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41 Responses to “Special Hints from Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too”

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  1. I read Beth Terry’s book and loved it. She’s done a great job of gathering resources and testing out techniques to go plastic free. My favorite one? I’ve bought light-weight cotton bags and I try to buy as much as possible from bulk bins. With the cotton bags (you can find them on Amazon), I don’t have to use the little plastic produce bags, and buying as much as I can from bulk means I don’t buy a lot of prepared foods, which I’m sure you know is lots healthier, for us and the planet.

  2. Olily

    Just a little remark… i wouldn’t consider downloading an e-book totally plastic-free, as you need some device made of plastic (and other very polluting components) to read it. Books can be really easily recicled and reused, but e-readers and computers are not.
    Electronic waste is such a HUGE problem that we usually don’t think about…
    Plus, i would recommend Googling “coltan + congo” and have a look at what we are doing with our world…

  3. Eve Stavros

    I’ve been a follower of Beth’s blog for a couple of years now, and she is truly an inspiration to us all for her personal stories, ideas, and meticulous research into the truth (as much as we can wrangle out of producers) about plastic and its hazards to our health & planet. Her book is a super resource for us all, and I”m not just saying this ’cause I’ve got a tip in it!!! I have tried to eliminate plastic, especially in food packaging and preparation, and have found my food costs have gone down. Thrift stores have become my best friend for household goods – at least I’m keeping one more item out of the landfill. And my bathroom is gradually transforming to a plastic-free zone with shampoo bar, homemade tooth scrub (clay, baking soda, sage & peppermint essential oil), paper-wrapped tp, honey jar, and homemade face potions. Thank you Betty for the shout out to Beth, and for your inspiring blog on healthier, natural food for both spirit and body!

  4. I used to always use the microbead cleansers:( Now I use honey, then cornmeal to wash my face, and use baking soda occasionally when I’ve worn makeup. I use french green clay for facial masks, since it seems to be a little gentler on my sensitive skin than bentonite.
    Now I’m kind of kicking myself for not using natural face care sooner. It’s SO much cheaper!

    • Hannonymous

      “Now I’m kind of kicking myself for not using natural face care sooner.”
      I feel the same way! I would have been a much happier teenager if I would have known then what I know now. So much money desperately spent chasing something–anything to give me clear, healthy skin and to no avail. In the past two years I’ve gradually been awakened to the realization of natural skin care, and have to say I’m a bit bitter against the cosmetic/skin care industry.

  5. Anne Bickle

    One of the things that I’ve done is to switch to bar soap and shampoo. When I think of all the plastic that goes into landfills from just the liquid/foam soaps and shampoo/conditioner bottles alone, it’s enough for me to make the switch.

    Additionally, after I switched to bar shampoo, I found that I don’t need conditioner and I don’t need to use the additional shampoo for dry scalp and I don’t need to put any product on my hair to make it less frizzy / more curly / more straight / etc.

    I figure that just by switching to handcrafted natural bar soap and shampoo I am saving countless plastic bottles from landfills. Just me. And if I can convince my mom and my sister to do the same, and they can convince people, it’d be quite significant.
    I’ve also switched to moisturizing my face and body with EV olive oil. I don’t need anything else for my skin.
    Just those two small adjustments (so far). Very painless. But quite significant, I think.

    • Have you tried many different types/brands of bar shampoo? Which types do you recommend? Or do you just buy local/hand made stuff? I’ve heard LUSH has bar shampoos, but I haven’t checked them out yet. This would be a great idea for after I finish my current bottle of shampoo. :)

      • Annie

        Before ditching the shampoo, I used Knotty Boy’s Every Body shampoo bars. I got hooked on them when I had dreads, and now they make non-dread shampoo. The bars last forever, too.

      • Anne Bickle

        Bobbi, I have only tried one type/brand that a local lady makes. I love supporting her local small business and I know the product is made in small batches with natural ingredients. I haven’t needed to try anything else b/c I love the way my hair looks and feels with her products.

