Meet The Woman Who Quit Single-Use Plastic 10 Years Ago

And how she does her beauty routine without it

As we all become increasingly aware of the detrimental effects human consumption has on our planet, single-use plastic is usually the first habit we aim to overthrow.

But as many of us have encountered, eliminating plastic from our everyday lives is easier said than done. It’s everywhere.

However, some people do succeed in this mission, one of which is Kate Nelson, aka Plastic Free Mermaid and author of the recently launched book, I Quit Plastic

Nelson started her plastic-free journey ten years ago and has a wealth of knowledge on how to lessen our own use, particularly when it comes to building a sustainable beauty routine.

You have to start somewhere

No effort is ever too small and it’s the power we have in changing our own habits that started Nelson’s lifestyle transformation years ago.

“What first sparked [the idea for] me to go plastic free was learning that plastic does not biodegrade for 1,000 years,” she tells Marie Claire. “I felt that of all the things impacting the planet, this was one thing I could do something about.”

At the time, Nelson says she was using so much single-use plastic every day that she hoped even just one person giving up plastic for a lifetime could eliminate a huge amount of plastic pollution.

“I started where most of us start our plastic-free journey; by eliminating plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic straws, and plastic cups,” she says.

It took years to actually become ‘plastic-free’

Take a deep dive into plastics and you’ll quickly realise just how much it’s ingrained in our daily doings. And after ditching the most obvious single-use culprits to start with, Nelson says that was only the very beginning of a complete overhaul.

“The moment I decided to go plastic-free was 10 years ago [and] I thought that was that, not realising how ubiquitous plastic truly is,” she explains. “So it took me a few years as my definition of single-use plastics continued to expand, including more and more of the products I previously engaged with.” 

What some may see as a sacrifice, Nelson sees as an exciting opportunity to make things herself at home, using all-natural, non-plastic wrapped ingredients, particularly regarding her beauty routine.

Creating a plastic-free beauty routine

The beauty industry is one that’s come under fire frequently for waste. But positive steps are being made, with L’Oréal recently announcing new sustainability plans up until 2030 and Garnier reporting that in 2019, by using recycled plastic, the brand saved 3,670 tonnes of virgin plastic. No small effort.

For Nelson, her personal beauty style is minimal and she lives by the motto, “if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin,” of which she says most plastic-packaged products don’t qualify. 

“I love using macadamia, coconut, almond, and sesame oils for both washing and moisturising,” she says. “My kitchen also doubles as my beauty haven.”

From using oats as an exfoliator to avocado as a face mask, Nelson turns her beauty routine inward, rather than looking for plastic-free options on the market. “10 years ago, it was impossible to shop for beauty that was plastic-free. It didn’t exist,” she says. 

“Now there are a lot more brands making beauty products in glass jars. I avoid most of them as I’m happy with my simple, healthy beauty routines and the basic DIY recipes I stick to, but these are good options for people to start to move away from plastic.”

Brands are also making efforts towards refillable packaging (L’Occitane now has this option for 21 products) and recyclable plastics being reused, actively taking plastics out of landfill to repurpose.

Beauty recipes you can make at home

Nelson tends to go makeup-free most days, but has a few DIY recipes to help enhance her natural glow.

“I make the most delicious lip balm from coconut oil (3 tbsp), honey (1/2 tsp), macadamia oil (1 tbsp), and cacao butter (2 tbsp),” she shares. “Plus, it doubles as a highlight. If I want to look fresh and glowy, I’ll run my ring finger through the balm and dab across my features: the under arch of my brow, the tip of my nose, and my cheekbones or blush line.”

She also makes her own bronzer using mostly cacao, a pinch of cinnamon, turmeric, sweet paprika, and arrowroot. “It’s easy, looks great, and is safe for your skin.”

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