Refill ‘er up (Day 89)…

I thought I’d give the second of the Three R‘s some love today and start reusing. Up until now, I haven’t paid much attention to this dull, middle child in the waste hierarchy. Yes, sometimes I’ll use the same Ziploc bag a few times for the crackers in my lunch, refill the travel-sized shampoo and conditioner bottles I have whenever I go on vacation, and of course there’s my water bottle and coffee thermos.

But it’s time to start laying some rules down: first and foremost, when it comes to any bottle of cleaning product — shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, laundry detergent, surface cleaner, etc — as long as I can pump it out in bulk at Grassroots or The Big Carrot, I’m going to refill it. This might mean switching to another brand in some cases, but I’ll have to make do.

Second, if I’m buying any food at the grocery store that comes in bulk — like walnuts, organic coconut, almond butter, flax seeds, quinoa (can you tell my best friend is a nutritionist?) — I’m going to bring one of my own plastic containers to refill.

And lastly, I’m going to make sure that if I do need to buy something new, I consider whether or not it can be refilled before I purchase it.

My only reluctance in doing this is that I still have a few brand-name, toxin-packed products in my apartment that I’m waiting to finish before I invest in a natural alternative. But I’m not sure refilling something that used to be full of carcinogenic sludge is such a good idea — doesn’t evil lurk in the bottom of those Vim bottles no matter how thoroughly you try to rinse them out?

And there’s also a part of me that wants to advertise the fact that I’m choosing safer products so that others might inquire and subsequently make similar consumer choices, but that probably won’t happen if I’m storing my natural shampoo in a bottle with a big Kiehl’s label on it.

What do you guys think? Should I just stop being so paranoid about toxic residue? Should I start peeling off the labels from my chemical-infused shampoo bottles when I refill them, then write something over top in permanent marker like, “This is not a brand-name product full of parabens and sodium laurel sulfate”?

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13 Responses to Refill ‘er up (Day 89)…

  1. Alina says:

    You can buy shampoo in bulk? Thats so cool!!! I wish I could do that… For now, I think Im gonna try out more stuff by Lush next time I go to Amsterdam, like solid shampoo and deodorant… (even though i heard their stuff is full of SLS as well).

    And I think there is no reason not to use your old bottles of toxic shampoo… after all, you used it on your head all these years! Im sure if you rinse it well it will be fine :D

  2. GreenYogini says:

    Unfortunately we don’t have bulk shampoo where I live, or I’d be all over it! :( As for the residue, it can’t be any worse than continuing to use the product by itself, right? I say, rinse out those bottles and reuse ‘em! (Of course, I wouldn’t recommend reusing shampoo or cleaning product bottles for food items…blech!)

    In fact when I was switching over my products I had a major dilemma about whether to use up all the product until it was gone (less waste, I guess, and perhaps slightly less of the toxic gunk in the ecosystem?), or dumping it down the drain/tossing it out (another landfill contribution). I settled on using up the products that didn’t entirely gross me out and giving away the others to friends/family who weren’t grossed-out by them. (I know, the latter didn’t do much to change their minds about the products and their impact on the environment and self, but I figured these people were likely to purchase the product on their own, and that they had to listen to my reasons for not wanting to use it myself before I handed it off to them. But I still feel guilty about contributing to the use of the products that I didn’t want.)

    To advertise your use of natural/organic/sustainable/eco-friendly products, you could consider making a sticker or label that covers the bottle. I recently saw a sticker on a Nalgene bottle that said “This is my last Nalgene bottle”. That particular campaign is organized, but you could make your own stickers – maybe someone else might want one. :)

    http://www.rmad.org/nalgene.html

    or http://www.boycottnalgene.com
    (Same link, different web address b/c it’s easier to remember the second one, I guess.)

  3. Tim Stobbs says:

    I seem to recall any container you rinse completely three times will drop any toxic stuff down to under 10 ppm (or was that 100 ppm?). Which basically means you could give it to my two year old and let him suck on it with no ill effect. Who knew that analytical chemistry class would actually be useful some day?

    I love your blog. It’s giving me ideas. Thanks!

  4. I have thought about the container factor too. But mine are mostly glass and I thnk the economic impact of that is a bit too much for me. I did look at the eco bags website which is a nice idea. I just have to find some 100% organic unbleached cotton or hemp and sew up some bags…

  5. christal says:

    healthy cookie-
    that is a brilliant idea!! let us know how those work out.
    green yogini-
    I love that tip. ms.thistle should definitely sell her own recyled sticker “labels” maybe even donate the funds to a tree planting charity like treeswaterpeople.org

  6. dustybanjo says:

    I, too, was struggling with the issue of “use up” vs “toss out already!” We are selling our gas-powered lawn mower for a reel mower, so I guess that puts me in the “give it away” category… I did use up my shampoo, however, and have a nice de-labeled bottle to pour bulk ‘poo into.

  7. Morgan says:

    I chose to use everything up…recycle the bottles and buy the natural cleaners in all their organic ad glamour! I’m wanting to influence people…they all hear me talk about this stuff, so I’d rather they not take a peak through my bathroom vanity (we all know you do it) and think that I’m using Mr. Carcinogen…I’m mean Mr. Clean…So…I’d rather they see a brand name, know that I trust it…and hopefully they will go out and make the same purchase decision…then refill until your heart is green!!!!

  8. Lori V. says:

    I’m with Morgan. Except, I just took all my toxic stuff & gave it to the neighbor’s maids! They were grateful, if not a bit puzzled, and it kept them from buying toxics for that much longer. Now I have my Method stuff so that anyone visiting can see! Of course, here in the great Red state of TX, I’ve not found anywhere to buy bulk natural stuff (except food)… SIGH.

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