Please note that this post uses referral links – but only to products I love and use in my own home.
Back in January 2019 I wrote a post about how I was reducing plastic in my home this year. One year on, I wanted to report back on what had worked for us, what had been less successful, and why… and also share some new ideas which hadn’t even occurred to me a year ago! Although we are by no means perfect, we have made a lot of great, sustainable and easy changes.
January 2019: In the last few years, I have gradually worked towards creating an eco friendly home but, in 2018, the media turned its spotlight – full beam – on to the devastating impact of plastic waste on our environment. Like many people, reducing consumption has since become a real priority for me. As such, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to create a more sustainable life with much less plastic and waste in general.
To inform and inspire myself, I joined a variety of social media groups dedicated to reducing waste and plastic. With their help, I have taken further steps along this journey – focusing primarily on reducing plastic.
I have realised that every positive change takes you deeper into the topic of sustainability – and therefore raises questions and challenges. What I share below are the simple steps I have taken – partly over the last few years but also renewed efforts since New Year! This is a work in progress and definitely a marathon rather than a sprint. So, any suggestions of things that have worked for you – please do get in touch or comment below – I would love to hear from you!
Challenges: I primarily use an electric toothbrush as these are generally a better option for your teeth and gums. On the up side, they last for a long time. However, there is no getting around the fact that much of the body and the brushes are made of plastic.
Secondly – conventional toothpaste comes in plastic tubes. There are powdered alternatives in a tin – but will these protect the health of your mouth? Suggestions welcome!
Twelve months on:
So, I went to the Dentist in November. Almost immediately she said to me was “are you no longer using an electric tooth brush?” There were signs that a manual brush, plastic or otherwise, wasn’t cutting it.
That evening I ordered this Oral B+ electric brush and spent the next few days running my tongue over my teeth, marvelling at how wonderfully smooth they felt again. It is plastic, yes – but hopefully I will have the same brush for years.
I can’t be entirely sure that the degradation in my teeth was entirely due to the manual brush. I have had two pregnancies in swift succession which will have inevitably taken their toll on my teeth. But I cannot take the chance: healthy teeth are so precious, I will to stay with the electric brush going forwards.
Currently – the girls use bamboo brushes. But, I will move them to electric at an appropriate point when they are a little older.
Additionally, I haven’t found an eco toothpaste, so have stuck with Oral B and Colgate professional brands.
Result: Sadly, not a long term solution for us
2. Cotton wool buds
Progress: Waste from the plastic rods in cotton buds has recently come under the media spotlight. This was an easy swap and these Bambaw Cotton Buds have been great.
Challenges: I cleared the bathroom of the old cotton buds (as well as toothbrushes etc) as part of this exercise. So much plastic thrown away – much of which can’t be recycled. I know the aim is stopping the plastic waste cycle now – but, in the short term, it feels difficult to throw it out. Eventually I would like for us to be a low-waste household – but there is a long way to go.
Twelve months on:
All of the plastic cotton wool buds are now gone and I am on to my second pack of bamboo ones. I will consider trying a reusable one after this batch is finished – and also bought some reusable make up removing cloths which have been a big success.
Result: Sustainable success!
3. Toilet Rolls
Progress: A friend posted on social media about switching to Who Gives a Crap toilet rolls – and I was intrigued!
This company makes all of their toilet and tissue paper products with environmentally friendly materials, and donates 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those in need – read more here.
It was a no brainer! I subscribed to receive a 48 premium bamboo 3-ply toilet rolls every three months – and it has been a very successful swap! We didn’t notice any reduction in comfort from our usual luxury quilted paper – and the new rolls seem to last longer. This is a keeper.
Challenges: So – where do you store 48 toilet rolls?! The main box is still in my kitchen. The girls think it is an awesome climbing frame and treasure trove all rolled in to one. Mom is less happy about the situation…
Be warned that the large delivery box is emblazoned with the company name. As we were out, ours was delivered to our neighbours – who were certainly bemused by the packaging! On the upside, it triggered a conversation where I explained my resolution: they were intrigued and are planning to investigate themselves. Perhaps we could even bulk buy together in the future. We will see… So – maybe they know what they are doing with this packaging after all – it certainly starts conversations!
