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!

Reducing Waste Room-By-Room #1: Kitchen

When you buy foods in bulk, there is no trash to take home with your item! Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Room #1, the kitchen. I have always had the philosophy of starting a mission/assignment/journey with the hardest tasks first. This one has been the most daunting for me, I feel like the majority of waste comes into, and is produced in the kitchen. Whether it be plastic produce bags, plastic shopping bags, plastic bags that produce is sold in (like grapes), stickers, those little twisty ties for the produce bags or around greens, and food waste. Don’t forget about packaging for snacks, non dairy milks, and other necessary staples. I do not have a recycling program where I live, so it’s very difficult to avoid packaging. I find other ways that I can cut back on waste in the kitchen. I hope to find a store where I can buy food “in bulk” in the future. Bulk means to buy food in larger quantities without a package. How? 1. Bring your own container to the store; jar, tupperware, bag. 2. Weigh your container either at home or at the store. This allows the cashier to tare the scale so you only pay for the weight of your food, not the container. 3. Bulk foods will usually be displayed in bins that you can scoop from.

1. Don’t let it come into the house in the first place.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I think I will start off each room this way. It just feels right. Please keep in mind that sometimes keeping waste from entering your home may include carrying more items on you (reusable bags, cups, cutlery, handkerchiefs, pads/cups, tupperware), it is a hard pill to swallow at first, but each time you bring one thing at a time, you’re still replacing what would have been destined for a landfill. I will bring reusable shopping and produce bags to the store. I love ChicoBags! They can fold into themselves into a little ball with a carabiner for easy travel. You can pop them in your car/purse/backpack and be ready to carry groceries, or anything you would need additional storage for! I will take a traditional reusable shopping bag and put several ChicoBags into it so I don’t need a lot of real estate to carry many bags. I try to find produce that does not have a sticker on it, the cashiers have a list of produce codes so the stickers are obsolete. Unfortunately, they are placed on the food while still at the facility it came from. I try not to buy too much food. If there’s excess, it will go bad and be thrown out. If your local grocery store has a bulk foods section, check it out. Sometimes they have nuts, grains, or pasta. If you can’t avoid packaging for necessary staples, try to recycle or upcycle it. Upcycle means to reuse an item in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.

2. Try to avoid single use items.

Two silicone bags.
(re)zip bags

This would include plasticware, paper plates, plastic cups, saran wrap, parchment paper, muffin cups, coffee filters, K-cups, baggies, single use food storage (like tupperware, but disposable). If you don’t have access to reusable versions of these items, don’t stress yourself out over using them. If you do have a reusable swap, get into the habit of implementing them into your daily routine. Washing dishes is pretty lame, but so are plastics that don’t degrade and leech out the materials they’re made from. I really like Stasher and (re)zip bags. I also use Rubbermaid containers to store food in, I don’t like the idea of using plastic, but I do not need to purchase more because of what I already have. A good swap for clingwrap is to either put it in a container with a lid, or using wax paper wraps. They’re similar to saran wrap, but you can clean them and use them over and over! Another way to stay away from single use items in the kitchen would be to buy coffee in a metal can or in bulk, instead of K-cups. Then, you could either use a French press, which does not require a filter, or a coffee maker and a reusable filter. Yes, there are reusable coffee filters! They are so common now that they are made in different sizes and for different models of coffee makers. If you only have a Keurig-type coffee maker, some models will come with a plastic “K-cup” that you can scoop your own grounds into. You can still have the convenience of making one cup at a time without the waste! For paper towels, you can use “unpaper” towels. Kitchen towels/rags are perfect if they’re absorbent. Instead of using foil or parchment paper for baking, you can swap to a silicone baking sheet. They’re non-stick, so they are very handy for cooking. There are silicone muffin cups that you can bake in!

3. Avoid food waste.

Juicing kale stems after taking off the leaves. I will just keep the stems in the fridge until I juice them.

Try not to buy too much food. If you do, you could freeze it until you’re ready to use it, depending on what it is. If you plan out your meals and ingredients, you will be more likely to avoid wasting food. One source of waste created by food is scraps. You can take veggie scraps and boil them, strain it and you’ll have broth! You can also take the scraps from juicing and the aforementioned broth and make it into almost anything! When I’m juicing, I like to separate the veggie pulp from the fruit pulp so I can save them for savory or sweet recipes, respectively. If you can’t avoid throwing out a food or food scrap, you can always compost it! One specific example of using the same food multiple times is kale. I take the leaves off to eat, and I will save the stems to juice. I then take the pulp from the kale stems and freeze it for future recipes, like broth. I not only try to avoid throwing away (or composting when I can get a few more uses out of) food, but I also try to stretch the dollars I used to buy that food item. With my kale example above, you can use a food more than once, and use all the parts of the plant you’re eating. In addition to using it before going bad, you can learn new ways to store food properly. You can put wilted greens in water to perk them back up, put a ripe avocado in the fridge to “pause” the ripening process for a day or two, or freeze bananas if you love having them on hand, but don’t eat them often.

