Posted on August 09 2019
By Natalie Louw
How I managed Plastic Free July Challenge: PART 1
..... and how you can keep it going.
At the beginning of the year, I made a commitment to live a more environmentally sustainable life. I had a radical list: cut out all single use plastic, shop only at zero waste stores, become vegan – you see where this is going. Like all New Year’s Resolutions, by March (okay, by February), things had fallen apart. What I didn’t realise when starting out was that if I wanted to succeed in the long-term, I needed to start small.
This July, I decided to renew my vows to the plastic-free movement: I took up the PlasticFree July Challenge. I knew from the get-go that I would be stronger in certain areas than in others (I’m looking at you, Sainsbury’s ravioli in the plastic container). But that’s life! With the month drawing to a close, I’m proud of the progress I made. Come August, I plan on working even harder to cut down on my plastic use, with the long-term goal of living as close to zero-waste as possible. Here are the changes I made, starting with the bathroom in Part One and the kitchen in Part Two.
My first step was to assess the damage room by room. I began by taking a look around my bathroom and I saw plastic everywhere. Shampoo and conditioner bottles, body wash bottles, deodorant tubes, toothbrushes – it was endless. But this was surprisingly easy to change. First, I poured all similar liquids into one container. That took me from having many nearly-empty bottles to having three. The empty bottles I thought I could reuse, I kept. The rest went into recycling where possible. Second, I chatted to my partner and we discussed where we would cut down on bathroom products, and which toiletries we could share. This saves space, money, and consumption. Once we had used up everything in the bathroom and had decided which products to share, it was time for the fun part: Shopping.
My first stop was naturally Bon Tot. Bon Tot has a growing range of eco-friendly bathroom options which I love. For starters, I chose a F.E.T.E. bamboo toothbrush I’ve tried many different brands so far, and F.E.T.E is by far my favourite. It doesn’t have the flimsy feel of some bamboo toothbrushes, and you can find it in a range of colours. This is helpful for avoiding confusion in larger families. F.E.T.E also stocks kids’-sized toothbrushes. To go with my bamboo toothbrush, I went online and bought a glass pot of Georganics natural toothpaste. It takes some getting used to, but I won’t be going back to traditional toothpaste with its plastic packaging..
While at Bon Tot, I also treated myself to a Konjac face and body sponge. I’m a self- confessed Korean beauty addict, so to find a plastic-free sponge with that K-Beauty goodness was a joy. Only at Bon Tot, right? Konjac sponges are totally plastic free and are made of plant roots. When wet, they become as soft as jelly, but still make great exfoliators. These sponges are a good alternative to makeup wipes, which are made of plastic fibres.
I then popped across St Stephen St to The Method, where Dan helped me choose a plastic-free deodorant. I chose The Natural Deodorant Co, which comes in a glass pot. It’s also free from palm oil, aluminium, alcohol and artificial fragrance. The trick with natural deodorant is to let it sink in before you get dressed. At the end of the day, you must wash it off thoroughly, too. Aside from that, it works like a charm, even on (admittedly rare) gym days. Dan also helped me choose a face wash and a moisturiser, both in glass jars. Both products are organic and plastic-free. While they aren't the cheapest products around, my partner and I have been using them for months and they are still nearly full. It’s like magic.
This shopping spree on St Stephen St was the most fun part of creating a plastic-free bathroom, but it was only the beginning. I still had so much to do. The easiest switch was quitting body wash and opting for a bar of natural soap. Then, I swapped plastic q-tips for bamboo q-tips, which are compostable. Next, once I’d used up all my cotton rounds, I bought a small pack of bamboo facial rounds. Not only do cotton rounds come in a plastic packet but growing one kilogram of cotton uses 22,500 litres of water. Bamboo is a much more sustainable alternative.
The next step was to buy a double-edged safety razor. This is a basic change that makes a huge difference, especially if you or someone in your household shaves daily. A safety razor is an investment – it will last your whole life and can even be passed down. In America, two billion razors are tossed out yearly. To make matters worse, ‘normal’ razor blades are made of plastic, metal and rubber strips. They can’t be recycled. Safety razor blades, however, are made of stainless steel. In Edinburgh, they’d go straight into your blue bin! When my partner shaved for the first time with the safety razor, it wasn't pretty. But after the initial learning curve, he found that it gives a closer, more comfortable shave.
Finding the perfect plastic-free shampoo and conditioner was a little more challenging. After trying many brands, I settled on Beauty Kubes. Instead of a plastic bottle, what you get is a small cardboard box of dry cubes. Each cube gives you one wash or one conditioning treatment. All you need to do is crush the cube in your palm, add a little water and lather it all over your hair. It’s lovely and foamy, and left my hair feeling just-been-to-the- hairdresser-level soft.
My final bathroom swap took the most getting used to. On average, a person who menstruates uses over 10,000 tampons or pads in their lifetime. I can hardly comprehend the staggering waste to which that amounts. Worse still, most period products are made of plastic and cotton (and we know how resource-heavy cotton is). I opted for a Moon Cup instead. While I won’t get into the details (let’s just say it’s closer to a scene from Psycho than skipping through a field of daisies, leak-free), I’m so happy with my choice. The cup will last ten years at least, so in the long run I’ll save waste and money. Hurray!
Have you tried any of these bathroom swaps? What worked for you? Let us know in the comments below. For the next step in this series, Part Two will be coming soon....