Twelve months on:
We have recently had our fourth box delivered – and, yes, there is an abundance of toilet roll stock under the spare bed! Fortunately WGAC email you before sending out your next delivery to check that you are ready for it – which is very convenient as you can opt to defer for a number of weeks or months, depending on how much you have left.
They have also had a number of different designs for the wrapping paper to appeal to children – stackable toys and Christmas designs – which have been a big hit with my two! We will probably be with WGAC for the long term – and those of my friends and family have also started a subscription are also glowing in their praise of this particular swap!
Result: Sustainable success!
4. Bar Soap and Shampoo
Progress: It was my husband who first embraced the recent trend for returning to bar soap. He bought traditional Aleppo Olive and Laurel Soap from Amazon about 18 months ago. I had never heard of it before but it smells wonderful – and was incredibly moisturising. A quick convert, I explored more bar soaps for the whole family, including shampoo.
Having long hair which requires quite a lot of attention to keep it in good condition, I know bar shampoo is an easier option for those with short hair. But I wanted to try and, after some research, opted for this Funky Soap Butter Bar, a shampoo and conditioner in one. Overall it was pretty good – and at least left my hair squeaky clean.
Challenges: I had previously tried a variety of toxin/paraben free shampoos and conditioners (all still in plastic bottles) – with mixed results; mainly results that left my hair lank and greasy after a couple of washes: not a good look. Although my experience with bar soap has actually been better than that other toxin free, bottled shampoos – I’ve found it best to alternate with my normal shampoo and conditioner to keep my hair looking its best. Will keep looking for new options on this front…
From a practical perspective – you need to get into the habit of putting the soap away and not leaving it anywhere it will come into contact with water (or toddlers) otherwise it will wash away or go mushy. I lost over half of my first bar of soap this way. I recommend using a soap dish like this one from Amazon or a plastic-free bag for body soap, which you can hang up like this one.
Twelve Months on:
The good: when I look around my home I now see bar soaps on bamboo soap dishes in each of the bathrooms. There is bar soap for me in the shower. And – we use bar soap with an eco brush / scrubber instead of washing up liquid. All of these have been sustainable changes which I am delighted about. Having said that, with two toddlers bringing home all sorts of germs from nursery – I have also bought antibacterial liquid hand wash in a plastic bottle. This is really for times where we need to kill off a gastro bug or similar the has come into the house – and I have kept bleach in the house for similar reasons.
The less good: I simply haven’t been able to find a bar shampoo/conditioner which works well long term on my hair. As such, I get a bulk plunger bottle of my much loved paraben free Head and Shoulders 2 in 1 otherwise it is a lank mess. (I note I have bought two bottles of this throughout the year.)
As I mentioned, it is very difficult to give bar soap to toddlers without wasting the lot in one go as they drop it in the bath, only for it to disperse and disappear forever within ten minutes! For now, therefore, we are sticking with Jason Natural Rosewater Bodywash – to be reassessed at a later date! (I note I have bought three bottles of this throughout the year.)
Result: Sustainable success – with some caveats
Progress: Cream deodorant appears to be increasingly popular and I tried Fit Pit. They produce 100% organic, natural cream – free from Aluminium, Parabens, BPAs, Petrochemicals and plastic packaging. They are also based in Shropshire – where I grew up – which was the clincher for me in choosing to support them! The peppermint cream was more effective than I was expecting; I’m planning to finish the jar and then try the other fragrances.
Challenges: I have been using Dr Organic Coconut Oil deodorant for several years and was a big fan – until they changed the packaging from glass to plastic last year. I have no idea why! Such a disappointing move and it has really put me off the brand.
In conclusion, for me, the bathroom is one of the worst offending rooms in the house! Even after making the changes described below – there are still plastic containers of soaps and cosmetics everywhere – and many without obvious alternatives.
Twelve months on:
Complete success – and I wouldn’t go back. This deodorant has turned out to be the most effective I have ever used. Bravo – Fit Pit! One task for 2020 is to try making my own – but for now I am very happy with bulk buying this option in peppermint.