4. Upcycle!

I have mentioned ways to upcycle scraps in #3, but I have a couple more up my sleeve. If you have vinegar and eat citrus, you can soak the peels in the vinegar to make a citrus-scented all-purpose cleaner. You can also make your own apple cider vinegar from apple scraps! You can use ACV for many things like cooking, dressings, scalp rinse, all-purpose cleaner, and many more!

If you can’t avoid packaging, you can either compost, recycle (which includes mailing into TerraCycle, more information in my intro post!), or upcycle them. The goal is to reduce waste, so any action taken in that direction is a win.

Have you tried any of these swaps? What about the swaps from the introductory post? Let me know which is your favorite!

Room-By-Room Guide DISCLAIMER

I’d like to kick off the start of the guide with a disclaimer.

  • You do not have to incorporate these swaps into your life, I am just putting some ideas out in the open for anyone who is curious about reducing their impact.
  • Everyone has a different situation, so find the swaps that fit with your life, budget, and ability.
  • Budget: I am sharing links to many items, and the initial cost may seem steep at first. Let’s say we pay $4 for 500 cotton swabs, and one reusable one costs $10. The reusable swab is supposed to replace the single-use ones and will start paying for itself after several hundred uses. On the bright side, you may never have to buy reusable swabs again!
  • A lot of items I will link will be from Earth Hero. I am not affiliated, I just really like their products and the way they package orders. They use paper and don’t use too many packing materials.
  • A lot of swaps will require you to carry more items on your person, try to get into the habit of having some of these items on hand: Reusable water bottle, coffee cups, tissues, cutlery (if the place you plan on eating at does not have silverware or you’re getting takeout), feminine hygiene products. I really like my jansport “half pint” backpack, its big enough to fit these items and still have room for my phone, wallet, keys, chico bags, etc. If I don’t need to bring many items with me, I can fit my 32 oz water bottle in it.
  • I am not perfect. I am nowhere near “zero” waste, nor am I strict with the swaps I use. A lot of these swaps are ideas that I have either tried, implemented, or have looked into and plan on implementing in the future.
  • I may miss a lot of swaps and behavior changes. This guide is based on my experience (which will definitely differ from yours). There may be very basic ones I don’t have, and some might be very advanced.
  • Everyone’s lifestyle and journey are different.
  • This is all about sharing simple ways that people can make a change in their lifestyle to improve the health of the planet and themselves (by using non-toxic reusable versions of toxic single use items eg. tampons).

The lifestyle change should be fun and come from a place of love.

With this out of the way, let’s get started! I’ll see you in room #1!

Coming Soon! Room-By-Room Guide to Reducing Waste! [An Introduction]

Hi Friends! I know the main focus of my blog is health/fitness, but I am also very passionate about Mother Earth. She is my only home and the source of my entire existence. It is my duty to keep her as clean as I can within my means. I feel like “Ahimsa” can be extended to the Earth, as she is alive through housing many diverse living, breathing ecosystems. Besides, if you were to pass a house down to your child, you wouldn’t leave it filthy and in need of repair.

I’m making this little guide because there are many, many, ways to reduce your waste, and it takes a lot of these practices together to get to “zero” waste. This guide will break down habits room-by-room (take a drink of water every time I say “room-by-room,” you’ll thank me when you’re hydrated) to make reducing environmental impact more feasible. When I think of “zero waste,” I think of the people who can put a year’s worth of trash into a jar. I read “Zero Waste Home” and felt overwhelmed with so much information at once! Which is why I say “reducing waste,” I am nowhere near “zero,” but I make progress each day with the decisions I make. So, I will be making a beginner-friendly guide with tips, resources, DIY’s and people/books that inspire me! This guide will be for people who have never heard of reducing environmental impact, those who have heard of it and are interested, and people who have started their journey and need a little inspiration.

The upcoming guide will break down the waste produced by a household room by room. I will have a separate post for each room/category that goes a little deeper into the swaps or behavior changes related to reducing waste in that space. I will keep rolling out my standard health/fitness content as well!

I would like to kick off this guide with the “whole house,” rather than one room. Before we enter the first room of the guide, we will start with ways to prevent waste from coming into the home in the first place. Waste enters our home whether we are conscious of it or not. One of the first steps for preventing waste from coming into your home is to unsubscribe from magazines and various subscriptions. Some of these services may offer a digital version of their product. You can also go “paperless” for most bills and statements. Instead of a physical bill being mailed to you, you would get it in an email. A lot of people receive physical junk mail that we do not sign up for. One way to start the process of eliminating incoming junk is to write “Return to sender” on an unopened piece of mail. Here is a list of websites that will help you either sign up for a “no mail” list, or opting out of offers:

Another great resource that can apply to the “whole house” is TerraCycle. You can sign up for specific recycling programs and mail in your packaging/item once you are done using it. This is a great option for people like me, who have no recycling programs near them. This program is a good transition step into reducing waste. It may be difficult to get rid of all junk mail because our information is always being sold. If you keep receiving junk mail after taking these steps; contact the company directly as each piece of mail comes in.

