greenswimmergirl

Plastic Travel Tales

I recently started traveling for work taking me all over the country. As my travel increased, so did my plastic usage! I became acutely aware of how much I was throwing away on a daily basis. As I mentioned in a previous post, I like to make these changes in achievable pieces so I thought to myself “what are the 3 things that are generating plastic waste while on the road.”

The 3 items I identified:

  1. Water bottles
  2. Coffee cups + plastic lids
  3. Utensils
  4. Bonus – bags for carrying products on my travels

travel items

Oddly enough, the number one item for me was the plastic water bottle. While I always carried one reusable water bottle, I always felt the need to buy one more bottle. I drink a ton of water to stay hydrated on my travels. So now I carry two water bottles which I fill up at the airport. My favorite water bottle for on the go is the Camelbak Chute. I have never had it leak and it holds over 24oz. I carry this bottle with me everywhere! I fill it at water fountains, filling stations where available, bathroom faucets and even at the soda stations where you get water (sneaky little trick for those airports with awful water options). Now, I am sure some of you are saying that water tastes awful, especially in the airports and I totally agree. Luckily I was a trade show and turned on to the most amazing  filter called Santevia that lasts up to 3 months in your reusable water bottle and helps filter and improve the taste of the water.

Affiliate Link: Camelbak Chute Water Bottle

Affiliate Link: Santevia Water Filter Stick

Next up for me to tackle was to stop using coffee cups and specifically the coffee lids when I walked into the coffee shop. It was a little awkward at first to walk up to the counter and ask them to use my reusable mug. The mug is usually priced at the medium size and I have only had one coffee shop that would not use my reusable mug. I didn’t have my coffee until later when I found a coffee shop that would. I see people doing this in San Francisco on a regular basis but have yet to see anyone do this in an airport. Give it a try. My go to coffee mug which is leak and spill proof is the Contigo Snap Seal Travel Mug.

Affiliate Link: Contigo Snapseal Stainless Steel Travel Mug

Traveling on the road and eating is a constant disappointment as you walk through airports and fast food establishments seeing so much waste.  I do try to carry some of my own food with me such as nuts and homemade protein bites in reusable sandwich bags but you can only carry so much on a 3 or 4 day business trip. Below I have two recommendations to carry some snacks with you. The Stasher bags we use more in the home vs. on the road. The other option provides a better seal for travel in my opinion. If the Stasher bag has any air inside, you can get a blowout in your bag. I ended up with nuts everywhere in my backpack. The other option offers a solid seal that literally zips the pouch shut and air tight which I prefer for travel.

I try to eat lunch + dinner in a sit down restaurant like Panera or at the hotel so I can use plates and utensils that will get washed and reused vs. grabbing food to go. This has been a nice change to force myself while on the road to take a break and enjoy my meal. Unfortunately when you are on the it is difficult to do that all the time so I try to be very mindful about the packaging of meals at the airport and if I have a choice, I go with the least packaging possible. At least I do avoid the utensils entirely by carrying with me my own bamboo utensils. I have asked people to rinse them for me after the hotel breakfast buffet and they were very happy to do so. They definitely took notice that I had my own and did not use the plastic options offered. I also am working on remembering to ask for no straws in my drinks when I place the order. It is just something that gets included and I have to constantly remind myself to make this a habit. Years ago I would forget my reusable shopping bags but now it is 100% a habit and they are always with me.

Affiliate Link: Bamboo Utensils

Affiliate Link: Stasher Reusable Silicon Food Bags

Bonus shopping Bag recommendation! There is no reason to ever use a single use plastic bag. In San Francisco, they are banned and we have learned to always carry our reusable bags with us everywhere we go. The Chico Vita bag is a must have! I use mine all the time. This bag come with a little storage pouch and a carabiner and holds up to 25 lbs! They offer lots of fun colors to choose from. More importantly, this bag can be washed. I just read a report that the reusable shopping bags have been found to have bacteria so you definitely want to wash them from time to time. For Chico bags, a quick wash in cold water and line dry and you are good to go.

Affiliate Link: ChicoBag Vita

The exciting part is that I know my actions are getting noticed as I travel. I have already  heard from others I am making an impact on how they think and use plastic on the road or at home. I have received Facebook messages and text messages on the impact I have already made on people which warmed my heart and brought a tear or two to my eye. I know the lady behind me commended me for not taking the coffee when they would not use the coffee cup I had. Little by little we can all make an impact. I will live my life by leading by example and hope others will follow. Join the movement to use less plastic and help to bring others along too.

