Reducing Waste Room-By-Room #2: Bathroom

The next room in our waste-reduction adventure is the bathroom. It is the next hardest for me. I never realized how much waste can be produced in a single room until I had to take a step back and evaluate my habits room by room. The best ways to keep waste out of the bathroom are switching to reusable versions of a product, and to purchase products that come with little or recyclable/upcyclable/compostable packaging. Everyone has different circumstances, these are just suggestions.

#1: Oral Hygiene

Lots of toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, floss and their containers and plastic toothpicks end up in landfills daily. Here are some basic swaps for each.

I like the medium bristle Humble Brush.
  • Toothbrush: Bamboo toothbrush, toothbrush made from recycled plastic, they even make toothbrushes out of upcycled materials (the head is replaceable in this model, however the heads are not recyclable). I prefer bamboo because it grows quickly and you can compost it when you’re done with it. You just need to remove the bristles to recycle them separately.
  • Tooth paste: If you can’t stomach the thought of using tooth powder or tabs, you can use regular tooth paste! This toothpaste comes in a recyclable tube and a turn key to make sure you get all of the product out. You can also have your toothpaste with less packaging, Georganics has a “regular” toothpaste, but in a little jar!
  • Floss: You can upgrade to floss that doesn’t come in a plastic container, or you can use a water pick. They can be used at your sink, or you can install one in your shower. You just need to unscrew your shower head, screw on a diverter, screw the showerhead back on and screw the shower pick onto the other side of the diverter.
  • Plastic toothpicks: There are many plastic toothpicks on the market, some of them will be at the end of little single use flossers. I would recommend standard wood toothpicks, or go back up to my “floss” category and use one of those options. If you need something more portable, you’re in luck! Water picks can be portable, too! They make a handheld where you fill the little tank with water, and you’re good to floss!
  • Tongue cleaner: Lots of people choose to have a tongue-cleaning routine when they practice oral hygiene. There are bamboo tongue cleaners, similar to brush. There are also tongue scrapers.
  • Mouthwash: The typical swaps for mouthwash are tablets (put them in some water do dissolve, then swish) and oil pulling.

#2: Hair Care

  • Shampoo: There are many “low impact” shampoos on the market.
    • Shampoo bars. They make them for dogs now!
    • Refillable shampoo. Mail in your used bottle to have it refilled!
    • Compostable and recyclable packaging! This brand also includes seeds with the majority of their products! You could probably go a step further and plant the seeds in the cardboard packaging!
  • This blog post by Plaine Products may help people with wavy/curly hair. I have no experience with properly taking care of my wavy hair, so I’m no help in this department.
  • For other hair styling needs, there are swaps that exist. Badger, Plaine Products, and Seed Phytonutrients are examples of brands that have great swaps.
  • Hair is compostable! It is a great source of slow-releasing nitrogen. When I clean out my brush, I put the hair in my backyard compost pile.

#3: Hair Removal

  • Shaving: This razor by Albatross is really cool because you can send your used razors back to them (or a local razor takeback program) to be recycled or upcycled. The razor itself comes with no plastic packaging! To “lubricate” the blades, I just use bar soap instead of any fancy shaving creams.
  • Waxing: This blog post talks about a great alternative to waxing. The only downside is that you are waxing yourself.
  • Laser Hair Removal: Just like professional waxing, laser also produces some waste. You can do at home IPL treatments, they’re more mild than professional laser. They still come with packaging, but if you make a one time purchase that comes with waste instead of 6 (the recommended amount of treatments for “permanent” results), you’re cutting back waste by 5 opportunities of waste creation.

#4: General Hygiene

  • Body cleanser: My favorite low-impact options are a bar of soap (by any natural brand really, as a bar of soap in itself does not have a lot of packaging) and a Sud Stud. It’s a silicone cover for soap, it turns your soap into a scrubber. It’s advertised as a device that makes your soap last longer, I feel like there is some truth to that. I’ve had 1 Dr. Bronner bar of soap outlive 2 Dr. Squatch soaps that were not in a Sud Stud. Unfortunately, like with making any purchase for your own good, there will be packaging and travel associated with that item. Just keep in mind that there is only one set of packaging and one set of travel required for the one item to replace many.
  • Hand soap: Again, I use bar soap.
  • Cotton Swabs: You can either switch to biodegradable or reusable swabs.