More generally, I have made progress in the bathroom – with the caveats above from the shampoo and shower gels. The key wins have included (1) moving to a safety razor – which was a lot easier than I thought and I won’t be going back to disposable; (2) moving to chemical free, plastic free moisturiser – the Moonbeam Club – which has worked well with my skin and (3) moving to a DAME tampon subscription which has a reusable applicator. Genius idea – I’m amazed it hasn’t been thought of before. As someone who tried a moon cup a decade ago and had very mixed results over a prolonged period, the DAME option, combined with washable pads has been a brilliant compromise. DAME tampons are wrapped individually in plastic, but that is because it is a legal requirement – and they are looking for viable alternative options… hopefully that will change soon.
Result: Total sustainable success!
1. Beeswax wraps
Progress: Cling film has been controversial for years as it cannot be recycled and there’s increasing evidence that it could be carcinogenic if it touches food during reheating. Finally there is a viable plastic free, reusable and biodegradable alternative: Beeswax wraps. I bought one pack – and then a second and third – in quick succession. They are wrapping up cheese, avocado and lemons in my fridge. I love them! I picked up these bright multicoloured ones and these pretty yellow toned ones from Amazon.
Challenges: When cared for properly, these should last for about a year. Let everyone in your house know they should be rinsed in cold water and air dried… my friend ruined one after its first use by washing it in hot soapy water. Rather a sad waste!
Twelve months on:
I have not bought any cling film all year and have found that beeswax wraps are very useful, although I have observed that I am more likely to store food in old jars and tupperware. This was perhaps in part because the wraps can be very expensive to buy and are a little fragile.
I combatted this issue by learning how to make them this year and will post about how to do so soon – it is incredibly easy and you have your first one within 15 minutes!!
Result: An end to cling film and plastic containers – therefore a sustainable success!
2. Stainless Steel Utensils
Progress: I used to have a lot of plastic utensils in my kitchen but have been phasing them out in recent years and replaced them with stainless steel or wooden equivalents. Two of the last plastics to go were a slotted spoon and a ladle – both of which broke in the last month! As such, I now am the proud owner of beautiful Lacor Stainless Steel versions – purchased from Amazon.
Challenges: You can’t put wooden utensils in the washing machine else they start to crack – but otherwise, no challenges. This has been a wholly agreeable change – both from the perspective of the environment and the aesthetics of my kitchen!
Twelve months on:
I was recently in someone’s kitchen where they had all plastic utensils – and this made me realise how much I appreciate having steel and wood in my own home. All my utensils are like new still – and I would not go back. I suspect I will still be using these utensils in decades to come – they are a joy to (be)hold!
Result: Complete sustainable success!
3. Reusable Straws
Progress: There has been a lot of media coverage about the scourge of plastic drinking straws recently. Personally, I can’t remember the last time I used a drinking straw – but with two little girls in the house – I am sure we could get through a lot of drinking straws in the coming years. As such, I have replaced them with Klean Canteen reusable, stainless steel and silicone straws: two to keep at home and two which will stay in the nappy bag for when we are out and about. You can get them from Amazon.
Challenges: We haven’t yet used these whilst out and about to identify any issues – however, I anticipate the real challenge will just be remembering consistently to tell our waiter or waitress that we don’t want our drinks to come with straws. Otherwise, we will still be continuing to contribute to the waste. Just a another new habit to be formed…
Twelve months on:
Over the year I have noticed that there are significantly fewer outlets offering plastic straws. My girls are still a little young to use straws in restaurants as we rarely go out to eat and if we do, we take their cups with us – but when we do need them more, I will be sure to keep them in my bag!
Result: Sustainable success!
4. Wooden Washing Up Brush
Progress: Out with the old plastic style washing up sponges (they only last two minutes anyway!) I now just use natural fibre bristle brushes with replaceable heads and found the one in the photograph at Lakeland. I have supplemented this with some E-cloths – starter pack from Amazon – and these two items combined have replaced the old plastic sponges that I used to buy in bulk.
Challenges: I have been very happy with the new set up – but other family members appear to miss sponges. I have no idea why! But I am sure they will come round to this new arrangement soon enough.
Twelve months on:
I haven’t heard anyone ask for a washing up sponge for months… and I have yet to start using a replacement brush head!
Result: Sustainable success!
