bathroom & cosmetics

Scrub it off!

How to avoid micro-plastic in cosmetics

Who doesn’t love scrubs? They just make your skin feel so nice and soft and so incredibly smell good (Eeehm I’m not talking about the TV show, guys…). But did you also know that they end up in honey, drinking water or fish?

The micro-particles in body scrubs are often made of plastic. So are the so-called “pearls” in certain toothpaste brands or the micro-particles in a number of other cosmetics. Micro-particles are so tiny that purification plants can’t get them out of the water. Often you can hardly see them, but eventually they end up in the sea, in organisms and even on your plate and in your drinking water. At the moment nobody even knows how micro-plastic will affect the environment in the future.

For a long time I wasn’t aware that there wasn’t only plastic on the outside of cosmetics (I mean the packaging), but also inside my shower gel or my foundation. Due to sensitive skin and my determination to reduce packaging I pretty much swapped all my cosmetics for natural alternatives within the past year. But when I checked this list a friend sent me today I couldn’t believe that the mascara I used for a long time actually contained plastic. I’m glad I ditched it.

a delicious eco-friendly alternative: homemade scrub

a delicious eco-friendly alternative: homemade scrub

If you want to do something as well, swap your old cosmetics for more eco-friendly alternatives. Such a small thing to do, such a big effect! This list will help. Otherwise check for polyethylene glycol (PEG) in the list of ingredients. You can even make your own body scrubs. It saves you loads of money and your skin will love the natural ingredients. I put together a big jar of body scrub with a bit of sugar, honey, olive oil and lemon juice. I found a fantastic list of body scrub recipes here. Beautyblunders’ list is just awesome and for all those of you who wanna give it a shot – it includes a lot of vegan scrub options, too.

What do you think about the micro-plastic issue? Did you know about it? And would you swap your cosmetics? Would love to hear from you about this!

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DIY soap dispenser and liquid soap

… the second life of a glass bottle

It’s this time of the year again where everyone around me seems to be sneezing and coughing. As soap bars don’t seem to be the perfect companions for this sort of situation, I started making my own liquid soap. Buying liquid soap is not really an option for me, as it’s impossible (and unthinkable) to get without plastic.

I can’t really give you a recipe for my homemade soap, as it’s way too simple. I just grated my favourite plant-based soap bar and added boiled water (You decide how thick you want your mixture to be) and a few drops of lemon or orange oil to it. I’ve only been using my homemade liquid soap for a few days and so far it seems absolutely fine. As I keep it in a small bottle it will be used up quickly and I guess I won’t get any problems with the texture. But I will definitely give you a little update on the long-term effects of my soap in a few weeks. I also found Wellness Mama’s recipe and the long article on Lovely Greens quite helpful.

So what to do with this now? I tried using glass bottles (with ordinary lids/caps), but it wasn’t very convenient, as I always poured way too much soap over my hands. So I decided to make my own soap dispensers (which by the way are great for my homemade washing-up liquid, too). I saw some many cool DIY soap dispensers online that inspired me to do this, for example on The Red Chair Blog (Mine pretty much look like them now, they were just too pretty) or on Redhead can Decorate. I started asking people for their old plastic soap dispensers (Danke, Mama 🙂 ) and removed their pump caps.

So I went through my collections of old glass bottles (I chose a pretty one from France) and found a perfect match straight away – no glue needed. It fits perfectly and you can remove it easily to refill it. So here are my DIY glass bottle soap/washing-up liquid dispensers:

for my soap

for my soap

for my washing-up liquid

for my washing-up liquid

By the way, I’ve already got a project for the future. This recycled whisky bottle soap dispenser is pretty kick-ass! Someone might find might it under the Christmas tree this year 🙂

No bag, please!

An update on avoiding plastic

Downsize?

Did you notice? I’ve been posting a lot of recipes, photos and DIY ideas lately. So although I’ve always been keeping the idea of reducing plastic (and packaging in general) in mind, I haven’t really given you an update on or a summary of my efforts. Half a year after I had completed my “plastic challenge” I thought it was about time to put my posts into perspective again. So what has changed?

