Local Spotlight: Life Unplastic Promotes Sustainability in Gainesville

Nestled in between quaint, nostalgic storefronts at The Shoppes at Thornebrook Village sits Life Unplastic in all of its sustainable glory. The village houses a variety of brick-and-mortar shops that take you back to another time –– a local florist, a shop brimming with rare books, clothing and antiques, locally made stained glass and jewelry to name a few. And right there in the midst of it all is an emporium of waste-free products ready to guide you on a path toward eco-friendly living.  

The welcome sign shares tips on how to be more sustainable. (via Viviana Moreno)


What is Life Unplastic?

In December 2018, Joy Hughes, owner of Life Unplastic, opened up shop in an effort to “create a space for conscious, awake consumers.” Her inspiration for the shop began with a robust understanding of the plastic problem and her desire to do something about it, hence the name of her store. Built on a foundation to help others in the community tackle throw-away culture, her shop not only provides access to plastic-free products but also helps develop knowledge on how to reject societal norms concerning our use of packaged goods. 

A variety of teas and dry food items are available. (via Viviana Moreno)


Where Life Unplastic is headed

At the moment, Hughes is focusing on expanding her inventory. Since this is a local shop, her priority is providing a wide range of products to alter buying culture in the local vicinity of Gainesville. As part of her mission to educate her customers, she hopes to “help these diverse groups of people work through their waste issues one challenge at a time” through workshops, partnered events and presentations at schools in the near future. 

Jars filled with various goods such as soaking salts line the countertops. (via Viviana Moreno)


Product sourcing

Part of Life Unplastic’s mission is to highlight local brands. For nearly every type of product available, there are locally sourced versions to choose from. While not everything in the store is locally made, each and every product is carefully chosen to ensure that as little waste as possible is created during the lifecycle of the product (from production to transportation to purchasing). If a company makes great products but is not the most ethical when it comes to the amount of packaging, it may not make the cut to be sold at Life Unplastic.

The bulk bar including instructions for the weigh stations. (via Viviana Moreno)


Our personal favorite: the bulk section

One of the features of Life Unplastic that sets it apart from other stores is its bulk section offerings. You can take your own containers (think: glass jars, bottles, and even beauty product containers that can be reused), or purchase some at the store. They have glass and metal containers for sale, as well as a cart filled with free jars that have been donated and are meant to be used and then brought back later on. 

The variety of products available at the bulk bar is overwhelming in the best way. You can buy household items such as laundry detergent, dishwasher pods and plastic-free sponges as well as personal care products ranging from shampoo and conditioner bars to witch hazel and essential oils. Recipes for face masks and household cleaning solutions are posted near the bulk section as a guide for those who are new to buying in bulk and could use some guidance. 

All of the products available at the bulk bar are natural, so it’s essential to remember products such as witch hazel may be stronger than the kind you get at drugstores and supermarkets. Usually, witch hazel is diluted to mask the strong smell and mixed with other ingredients to make astringents. While the strong smell of these natural products may take some getting used to, there are ways to make them smell more appealing. Adding a few drops of essential oils such as lavender or tea tree oil is great for your skin and can also be found at the bulk bar. 

A few of the items purchased from the store. (via Viviana Moreno)


What we picked up

After sifting through each shelf and finally deciding on a handful of items, we brought our treasures to be checked out. Between the both of us, we picked up a 7-day trial of toothpaste tablets, a canvas bag to hold reusable straws, a hair balm, silk floss (highly recommend) and a few ounces of bentonite clay powder to use to make a homemade face mask. Our haul was on the small side because we realized we still had plenty of staples still fully stocked. It’s important to note that when starting a more sustainable lifestyle, you shouldn’t just toss everything you currently own. Ditching your half-filled shampoo bottles is just wasting that product that could be used up. Once those items are finished, then you can start shopping for sustainable staples. 

A selection of waste-free scrub brushes. (via Viviana Moreno)


Why going plastic-free is important

Whether you teasing the idea about embarking on a sustainable lifestyle or already a ways into your journey, it’s a good idea to have to understand the “why” behind it all. Only 9% of all plastics are recycled in the U.S., while about a fifth of all plastic is recycled annually around the world, according to National Geographic. Nearly half of all plastic that is produced is packaging that will be used once and then thrown away. When trying to make low-waste decisions, it’s all about mindfulness. Hughes suggests starting “small because this journey is truly a marathon and not a sprint.” Even if the process seems to be taking longer than you envisioned, don’t be discouraged. Waste-free living does not happen overnight and probably not even over the course of a year. 

You can find more information about Life Unplastic on their website. Follow them on Instagram @unplasticgnv to keep up with the newest items and discounts.