I know what you're probably thinking from the title "Isn't this plastic free July? Shouldn't we be trying to ditch the plastic?" And you are completely right! We should be working to reduce plastic in as many areas of our lives that we can. However, I think that a lot of times the "zero waste" movement falls flat in setting out realistic expectations. We currently don't live in a society where we can go 100% plastic free, and that isn't our fault as consumers. So even though I've spent the last month writing blogs about all the ways I've eliminated plastic from my life, I wanted to round out July by showing you the areas of my life that still have plastic in them, that I'm not perfect, and that a completely "zero waste" lifestyle doesn't truly exist yet.
So here is my list of things that come packaged in plastic that I am not going to be giving up.
As someone with very acne prone skin I have found Differin to be a game changer! This helped clear my skin up so much, it's prescription strength but you can get it now at CVS, Walmart etc. which was really helpful for me when I was still in college and not living in the same place all the time. In addition, I only go through one tube of this stuff every 18 months, which really is not a lot. You only need a pea sized amount each night. Because I know that these tubes last me a long time and have helped my skin so much, this is one of those items in plastic that I just can't quite give up yet.
More of a general one here but we need food to survive and therefore: groceries! While I do my best to avoid buying things in plastic (check out my blog posts on plastic free grocery shopping here), there are some items you just can't get plastic free yet. Things like strawberries, blueberries, and bread. I often go out of my way to go to the grocery stores I know I can get spinach and lettuce package free at but sometimes that just isn't possible with my schedule. At the end of the day we need to eat and not all food is plastic free yet.
3. Health Items
This one should be obvious to most people but sometimes isn't from what I see in some zero waste communities online. Anything health or medical related should still be used even if it comes in plastic! For me this is Neosporin, Cortizone, and hydrogen peroxide etc. where there aren't plastic free alternatives!
In the same vein as above we need vitamins for our bodies to be healthy! So don't feel bad about getting vitamins. I know there are some plastic free vitamin companies like Care/of, but I can't compost their packaging through my compost company so in the end I would be throwing it away. Not to mention how insanely expensive their vitamins are, I just couldn't justify it!
I know biodegradable floss exists out there but I just can't get behind it for two main reasons. The first being that it comes in little glass jars, which while cute have no reusability in my opinion so they would need to be recycled with each use. And again, I wouldn't be able to compost the floss with my compost service, not to mention the reviews all say how the floss breaks apart between your teeth. I found a great alternative to that which is floss from Quip. It comes in a metal dispenser that you continue to reuse forever and just load more floss into once every 3 months. This way I am not buying plastic floss containers ever but am also still flossing my teeth!
When it comes to things like these I have to give myself a break, we are all trying our best at the end of the day and it's okay to buy some things in plastic if they are important to you or necessary for your health! What things in plastic are you not giving up?
One of the biggest areas I've found that is hard to go plastic-free, especially without breaking the bank, is skincare! While there are a lot of options, many of them are really expensive so I wanted to highlight some of my favorite plastic free skincare swaps.
1. Face Soap:
This Cerave Facial Wash Bar is a game changer for me. This is equivalent to a liquid soap I would have used prior to going zero waste but in bar form. Not to mention it's way cheaper than buying the liquid ($5.99 at Target compared to its $10.99 liquid counterpart)! I bought this bar back in February and I still don't think I've used even a third of it to be honest. This was definitely one of the best zero waste swaps I've made for skincare!
2. Rosehip Oil:
While it's very easy to find essential oils in glass over plastic I do use rosehip oil on my face every night and I just love that I can find it just about anywhere in glass from Amazon to Ulta to even Imperfect Foods for under $10!
3. Face Masks:
One of my favorite things about being zero waste has been making my own face masks! I love using egg whites as a face mask when I only need egg yolks for a meal, and they really help tighten your pores too. I also love using Aloe Vera as a zero waste face mask or honey and some brown sugar to exfoliate. Check out my blog post on zero waste face masks.
4. Cotton Pads:
So I know that the product itself isn't plastic to begin with but before going zero waste I was buying cotton pads in plastic bags every few months! Now I use reusable cotton pads from Monsters by Marley and I love them! I pop them in a mesh bag in the wash and then lay on a table to air dry.
I still have a lot of skincare that I'm working through before I buy replacements but when I do here's my list of what I'll be buying for anyone curious!
Raw Elements SPF
Moisturizer - Imperfect Foods Jojoba Facial Cream
Salicylic Acid BHA Exfoliant
What other zero waste skincare do you use and love? Leave it in the comments below!
One of the more difficult routines I've found to make plastic free is my curly girl hair routine! As anyone who follows the Curly Girl Method knows it's hard enough to find products that work for your hair, never mind finding products that are plastic free as well.
