I have done it. Two years of plastic free living...
...or to be more accurate, trying actively to NOT buy new plastic for two years.
A bit of a mouthful and maybe why the term 'plastic free living' is a more memorable phrase.
I decided to reread the blog post about my first year to compare/contrast what had changed. In the post about my first year I listed what I was doing to reduce my plastic footprint by item. Some things have changed and some have not.
We buy blocks of soap from The Australian Natural Soap Company. Unpackaged, simple and all natural.
I was using shampoo bars from the place we buy our soap but found that it built up in my hair over a couple of months no matter how hard I scrubbed it under the water.
I then tried bicarb/vinegar for six months which made my hair horrible and gave me a sore scalp. Then I gave rye flour a go and found out it’s not great for people with long hair. Castile soap also did not wash out properly leaving an oily film on my hair.
Now I use bulk bought shampoo by Back to Basics in an up cycled glass bottle. I don’t use conditioner. If I have some oil on my hands from my body oil I will run them through my hair but generally don't add anything other than shampoo. I will continue to use a shampoo bar for travelling to save on space and weight.
I make a toothpowder. I have not been to the dentist to check if everything is ok but the Builder has. He was happy to report that his teeth/gums are very healthy and the dentist & hygienist were all for using bicarb. The dentist said that bicarb is great for keeping gums healthy.
Last year I started using almond oil…well not anymore. It did not suit the skin on my face so I ended up using it just on my body which was fine. It soaks in faster than coconut oil and is more affordable. I have very oily skin so maybe the almond oil was too heavy for my face. And even Jojoba leaves my skin feeling and looking dull/congested.
As much as I lamented over this I went back to rosehip oil. It is my favorite face oil and I used it for years before going plastic free. It keeps my skin clear and bright. The bottle is glass but it has a plastic lid and plastic orifice dropper (gasp!) that I keep for reuse. One bottle of rosehip lasts the whole year as I don't use it everyday. If anyone has any suggestions on how to get this item plastic free please leave a comment. I am on the lookout for shea butter unpackaged as this would work well as it is light like rosehip oil or so I have read.
Coconut oil was too expensive! I switched to almond oil and love it. I don’t use it all the time only when I feel like my body needs it which is about once a week.
Still using the homemade spray option but am finding I need it less and less as the months go by. I don't reeky use it as a sorry anymore. Instead I just splash it on after giving my armpits a good wash. I just want to mention that the Builder does not need deodorant. How unfair is that?! The man never seems to smell sweaty.
I make my own by blending an essential oil with almond oil. I love it when the stuff I buy has a dual use.
Still going strong with my moon cup and reusable cloth pads. Money saved over two years is… $290. Cha-ching.
I make my own mascara, lip balm, cheek tint, eyebrow powder and I use plain tapioca flour as a face powder to get rid of any shine.
I do miss my old makeup sometimes. I loved the routine. I also miss dyeing my eye brows and eyelashes. I am contemplating trying henna as I can buy that package free. But then again...I don't miss the upkeep!
Bamboo toothbrush. Always and forever. Though I accidentally bought a child's one the other day...
Still using the same one and have gained two more that friends did not want. I'd say i'm set for life.
Continuing to collect ones I find on the street.
I feel like everything in my personal care section is sorted. I am in a happy groove with each choice. When I first went plastic free two years ago making my own makeup was something that never crossed my mind. Now I have my makeup DIY down pat and am so happy with it. If I run out of my mascara or toothpowder all I need to do is mix up a new batch and I rarely need to top up the ingredients because only a small amount is needed.
Everything but four items (rosehip oil, essential oil, clove oil, orange oil) is bought without plastic. The clove oil and orange oil are used in my house cleaning products. All are recyclable but I would prefer to have refill options. If anyone knows anyone in Melbourne, Victoria or Australia that sells essentials oils as refills you would make my day. Or if anyone knows a fun way to upcycle essential oil bottles I'd love to know.
I wish I had calculated what I have saved in this area of my life as it is one of the more popular questions I am asked. I can only imagine I have saved money because I am not wandering into stores that house hundreds of cosmetic choices or dragging my mouse across online beauty bargain spaces. Going plastic free means I am limited severely. It’s easier to make my own rather than trawl search engines looking for plastic free alternatives to buy. Most of the items take 15-30 minutes to make and the biggest bonus is that I know what is in them.
I am looking at doing a price comparison post soon for those interested.
What about the Builder?
We share the same soap. He also has shaving soap that is purchased from The Australian Natural Soap Company too. We share the toothpowder. He also uses a bamboo toothbrush. And that is the extent of his grooming.
We have become pros at this. Practice and routine has enabled our grocery shopping to be seamless.
Our shopping is split between the farmers market, butcher, fish monger, delicatessen and bulk food stores.
We visit the farmers market each Sunday and if on the rare occasion we can’t make the market then we will go to a fruit & veggie store near our home.
We take cloth bags to the market and baskets to carry it all out in. I write a list before we go referencing what is in season. I don’t like food going to waste so we stick pretty closely to the list.
We have stainless steel containers that we use to collect our meat and fish. We have reduced our meat and fish consumption at home. As I type this I cannot remember the last time we bought meat for cooking. I wonder if we will end up removing animal meat out of our diet? Time will tell...
The delicatessen we visit is always busy post 9am. It can get hectic with the staff running around dealing with so many customers. So we decided it would be easier if we just reuse the plastic containers the staff are used to. We did toy with the idea of buying a collection of smaller stainless steel containers to collect dips, cheese, blood sausages, soft cheese, anchovies and whatever else we feel like getting…but quickly realised that would be too expensive. We don’t go to the deli every week, more like once a month. The plastic containers work perfectly well, are looked after (we have had them for two years) and doing what they need to do which is limit new plastic in our lives.
