If you've been reading here for awhile, you'll know I'm fond of claiming that something or other is the "easiest zero waste switch ever." I take it all back, though, because I think this is actually the easiest zero waste switch ever: the move from liquid hand soap or body wash in a plastic bottle to a good old-fashioned bar of soap.
Unlike some things - ahem, liquid hand soap or body wash - bar soap is quite easy to find package-free. Regardless of whether or not you can buy body care and cleaning products in bulk at a store near you, you'll probably be able to find unpackaged or minimally packaged bar soap wherever you already get your groceries. Look for the soap aisle or display at any medium-fancy grocery (the bars shown here are from Fresh Thyme), body care shop, apothecary, or gift store, and snap up any bars you see that come unwrapped. Tie them up in a cloth bag or other container brought from home, and you're set. Switch made.
I keep one bar in my shower, one on my bathroom counter, and one by the sink in my kitchen. They replace the liquid soap I used to use for those purposes, and they even come in handy in a pinch: scrubbing an errant spot of plum juice from a shirt, lathering up a dish brush when I run out of dish soap, lathering up in a washcloth to wipe down the counter if need be.
As far as choosing a bar goes, I'm not wedded to a particular brand, scent, or type. Some I've used were gifts, some souvenirs, some picked up in a hurry at the grocery. I like trying out new kinds, the small thrill of choosing a bar with a different scent or the feeling of using a new bar for the first time. Small luxuries, people.
A few more notes as you choose your next suds:
-If you can't find fully naked soap in a store near you, choose your paper-wrapped soap with care. As you may (or may not) be able to tell in the picture above, the bar of Dr. Bronner's soap I purchased to test out came packaged in paper - but upon unwrapping, I found that the paper was plastic-lined, making it not recyclable. Shy away from papers that seem waxy, as there's no guarantee that'll be recyclable. Better yet, go with something like a Zum Bar, which comes wrapped in just a small, plastic-free paper sleeve.
-If there's something you're trying to avoid, read ingredients labels carefully. Just because a bar is technically zero waste doesn't mean that it's 100% sustainable. The package-free bars of Good Soap by Alaffia that you find at Whole Foods contain palm oil, as does the bar of Dr. Bronner's pictured above. (For an introduction on why palm oil might be something you'd want to avoid, click here).
-If package-free bar soap is hard to find near your or necessitates a visit to an out-of-the way little store, well, there's nothing wrong with stocking up big time so that you're able to make fewer trips. I recently toured the manufacturing space of a local cleaning products company, whose owner noted that some people feel bar soap works best after sitting around for a year or so. A verrrrry long expiration date, if any? That's a philosophy I can get behind.
Is this a switch you've made? (Of course, I have my usual caveat of: do whatever works for you. Maybe pump soap is your jam!). Do you have more thoughts on choosing a bar of soap that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear.