5 Easy Plastic Free Swaps that Don't Cost A Lot of $

Getting rid of disposable plastic doesn't have to cost a lot of money, or take a lot of time.  Here are five easy (and cheap) ways to ditch disposable plastic.

5 Easy Plastic Free Swaps That Don't Cost a Lot of Money

1. Ditch paper towels

Switching from paper towels to reusable dish cloths in the kitchen is a great way to reduce waste and save money.  Dish cloths clean better and last way longer.  Just throw them in the laundry when they're dirty, and you're good to go.

DIY: Cut up old towels into squares
BUY: Pack of 6 dish cloths - $3.99

2. Clean with vinegar and baking soda

Don't believe the marketing hype-you don't need a different cleaner for every surface of your home.  Vinegar and baking soda work wonders for household cleaning.  I keep a spray bottle of vinegar (half vinegar/half water) that I use to clean pretty much everything in our house.  Baking soda works great for surfaces that need a scrub--the toilet, stovetop, etc.

DIY: The Zero Waste Chef makes her own apple scrap vinegar!
BUY: 2 lb. box of baking soda - $1.29 | 16 oz. glass bottle of vinegar - $1.29

3. Swap out your shampoo and conditioner for a solid shampoo bar

Like cleaning products, we are constantly told how many different personal care products we need.  Ditch the plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles for a solid shampoo bar.  Reducing the amount of products you use is a big money saver.

BUY: Shampoo bar by Aquarian Bath - $7.50

4. Say no to produce bags

Let your produce go naked.  You don't need tiny plastic bags for your fruits and veggies at the grocery store.  They will be fine in your cart, I promise.

BUY: FREE!

5. Use mason jars to store and freeze food

You don't need plastic freezer bags to keep food fresh in the freezer.  Wide-mouth glass jars work just as well, if not better.  If you are freezing loose items (e.x., whole strawberries), freeze on a cookie sheet for a couple of hours first, and then pour into a jar.  If you are freezing liquid, leave a little bit of space at the top of the jar to allow the liquid to expand.  No more buying plastic baggies!

DIY: Save wide mouth jars from food items (tomato sauce, raw honey, etc.) to use in the freezer
BUY: 12 wide-mouth pint jars - $10.99

Most of these things you can DIY or find locally (except maybe the shampoo bars)--I added links for price info.

How to use less paper in the bathroom

Cutting down new trees for things we will use once and throw away seems pretty silly.  Here are some ideas to reduce your paper use in the bathroom.

How to use less paper in the bathroom | Cellist Goes Green

Get some handkerchiefs.  And put them where you'll use them.

No more tissues.  No more tissue box, with the plastic inside.  I found a small basket from Goodwill and stuck some in there.

Buy recycled toilet paper.

Seventh generation has some that is not sold in plastic packaging.  I get mine at a local store, but you can also find it on Amazon.  (Also, look for something with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled paper content).

Use reusable cotton rounds instead of cotton balls.

You can either try your hand at making them, or Etsy has a pretty large selection (these and these, for example).

Use a real hand towel.

This should go without saying, but I have seen those horrible disposable-paper-towels-in-a-box that are marketed to families keep making appearances, so I'm going to say it--there is nothing wrong with cloth hand towels.  You will not get germs from using a hand towel in your own house.  Throw them in your wash when they get dirty (or if someone is sick)!!

Clean with reusable cloths.

Instead of disinfecting wipes or paper towels to wipe down the counter, use reusable cloths and a spray bottle of homemade cleaner.


Olive oil hand salve

My hands always get so dry during the winter, so I make a simple three-ingredient salve to keep them moisturized. 

It works so much better than lotion in a plastic bottle, creates a lot less waste and is less expensive.  

(Side note: Has anyone else noticed that some commercial lotions will tout things like "Made with real shea butter!" or "Soothing oatmeal!", when the actual amount of those ingredients in the product is minimal?)

 
How to make olive oil hand salve | Cellist Goes Green
 

How to make olive oil hand salve | Cellist Goes Green

Supplies:

Small pot
Glass measuring cup
Measuring spoon
Cheese grater
Small glass jar

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon grated beeswax
15-20 drops lavender essential oil

Directions:

  1. Measure a 1/4 cup of oil in your glass measuring cup.
  2. Grate your beeswax. You'll need about one heaping tablespoon. Put it in the measuring cup with the olive oil.
  3. Heat a small amount of water in your pot, and put your glass measuring cup inside creating a double boiler.
  4. Heat the olive oil and beeswax gently until combined. Stir.
  5. Take the olive oil-beeswax mixture off the heat, and add several drops of the essential oil. Pour into glass jars and let cool.

Note: For a firmer salve, use more beeswax, for a softer salve, use less beeswax.  This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.

Other things I have used this salve for:

  • Lip balm
  • My husband uses it on his face after he shaves
  • To protect/condition my leather boots
  • I exchange walnut oil for olive oil, and use it to condition butcher block counters
  • As gifts for family and friends

Simple, plastic-free makeup

Much like everything else that has come along in my plastic free journey, de-plastifying my makeup also meant simplifying. 

Simple, plastic free makeup | Cellist Goes Green

Now, instead of worrying about a thousand different things when I am getting ready in the morning, I just worry about two: a little concealer, and a swipe of mascara.  Which takes two minutes instead of ten.

