Plastic Free For the Sea


How much plastic is in your bathroom?

A few weeks ago, I couldn't answer that question. And a few months ago?

I wouldn't have cared about the answer.

But then I spent time with Groundswell Community Project's surf program for women this summer and I started to learn about how plastics were hurting our oceans. I learned how more mindful changes to my lifestyle could actually make a difference.

So I pulled every single piece of plastic out of my bathroom. And I counted.

This was not dissimilar to an exercise we had done in the program: we collected all the single-use plastics we'd used over the week and brought them to the next session to air out our dirty laundry with the other women.

It was a highly effective way of confronting the true size of the plastic problem. At first, I thought I might have a hard time coming up with anything to bring. Along the way, however, I realized that at some point I had just stopped "seeing" plastic.

Now I see it everywhere.

This month, Groundswell is hosting a plastic-free live-a-thon to raise money for more of their ocean and surf programs for women. Considering how they changed my life, I figured I'd participate and kill two birds with one stone: raise money to help them continue their amazing work and continue my plastic-free lifestyle changes.

So for this challenge, I decided to tackle my bathroom.

It's time for me to really come clean. Literally and figuratively. I'm giving up all the plastic in my bathroom to try and make some long term changes to my hair, body, face and dental care routines.

But to do that, once again I had to first confront the problem: I pulled out every single plastic-packaged item in my bathroom and counted.

Here's what I found:

Hair Products
  • Shampoo: I had 6 bottles of shampoo in my bathroom, including travel sizes and a new bottle that I had just randomly bought the day before this picture was taken. I've never found a shampoo that I love, so I constantly and aimlessly buy new shampoos all the time based off of packaging promises and smell. It's rare that I can leave Target or a drug store without a new one. 
  • Conditioner: Same-same when it comes to conditioner. I had 8 bottles... 8 BOTTLES... of conditioner, including 2 bottles of leave-in conditioner in my bathroom. None of them work notably different than any other and none of them make my hair feel the way I want it to. 
  • Beach Hair Spray: This might have been the most ridiculous part of this exercise: I had 5 bottles of various "beach spray"s in my bathroom, all of which promise that I can let my hair air dry and get perfect beach curls. The ridiculous part is that I have naturally wavy hair and product or no product.... it drys the same way every time. What is my end goal here!?! Additional fun fact: I live in walking distance to the ocean, so if I want "perfect" beach hair, I literally just have to go outside and dunk my head in. 
  • Other Hair Products: There were also two bottles of shine spray. Both of which I've owned for months and have barely used. 

Body Products
  • Body Wash: Only 3 bottles of this, which is surprising because like shampoo and conditioner, I have no product loyalty, so I just pick up anything that catches my eye in the store. This usually leads to having 5-7 bottles lying around, all half used. 
  • Loofah: Two plastic loofahs. I pick these up like once a month. The pink one is for home, the blue is for travel. Doubt these are really getting recycled, so consider these a huge waste. 
  • Razor and Razor Blades: The only exception! I have one plastic razor that's probably years old, and I only go through about one blade per month, if that. The safety razor route freaks me out a little, so this is the one plastic that I am making an exception for. 
  • Moisturizer: I got a bottle of Jergen's Wet Skin Moisturizer at a blog event like 3 years ago and it's been sitting in my shower ever since. When I tested it for this post, it came out gross. Time to toss (read: empty then recycle). Also, I found a little travel bottle of moisturizer as well.
  • Hand Soap: Only one bottle of hand soap, which is also surprising. I feel like we usually have at least 3 or 4 lying around at any given moment. This is one where I have to give Ryan credit for trying to intervene. He's always gotten frustrated any time I bring a brand new single-use plastic soap dispenser home and I used to just roll my eyes and say, "But it's FINE, we just recycle it, GOD!" #reducereuseTHENrecycle
  • Deodorant: I've been struggling to find a plastic-free, all natural deodorant for years and I know I'm far from alone. I see a lot of posts on this topic. But still... I'm committed to giving these up once and for all.
  • Other Products: Medical stuff and nail supplies... Neosporin, Muscle Therapy, hydrogen peroxide, medical tape (the dispenser is plastic), a plastic packet of body wipes, nail polish, Vitamin E oil, acetone, sunscreen and baby oil. All packaged in plastic. These ones stump me - definitely going to require more research to find them in non-plastic packaging. 

Face Products
  • Face Wash: A small bottle of Clean & Clear's Morning Burst face wash which is made with plastic microbeads (and which I've learned may be the very most offensive plastic in our bathrooms). And because again, no product loyalty, a bunch of Pixi products I'd picked up randomly at Target including this clay face wash. Which works fine? I only stress the "no product loyalty" piece because I recognize that when it comes to face care especially, it may not be as easy to find plastic-free alternatives to products that really work for your skin. But... maybe now's the time to write an email to your favorite company and ask, as a loyal customer, if they have considered any alternative (glass!) packaging. You never know... 
  • Face Toner: Apparently this is something that I frequently think I'm out of because I had 2 almost full bottles of witch hazel (which is my main toner) and 2 full bottles of Pixi's toner. 
  • Makeup: 3 lipsticks, 3 chapsticks, 5 lip glosses, 2 eye liners and some bronzer. I don't really wear makeup. But I get it for free occasionally and then, once every few years, I decide that I'm going to start wearing it and I spend a hundred bucks at Sephora. And all of it is packaged in plastic. 
  • Cotton Swabs/Pads: Not plastic themselves, but packaged in plastic. Definitely need suggestions on how to get around this.
  • Other Products: A microexfoliant that I got for free and never used, face moisturizer that I rarely use, and an at-home face peel that I am too scared to use.

Dental Products
  • Toothbrush: A free plastic toothbrush that I got from my dentist (who I will be asking to consider alternatives!). Typically I go through about 9 plastic toothbrushes a year. And the plastic toothbrush problem... it's real.  
  • Toothpaste: 2 big tubes and 1 mini. One of the tubes is a grapefruit-flavored toothpaste I got at the same blog event 3 years ago and have never had a desire to use. 
  • Mouthwash: 2 mini unopened bottles, 2 big bottles. 
  • Tooth Whitener: A tooth whitening kit double-packaged in plastic.
  • Floss: Not only is the floss itself plastic, but I buy it on these plastic stick things in a plastic bag. #plasticonplasticinplastic
And finally (though it's not really a toiletry, I still consider it part of my bathroom routine), my plastic shower curtain liner!

That is a total of... 80.

80 plastic-packaged or plastic products in my bathroom.

And this is a snapshot in time, from my very, very small bathroom. And it happened not long after I recently did a product purge. I can't even imagine how much bathroom plastic I've gone through over the course of my life. And shamefully... how much I didn't even recycle.

Let's also not forget how much money I've wasted! It's legit shameful how many times I've left Target with... let's call it $20 dollars (to make myself feel better)... worth of new products that some marketer convinced me "I deserved to treat myself to." I have spent THOUSANDS on products that usually don't work and most of the time may actually contain ingredients that are harmful for ME, let alone the environment.

Hopefully, this all ends now. And trust me, it's not a fad for me... I conducted this exercise a few weeks in advance of the challenge in preparation for making some changes. Some of these items have already been given away, some emptied and recycled immediately, and some I am finishing up now.

But no NEW plastic purchases will be made. As I finish these products, they will be replaced with plastic-free alternatives. So over the next month, I'm excited to share not only what I've changed, but how well it's worked. (Fun note: there isn't a "sponsored product" in sight either!)

Down to join me on this plastic-free bathroom revolution? Here's what's next:
Here we go!