Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Plastic Free July update: Week 2

Sorry this update didn't come sooner, I've been busy cello-ing (I am playing in a musical that runs pretty much every day through the rest of July).  I will try to get this week's update out a little sooner :)

Plastic dilemma:

As you can see, the cord to my computer is completely shot.  It's not just the cord itself, but the magnetic adapter that actually goes into the computer (so no electrical tape fix here).  I bought a used one off of ebay, but it was unfortunately bubble wrapped.

But what to do with the old cord?  The broken cord was a REPLACEMENT for the original that came with my computer, and was probably about 1 1/2 years old.  I am really frustrated about how short the lifespan is on these things.  Is there somewhere to send it to get repaired?  Can I send it back to Apple for them to refurbish?  Anyone have any experience with this? (I saw PlasticFreeTuesday had a similar dilemma...)

So, outside of the bubble wrap and broken cord, plastic collected since last time consists of:

5 milk tops
4 milk rings (my husband threw one out before I got a hold of it, so only three in the picture)
3 produce stickers
1 olive oil top and foil
1 vinegar top
1 spice jar seal (no bulk spices near me)

How is everyone else's Plastic Free July going?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Plastic Free July: Days #1 and #2

Yesterday was a successful day.  We went to a friend's house for (a delicious) dinner, and were asked to provide some dessert.  My lovely husband bought these from a local bakery:

No plastic!  Hooray!  And they were excellent.

But today, I ended up with a bottle cap from a glass bottle of vinegar (for cleaning).  Boo.  Our Whole Foods used to have bulk olive oil and vinegar, but no more.  I wouldn't have been able to afford that vinegar for cleaning anyway.  So plastic caps it is.

Plastic Tally: 1

Also on the agenda today is some homemade hummus from scratch.  I will let you know how it goes.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Getting Ready for Plastic Free July

I can't believe it's July already.  Tomorrow, we start the Plastic Free July challenge.

Plastic Free July

If you haven't heard about it, Plastic Free July is all about eliminating disposable plastic (i.e. plastic that is meant to be used once, or very little, and then thrown away) from our lives for an entire month.

What makes single-use plastic so bad?  
It is destroying our oceans.
It is harmful to wildlife.
It is harmful to us.

The "convenience" is not worth it.

Ten Eleven things you can do:

1. Take reusable shopping bags.
2. Bring your own water bottle.
3. Say no to straws, or bring your own glass straw.
4. Bring your own travel mug for tea and coffee.
5. Don't use coffee pods.
6. Buy dry goods (beans, rice, etc.) from the bulk bins in your own container.
7. Use vinegar, baking soda and bar soap for cleaning.
8. Bring your own utensils.
9. Shave with a safety razor.
10. DIY personal care products.
11. Compost your food scraps.

Some posts to get you started:

How to Shop in the Bulk Bins
Deplastify Your Bathroom
Plastic-Free Shaving: Using a Safety Razor
DIY Deodorant
Less Toxic and Plastic-Free Laundry Routine

Plastic Free July's website has even more ideas.  So does Beth Terry's.

I am a U.S. blogger, but if you are in the U.K., check out Plastic is Rubbish, she has a whole list of wonderful bloggers over there who are also participating in Plastic Free July.

What will I be doing?
As I mentioned in the lead up to Zero Plastic Week, I sometimes fell victim to the convenience of tea bags.  Although the tea bags themselves were compostable (Not all of them are! Be careful, most are made with plastic in the bag itself!), the wrappers were not.  I have been buying tea in bulk since then, so this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Meat is the biggie.  Sometimes they will put it in a container for me, sometimes not.  And to be honest, I get sick of asking, so I settle for the plastic-wrapped variety.  I kind of just avoided it during Zero Plastic Week, but I won't for Plastic Free July.  The butcher paper they use is plastic lined, so that won't work, either.  Any tips?

Most metal jar lids are lined with a little bit of plastic, and while I can't say that I will be entirely giving up glass jar food items, I will make an attempt to make some homemade strawberry jam and tomato sauce this month.

