How to Stay Zero Waste When You’re Sick (or Living through a Pandemic)

Whether you’re quarantined at home with a virus or the flu, or you’ve just hunkered down in order to avoid all the community sick germs, how do you stay entertained and take care of your body without contributing to an overflowing trash bin? Here are a few ideas!

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How to Stay Zero Waste When You're Sick

1. Looking for zero waste entertainment? Rent a movie online and make your own popcorn – zero waste style. Instead of buying microwavable popcorn bags wrapped in plastic inside a cardboard box, try buying a single (recyclable) container of kernels to cook on your stove-top, adding your own butter, salt and Parmesan cheese. This method is healthier, less expensive, and sends nothing to the landfill!

2. Trying to ration your toilet paper and tissues? Make handkerchiefs a habit if you haven’t already! Any old t-shirt can be cut into handkerchiefs if you’re up for a little DIY project, or you could order these from Amazon. Just a few days stuck at home could cement this zero waste swap into your routine and save you tons of money in the future. Every box of tissues you would have purchased equals a few extra bucks left in your bank account!

3. Take a classic novel down from your bookshelf (or purchase an e-book online from Amazon Kindle) and have a reading marathon. Reading has been shown to reduce stress and have an overall positive impact on your body, which is probably a good trade-in for your brain after all the high-stress news on your television these days (thank you Coronavirus)! Here’s a fun article from The Atlantic describing even more scientific reasons to pick up a novel.

4. Find a healthy recipe to replace a snack that usually comes wrapped in plastic – homemade granola bars, muffins made from scratch, tortilla chips, etc. My toddler LOVES his granola bars, but I cringe when I buy them as I think about all those individual plastic wraps that end up in the trash — so this is my personal goal for the week! (Please comment if you’ve got a good homemade granola bar recipe!)

5. Do some online shopping for zero waste swaps! The easiest way for me to switch up my products has been researching and buying zero waste swaps ahead of time, and then continuing to use my old items until they’re gone. This keeps me accountable to actually implement changes, because I’ve already purchased them! If I wait until I’ve run out of something, then I have much less time to research, and I’m always tempted to pick up whatever I had a habit of purchasing before.

Note: Read through my other Zero Waste Tips for more specific shopping suggestions! 🙂

Fun fact: Did you know Amazon has actually taken some impressive stands to minimize waste? Not only are their shipping materials completely recyclable (even the padded mailers!), you can also opt to ship your items together to reduce packaging waste. Thank you Amazon!!

Clean Beauty Part 2: What I Discovered in My Makeup Products

Welcome to Part 2 of my Clean Beauty Tips! In case you missed it, head over first to my original post on non-toxic beauty, which gives more detailed information about what not-so-great ingredients might be lurking in your cosmetics and personal care products. Be forewarned, though – once you’re aware of what some products contain, it’s hard to ignore it!

As I began to learn more about the potential hazards in my products, I was both intrigued and very skeptical. Surely the items I owned weren’t all that bad. Without further ado, here’s what I discovered:

My loose powder foundation contained titanium dioxides, which are considered possible carcinogens when inhaled (such as in powdered foundations). Note: when I searched for this product on Walmart.com, it clearly states a warning notice because of the use of titanium dioxides. Yikes!

My black mascara contained phenoxyethanol, which can cause skin irritation/allergies. According to a statement on Healthline.com, the USFDA has recalled certain products for containing phenoxyethanol because of possible adverse reactions to infants’ central nervous system.

My blush contained talc and phenoxyethanol. See my original post for information on why talc should be avoided!

My bronzer contained talc, titanium dioxide and phenoxyethanol.

My black liquid eyeliner pen contained phenoxyethanol and D&C Black No.2, which is essentially coal tar and is a possible carcinogen. Find more information from SafeCosmetics.org here.

My black eyeliner pencil contained talc and Black 2 (CI 77266) – another name for D&C Black No.2.

My eyeshadows all contained talc.

