Last month, Kath shared the first part of her blog detailing how to create a plastic free household with some really easy and accessible steps. You can read that here, and read on for the second part!
Kitchen towel – Previously a big offender for us, mainly out of habit! Now, you can buy fancy colourful terry towelling cloths with poppers that click together and roll onto a stand, but that for us fitted into ‘ZW spending spree’. We opted for cutting up clothing that was past wearing (PJ’s, t-shirts etc) into handy size squares with pinking shears (scissors which make zigzag edges) and stacking them in the front of a kitchen draw. Dirty ones go in a net bag under the sink and get washed when the bag is full. If you are aiming for top marks make sure there are no plastic based fabrics in the stack – I doubt we managed this but one step at a time.
Clingfilm / plastic bags – We just stopped buying them. We save paper bags from our veg deliveries and reuse them for sandwiches. Anything we traditionally covered with clingfilm now gets a plate or upturned bowl popped over it e.g. in the microwave, in the fridge. I have every intention of making some wax wraps, with all the bits already sat on the side at home, I just need to find that spare half an hour... There are lots of clips online showing you how to do this.
Dish cloths / sponges – Washable cotton, natural bristle brush with a replaceable head, crotchet scrubber made from coir / jute / hemp.
Breadmaker / bag – We were very kindly given a breadmaker by a molecule that was moving overseas, so when the house is full we do pop that on overnight. It seems to work best for a fluffy white loaf which will start to go stale after 24 hours. No problem when the kids are here, it lasts about an hour! Lots of people make a loaf and freeze half. We do like a stonebaked, seeded, fancy loaf though and so we try to buy these loose and store them in a cotton drawstring bag. Plasticfreeshop.co.uk sells both cotton and linen versions.
It’s a minefield! Things we have done that have helped:
- Carry the bag! We have brilliant bags from a company called Onya which have lasted for years. They were originally made from parachute silk so super strong but looks like they have moved to recycled plastic bottles. They pack up into a really tiny pouch with a clip and come in an array of bright colours. Stocked in the UK by earthwisegirlsuk.co.uk. Disclaimer – I know they originate from Oz but they have lasted so much longer than any other brand we have tried.
- Veg box. A couple of well-known options in the UK, Riverford and Able&Cole, but we opted for a lovely local greengrocer who is extremely flexible. UK supermarkets Morrisons, Lidl and Asda have all started doing ‘wonky’ or ‘past best’ veg boxes.
- Butcher. Again we chose to go local, taking our own containers when we remember. Happily they no longer use plastic carrier or produce bags, instead heat sealed paper. It is more expensive but we combat this by not eating meat every night and by stretching the meat across meals – for example a roast chicken might go on to become egg fried rice the next night and then the carcass turns into soup with some added veggies. We know cooking from scratch every night is not always possible but we try to do it when we can and when we have the energy.
- Fishmonger. A rarer beast in our area but worth searching out a good one if you can. Our nearest one is happy to take an order by text the day before to save us getting out of bed at the crack of dawn to beat the queues. They are totally on board with reducing plastic – take your own box and cool-bag.
We are working on crisps, biscuits, snacks, butter, yogurt, cheese, meats… you get the picture. Sometimes we just don’t buy them, sometimes we give in. The purists would tell you to bake, make your own nut milk, make yogurt, build a meat smoker... lovely ideas but we have to be realistic, some of this will have to wait until retirement! Our current goal is at least to have a homemade cake in the tin at home.
Our next step will be to find a source of bulk dry goods in paper.
Liquid hand soap – switch to bar soap on an old school soap rack. We are currently working through a big box of Dr. Bronner Castile (lavender or tea-tree oil both smell lovely) which I bought on discount. Note it does contain palm oil though so I will be double checking the sustainability of this or looking at alternatives next time around. If you don’t want to buy a soap rack then push a metal bottle top into one side of the soap and sit the soap on the top – voila, elevated soap that doesn’t go soggy. Different colour metal tops will help you remember which bar is body / hair / conditioner as they can look very similar early in the morning!
Shower gel – much as I loved my Original Source peppermint shower gel this is an easy switch to bar soap again. So many options out there depending on your skin type but we are happily using the same type of bar as we do for handwashing. In the shower ours hangs in a Hydrophil sisal soap pouch which lets the bar dry after use, helps create a lather, exfoliates while you use it and lets you easily use all the tiny scraps of soap from the end of the bar. Check out the brand, they are good eggs! I bought ours from UK company theplasticfreeshop.co.uk. Other soap companies to check out:
Toothbrush – still not 100% plastic free because of the bristles but lots of bamboo options to choose from out there. Do your research, some last longer than others. Also the jury is still out on the overall sustainability of bamboo. Personally I am still using my electric one because it gets my teeth clean and it’s still going.
