The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

Category Archives: Plastic-Free Alternatives

My exploration of plastic-free options for products in various categories

March 21, 2019

Spring Gardening with Orta Plastic-Free Self-Watering Seed Pots

I first ran across Orta plastic-free self-watering seed pots last Spring at the Temescal Farmers Market in Oakland, CA. I wanted to review it back then, but what with buying a new home in Maryland, caring for my dad, and then the extreme heat of the Maryland summer, it never happened. So, here I am in Spring 2019 trying again.

Anne Fletcher from Orta sent me a plastic-free, zero-waste seed starting kit to review. The kit came with two sizes of self-watering terracotta seed pots (handmade in Oakland, CA), seed starting mix in a paper sack, a and a few packets of seeds.

If the wrapper around the planters looks like plastic, it’s not. It’s actually a type of naturally-translucent vellum paper.

The kit came surrounded by 100% recyclable cardboard “honeycomb pads,” which protected the terracotta pots just fine.

And the seed starting mix came in plain paper without plastic.

I love that Orta explains its plastic-free packaging … Read the rest

March 21, 2019

Why I Love Plastic-Free Bite Toothpaste Bits

Ever since Lush reverted to packaging its Toothy Tabs toothpaste tablets in plastic containers instead of compostable cardboard boxes, I’ve been brushing my teeth with plain baking soda mixed with essential oils. (I pour a bit in the palm of my hand and run my wet toothbrush through it.) This method is fine, and cheap, but I missed the convenience of the tablets, especially while traveling.

Finally — well, okay, I may be a few months late to this party — finally for me, there’s a replacement for Lush Toothy Tabs that doesn’t come in a plastic container and is actually BETTER than the Lush product I used to love! (Bite sent me two bottles to review.)

What are toothpaste bits?

Bite toothpaste bits are little vegan tablets stored in a glass bottle that foam up and quickly become toothpaste when you chew them. Right now, there are only two varieties: Naturally Whitening Mint and Fresh Mint with Activated Charcoal. So, yeah,… Read the rest

February 9, 2019

Easy Bulk Shopping with the Goods Holding Company System

Goods Holding Company bulk kit

Using our own containers to buy foods from bulk bins is one of the primary ways to avoid plastic packaging while grocery shopping. But it’s not always easy, especially when you’re just beginning your plastic-free journey. First, you have to find shops in your area that offer foods from bulk bins, and then you need to find out how they handle customers’ containers. You only want to pay for what’s inside, so the store needs to have a way to deduct the weight of the container. Some shops prefer customers to weigh their own containers, while other stores like Whole Foods require customers to visit the customer service desk to have their containers weighed by a staff member.

The Solution to Plastic-Free Bulk Shopping

San Francisco plastic pollution activists Eva Holman and Carolyn Box got tired of having to weigh their containers every time they went shopping (yes, you can put a sticker on the jar, but eventually, the sticker washes… Read the rest

August 26, 2018

Sreenivasulu’s Architectural Wonders from Reused Plastic Pen Refills

A few months ago, Sreenivasulu.M.R, a software professional in Bangalore, India,  emailed me out of the blue to let me know about his project building intricate miniatures of world-renowned architecture out of used plastic pen refills.  These days, a lot of my emails go unanswered and even unread because my time is consumed with caring for my dad.  But for some reason, this one intrigued me enough to click the links in it.  And wow, was I glad I did!  Sreenivasulu’s pieces are amazing.  And he’s using them to educate students about plastic reduction and recycling.… Read the rest

June 3, 2018

Solid Plastic-Free Shower Gel and Body Wash? What Do You Think?

Lush solid shower gel

Last month, I received an email from Carmen Drahl, senior correspondent for Chemical & Engineering News, wanting to know if I had heard about the new solid body wash products from Lush and Bomb Cosmetics, and if so, what I thought about them.  To be honest, I thought she was just talking about bars of soap.  What’s so new about that?  But no.  Actually, just as I learned that liquid soap and solid soap have different chemistries, so too do soap and shower gel.  And as Carmen explained to me the difference between soap and shower gel, I started to get excited… Not for myself, but for my sister and others of her ilk.

A Plastic-Free Solution for the Soap Haters?