My lip balm tube contained phenol, which is definitely toxic in large quantities and not advised for skin contact or ingestion, but is often added in tiny amounts as a preservative in cosmetics and even foods. Read more about phenol on Healthline.com here.

According to this article on Zerobreastcancer.org, one common phenol compound is Bisphenol A (BPA), which is found in some plastics. Many companies are now banning BPA from their products (thus the popular label BPA-free) because of the risks involved with ingesting phenol.

It also contained flavor – just like the term “fragrance,” a flavor can contain any number of chemicals, but the contents are not required to be disclosed. So anytime you see this, you have to hope the brand is trustworthy enough to not include the bad stuff!

My face moisturizer contained phenoxyethanol, fragrance, methylparaben and propylparaben.

My shampoo contained fragrance (parfum) and Diazolidinyl Urea – a chemical that the Environmental Working Group describes here as “an antimicrobial preservative that works by forming formaldehyde in cosmetic products.”

My body wash contained fragrance (parfum).

My antiperspirant deodorant contained aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly (which has been theorized – not proven – to play a role in contributing to breast cancer) and fragrance.

My perfume contained fragrance – no surprise there!

My hairspray contained fragrance.

These are all products that I purchased from well-known retailers or direct sales companies within the past 5 years. And I had ZERO clue what was in them.

Now, it’s your turn! I challenge you to take a peek at the ingredient labels on each of your products, and really look hard. If you investigate your products and decide based on the evidence presented that you’d like to continue using them, more power to you!

But if you decide with me that you’d rather look for something else, stay tuned for upcoming posts on some clean replacements that I’ve found and LOVE! I’m so excited to share them with you and hopefully make your journey to clean beauty a little quicker and easier than mine!

Minimalism: The 5 Doctrines of Decluttering

Each time I’ve attempted to declutter, I have been amazed by the sheer volume of stuff that is jam-packed into our little home. It accumulates in every room, every drawer, every closet.

Minimalism: 5 Decluttering Tips

Yet each fresh wave of minimizing seems to sink in a little deeper, leaving behind a way of life that I’m thoroughly enjoying.

Here are some of my biggest take-aways from my years of attempting minimalism!

1. Declutter regularly. The more often you declutter, the more familiar you become with your belongings and the faster it will go next time. When it gets hard and you’re ready to quit, remember: it will never again be as hard as the first purge!

2. Assign everything a designated place in your home. It makes it tremendously easier to tidy your home when you have a specific space for each of your belongings. When you’re having a hard time finding space for something, do you really need to keep it? If yes, what else can you get rid of to make room for it?

3. Take inventory of the things you’re getting rid of, and look for patterns. I’m a huge advocate of the zero (or low) waste movement, which at first might seem at odds with minimalism, but here’s how they can be adhered to simultaneously: don’t hold onto trash just because you want to keep it out of the landfill. Get rid of it, but always investigate what you’re tossing to see if it can be prevented in the future. If your inventory report consistently shows that half of your Goodwill haul is comprised of cheap plastic toys, then perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at the quality (and quantity) of toys that are coming into your home.

4. Before searching on Amazon for organizing bins, see if you already have something you can use. Those glass jars you’ve been saving? They’re perfect for organizing your junk cabinet or for extra bathroom storage (for q-tips, cotton balls, reusable cotton rounds, makeup brushes, etc). Random cute baskets in your house? Use them to store your mail that needs to be sorted! This gives new life to items that were previously clutter, and it also helps with organization.

5. Just because it came with an item you’re keeping doesn’t guarantee it needs to stay. Extra attachments that you never use, instruction booklets (most of which are easily found online), original packaging — these eyesores just take up space and add to cluttered shelves.

And there you have it – my 5 Doctrines of Decluttering. Comment below if you have any other original ideas! I’d love to hear them!

For ideas on how to responsibly get rid of items when you’re ready to part with them, read here.

Zero Waste Tip #11: Wool Dryer Balls

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11. Swap out your dryer sheets for wool dryer balls.

How to Create an Eco-Friendly Laundry Room: Switch to Wool Dryer Balls
A lot of life is lived in our laundry rooms! It’s worth putting in the effort to make them eco-friendly!

