Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to get clean without making the environment filthy: Plastic free shampoo and soap

How many plastic bottles do you have hanging around in the shower?  Right now, I have none, but the answer used to be pretty different, probably around seven or eight.  And I probably would have told you that they were all absolutely necessary.  They're not.

And when I started thinking more carefully about the ingredients in the personal care products I was using, I tried to find replacements for all of those bottles.  "Eco-friendly shampoo!" a bottle would exclaim.  But the ingredients were still harsh, and it was expensive.

When I committed to going plastic-free last July, I tried something else.  Soap.

Soap.  Imagine that.  Could it be so simple?  Yes, it was.  Soap with paper (or no) wrapping and no plastic waste.  Soap with simple, gentle ingredients.

What's in our shower now?  Two bars of soap.  A moisturizing lavender olive oil soap and a solid shampoo bar (a.k.a. soap) that uses a blend of oils and herbs that is good for hair.

Besides the fact I am no longer disposing of plastic bottle after plastic bottle, my bathroom is no longer cluttered and no longer feels like a giant advertisement.  Simplify.

There are tons of places that sell homemade soaps.  You may be able to find some at your farmers' market.  I get my shampoo bars from Aquarian Bath (I like the Lavender/Sesame/Aloe bar).  They give you the option to have your bars shipped without individual packaging, which is great! Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve also sells shampoo bars that come in paper packaging.  And Lush also sells solid shampoo, although with more ingredients.  I buy our regular bar soap from Dr. Dandelion, their soap is so moisturizing.  Making my own soap is on my list of things to try this summer, if that sounds like something you are interested in, The Nerdy Farm Wife has some great tutorials.  And as I mentioned in my last post, my husband gets his shave soap from Simmons, and they also sell bars of regular soap as well.

As for conditioner, I rinse my hair with apple cider vinegar about once every one to two weeks, and use just a touch (super small amount!) of coconut oil to control any frizz.

One more thing-you've probably been reading about micro beads in the news.  They are in a surprising amount of our personal care products, and before I made the switch to more natural products, I was absolutely guilty of using them, too.  Please find an alternative.  If that's the only thing you can commit to, do that.  Because they are ending up in our lakes and waterways.  And they are in a surprising number of products, from things you'd expect like face scrub, to things you wouldn't like hand soap and toothpaste.

(Just one more side note, I promise!:)  Recycling is an imperfect solution for these plastic bottles.  "Downcycling" is a big issue-your plastic bottle isn't turning into another plastic bottle, it's turning into a carpet or some other item that can't be recycled again.  Some great articles about recycling here, here, and hereREDUCE should be first on the list, not recycle.)

Do you have any great places to get soap?  Have any of you tried your hand at making your own?  Are you going to try bar shampoo for Plastic Free July?

Sign up for Plastic Free July here.


  1. Hi Elizabeth. Re: carpet side note...the question is what's worse? taking plastic that would be garbage otherwise, and make something from it, or make new materials, to create that carpet, that will end up non-recyclable, anyway? Personally, I choose to have no carpet, not only because of the waste aspect, but because of the out gassing and bacteria that gets caught in the fibers (two other issues we could go on about) but billions of people would have nothing of that concept so isn't it better to take something that would end up in the landfill and make something out of it that will hopefully at least last quite a few years in a home or professional building before being tossed? Then there are those that will take a newly laid carpet when buying a new home, and not like it, and replace it with another, throwing the 'new' one out. It's all a vicious cycle (and not just about carpet) and makes me crazy, but we are a country of it.

    1. Oh, I totally agree that recycling the bottles into carpet is better than nothing! (We also have no carpet) It just frustrates me that there is an endless stream of single-use plastic bottles that ultimately, one way or another, end up in the landfill.

      Thank you for providing a more positive outlook :)

  2. Thank you for all the sources of bar shampoo. I have tried a couple and didn't like them, so now I wash my hair with baking soda and do the cider vinegar rinse that you do. But my kids won't go for it. So I started buying bulk shampoo for them. I take my own bottle to the store and fill up from the giant plastic bottle there. But it still generates some plastic waste. My older daughter will definitely try bar shampoo. My younger one, maybe not (she's 13 and thinks I'm an environmental zealot). But if we somehow totally run out of shampoo in the shower, she may just be forced to try it out :)

  3. Thanks so much. We are happy you like the Aquarian Bath shampoo bars. : )