Tuesday, June 29, 2010

99 Bottles

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

Over the years we have taken great strides to reduce our plastic consumption, yet our home still seems to be full of it.

In the laundry room:
  • laundry detergent
  • peroxide
  • stain treatment
In the kitchen:
  • hand soap
  • dish soap
  • dish washer detergent
  • vinegar
  • garbage bags
In the pantry:
  • bread
  • yogurt
  • pasta
  • ketchup
  • mayo
  • milk
  • sour cream
  • cheese
In the bathroom:
  • toilet paper
  • lotion
  • conditioner
  • deodorant
  • makeup
  • hair gel
  • hand soap
  • toothbrush
  • band aids
  • pain relievers
  • floss
  • mouthwash
  • q-tips
  • cotton balls
In the bedroom:
  • iron
  • hangers
In the office:
  • pens
  • tape
  • binders
  • markers
  • ink cartridges
  • thumbtacks
  • computer equipment
All made of or housed in plastic. Looking at this list, it doesn't seem like we got rid of much at all. Honest we have! Some notables missing from the above list are: disposable razors, shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, bath poufs, tupperware, plastic wrap, sandwich bags, sponges, bottled water, plastic water bottles, fabric softener, and shopping bags.

I was quite pleased with our progress for a while. I had hit a plastic plateau if you will. Now I am increasingly annoyed by the bits that are left. I know I will never be able to rid our lives of all of it, but I feel I could knock a few more items off that list.

In the laundry room:

We have already given up fabric softener and survived over a year without it. I don't miss it a bit. In fact the smell of it is overpowering now. Noxious even. While I am not ready to start making my own laundry detergent, I could make the switch from liquid to powder. We currently use Seventh Generation 2x concentrated laundry liquid. Anyone have experience with their powdered detergent? Or can recommend a good powder?

In the kitchen:

I have been purchasing Kiss My Face self foaming liquid soap refills for several years now. We have three of their self foaming pump dispensers we've been using since the beginning. The only waste has been the empty refill bottles which are recyclable. Until now. The pumps are wearing out and no longer pumping and I am getting tired of seeing the refill bottles in the recycle bin. I would like to replace the plastic dispensers with glass ones. Do glass self foaming dispensers exist? If they do, I have yet to find one. I guess I would even settle for a reused pump off a plastic bottle that would fit onto a glass one. As for the soap, I already buy Dr. Bronner's castile soap in bulk that we use as shampoo and body wash, hence their absence from the above list. Why not just use that as hand soap as well? It has like a million uses, lathers like crazy, is concentrated, and I can buy it in bulk from my local coop - no packaging! Why the hell haven't I done this sooner? Duh. I could probably even use it as dish soap.

Dish washer detergent, that's another story. I have tried Seventh Generation's powder detergent, it didn't work. I have even made my own. It worked for a while. Then weird sandy-like bits starting showing up on our dishes and I switched. I have gone back to using Earth Friendly Products Wave Auto Dishwasher Gel. Sometimes our dishes still come out dirtier than when they went in. Basically, our dishwasher sucks. I'm ready to try something new. Plastic free recommendations?

In the pantry:

I'm struggling here. We've cut out a lot by taking our own containers to fill from the bulk section at the coop. Gave up plastic wrap a while ago and now sandwich bags. I have reusable bags for buying produce. All glass food storage. And, I make a lot of our own stuff: BBQ sauce, taco seasoning, alfredo sauce, cheese sauce. Yet the plastic bags abound. I haven't carried my purchases out of a store - any store - in a plastic bag in nearly three years. So what the hell is with all these plastic bags?!

Bread. They're all bread of some variety. I have toyed with baking our own bread before, but never stuck with it. Too time consuming, too cold in the house for bread to rise, blah blah blah. I have found a way to fix that. No knead bread. Aka Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Acutally, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day in this house.

Mister gave me the book some time ago. I just started using it. Made my first batch of dough and baked my first loaf from it last week. It was eaaaasy. I am going to give it an honest-to-goodness-whole-hearted try this time. No more bread bags!

