The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

May 4, 2012

Plastic-Free Progress Report: Sarah Schmiechen

Sarah Schmiechen is a long-time reader of this blog and prior participant in the Show Your Plastic Trash Challenge.  She emailed me recently to let me know about some of the successes and challenges she’s had in reducing her plastic consumption, and she suggested that it might be useful/helpful for me to post profiles of readers and the changes they’ve made in getting plastic out of their lives as well as the difficulties they still face.  I thought that was a fabulous idea and asked Sarah if she would like to be the first.  Sarah was up for it, so the following is her post.  I have added my own comments at the bottom with a few suggestions, but I’m sure you guys will have a lot more for her.

Recently, I was at an out of town family wedding catching up with my cousin April. We were chatting about blogs we read, and The Compact, and I mentioned My Plastic-free Life and how I’d won the Show Your Plastic Challenge.  April asked me what I’d changed as a result of reading this blog, and my mind just kind of went blank – I could only think of a couple of things I was doing differently. Surely I was doing better than that?

When I got home the following week, I started noticing little plastic-free things around the house, habits that had become so ingrained that I didn’t even think about them any more, like the bar soap we use now instead of buying liquid soap in plastic pump bottles or the coffee beans from the bulk section in a paper bag.

It has been over a year since the Show Your Plastic Challenge and I had absorbed and pretty much forgotten about many of the changes I had made, but I’d also lost steam on making more changes or being diligent about some plastic-free initiatives I’d been making. With that in mind I thought it would be great to take stock of what I’ve done and where I still need to keep working. Maybe some readers out there have some great advice for me!

Some of the things I’ve done:

  • Switched to bar soap instead of pump bottles. This one was really easy, I just had to buy some soap dishes and some bars of soap and I was all set.
  • Stopped using Brita filters and started drinking tap water. Another easy one, just stopped doing it. The tap water here tastes just fine, so we’re lucky there.
  • Switched to using cloth rags instead of paper towels. I have a pretty good system going for this one – when kitchen towels become too stained or worn for my liking, I cut them in two, and they become rags. I keep a cloth tote bag hung up on a hook in the kitchen to put the dirty rags in. When it’s time to wash them, I throw the rags and bag in the wash together.
  • Bring empty egg cartons back to farmers at the farmers market to reuse. This was a suggestion from someone during the Show Your Plastic Challenge. It’s a great example of community helping each other out. I never would have thought of that, and it really cut down on some bulky items in our recycling.
  • Joined a meat CSA. This meat still comes in plastic, but hopefully less of it, and it’s organic, so there’s no pesticides on the other end.
  • More items from the bulk aisles of the grocery store. We’re not as diligent about this as I’d like, but theoretically we do this when we can.
  • Use stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic. Like the soap, I just had to buy a few initial items and we were set. I bought Kleen Kanteens. My takeaway on them is that overall it’s great, but the sport cap is terribly leaky, and the ones that are painted a color are a bad choice for the dishwasher, as it chips off.
  • Bring my lunch to work in the lovely cloth bags from Ambatalia that I won in the contest, instead of a cooler. I found in the past that eventually things would leak into a cooler bag, and the lining would break up, food would seep into the inside and the cooler bag would start to smell bad. With the cloth bags, I just throw them in the wash and they’re good as new. There’s no insulating properties, but I don’t take a lunch that needs insulation and the problem is solved. (I could also use our gross office fridge if I had to).
  • We got rid of one car. I walk or take the bus to work. That decision was made mostly from a financial standpoint, but we do buy less gas and other maintenance-related items.

