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Last time we talked about how to change a few things around the kitchen to help lower your impact on the environment. We focused on shopping and cooking habits that will make your home quite cozy, and as added benefit substantially lower the amount of plastic you use on a daily basis.
To continue with this, we will have a closer look at the bathroom. It will be good to tackle the bathroom after you have at least partially conquered the kitchen as it might be actually harder to do. Not because of the lack of will, but mainly because it is harder to get your hands on better alternatives.
As with the kitchen, the best start is to examine your bathroom, and the trash you generate in there. It is unbelievable how many different products you might have in your bathroom. Do you really need all of them?
The best way to lower the amount of plastic in your bathroom is to simplify your routine. If you are using 4 different kinds of face creams, could you handle having just one? The same goes for hair products, make-up, or shaving supplies. Review everything you own and categorize based on your needs into must-haves, nice-to-haves, and everything else. Don’t pick a specific brand, but product categories, because to lower the amount of plastic, you might need to find an alternative brand for many of the products you are using right now.
If you eliminate everything else category, how much are you eliminating? Do you considerably reduce the amount of stuff you have in your bathroom? Can you handle giving up your nice-to-haves? On your first try, eliminate as much as you feel comfortable with and schedule a revision in a month or two when you might be ready to give up more products.
And just to be clear, eliminating means not buying anymore of that product in the future, use up all you have left, and then don’t replace it. Now that you have decided on the product categories you will keep in your bathroom, let’s examine how to make choices for products to reduce the amount of plastic.
Soap is definitely the easiest on the list. You really don’t need liquid soap. Treat yourself to artisan handmade soap. You can usually buy them at a local fair or online. They do not require any packaging. They are made from natural ingredients, and they naturally contain glycerin. Your skin will thank you later!
PD: If for some reason, you really want liquid soap, the zero-waste stores will carry refill liquid soaps. Bring your own container.
Shampoo, conditioner, and other hair care products often come in plastic bottles made of mixed plastics, which makes them very difficult or impossible to recycle. That’s why they usually just end up in landfills. You have several alternatives on how to forgo plastic containers.
There are companies and small artisan makers dedicated to producing hair care products in a bar format like shampoo bars, conditioner bars, and even hair styling products in a bar. Bars can be packaged in paper or left naked (no packaging).
If you are not a fan of bars, then find a zero-waste shop that sells hair products that you need and buy them in your own container.
If there are hair products that you can’t live without and are not available in bars or don’t have refill options. Try to find a brand that will package them in glass or metal instead of plastic.
Commercial creams, lotions, balms, and other skincare products are also mostly sold in mixed plastic containers. Fortunately, there are many great companies now, that sell these products in glass containers or tins that you can later recycle.
The second viable option is to search for creams and lotions in a bar. These bars are usually made from natural plant-based oils and butters, are solid in room temperature and when you warm them up in your hand, they will melt just enough for you to use them on your skin. They are sold in tins, paper, or naked.
The third option you have is to go back to the basics and do what millions of men and women did for centuries. Start using natural plant-based oils or butters. Indians still use coconut oil for their skin and hair treatments. Ancient Egyptians used sesame oil, olive oil, and castor oil to keep their skin moisturized and their hair shiny. Mayans used avocado and avocado oil, and many South American cultures and tribes used rosehip oil to heal scars, balance uneven coloration, and prevent aging. Research the benefits of each oil and choose the one that suits your skin type or skin issue. The bonus is, it is easy to buy them in glass bottles.
Conventional toothbrushes are made of plastic, they are almost never recycled and we use several of them each year. It is said, that every plastic toothbrush ever made (except for the small quantity that has been recycled) is still around somewhere! Isn’t that a shocking thought?
You have probably heard of bamboo toothbrush million times, but have you tried it? Switch to bamboo toothbrush next time, you will not notice a difference.
It might be harder to find better alternatives for your other basic need: toothpaste and floss. Toothpaste used to come in metal tube, nowadays, it is usually made from plastic N°4, aluminum, or a plastic-aluminum mix. The available alternatives are toothpaste packaged in glass containers or toothpaste tablets.
Dental floss is usually made from nylon, and moreover it is packaged in a plastic container. There are available options made of silk or bamboo fiber and sold with no packaging, or in a glass container. There are even companies that offer refills, which means you will only ever need one dispenser for your floss.
Most feminine care products contain some plastic, but even if they didn’t contain any, the amount of waste created by using these products is enormous. We are lucky there is a great alternative.
You must have heard of menstrual cups, made of silicone or latex rubber. These little devices can be a bit scary and confusing at the beginning, but they will save so much trash and money over their lifecycle. It is absolutely worth giving them a try.
A second alternative is to use reusable, washable menstrual pads. They are usually made of cotton, they are comfortable and absorb well, without the worries of chemical ingredients the manufacturers of disposables are not even required to list on their products.
For some people, makeup might be a difficult one. You might not want to switch your favourite products or brands. But if you are open to experimentation, try to find more conscious companies that provide better packaging solutions for the products you need. Fortunately, there are great brands that will provide you with all the options in better packaging like glass, metal, or even bamboo or wood.
Do you remember how did your grandpa shave? Most probably with a safety razor with interchangeable blades. He used his razor for years or decades, only buying and changing the blades. You can do it too! It is safe and prevents huge amounts of plastic single-use razors from ending up in landfills.
And while we are at shaving, you don’t need fancy shaving cream, just use a nice shaving soap with a shaving brush, no extra plastic packaging. Instead of aftershave, try to use natural oil suitable for your skin type.
Toilet paper is something you can’t imagine your bathroom without. And we are not here to tell you to go paperless. We are here to tell you to find a provider of toilet paper that is not packaged in plastic. Hopefully, a provider that sells TP made from recycled paper in a cardboard box. And if you are interested in lowering your TP needs, look into installing a bidet in your bathroom.
Most commercial deodorants are packaged in plastic. But it is easy to buy deodorants made of natural ingredients packaged in cardboard, metal tins, glass, or other forms of eco-friendly material. Give them a try.
Who hasn’t seen the image of a seahorse with a Q-tip stuck to his tail? As you know, Q-tips are usually made of plastic and cotton. Most doctors agree that it is not safe to use Q-tips, as you can harm your eardrum, cause an infection, and actually push the earwax further into your ear. If you can, stop using them. The doctors say the only thing you need to do to clean your ears is to dry them with a towel around the ear canal, and not introduce anything. If you are not willing to give them up, there are metal and silicone reusable and washable alternatives on the market.
An easy swap that does not need any getting used to is ditching synthetic sponge for a natural alternative. Loofah is a plant similar to a cucumber that is edible when the fruit is young. But it is often used as a sponge. When the fruit matures and dries, it forms a fibrous structure that can be used as a sponge in the kitchen or in the bathroom.
There is so much you can do when you chose better products. You can help save the planet from plastic pollution flood, but you will also use safer, more natural products with simpler ingredients that you can actually pronounce. Are you ready?