      • sandyliz

        I’ve been using a shampoo bar from Just Soap for a few months, and its fantastic.
        http://www.justsoap.com/

      • Sarah

        I know I’m way late to the game here, but I’ve been using Chagrin Valley Soaps and Salve shampoo bars and face soap bars for about a year now. I love it, my hair and skin are super happy. All natural/non-GMO ingredients, and they’ve recently made a switch to packaging that is almost completely plastic free.

  6. Michelle

    I love reading the comments almost as much as CB articles themselves, I learn so much from this community! Thank you!

  7. Donna

    I’m just a plain-old cheapskate, but always looking for ways to make healthier choices. I recently bought some glass bowls and regular silverware at my local thrift shop to use at work for heating up my lunch. We also buy kimchi by the 1 gal glass jar. I clean those jars and use them for storing the bulks items I buy from a co-op.

  8. Ayshela

    I haven’t used shampoo or conditioner in months, using a tablespoon of borax in a quart of water instead. (and before people go ballistic about the borax, it’s toxic if ingested in large quantities and I don’t eat my shampoo. and seriously, have you looked at a shampoo label?) The one place I did make a deliberate choice to use plastic was to get a bpa free container to mix and pour that in, because I have serious glass eating tile in the bathroom and if the mason jar got even tipped over I’d have glass shards everywhere. *siiigh*

    still trying to figure out how to replace zippie bags though… waxed paper and foil aren’t optimal either, and foil can’t be recycled here.

    • What do you use the zip-lock bags for? If it’s for snacks/sandwiches try ReUsies (www.ReUsies.com) made by a Seattle mom. They come in snack size and sandwich size in lots of cute patterns. I bring the larger one with me when getting a bagel from the coffee shop so as not to waste their wax paper bags.
      Of course, when we had zip-lock bags in the house I used them for all sorts of things–to bring a few crayons and small sheets of paper to entertain my kid in restaurants, to bring a few small toys with us on outings, to package up puzzle pieces that for some mysterious reason no longer have a box.

  9. Linda

    Getting plastic shopping bags out of my life was the biggest first step for me. I did that about 4 years ago and have been very pleased with how easy it was – replacing them with cloth bags or reused paper. After that, I’m a serious reuser – wash and reuse those ziplocs, reuse packaging if you can – and figure if I can get even one extra use of a plastic item, that is better than nothing. I’m not a bit “product” user, but even so I went no ‘poo in January and have since lessened even that plastic usage (shampoo and conditioner bottles), and have reused other bottles for the oils and ACV I now use as my products. Glass in a slippery shower/bathroom is just asking for trouble – best to use something non breakable – and I have repurposed squeeze bottles and the like for my product holders. It’s hard to get away from plastic, but in general the less you consume the less you come into contact with it. I’m going to check out the blog today and see if the book insterests me. Thanks for the reference! Rage on with the crunchiness!

  10. caren

    I use an old fashioned double-edge razor to shave my legs; it’s a better shave and the blades are ridiculously inexpensive.
    For herbal vinegar and honey hair rinses, I got an old-fashioned enamelware measuring pitcher from the thrift shop. It holds maybe a pint and a half, and has a nice handle. A piece of heavy copper wire shaped to form a hook hangs it from the towel bar over the tub so I don’t have to worry about plastic or glass breakage. I keep the vinegar in a pretty bottle on the counter and pour some into the pitcher before stepping into the shower. Add honey from the much-used plastic bear (sorry, but much-used is better than used once) and there’s my hair rinse.

    • K

      “(sorry, but much-used is better than used once)”

      Maybe not though, if your plastic bottle is leaching is it really worth it?

  11. Melissa/Foodie for Two

    I haven’t gone to the natural hair products made at home but I do select sulfate-free and paraben-free brands. Both cars are stocked with resusable cloth bags for the grocery store, and I keep 2 fold-up cloth bags in my purse to use for other purchases. We also invested in some glass food storage containers for leftovers, which helps ease my BPA fears and recycling demands.
    Our biggest improvement has been recycling at home; I know it sounds obvious but it wasn’t part of our routine. Before recycling, we used to often fill up two 45-gallon trash cans with garbage bags. Now we have a few bags of trash each week and one full can of recycling every two weeks!
    Thanks for helping us be more crunchy!