Some of the plastic I’m still using:

  • Cosmetics: I’ve had really mixed success with this whole area. It’s a case of the spirit being willing, but the flesh being weak. I’ve tried going ‘poo-free, using baking soda instead of deodorant, and just using soap to wash my face. All of those worked okay in the short term, but left me feeling gross in the longer term. When I look in the mirror and my hair is lank and my skin is all broken out and I smell, my morale goes out the window and I have to run out to the nearest CVS and buy lots of plastic packaged cosmetics. Another thing I haven’t been able to stop doing is dying my hair. The gray starts coming in and it makes me look 10 years older. I feel guilty about it, but not guilty enough to stop, I guess. Any suggestions? Some things that have worked great for me are using a simple sugar-and-olive-oil scrub on my face once in a while, using Rosehip Oil in a glass bottle for moisturizer, and using soap to wash my face once a day at night. (In the morning I use Clean and Clear on my face in the shower).
  • Diapers: We had finished with diapers, but then we had a second child. I tried cloth diapering the first time around with my son, and it just didn’t work for me. The diapers would leak and smell, even when clean. When my girl gets past the infant stage of needing a diaper every hour, I might work up the energy to try it again. For now, we’re just using disposables. We do use cloth wipes, so that’s something I guess. I know there’s a million options out there for cloth diapering, each with their devoted fans. I’m wondering if prefolds might be the way to go for us? We also use a lot of plastic bags to then dispose of the diapers.
  • Almond milk: I can’t drink dairy any more (my nursing child is sensitive to it), so I switched to Almond Milk. As far as I know it doesn’t come in glass.
  • Gifts: We have a very generous family and they give us a lot of presents for our children. Most of them are plastic of course. If I can get my hands on it before they see it, I’ll sometimes donate it or regift it. I did try asking people to give us less stuff (diplomatically, I thought), but at least one person got in a big huff about it, so I haven’t pressed the issue a lot. I’m also just as guilty of buying other people gifts in packaging.
  • Luggage: This is just a random one that came up – when we got back from our last trip, all our remaining luggage had gotten damaged by the baggage handlers or just from use. I need to buy a new set of suitcases. Any thoughts on minimizing plastic there? (All leather Louis Vuitton trunks?)

Sarah, congratulations on your progress.  It’s true that once a lot of these changes become habits, we just don’t even think about them anymore, right?

Here are some of my quick tips:

  • The Reflect Klean Kanteen is made without any paint (the design is etched onto the bottle) so it cannot chip off.  And the silicone ring inside the metal cap keeps it from leaking.
  • Soap can be very drying for the face.  I honestly don’t wash my face with anything but water in the shower, and my skin is great.  Other people recommend scrubbing your face with baking soda.  Coconut oil makes a fabulous moisturizer.  Other suggestions?
  • I’ve had success covering my gray with dark brown henna.  Lush sells henna bars that come plastic-free.  Also, some bulk stores sell henna powder in bulk.
  • A metal razor works just as well as a plastic razor.  For real.  I don’t cut myself.
  • Eco-Dent dental floss comes in a cardboard box, although the floss itself is Nylon.
  • I’ll let others chime in with the diaper suggestions since I don’t have kids.  But I do have a section in my book on diapers, soakers, etc.
  • If you’re up for it, almond milk can be made from scratch.  Cashew milk is even easier because you don’t have to cook it or strain it through cheese cloth.  Hemp milk is another one that doesn’t have to be strained, although I don’t love it.  Google for recipes online.  They are there!
  • Maybe look into secondhand luggage?


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3 years ago

hi mom

10 years ago

I’ve been reading this book, Healing Remedies, that has some recipes for hair coloring. I haven’t tried them, but it sounds like they would work.

10 years ago

I make my almond milk with a Vitamix blender, 1 cup previously soaked (supposedly raw) almonds, 3 cups water blend, strain in a “nut milk bag.” I don’t recommend the paint strainer method some people suggest! If you like sweet than a pitted date (bulk or farmers market) and a bit of vanilla extract. No steaming needed and I think it tastes better – just make sure your nuts smell fresh and not rancid! That said I’m not sure if steamed almond milk lasts in the fridge longer. We have to be careful not to leave ours out of the fridge at all, and in the fridge it’s good for a week. I don’t have kids (yet) but I’m attracted to the “elimination communication” method myself. Acne – nothing works for me but avoiding all (really all) processed foods – short of that nothing provides more than minimal support. Deodorant I want to try the recipe from a website I saw with coconut oil but I haven’t run out of my old stuff yet. You can also get shampoo in bulk at Rainbow Grocery – I’m not sure about where else though.