5. Glass Bottles
Progress: I made a number of eco changes for my second pregnancy and when looking after a new born (another blog post altogether!) Suffice to say – I switched from plastic to Life Factory glass bottles for both my toddler and also myself. Fortunately she likes it as much as her old plastic bottles. Toddlers can take against the most surprising of things – leaving them to be confined to the dustbin – so it was a relief that she immediately adopted this as her favourite pink bottle. Bonus! The baby bottle can be found on Amazon and the grown up equivalent here.
Challenges: I previously bought glass milk bottles before my eldest daughter was born but didn’t use them until my second daughter was born. Unfortunately, then two of my baby’s Dr Brown’s glass bottles smashed on the floor (I began to understand why plastic baby bottles became a popular alternative!) So, I appreciate that the Life Factory equivalent has the shock-resistant silicone sleeve to protect it. I otherwise liked the Dr Brown’s 150ml glass bottles however and discovered that the have since introduced silicone sleeves in pink or blue to help prevent the shattering-glass issues we had. Amazon also sell the 270ml glass bottles with pink and blue sleeves.
Regarding the Life Factory baby bottle – no issues as yet – although I do wish the lid wasn’t plastic!
Twelve months later:
We have moved on from glass to steel – in the form of Klean Canteen Baby Bottles and Sippy Cap Drinking Bottles (a mineral red one and a coastal blue one). These have been brilliant – and all of them are used every day. I put the sippy bottles near the girls beds when they sleep so they can grab them for a sip if they wake at night without spillages. I was such a fan I even got one for myself – an Insulated Cup to keep my tea warm! Highly recommended all round!
Going further: Milk Bottles & More
Another huge change for us this year was returning to milk deliveries in glass bottles with our local milk man via Milk & More. I was so delighted to discover this was an option as one of our highest consumptions of single use plastic came from milk bottles. Similarly I’ve ordered plastic free veggies from there – but have reverted back to my usual Sainsbury’s delivery when I realised that if I order individual veggies rather than pre-packaged amounts, then they arrive plastic free.
I have however also reduced plastic coming into the house by starting to bake my own bread and we probably haven’t purchased a loaf in six months or more! It turns out that baking bread is a very relaxing and grounding activity – and very easy too! So, this is a change which is here to stay.
Results: Huge success! Combined, these are my favourite changes this year.
5. Ecover Products
Progress: I recently read that Ecover is a front runner in creating products with no palm oil – so, as my standard cleaners run out – I am replacing them with the Ecover equivalents.
So far I have used the washing up liquid, non-bio detergent and the dishwasher tablets. More changes will be made as and when my other convention products need replacing.
Challenges: Although I have found the washing up liquid and detergent to be every bit as good as my old versions, I am struggling with the cleaning power (or lack thereof) of the dish washer tablets. Consequently, the Fairy Powerballs have made a reappearance in the cupboard for heavier duty washes.
I am very mindful that Ecover still uses plastic – albeit recyclable – and even the dish washer tablets are in individual plastic wrappers, which surprised me. I have a friend who is a big inspiration on the eco front who goes to her local farmer’s market and can get her Ecover bottles refilled at a stall there. T here must be an equivalent near me; more research required!
Twelve months on:
So this is a mixed bag – I now would default to Ecover laundry products however, mainly use an Eco Egg for the washing (unless it is exceptionally stained) – and these should be used on a 30 degree/30 minute cycle so they keep energy costs down as well.
As mentioned above – I stopped using Ecover dishwasher tablets as they just didn’t work for us – and defaulted back to Sainsbury’s own brand. I am considering trying one of the subscriptions online which reduce plastic but have yet to do this.
In terms of washing up, we have moved to a block of washing up soap, which has been very effective and is plastic free.
And for other cleaning products, there has been a big change in our house as I have moved to white vinegar, scented with lemon, and other natural cleaning products which I keep in Amber Glass bottles. This has been a huge, sustained change for us – and although not plastic free as I buy the vinegar in bulk in plastic containers – it is definitely better for the environment both inside our home and beyond. I have retained commercial bleach for the toilets and a heavy duty multi-cleaner for when someone is ill in the house (rare occurrence, fortunately) to help stop the bugs from spreading – but otherwise everything is now natural.
