The Plastic Project: The Guest Bathroom

When you never use a bathroom, it’s remarkably easy to rid it of plastic.

Or so I thought.

This month’s Plastic Project: our guest bathroom. Easy peasy, right? We don’t use it, so there’s no personal products shrouded in plastic that will, I’m increasingly convinced, find its way to at least Boca Ciega Bay, if not the Gulf of Mexico.

We just returned from a trip to the Florida Keys, where the amount of plastic along the waterfront simultaneously reaffirmed my decision to rid our lives of single-use plastics (as well as multi-use plastic, if I’m being honest) and disheartened me because there is SO MUCH plastic.

Nevertheless, there’s a problem I’d hoped to kick down the road until I tackled our bathroom: Toilet paper.

rolls of toilet paper, arranged horizontally
This month’s challenge: finding toilet paper that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic. Suggestions welcome!

Guests like to use toilet paper, it seems. I can’t fault them for that. So our choices here are to never invite anyone inside our home again, which seems drastic and also a dick move when we’re having a pool party (plus it will encourage people to pee in our pool), so I need to find another option.

Right now, our Amazon Subscribe-and-Save has us well-stocked, but as of today, I’ve canceled that subscription, because my beloved Angel Soft comes wrapped in plastic, so that’s a no-go.

No, we’re not giving up toilet paper. We’re just giving up the plastic. When our current supply runs low, I’ll choose one of these brands, because they’re wrapped in paper, not plastic.

Also, I didn’t realize it was Plastic-Free July, but it is. Never too late to take the challenge!

How the Plastic Project started

The Plastic Project: My Home Office

The Plastic Project: Making Kitchen Hand Soap. Sort of.

I’ve started de-plasticizing my kitchen, because it’s becoming clear it’s going to take more than a month to do it. I’ve had some small victories; for example, I can bring my reusable container to the local produce market, Spiros Pasadena Produce & Deli,  to get feta and brine (also mozzarella and brine), so that’s nice – they don’t mind at all and, in fact seemed pleased to do it.
Other things take a little more time, like hand soap. Bar soap gets gross, especially on a kitchen sink, plus I really like liquid soap. Once upon a time, I was a Bath & Body Works junkie, but the price, the plastic, and the ongoing discussions about whether or not their products could contain harmful ingredients (I’m not endorsing this site, but linking to it to make the point that it’s one of many speculating and suggesting that yes, the stuff at Bath & Body Works may not be the best choice for your health) has led me to find alternatives.
Instead, I’ve started making my own hand soap. I make large batches – it isn’t hard – and save it in an old container so I can refill my countertop soap dispenser as needed.
A quick – and then, a more protracted – search for “how do I make liquid hand soap” gave pretty basic results: equal parts water and Castile soap, then almond oil and, if desired, vitamin E oil. Add essential oils, mix, and – supposedly – voila: handmade liquid soap.
Sort of.
The liquid soap was runny. It worked, sure, but I didn’t like the consistency. The answer, it turns out, is glycerin. Another Google search assured me I could use as much glycerin as I wanted in my liquid soap, and it would give it a better texture.
That did the trick.
Sort of.
It’s still runnier than I’d like, so I went on the hunt for thickeners. Apparently the answer is salt. Specifically, a salt solution. My first two attempts at a basic salt solution were… not good. Apparently you can’t use kosher salt and also the website that suggested a 2:1 ration of water to salt was generous with the salt.
I tried adding some olive oil but that didn’t work as well as I hoped.
Runny or not, it does seem to clean my hands, which is really the point.
There is, of course, one more problem: Glycerin, Castile soap, almond oil, and Vitamin E oil all come in – you guessed it – plastic bottles. So now, of course, I’m on the hunt for places that allow you to refill these, and I’m not finding any. I’m choosing to focus on the positive: Even the smallest of these plastic bottles (the Vitamin E oil) will help replace at least 10 single-use plastic liquid soap bottles.
Ingredients for making hand soap on a counter
Making kitchen hand soap (instead of buying plastic bottles) wasn’t tough, or particularly expensive, but it doesn’t quite have the same texture. After much experimenting, I’m OK with that.
Cathy Salustri

Oh, here’s the liquid hand soap recipe if you want to give it a go:
1 c. Castile soap
1 c. water
2 Tbsp. almond oil
2 Tbsp. Vitamin E oil
30 drops tea tree oil
25 drops lavender oil
20 drops lemon oil
1 c. glycerin
Olive Oil to desired thickness
Salt solution to desired thickness
Add the soap to a refillable bottle, then add all other ingredients. I use a funnel, and add the glycerin last to make sure all the oils get washed into the bottle.

The Plastic Project: My Home Office

Office ink.

I’ve never thought so much about ink. That was, not until January and my resolution to rid my life of single-use plastic. Then, I thought about ink a lot. I thought about ink so much, in fact, that I didn’t get this post written and posted until, well, now.

The 2022 plastic-free experiment started in my home office, where I have little plastic. Actually, almost none  – save two things: Printer ink and my fountain pen.  Let’s start with the easy one: Find a replacement for fountain pen cartridges.

I’ve used a fountain pen for most of my writing – some 20 years – and I love the way it feels to write with one. I’ve always used the disposable plastic ink cartridges for ink, and my first task for the Plastic Project involved finding a non-single-use replacement. In the recesses of my dusty mind, I remembered seeing something in the new pen box called (I’ve since learned) a converter. 

Fountain Pen
I love this pen. It cost me $75 at a GeckoFest almost 10 years ago and it’s been worth every penny.
Cathy Salustri

While trying to find a converter that fit my pen, I learned a bit about the history of fountain pens, something I was not expecting from this project. But what I didn’t learn was what size I would need, because when I bought my pen roughly 10 years ago  – at one of Gulfport’s annual street festivals, GeckoFest – I either didn’t get one or threw out the converter because I didn’t see myself using it. 

Thankfully, although the company who sold me the pen, WriteTurnz, hasn’t returned to GeckoFest in quite some time, the company still has a website. I emailed Jason asking what size I needed and if he could suggest a company, and he calls me almost immediately and offers to send me one that fits. He also offers to repair my much-loved, much-used, much-abused pen.

(This pen, incidentally, has wood that came from a cabbage palm that fell during Hurricane Charley in 2004, cost me $75, and has been worth every damn penny. I use it for everything and it’s on my person almost every time I leave the house. I highly recommend this company if you want to move away from disposable pens.)

As for printer ink… We have plenty of cartridges right now, but when we re-order, I’ll order refillable cartridges, and this has caused much consternation and stress, because one, I suspect refiling the cartridges won’t exactly be a tidy process, and two, I have remarkably little faith in how they’ll work. If anyone has any guidance on refillable inkjet cartridges for a Canon TR8500, I’d love to hear it!)

Next up: The guest bathroom (I keep looking at all the plastic in our main bathroom and it overwhelms me… I’m going to have to work up to that one.)