% recyclable. I really love this company.
After each shower, I apply the Plaine Products: Rosemary, Mint, Vanilla Body Lotion. This comes in an aluminum bottle, that is not only recyclable BUT REFILLABLE! When you run out of lotion, you mail the bottle back to the company. They clean the bottle, refill, and send it back!
Shaving is another part of showering that produces lots of waste. Previously, I was using a razor with disposable blades made of a combination of metal and plastic that were not recyclable. To combat that waste, I switched to a stainless steel razor with a pivoting head that you load with blade refills that are 100% recyclable metal. The razor itself is 100% recyclable metal, but the product has a lifetime guarantee, so it should last forever. I have been loving this beautiful razor for the past month.
Last month, I ran out of moisturizer, so I switched from the plastic liquid moisturizer I have used since childhood to a facial oil that comes in a glass bottle. I have also switched cleanser and started using a toner, both that come in a glass bottle. With sensitive skin I was worried to change anything in the routine, but my face has been healthy and clear since I made the switch! Because I’m sure you are dying to know how it’s going, I will update you on my face over the coming weeks, but so far I am obsessed!!! Once I finish these face products, I will reuse the jars for my travel toiletries bag.
After mentioning toner, I would like to talk about another change. Cotton pads...not period pads (we aren’t ready for that yet), but the ones you use for toner! I saw some washable 100% cotton options online at a zero waste shop, and thought about ordering...and then I put on my pajamas. Every night to bed I wear a men’s 100% cotton, white v-neck. I probably have a dozen that have constantly made a rotation since the beginning of college. Some of these are getting holes in the armpits from 10 years of laundry. While I am lucky enough to have enough money to buy actual pajamas, I really like these comfy, old, broken-in shirts. That’s when it hit me. I used a pint glass to trace circles all over two of my shirts (you know, the ones with the biggest holes). Then, I cut them out and stacked a few together. Using a friend’s serger, I sewed around the edges of the circles and MADE MY OWN! I now have over 2 dozen reusable cotton pads that I throw in the laundry after each use...and they were free! If this sounds like too much work, you can buy them for very little money. Especially if you actually own pajamas like a real adult. Being resourceful just makes me excited!!! If you love the thought of reusable cotton pads, but don't want to make them yourself, here are some very similar to mine, but probably much better made!
For makeup, I was using a double-wear foundation that is full coverage and stays on all day. I ran out last month and bought a replacement. Although it came in glass, I’m sure it was loaded with toxins, so I had a change of heart, returned it immediately, and switched to a natural option. There are a number of options that are cream and liquid, but the foundation I chose is actually a serum! This applies so easy and a little goes a LONG WAY (you only need a few drops for your whole face).
The biggest difference I experienced was during application; I was used to an immediate matte look, but this makes your face GLOWY! Not in a weird way, but in a “Wow, my face looks healthy, why have I been loading this baby up with matte foundation and powder?” type of way. If you are not used to seeing an actual face under all that foundation of yours, give it a go! Here is the foundation that works best for me.
All-natural deodorant has been in my lineup for over 5 years and is really incredible when you buy the right kind! That being said, the first time I tried it and was so disgusted. I actually had a job interview that morning and no one warned me THAT IT DOES NOT ACTUALLY WORK and then I didn’t get the job. Or so I thought.
Going to the drugstore and buying something labeled “All Natural” will probably not get the job done (unless your drugstore has better options than we do). No one warned me prior to jumping in about the proper way to switch to natural deodorant and that they are not all created equal.
There are a number of different types of deodorant, and one may work best for you. Personally, mine comes in a jar. I dip my finger in, get a bean-sized amount, and rub it in. I thought it was weird at first, but now I can’t imagine doing it any other way. If you are too grossed out to touch your own armpit, maybe you need to rethink your routine!
Soapwalla was always my favorite, but until it comes in glass, I’ve switched to Meow Meow Tweet in the scent grapefruit. I also purchased the ingredients to make my own (this is a very simple process), and will update you with my results soon!
We stopped buying plastic toothbrushes, and switched to these bamboo toothbrushes that are biodegradable. We are still using up regular toothpaste, but are so glad that Teracycle offers a free Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program, so our empty tubes will not go into the landfill. I also use a prescription toothpaste for one brushing each day, because my gums had issues previously, so I haven't jumped into toothpowder yet.
We already owned a waterpik flosser that my dentist recommended years ago, so we use that each night. Although this is made of plastic, this is something we already had that will hopefully last a long time. There is a manual floss option made of silk (doesn't that just sound glamorous?!) for people who don't have a water flosser or prefer the old fashioned way. This is a favorite of the zero waste community.
EXCEPTIONS that you can’t let get you down.
Let’s talk medicine cabinet, because this has been a hot topic for questions. To stay in good health, some of us need medication and depriving our bodies would put our health in danger. The pharmacy gives us plastic, and we deal. This is the place in my house that I justify having minimal plastic, because I have no ability to make a change. All we can do is eliminate the waste we can control, and by doing that, we are doing our part.
There are so many easy changes we can make in our daily lives that will make a huge difference, but not create inconvenience. Every small step makes a huge difference. Here’s to taking baby steps to better ourselves in 2019!
A few affiliate links have been added to the original post after getting requests to link products so people know where to find them! I hope this helps make this more clear.