Well, first of all: Things are still changing. I still try to keep my level of plastic consumption as low as possible, especially as more and more shocking news about the amount of damage plastic has already done to the environment and our health come up (For a short summary click here). But one thing is for sure: I’m still nowhere near the stage where I would say I’ve perfected the art of going plastic-free and turned my place into a zero waste household (like this family manages to), especially as there are some things I just can’t live without (toilet paper would be one of them…). However, I found more and more little tricks, I re-used a lot more things and I also started to reduce my amount of other packaging. On top of that I felt like I consumed less (and spent less money) in general and I discovered a lot of great secondhand markets and online share groups.

The keywords for me are “re-using”, “upcycling”, “sharing” and “making”. So here a few more tricks I learned. I wanted to share them with you because they really made my life so much easier. They will also give you a little summary of what has happened on ingloriousplastics since the end of my challenge.

Re-using

Whenever I buy something packaged I try to find some way to re-use the packaging (I found the Trash Backwards app extremely helpful for that.). This is also how I found a compromise for my toilet paper dilemma: I re-use the plastic packaging. If you cut off the top, you can use it like a normal plastic bag.

As I generally prefer glass, I ended up with a whole bunch of glass jars. Fortunately there are a million things you can do with them and I wouldn’t know how to survive without my little jar collection anymore. I keep on re-using them for all kinds of things: as an alternative to Tupperware containers, for homemade jams (for example my drunken plum jam), chutneys, smoothies, lemonade, dips, dried fruit, herbal oils, as pretty vases, cereal boxes, candy containers or even to serve salad in them. You can also put tea light candles in them. It’s funny cause this wasn’t my intention in the first place, but glass jars actually became some of the most important little helpers in my apartment. Just see for yourself:

red millet salad in a glass jar

red millet salad in a glass jar

apple dessert in a glass jar

apple dessert in a glass jar

Fruit in rum, dad style

Fruit in rum, dad style

tomato chutney in an old chickpea jar

tomato chutney in an old chickpea jar

homemade drunken plum jam

homemade drunken plum jam

Plum chutney

Plum chutney

I found just as many ideas for re-using glass bottles. Pretty bottles can be re-used as vases, for holding candles and of course as a vessel for all sorts of liquids or homemade cosmetics.

homemade herbal oil

homemade herbal oil

homemade green smoothie using a recycled passata bottle

homemade green smoothie using a recycled passata bottle

Old cans make pretty good vases, pen holders, toothbrush holders and plant pots.

I generally try to avoid packaged fruit, but sometimes I found it hard to find things like loose strawberries. So I turned the fruit containers into little greenhouses. That way I don’t have to buy any plastic plant pots. The great thing about that: The fruit containers already have holes at the bottom, which makes it a lot easier to water your plants.

before...

before…

... and after

… and after

Last but not least I tried to find a way to re-use envelopes, magazine pages and lotion containers: I cut old envelopes into little pieces and use them as little notes (for shopping lists etc.). I use pretty pages from old magazines as gift wrapping paper. And I also started using old lotion containers for my soaps.

Upcycling

Whenever I can’t find a way to re-use packaging, I try to make something with it and use at least a little part of it. That’s how I came up with making my own business cards from drink cartons, napkin rings from toilet paper rolls and old newspapers, envelopes from old magazine pages, bookmarks from old candy wrappers and cereal boxes, picture frames from scrap wood and old postcards and fridge magnets from old crown caps. I also found out that you can fuse plastic bags together and use them as a wax paper-like fabric. Then you can turn the old bags into little purses, book wrappers or even clothes. Here’s a little photo gallery of my different projects:

magazine page envelopes

magazine page envelopes

toilet paper roll napkin rings

toilet paper roll napkin rings

The perfect business card for ingloriousplastics - made from an old drink carton

The perfect business card for ingloriousplastics – made from an old drink carton

Reese's pieces bookmark

Reese’s pieces bookmark

melting plastic bags together

melting plastic bags together

... and turning them into unique bookcovers

… and turning them into unique bookcovers

... or postcards

… or postcards

another idea: a scrap wood postcard

another idea: a scrap wood postcard

There are also a lot of things I wanted to do with old clothes. Whenever a piece of clothing was in such a bad state that I couldn’t mend it or give it to someone else, I tried to use the fabric for something different – I turned an old t-shirt into cotton pads and re-usable tissues for example.