Believe me when I say that I've tried a lot in the name of zero waste from DIY products, to beer rinses to scouring the web for zero waste hair care products! And now in the name of Plastic Free July I will share with you my current plastic free Curly Girl hair routine.
1. Shampoo and Conditioner
I shared my current plan on my shampoo and conditioner in my Zero Waste Shower Routine but I bought Plaine Products Shampoo and conditioner last July and still - I repeat - still have not used it all up yet. But when I do my plan is to get the shampoo & conditioner bottles refilled at the refill van I frequent because the prices are a little cheaper and walking to the farmer's market = less emissions than shipping bottles back and forth!
I shampoo and conditioner about twice a week which is probably what's helped my bottles last me a year at this point!
2. After washing my hair I use my scrunch it brush to help form curl clumps - not entirely plastic free but letting you know what I do! Plus while the brush does have some plastic on it, it's the kind of thing you use forever so I don't feel bad about using it.
3. Leave-In Conditioner
While I use the scrunch it brush on my hair I apply my DIY leave-in conditioner (check out my blog post for the full instructions on how to make) as I go to not dry out my hair!
Here I have a few options, I either use my DIY homemade oatmeal gel or the flaxseed gel from A Simple Planet. Either works great for me!
Other than that I let it air dry or diffuse the roots for about 10 minutes just depending on time and then it air dries the rest of the way.
A few totally optional steps here as well:
When I'm going somewhere I like to scrunch out the gel cast with a little bit of rose hip oil to help with the frizzing. I take 2-3 drops and rub them into my hand and then scrunch out one side of my hair, then I add one more drop and repeat on the other side.
5. Protein Treatments
So far the favorite protein treatment I tried was the beer rinse but when I do it again I'm going to do it before shampoo! I also tried and liked doing a rice rinse, which can truly be zero waste if you're eating rice in your meals too :)
So far this is what I've found works great for me and my hair but everyone is different and it definitely takes some experimenting to find what works.
Let me know in the comments what your plastic free curly girl routine is!
Now that it's officially Plastic Free July I wanted to kick off the blog with a list of DIY's that you can do to cut plastic out of your life one product at a time! Personally I'm not huge on doing DIY's so I can guarantee you that if I'm doing these they really are simple, easy, and save money too.
1. Oatmeal Hair Gel
I absolutely love this DIY! It's a homemade hair gel using just two ingredients: oatmeal and water. And it only takes 10 min from start to finish. Not to mention most hair gel runs at least $10 a bottle. I do use another hair gel on top of this one for better hold but this allows me to use a less each time I do my hair and making the life of my A Simple Planet Hair Gel last longer!
Here's how I make my oatmeal gel.
Put both the oats and the water in the pot at the same time and bring to a boil. Then lower to medium heat and begin stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 5-10 minutes. Strain the liquid out from the oats and then let it cool for several minutes before transferring it into a bottle for gel! Keep this in the fridge and it will be good for 1-2 weeks of use!
2. "Clorox" Wipes
These disinfectant wipes are no joke. Honestly I probably could have halved this recipe because I think we will be using this batch forever (which isn't a bad thing)! We love using these to wipe down large surfaces like our counter tops after we clean any food debris off them. We take out a cloth, ring it out into the container and then clean surfaces and put it right back in! Here's the "recipe" that I used to make this.
3. Leave-in Conditioner
In case it wasn't clear already I love doing DIYs of hair products because it's so hard to find good products plastic free, and when you do find them they're so expensive! Especially when I know I can just make them at home. This might be the fastest DIY I have too.
Here's what you need:
All you do is fill your spray bottle with water and add a few pumps of conditioner and a few drops of protein drops! Honestly the amounts will really depend on your own hair type so play around with it until you find exactly what works for you.
4. Spray Cleaner
Another DIY I just love because it's got all ingredients that I keep on hand with me so it's never hard to whip this up when needed.
All you need to make an easy at home all-surface cleaner is:
5. DIY's in the Kitchen:
When we think of DIY's I feel like we don't usually think about how there are a ton of things we can do ourselves when it comes to cooking! I wanted to add this in here to highlight a few kitchen DIY's I've tried out since going zero waste.
Make your own protein bars
My favorite homemade pizza dough recipe
World's best Foccacia Bread
Let me know in the comments below what your favorite plastic free DIY's are! I would love to try them out.
One of the biggest deterrents for people from going plastic-free is that it's typically thought to be more expensive than buying traditional plastic products. And while this can be true, most of the time I find that the products are more expensive up front but then save you money in the end. I also completely recognize that being able to afford these things up front is a huge privilege and it's not accessible to everyone, I do however think it's helpful to see how much more expensive plastic can add up to be.
