If pictures of plastic waste in the ocean have you thinking about what's in your home, you're not alone. Makers are looking for ways to make their business a little more eco-friendly. While it may seem intimidating, there are simple techniques that can really make a difference. We asked two low-waste makers to share their tips for getting started. Learn more below!
Why it's important
For Alexandra with My Wild Muse, her motivation for reducing waste is simple.
"My son, daughter, and each of their future children will inherit this planet," she said. "I need to reduce my footprint because I want to leave this planet better than when I was born into it, for my children and their children."
She started making candles in 2015, then eventually moved onto soap making. In 2016, she started transitioning her business to be more eco-friendly after seeing pictures of plastic waste.
The same goes for Amanda with Growing Green Co. She's been applying low-waste practices since she was a child, and made sure to use them when she started selling products in 2018.
Along with helping the environment, Amanda said sustainability can also change the way people shop. It supports local businesses, supports the workers, and sends a message that reducing plastic is a priority for consumers.
"By reducing your personal waste, you're letting big companies know that you want low-waste options," she said. "The more people choose the unpackaged soap, the more unpackaged soap will be made."
How to reduce waste in your business
The first step is to pull out all your supplies and see what you have. From there, you can break it down into four strategies.
- So many containers can be reused, even if they're plastic. Many of our products come in heat-safe bags that Alexandra reuses. She fills them with oils for future batches.
- Our fragrance and essential oil bottles can be reused as well. Alexandra uses them for scent blends, beard oil, or natural perfume.
- Switch to rubber gloves you can use over and over instead of disposable latex gloves.
- Reuse glass and stainless steel jars. Amanda has two jars for salves - when one runs out, she makes a new batch in the second one. Then she cleans the first jar and saves it for later.
- Save citrus peels. Amanda dehydrates them and adds them to her bath bombs for an elegant finishing touch.
- Alexandra recommends using shoe boxes, milk cartons, etc. as a soap mold. All you have to do is line them with freezer paper.
- Leftover yogurt/plastic containers are perfect for mixing and storing colors. You can also use them as bowls as long as the plastic is heat safe.
- The same goes for leftover glass containers that hold foods like salsa and peanut butter. Use them for your soap making utensils, salts, botanicals, etc.
- Thrift shopping is an easy and affordable option. You can find containers, jars, tools, and more.
- Amanda recommends buying in bulk if you're able to afford it. If not, buy smaller sizes with packaging that you can reuse.
- She also recommends shopping organic and local. For instance, most local beekeepers will sell you beeswax with no packaging.
Get customers involved
- Amanda uses compostable/recyclable labels, and customers can also request soap with no packaging.
- Put your products in paper bags for customers to take home. You can also encourage them to bring reusable bags by offering a small discount or sample.
- Sometimes using plastic is unavoidable, but you can still make a difference! If Amanda's customers return four lip balm tubes, they get a fifth lip balm for free. She then recycles the containers, or sterilizes and reuses them.
How to reduce waste in your personal life
You can apply the same techniques to your day-to-day schedule as well! Start the same way - look at what you already have and how it can be used in a new way.
Alexandra recommends reusable straws, cups, feminine products, and produce/grocery bags. Bring these items when you go to the store or restaurant - package bulk items in reusable containers and ask for restaurant leftovers to be put in tupperware instead of sytrofoam.
If you forget these items, no worries! Just avoid them or ask for them to be left out, Amanda said.
"The simplest way to reduce waste is to say no to things," she said. "Say no to disposables like plastic bags, straws, and more."
From there, you can try new things like composting or growing your own produce. The possibilities are endless!
Keep it simple
Alexandra and Amanda both stressed the importance of doing what you can right now. You're already making bath and body products, which is better than buying store-bought bars packaged in plastic. Try making just a few swaps now, then a few more next month.
It's also important not to beat yourself up. Sometimes you'll forget your reusable bags or get a drink with a plastic straw. It's a work in progress and you need to be patient with yourself and others.
"Just do the best you can in each moment," Amanda said. "All we can do is do the next good thing."
Here are some of their favorite accounts to follow for more low-waste inspiration.