I don't have anything wrong with wearing more makeup (and I do every once and a while for super-formal events!), but simplifying what I wear everyday has been a nice change.  I used to worry that I would not look put together if I did not wear a full face of makeup every day, but I have found that not to be the case.

Reasons why this has been awesome:

1. Much less time spent getting ready in the morning.

2. Much less waste created.  I get my mascara from TWINK beauty, and reused an old mascara wand.  The mascara is cake mascara, which means it's solid (ask your grandma if you've never heard of solid mascara!), and you have to wet the mascara wand to use it.  It also means that you don't have to worry about plastic mascara tubes.  The container can be reused (homemade lip balm?) or it can be recycled.  The concealer comes from RMS beauty, and is packaged in a glass container with an aluminum lid.  Also reusable or recyclable.  The company lists the ingredients on their website, and it is certified organic.

3. Less money.
Although the concealer is a little more money than I would spend before (although not by that much, I used to use Bare Minerals, and that was about $30 a pop), the mascara is actually cheaper and those are the ONLY TWO items I am using regularly aside from a little homemade lip balm/hand salve.  With the other foundation I used to use, I would feel like my skin would get oily, and I would have to get the powder, too.  Plus eyeshadow, liner, etc. So, much less money in total spent, and the money that is spent is spent on higher quality items.

My makeup routine now:

FAQ

1. Does the mascara work? 

Yes!  It gives enough definition, doesn't flake off during the day.  However, it is not going to give you the same "huge lashes" look as a drugstore or department store mascara.

2. Is it waterproof?

No.

3. I don't want to give up eyeshadow/blush/my makeup routine, are there any plastic free options?

Yes!  Browse through Etsy, and there are tons of people selling makeup with minimal ingredients, and minimal packaging.  RMS also sells lip and cheek stains in glass packaging.  Or you could try your hand at making some of your own :)

Have you found any good plastic free or less wasteful makeup options?  Any good homemade recipes?


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.

How to make your own plastic-free two-ingredient deodorant | Cellist Goes Green

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.

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.

How to get clean without making the environment filthy: Plastic free shampoo and soap | Cellist Goes Green

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 Aquarian Bath (I like the Lavender/Sesame/Aloe bar).  They give you the option to have your bars shipped without individual packaging, which is great!

Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve also sells shampoo bars that come in paper packaging.  And 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.

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.

Plastic-free shaving: using a Safety Razor

Before I began this plastic-free, environmentally conscious journey, I had no idea what a safety razor was.  I used one of those multi-bladed disposable cartridge razors that are on the TV commercials.  And kind of assumed that people always used some version of a disposable razor.

There is another (much better) option.

Your dad or grandfather might know what it is.

A safety razor.

Plastic-free shaving: using a Saftey Razor | Cellist Goes Green

It works just about the same as the razor you already have.  Except with a whole lot less waste.  (Environmentally and financially).  You get a reusable, stainless steel handle, which you place a metal razor blade into. The handle will last you forever.  And the blades usually come in boxes of 100.  We are not even 3/4 of the way through the box I bought last year.  (And that's with two people using it). You know how much that box of razor blades cost?  Thirteen dollars.  Do you know how much FOUR CARTRIDGES cost for one of those other disposable razors?  Sixteen dollars.  For four. 

I have found the safety razor to work just as well, if not better than the disposable razor/cartridge that I was using before.  Razor burn is no longer a problem.  My husband is also impressed with the shave he gets.

Safety razor FAQ's (or at least some questions I had last year):

1. The razor blades look scary.  And sharp.  Will I cut myself more often?
No.  I have not cut myself any more than with the multi-blade cartridge I was using before.  Make sure you use less pressure when shaving and you will be fine.

2. Is there any difference between using a safety razor versus the disposable I was using before?
No, I found it to be very similar.  Just use less pressure when shaving, and you'll be fine.

3. Can I use this to shave my legs, etc., etc.?
Yes.

4. What do I do with the used blades?
I poked a slit on top of a can of broth and stick the used blades in there.  When it is full, I will take it to my recycling center.  Do not just dump used blades in your recycling bin, as they are obviously sharp, and could hurt someone.  There are also used "blade banks" that sell on ebay.

5. I am still using shaving cream with harsh ingredients.  Is there a better option?
Yes.  I use regular bar soap, but my husband uses shaving soap and a brush to get a good lather.  He likes the soap from Simmons and we got him a shaving brush here.  You put the shaving soap into a mug, wet the brush and work the soap into a lather.

6. You've convinced me.  Where can I buy a safety razor?
I bought mine on Life Without Plastic, link here.  They also sell them on Amazon, mine is a Merkur. 

(Edit: A commenter pointed out that they also sell tons of used safety razors on ebay, make sure you click "used" if that's what you're looking for!  They have some nice ones on there, too!)

I got my razor blades on Amazon here (the brand is Persona, they are packaged without plastic, but unfortunately Amazon does ship with a little plastic.  If someone has a better source for them, please let me know!)

This has been one of the best changes we have made since going plastic free.  I am no longer forced into buying an expensive, wasteful product.  The razor was an initial investment, but has already paid for itself, and I can use it forever.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and I will do my best to answer them!

2016 Update: We are still on the first box of razor blades I bought in August of 2013!!!!