:: I’m not here to change your mind. I just want to tell you how I figured some things out about getting rid of plastic, things that now, in retrospect, seem so simple, so obvious, about how to live a simpler life without plastic everywhere.
Update 11/4/2020: Some of the items here aren’t available anymore; some didn’t work out so well. Some have been amazing. I urge you to try them for yourself.
We’ve always been fierce about recycling at my house. Every trash can is actually a set of two trash cans—in every room, one marked with an R for recycling. Every bit of plastic bag wrapping goes in a bag for plastic recycling, and we shop at thrift stores and used clothing stores. We never fill our trash bin each week—we hardly fill it half way—despite being a family of four. We don’t generate a lot of waste. But.
But then the new U.S. climate report came out. And everywhere, I see the images of plastic filling our waters. There’s so much plastic in the oceans that the particulates are hurting sea animals, like turtles. I knew we needed to do more.
Making the Change
Before, when I looked at my bathroom countertop, it was covered in bottles: a pump bottle of face wash, a pump bottle of body lotion, a pump bottle of face lotion, a plastic tube of deodorant. And more. So many bottles, for no reason.
If you think about it, to transform all of these materials into a liquid form that works in a pump is actually counterintuitive. Soaps—they’re solids. Moisturizers such as shea or cocoa butter, they’re also solids at room temperature. To make them liquid, humans have to do things to them, mix them with chemicals, change them.
And then there’s traveling. We have to pack all of these liquids for cars and trains, and, in a worst-case-scenario, airplanes, with tiny, useless amounts in tiny, useless bottles. More plastic.
I knew there had to be a better way. I wanted my home to go plastic-free on principle, yes, but I also realized that all of those plastic bottles made no sense at all.
How had we been sold on those plastic bottles in the first place? What nonsense propaganda put those bottles on my countertop? I’m still kind of angry about being fooled like that. But that anger is for another post. Right now, let’s get practical. I went from a slew of bottles on my bathroom countertop to far fewer, and my life is actually better for it. Here’s how I did it.
Kicking the pump-bottle face wash to the curb was by far the easiest change to make on my bathroom countertop. There are so many great face wash soaps out there. Here are things that I looked for.
- I need moisturizing face cleanser. FYI: I used to use the Cetaphil pump.
- I have super reactive skin. My dermatologist says my skin is the most reactive she’s ever seen.
- I don’t want to use any items that come wrapped in plastic at all. Lots of face wash bars come in cardboard boxes and then come wrapped in plastic inside the cardboard. That’s crazy! These brands include Neutrogena and Aveeno. I bought a bar of Aveeno before I realized they wrapped their bars in plastic. I like the soap, but I can’t recommend it so long as the plastic thing is going on.
Here are the two face wash bars I use. I use two because they’re slightly different.
Body Moisture Cream
Switching from a pump bottle of skin cream to a bar is so easy. Cocoa butter and shea butter, the best moisturizers in the world, are solids anyway at room temperature, like:
My advice: Get a what’s colloquially called a “butter block” and never look back. Here’s what I’m using for my body moisturizer now:
- Ethique Butter Block in Jasmine and Ylang Ylang
- Lush massage bar in Therapy (get the travel tin, too)
OK, look. I went to boarding school, which sounds all preppy and plaid skirts. But it was actually all rich kids who didn’t bathe enough and wore a lot of patchouli to hide the smell. The point is, I was very hesitant to go rogue on deodorant. No plastic-free deodorant will contain an antiperspirant, and they all come unwrapped, so you have to hold them in your hand when you apply them.
Was this change going to be TOO WEIRD FOR ME?
The antiperspirant thing was easy. I stopped wearing antiperspirant a long time ago. I don’t sweat a lot, and when I do, it’s on the tennis court and, to be honest, I should be sweating there. Everyone knows (or should know) that antiperspirant is bad for you. So, going without antiperspirant wasn’t a change for me.
Second, these deodorants don’t smell wacky—in fact, my favorite one of them smells minty and amazing. In your hand, it smells a little bit like mint gum. When you put it on, it just smells great. No unwashed scions of Philadelphia here.
Finally, holding the deodorant in my hand to apply it has turned out to be no big deal at all. You just get used to it. I don’t need a plastic carrier for my deodorant any more. The bar sits in a little plate on my vanity, and then I put it on, and then I put it back on its little plate. For travel, I have a little tin to hold it in. Like most things, you can get used to using deodorant that doesn’t come packaged in plastic. Here are the two that I tried and like:
Face moisturizer is, by far, the hardest one for me—because of my reactive skin. If I were to go into a drug store and buy ten bottles of moisturizing cream, I would get a rash from all ten. At the moment, there is only one bottle of moisturizing cream that does NOT give me a rash. Going into this experiment, I honestly believed I would have to continue using that bottle.
I tried a few different bar moisturizers on my face. And, after two tries, I found one that I didn’t react to. I’m still kind of amazed by this. I’m not sure if this honeymoon will last, but for now, things are happy on my face. Here’s what I use:
Sadly, there are some items that I have been unable to replace so far, so I’m still using some items that are in plastic bottles. Fortunately, I haven’t had to make any new purchases of these items—I’m just using up my old stock. I hope to find replacements before I run out of what is in my closet. Here’s what I still have in plastic:
- Hair texturizing gel/cream
- SPF 50 face cream that I wear every day
- SPF 50 sunscreen
For hairspray, which I do use, I purchase ones that come in a metal container and recycle the metal.
Maybe I can’t change your mind.
Or maybe, together, we can change the world.
If you enjoyed my writing...
...sign up for my email letter for more.
...please leave a small tip. Even 50 cents can make a big difference in my ability to write essays such as this one for free.