We take all our own jars, bottles and bags. I write a list of exactly what we need and take a container for each food item needed. In the last two years there has been an explosion of bulk food stores opening up around Melbourne.
I think one of the reasons we visit the bulk store less often is because we don't crave things like beans, legumes, rice and other grains. Maybe I never did like those foods that much and only bought them because they are in the supermarket or there was a pretty photograph on a food blog. We had a good couple of months where we had an empty pantry and were just eating vegetables. My diet has changed considerably in the last two years. Not only has all processed food vanished completly from the house (and a knock on effect outside the house) but also realising a lot of the food choices I was making were driven by food blogs, recipes books and magazines. I have a better understanding of what foods make me feel good and those that don't, learning to lean in more into what I naturally crave rather than chasing down a superfood or the latest diet trend.
While we can buy mustard and other sauces in glass I don't buy them anymore as the lids have a plastic lining. We don't miss this type of processed food. I might try and make my own sauces like tomato or mustard over summer. I can make my own mayonnaise so that's a start. What we eat/cook is a commonly asked question and I will expand on it in the future.
We are now refilling our beer, cider and wine. I can only imagine this business model taking off. It's so much fun tasting the beverage first before buying it.
I buy butter from Curds & Whey in my own container.
People email me asking about milk and yogurt...I don't drink milk really. It's not something I crave at all. I buy it occasionally for cooking and yogurt is pretty much non existent in my diet. I thought about nut milks but again i don't drink it enough to make it and nuts are expensive! I can buy my milk in bottles from either Elggar Dairy or La Latteria. Both will take back the glass bottles for reuse but the lids cannot be reused due to some silly law in Australia. They can be recycled BUT I only just learnt that the lids are lined with plastic (another silly law). Milk that is in cardboard also has plastic too. So I am not buying milk until I find a solution or maybe its time to jump onto the nut milk bandwagon? Or maybe the laws need to just change in Australia. Thank goodness I can get cheese plastic free. A milk free life I can deal with.
How we store everything has not changed since my first year. Glass jars, ceramic bowls and the stainless steel containers are all we use. We have not dropped down dead from germs....because we all know that cling wrap will save us from germs.
- pickled vegetables
This year I would like to learn the art of sourdough and maybe ginger beer.
If we are at a food festival or somewhere we know there is the possibility of plastic cutlery like a friends or family get together we take a kit with us that includes plates, cutlery and cups. That way we are never caught out.
The cleaning products have changed dramatically and so has my attitude to cleaning. We refill our cleaning products at the bulk stores in Melbourne.
I kept old wine and juice bottles for collecting castile soap. I use the castile soap for hand soap, hand dish washing, floors, general surface cleaning.
I still have the old boxes from our clothes washing powder and dish washing powder that get reused and reused.
There is a giant container of bicarb soda that is used for cleaning the toilet and oven plus used for toothpaste. And I have vinegar which is a great multipurpose cleaning tool for the windows and a multitude of stuff.
I keep clove oil and sweet orange oil on hand.
I still have the spray bottles that I put watered down castile soap into and also the window spray. These are plastic and were bought last year.
General cleaning is done with old cotton t-shirts. We wash dishes with an second hand cotton shirt cut up and sea sponges collected from the beach. We still have our old brooms and vacuum cleaner.
There is no bleach. No harsh chemicals.
Attitude to cleaning = relaxxxxed.
I don't know why I included this on the list in the first year.
Continuing to buy second hand but even this has bottomed out. I bought one top over the whole of last summer and two tops this winter. We do laps of second hand stores but always walk out empty handed.
I did end up giving away boxes of clothes and shoes (so many shoes!!!) not because I have planned to go all minimalist but because I was not wearing any of them. I am leaning towards more natural fibers with the last three items I have purchased made of linen and wool. I love wool, it's perfect for Melbourne. Why have I not worn more of it?? So there, I am leaning away from synthetic ‘plastic’ fibers.
This is a popular question – what do I do if I get sick?
First things first, I am not anti plastic. I am anti the misuse of plastic. Plastic has done some great things for medicine. It has healed and prolonged life, made mobility easier, given the gift of hearing, walking - the list goes on and on.
Whenever someone asks me what to do I tell them to make a decision based on what's best for them.
How was the second year? Good? Bad? Any ugly moments?
This year has been pretty good. All in all I feel like I am finally on top of this no plastic life. I have scaled the peaks and conquered the mountain of change. I feel content and happy, and as silly as this might sound, more in harmony.
You would have seen in the list that there are areas where plastic has popped up; my rosehip oil, essential oils and milk lids. Sometimes I get upset that I have not found the willpower to live without these items. My plastic free life is not completely plastic free but I am striving. These last two years has been hard work and I am sure that I will find alternatives to those few products eventually.
There is another mountain in the distance and the trek ahead of me is going to include moving from behind my screen to becoming more active in my community. I have changed my life now it is time to spread what I know to others to show others why we all need to make changes.
I'm thinking community events, movies (showing not making...well not yet), writing for broader publications. I want to tackle straws and plastic bags in the Moonee Valley area. So if you are from Moonee Valley feel free to contact me and let's get a group going.
I will continue to write and share everything here. Maybe my journey from blogger to public motivator might inspire fellow introverts to find their voice too.
As I finish this long post I want to give a high five to the Builder who has been a patient partner, my greatest ally and a wonderful problem solver. And to all my family and friends that go along with my choices, help me out and make cloth bags (mum and sis!).
And a round of applause to all the people who comment, email, like, double tap when I have a question or query. I learn so much from you all. Keep sharing with me.