In the bathroom:

Like I said, we already cut out the shampoo and body wash bottles. Bath poufs have been replaced with sea sponges. I use Tom's of Maine toothpaste that comes in a metal tube. My daughter and I have been shaving with a safety razor going on two years. That alone has cut out countless amounts of plastic! Now I have my eyes set on conditioner and lotion. Maybe toilet paper. Maybe. I use very little conditioner. One bottle lasts months. The other day when I was filling my Dr. Bronner's bottle at the coop I noticed they have conditioner in bulk too. I don't recall the brand, but once my current stock runs out I'm going to give it a try. One more off the list. Lotion I use a lot more frequently. I saved the last two bottles that ran out so I have one to use and one to shop with. It's kind of a PITA to refill the bottle because thick lotion takes FOREVER to pump out of a gallon jug. Ugh. Nevertheless, I think it is an inconvenience I can live with. Plastic is an inconvenience that drives me crazy!

The last time I messed with our toilet paper it nearly caused a divorce, so I will have to ease into that one. We've been using recycled t.p. for quite some time now. Perhaps tender bums have adjusted. The only recycled toilet paper I know that comes wrapped in paper is significantly less comfortable than our current brand. In fact it's the one that caused the rift to begin with. Maybe next year...

What I am trying to get at with this exceedingly long post is that you just need to take things one step at a time. It's like the song goes: 99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer. You take one down, pass it around. 98 bottles of beer on the wall.

The journey may seem long, but eventually you'll get there.


angela jiniel said...

I'm glad you started making your own bread. There's nothing as good and it really isn't that difficult at all to make.

I would urge you to try the laundry soap making as well. It really isn't hard and only takes a few minutes to make enough soap to last a while. And it's extremely cost effective!

You may want to try and find a lotion bar. I bought one at a Renaissance Fair last year and I'm loving it. I know they sell them other places as well. They're portable and have almost no waste.

Country Girl in the City said...

My mom would make bread for us sometimes, but I've never been brave enough to try it. Yours looks wonderful; I may have to work up my courage.

I use Yardley's soaps. They're not wrapper free, but the wrapper is recyclable (and not plastic). I used their oatmeal bar to replace my plastic loufah. They're also not terribly expensive; I get mine at the dollar store.

Kasi S. said...

Sadly, Dr. Bronner's liquid soaps cannot be used with pump dispensers. They clog the little tubes very quickly. So, I might suggest using their bar soaps for your hand soap. The liquid soap still works great for everything else.
Personally, I just go ahead and use a reusable squeeze bottle and have a straightened paper-clip handy to stick in the opening when it inevitably clogs. I don't know if that would be practical for you, though.
If you figure out the dish detergent, let me know. I've been using eco-friendly powdered detergent (a couple of brands) and I'm getting tired of having to re-wash a quarter of every dishwasher load by hand. How wasteful is that?! Maybe I'll see if the borax/baking soda does the trick...
For the bread bags - you might consider offering the ones you already have to other people. They work well for picking up dog doo-doo and are perfect for tossing disposable diapers. Many people use disposable diapers and I'd rather see them reuse the bread bags than buy new ones just for that!

EnviRambo said...

Kasi, Do you dilute your Dr. Bronner's? I know it has a tendency to clog pumps, but we have been using it in the shower with a self foaming pump for several years without incident. That's why I really want to find more self foaming pumps to replace my Kiss My Face ones. The pumps in the shower are old Dial soap containers that we had lying around. They've been pumped thousands of times and still work great!

We do use our bread bags for doggy walks. If I ever run out of them I would like to switch to the Skooperbox. It's cardboard and will degrade in the landfill.

Anonymous said...

We use Kiss My Face bar soap for hand soap + some Lava bar soap for the downstairs bath where gardening dirt and garage grease get washed off. I like Trader Joe's powdered laundry soap. I use Ecover powdered dishwasher detergent and it works well.

Laura in So Cal

Rosa said...

For the dishwasher: it seems with our dishwasher that if the power/heat dry is on, we get residue, but if it's off we get water w/residue in that dumps right off for the most part.

For peroxide (for stains) an oxygen cleaner powder (oxyclean, or I used to be able to get big boxes of Countryside nonchlorine bleach) is a good substitute - either as powder for laundry or dissolved in water for things like cleaning up animal pee.

I don't have a good bread solution. I bake in the winter, and in the summer unless it's extra cool weather I buy bread, so we always have bread bags. I'm not getting air conditioning just to avoid that little bit of plastic.