*disclosure: Links in this blog are affiliate links, meaning I make a little bit of money but at no additional cost to you. I will earn a commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. This will help me to continue to explore and offer up recommendations to reduce your plastic usage.

Ditch the Shampoo Bottle

Did you know there are 552 million shampoo bottles produced a year that could be ending up in landfills. And since it’s plastic, some surely lands in our oceans, breaking down into micro and nano plastics and therefore entering our food stream through fish and impacting many other loved ocean creatures.

If you just listen and keep your eyes and ears open, you find solutions to avoid using plastic. Bar Soap Shampoo + Conditioner! I didn’t even know that was a thing. I was definitely skeptical if this form of shampoo + conditioner would even work and specifically provide the moisturizing I needed in a conditioner. I have always been a bar soap user so I figured I should definitely give this a try. I am a true believer and total convert to bar Shampoo and Conditioner. I LOVE IT! It did take a little time to find the right products so I want to share what I learned and my top recommendations. For context, I will share that I have shoulder length straight hair that is normal to dry (from swimming). I shower and wash my hair daily.

First, how do you use it? Hop on into the shower and wet your hair + the bar of shampoo. Slide the bar from the root to the tip 4 or so times. Than lather, rinse + follow with conditioner if needed.  Keep it in a tray so it can dry out between uses and avoid letting it sit in water.

I was impressed with all the Bar Shampoo options I tried as all seemed to lather really nicely, clean my hair and rinse well. The conditioner bars I tried were hit or miss. Pricing also varied quite a bit. My hair can be a little dry and found two great options of the 4 brands I tried. Ultimately my top recommendation is based largely on how I felt it worked and it’s a nice bonus that it is not the most expensive option.

Brands I tried: Basin, Ethique, Sweet + Sassy and Lush

Image of my shower below. On the left is Ethique with their storage container. On the right side is Basin Swim repair. In the center is Method Simply Nourish Bar Soap which I love! And not just because I work there 😉

bar shampoo + conditioner

My top choice by the narrowest of margins is Basin which is available in a few free standing stores across America and  in Hy-Vee grocery stores in the mid-west. I was fortunate enough to be traveling for work and check out the Basin section of a Hy-Vee store in Des Moines. I was stunned and thrilled when I saw they had a whole wall of Bar Shampoo and Conditioner. At this point, I had already received a few other brands I was testing out. I am so glad I happened upon these products. I bought the Charcoal Shampoo and Conditioner. As soon as I tried the combination, I knew I found the best of the best. The shampoo lathered really nicely + rinsed clean. The conditioner was by far my favorite on how it felt when massaging my hair, to post rinse out and how it felt out of the shower and when styled. Then I panicked! Am I going to have to go back to Des Moines to get my hair care fix? More importantly, how do I recommend something that is only available at Hy-Vee? Well thank you internet! You can order online at Basin Bar Shampoo + Conditioner. I ordered few more fragrances of bar shampoo and conditioner just to make sure I liked a variety of their offerings. They have so many options!  I tried the Macaroon which smells lovely and works just as good as the Charcoal. I think the Charcoal conditioner is a little bit more moisturizing. I also tried the Swim Repair, obviously since I am a swimmer. And that worked really well! All and all super happy with this find and highly recommend this brand of bar shampoo + conditioners. The only disappointment was packaging. There was quite a bit plastic in the shipment that I received with each bar wrapped in bubble wrap. However, I did  reach out to customer service and asked if they can ship in a more sustainable way. They said add a “no plastic” note next time I check out. There is an added risk of the bars breaking but I think the risk is minimal and worth it. And I would love to see them provide some travel or tray option for their bars.

  • Charcoal Shampoo + Conditioner bar $8.99 for each bar
  • Macaroon Shampoo + Conditioner bar $8.99 for each bar
  • Swim Repair Shampoo + Conditioner bar $8.99 for each bar

 

My super close second is Ethique. What I love is that they have 8 varieties of Bar Shampoo and 2 Conditioners. I used the Damage Control Shampoo Bar and the Guardian conditioner bar. The results are great! The shampoo lathers nicely and the conditioner leaves my hair moisturize and tangle free. Ethique also offers a fantastic shower storage container. And get this, it is made with bamboo + sugarcane and is completely compostable (will last up to 5 years in the shower). In addition, the packaging that the bars arrive in is completely compostable. They even have a biodegradable sticker! I mean this company really has thought through everything to make your shower experience as zero waste as possible. They are a B Corp (high Five!), Cruelty free + New Zealand made. I have flip flopped on which is my top choice. Ultimately, I think you will be very pleased with either Basin or Ethique. I will definitely continue to use both Ethique + Basin and since I have bought quite a few samples to fully vet what is best. I keep one set in my home shower, a set in my gym locker and another in my travel bag. I think I am set for years!