#5: Skincare

  • I am underdeveloped in this category, I have purchased and wasted many skincare items over the years. This is a category that I am still working on. I am still looking for the “perfect” product and routine for my skin. I am currently using Curology, unfortunately they do not have a recycling/takeback program or sustainable packaging. Its plastic bags and containers. The bottles themselves are recyclable (you can recycle the prescription cream bottle as long as you wash out all of the product that’s left in it). On the bright side, there is a small petition aimed at Curology to incorporate more sustainable packaging materials or methods.
  • There are a few brands that have more sustainable packaging, I do not have any recommendations beyond the scope of a brand overall because our skin is one of the pickiest organs we have. It is up to you (and/or a professional) to find what works best for your skin. Badger, Pacifica, Seed Phytonutrients, Moon Valley Organics, Earth Harbor, and Plaine Products are some examples of brands who have less impactful packaging.
  • For treatments like masks, I have cut a sheet mask out of an old cotton shirt. All I do is take the serum I want to use and soak it in the sheet mask. There are recipes for different skin care concerns for this method.

#6: Cosmetics

Reusable cotton round.
  • This is another weak link that I have. I am in the process of using up the makeup I purchased when I went through my “I’m going to be a beauty guru!” phase in 2014. When I run out, I will replace the item with a less-impactful option. Earth Hero has a pretty good makeup selection, but I’m also very basic. They have the basic neutral eyeshadows, eyeliners, a few lipsticks, some brow balm, etc. The only swap for lashes I can think of would be magnetic lashes. You can use them multiple times and they don’t require glue.
  • Makeup Removal: I use coconut oil and a reusable cotton round to remove my makeup. Coconut oil may not work well with your skin as it may clog pores.

#7: “The Business”

  • Toilet paper: When reducing environmental impact, bamboo toilet paper is a better option than the conventional choices. Bamboo grows quickly, unlike the trees we typically make it from. I do not use wet wipes because they come in plastic and I have a septic tank. I’m very skeptical about items that claim to be “septic safe”. Instead of toilet paper every time, I use a bidet and pat dry with family cloth. They are very easy to DIY (warning: the into to this video has partial nudity) if you have a sewing machine. The video I linked is the method I use to make mine! You can also purchase family cloth. I ran into this really cool concept of a “roll” of family cloth! This shop owner also has a ton of “unpaper” products! They have reusable pads, unpaper towels, maternity pads, nursing pads, and more!

#8: Feminine Hygiene

  • Pads: Period underwear works well for a light flow. Reusable cotton pads are good for anywhere from light to a heavy flow. I use Charlie Banana pads and they’re nice. They have sizes ranging from liners to overnight pads. The only downside of these pads is having to change them somewhat often when experiencing a heavier flow and having to carry an additional bag and all the pads you left your house with, instead of “lightening your load” as the day goes on. Pads are usually designed to fold in on themselves so you can save space in your bag. Take a shot of water every time I say “bag.” I will carry mine by having a bag that has my clean pads and another bag for the used ones. My used pad bag can fit inside of my original bag, so I have them all in one bag. Bag.
  • Tampons: I am very biased when I say I don’t like tampons. I do not appreciate the fact that they’re typically grown with pesticides that remain in the cotton, packaged in plastic, and come with a plastic applicator. They can cause an infection when not used properly. Despite all of the downsides, they are pretty convenient and are great for heavier flows. I would instead use a menstrual cup or tampons that are grown without pesticides and don’t come with a plastic applicator.
  • Cleaning the bits: I do not use anything special. I used to use this personal wash, it is a great wash, but I did not want to keep using one soap for one specific purpose. The packaging is recyclable plastic #4 if you live near a recycling facility. I now take some Dr. Bronner unscented Castile soap and dilute it in water, I eyeball it so I’m not sure what the ratio is. I would guess it’s 1 part soap: 3 parts water. This gentle soap cleans without any irritation.

#9: Water Usage

We use lots of water in the bathroom, almost everything we do in there is related to water! I may expand on this in a future post, but I wanted to include this in the bathroom category because saving a little water may go a long way! You can take a quiz and get an estimation on how much water your household uses. I take the results with a grain of salt because some of the questions are a little vague or difficult to answer. Its a really good idea to “see” how much water you’re using, and ways you can cut back on how much is wasted. Some basic examples include:

  • Turn off the sink while brushing your teeth and washing your hands/face.
  • Take “Navy” showers. You get yourself wet, turn off the water, soap up, rinse it off. I started doing this to save hot water because I always run out in the middle of showering, now I do it out of habit.
  • Save the water you “waste” while waiting for shower or sink water to warm up. Put a bucket/cup in the shower/sink and use the water for something else. Some people may use the water to flush the toilet without having to use “new” water. You can also water your plants with it.
  • If you have the tolerance, jump straight into the shower before it warms up. With this tip, you will save gallons of water from being “wasted” if you start showering sooner rather than later.
  • If you have finished water picking your teeth and have leftover water in the tank, you can water a plant with it or use that water to rinse off the tip of your water pick.
  • “If its yellow, let it mellow…” Skip on flushing liquids until you make a solid.
  • A more advanced tip is to install a greywater filtration system. You can use water “twice” this way.

This is it (so far) for the bathroom! Have you tried any of these swaps? Which ones speak to you? Let me know if you have any questions or are interested in more advanced swaps!

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