Have you ever stopped to think about what ingredients are in those dryer sheets that you throw into every load of laundry? How about what happens to them once you’ve tossed them in the trash? Let’s dig a little deeper to uncover the answers.

According to this article on Healthline.com, dryer sheets are “thin sheets…made of nonwoven polyester fabric covered with softeners to help soften clothes and reduce static cling, as well as fragrances to deliver a fresh scent.” One main brand lists the following ingredients for their dryer sheets on Amazon:

  • Dipalmethyl Hydroxyethylammonium Methosulfate: I attempted to determine what this chemical does exactly, but all I could discover was that it softens fabric and takes away static. Sounds awfully suspicious.
  • Fatty acid: This substance melts when your dryer heats up and subsequently covers the surface of your clothes in order to make them feel softer.
  • Polyester substrate: This is synonymous with plastic, so when you toss those in the trash, they’re going to sit in a landfill for a very long time.
  • Clay: This is used to “control the viscosity of the fabric softener coating as it begins to melt in the dryer,” according to this article from the Chemical and Engineering News website.
  • Fragrance: This could be any compound of chemicals, but companies are not required to disclose these ingredients. It’s entirely unregulated, so no one knows what’s in it.

Wool Dryer balls, on the other hand, are completely natural and 100% harmless. They’re biodegradable and compostable, and they’re typically packaged in a cloth bag that is reusable and very low waste. They reduce static electricity, soften your clothes, and shorten drying time (which therefore saves energy and lowers your electricity bill). Essential oils can also be added if you desire scented laundry.

I’ve had these dryer balls for several years now, and they still work great!

Lifestyle Benefits: All questionable ingredients in dryer sheets are avoided by switching to dryer balls, and this swap is another money saver! Here’s the math: you can purchase 240 dryer sheets on Amazon for approximately $8 (lasting about 80 loads of laundry if you use 3 dryer sheets per load). So for 1000 loads of laundry, you’d spend $100 on dryer sheets. OR you can purchase these reusable wool dryer balls on Amazon for $16.95. They’re estimated to last 1000+ loads, so eventually you’ll be saving $83.05!

Earth Benefits: Dryer sheets fall into the ‘single-use plastic’ category, just like plastic grocery bags, plastic straws, and plastic water bottles. You might forget about them after each load of laundry, but these fellows stick around for years.

Clean Beauty: What’s in your Makeup Products?

Imagine someone handing you two bottles of lotion, and then saying: “Bottle A might contain poison, but don’t worry – it hasn’t been scientifically proven! Bottle B doesn’t have those questionable ingredients, it’s the same price, and you can’t tell a difference in the products.” Which bottle would you select? It’s a no-brainer.

Clean Beauty: how to detox your makeup bag

This is essentially what’s happening all over the world with vast numbers of beauty and personal care products. The only difference? No one is stating the disclaimer. As a result, the general public has no idea what’s in most of their products, so they continue using them without a second thought.

Several months ago, I saw this statistic:

In cosmetics alone, the EU has banned or restricted more than 1,300 chemicals while the US has outlawed or curbed just 11.

Yes, you read that right.

Only 11.

Clean Beauty: How to detox your makeup bag

Now, some may argue that the EU regulates too many things and it’s not the government’s job to regulate the cosmetic or beauty industries. However, I want to invite you to not just brush this off. Dig a little deeper, and don’t take my word for it. If the government doesn’t regulate it, that means it’s your personal responsibility to ensure you’re using products that aren’t harmful to your body. I challenge you to take the time to actually look at what’s in some of the products you’re using every day, and google the ingredients you’ve never heard of.

Here are some surprising statistics about what might be lurking in your products:

FORMALDEHYDE: Up to 20% of cosmetic products registered in the FDA’s database contain “formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.” Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. See this article in Women’s Health Magazine for more info.

Clean Beauty: How to detox your makeup bag

LEAD: In 2009, the FDA confirmed in a study that up to 60% of lipsticks (including some produced by several well-known corporations) contain lead. See this article from Safe Cosmetics for more info.

