1 July 2014

My first year without plastic

365 days have come and gone since I stepped up and announced that I would try to eliminate plastic from my life by taking on the Plastic Free July 2013 challenge.

Once the 31 days were complete I was inspired to continue and adopt a plastic free life full time. Now I am more committed than ever.

My life is not only about living without plastic; a result from schooling myself through documentaries, books, blogs and my own adventures. Along the way I have come to understand the toxic life consumerism creates and purged my life of unnecessary chemicals. I think harder about the amount of resources that goes into something as simple as a tea bag.

To celebrate my plastic free anniversary the Builder and I watched The Clean Bin Project. This was the movie that sparked a green movement in my life.

For all the greening in my life I have to ask; has my life become simpler or harder?

Personal care

Soap and shampoo have been combined. I now use a shampoo bar that I buy package free from The Australian Natural Soap Company sold at local markets here in Melbourne.

Continuing to use the same razor I had last year. When it stops working I plan to replace it with this.

Body moisturiser is coconut oil purchased in bulk using my own jar.

Face moisturiser has been replaced with nourishing almond oil. I was using rose hip oil but found a place to buy almond oil in bulk purchased package free.

Deodorant has been replaced with apple cider vinegar and water. The apple cider vinegar can be bought in bulk with my own bottle. I also use the apple cider vinegar to do monthly rinses on my hair. So versatile!

Perfume has been replaced by essential oils that I buy from Perfect Potion. Unable to find essential oils in bulk I opt to recycle the bottles or find other uses for them. After no longer using perfumed products I find my sense of smell has grown stronger (and more sensitive to artificial smells too). I made this choice not because of plastic but to lessen my exposure to the weird artificial ingredients in commercial perfumes.

Sanitary items like pads and tampons have been replaced. I have calculated that I have saved $145 in the last year.

Make up has been replaced which I have detailed here. All products used to make my own makeup have been bought in bulk except for the activated charcoal for my mascara (recipe coming soon).

Nail file currently using the same one I have had for years and years.

I did buy a new wooden all natural hair brush that was sustainability sourced and made. I am still using my hair dryer and hair straightener I previously owned. I have stopped using hair spray and hair gels. 

I have bought new hair ties that I am aware have some form of synthetic material. I have saved three hair ties from various footpaths around Melbourne since I wrote about my new hair ties here. Just put them in the wash and they are clean clean clean!

Grocery shopping

I take my own bags for grocery shop. No more plastic bags! And if we forgot our bags we will carry them by hand (the Builder is a pro at this) or find an old box at the store.

I also use old produce plastic bags (old pasta, rice, cereal bags) at bulk food stores to collect beans, rice, flour, lentils, nuts etc. These were left over from when I did buy food in plastic packaging. Right now I am slowly swapping these out for upcycled cloth shopping bags. The old plastic bags will be recycled with RedCycle. I cannot wait for this to occur because it is not fun cleaning out plastic bags. But when you think of this…it makes it easier! I keep all of the items we need for a package free/bulk shop tucked away in box with the words 'zero waste plastic free shopping' labelled on the outside.

My first year without plastic

We use a mixture of Stainless steel containers and old takeaway containers to collect our meat and seafood. We purchased the stainless steel containers here. Our butcher and fish monger know the drill when we visit them.

My first year without plastic

If we buy dips or cheese I take old take away containers. Some of them are getting to the end of their life and will be recycled. We are looking for replacements and think we will use these. Right now I hope they do not break as the counter staff at our local deli still has a hard time grasping the concept of bringing our own container and we are using their old containers...so giving them something like steel containers might cause trouble. Oh well, won’t be the first time.

I will note that due to the Builders food sensitivities, eggs, gluten and dairy, we rarely buy these items. I buy bread occasionally for myself. Again I take my own cloth bag. If it happens a recipe calls for eggs then I will recycle the cartons in the garden when I need to sprout some seedlings. And as for milk I rarely need a recipe that calls for more than two cups so I just buy the smallest milk box at the deli and recycle.

I drink tea (herbal) and the builder drinks coffee (long black). We can get all of these from our bulk food stores. I prefer not to use tea bags instead I use reusable cloth tea bags or a tea infuser.

The builder and I no longer shop at any of the larger supermarkets instead opting to use local fruit and veg’s stores, butchers, bakers, delis, cheese stores, continental grocers, and bulk stores. Supporting small business and Australian farmers has been a great bonus that we love doing.


I store all items in glass jars that I have collected over the last year. I choose not to shop with glass jars unless it is liquid. It would be too heavy to carry home. Once I am home i transfer it all to glass containers.

My first year without plastic

My first year without plastic

Food is stored in the fridge in either glass jars or on a plate/in a bowl covered with a tea towel. No more plastic wrap or plastic baggies in our freezer or fridge.

