One tiny step: Lowering our plastic footprint one bottle at a time.

One tiny step: Lowering our plastic footprint one bottle at a time.

Words by Sophia Jungbauer. Images by Sydney Carlino.

Whether or not we are aware of it, we are all intrinsically linked to our waterways.
When I was about 8 years old I visited Itasca State Park for the very first time. The park is located in north central Minnesota, and is home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  A monument marks the start of the river as it flows out of Lake Itasca. The mighty Mississippi starts its  journey here and ends 2,552 miles later in the Gulf of Mexico. I grew up in Saint Paul, and often completed a training run known as the “bridges” from Ford Parkway in Saint Paul that crossed over the Mississippi on the Marshall or Franklin bridges to the Minneapolis side.

When my partner Henry and I decided to pursue a low waste lifestyle, one of the first things we did was evaluate our relationship with plastic. Plastic has become entwined with our 20th century lives. You can’t even purchase an apple without a little plastic produce sticker. When we stopped to consider this, we really couldn’t believe how much plastic surrounded us, especially in the bathroom. 

According to the EPA, only about 9% of plastic is ever recycled. Furthermore during the recycling process the polymer chain begins to break down so plastic can be recycled at most 2-3 times before the quality decreases to the point where it can no longer be used. I also learned that products shipped in plastic are typically composed of 80-90% water. That is a lot of resources being used to haul around water!


Recently a study conducted by University of Wisconsin Eau Claire was published, showing that microplastics have made their way into the boundary waters, a pristine wilderness area in northern Minnesota. 

We knew that we didn’t want to contribute to the plastic problem any longer, but rather be champions for change. I have to admit I was skeptical at first that a so-called zero waste shampoo bar would be able to wash my hair as well as “traditional” shampoo but I am happy to have been proven wrong!

Living in 324 square feet means we have to be very cognizant of what we bring into our home. We love supporting brands that carefully consider their packaging and have found switching to plastic free alternatives easier than expected. Henry and I both made the switch to solid shampoo bars and conditioner bars and no longer have to find room for dozens of different kinds of half-used shampoos. It also puts our days of travel sized bottles behind us! We love being able to help support our local shops that offer plastic free alternatives while reducing our impact.

The EPA reports that more than 50 cities rely on the Mississippi for their daily water supply. I'm doing everything I can personally do to keep that water clean and plastic-free.It isn't easy. In fact it's hard work. But I hope you'll join me.

About the author
Sophia Jungbauer has been living a low waste lifestyle for over three years and designed and built a 324sf tiny house with her husband Henry. You can learn more about their journey at @radtinyhome or

About the photographer
Sydney Carlino is a Duluth-based photographer and videographer. You can see more of her work at

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