TALC: Many cosmetics contain talc (aka talcum powder or magnesium silicate), which has been linked to asbestos and is a possible carcinogen. See this New York Times article for more info.

FRAGRANCES: The single terms “natural fragrance,” “aroma,” or “parfum,” can actually mask thousands of chemicals used to create a certain smell (or flavor when used in food). Because they’re considered trade secrets, they’re not required to be disclosed on ingredient labels, but these chemicals can have a wide range of adverse results on humans – including cancer, skin irritation, hormonal imbalances, etc. See more information here from The Honest Company.

PHTHALATES: This is a whole family of chemicals often found in cosmetics and personal care products, as well as food packaging. Ingredient labels will often list these as their acronyms, such as DBP, BBP, DEHP or DiBP. One type of phthalate, DEHP, has been confirmed to cause cancer in animals and is expected to do the same in people. Others are also possible carcinogens, can irritate the skin and cause developmental issues. See this article on WebMD for more info.

PARABENS: These preservative chemicals (often called methylparabens, propylparabens, ethylparabens, and butylparabens), have possible links to breast cancer and are considered hormone disruptors at best. They can be found in many skin care products, such as lotions, shampoos, and makeup. See this article from Breastcancer.org, and this statement from the FDA for more info.

So…am I claiming that there is conclusive evidence that all your personal care products might be giving you cancer? Nope. I’m just saying that you and the general public ought to know which ingredients are possible causes for concern, so you can make an informed decision.

If you’re like me, you’ll at least look into some alternative products, and if you can find something of equal value without the nasty contents, you’ve literally got nothing to lose. It’s not a matter of them not existing, because there are some amazing companies out there taking huge strides towards clean beauty and toxin free products. People just need to discover them!

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading! 🙂 This post is already getting long, so I’ll wrap up for now and plan to follow up with a few other posts on Clean Beauty: one with details on some products I used to own, and another with some clean products that I’ve chosen to start using instead!

Zero Waste Tip #10: Mindfulness of Food Packaging

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10. Begin to notice packaging options and let that influence your purchases.

Food is definitely the most challenging aspect of trying to go zero waste, at least for me. It seems that nearly everything comes wrapped in plastic these days, and there are just certain ingredients that I need no matter what. I’m not to the point yet where I’ll ditch the cheese just because it comes in a plastic bag.

However, I’m learning that if I take the time to look around, often there are lower waste options for many of the products I was going to buy anyways. I just have to look for them… and guess what? Every single time I shop, it gets a little easier!

Below are the top 4 shopping tips I’ve picked up along my journey to reduce our household waste!

1. Try to steer away from the center aisles of the grocery store. Why? Nearly 100% of foods sold on the center aisles are packaged and often highly processed. Most of the healthier, fresher food options are located around the outside walls of the store: fruits and vegetables, less-processed meats, dairy. Now, I realize this isn’t practical for every single ingredient, BUT many items can be swapped out easily with a little forethought.

Take a can of Rotel for an example. One can of Rotel at Walmart is listed here for $0.98. Now is where it’s important to read the ingredient labels on your foods! The front of the can states “Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies.” Yet if you turn the can around, the actual ingredients are: “Tomatoes, Water, Chopped Green Chili Peppers, Less than 2% of: Salt, Calcium Chloride, Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Cilantro.”

This makes for an easy swap! Just pick up 2 extra Roma Tomatoes and 1 green chili pepper from the produce department, and dice them yourself with a dash of salt. Voila! You’ve made fresh Rotel – without the aluminum can, without the added calcium chloride and citric acid preservatives, and without the natural flavor (who even knows what that means?!!!). For roughly the same price, you’ve gone zero waste AND have arguably a healthier product in your meal. Win, win!
Note: many swaps would be much easier if you have a veggie chopper, like this one from Amazon, which is currently on my wish list! 🙂

2. Not all packaging is created equal. If there are no package-free options, first check to see if you can find what you need in glass, and then cardboard or aluminum, before resorting to plastic packaging. According to this article from the Glass Packaging Institute, “Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity.” It also doesn’t leach into your food over time, as do some plastics.