The next step is to prevent the trash that we bring into our homes. You can refuse to eat out, or take a reusable storage container to prevent bringing home a single-use storage container. Refuse a straw entirely, or bring your own! Silicone straws are very easy to deal with because they don’t break and can fold up to store. You can also be fancy and go for a collapsible metal straw. I’ve had a bad habit of biting straws, so I like the silicone straws a little more. You can bring your own mugs for coffee/tea. This would also include declining “gifts”; goodie bags, pamphlets, snacks in single use packaging, trinkets, etc. People are pretty empathetic when you let them know you’re not trying to bring into your home things you don’t need. Lastly, do not bring home impulse purchases. Its typically the things we don’t think about buying that we end up getting rid of. We see something that looks good on a hanger, we buy it, we take it home and hate it, or we keep it for a few months and that piece goes “out of style.” Moving forward, try to think about the things we are bringing into our home.

Once waste stops entering your home, it makes it easier to tackle what’s already inside the home. It is also one less thing to worry about.

Some things you can do while waiting for this series to be published:

  • Read “The Story of Stuff” by Annie Leonard. You can buy it as an e-book or audiobook.
  • You can read “Zero Waste Home,” by Bea Johnson. It is a really handy guide.
  • You can check out the following YouTubers, they really inspire me: Gittemary Johansen, Madeleine Olivia, Shelbizleee, and Sustainably Vegan
  • Make some swaps, starting with the ones in this post and my mini Head to Toe Guide if you missed it!

This is not a definitive guide to get someone to Zero Waste, but to get you started and to make small changes that will add up over time. There may be a lot of swaps that are missing from this guide, I will be updating it in the future if need be.

Mini Head-to-Toe Guide on Reducing Waste!

In addition to being on a “health journey,” “fitness adventure,” “weight loss endeavor,” whatever we want to call it, I’m also on a mission to reduce the amount of waste I produce. I would like to start a series of small ways I have been able to (and would like to) reduce my waste production. I’m planning on splitting the series up by “rooms;” kitchen, bathroom, laundry, etc. Today, I want to go over a brief head-to-toe beginners guide that is practical and easy to adopt. I don’t have “low impact” substitutes for everything yet. These are very basic changes that you can make if you’re interested in learning how to reduce your environmental impact.

Head:

  • Shampoo: Shampoo bars are pretty great! They usually come in cardboard packaging and last a long time. I have thick, coarse and dense hair and shampoo bars can still lather enough to reach my scalp. I like HiBar and Bestowed Essentials shampoo bars! HiBar also carries conditioner bars!
  • Makeup Removal: Buy (or make) reusable cotton rounds. Put some oil on them and gently massage makeup off.

  • Cotton Swabs: You can try a LastSwab! They have a standard ear-itching swab and a “beauty” swab. The standard swab is textured so you can clear away debris, and the beauty swab has a pointed end so you can make precise corrections or applications.
  • Oral Hygiene: I use a bamboo toothbrush, which is compostable at the end of its life. A WaterPik is another great choice. It uses water to floss instead of the plastic string typically used. You can also use a tongue scraper or bamboo tongue brush. There are lots of sustainable toothpaste alternatives on the market. There is tooth powder, tooth tablets, tooth paste in glass jars, and tooth paste in recyclable packaging.

Torso:

  • Clothes: One of the more sustainable ways to buy clothes is second hand. Sometimes thrift shops have really cool finds! You can also buy secondhand directly from the previous owner. There are many online “thrifting” sites, like Mercari and Poshmark.
  • Stomach(???): Eating and drinking also have an impact. Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it in public water fountains or an at home water filtration system. There are many ways to use food scraps so they don’t end up in the trash. Some examples include juicing them, boiling them and making a broth with them, blending them up and making crackers with them, and you can even compost them! You can also reduce your impact by choosing less animal products, as they have a more profound impact on the environment than common staples.
  • Excretory parts: A lot of people choose to buy bamboo toilet paper because bamboo grows quickly and does not take much water to grow. A better solution (I’m biased because I have one) is a bidet. They will make you cut back on toilet paper use, and if you use a rag/family cloth, you can use even less.
  • Feminine Hygiene: Reusable cotton pads and period cups are great alternatives to single use period products. I personally love Charlie Banana reusable pads. They’re very soft and absorbent. Period underwear is good for lighter flows.

Legs:

  • The only thing I can think of for legs is working out. You can rent or borrow equipment, or join a gym. You will have access to equipment and weights without creating demand for them by buying them.

This was just a basic rundown of baby steps I’ve taken so far. If you would like tutorials on how to make your own cotton rounds or family cloth, let me know! I will start on my room-by-room guide soon!

Are you into reducing your environmental impact? What alternatives have you tried? Let me know!