10 years ago

In the San Francisco Bay Area we have a compostable diaper service called Earth Baby. You use paper disposable diapers (the brand is Naty) and they work as well as conventional disposable diapers. The diaper service picks the dirty diapers at the end of the week, drops off new diapers and wipes, and takes the dirty ones to their composting facility. You might want to contact Earth Baby and see how they got started with their business – maybe you can convince an entrepreneur in your area to start a composting diaper service business!

Sarah S
10 years ago
Reply to  Emily

Maybe I ought to start that myself Emily! I’ll check it out, thanks!

10 years ago

I think this is a really great idea to post people’s successes. I always think about doing the Plastic Challenge but I don’t always have the time to take pictures and write every week so I haven’t. But I have made a lot of similar changes as you Sarah and its great to see someone else is having the same difficulties (i.e. deodorant/antiperspirants, shampoo). Plus this helps me out because I am going to use some of the advice on the posts! I have been trying out different types of shampoo bars and often times I find they dry out my hair. So what I’ve been doing is using shampoo bars for a few days and then regular shampoo for a day or two. It isn’t ideal but I’m hoping I’ll eventually find a shampoo bar that works for me and it makes my bottle of shampoo last much longer. Keep up the good work Sarah!

Sarah S
10 years ago
Reply to  Megan

Thanks Megan!

10 years ago

I too was loath to give up anti-perspirant, until I was persuaded to try a deodorant crystal. The crystal has been far more effective than my old plastic-encased anti-perspirant was, and it lasts forever (I’ve been using the same one for three years and have scarcely made a dent in it). It also comes in a little chamois bag with no additional packaging. As for shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, I buy these in bulk, re-filling my containers at our local co-op. I too use Eco-Dent floss, which comes in a card container, though the spindle is plastic. I use the wooden Environmental Toothbrushes with compostable bristles, which I have to order from Acorn in Canada, as there is no local source for them; and tooth powder purchased in bulk, although it is just as easy to make your own. MAC cosmetics take their packaging back and recycle it (not perfect, but better than the alteratives). As for haircolor, like you, I am just not ready to go grey. I color my hair about three times a year and felt very guilty about it, but there are salons that mix their own natural hair colorings – no plastic packaging involved. Henna also works well, and may be purchased in bulk, though is rather labour-intensive (I find that I have to leave it on for at least six hours). My shaver is a rechargeable electric one that I have had for almost 25 years. Cake soap and bog roll wrapped in paper (I have been unable to source unwrapped bog roll) I buy by the case – dead cheap. It helps to have a member-owned co-op nearby. My local Whole Foods and New Seasons seem as unconcerned about plastic packaging as Safeway does, so I never shop at either.

Sarah S
10 years ago

Wow, thanks everyone for all the great comments! I’m really feeling re-inspired and hope to add a few new things into the mix when it’s convenient – sounds like maybe the almond mlik and henna should be easy next ones. I’m trying out just washing my skin with water to see how it does.

With the deoderant, it’s really the anti-persperant I don’t want to forgo. I think (hope) I’m not too smelly but it gets really hot in my office. In order to avoid sweating I’d have to be wearing next to nothing.

Excited about all the different cosmetics advice and I’m sure I’ll be referring back to this as I’m ready to replace things!

10 years ago

I don’t know what type of cloth diapers you tried before, but I’m a big fan of prefolds. They’re all cotton, so they don’t get smelly the way all the polyester diapers do. They’ll stand up to any wash routine you throw at them. There are diaper forums that have lots of washing tips, but the biggest mistake that happens around here is when someone forgets to give them a rinse in cold water before the hot wash.

