On average men use five personal care products daily and women use twelve, so reducing plastic waste in your personal care routine is a really good place to start. When we started our zero waste journey in 2015, one of the first places we started making efforts to reduce our plastic waste was in the bathroom. Some changes in the bathroom are really easy to make and also cheap as well. What’s not to like! Here’s our top 5:
- Bar soap – This was by far and away one of the first and easiest swaps we made. Bar soap can be bought cheaply and it lasts for ages. It also makes a nice zero waste gift for someone. Our favourites are olive oil soap, which I use on my face, Dettol soap (comes in a cardboard box) for washing hands after nasty chores, and then something a bit more fancy for the bathroom. I’ve also just invested in a big, cube-shaped bar of Aleppo soap. I say invested because I know this is going to last ages and I’m also going to try grating some to make my own liquid soap to use for household cleaning. I’ll be blogging about that later in Zero Waste Week. (Update: You can find my liquid soap blog post here.)
- Deodorant – After I discovered the term ‘zero waste’ in 2015, one of the first blogs I came across was the Zero Waste Chef. I noted her deodorant recipe with interest. I’ve had a slight problem with over-perspiring since my twenties and always had to use quite strong anti-perspirants. I was growing increasingly concerned about the possible health risks of the ingredients in these. I think making my own deodorant was my second big change. It’s not an anti-perspirant, obviously, but combined with a few other changes in my personal care routine, I find it does the job.
- Razors – My husband changed to a safety razor a couple of years ago and immediately wished he’d made the change long before. He loves his safety razor. It’s saved him a fortune in disposable razors (and saved them cluttering up the bathroom bin) and he no longer suffers with in-grown hairs like he used to.
- Washable wipes and flannels – My eleven-year-old daughter is in the experimenting with make up stage, which means there’s a lot of make up to take off after it’s been put on! She loves her washable cotton rounds from Leave No Trace. I use a muslin cloth or flannel to take off make up and wash my face. These all just get put in the wash with the towels and tea towels. More waste saved from the bathroom bin.
- Cloth sanitary pads – Having used cloth nappies part-time for our children long before we started our journey to zero waste or had even heard of the term, I can’t believe I didn’t think to use cloth sanitary pads before I did. I suppose, like my husband and his razor, some things are just that much of a habit that we don’t even really think to change them. A couple of years ago, I bought five pads to try out and loved them. Then I gradually invested in more until I had enough to last my period. I soak them in cold water before washing on 60 with the towels. A menstrual cup is also an option.
These five favourite changes have resulted in our bathroom bin needing emptying about four times a year. And most of the rubbish now in the bin can be composted or recycled.
Here are some other changes that help to reduce plastic waste in the bathroom:
- Hair care – A good start is simply gradually reducing the amount of times you shampoo your hair and using a smaller amount of product. Then you could try switching bottled shampoo and conditioner for shampoo bars and conditioner bars. Or you could try an alternative to shampoo, such as bicarb of soda diluted in water with an acid cider vinegar rinse. This should be used as infrequently as possible because it can be drying for hair. And it also isn’t suitable for curly hair. I found my hair became quite brittle when I used it. Other alternatives include honey, rye flour, egg or aloe vera. You could also try going without shampoo and conditioner altogether. There’s a lot of trial and error involved and it’s important to find a method that works for you.
- Dental Care – Bamboo toothbrushes are a good alternative to plastic, though most do have nylon bristles. Some people dislike the sensation of a bamboo toothbrush and prefer to use a plastic toothbrush with interchangeable head. In many cultures around the world, people chew a miswak stick and allow the fibres to do the work. Toothpaste alternatives that save on plastic packaging include Denttabs, Toothy Tabs and Georganics. You could also try making your own following a recipe like Lauren Singer’s on Trash is for Tossers. Silk dental floss is compostable and is available in recyclable packaging, just search for dental lace.
- Skin care – Depending on your skin type, there are various options for your skin that eradicate plastic packaging. Mild soap (olive oil soap is my favourite, as mentioned above) and water can be used to wash the face. Coconut oil and a muslin cloth or washable cotton round can be used to remove eye make up. I find it causes break outs if I use coconut oil on the rest of my skin though. To moisturise, I use a little sweet almond oil. Jojoba oil is also a good, light moisturiser and olive oil is cheaper and just as good. Face masks can be made from all sorts of delicious ingredients from the kitchen: oats, strawberries, avocado, honey. Coffee grounds are a great exfoliator.
Why not pick five items from your personal care routine and try to find plastic free alternatives? Or take a look in your bathroom bin. What is taking up the most room? Start with that product and then move onwards from there gradually swapping products for more eco-friendly ones. And remember to recycle any plastic bottles that you do use in the bathroom. Rinse them out and remove the lids first.
Let me know in the comments which products you’re going to swap first or which ones you’ve found easiest to swap and the alternatives you’ve found.