Field Trip to the Soap Dispensary!

Have you ever been disproportionately stoked to purchase soap and other toiletries? I certainly was on recent excursion to a very awesome specialty store on Main Street…

For anyone who remotely values personal hygiene, purchasing toiletries during Plastic-Free July can be the bane of anyone’s existence. From toothpaste to shampoo to body wash to deodorant to excellent sunscreen, it seems that preventing skin cancer and cavities is an impossible task without biting the bullet and purchasing single-use plastics.

As of quite recently I’ve eliminated one item on this list. George has long been a proponent of the “No Poo” method (eliminating shampoo altogether). A few months ago he enthusiastically described the benefits to hair health (not to mention to the environment as well, by eliminating hair product packaging. I even felt his scalp; what he was preaching seemed too good to be true. So upon being challenged to go several weeks without using shampoo (every girl’s nightmare), I tested No Poo out for myself, and after several weeks of bearing with temporary grease this skeptic was converted to a believer. I now only rinse with baking soda from time to time which comes in recyclable cardboard packaging, and is allegedly less harsh on the hair follicles.

However I haven’t yet graduated to hippie-who-doesn’t-bathe-at-all status, so there still remains the issue of finding soap and dental floss and other necessary hygiene items that typically only come packaged with single-use plastics…

The refill menu offering everything from glass cleaner to laundry detergent to mouthwash to Shea Butter 
Cloth coffee filters: every sustainable caffeine addict’s dream.







Re-useable glass straws!









Enter The Soap Dispensary (or rather, I entered the Soap Dispensary). I felt like a kid in a candy store. The place is known for its “Bring Your Own Container” approach to selling soaps, shampoos, and other toiletries, but it offers so much more. Alongside the numerous bulk tubs of soaps and re-usable vessels for purchase, they also sell eco-friendly wooden brushes of every shape and size, re-useable food bags, glass straws, re-usable cloth coffee filters, dental hygiene products, and even re-useable feminine products.


So naturally, I got my fill of citrus-scented liquid body soap in a fashionable swing-top jar which was purchased there. I was also enticed by their eco-friendly dental products; plastic toothbrushes eventually make their way to our landfills so I purchased one of those bamboo brushes, along with biodegradable dental floss.

Another happy purchase was this certified organic cotton sandwich sack because, to be frank, I despise Tupperware.

My booty: re-useable sandwich bag, wooden toothbrush and floss, and delectable citrus-scented liquid body soap in a glass flip-top vessel. Win. 

When I have a full day ahead of me that involves commuting to school or work on crowded public transit, I do not want to lug around an extra lunch bag with a bulky Tupperware, or take up precious volume in my backpack that already requires space for textbooks, laptop, gym clothes, work uniform etc. I often bring nuts and trail mix on the go so this is a fantastic alternative to those plastic sandwich bags.


Despite this small triumph I still have inevitably accumulated more plastic waste than I should like, as Plastic-Free July comes to an end in the next few days we’ll be showcasing our problem items and re-capping the experience. It may be the end of July but the lessons learned will remain with us hopefully for a long time.

Blog post by Keila Stark, Assistant Director External

Plastic-free traveling: Mission Impossible?

Considering I was going to be travelling around Europe for the first two weeks of the month, I decided that plastic-free July was not a possibility for me (plastic-free September anyone?) and boy was I right! However, even though I didn’t cut it out entirely, I have been trying to cut down on how much plastic I use. But I have been living in a constant limbo of airports, train and bus stations and different cities and towns, so avoiding plastic has been a struggle.

To say no to delectable treats like this while abroad would be a crime

In my travels, I tried to eat at sit-down restaurants to avoid take away containers, but let’s face it: a student on a budget cannot afford to do that for two weeks! My hostel in France did not have a kitchen, so cooking for myself was out of the questions, and who can resist the street vendors with their delicious crepes and terrible plastic spoons? Sadly, not me.
Cutting down on plastic was also not as easy as I thought it would be when staying over at friends’ houses either. We would eat in as much as possible, but when we ate out it was mostly at street stands as well, with take away food in a plastic container, with plastic utensils, put in a plastic bag. My resolve to cut down on plastic slowly dwindled as my time abroad passed, especially when having to spend time in airports and train stations. EVERYTHING seems to be wrapped in plastic, and no matter how adamant I would be in asking for them to not give me the plastic utensils or straws, the message did not seem to get across. Maybe my French is not as good as I thought it was…

I found that when you’re in a new place, trying to figure out how to get from place to place and how the metro system works, avoiding plastic is not a thing you think about. Travelling can get stressful, and adding a plastic-free challenge makes it even more so; sometimes you just want to eat whatever is available, without having to think about where it came from or how it’s wrapped.

Now, however, I will be staying in the same place for a whole month, so I have no excuse to not cut down on plastic anymore. Even on weekend trips, I will be more mindful of what I eat and where. Most importantly, I will not be shy when explaining to people why I can’t buy that water bottle or eat that ice cream with a plastic spoon.

-Blog post by Ana Gargollo, Director (2nd term)

Reduce, Reuse, and Reduce Some More

Plastics are the most common and most popular material in the packaging industry; this is due to the fact that they are inexpensive to produce and their desirable material properties including durability, flexibility, and its lightweight. However, the rise of plastic production poses serious threats to the environment through its manufacturing and even recycling processes.

Recycling: One of the main problems with recycling plastics is the fact that there are so many different kinds. They must be separated according to their type (ie. PET, HDPE, PVC, etc.) and there isn’t a systematic approach to doing so. Certain plastics that we use in our everyday life (such as yogurt containers or margarine containers) contain various types of plastic combinations making the process of recycling very energy intensive to breakdown. The cost of recycling these types of plastics often costs more in energy resources and labour than it does to originally produce.

A very basic guide of the recycling process of plastics:

1. Plastics are sorted depending on their type and colour

2. They are then washed and cut into smaller, easier to manage sizes

3. Once they are dry they are melted into a liquid where the impurities are filtered out

4. Lastly the plastics are squeezed into strands, where they are chopped into new pieces or spun into a thin fibre where they are now ready to be used for new itemsleaching-from-plastic-bottles-bottle-line-operators-1-3-638

Another important tidbit of information is the fact that more cities are expanding what they accept as recyclables. The city of Toronto recently added soft plastics (ie. milk, bread, frozen veggie, sandwich bags) to the list of plastics they want in your blue bin. This makes a huge difference as these plastics are now sent in to be recycled instead of ending up in a landfill where they will virtually never decompose. So be sure to keep up-to-date with what your city accepts when it comes to recyclables.


Making the recycling of soft plastics more widespread will minimize wildlife entanglement and ingestion. In the meantime, reduce!

Because many resources are required in the recycling process, the most effective thing you can do to reduce the spread of plastics is to be aware of how much you are using, consume less and reuse plastics in creative ways.

-Blog post written by Aleisha Cerny and Devin Gamble, Co-coordinators for Common Energy’s Zero Waste team