I do have three plastic bowls and plastic utensils that I use for baking. I hope to swap these to wooden or metal instruments but this depends on what we find at the thrift store. It took me a year to find a second hand wooden rolling pin! Before that I was using an old wine bottle.

We moved the microwave out of the kitchen and into the laundry. We have not microwaved our food instead choosing to heat it up on the stove top. Our housemate is the only one who uses it. The builder and I don’t miss it. We are trying to keep our appliance use down to a minimum.

We compost everything except for onion and some citrus. I save the citrus in the freezer while the onion skin is thrown in the bin. We will either create new compost for these items (worms do not like citrus or onion) or find someone who can take it like a friend or relative.

Currently we fill up our 5 litre bin each fortnight. We do have a housemate that does not follow our sustainability habits.

As we are recycling more we have had to make space for containers to house our recycling goods before we drop them off. We typically use old boxes and label them clearly.

Cleaning products like dish washing cloths are washed each week to prolong life. I also swapped for scrubbing brushes that will break down in the compost.


While I was getting my education on about weird chemicals in makeup I was also getting a serve of knowledge about chemicals in general. We had a plethora of cleaning products that we decided had to go. We toiled about this decision for a long time as it was not a sustainable option to chuck out a product that had not been used up. But we figured it would be healthier to clean our house with kinder ingredients and so have stored them away until we can dispose of them correctly through a hazardous chemical disposal pick-up later in the year.

My first year without plastic

My first year without plastic

I will admit that we (not proudly) bought new empty plastic spray bottles that are reserved for home made and bulk bought green cleaning products. Currently we make our own window cleaner and will progressively move onto making all our own cleaning products.

Let me say why we bought new bottles. The old bottles were full of harsh chemicals. You know the kind that warrant a toxic if swallowed label. Heck they need to be disposed of through a hazardous disposal system!! We just didn't deem it ok to mix any leftover residue with natural cleaners. We also had no other alternatives in the house spray wise so unfortunately new was our option here.

I researched glass bottles but worried about them breaking. Since going plastic free and switching my life to glass there have been a couple of breaks which happens when a majority of the floors in the house are concrete and this ginger is a bit of a klutz.

After we bought the bottles we realised we could use old wine bottles to house our cleaning products and make kitted holders for them so if they broke the glass would be contained. Hindsight is great.


We don’t really shop anymore and when we do we will find great buys at our local thrift stores. But having said that I have bought one clothing item that is new and it was a beanie for the Builder that was Australian sourced, designed and made in Australia.

 We are not adverse to buying new clothing but is has to come from either Australian designed and made companies or if from abroad, a sustainable company that are not exploiting their workers or the environment. Plus we have way more fun in thrift stores and clothing exchanges.


One of the biggest queries I get is how I make the time to buy all my food unpackaged, get organised for my shopping with different bags and containers, make my own makeup, make meals from scratch….

I am not going to lie... It was a challenge at the start and sometimes still is. I did cry once. The Builder and I both learnt a lot. I remind myself that I am changing 29 years of habits.

I have had a tremendous amount of support from family and friends. The biggest support has been from my partner, known on here as the Builder. He has supported me in a big way and made mammoth changes in his own life. Living with someone who suddenly renounces plastic is pretty big (well i think it is) and his patience as I waded through this journey has been unwavering and nothing short of amazing.

So I tell people just that: It takes time, practice and preparedness. But then I tell them it gets easier because it really does. There is a great feeling knowing that after one year I only contribute one item to landfill (onion peels!). Everything else I buy is done using my own packaging or the packaging, if any, is recycled.

The best part is that I have a bag full of new skills. These are skills our great grandparents lived every day. My cooking has improved (well, I think it has!). I know what goes into my body as I make nearly everything that I eat. Even if you put me into a health food store I would still prefer something unpackaged! I am also surprised at the money I have saved too and the ease of refusing anything that is not aligned to my beliefs.

I can say my life is simple, now.

The next challenge is to focus on improving my zero waste habits that have resulted from taking away plastic but to also look at the waste I create outside the home. It's not much, but there are some places in my life I can improve. And I look forward to sharing more on the blog.

To the next 365 days.
  1. Well done! This is inspiring.

    1. Thank you for your kind compliment :)

  2. Brilliant! Just brilliant Erin. You have accomplished stuff that I haven't even considered yet.

    Well done. x

    1. Thank you Gavin. It is a slow road but one worth travelling down.

  3. Hi Erin,

    I loved reading about your first year without plastic! Can I ask you about your shampoo soap? Are you really happy with it? I been experimenting with healthier/less wasteful methods of washing my long hair for years, and am yet to come up with a product that doesn't leave my hair oily and my scalp itchy. Do you use a vinegar rinse? When I lived in Sydney I was able to buy bulk shampoo but now I live in the country and that option is just not available.