  12. Betsy

    We have been self-proclaimed plastic snobs since before it was on most people’s radar. I listened to the PhD research chemist in the family who eschewed plastic, and started buying as much food as possible in glass. Some major food brands lost me when they switched to plastic. Haven’t microwaved the dish frozen meals come in (or a vented bag) in absolutely forever – they “decant” quite nicely into ceramic dishes. If I have to choose between organic food in plastic and regular in glass, I usually go for the glass. We all use metal water bottles (even for the kids’ milk in lunchboxes). Body care products are admittedly harder – I’ve started by using the brands that don’t actually contain nasty chemicals (EWG’s Skin Deep, we love you!), but I think I’m becoming faithful to a Burt’s Bees face lotion in glass. Thank you, Crunchy Betty, for all your wisdom – my family gets crunchier every day! I keep a roll-up shopping bag in my purse, so it’s not in the car when I buy something.

  13. LouAnn

    not all of us are evolved in this – thank you for the excerpt – sounds like a book I should pick up and use

  14. Dannie

    I make all our soaps, shampoos, shaving cream, etc. at home and keep them in canning jars. I’ve dropped a jar from behind the medicine chest and it just bounced off the sink and floor, they are pretty hardy jars. (No little ones in the house.) I rely on my canning jars for storing leftovers, cheeses, and so on in the kitchen. We only put out trash once a month in a 20 gallon bin and recycle every two weeks.

  15. Laura

    I’ve ditched the vast majority of plastic in my home. Plastic wrap is the hardest thing for me to find a replacement for. That, and something to keep my homemade bread fresh in the fridge. I’ve been using ziplocks for that Nd would love to find an alternative.

    • In the book she talks about keeping bread in a cotton bag inside a metal bread box. To replace plastic wrap I love my Pyrex containers with silicone lids, and look forward to trying out the Abeego wrap–a cloth infused with beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil. It’s supposed to hold moisture in and form easily to what you’re trying to wrap.

    • Eve Stavros

      I just found my best bread storage solution and so simple: on the counter, cut side down on a small cutting board, covered w/a brown paper bag (kinda rolled up to help it “stand” over the bread). I kept a homemade loaf this way for a week, and it was handy just to lift off the bag, cut off a slice, and recover).

    • I just found the easiest way to store bread – on the counter, cut side down on a small cutting board, covered with a small brown paper bag (kinda rolled up to “stand” over the loaf). Then, when I want a slice, lift off the top, slice right on the handy board, and recover. I kept a loaf of homemade grain bread this way for almost a week and it was still perfect: soft on the cut side, and crusty on the outside!

  16. Hannonymous

    My sisters and I have also been on the journey to phase synthetic chemicals out of our lives as much as possible. Or rather, to recognize which synthetic products are worth the expenditure of resources (such as a little spandex or the plastic in our technology) and which are superfluous. Cleaning/cosmetic/body care products are an obvious place to start. One of the easiest changes to make is of dish/laundry soaps (since most commercial detergents are also composed of various petroleum distillates.) Although we plan to make our own soon, right now we are quite satisfied with Seventh Generation products, which now offer laundry detergent in a sturdy paper carton. Also, I am keeping any worthwhile plastic containers/spray bottles from used up (eco-friendly) products so as to use those when we eventually get around to making our own products.

    One of my sisters married a man from Southern India where a ground nut/fruit called Aritha is traditionally used to cleanse hair. We found some in our local Indian import store, and it is wonderful. I rarely use shampoo anymore. Mixed into a paste with water (or rose water or apple cider vinegar), it is gritty and astringent and lathers a little and rinses out easily. When the hair is dry it is amazingly clean and silky…many times I don’t even follow with conditioner since Aritha is not drying and alkaline like shampoo. It is also a great exfoliant for the entire body.