Have you tried shampoo bars? I’m a big fan of Chagrin Valley. I didn’t think my hubby would go for the switch, but he really likes it. For my little ones, I have one last bottle of tear-free shampoo that I only use when they get something gross in their hair. The rest of the time they’re fine with just water. And my two-year-old and I use Product on our hair.

It’s so easy to throw advice around, but you’re really doing great. You’re having success in areas where I’m not. Good job!

Sarah S
10 years ago
Reply to  julsie

Thanks!! Prefolds are definitely next to try – I used microfiber Bum Genius last time. I sold them all on and the lady I sold them to had no problems with them so it’s definitely a wash related issue,

10 years ago

You can make almond milk in a soy milk maker if you want to lose the tetra packs.

Thanks for sharing your progress!

Erin Fowler
10 years ago

I started making my own nut milks last week and i am hooked! If you don’t have cheesecloth, you can use a metal strainer and it works pretty well too. :)

10 years ago

Dear Sarah,

My no-plastic “frontier” for personal change has been pens and markers. I’m using second hand now, and pencils. Still, the post office sometimes makes me write over pencil in pen!

I still can’t stop relatives from buying plastic gifts.

I used cloth diapers with both my children. I found that after they could crawl onto a potty, they preferred that at home. I kept a second hand plastic potty in the bathroom, and downstairs, so they were diaper-free at home. I used 26″ flannel squares folded into kite-triangles with a cut towel tongue and water proof velcro moisture wraps. These cleaned up and dried quickly. The tongues allowed me to drop poop into the toilet. I did not soak. Just washed the diapers on their own in 1 part borax, 1 part washing soda & 2 parts soap flakes.

I teach DIY cosmetics bath & body care. Most of it is super easy to do.

For nut milks, simply blend nuts in water. Seriously! If you are feeling fancy, soak over night, add salt and/or sugar etc, but in a pinch, I just blend nuts in water and ta dah!

Sarah S
10 years ago
Reply to  TraceyTief

Might have to hit you up for some more diaper advice – is the tongue like a liner attached at one end?

10 years ago

Another poster mentioned coconut oil and baking soda for deodorant, and I want to second that. I’ve tried the crystal salt rock deodorant, baking soda and cornstarch mixed together, a solid deodorant from Lush, and Tom’s deodorant, and none of them have worked to completely get rid of bad odor for me. I recently found a recipe on Pinterest for 4 tablespoons of coconut oil mixed with 1/8 of cup baking soda and 1/8 of a cup cornstarch. You can also add some essential oil for smell if you want, and I added grapefruit oil. It works amazingly well for me, and I seem to have developed some persistent B.O. in the past few years – I used to be able to forgo deodorant completely! I love it so much because it doesn’t irritate my armpits like a lot of other deodorants have (the Lush one made me feel like my armpits were on fire, so I never did find out if it worked to keep away odor!).

You can buy coconut oil in a glass jar, essential oil in a glass jar, baking soda in a paper box, and as for cornstarch, I used to be able to get it in a tin can with a plastic lid, but the last time I got it I could only find a plastic container of it :( I’m sure if you have a natural foods grocer near you, though, you can find a better option – do they sell cornstarch in bulk? I mixed mine up and put it in a glass jar, so it’s a minimally plastic option for me, and if I could find cornstarch in a non-plastic container, it would be totally plastic free. I’m like a coconut oil evangelist now – you can use the rest of your jar for so many things! I’m using it as a body moisturizer right now, but there are so many other uses for coconut oil.

Melissa Brown
10 years ago

Definitely have to second the crunchybetty dot com recommendation. Lots of DIY face, hair & body tips.
When I recently visited family & forgot moisturizer, I just used olive oil :)

10 years ago

People have already said this – but make your own almond milk! It is supposed to be super easy – here is a neat, artsy video I found that shows you how to!