$15.50 for Shampoo Bar + $18 for conditioner. I noticed slightly lower pricing on amazon vs. their website

Affiliate Link: Ethique Bar Shampoo – Damage Control

Affiliate Link: Ethique Guardian Conditioner Bar

Affiliate Link: Ethique Storage Container

Coming in 3rd is Sweet & Sassy “Sun Kissed”– Available on Amazon $17.95 for two shampoo bars + 1 conditioner bar in plastic containers which are great for travel and storage. I would love if they offered tins vs. plastic containers. Lush does offer a bar soap tin. Like all the other brands, the shampoo bar lathers really nicely and rinses clean. The conditioner felt like it was moisturizing in the shower but when I went to style and go, my hair felt a little dry. With this brand, you may need to add something like a leave in conditioner or argon oil if your hair is normal to dry. It is quite a nice value for the price.

Affiliate Link: Sweet + Sassy Shampoo and Conditioner Bar

I wanted Lush to be my favorite since it is a store I can actually go buy the product vs. shipping. Lush offered quite a few Shampoo Bar options and the one I bought lathered nicely, cleaned well and rinsed well. They only offered two conditioning bars and I was disappointed by the conditioning bar. Even massaging it into my hair was a challenge and the rinse did not leave it with a nice silky finish as most of the others. After styling it, my hair also felt like it needed a bit more moisturizing.

Bar Shampoo “Honey I Washed my Hair” $10.95

Bar Conditioner “Big” $12.95

Lush Hair Products

Hopefully this will help you to feel confident to ditch the bottle and try Bar Soap, Bar Shampoo and Bar Conditioner. I would love to hear your feedback on your experience!

*disclosure: Some links in this blog are affiliate links, meaning I make a little bit of money but at no additional cost to you. I will earn a commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. This will help me to continue to explore and offer up recommendations to reduce your plastic usage.

A beautiful walk + an epiphany

For many years I thought I was doing so much for our environment by recycling. I would diligently sort my trash and put the recyclables in the blue bin for pick up on Wednesdays. Sadly, only 9% of all the plastic ever produced has been recycled. And the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters the ocean every minute.

One day I decided to walk about a mile to meet my friend for lunch. It was a stunning day in San Francisco, the city by the bay, with blue skies and a nice light wind. As I walked and took in the beauty of my lovely and progressive city, I also notice a piece of plastic trash on the curb and then another and then another. In fact, on one city block, on just one side of the street I saw nine pieces of plastic trash which included a dental floss pick, a plastic sandwich bag, two Starbucks plastic cups, Starbucks plastic straw, a coffee lid + two plastic meal containers. Some of these items were hopefully disposed of in a recycling bin and some where just left as trash on the sidewalk. Sadly, as those bins get collected, trash does blow out either before entering the truck or while in transit. We also have the problem of people scavenging the bins and commonly littering on the sidewalk as they do it. As I walked this block of San Francisco, it weighed heavy on me that this block was just a few short blocks from our Bay which empties into our ocean twice daily. Even if you don’t live close to the water, all our water ways in the world ultimately feed to the ocean and this is how the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters the water every minute. This was my epiphany and my motivation to start my own blog and share what I am doing, with the hopes of inspiring others to join the mission of using less plastic.

While recycling is part of the solution it is much lower on the list of what you should be trying to do first. By implementing the 5 R’s of Zero Waste, you want to refuse, reduce and reuse before you get to recycling. Recycling should come when there are no alternatives after adopting the first 3 Rs.

The 5 Rs of Zero Waste

Refuse- The goal here is to turn down freebies and where possible refuse to use plastic. A sticker here, a tshirt there, a free bottle of a promotional product all add up over time. Many times these are just things that you may not really need and end up in landfill or donated.

Reduce- If you are like me, you may have lots and lots of stuff. Your draws, cabinets and closets are just filled to the brim and you purge when you buy one more thing to make room for that one more thing. Try to question weather you really need that extra item and try to simplify what you already have.

Reuse + repair- This could be the easiest place to start. It was for me! Refuse to use single use plastic like plastic bags, plastic bottles, utensils + coffee cups + lids. Instead, make a mission to carry a simple set of 3 to 4 items to include a reusable water bottle, bamboo utensils, reusable coffee mug and a reusable bag. You will be amazed at how much less plastic you use. I did a 9 day trip traveling over the entire country and never used one single use bottle, coffee cup/ lid or utensils! Repair items when possible rather than replace them.