Toothpaste – a controversial area – you need to decide if you want fluoride or not. Some plastic free, low chemical options are:
- Denttabs – With or without fluoride
- Truthpaste – This is where I am heading next
- Georganics – It’s black and contains activated charcoal which some claim should not be used for more than short bursts of time. I am determined to get to the end of the lovely, expensive, glass jar but to be honest it’s pushing it’s luck.
- Lush – toothy tabs
- Euthymol – Old school, bright pink, in an aluminium tube which can be split, cleaned and recycled. Be warned it’s feisty and will definitely wake you up. Disclaimer does contain sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) which some people try to avoid. Included here more for the metal tube which is hard to find nowadays.
- Lush – Mouthwash tabs – chew with some water and off they fizz. Odd sensation until you get used to it. This really is just a mouth freshener, can’t say it has any antibacterial claims. Comes in a small plastic bottle which you can take back to Lush for reuse.
- Weleda – Small glass bottle of concentrate that you dilute. Think old school botanicals.
Cotton buds – paper stems (Simply Gentle brand comes in a cardboard box, Sainsbury's sell a paper stem but it comes in a plastic outer still) or Hydrophil do a bamboo one.
Deodorant (this is not antiperspirant!) - Antiperspirant works by using aluminium compounds to effectively block the pores, which could be considered as not very good for you. The most effective deodorants that we found are based on sodium bicarbonate which you may find you are sensitive to, especially ones with a high % content.
- The Natural Deodorant Company - Might seem expensive but lasts for long enough to justify it in our opinion. The active version has a very high content of bicarb and we found we couldn’t use it for an extended period of time. The gentle one might be better if you find you react to bicarb. Comes in a glass jar, but does have a plastic lid.
- Earth Conscious Deodorant - Comes in a handy metal tin. Very gentle.
- Organic Essence - Comes in a cardboard tube. Very gentle.
- Salt of the Earth – Salt rock deo. We were massively sceptical of these and so they were the last thing we tried after not getting on with high strength bicarb……but it seems to work. The ‘rock’ is a natural mineral – potassium alum which is thought to keep the bacteria at bay and therefore the smells away. I believe the particles are too large to be absorbed and sit on rather than in the skin. Research paper reading on the agenda.
A tricky one! Those with short hair might find this switch easier than those of us with longer, finer hair. The one thing that is clear is that you will not pick up a shampoo bar, wash your hair on day 1 and come out of the shower with flowing locks! There is most definitely a transition period of getting away from SLS oil stripping shampoos to something natural, and it seems you might hate your hair and have to wear a hat in between. Things we have tried:
- Baking soda – Will undoubtedly give you squeaky clean hair, will also give you brittle hair. I don’t recommend it as a regular option.
- Shampoo bars – Lather up in your hands or a natural sisal soap bag, wash with the lather – do not put the bar directly on your head or you will end up with waxy hair. Wash thoroughly. Rinse with an apple cider vinegar (ACV) solution – dilute 15% in water, pour over head, let sit for 2 mins, rinse.
- Rhassoul clay – Really love the cleaning results but does make your hair massively static! The ACV rinse helps, as does not using a plastic comb. I have read and am about to try hydrating the clay with aloe vera juice instead of water. This is supposed to bring the pH down and help to prevent the static.
Next up – rye flour wash!
Shaving – another easy switch from gel or foam for us. Funky Soap do a brilliant bar which contains bentonite clay for glide. The bar lasted for 6 months compared with a tube of shaving gel every month. We also like Airmid shaving soap in a tin from Ireland.
DIY moisturiser – a blend of shea butter, cocoa butter and apricot oil is reported to do the trick. We will let you know how we get on!
I sit back and re-read what I have written and I’m sure you will all think we are mad, that’s it’s all too much effort, too much hard work, won’t make any difference, but to quote Sir David Attenborough;
‘It is one world. And it’s in our care. For the first time in the history of humanity, for the first time in 500 million years, one species has the future in the palm of its hands. I just hope he realizes that this is the case’
Do the things you are able to. Change the things we can.
If you have any questions, or want further advice on a topic as important as this, feel free to leave a comment below, or contact us on social media.