Cardboard is biodegradable and, when recycled, can save both trees and energy. It could also be composted, avoiding the waste bin altogether. And when a single aluminum can is recycled, One Earth Company states here that it “saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours.”

3. Do not buy fruits and veggies wrapped in plastic. All these items are regularly sold wrapped in plastic, but can EASILY be swapped for the exact same product without packaging: tomatoes, avocados, potatoes, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, kale, lettuce, garlic, apples, bananas, kiwis, cilantro, parsley, carrots… (essentially all your produce)! If you need frozen produce, simply buy it unpackaged and freeze it yourself. Berries are an exception. I rarely find berries without the plastic containers, unless I’m shopping at my local farmers market; however, they’re also 100x better from the farmers market, so it’s worth it when you can!

4. Drink more water! The United States has some of the cleanest drinking water in the entire world, yet many Americans prefer to drink anything but H2O. Sodas, carbonated flavored water, juice boxes, drink mixes, energy drinks — all are unnecessary purchases that aren’t beneficial to your body and comprise a big percentage of what enters the landfill. Note: for some tips on reusable water bottles, check out my Zero Waste Tip #7!

Eco Friendly Holiday: Valentine’s Day

One of the many things I love about my husband is that he refuses to buy store-bought cards. Not for birthdays, not for Christmas, not for Valentine’s day. How did we get to the point where we’d rather pay $5 for a pretty picture and cheesy words from a card company to show a loved one that we care for them? I would argue that a thoughtful, handwritten letter on plain 8.5′ x 11″ printer paper is infinitely better any day of the year.

As it turns out, investing a little effort into de-commercializing your Valentine’s Day is something that your loved one AND the planet will both appreciate. So let’s vow together to actually love well this year by considering these eco-friendly questions as you shop:

  1. Is this product going to end up in a landfill next month, or are you investing in something timeless?
  2. Can I buy this item without packaging, or packaged with recyclable materials?
  3. Is there a similar product I can purchase from a local business?
  4. Does this price reflect the item’s real value, or is it marked up because it’s covered in pink hearts?

Here are some of my favorite green Valentine’s swaps!

  • Leave the Valentine’s aisle and stroll over to the garden center to purchase a living plant instead of 12 cut roses. Even if your partner can’t keep any plants alive, the real plant will last longer every time and can generally be purchased without plastic packaging.
  • Plan some time to sit down and write a handwritten letter. While a greeting card might eventually get tossed, letters can be treasured forever.
  • Support a local chocolate company. My all-time favorite chocolate bar is the Ooh La Lavendar bar by Markham & Fitz! In addition to the exquisite chocolate, their packaging is also compostable and recyclable, so it’s a win for the planet too!
  • Give an experience instead of a stuffed animal: a date night to a local coffee shop, a professional photo session, a trip to the theatre, etc.
  • Get creative and find low-waste alternatives for the kids’ class valentines exchange: bake heart-shaped sugar cookies from scratch, make your own trail mix, print your own valentines cards on recycled paper, or give out fruit instead of candy! (Look how cute these “cuties” valentines are!)
  • Buy your Valentine’s decorations from your local thrift store to keep them out of the landfill, and reuse them next year.

Leave a comment below if you think of any other zero waste or eco friendly Valentine’s Day swaps! Sharing is caring! 💗

How to Step Up Your Recycling Game

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

– Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember
How to up your Recycling Game in your Journey to Go Zero Waste!
Pro Tip: Simplify your recycling process as much as you can to set yourself up for success. My amazing husband built these handy shelves in our garage to make our recycling bins easier to access!

Recycling is difficult and simple. It’s difficult because it requires a mental shift to take place in the individual, whereupon they begin to consciously retrain their hands to take items to the recycling bin instead of mindlessly heading to the trash. Yet it is the simplest change to make, and therefore it’s often the first recommendation for how to begin your eco-friendly journey.

