The Top 10 Things I Wish Didn’t Involve Plastic

Last week, to mark the end of the Rodale.com Plastic-Free Challenge, I shared some tips for reducing the amount of plastic in your life. I personally don’t think that anything is completely evil.  But I do think we overuse a lot of things without thinking too much about it—and when challenged, we often invent much better solutions. So consider this a call for ideas or inspiration to you creative types, brainstorm some alternatives for the more pervasive, hard-to-eliminate plastic sources we’re all burdened with. I know it’s possible. There must be solutions. So put on your thinking caps, and see what you can come up with!

Here are 10 things that come with plastic that I really wish didn’t:

1. Shampoo and conditioner: I actually do have a “bar” of shampoo wrapped in paper that I’ve been meaning to try, but have been a bit afraid to. But this is the biggie. (Luckily, Rodale.com’s Leah Zerbe has come up with some ideas to help solve this problem.)

2. Toy and electronics packaging: Not only is it excessive, but the plastic on these things is usually so hard to open that without the proper tools, blood can spill.

3. Produce! And not just at the supermarket. Even the vendors at my local farmer’s market use a lot of plastic bags when selling their produce.

4. Condiments: Catsup, mayo, mustard…they USED to come in glass, so I know it’s possible.

5. Amazon.com packages: Oh, the box is fine, but the books are always shrink-wrapped, and the package is stuffed with plastic puffy things that are annoying and unnecessary. I mean, that book is not going to break! Actually, almost anything ordered by mail comes with too much plastic surrounding it.

6. Takeout containers: Yes, the answer is to avoid takeout. But seriously, there has got to be a better way to package food to go.

7. Garbage bags: There has to be a better way to package our trash, too. Until then, at least use recycled trash bags.

8. Pool toys: Can people please stop giving these to me as gifts? They smell bad, and the kids never put them away, and then the dog bites holes in them. Now, my goggles on the other hand… I would love a nonplastic replacement for them.

9. Almost anything at the supermarket—especially meat wrappers: Whether it encases toilet paper or pasta, it’s crazy how much plastic stuff has to be thrown away just so we can “protect” stuff before it gets used. Let’s get creative, people!

10. Pens: I love to write, and hate that my favorite tool is often made from disposable plastic. Oh, yeah…computers, too.

This is the challenge of our times, really: to constantly improve on and develop new ways to live our lives without harming our health and our planet. It’s a great creative opportunity! Just think of all the money people can make if they figure it out. Yay for capitalism!

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25 Responses to The Top 10 Things I Wish Didn’t Involve Plastic

  1. Dana from Maria's Kitchen March 2, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I wish plastic ziplock bags wern’t plastic. I love them, they keep my food fresh and I can grab them and go oh so quickly.

    Sigh.

  2. Mike Lieberman March 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Being aware and conscious of this kind of stuff is like a blessed curse. It’s great to be aware and try to avoid it, but it’s maddening seeing how prevalent it is and difficult to really avoid.

  3. Jessica March 2, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    I love that the big box hardware stores now carry degradable garbage bags, only wish other stores would follow suit. :-)

  4. Elizabeth March 2, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    I am using up my bottled shampoo. I’ll alternate between it and using one of the bars of handmade soaps that I buy (I buy a year’s worth from one particular woman when she’s up my way at Xmas time). It works quite well. Bronner’s bar soap also works really well, to the point that you have to be careful with how much you rub on or you’ll end up with a giant mass of bubbles on your head. I wish there were a natural conditioner out there that works well. Diluted vinegar scented with vanilla and cinnamon is ok but not quite the same. For garbage bags, there are biodegradable bags. And as for pens, I asked my hubby to get me a fountain pen for Xmas. It’s by Lamy and has an aluminum body. It has a converter for its ink cartridge so that I can refill it; otherwise, the replacement cartridges are plastic. I’m still getting used to using it; unlike a ballpoint, fountain pens have to be held a certain way or they won’t write so I spend a couple seconds readjusting every time I stop writing.

  5. Karen March 2, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    I love my bar shampoo! I buy mine from Chagrin Valley … all their bars are made with natural oils and filtered rain water … nothing yucky. I will never go back to bottled. I also use a leave-in bar conditioner from Lush that doubles as a styling product, so that eliminates two bottled products right there.

  6. AskLiz March 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    I don’t shampoo my hair. I realized that the lather, rinse, repeat,thing is a joke. So, why strip your hair with detergents, etc, only to have to add conditioner afterward to put the oil back. It’s a big step, but try it over a weekend, you might just reduce your plastic bottle use by 1/2!

    Just put conditioner on your hair, work it around, massage your scalp, etc. Then rinse. If your hair doesn’t feel clean, try it again, at the same shower. I love it, and my hair is clean!

  7. Chris March 2, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    I buy my meat at a market where they wrap it in paper. It doesn’t cost any more if I watch the ads and buy cuts that are on special. Ziplocks? Yep, I use them sparingly for sandwiches and such, but I wash them in the dishwasher and reuse them over and over again so a small box lasts years. My biggest plastic challenge is finding an alternative to garbage and doggie poo bags. For those, I use the unavoidable plastic bags I get from various sources, but I’d like a better solution for that day when plastic sacks are no longer ubiquitous.

  8. peggy greco March 2, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    I just used up a lip balm and hated to throw the tube away. Why can’t they sell refills?

