My attempted breakup with plastic

20141118 chelsea 122 Chelsea Henderson | December 17, 2019 |


I am in Costa Rica celebrating my 50th birthday but wrote this before I left so you wouldn't miss me as much.

Sure, I recycle. Every week I dutifully drag the recycle bin(s) to the curb. Sometimes they overflow. I used to see that brimming bin as a good thing, but recently it struck me: it's good I'm recycling, but it's bad I have so much to recycle.

My journey toward less plastic actually started several years ago with plastic water bottles. I used to buy one, if not two water bottles 4-5 times a week at the fitness studio where I work out. Sometimes I would fill those bottles back up, but at most, I used them a couple of times before tossing them. My 2015 resolution: carry a reusable water bottle. (Fun fact: Bob Inglis and I initially bonded over our diligence in traveling with our refillable water bottles.) I'm happy to say that four years later, I'm never far from my water bottle, which is currently with me in Costa Rica.

I was an early adopter of reusable grocery bags. Let's be honest, my intent was partly to eliminate those damn plastic bags but also, the reusable bags are stronger and can hold more items. While bringing the bags into the store is now muscle memory, it's a great disappointment those few times I forget them in the car. In those rare cases, I often buy new ones. But the plastic bags for produce posed a conundrum until a crafty friend made me my own reusable produce bags. (If you don't have a crafty friend, you can buy them pretty much everywhere now.)

Laundry detergent! It comes either in big plastic bottles or in plastic containers and I just can't anymore. But we need clean clothes, right? Instagram read my mind and sold me on Dropps. I have two teenage boys and they do their own laundry, but a lot of it. So I got the biggest order of Dropps pods that I could and we have only had to reorder once. No big bulky plastic containers to recycle, clean fresh scent. (Do I sound like an ad?)

Let's have a little talk about health and beauty products. They are the worst and finding sustainable alternatives can be hard. Here's what I've managed to do. I recently replaced cotton balls with muslin washcloths, am about to bite the bullet on refillable shampoo and conditioner, converted to bar soap, and.... can I tell you about my razor? After a long fan-girl call with one of our newest spokespeople, Mary Anna Mancuso (side note: you're going to love her) I bought a straight razor from Albatross Designs. Yes, it was an investment, but I will have it forever and the blade replacement is not only super cheap, but they will take back and repurpose the used blades. I was scared the first few times I used it, but now it's my favorite part of the shower.

I'm not trying to shame anyone into adopting any particular behavior. The only way we can really change is if we feel personally invested in that change. In the work I do here, I spend half my day reading the news, and it isn't all good. Is my conversion to a plastic-free straight razor going to save the world? No. But these small steps that I take, when added with the small steps others take, can start to make a difference.

My birthday request to you: pick one behavior change you think you can stick to. Set yourself up for success by budgeting time. Invest in what you need to make sticking to your goal more seamless. And share it (along with your current practices) with me so I can be inspired and to inspire others.


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