One of the easiest and most impactful ways to reduce plastic waste in your bathroom is to tackle the issue of body wash and shampoos/conditioners. A typical 16oz / 500ml body wash, assuming 1 shower per day generally lasts 1 month. For shampoo and conditioner, assuming you soap your hair twice per week should last 3 months. Total these up and one person is estimated to go through 20 plastic containers per year! And that’s not even counting the other beauty products that you might have in your routine like lotions, contact lens solution, deodorant, mouthwash – the fact is, these add up and where you are able to, it’s nice to know that you can easily eliminate those 20 bottles from your cleaning routine.
Instead of these plastic bottles of body wash, shampoo, and conditioner, you can use bar soaps. Bar soaps come in beautiful designs, colorful blocks, with natural ingredients made for face, body, and hair, depending on what you’re looking for. [footnote] Above images sourced from Etsy shops: PineTreeRoadSoap, CadronCreekSoapworks, MapleBeeProducts, and shopElixirApothecary [/footnote] The best thing about bar soaps is that you can basically create it in any scent that you like, whether that’s oranges, or lavender, or beer. You can add natural exfoliants like sea salt or sugar. Or naturally solve problem areas, like using activated charcoal to prevent outbreaks so you don’t have to use chemicals like benzoyl peroxide.
Alternatives to bar soap include soap nuts (turn into liquid soap for easy use), baking soda to replace shampoo bottles (simply use 1-2 tablespoons and sprinkle directly onto scalp, or mix with water, then massage and rinse like normal). An effective replacement from standard conditioners is with the use of an apple cider vinegar or coconut oil. For dandruff, you can add essential oils like tea tree oil.
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Where to Buy Bar Soap Locally
For those in the U.S., Agrilicious provides a list of markets where you can buy local foods and handmade goods (including soaps) based on your zip code. Whether you’re looking for farmers markets, a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, an organic grocer, or a farm/ranch, Agrilicious can provide you a range of options.
In addition, you can also perform a simple Google search for “farmers markets” + [your city] or “handmade soap” + [your city] to see what comes up.
Sometimes, based on where you happen to live, you do not have access to local shops/markets and you do not have the time/interest / ingredients to make your own soaps. In that case, you can have your “neighbors” make it for you!
Etsy is a marketplace for handmade items from (mostly) small business owners. Here, you’ll find some of the most creative and unique items that are available because people are able to work with smaller batches. The website itself has this great “Search Local” function that allows you to shop from sellers that live in your area. This means less transportation = fewer carbon emissions. Plus, you are able to support a business in your local community. Bonus if you find a seller that offers “local pickup” and intend to pass by that area anyway.
If there are no Etsy Local sellers in your area, you can always use the normal Etsy that sources products from a large geographical area.
A reliable choice for fresh handmade soaps; from my experience, this British company has always strived to be at the forefront of environmentally and socially conscious consumers. They have plenty of U.S. locations, perhaps there’s one near you? Alternatively, you can also order online. While you have to consider the carbon emissions from the transportation, they will ship your products in a cardboard box filled with biodegradable and compostable peanuts (made of potato starch).
Extending the Life of a Bar
To extend the life of your bar soap, you can add what’s known as a “soap saver” to the bottom of your soap dish. While my tendency is to avoid recommending plastics, I don’t necessarily think plastic is the enemy in all cases. Plastic is actually pretty amazing when you think about it. It’s super strong and durable, and at the same time, is waterproof and light-weight. When used sparingly and intelligently (i.e. in long-term products), I think the benefits exceed the drawbacks. The reason I recommend the soap saver is because it gets people to actually maintain the habit of using bar soap by making the use of a bar soap the most pleasurable it can be. No one likes the routine of picking up a slimy bar of soap because the water did not drain properly from yesterday’s shower because the air is unable to circulate where the soap hits the dish. The soap saver prevents this!
For those who cannot yet make the switch to a plastic-free option, consider ensuring you buy a bottle that is recyclable and to make sure you recycle it properly after it’s life. Hopefully, you’ll be able to join the disposable plastic-free journey soon!