Green Jeanne
10 years ago

What a great idea! 30 years ago life was less plastic and for that many years I have tryed to leave a small impact on the earth. Everyday I learn more and more about what I’ve been missing with the help of people like Beth and yourselves.

My hair was dry and wavy, using just water or baking soda for many years it’s still wavy. I love the gray earned every one.

Deodorant; I tryed baking soda and oils, was still stinky and the baking soda made me break out. Now, I use everclear in a atomizer it works great. Vodka will work also.

Tooth paste; I rotate chalk, baking soda or just water.

Wash my face with water in the shower like my hair it’s nolonger dry.

Bath soap; Thanks to my daughter that makes it for me.

Makeup; Just mascara and lipstick. I’ve had the same ones for years, when they are gone Twink and making my own is on the list.

Razor; Still using the same plastic one for years. I keep it in a jar with everclear. Again with the booze :) Moisture is what dulls the blades. Buying a metal one is next. Shouldn’t have gotten rid of the one I had a long time ago.

Diapers; Used cloth for all five of my babies. A good rinsing, soak in vinger & water, wash and line dryed. I was a working mom and I had to switch from in homecare to a daycare that didn’t allow cloth. My poor baby at that time, her little bottom broke out so bad.

10 years ago

Wonderful post! For skincare, I rotate what I put on my skin, including face. Sometimes coconut oil which feels cooling esp. in summer. Sesame seed oil is great also, and according to Annie B. Bond in her book Better Basics for the Home sesame seed has some natural sunscreen properties.(lots of good recipes in her book…for body care etc) I use sesame oil pretty much always in spring and summer. As the weather gets colder and winter sets in, I prefer thicker olive oil. A little goes a long way, I rub upwards inwards towards the heart when applying it. I use organic food grade oils, rather than what they sell at our health food store’s cosmetic aisle. And, the food grade oils are generally less expensive. Skin is the body’s largest organ and I love feeding it wholesome oils. For hair color, I’ve used henna and it’s great. When I’ve used it I usually blend 2 or 3 different colors to add depth and so it doesn’t look so stark and one color. Of course, the areas that are grey will be a different shade of say, brown, t han the areas that aren’t grey yet. I believe there are some nasties in conventional type hair colors that have been linked with cancers.

Sarah S
10 years ago
Reply to  Reenie

I’ll check my library for that book, thanks!

10 years ago

For haircolor, I also use henna to cover my grey. Light Mountain Henna – color the grey medium brown. I just love the extra shine the henna adds. There is plastic in the packaging… Ill look into trying the product Beth mentioned. It must be good because I had no idea she colors her hair.

Katie Ostrich
10 years ago

I switched to non-toxic cosmetics a couple years. Now, I’m also trying to eliminate plastic, with mixed success. The following list is not entirely plastic free, but at least you aren’t washing yourself with toxins using these products. Plus, I’ve saved money and seen improvements in my skin and hair in both manageability and appearance:

Shampoo: I’ve switched to the J.R. Liggitt shampoo bar. (Lush products are toxic, so I steer clear) It really works (yay!), smells great and is ideal for camping/travelling. It suds surprisingly well and smells nice. I also use this as my shaving cream, body wash, facial soap and laundry soap when camping/travelling. It’s shampoo, not actual soap, so I find that it doesn’t dry my skin too much. If a shampoo bar is too much of a change, I recommend BWC (Beauty Without Cruelty) shampoos, which I used prior to eliminating plastic toiletries, they work great.

Conditioner: I have curly hair that tends towards dry, so I need my conditioner. These aren’t plastic free, but meet my other requirements: toxic-free, animal-product free, cruelty-free, affordability and effectiveness. I like BWC and Desert Essence. Desert Essence also makes a really nice face wash (comes in plastic though).

