Bamboo bowls and plates from Grow Forward.

Our oceans are positively swimming in plastic, and we have found microplastics in the bellies of fish and birds. And it’s not just the animals, it’s in humans too. A 2019 study conducted by The University of Newcastle Australia suggests that the average person may ingest up to 5g of plastic every week, the equivalent of a credit card.

I looked around my house and saw that plastic was everywhere. Especially in our kitchens and bathrooms. I wanted to make a change for my daughter’s sake – every bottle, cup, bowl, and utensil we had for her was plastic. Even though I always checked to make sure they are BPA-free, I learned in my process that other plastic replacements such as BPS can be harmful and are currently under investigation. 

I should mention that sustainability and privilege go hand-in-hand. I think it is important to note that choosing to avoid plastic is expensive. It’s difficult, it takes work, and it requires a financial position where you can afford to invest in products or shop at different stores. 

Here are the steps I took to live a lower waste lifestyle:

Cups from Elk & Friends.

1. I started by giving away the plastic items from our kitchen cupboards and replacing them with bamboo, silicone, stainless steel, and glass. This was without a doubt the most expensive part of my process. I chose Elk & Friends (elkandfriends.com) for the cups and Grow Forward Kids (available via Amazon and other retailers) bamboo plates and bowls. 

2. After doing some research, I settled on replacing my soaps, shampoo, and conditioner with bar products. I really like Ethique (ethique.com) shampoo and conditioner bars, specifically the Pinkalicious scent. I have fine hair and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my hair feels and looks much better now. There are also deodorants that come in cardboard instead of plastic, I like the brand called ATTITUDE (attitudeliving.com).

Tap Refillery

3. I found some incredible local companies where I have been able to refill my hand soaps, laundry detergent, lotions, and cleaners. I recommend checking out Fig & Flower (shopfigandflower.com) in Virginia Highland, a brick-and-mortar location that offers refillable Common Good brand products as well as a wide range of zero waste makeup and self-care items. Secondly, an innovative concept called Tap Refillery (taprefilleryandsustainablegoods.com), a mobile truck that sets up at festivals, local shops, and can even be booked for private events to facilitate refills of cleaning and self-care products. 

4. I went out in search of non-plastic cleaning and kitchen tools. I had great luck at the Ace Hardware (intownhardware.net) on Scott Boulevard. There, I was able to find silicone and wood cooking utensils, reusable knitted scrubbing cloths, bamboo brushes, beeswax food wraps, and lots more. I ordered silicone reusable ziploc bags and silicone bowl lids online. I invested in a pack of mini mason jars, and we use them for storing food in small quantities, as well as the glass food storage containers I already had on hand. 

Bamboo dish brushes.

5. I started bringing my own bags to grocery shopping again. This is one area where I acknowledge I will likely not reach the zero-waste limit. It is incredibly difficult to buy many of the food items we consume in vessels that are not plastic. I bring reusable cloth produce bags to eliminate the need for plastic produce bags. I go to Sprouts (sprouts.com) and Sevananda (sevananda.coop) to use their refill stations for things like pasta, beans, nuts, and other dry goods. I try to buy my meats and cheeses from the deli instead of pre-sliced and ask for them to be wrapped in wax paper instead of plastic. 

Isadora Pennington

Isadora Pennington is a writer and photographer based in Atlanta.