DIY cotton pads

DIY cotton pads

I’m also planning on making jeans napkins and pillowcases. And I like to use fabric scraps for decorating my homemade jams:

fabric decoration for my mixed berry jam

fabric decoration for my mixed berry jam

Telling you about all my little upcycling projects I almost forgot the biggest and most fun thing I did: turning an old beer crate into a unique seat for my friends.

beer crate seat

beer crate seat

Sharing & making

Avoiding plastic made me think about what I consumed. So for me it was only logical that I wouldn’t only pay attention to the packaging, but to my behaviour as a consumer in general. I want to downsize and simplify my life. A lot of interesting projects and initiatives like “Umsonstladen” or “Givebox” helped me with this.

Givebox in Düsseldorf

Givebox in Düsseldorf

A public book case is another great idea for sharing things.

A public book case is another great idea for sharing things.

I didn’t only find great secondhand markets in my area (the “Weiberkram” market in Neuss is great for girls’ clothes), but also initiatives that focus on swapping, sharing and giving things to others for free (get more information on this here).

clothes swaps

Even though I was just talking about flea markets, I do actually have to admit I hardly bought any clothes this year as I participated in so many clothes swaps. I got rid of clothes that didn’t fit me anymore and in return I got a completely new wardrobe. I know that this only works as long as people buy new clothes (If we all wore our clothes until they fell apart it wouldn’t work obviously), but I think it’s still a good idea for all those who end up with a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit anymore or which they got as a gift and didn’t like.

I generally try to make more stuff myself – that means cooking from scratch (therefore you can find so many recipes on ingloriousplastics), mixing my own cosmetics and cleaning products, sewing, mending and repairing things. I found a good shoemaker that fixes my shoes for as little as 7€ and I also plan on checking out a Repair Café soon. That way you automatically end up with a lot less packaging – and you save quite a bit of money, too.

So I hope this gives you an idea of what happened behind the scenes of ingloriousplastics and helps you understand the mix of topics in my blog a bit better. And I want to thank all of you for your support and the ideas you sent me. Next week I’m gonna give you a little update on plastic-free shopping, cooking (I love the plastic-free chef) and cosmetics. If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know. Would love to read your thoughts on that!

The toothy issue

Toothpaste and scrubs – Products worth being ditched and green alternatives

I’ve been paying attention to plastic packaging for quite a while now. But what still bugs me is the fact that there are so many different kinds of toothpaste and body or face scrubs that actually contain plastic. Quite often this is even used in ads and commercial by advertising “micro crystals” or similar stuff. These little particles are normally coloured, so they are relatively easy to spot in white toothpaste. When you check the list of ingredients at the back of the product and you read polyethylene glycol (PEG), then you know for sure you’ve got plastic in it. Another hint: Cosmetics and toiletries containing PEG are usually those sort of products that promise even whiter teeth and smoother skin. What I found interesting was the fact that I found more PEG in expensive brand products than in no name products.

Can you see the little blue micro particles?

Can you see the little blue micro particles?

