This post was first published in October 2015 and updated in March 2018.
Reducing or, at best, eliminating plastic trash from your life is one thing everyone can do to help make our planet a more beautiful place! There are some basic things we can all do immediately to reduce our trash load, some of which are: use reusable canvas bags for shopping, say no to bottled water and just carry a reusable steel bottle, buy bulk rather than single-wrapped items, cut out sodas and other plastic bottled or canned beverages, bring your own containers for things that usually come with an extra plastic container, and give up frozen convenience food. Also getting broken things repaired instead of trashing them and buying second-hand rather than new items will help improve your plastic-footprint!
Make your own wherever possible
You can easily replace all your body hygiene products such as your body wash, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and deodorant with homemade natural alternatives. See our post about making your own natural body hygiene products and our post about making your own natural household cleaning agents.
Find sustainable alternatives
Of course there will always be things which you absolutely need to buy and cannot make yourself. What you can do, however, is to replace products made from and packaged in plastic with biodegradable, or at least more ecologically friendly alternatives. Here are a few examples of products that I’ve replaced:
Your toothbrush is something you replace every few months, yet the conventional toothbrush is designed in a way that you throw the entire thing away. There are two viable alternatives that I am aware of:
- Toothbrushes with a replaceable head.These let you swap the toothbrush head instead of replacing the entire toothbrush. This significantly reduces the amount of plastic waste for those with plastic-heads, and there are even versions with natural bristle and heads made from biodegradable plastic.
You can find one on this site, in your local organic store, or if you’re lucky even in a supermarket near your.
- Wooden toothbrushes with natural bristle. These are fully made from wood (often from bamboo, because it is a durable, sustainable type of wood) and sport a bristle made from biodegradable material such as pig bristle or a vegan alternative. You can find one here, your local organic store should have them, and you can surely find an online retailer that is based in or delivers to your country!
- The good old wooden toothpick. I find it does its job quite well, is fully biodegradable, very cheap, and easy to find in any supermarket. Some are heavily packaged in plastic though, so either reduce plastic wrappings by buying bulk or look for an option that is wrapped in parchment.
- Dental floss made from biodegradable materials. There are some options out there that are made from silk or other biodegradable materials and waxed with vegetable or bees wax.
However, I have yet to come across a product that is fully biodegradable and not heavily wrapped in plastic.I have found a beautiful silken dental floss by Vömel that comes in a glass jar!
Razor and Razorblades
Not only are razorblades hellishly expensive, they are also mostly made from plastic. However, there is a very viable, aesthetically very pleasing alternative: the double-edged safety razor. There are numerous products of this type of razor, made entirely from steel or wood, out there. The best part is that they use the old standard razor blade, which is plastic-free and usually comes in very cheap packs of 10.
Clingwrap (plastic wrapping foil)
Everything these days comes wrapped in plastic foil and having some clingwrap around is common sense in most households. But, not only is clingwrap a huge source of disposable plastic waste, wrapping your food in plastic foil is also not very healthy because of all the plasticizers and other chemicals that will travel from the plastic into your food. Luckily there is, again, a very simple and beautiful alternative that you can easily buy online or make yourself.
Simply take a piece of natural fabric (such as cotton or hemp), put it on a baking tray, sprinkle with beeswax (like you would sprinkle a pizza with cheese, but start off with a little wax only), and bake in the oven at 80 degrees celsius for 5 minutes. Spread the melted wax with a (clean!) brush and repeat the process if there is too little wax. Once your cloth is nice and waxy hang it up for drying and ready is your homemade wax-wrapper!
Most cotton buds have a plastic shaft. There are alternatives sporting a wooden shaft and sold in paper or cardboard packaging. Check your local organic store, online shops in your country and you should find something like the Hydrophil cotton buds.
Condoms are usually made from latex, which is a material made from vulcanized natural rubber. However, due to its treatment this rubber is not fully biodegradable. Moreover, latex often contains cancer-causing nitrosamines and most condoms are treated with nonoxynol-9 (N-9): N-9 is a toxic nonionic that breaks down sperm walls to make sperms immobile, but that is also known for causing micro-abraisions in vaginal tissue leading to vaginal irritation and burning. Unfortunately I have yet to find a fully satisfying alternative, but you can try the following:
- Condoms that are not treated with N-9, such as FairSquared Condoms, Glyde Condoms or Einhorn Condoms. These options are N-9 free, but as they are made from latex they are not fully biodegradable and still come heavily wrapped in plastic packages.
- Condom alternatives such as cervical caps. I have only read about these, but these re-usable silicone caps such as FemCap are said to be a viable, reusable alternative to condoms.
- Use the Sympto-Thermal Method, also known as Natural Family Planning (NFP), Temperature Method, or Natural Cycle. This method relies on fertility awareness of the female partner, which means reading the body’s signs of fertility and infertility (mainly basal temperature and cervical mucus consistency).
This is all I can share with you for now. If you have any more tips or know of fully biodegradable condoms please share in the comments!