Shaving cream, Soap & Facewash: see shampoo (you can also make your own facewash)

Deodorant: I wear appropriate layers (e.g. not too many), wash my pits during the day when I’m starting to feel sweaty and dry off with my bandanna. If I can’t wash off, I’m likely hiking/camping/working in the field and I won’t be smelling like a rose regardless. I feel cleaner this way too. For important occasions, I’ll put on some coconut oil and baking soda (the coconut oil smells nice and helps the baking soda stick).

Toothpaste: baking soda

Dental floss: I don’t like the eco-dent floss, so I go all plastic here with Tom’s of Maine.

Body Moisturizer: I use organic coconut oil. It’s cheap from Trader Joe’s (about the only thing I buy there), comes in a glass bottle with a metal lid (yay!) lasts forever, works great, travels well cause it’s a solid, and smells fantastic. I can’t say enough great things about moisturizing with oil. You expect to feel greasy, but I feel gross when I use lotion now. Oil has cleansing properties and just feels so pure. Also, it works nicely on razor burn.

Facial moisturizer: This is key. I use Jojoba oil. It’s so amazing that I feel like a walking billboard for the stuff. You can find it in glass online. I buy 16 fl oz in plastic and it that lasts me a year, so I don’t feel too bad. Jojoba oil resembles the oils your body produces, so it discourages oil production. This makes it ideal for oily skin – my acne has almost entirely disappeared (I use it on my back too). Grape seed oil is ideal for dry, aging skin.

Lip balm/gloss: I use coconut oil, it justs travels so well.

Hair gel: I use aloe vera. I’ve only found it in plastic, but you can likely find it in glass online. I work in the sun and use it all the time for sunburns (and razor burns) anyway, so I thought why not use it as my hair gel too? I have crazy curly hair and it works well without being stiff.

Lipstick: I’ve switched to lip liner only, covered with gloss (see above) from a non-toxic company like 100%Pure or Bare Ecsentuals (EB isn’t perfect, but they do an okay job and are widely available from Sephora).

Mascara: Again, not plastic free, but at least non-toxic. Beth uses Twink which is plastic free. I use 100%Pure in the mini-size, it lasts me about a year. I find that bigger mascaras dry out before I can use them. I may try Twink when I use mine up.

Foundation/Blush/Eye-shadow/Eyeliner/Brow-liner/lip-tint: Wow, that’s a lot of items, huh?

I have switched to all mineral make-up. Why? Mineral make-up requires a learning curve, but once you adjust it’s so much more versatile than regular cosmetics. I travel a lot, and I like that my brown eye shadow is also my eyebnrow-liner and my liquid brown eye-liner. My blush is my lip tint, my foundation is my concealer (switch brushes), my eye shadows all double as liquid eyeliners (or fun face paint for costume parties!). Makes packing easy and compact.

With dry powder and a proper brush and you have great eye shadow. Dampen it slightly, and you have the ideal brow liner. Get it wet, and you now have liquid eye-liner. And they stay on! Plus, since your cosmetics are kept dry and applied with brushes (I wash mine regularly), you don’t need to worry about needless waste from throwing away germ-ridden cosmetics. Dry cosmetics stay nice and germ free. So I expect the cosmetics I bought a couple years back to ages. The only thing I’ve come close to using up is my brown powder, which I use as brow-liner most work days. It’s lasted two years, and I’m running out cause I’ve spilled the little container a few times. To give you an idea, I originally purchased a gram of the stuff two years ago.

To learn how loose powders work, I recommend a trip to your local Sephora or similar upscale cosmetics store. They’ll give you a free make-over with Bare Escentuals (BE) and let you try applying the stuff yourself. Then, apply your new skills to whatever brand of mineral make-up you choose. I have some BE products but most of mine come from Coastal Creations Classics, cause of their low toxicity scores on EWG’s cosmetics database:

The website is low tech, but they have quality affordable products. All of these come in little plastic containers, but it’s very little plastic waste, and you could search for a brand that was completely plastic free. My containers will make ideal lip balm holders after the five years it’ll take me to use up the one gram of make-up inside.