Recycle- And then sometimes, you just can’t avoid plastic. Why? Because it is everywhere and so difficult to avoid. For example, if you love to eat yogurt, what do you do? First opt to buy a multi-serve container. I am actually playing with making my own yogurt but more on that in a later blog! Whatever plastic containers that cannot be avoided, make sure you recycle those. If you have an option between a glass jar or plastic, choose glass and see if you can reuse the glass jar. For example, I love pickles. Some come in glass and some come in plastic jars. I will always choose the glass jar over plastic.

Rot (compost)- This one was a big hurdle for me. I was so worried about how it would smell and if my partner would be on board. Well, it has been amazingly easy to convert to composting in our kitchen. We have a really nice compost bin that we probably empty out every other day. It has been a few months and we have yet to experience and bad smells. We are fortunate to live in San Francisco and access to Recology as our waste management system. I would encourage you to look at your local resources to understand what can be placed in each bin as it varies widely from place to place.

My recommendation is to start with one section of the 5 Rs with Reuse being probably one of the easiest. Think about the single use plastic you do use regularly and think about what alternative you can find that is reusable. Find 3 items to start with and see how it goes. There are many reusable alternatives to single use. Once you tackle the first 3, move on to identify and work on the next 3.

Images of my beautiful walk and the sad plastic trash along the way.City Trash

 

How Greenswimmergirl’s Journey Began

I was born a swimmer and drawn to water from the second I could walk. Apparently there were many close drownings as a child in our backyard pool  in Brazil and therefore my parents had to teach me at a very early age to swim. I have always lived by the ocean (east coast and west of America) and grew up swimming and surfing in Southern California during my teenage years. Swimming is my Yoga and helps keep me grounded!

For many years, I was involved in the world of triathlons with swimming being my best discipline. I always wished the swim was longer, especially in the ironman distance races! Due to some injuries preventing me from running, I pivoted to swimming more and joined the South End Rowing Club in San Francisco in 2017 which was absolutely the best decision I ever made. There is a reason they call it the “best Club on Earth!” As I walked the historic halls of the club, I started to learn about Marathon Swimming and amazing members of the club who are impressive marathon swimmers. I was intrigued + excited to find a new avenue to feed my endurance desires. I started talking and learning more and by January 2018 I had locked in on a coach (Pacific Open Water Swim Co) and a plan to get me to my first 12 mile swim, the True Width of Lake Tahoe on August 3rd, 2018. As the season progressed and I received expert guidance from Pacific Open Water Swim Co, my confidence grew and I added the Lake Tahoe Vikingsholm (10.5 miles) in July 2018. Coming off two successful Tahoe swims, I wanted one more and I wanted to be back in my home, the ocean! I signed up for The Anacapa Channel (12 miles) which is part of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands on September 16th 2018.

As I began to ramp-up my marathon swim training, I also changed roles with my company, Method Products PBC who make naturally derived cleaning products. Method is a B Corp + focused on being a “force for good” and providing sustainable cleaning products. In my new role, I was taken on the road quite a bit more. While traveling, I realized I used way too much plastic and have been on a mission to reduce my plastic usage which has expanded well beyond just my travels. I guess my company has had an impact on me and rubbed off on my in a very good way.

As I prepared for my first big ocean swim, I took what I learned working for Method and wanted to leverage my marathon swimming to be a force for good. Over the course of the past year, the ocean plastic problem has become a focal point for me since I am such an avid open water swimmer. The reports of the plastic pollution in our oceans, the existence of micro-plastics and the impact to the wild life that I share the waters with have been devastating to read.

Coming home to swim my first ocean channel crossing made me want to leverage my marathon swimming for a greater good. I partnered with 5 Gyres, raising over $6500 + drove awareness around Ocean Plastic problem via my Anacapa Swim. As a result, I have become a 5 Gyres Ambassador. I have learned so much from their organization and I still have so much to learn. As time progressed, my journey has continued from what I incorporated while traveling to use less plastic, to elements in our kitchen, bathroom and throughout our home. It is exciting to make little steps to reduce my plastic usage and inspire others to join me by leveraging easy steps to reduce their plastic usage. Through my blog, I hope to share what I have learned along this journey and how I continue to learn. There has been some points of frustration and disappointment along the way. Plastic is everywhere and so difficult to avoid. That said, I want to make sure people know that as they begin on this journey, this is normal! And I am focused on progress, not perfection and whenever possible, to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. I promise not to beat myself up and you should as well. 🙂

Greenswimmergirl