Anonymous said...

I use Dr. Bronner's in my foaming soap dispenser uite easily. I found a recipe somewhere and it's:
2 tbsp. Dr. bronners
1 tsp olive, almond, coconut (whichever) oil
fill the rest with water

and it works perfectly! So easy to make and I've been using it for months, and my dispenser isn't clogged.

Hope this helps! =)

daharja said...

Re the bread bags. Is there a bakery nearby you that bakes fresh? Most bakeries will wrap in paper, or just pass your bread into a bag of your choice if you want. So you don't have to make your own bread, if you haven't the time.

Re the soap. Bar soap :-)

EnviRambo said...


Ironically I live right next door to a bakery, BUT they package everything in plastic and they're stuff isn't that good. I might as well be buying supermarket bread. A lot of white, enriched, bland bread. Sometimes I get a donut from there and ask for no bag. I get plenty of strange looks just from that. I wonder what would happen if I brought my own bread bag?!

I think bar soap is a wonderful alternative to plastic. Assuming of course the wrapper is paper. Still I prefer to eliminate the packaging all together and buy in bulk. I am fortunate to have a Co-op that offers many items that way. I bring my own containers, record their tare weight, fill 'er up and they deduct the tare weight when I check out. No waste! I love it.

Daisy said...

It's not a perfect solution, but you might look for a way to reuse the plastic wrapping around the TP package. I've used it as a wastebasket liner and a garbage bag, but I'll bet there are more uses for that large piece of plastic. Paint cloth? Floor cover under pet litter box? If you can't eliminate it, make it useful.

Pure Mothers said...

Bar soap to replace liquid soaps with pumps. And Charlie's Laundry Soap or Soap Nuts are plastic-free laundry alternatives. Also - you could probably find Borax in a bag or box for stains and for general cleaning. Email Beth at FakePlastic Fish. She will help you with brands that don't use plastic!!

Anonymous said...

I'm about to start bringing my own containers to fill in the bulk aisle. For people who try to shun plastic bags, we sure have a lot of various kinds floating around right now.

We've been using a powdered laundry detergent from BioKleen. While the machine fills (always with cold water), I measure the soap into a re-purposed peanut butter jar, add a bit of hot water, and shake, shake, shake. I don't know if this is necessary to get the soap to dissolve, but it seems to work. As an extra bonus, we have a local green general store that offers bulk refills of the product (along with several other cleaning products).

I'm curious about the foaming soap dispensers for Dr. Bronner's. We definitely had the traditional pump partially clogging and then shooting soap all over ourselves and the bathroom!

Condo Blues said...

Is your dishwasher an HE machine? I found out mine was and it either leaves grit or doesn't clean all of the goop off of my dishes. A plumber told me that my HE dishwasher runs a shorter cycle and needs hot water immediately. To solve my grit & goop issues (even with rinsing) he said I had to turn my hot water heat way up past 130 degrees. My husband pointed out that means our choices are to either save water with the dishwasher or save natural gas by keeping the setting where it is :(

The Nurturing Pirate said...

I have been very happy with Charlie's Natural Soap. While it comes in plastic, if you order the ginormous tub, it has a lot of reuse options (I have mine slated for working with compost when I finally empty it). The company even says you can use it in dishwashers. I liked the sound of that (one product for dual purposes), but can't say I've been 100% satisfied with the results. It's worth a try though.

I use a lot of lotion (dry skin). I've recently been using coconut oil on my face (thanks to Crunchy Chicken for the idea), and realized it could be used for an all-over moisturizer. It is a bit greasy feeling, and it is taking some time for me to adjust. I buy it in a glass jar. Because I'm sticking my fingers into it, I obviously do not use this same jar for cooking.

Elizabeth B said...

We use Ecover powdered diswasher soap as well as their powdered laundry soap. Works okay for us. Our hand soap comes in bars from our favorite B&B in Ashland, OR. No joy on switching shampoos; my scalp is craaaaaanky. Ditto face cleaners. But we have switched to bulk goods wherever possible. It's a process.

Sonja said...

I've been very happy with the powdered washing detergent from Ecover. I've been using it for years, my washing machine and my clothes are all ok :-)


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