Less is More: Toiletries of a Minimalist Packrat

Hi, I’m Rody

If this corroded can of Barbasol could talk, she would speak volumes about me.  The can reared her rusty head while I was unpacking from our last move nearly two years ago.  Yet again, I spared the can–let’s call her Rody–from the trash heap.

I am certain I have never purchased a can of Barbasol, and my husband Brian uses an electric razor; so I’m not precisely sure how Rody fell into my care.  My best guess is that I inherited Rody when my mom moved to Denver.   This explanation would make my striped cylindrical companion roughly 17 years old when we moved into our current apartment.  It is also possible that Rody was left behind when my sister moved to Grand Forks, which would make her approximately 13 years old.  Several years ago  I came across Rody and devised a logical plan. “I’ll use that up when my shave lotion runs out.”  I hate throwing out half-full things.

Finally, my seemingly bottomless bottle of Kiss My Face brand shave lotion was exhausted and I pressed Rody into willing service.  Her foaming action was a little flat and I had to rubber band a plastic bag around her to prevent rust rings on our porcelain tub, but true to my intention I spent Rody down to her last aerosoled gasp before finally bidding her a long overdue “adieu.”

It’s these kinds of epic experiences with packages that have helped transform me into the packaging minimalist I am today.  I can’t lightly chuck these substantial materials out, and with certain items recycling isn’t convenient or even possible.  So one by one I strive to eliminate conventional disposable packaging from my realm or reduce them to the most minimal alternatives I can find.

Herban Cowboy

After I sent Rody packing, I was determined to find a more minimalist shave solution.  I decided to give Herban Cowboy a whirl.  This bar of shave soap is designed to be used with a lather brush, so the initial investment was roughly $15 to get the set.  The bar has lasted several months and the brush can be used indefinitely.  The shave performance is adequate and I dig the old timey application.  Most of all I dig the minimal paperboard package as opposed to a bottle or aerosol can.

Battle Worn Burt’s Bees Tin

I can hardly believe that but a few years ago I was still using Carmex on my lips.  I kind of loved that crazy medicinal scent but I have since been enlightened that the alcohol in Carmex actually dries your lips.

So I converted to Burt’s Beeswax.  Their minty formula freshens breath and feels great.  I am sad to hear murmurs that their old fangled tin has been discontinued, and I’m considering stocking up on Amazon.  But I was glad to discover that Burt’s has an impressive zero landfill initiative, so you can feel okay about buying their plastic tubes too.

Gimme Five

Speaking of plastic tubes; in most of the U.S, #5 plastics are not collected for recycling.  I am hopeful that we will continue to see more comprehensive and widespread recycling resources springing up nationwide; but a fantastic resource is already in place with the Preserve Gimme Five Program, which provides recycling access through drop stations like Whole Foods.  Bring or mail in your #5 plastics, such as Brita filters, Burt’s Beeswax sticks, yogurt tubs and conventional dental floss containers to a Gimme Five location.  The Preserve website and a new iPhone app can help find stations near you.  The plastic will be used to make Preserve brand products like razors, colanders, and dishwasher safe tableware.  Preserve products are sold at stores like Whole Foods and Target.

Whole Foods Recycling Drop Station

There’s more!

In addition to #5 plastic, Whole Foods  accepts shrink wrap, plastic bags, paper/paperboard, metal, glass, and rigid plastics (other than #6 which is not recyclable).

Even Better

Sorting, hauling and recycling plastics consumes a fair amount of energy–so even better than recycling is eliminating the package altogether.

When I purchased this plastic bottle full of Suave shampoo on a trip to Keystone Colorado seven years ago, I vowed it would be the last plastic shampoo bottle I would buy.  It has since been refilled twice with shampoo sold in bulk (bring your own container and fill it up!) from the Wedge Co-op.  Its shape is a tad rumpled but otherwise, it is holding strong.

I refilled this old Suave Shampoo bottle with lavender scented bulk shampoo from the Wedge Co-op.

Hair Tip

Years ago my friend and fantastic hairdresser Mark McGraw instructed me to use far less shampoo.  “If it’s lathering up, you’re using too much,” he said.  Instead of over-cleaning your hair and replacing the natural oils with conditioner, try using just a tiny amount of shampoo to begin with.  You may be able to eliminate conditioner altogether.  The natural oils that your scalp produces are the best thing for your hair.  Mark also said when using conditioner, apply it to the ends of your hair not the scalp.  Applying conditioner on the scalp can weigh your hair down and make it look greasy faster.  Using less product saves you money and decreases pollution.

Good Choice: Floss in paperboard dispensers by Eco-Dent

Clean teeth for you, clean environment for us

As we have learned,  #5 plastic floss containers are recyclable through Gimme Five; but these paperboard containers are more minimal and also recyclable.

Tom’s of Maine

Goodbye aluminum, hello plastic laminate.

At first I was annoyed when Tom’s abandoned their recyclable aluminum tube.  It was the recyclability that had drawn me to the product in the first place.  Also I just plain prefer metal.  But I discovered this change was a thoughtful, carefully deliberated decision in response to customer complaints but still congruous with their company’s in-depth stewardship model.  Read this interesting article about the decision making process.  Tom’s partners with Gimme Five, so you can still recycle their plastic laminate empties.  Tom’s carefully selected their manufacturer for their focus on sustainability.  I’m happy to endorse Tom’s; I just wish they would sell larger capacity tubes.

Add a little Woodspice to your life.

Tom’s deodorant tube is also recyclable through Gimme Five.  If you haven’t already, I recommend giving antiperspirants the old heave-ho.  There is conflicting information out there, but antiperspirants have been linked to cancer and painful sebaceous cysts.  That’s reason enough for me.

Oyin Black Cedar Fig Deodorant

I received this nifty gift a couple years ago from my friend and toiletry guru John Jerry.  It is the most effective natural deodorant I have tried.  I’m ignoring the fact that the makers refer to it as “funk butter,” and am re-branding it Oyin Black Cedar Fig Natural Deodorant for my purposes.  It comes in a little tin instead of a plastic tube, and lasts a very long time.

Smelling Sweet

I’ve endured my share of pot shots for being a vegetarian, so I like to dish a little back when given the opportunity.  Read this scientific study concluding that vegetarians smell better.  Add that to the heap of reasons for reducing or eliminating your meat consumption!

lightly packaged soap from the hood

Sometimes “local” means within a few hundred miles.  In the case of Bryn Mawr Soap, we’re talking walking distance.  So many products are impossible to source locally, so take advantage of the ones you can.  Local artisan soap is perfect way to add a little luxury to your day.


Weleda Skinfood in an aluminum tube

The aforementioned John Jerry also gave me the gift of Weleda Skinfood; the best hand cream ever.  A little goes a long way, and the scent is like slathering yourself in key lime pie, but so much tidier.

Thanks for reading the Wednesday Post.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s