Week 9 heralds the shortest list to date! Check it:
-1 Pita Chip Bag
-1 Shipping Envelope
-2 Tempeh Packages
-1 Arame Package
-1 Pair of Contacts
-1 Mouthwash Bottle
-3 Bread Film
-1 Basil Bag
-2 Cheese Film
-1 Plastic Cover from National Geographic Magazine
-1 Toothpick Container
-1 Saffron Container
I am proud of this week. A handful of the items, like the toothpick container, saffron container, and mouthwash bottle have been with us for at least 6 months, and finally decided it was their time to go. Others, like the pita chips, are indications of the things we just cannot give up (yet?). And others, like the bread bags, are a reminder of how hard it is to break our plastic habits (I got a loaf of bread from a local bakery, asked them to put it in my reusable ziplock, and they put it in a new bag anyways… womp womp). Overall, this list is a great sign of progress, a tangible way to see our footprint has decreased in the past 2 months.
One area of our home that houses the most seemingly unavoidable plastic is the bathroom. Toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, floss, the very shower itself! – all plastic. How do we reduce our plastic use in our bathroom?? I suppose the kitchen was my first target, but now I turn to our bathroom and wonder: Do we really need all of this stuff.
One item we have cast aside is liquid soap. We traded it for the bar. The switch got me wondering, just why is liquid soap in a plastic squeezable bottle so much more popular than bar soap anyways?? Is it our obsession with efficiency and convenience? Have we grown to expect those superior bubbles liquid soap provides? Maybe its the loofas….
Whatever it is that draws so many American’s to liquid soap, it is unfortunate. Why? Well, first, look at the ingredients? The American government does not require pre-market testing of the chemicals that go in our personal care products. Plenty of American’s look at the ingredient lists (or at least the calorie counts) on our food packaging, but how many of us flip over our bottle of liquid soap, or shampoo, or deodorant, and read those ingredients? This list was taken from Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash with Nutrimoisture.
–Soybean oil, sunflower oil, sodium lauroyl isothionate, sodium laureth sulfate, cocomidopropyl betaine, lauric acid, stearic acid, glycerin, fragrance, sodium isetheonate, lauryl alcohol, tallow acid or palmetic acid, guar hydroxpropyltrimonium chloride, DMDM hydantoin, methylisothiazolinone, tetrasodium EDTA, etidronic acid, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, bht.
Hmmm… one look at this list sets off alarms for me. During my EMT training I learned that our skin is our largest organ, and it does much more than sweat and get sunburns, it also absorbs! Do I want all these ill-tested, unpronounceable chemicals on my absorbent skin?? Some of these ingredients are potentially toxic as well. Just to name a few: BHT is a known immune toxicant or allergen and may also be a carcinogen, DMDM hydantoin is a skin, eye, and lung irritant, and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate is a suspected gastrointestinal and liver toxicant. These products may be approved to go to market, but I have the choice of what I expose my body to, and I say “no thank you” to these suspicious chemicals. If you are interested in learning more about the ingredients in your toiletries I suggest you check out Envionmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. They provide online safety profiles for over 79,000 products and can help you find healthier options.
The second unfortunate thing about liquid soap is the environmental impact. Housed in a plastic bottle, liquid soap aids the petroleum industry (in fact, petroleum products are often in the soap too!!) and once you are done lathering up, that bottle could easily outlive your grandkids. These bottles are usually #2 plastic, or high density polyethylene. That is a fancy scientific way of saying they float in sea water and are one of the most commonly found plastics in the ocean gyres.
This was all motivation for us to find a bar soap with natural ingredients that is packaged in paper. Right now we are quite smitten with Nubian Heritage. Born in New York in 1992, this company’s mission is to “produce luxurious natural products from African recipes with organic and fair trade ingredients”. Organic, ethically traded, AND cruelty free!!! But the best part is their scents. Some of our favorites are goats milk and chai, black soap with shea butter, and carrot and pomegranate. But the true test is to look at the ingredients.
– Honey and Black Seed Soap: Shea butter, coconut oil and/or palm oil, apricot oil, black seed, honey, vitimin E, vegetable glycerin, mineral pigment, essential oil blend.
That ingredient list is a whole lot shorter, pronounceable, and recognizable than Dove’s. The ingredients come from nature, not a lab or an oil refinery, and the paper package can turn back into Earth again. Honey has historically been used in healing balms. The use of black seed can be traced back more than 3000 years to the ancient Egyptians! It was discovered in the tomb of King Tutankhamen and reportedly used by Queen Nefertiti to maintain her flawless complexion.
However, writing this post I realized that this soap isn’t perfect. The production of palm oil can sometimes result in deforestation of critical rainforest habitat. And the box fails to disclose the full ingredient list to their consumers by listing “essential oil blend”. I plan on writing Nubian Heritage this week to inquire about the sourcing of their ingredients.
Washing our hands and bodies with bar soap may not be as excitingly 21st century as a sudsy, loofa-led liquid soap down, but we choose it because small choices can add up to big change over time. We choose to ditch chemicals because we love our bodies, and want to nourish and respect them.
What ways do you keep your bathroom plastic and toxin free?