By Mala Persaud, owner, Trace–The Zero Waste Store

The Plastic Free Challenge is a brilliant foot-in-the-door experience for those who want to get motivated and reduce their plastic consumption. Skipping bags, bottles, and straws is a small start that goes a long way. [Editor’s note: It’s not too late to register! Sign up for the Challenge here.]

There are so many options. There’s a reusable bag or bottle for sale pretty much everywhere you go now, at virtually every price point. While some options are way better than others—for bags, I now go for cloth, or bags made with recycled, rather than virgin plastic—buying what’s affordable or convenient is a first step that gets you started on building more good habits.

What about those of us who’ve been at the bag, bottle, and straw thing for a while and are not sure what to take on next? De-plasticizing the bathroom is a good option. Deciding where to start, however, can be scarier than a haunted Halloween hayride. But like that hayride, take a chance. You might like it.

In my research to develop my store, Trace, I’ve been trying all sorts of things, from all sorts of makers. My bathroom isn’t completely plastic free, but in time, it will be. Here are a few items I recommend starting with.

  1. A bamboo toothbrush. Plastic toothbrushes are responsible for 50 million tons of waste in America alone—every single year. Bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials we have available today, and it makes great toothbrushes. Avoid buying them at the big box stores or Amazon because they are packaged in plastic and that defeats the whole point. I’ve heard from a handful of customers that the bamboo heads are too big for their mouths. Try a kid-size one, and that should do the trick. Either way, at $5 or less, it’s the right price. Just store the toothbrush upright and replace after three months. If you’re truly a zero-waster, remove the bristles and upcycle the sticks or compost them at home.
  2. Silk dental floss. There are some good options on the market. My preference is Dental Lace, the brain child of a woman-owned business in New England. The floss comes in a pretty glass vial with a metal screw cap. All you need is about 14 inches of floss to do your whole mouth. When the floss runs out, unscrew the cap and pop the refill in. If you don’t waste it, it lasts a long time. The floss will compost at home.
  3. Shampoo bars. Finding the right one might take a little time, but once you do, you’ll never go back. The one I landed on is HiBar. It’s gently scented, also made in the USA by a woman-owned business, and it comes to a nice lather. It’s made a huge difference to my hair, and I recommend it highly. They are $26.50 for the set of shampoo and conditioner, but they last a long time and give GREAT results. I’m trying some other brands and am happy to take recommendations for other brands to carry. Contact me here.
  4. Soap. When you buy body wash, much of what you’re paying for is water, and that plastic bottle will outlive your great grandchildren, their great grandchildren, and then some. Farmers’ markets often feature local soap makers with different and sustainable approaches to soapmaking that can be plastic free, cruelty free, or package free. They’re not usually cheap, but they’re often worth every penny. Even the drugstore still sells bar soap, usually on the bottom shelf. Just skip the brands that are wrapped in plastic film.
  5. Swedish cleaning cloths. These are great for surface cleaning in the kitchen and in the bathroom too. They last a long time and are said to replace 17 rolls of paper towels. That’s a lot of plastic wrap, trees, and chemicals you’re saving. The ones I carry are designed and printed in the USA using water-soluble inks.

Plastic Free living is a process of trial and error, and let’s face it, not everyone is comfortable doing everything zero waste. The important thing is to try new things where you can and find what works for you. If you’re wedded to your electric toothbrush or beard oil, keep using it. Just swap out something else. Over time, good habits build on each other and baby steps become giant leaps. Remember the words of zero waste chef Anne Marie Bonneau:

What’s your favorite bathroom swap? Let me know and I’ll be sure to add it to the inventory. You can contact me here.