Today I’m inviting you to evaluate your current recycling mindset, and then pledge to move on the next level. Continue one tiny green step at a time until you’ve reached Level 3: Master of Recycling!

Level 1 – Beginner Recycler: Great Job! You’ve got the green boxes and you get them out to the curb weekly (most of the time). You chuck in the plastic water bottles, big cardboard boxes, and aluminum cans, but only put minimal effort into it. If it’s easier to just throw something out instead of rinsing so it can be recycled, into the garbage it goes!

Level 2 – Conscientious Recycler: You’ve firmly decided to do this recycling thing right. If you’ve got a jar of old spaghetti sauce, there’s no question about it; you’re going to toss the sauce and then rinse the jar so it can be recycled. If it’s glass, plastic, cardboard, or aluminum, into the green box it goes. Gone are the days of just resorting to the trash to save a few minutes whenever you feel like it.

Level 3: Master of Recycling: Nothing slips through the cracks. Every piece of paper goes into the bin. Your city doesn’t collect some types of plastic curbside, but you start collecting them anyways so you can drop it off at another recycling location. You save your old CFL light bulbs and batteries to recycle at Home Depot. You research to find drop-off or mailing locations for textiles, electronics, and other household items. You start allowing recycling to shift the purchases you make – buying items made from recycled materials, and saying no to items that cannot be recycled.

Right now, I’m hovering somewhere between Level 2 and 3. Where are you on the scale? Leave a comment below to share your recycling journey!

*For my master list of companies that recycle household items that would typically end up in the landfill, read my Zero Waste Tip #9.

Zero Waste Tip #9: Responsible Minimizing

9. Let the dumpster be your final resort, and find creative ways to donate items when it’s time to part with them!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve hauled a lot of stuff to the dumpster over the past few years. However, this is a critical lesson that ties into both zero waste living and minimalism, and one that I’ve been really trying to challenge myself to adhere to.

As you begin to de-clutter and make steps towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle, the question that inevitably follows is:

What do I do with all my junk?

For years, I allowed myself to load up my car with things I no longer wanted and drop them off at my local thrift store or Goodwill. However, it eventually dawned on me that I wasn’t saving all these things from the landfill – I was just dumping the responsibility of getting rid of my trash to Goodwill instead. They weren’t going to sell those jeans with holes in them, the toys that were broken and taped back together, the shoes with soles falling off the bottom. They were going to toss them in the giant dumpster.

Once that light bulb switched on, I resolved to start doing my research. First, research products before I purchase them to ensure that I’m buying quality items that don’t eventually end up in the landfill. And finally, when I am ready to let go of an item, research to see if there’s anyone else who might actually use it for good instead. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure!

Here is a compilation of some amazing companies that will actually give your trash a second chance at life. I will continue updating this master list as I find more.

How to combine Minimalism and the Zero Waste Movement
This is the prepaid mailer I received from Marine Layer! Super sturdy and large enough for about 5 tees.
  • Re-Spun by Marine Layer: This company will give you a prepaid mailer envelope for you to send them old t-shirts (any condition), which they break down into fibers, create new yarn, and then use that to make new clothes. For every t-shirt you send in, they’ll give you a $5 credit to use towards a purchase on their website ($25 maximum).
  • Blue Jeans Go Green by Zappos for Good: If your old jeans are at least 90% cotton, you can donate them by creating an online account with Zappos, printing a free shipping label, and dropping off your box at any UPS location. Your denim will be transformed into housing insulation! Levi’s also participates in the Blue Jeans Go Green program; they’ll give you a 20% off coupon for dropping off your old jeans at your local store (see details here).
  • Soles4Souls: Send in used shoes here to support a micro-enterprise program that helps people step out of poverty in developing countries. Shoes can be mailed in for free or taken to one of their drop-off locations.
  • Worn Wear by Patagonia: Patagonia clothes in any condition can be mailed back for them to recycle.
  • Wands for Wildlife by Appalachian Wildlife Refuge: Send your old mascara wands here to be used for removing bugs and larva from rescued wild animals and birds.
  • Best Buy: Bring old electronics to your nearest Best Buy store to either trade in (if eligible) or recycle. They even offer coupons for some new items when you recycle old gear.
  • Home Depot: Take your old rechargeable batteries, cardboard, and compact fluorescent light bulbs to your local Home Depot so they can be recycled.
  • Advance Auto Parts: Receive a $10 gift card for bringing in your old car battery to be recycled.
  • Fayetteville Public Library: Donate gently used books to your local library.
  • ReStores by Habitat for Humanity: Here’s a good place to donate gently used furniture, appliances, housewares or building materials. They’ll sell your items and use the money towards Habitat for Humanity’s work around the world.
  • Furniture Friends: If you’re local to Northwest Arkansas, consider donating used furniture (in good condition) to this organization, who works to provide international students and families with furniture upon their arrival to NWA.
  • Brick Recycler: This company collects donations of used LEGOs in any condition, and they’ll give them to children around the world to be reused.