Sunscreen: I work outside and I need my sunscreen. I cover up as much as possible and use titanium dioxide based sunblocks on my exposed skin (spf 30, reapply religiously). There’s a lot of duds in the titanium-DO world – they have beads of metal that grate your skin or make you so white that you look like one of the undead. The winners? I really like Alba’s sunscreens. BurnOut has wonderful sunscreens, they blend beautifully (only one I’ve found that doesn’t leave me looking like a ghost). Sadly, it’s too pricey for me to purchase regularly. Great product though. Again, you could search for a plastic free brand.

Sarah S
10 years ago
Reply to  Katie Ostrich

Katie – what a great list! Thanks!! I have used some mineral makeup and powders before in the past but I’ll have to look into them again.

Katie Ostrich
10 years ago
Reply to  Sarah S

I had a friend get me on the toxic free band wagon and the biggest hurdle is just finding what works for you, so I’m always happy to share if it means other people won’t have to go through as much trial and error.

10 years ago

I second the recommendation for henna – read up on it at longhaircommunity first. It’s cheap and will eliminate a lot more chemicals, as well as making your hair healthier.

Ferris Duvall
10 years ago

I use water and oil also for cleansing my face with washcloths. No facewash needed.

Ferris Duvall
10 years ago

Nut milks are easy to make. But they are different than store bought because they use thickeners. I cloth diapered and yes sometimes they are stinky you just have to figure out what works for you to get them clean. Google searches help with lots of suggestions. There is also the elimination communication system where you don’t use diapers at home, just hold the baby over th toilet or tub. :) I’m going to try that if I have a second child.

10 years ago

I don’t know about in the US, but in the UK (certainly larger) businesses have to send their sanitary waste for incineration. So to ease the guilt I had about using ‘sposies in those early baby days, if I knew I was going somewhere like a supermarket/mall/doctors surgery.. any place that would have an industrial sanitary bin, I would gather/save 3 or 4 of the most recent nappies (many more and the bulk and smell start getting silly), pop them in the diaper bag, then dispose of them for incineration when I got to my destination. Not ideal, I know, but it was better than them going in my bin, then on to landfill.

If/when you move to cloth diapers be aware that natural wool outer wraps would be a better choice than polyester fleece or PUL pockets that are available, although obviously any re-useable is better than countless disposables.

While you’re browsing the nappy sites, it might be a good time to look at re-useable menstrual wear- cloth pads, sponges, washable tampons and cups; as many of the sites sell both and you will face the same problems with cloth pads as with diapers. Many producers offer only polyester fleece or PUL as the waterproofing and most will have some kind of plastic fastener either poppers/snaps or hook-and-loop. I only found Honour Your Flow pads to offer natural wool backing with metal fasteners (and that’s not across the range), but there will be others out there. Or if you’re handy with a sewing machine, you could upcycle some of your own :-)

10 years ago

Diapers – I used to make my own all in one diapers, and they were okay, but high quality chinese cloth diapers still remain my favorite. Just fold and pin them, and you’re good to go! Almond milk is a breeze to make. You only have to soak almonds to make almond milk if you don’t have a high powered blender. I have a vitamix and make almond milk that kicks store-bought almond milk’s butt! SO much tastier. I don’t use soap anymore… just wash with water in the shower and watch out for foods that make me break out (potato chips and wheat are the main offenders for me).

I rarely use suitcases, but buying used would be a good idea rather than buying new.

Sarah S
10 years ago
Reply to  melaniecarr23

I had a quick look on craigslist, and only saw some cheapie ones for sale. I’d like to buy some good quality ones this time that will last. I guess I’ll just keep my eyes peeled!

10 years ago

With the cloth diapers, it sounds like you need to figure out your wash routine. Once you have that figured out (depends on what type of water you have and what type of washer you have), it’s real easy!