Read the rest
January 31, 2018

How To Move Long Distance Without Plastic

plastic-free moving

When I left my home in California last month to care for my dad in Maryland, I struggled to figure out how to do it plastic-free.   Moving across the country can involve a lot of disposable plastic if you’re not careful:  plastic bubble wrap inside your boxes, plastic tape to close the boxes, and plastic stretch wrap around everything. Apparently, stretch wrap is now a moving company’s best friend.  In fact, I had the following phone conversation with one of the many moving company reps I spoke to:

Me:  I don’t want my items covered in plastic wrap.  Can you just use reusable moving blankets? Rep:  We do use blankets.  But we have to use plastic wrap over the blankets to protect your furniture.  No reputable company would move your possessions without plastic wrap. Me: How did they do it in the old days? Rep: If they were a good company, they used plastic wrap. Me: I mean, in the days before plastic stretch wrap. Rep:  Good moving companies… Read the rest

September 26, 2017

Who Gives a Crap Recycled or Bamboo Toilet Paper without Plastic

Who Gives a Crap recycled plastic-free toilet paper

The Problem:  Finding 100% recycled or tree-free toilet paper that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic.  Since 2007, my toilet paper of choice has been cardboard cases of Seventh Generation recycled rolls that come individually-wrapped in thin paper wrappers.  I ordered it from Amazon and even had a subscription at one time.  But over the years, I’ve received comments from readers that they would order a case and it would sometimes come with plastic inside.  Or that the plastic-free cases were not always available on Amazon.

A New Solution:  A few months ago, I started seeing Facebook posts about a new brand of toilet paper called Who Gives a Crap.  Funny name.  But it sounded interesting.  The company donates 50% of its profits to provide toilets and sanitation in the developing world.  The toilet paper comes in two versions, bamboo or recycled paper, and is shipped in a cardboard box.  At the time, only the bamboo version… Read the rest

July 24, 2017

Review – Guppy Friend microfiber catching laundry bag

In March, I wrote about microfiber laundry pollution from synthetic clothing and mentioned that soon there would be a special bag available called Guppy Friend to catch those microfibers before they are rinsed down the drain. Well, the bag is now available and the company sent me one to test out.

Guppy Friend is a product developed by the campaign STOP! MICRO WASTE, a German non-profit founded by a group of surfers and nature lovers to find solutions to the microfiber pollution problem.  Guppy Friend is just one of their projects, as they recognize that it is only one small part of the solution to a huge problem that will require systemic change on a massive scale, not just a few people conscientiously washing their polyester fleece in a special bag.  But for those of you conscientious folk out there who do wear synthetic clothing and want to prevent the fibers from escaping into our waterways, here is one small solution.

Guppy Friend is a synthetic … Read the rest

July 24, 2017

How to Make Liquid Soap Nuts Laundry Soap Plus Other Plastic-Free Laundry Ideas

Soap nuts laundry liquid

The last time I wrote about doing laundry without plastic was June 17, 2009.  Obama was our new president, and Michael Jackson was still alive (he died a week later).  It’s time for an update.

Plastic-Free Soap Nuts Laundry Soap

Back in the day, we used powdered Ecover laundry detergent, in part because it came in a recyclable cardboard box and was the only brand I’d ever found that came with a cardboard scoop instead of a plastic one.  Those days are over.  Ecover switched to a plastic scoop (why does anyone need a new scoop with every box anyway?), and I no longer recommend it.

There are lots of recipes online for making your own laundry detergent with combinations of various ingredients, but the one that I’ve found to be the simplest to make and work the best in cold water is a liquid soap that requires only 2 ingredients:  soap nuts and water.  You can also add essential oil(s), but that’s totally optional.

The brand of … Read the rest

July 14, 2017

Hormone Disruptors in Boxed Mac & Cheese and Other Processed Cheeses

Since going plastic-free, I generally avoid processed, packaged foods.  So I haven’t enjoyed the Day-Glo orange of Kraft Mac & Cheese in years.  (Yeah, I used to live on that stuff in the 80’s and 90’s, with extra cheese added because, despite the advertising claims, it really isn’t the “cheesiest.”)

But the other day, Michael brought home a box of organic quinoa mac & cheese that someone had left on the curb as a freebie, and I thought maybe I’d go ahead and have it, its being free and all.

And then yesterday, I read that a new study commissioned by the Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging has found phthalates — a type of hormone-disrupting chemical found in plastics — in 29 of 30 cheese products they tested.  Cheese powders from boxed mac & cheese had four times higher levels of phthalates than natural, unprocessed cheeses.  And other processed cheeses… Read the rest