Zero Waste Tip #8: Soap Bars

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8. Stop buying hand soap in plastic bottles; instead, look for bars of soap without plastic packaging!

This is another zero waste swap that requires no daily thought beyond the initial purchase. However, as you transition into a more eco-friendly lifestyle, this is also an excellent opportunity to begin evaluating the ingredients found in your soaps and skin-care products. If you look at the back label and can’t understand most of the ingredients listed, perhaps it’s time to do some research on what you’re applying to your body’s largest organ (your skin)!

According to this article from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, soaps that are marketed as antibacterial usually “contain certain chemicals not found in plain soaps [such as] triclosan, an ingredient of concern to many environmental, academic and regulatory groups…. We don’t yet know how triclosan affects humans and more research is needed.”

Zero Waste Tip: Look for bars of soap instead of soap in plastic bottles
Tom’s of Maine bar soap is one of my current favorites! Look for it at your local natural grocery store or here on Amazon. It’s affordable and comes without the harmful ingredients found in other soaps.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled a brief list of ingredients to watch out for in your skin-care products, including triclosan, parabens, and fragrances, so keep this in mind as you search for a soap bar. Generally speaking, the fewer ingredients, the better!

Pro Tip: Make sure you invest in a proper way to store your soap bars. If you don’t, you can look forward to mushy soap with a much shorter life-span. The best soap storage method will provide a way for water to drain so that the bar is not constantly soaking in water.

My favorite soap dishes are similar to these: handmade of natural wood, with slats allowing for water drainage. We also have a set of porcelain soap dishes, which are easier to clean but not ideal for using in the shower, since they’re harder to keep dry.

Lifestyle Benefit: Perhaps I’m the only one, but in my mind I equate bars of soap to simplicity. There’s no plastic bottle, no fancy design trying to sell you on the product, no directions written on the outside of a package. It’s simply soap. Wash and repeat.

Buying bars of soap is also an excellent way to support small businesses, since they are often handmade or sold by local artisans and businesses. Some of my all-time favorite bars of soap were handmade bars purchased at my local natural grocery store.

Earth Benefit: Those plastic soap bottles you bought for your first home, to bring to college, or for your school supply list in elementary school? The adorable travel sized ones you’ve bought for nearly every vacation? Yep, they’re all still out there. The most common type of plastic used in soap bottles is HDPE (#2) plastic, and it can take up to 100 years to decompose! Here’s an article with more information about plastic types if you’re interested in learning more.

The Earth is swimming in plastic bottles, and the biggest way for consumers to begin to remedy the problem is to stop purchasing them! Buying bars of soap that are unwrapped or that come in paper packaging is the perfect place to start.

Find additional blog posts about zero waste swaps below:

Zero Waste Tip #1: Reusable Grocery Bags

Zero Waste Tip #2: Reusable Straws

Zero Waste Tip #3: Reusable Coffee Mugs

Zero Waste Tip #4: Real Kitchen Towels

Zero Waste Tip #5: Cloth Diapers