Sarah S
10 years ago
Reply to  Melanie

That’s a good point – I have no idea if our water is hard or soft or what…

10 years ago

Beth, Sarah’s posting reminded my of my own little minor victory in the battle to teach my 13-yr-old son about “ooooo Mooom, evil plastic!!!” This is the affectionate taunt I get from him on occasion. BUT read on: last week he rode his bike to a Subway down the street, first time on a busy road, he was proud of himself. He called me to tell me he had made it, he’d ordered, was eating, and ‘yes I got milk. … Well, actually I didn’t get milk. But Mom I have no plastic lid on the soda, and no straw!!” (My heart melts …). “But does styrofoam count?” “Yes, Jon, but that’s okay, I’m really proud of you!” (Sniff.)

10 years ago

It’s nice to see how other people are doing with the plastic free thing and the challenges they still face. Good work Sarah!

I have found that some of my new habits have completely stuck – like always using cloth bags for shopping, using a bar shampoo and soap from lush instead of plastic containers, and I have completely stopped using cosmetics (except on special occasions) lotions and face-wash. I wash my face now with water and green tea. I used to have problem skin but omitting lotion, facewash and cosmetics have completely cleared it up! However, I still have problems with finding completely plastic-free groceries in my area (Glasgow UK) and sometimes have slipped up on the plastic free takeaway :( I am moving back to Canada soon and will use the opportunity to try to re-evaluate my plastic usage. Thanks for the inspiration! Cheers x

10 years ago

I make my own nut milk and I use a stainless steel fine mesh strainer. Here is a cool video on how to

Regarding cosmetics, I use baking soda and vinegar to wash and rinse my hair, honey to wash my face, baking soda and coconut oil in my deodorant and toothpaste recipes. I make my own mascara. My favorite resource on this:

Sarah S
10 years ago
Reply to  NatalieInCA

I’ll check it out – thanks!

10 years ago

Hi! You’re doing great! You can make your own almond milk in a Vitamix or other high powered blender. Buy bulk almonds, cheesecloth and make your own!

Theresa P
10 years ago

Shaklee sells the following to clean your face plastic-free: Meadow Blend Soap-Free Cleansing Bar. It comes in a paperboard box without any plastic wrap on the inside or outside, it smells heavenly, and works well. I also just bought their dryer sheets which don’t come wrapped in any plastic and can be thrown in the paper recycling bin after use.

10 years ago

I was looking into the luggage issue myself the other night. After much searching I decided the best, cheapest and most eco friendly thing to do would be to try and get the luggage fixed. I read that many places that fix shoes have the right equipment to fix certain luggage tears. If that doesnt work then Ill try for secondhand luggafe like Beth suggests. If all else fails there are certain “eco friendly” options out there you can look up on google like this place –

Good luck!

10 years ago

I’m with you on the cosmetics. I think I’ve tried just about every natural-ish (including solid) shampoo and have yet to find one that works as well as my old Citre Shine. I wash my face with a sprinkle of baking soda and jojoba oil — mix the two, apply to damp skin. It’s not too drying because of the oil, and the baking soda has just enough texture to clean. I have super sensitive, oily, breakout prone skin but am amazed by how well this has been working for me. If you have dry skin, you can also add a dollop of honey to the mixture. I don’t know if jojoba oil comes in glass, but one 4oz bottle lasts me about a year.

If you have a few minutes to spare, almond milk is really simple to make and tastes much, much better than the storebought stuff. I soak 1 c of raw almonds overnight, drain, put them in my blender with 2-3 c filtered water and half a vanilla bean. Blend, strain through a cotton bag. I’m cheap, so I add yet another cup of water to the almond pulp and blend and strain again. Then just add a little sugar and a pinch of salt to taste and store in the fridge.

Sarah S
10 years ago

Lots of love for the homemade nut milk! Sounds easy enough.

Sarah S
10 years ago

Thanks for all the great tips Beth! I didn’t know henna came in brown – I always pictured it in my mind as red. I’ll check the other stuff as well! Looking forward to hearing any other tips from readers…