  9. Dallas March 2, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    I have a 2 year old and a husband who drink milk like it’s going out of style. I have so many milk jugs to take to the recycling center I tend to have to make more trips than I would like, it is ridiculous!

  10. Kathy March 2, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

    Although I didn’t take “the pledge,” it did make me think about what I’m doing right and what needs improving. I often wash my hair with a bar of pure olive oil soap (comes wrapped in paper and cardboard). My fine, thin hair rarely needs conditioner. I do try to buy in bulk–bigger packages but fewer of them. We recycle all we can, but the caps/lids/tops are rarely recyclable. Grrrr!

  11. Sue March 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Bought Natural Value waxed paper bags for the kids’/hubby sandwiches. No complaints. Wet fruit/salad goes in, yes, plastic reusables for now until I can afford the little stainless steel ones I saw online. Leftovers go in the glassware(from Corning/Anchor Hocking). The shampoo/conditioner–still in plastic.

  12. Judy March 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    I’ve been using baking soda (cardboard box) to wash my hair. A tablespoon or two dissolved in a cup or 2 of warm water, then poured onto hair and rubbed in. Followed by a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar (currently plastic, unfortunately) in a cup or so of water. Leaves my hair clean, soft and manageable.

  13. Joan Weed March 2, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    We are fortunate to have a milkman. yes! He brings local milk in glass bottles. It does cost more but when do you want to pay–each week or all at once 20 years ahead? I used to send lunch to school in short, squatty thermoses. Wonder if they still make them? We always wrapped leftovers in waxed paper when I was a kid–half an onion, leftover meatloaf etc. I definitely am going to look for the bar shampoo etc. Thanks for the wake-up call. Hmm. I wonder it the waxed sandwich bags would work for the doggie bags? At least we’re beginning to think about it.

  14. niyad March 4, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    when you mentioned using glass storage containers, you neglected to mention reusing things like the glass jars spaghetti sauce or pickles come in (not to mention that some of the spaghetti sauce jars are reusable as canning jars.

  15. Barbara March 5, 2011 at 4:27 am #

    I’ve found a brand of organic shampoo, liquid soaps, and oils that come in glass bottles with metal screwtops and list the source of all the ingredients on the label, oh and the toothpaste comes in a metal tube although that does have a plastic cap :-( Anyway, it’s called TEA Natura; don’t know where you can get it in the US but definitely worth searching. They also make fabulous cleaning products but, alas, they are in plastic bottles although you can buy 5 liter size.

  16. Marie March 5, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    I use bar soap that I buy from my local natural food grocery store – it doesn’t have any packaging at all. I’ve heard of the shampoo bars, but have yet to try them. I think I even have a sample in my athroom drawer… I’ve never heard of the conditioner bars. I’m going to have to try Chagrin Valley Soap – they’re just a town over from me!

  17. jo March 5, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    My mum used to staple several ages of the weekend papers together to make thick garbage bags. Just take out the centre pages about 3 or 4 together and staple up either side. You only need a few staples each side and it is a simple fun thing for kids to do.Experiment with different sizes and shapes to find the one to suit your kitchen or bathroom needs. Just stack the newsbags together and you have enough for the week. Tip compost into one to take out the garden compost as is or bury it directly. It has a good balance of wet and dry and takes little time to break down. Other bags can be used at the end of a meal to scrape the plates and put straight into the garbage. Burying the compostable bags is a form of carbon sequestration.

  18. Ember March 7, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    I really recommend Lush cosmetics. Check out their packaging policy here:
    http://www.lushusa.com/shop/about-lush/articles/environmental-policy/packaging.html

  19. Joan Weed March 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    Jo I like this!

  20. Jill March 25, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    I was at the health food store a while back and a lady representing Nordic Naturals had a table of samples. Along with the supplements she was having for samples were *pens* made from bamboo! The only plastic parts were the clip (to attach to paper or your front pocket) and the very tip where the metal writing apperatice comes out, oh and I suppose the cartridge that holds the ink. Even the “clicker” that spits out the writing apperatice was bamboo. I wish I would have picked up a couple! I have no idea who the manufacturer is, but it really writes good! And it was FREE! I keep hoping I’ll see this company on display again in hopes of snagging another pen!

  21. Peter April 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Unless said company can source their bamboo to an actual bamboo supplier it’s NOT bamboo. Teko socks in Boulder reported over a year ago that the suppliers they investigated for bamboo textile found that its simply not bamboo.

    Anything made in China is suspect. The US allows a huge amount of fraud to occur from China because they hold much of the debt for the wars. This is a way of repaying them unfortunately.

  22. Jamie November 19, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    Yogurt: it comes in glass jars in Europe but I haven’t seen it in glass in the U.S. except in the more liquid/smoothie (milk bottle) style. I can, and do, make yogurt and put it in my own glass containers (Weck jars), but sometimes I don’t have the time and want to get a quick yogurt to go, and would like to buy it in recyclable glass.

  23. Angie July 27, 2013 at 1:27 am #

    I make my own shampoo bars from scratch, and I don’t think we will ever buy shampoo again…so don’t be scared! You can also make your own condiments…there are tons of easy recipes on the net. I have four kids and ADHD and still manage to make my own shampoo bars, deodorant, laundry soap. etc etc….it can be done.

  24. Angie July 27, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    Of course, that’s why I am posting at 1:30 in the morning

  25. u2PhEpPolMFD August 1, 2013 at 6:52 am #

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