Results: Better than expected as I have moved from Ecover to even better, cheaper and more sustainable options. I will cover exactly what has changed in more detail in the coming weeks.
Honourable mentions for other eco friendly products around the house
Hob kettle: I am reducing use of my highly-plastic electric kettle especially as the manufacturer couldn’t confirm that all of it was BPA free. I am moving much more towards the old fashioned ceramic hob kettle – and love my one which you can see in the photograph above and is available on Amazon. The Dorset Blue gives off a calming glow in my kitchen!
Update: Our oven went kaput and I had to buy a stainless steel and plastic electric kettle… and I have so missed this lovely hob kettle! New oven arriving in the new year and the hob kettle will be back for good!
Smart Meter: This was fitted by my energy supplier last year and helps you track your daily energy consumption and spend. For me, this is “nudge” technology at its best and watching the pennies creep up has made our household much more conscious of cutting out wasted energy.
Update: We changed supplier and our smart meter disappeared with the change. It is a shame as I miss the daily nudge!
Mesh storage bags: I now like to use these to store vegetables and other items in the laundry. It feels really good to get my veggies out of their plastic as soon as possible so they can breathe! I love these ones from Amazon.
Update: Yes – still in full use and going strong!
Reusable shopping bags: These have been popular for a few years – especially since shops started charging for plastic bags. I keep grocery shopping bags in the boot of the car – and have bought a small shopper tote to keep in my handbag at all times (aka – when I remember). A big fan of Emma Bridgewater – I love this one. The big challenge here is remember actually to get the bags out of the car when I arrive at the supermarket – and always to put the tote back in my handbag. More work to do here on remembering – and new habits to be mastered this year!
Update: I have a plastic bag holder in the utility and it has been empty pretty much all year! This is definitely a habit I have got into and also now have a couple of string shopping bags which are so easy to keep in your handbag or car so you always have one at hand when you need it.
Cheeky wipes: With two little ones in the house, we use a lot of baby wipes for nappy changes. My favourite are these award winning and (relatively) eco friendly ones called Kinder by Nature. However, I have been actively trying to reduce our use of disposable wipes – and invested in Cheeky Wipes. These are washable terry towelling wipes which I have found extremely practical for wiping up everything from Weetabix to runny noses. I prefer the eco terry towelling to microfibre and personally think the towelling feels nicer anyway. I just wish they didn’t come in a plastic box – but, when you see the horrendous city sewer fatbergs, held together by disposable wipes – this is still a step in the right direction. You can get them from Amazon.
Update: We are using fewer wipes by the month and our stash of Cheeky Wipes goes through the wash a couple of times a week. Yes, they are looking a bit grey and stained around the edges – but they are fantastic for saving money and paper towels! I suspect we will have these on the go for the next couple of years – as only one has disintegrated this year and the rest are going strong!
And in other news…
During the year I have removed the rest of the plastic from the kitchen – including the kiddie bowls. This has been one of my best swaps as I moved the girls over to Coconut Shell bowls. These are shatter proof but certainly not indestructible – I have found that they tend to land on the floor right side up! However, they are great for little ones to navigate, come with coconut spoons and just feel healthier! I put mine on the top shelf of the dishwasher to make sure they are properly clean – and overall they have been a big hit! Highly recommend.
What have I learned?
It has been a strange year in my world – but I have found a lot of purpose and comfort in changing out plastic for eco alternatives and focusing on my immediate and wider environment.
Beyond the environment consequences, these changes have led to more philosophical realisations: namely, that I actually enjoy the weight, grain and feel of wood, glass and metal far more than plastic: I find it grounding and I love that when I buy something new it feels non-disposable… that whatever I buy could and should be the last one of its kind that I buy during my lifetime. It brings intention to my buying decisions as it gives a sense of permanence to every action. It has been unexpectedly transformational, economical and meaningful. In case it isn’t already abundantly clear – I recommend you try it. For all our sakes…
If you have any suggestions, hints or tis – please do leave them in the comments below. This is most definitely a work in progress – and I have a lot to learn – so I would love to hear from you!
Never miss a CareerMom update by subscribing here!