For the last five or so years, my husband and I have worked tirelessly to eliminate plastic from our lives- cutting it from our diet (plastic wrapped foods) from eating out (reusable utensils and refusing plastic straws), and from our bathroom.
Honestly, I think we were most proud of the amount of plastic we eliminated from the bathroom by greening up our hygiene practices. We rid ourselves of plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorants, even cut out the plastic around toilet paper by switching to Who Gives a Crap (don’t look, they’re still out of stock). I even went green with my feminine hygiene.
But then, things changed pretty drastically for us when my husband was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. Soon, Chris was visiting hospitals and doctor offices monthly for tests, preparations for a transplant, and in a worse-case-scenario, preparing us for dialysis if necessary. These doctors visits were simply laden with single-use plastics. After getting his fistula, a minor out-patient surgery to prepare his blood vessels for possible dialysis, Chris was a little groggy and confessed he felt guilty about all the plastic they used for the procedure. However, I reminded him, THAT specific procedure was exactly why plastic was and needed to be invented. And if THAT was the only typical use of plastics, we wouldn’t be having the problems we’re experiencing now.
Less than a year after the diagnosis, our lives changed again with Chris receiving a kidney transplant. Being on immunosuppressant medications means we have to always have hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, and disinfectant when visiting the supermarket, restaurants, and even visiting other peoples’ homes. And as much as I resented it, the only products we could get for our health and safety were plastic bottles and plastic packaged items.
I came to recognize that first and foremost, we can only do WHAT WE CAN. Just like the hospitals use quite a bit of single-use plastics, there are instances where we can’t escape plastic in our lives forever. We will never 100% get rid of all plastics. But we can do our part to decrease our impact.
What ways can we improve while the world’s increased use of Purell, wet wipes, and Lysol are impacting our plastic usage? Cut back on other plastic packaged hygiene products.
- Instead of toothpaste tubes which often get tossed, make your own tooth-powder or paste with baking soda, peppermint or spearmint extract, and coconut oil (optional to make it pasty). You can also buy tooth powders with bentotite clay. Dirt and Uncle Harry are two popular brands of toothpowders which have less impact on the environment.
- Buy shampoo, conditioner, lotion, or bath gel in bulk (more stores are offering this option than ever before- and a majority will let you bring your own containers). There are also options for getting shampoo and conditioner as a bar, like soap.
- Switch to a deodorant bar or deodorant paste. Deodorant pastes often come in glass jars with metal lids, which cuts down plastic use tremendously.
- Invest in reusable feminine hygiene products- bamboo sanitary napkins, or silicone hygiene cups. Feminine hygiene products account for quite a bit of plastic waste, when you consider the average woman uses 2300 sanitary pads, and over 7000 tampons in her lifetime.
So, yes, keeping safe with sanitizing our hands and surroundings is important, and yes, it does have an impact on the environment with plastic waste. But we can make that impact less significant by reducing the other waste in our lives, with behaviors we CAN change.
Working on what we can do to make our lives better and the world brighter is what makes us superheroes. Be the change you want to see in the world, and shine bright as a radiant exemplar- taking care of yourself, your loved ones, and the planet.