  17. Melanie

    Once again another incredibly relevant, helpful and informative blog – any time i have a new question in my head about a new area i’d like to go more crunchy, this site is my first “go to place” so thanks. One question relevant to this post: What do you guys do in regards to plastic water bottles? i can’t really take glass bottles to the gym, i buy one plastic bottle at a time and then just refill it – as i dont live in a warm climate (UK) i figure plastic leaching is minimal – am i fooling myself?? – any ideas on how to circumvent this?

    • Helen

      I’ve seen people using (in the UK, where I live too!) mostly glass water flasks with a plastic cap, they’re designed for taking around with you, so I would assume they’re maybe more shatter-resistant than a regular glass bottle, which I agree wouldn’t be good for the gym! I’m afraid I don’t have any more details than that, aside from the fact that they exist out there somewhere….!

    • Melanie, plastic leaching has little to do with climate, and everything to do with the very nature (porus) of the plastic itself. And refilling single-use plastic bottles is even worse, since they’re not designed to be reused. Beth’s site has good links to resources to find alternatives, and some of her readers are in the UK and have posted their own local finds. I switched to a Kleen Kanteen stainless steel, BPA free water bottle w/a cool steel/bamboo/silicone lid and take it everywhere (even to Africa!). Here’s a link to one supplier: http://www.reuseit.com/store/?attributes=Disposables+Replaced%7CBottled+Water

    • charmaine

      hi melanie, i use this stainless steel water bottle:
      http://www.innate-gear.com/product-info/motus/motus-v2
      it’s great for the gym!

  18. Great information! I just requested a review copy of the book so I can help spread the word. I, too, have been trying to get the plastic use down and currently hope to buy (soon!) some stainless steel containers to bring to restaurants so I won’t have to use the horrible styrofoam boxes as doggie bags. Last week at the Farmer’s Market when a vendor was going to put my purchase of a bakery item in a styrofoam container I asked him if he could wrap it up in wax paper as he had someone else’s smaller order. It wasn’t a problem.

  19. KP

    I use various sized canning jars for food storage–in the fridge and in the pantry. I also save other jars that have a wide opening and a great lid. A bonus is that food stays fresher longer in glass AND you can easily see what you have, which means things don’t get lost in the back of the fridge and go bad.

    I even take leftovers to work in glass containers–I just use a padded bag to carry them in.

    • Dea Carey

      Oh, I’m a mason jar junkie! I reuse glass jars for my homemade dressing, coconut milk, and other stuff in the fridge, but in the pantry it’s all canning jars.

      I even use them for canning, too.

      There’s a tiny amount of plastic lining the lids, yes, but I’m comfortable with that. Weck jars are plastic free, but they’re far more expensive. With mason jars, I’m happy to give away my home-canned goodies. If I get the jar back, great. I just ask that they reuse the jar or pass it along if they don’t.

  20. _Heather

    I am usually a quiet mouse, but have commented occasionally. Thank you for all of your wonderful suggestions which have improved my life. And thank you for this info as well. In making my own products, I have already begun to decrease my use of disposable plastic. So I will continue on this path. Please be nice to your lurkers. We may be shy but we love you.

  21. Ashley Strachey

    Bleh plastic! I’ve done such a good job eliminating it from my life recently. I switched to the no ‘poo method a few months ago, and I mix them inside of mugs right before getting in the shower. Reusable until I drop them and they smash to the floor! ;) When I make cleaners, I reuse my davinci syrup bottles from work (found a -plastic- spray bottle top that screws onto them). The perfumes and powders I’ve made as gifts, I have poured into metal tins or glass jars.

    Still looking for other unnecessary plastic areas of my life!

  22. empress

    I am trying to go (more) plastic free and if I think about it too much it is a nightmare! I was never one for much plastic anyway so it kills me that my favorite raw virgin coconut oil comes in a big plastic tub! I sometimes sit thinking…”Is this tub leaching chemicals into my amazing oil? Am I poisoning myself anyway?”

  23. Dania

    Where can I buy glass jars to store coconut oil for example?

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