Remember- the most sustainable thing is the thing you already own, so don't feel bad about any plastic you already have but use those products up to the fullest extent you can! Not to mention: you don't have to make every swap. If you can only afford to make one or two changes then that's huge! Never feel bad about doing what you can.
Here's my list of plastic free alternatives to save you money:
1. Stasher Bags: I love these bags for my kitchen! They can go in the freezer, microwave, even the oven so they are 100% versatile. I've slowly been replacing my ziplock disposable baggies with these.
Here's the math: 1 box of 40 gallon Ziploc bags at Walmart is $6.64 and one half gallon Stasher bag is $26.99. Which means after only buying the Ziploc bags 4 times you would have paid for the Stasher bag!
2. Reusable Cotton Rounds: I use one cotton round a day in my morning skincare routine, which really adds up in both waste and cost! I switched to reusable cotton rounds a year ago and haven't looked back since.
Here's the math: 1 pack of cotton rounds at Walmart is $2.88. If you buy a pack of reusable cotton rounds from Marley's Monsters it's $17. Which means after only 6 purchases of the disposable rounds, the reusable cotton rounds are cheaper.
3. Deodorant: Okay so this one isn't necessarily cheaper but it's the same price for the swap! So many brands are now making plastic free deodorants from Tom's to Old Spice. I had been using Old Spice deodorant for a few years which is $4.99 apiece. But I recently found Hey Humans plastic free deodorant at Target for $4.99. Who doesn't love some easy math!?!
4. Toothpaste: Along with the deodorant I recently found that Target carries Hey Humans plastic free toothpaste for $3.99. I typically use Sensodyne toothpaste because I have sensitivity in my teeth, which is $10 a tube so this really might depend on what toothpaste you are currently using but for me this price difference is massive!
5. Water Bottle: Seriously this is one of my biggest pet peeves. Of course exceptions being anyone who doesn't live with safe drinking water or when you're prepping for power outages during storms, but otherwise why are you buying bottled water? A pack of bottled water is $3.98 at Walmart. Let's say you buy one a week, it will only take you 3 weeks to buy a reusable water bottle (Here's one for $12, you can honestly even find them for less - here's one for $1!).
What plastic free swap will you make this Plastic Free July? Let me know in the comments below!
With July just around the corner I wanted to put together a challenge for anyone looking to reduce their plastic consumption for the Plastic Free July. I'm going to create this challenge for anyone who's just beginning on their journey to less plastic, but I will also create a more difficult challenge for anyone who has more experience and is also looking to challenge themselves for the month of July!
Don't feel like you have to do every step in this challenge, but this guide is a great place to start!
Bring your reusable water bottle everywhere
Same goes for a metal straw or a spare set of silverware and napkins when you're bringing lunch to the office. Having these items and being prepared will help reduce plastic when you run into a situation like grabbing lunch on the go.
If you can, don't use a straw the next time you go to a restaurant or specifically say that you don't need one.
Bring a reusable bag
By bringing a reusable bag to the store you can refuse the store's plastic bags in lieu of your own bag. And not just for groceries either but anytime you go out!
Make a sustainable swap
When you finish using up something in the month of July that uses plastic, look first for a plastic free option. This can be anything from shampoo and conditioner, to a toothbrush and toothpaste, or even silicone bags for your kitchen!
Try Shopping Plastic Free
Regardless of what stores you have near you, you can attempt to shop plastic free. Ranging from Walmart to Sprouts I have several guides on shopping zero waste, Not to mention I even did a non-grocery shop around at Target for plastic free necessities.
Research Plastic Free Options Near You
Obviously this will vary depending on where you live and how accessible sustainable swaps are for you. But try searching for local farmer's markets in your area, or wholesale produce stores where you can buy produce in large bulk quantities. Also try seeing if there is a grocery store near you that has some bulk bin options like a Sprouts or Whole Foods. Use July as a time to find out what amenities your area does have and check them out! Don't focus so much on things you don't have access to.
Let me know in the comments what you think of this challenge! I tried to put together some concrete steps you can take to reducing your plastic and threw in a few longer term plans in here as well. How do you reduce your plastic consumption?
For anyone who's been following the blog for awhile now you may know we used to go by the name of Beni's Zero Waste Blog, but we recently changed it to Jar Half Full! I love this new name change because it speaks to the positivity around trying to live a more sustainable life that we try to promote on the blog. So if you see Jar Half Full on Pinterest just know it's us and come say hi :)
Join me as I document my journey to becoming zero-waste through this blog as a resource to others.