I will also be more specific with WHY I am refusing items.  I have been at times handed straws (already in my drink), bags, etc. while eating out, even when I specifically ask for none.  I think if I say "No straw please, I try not to use any single-use plastic," it might be a little more effective.  Hopefully this will not come off as rude, as I know the waitstaff is just trying to do their job, and do not want to listen to me tell them about dying sea turtles.  What do you say when refusing a straw when eating out?  Is there a better way to get your request across?  Or do you just ask for no straw and hope for the best?

Sign up for Plastic Free July here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Plastic (and synthetic fragrance) free deodorant

Before I begin this post, let me say I am not a dirty hippie (not that there is anything wrong with that!).  I am a clean person, I take showers and I do not smell.

But while I did not smell dirty, I was sick of smelling like synthetic fragrance. (Read about some of the issues with synthetic fragrance here).

So last year, in the spirit of Plastic Free July, I tried out making my own deodorant.  And it worked better than any store bought deodorant that I had ever used.

Here's what I do:

1 part baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda for those of you not in the US:)
1 part organic corn starch or arrowroot powder
Optional: A few drops of essential oil (I like lavender)

The baking soda is what fights the odor, and the cornstarch is absorbent.  Some people find the baking soda slightly irritating (I haven't had a problem with it!), and if that's you, just up the ratio of cornstarch.  Alternatively, you can put a little coconut oil on before you apply the deodorant.

This is just one option, there are many others, but this is effective for me (and my husband).  What do you do for deodorant?  Have you tried this?  Let me know how it works!  Let's simplify our bathrooms!

Sign up for Plastic Free July here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to get clean without making the environment filthy: Plastic free shampoo and soap

How many plastic bottles do you have hanging around in the shower?  Right now, I have none, but the answer used to be pretty different, probably around seven or eight.  And I probably would have told you that they were all absolutely necessary.  They're not.

And when I started thinking more carefully about the ingredients in the personal care products I was using, I tried to find replacements for all of those bottles.  "Eco-friendly shampoo!" a bottle would exclaim.  But the ingredients were still harsh, and it was expensive.

When I committed to going plastic-free last July, I tried something else.  Soap.

Soap.  Imagine that.  Could it be so simple?  Yes, it was.  Soap with paper (or no) wrapping and no plastic waste.  Soap with simple, gentle ingredients.

What's in our shower now?  Two bars of soap.  A moisturizing lavender olive oil soap and a solid shampoo bar (a.k.a. soap) that uses a blend of oils and herbs that is good for hair.

Besides the fact I am no longer disposing of plastic bottle after plastic bottle, my bathroom is no longer cluttered and no longer feels like a giant advertisement.  Simplify.

There are tons of places that sell homemade soaps.  You may be able to find some at your farmers' market.  I get my shampoo bars from Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve (I'm partial to the "herb garden" bar myself).  Lush also sells solid shampoo, although with more ingredients.  I buy our regular bar soap from Dr. Dandelion, their soap is so moisturizing.  Making my own soap is on my list of things to try this summer, if that sounds like something you are interested in, The Nerdy Farm Wife has some great tutorials.  And as I mentioned in my last post, my husband gets his shave soap from Simmons, and they also sell bars of regular soap as well.  Aquarian Bath on Etsy is also supposed to have some nice soaps, although I have not tried them myself.

As for conditioner, I rinse my hair with apple cider vinegar about once every one to two weeks, and use just a touch (super small amount!) of coconut oil to control any frizz.

One more thing-you've probably been reading about micro beads in the news.  They are in a surprising amount of our personal care products, and before I made the switch to more natural products, I was absolutely guilty of using them, too.  Please find an alternative.  If that's the only thing you can commit to, do that.  Because they are ending up in our lakes and waterways.  And they are in a surprising number of products, from things you'd expect like face scrub, to things you wouldn't like hand soap and toothpaste.

(Just one more side note, I promise!:)  Recycling is an imperfect solution for these plastic bottles.  "Downcycling" is a big issue-your plastic bottle isn't turning into another plastic bottle, it's turning into a carpet or some other item that can't be recycled again.  Some great articles about recycling here, here, and hereREDUCE should be first on the list, not recycle.)

Do you have any great places to get soap?  Have any of you tried your hand at making your own?  Are you going to try bar shampoo for Plastic Free July?

Sign up for Plastic Free July here.