So you wonder why I get so upset by finding plastic in toothpaste and cosmetics? Not only does it go right into your body (I have to admit I do not know what it does to the human body. But the fact that I don’t know makes me a bit careful with stuff in general), you also flush it down right into the water as micro plastic is so tiny that purification plants can’t get it out of the dirty water. The effects of this are yet to be fully discovered, which only leads to one conclusion for me: Go for eco-friendly toothpaste and scrubs that work with natural scrubbing agents. And raise awareness for this issue.

bogobrush – An eco-friendly toothbrush

This was a depressing start of this week’s post – but I found something to cheer you up. And as dental hygiene found its way into my blog already, let’s continue with that: When I went to the States a few weeks ago I finally learned about alternatives to plastic toothbrushes. The one I like the best is called bogobrush. This toothbrush is made of bamboo, its handle is 100% biodegradable and for every toothbrush you buy they give one to a person in need – a great idea in my opinion. On top of that (not that I would care that much) the brush looks pretty stylish. I admit, it’s still not a 100% plastic-free as the bristles are made of plastic, but it’s probably the best solution I have spotted so far. You just remove the bristles and bury the handle in your backyard (or someone else’s 🙂 ). At the moment bogobrush is only available online, but they ship the brushes from the States to Europe. The brushes cost 10 Dollars (+5 Euros for shipping).

Your opinion? Would they be an alternative for you?

Plastic beaches

Just watched this ZDF documentary about plastic waste and the effects on the ocean. Here is the link. It’s in German with English subtitles and will still be online for a few more days. I knew about the things they were showing, but it’s always shocking to see the amount of damage plastic has already done to the environment. The thought of ever having used industrially produced body scrub and tooth paste that contained nano particles makes me sick. Normally I’m not a fan of throwing out things you could still use, but when it comes to body scrub and nano-particle-tooth-paste you really don’t wanna flush that stuff down the sink and into the ocean!

DIY cotton pads

What to do with this old t-shirt?

What to do with this old t-shirt?

My idea of the day: re-usable cotton pads made from old t-shirts. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier, as it’s so simple. All you need is an old t-shirt, scissors, string and a needle (or use your sawing machine).

Cut several circles (you can use one of your old cotton pads as a model) out of the old t-shirt and seal the edges with a few stitches. That’s all you have to do. If you don’t care too much about the look or you don’t mind that they don’t last forever, you can just cut the circles without sealing the edges. If you put moisturizer on them, they work very well as make-up remover pads. And they’re dirt cheap as well (old t-shirt=0 Euros). Put them in the wash with your other laundry and you can re-use them for a long, long time.

The tissue issue

Or: Things that rhyme might sound less serious, but are worth a thought, too!

I’ve been quite a busy bee this week, so it took me a bit longer this time to write a new post. I haven’t stopped being plastic-observant though, so while I socialized and cooked with my friends I came across another thing that bugged me – paper napkins, tissues and kitchen roll. Wherever you go, it comes in plastic. So what to do?

  • I’ve never used kitchen roll, so that’s an easy one. If I had used it before though, I would have just ditched it. I don’t think there is any use for kitchen roll if you have a sponge and a tea towel. It’s probably one of the most unnecessary items to buy.
  • The tissue problem is relatively easy to solve as well. I can still buy tissues in cardboard boxes (dm’s recycling brand is 100% plastic free for example). If I want to take tissues with me, I just put them in my pockets or in my ”TaTüTa” (= tissue bag, German: ”Taschentüchertasche”), a ridiculous sounding but useful thing I made myself a little while ago. It’s incredibly easy to make (you can use fabric from old clothes for example) and it looks quite pretty as well. If you want to give this a try and get creative, check out the great tutorial here.

    A ''TaTüTa''

    A ”TaTüTa”

  • However, while reducing the amount of plastic waste, I also started to pay attention to other things I might ”overdo” like cardboard and paper. So I think cotton tissues and napkins, things generations of men and women in my family happily used, will be my long-term solution. I actually started wondering: When exactly did everyone start to ditch cotton tissues? And why? When I was a child every man seemed to have them in their pockets. So I’m gonna start making loads of them tomorrow. And just to celebrate the idea of recycling, I will use my man’s old t-shirts. He doesn’t know about this yet 🙂

Lesson learned: Re-usability increases street credibility!