    I noticed Bea at zerowastehome has a link for metal spray bottles. After not finding any metal ones in Australia I bought a few plastic ones, but unfortunately they break very quickly, so the metal ones are now on my wish list.

    have a great day, Madeleine.x

    1. Hi Madeleine thanks for the question. I have been using a shampoo bar for almost four years now. I originally used Lady Godiva by Lush until this year. It worked really well but i was not happy using sulfates on my hair so I tried other variety like Beauty and the Bees with great success. Recently I have found a local producer here in Melbourne for my shampoo bars but before that I ordered online and asked for no plastic and they complied happily.

      I will admit that once I moved to using bars without sulfates I do need to do a vinegar rinse once a month as there was a buildup. I bet i can remedy that by cutting my hair...but i am not ready to do that!

      Do you have local markets in your area? Maybe ask your local soap maker if they would be interested in making a shampoo bar for you?

  4. Your ideas are really innovative and prove we can eliminate a lot of the plastic items from our lives. I have been buying in bulk to reduce waste created by all those small containers - but you certainly have me beat!

    1. Thanks Maureen. Good on your for buying in bulk. It might not seem like such a big step but i truly believe it is.

  5. So cool and inspiring. Started scrolling through your blog. Can't wait to read more :)

    xx Sarah | Loser Girl Wins

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by. I loved your Red, White and Blueberry Salad. I can totally do that bulk free and look forward to trying it.

  6. Good post you got here. I appreciate the time involved in coming up such informative post. I will be coming back for more. Thanks!

    1. Thanks so much. I am glad you got something from it and look forward to seeing/chatting with you on the blog in the future.

  7. Anonymous10/21/2015

    Hi I'm new here love your blog. I'm self confessed Minimalist & Frugal lover and my recent new adventure is zero waste. I read Bea Johnsons blog regularly but nice to find a fellow Melbournian.. I also am from western suburbs Melb but just recently moved to Bacchus Mash for quieter simple lifestyle. We are conscious consumers, live within our means and don't get sucked into ads saying you need 10 products to clean your house.. I do a lot of the things you mention.. Started composting , have chickens. simple cleaning product for kitchen & bathroom not 10) in glass spray bottles. (Thanks for wine bottle tip!). All glass jars in pantry and cut up carrots zucchini & spinach in glass jars in crisper. You'll get an extra week out of them in glass instead of loose in crisper draw. I use Kmart glass containers for cheese fits 500g block perfect and use them for deli meat (don't buy often), although the lid is plastic...sigh.. But it is BPA free but still plastic!! I use cloth bags and Muslin or mess bags for veggies. Our butcher hadn't opened yet but I saw you use plastic for your meat? I'm assuming it's better than freezer bags as you can recycle it when it breaks., but why not use large glass jars ? I'm yet to try this but hopefully they won't have issue.. My essential oils I get from AROMA QUEEN on eBay they great quality and cheaper than the place you mentioned. I use essential oils and macadamia oil in Amber glass for face and my partner uses it too for dry skin and scratches from working and coconut oil for body and natural hair mask for myself & daughter, coconut oil, honey & Lemon hair feels amazing afterwards.. Haven't tried a shampoo soap but will soon.. We dont have bulk stores locally I know of The Source in Prahran which is quite expensive and others in the East but just can't justify the drive/petrol to go there as its hour and 45 mins drive one way.. I'm still using Aldi and buy up in bulk then REDcycle my plastics at Coles once a month who have the REDcycle bins out the front. Although it still pains me to purchase the plastic in the first place.. I'm looking forward to my bin and recycle bin reducing each week/fortnight when it goes out for collection, that's the overall goal.. But I'm still learning and looking forward to reading your current & future posts.. Cheers!

    1. Hello fellow Melburnian :) It sounds like you have everything down pat. We now use stainless steel containers for our meat and seafood, but I keep some old plastic containers to use at our local deli. So far they have not broken. Once I get home, I transfer to another container. Have you looked into ethnic stores around Sydney Rd for cheaper bulk items? There is one in Moonee Ponds that I got to and it is cheaper. I look forward to seeing how your journey goes from here. Thanks for getting in touch.

  8. How do you manage for sunscreen? Sorry if that sounds like nitpicking, but you have all those great replacements for cleaning, makeup, etc - but I don't leave the house without sunscreen at least on my face. (I don't actually wear makeup).

    1. That is a great question. I am not anti plastic, I am anti the misuse of plastic. I don't see sunscreen packaged in plastic as a misuse, especially in Australia. I do buy sunscreen that is made locally, in recyclable packaging and is reef safe, with no nasty chemicals. There are some sunscreen alternatives in paper and glass made in other countries that work really well.

  9. Hi Erin, just wondering whereabouts in Melbourne you managed to find coconut oil and almond oil in bulk?
    I'm a relative newcomer to your blog and I'm enjoying working my way thru your archives!

    1. Hi Sarah, check out my Where To Shop In Melbourne list


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