BUILDING A WASTE-FREE FUTURE
WORDS & IMAGE: LINDSEY MCCOY
I’m a girl on a mission to have less plastic in my life and to make it easy for others to do the same. Why? Since it lasts forever, I worry about future generations choking on all the plastic that we are thoughtlessly discarding. I’ve already seen it happening on the islands of The Bahamas where I used to live.
The Bahamas are as beautiful as you imagine. Turquoise water, sandy beaches, palm trees swaying in the breeze. We lived for ten years on a small island, a few miles from the main island, which means it was a boat ride to the grocery or hardware store. Life there meant finding creative solutions to problems. You couldn’t run to the store when you needed a new something, or even if you needed a new part to fix something. There was a lot of reusing and repurposing.
In these islands the difficult logistics of transportation means there is no “away” to throw your trash. There’s really no place for it to go. So the consequences of our disposable lifestyle are much more apparent than they are in the U.S. Litter, wind and waves place our discarded shopping bags, water bottles and flip flops on the side of the roads, in the waterways, and across beaches. A visit to “Junk Beach” on a nearby island shows the reality that every piece of plastic ever made still exists. The evidence of plastic’s persistence is everywhere.
My work in The Bahamas doing environmental education meant I was more aware of the plastic problems we have created than most. The fact that there could soon be more plastic than fish in the ocean weighed heavily on my mind. I started taking action: carrying a reusable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, skipping the straw at restaurants and bars. I looked for other ways to use less plastic. But one room in my house remained resistant to my efforts: the bathroom.
I am not known for my craft skills. Collapsed birthday pinatas for my son, failed halloween costumes and ragged scarves with large holes were the results of my attempts. Based on my checkered history, homemade bath products were not going to be my solution. Plus, getting supplies on a small island would necessitate trips abroad or filling the suitcases of visiting friends. I searched for other options, but I couldn’t find any that worked for me and my hair.
As we contemplated a move back to the States to give our son some of the experiences I treasured from my childhood, baseball and soccer leagues, gymnastics and pottery classes, without having to coach them or create them, I realized that I might be able to solve my own problem. Even better, I might be able to help other people use less plastic in their lives.
I recruited my sister, Alison Webster, who has a design background, and a lovely sense of style, to help me create a Netflix of shampoo. You order the bottle and when you’re finished you send it back to be reused. That was the basic idea at the time. Happily, she said yes. Then the real work began.
From the initial idea it took almost two years to figure out how to make the concept a reality. There were quite a few hurdles. First, we had to check with the FDA to make sure there were no legal issues. It was a long confusing email and phone call chain, but they finally assured us there was no reason not to go ahead, although I think they doubted our sanity for trying it. Then we had to find the right container and a shampoo manufacturer. The first few natural product options resulted in straw-like hair that no one would want, no matter how good it was for the environment. We persevered and found a great product, but then we had to convince them to refill our bottles once we had cleaned and sanitized them. It took some explaining, and an in person meeting, but we knew we’d found the right partner when they said they’d be willing to give it a try.
The other challenge was making it easy for others to eliminate some plastic from their life. We want Plaine Products to be a easy, simple option for purchasing quality, natural products that don’t add to the plastic problem. So here’s how it works: you order your preferred products in our aluminum bottles. When your bottles are low you order a refill, or you can subscribe and we’ll send the bottles automatically. When the refills come you’ll switch the pumps over and send back the empty bottles in the refill box, Plaine Products covers the cost. Then we clean the bottles, refill them and reuse them.
As far as we know we’re the only company that are taking responsibility for our packaging in quite this way. And we are very proud that are products are have a biodegradable formula, are cruelty free, and have organic, vegan ingredients. We hope that shampoo, conditioner and body wash are just the start of a packaging revolution and that these small choices, when taken together, can have a big impact.