Welcome to my (mostly) zero waste bathroom tour, kindly sponsored by The Green Root.
You might not think it, but the bathroom is a great place for anyone to jump start their zero waste journey. It’s a space of our house we often tuck away and forget about, despite using it for some of the – ahem – most vital functions. In fact, the bathroom is full of many items we can choose to not repurchase, DIY, or find non-disposable alternatives for.
Trust me when I say there’s definitely plenty of room for our collective improvement. To the tune of two billion disposable razors and one billion toothbrushes thrown away per year. Luckily, easy, low-cost investments can drastically reduce that number without much of an effect on your daily routine.
Today I’m leading you through my own bathroom, so I hope you’ll find a few suggestions that will help you get rid of that bathroom trash can once and for all.
It’s funny how zero waste suddenly brings small things into sharp perspective. Toothbrushes, those innocuous little things, are a gigantic burden on our environment. One billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away every year in the United States alone. And once they end up in the landfill, they take centuries upon centuries to even begin to break down.
Clearly, better choices need to be made. Thankfully, there are options.
The Green Root Toothbrush. I’ve been trying these new bamboo toothbrushes and I’m liking them a lot. They’re not too soft and I haven’t had significant bristle loss which can happen in some brands. They are available in both regular white bristles and charcoal bristles. I’ve been using the charcoal toothbrush for a few weeks but have yet to see any tooth-whitening results, but I’m curious about the long-term.
Speaking of bristles… my only concern is that the packaging shows a ‘100% biodegradable” label when in fact the bristles must be removed before you can compost the bamboo handle. Plastic bristles are the norm – after all, what other option is there besides a non-vegan bristle, really? – and that should be clear to the average consumer.
Just remember to remove the bristles from your bamboo toothbrush before you compost. Sure, it’s not the perfect solution, but it’s much lower impact than a fully plastic toothbrush. Small, manageable steps.
Fig + Yarrow Tooth Powder. I love this stuff and 100% recommend trying this as your first tooth powder. A lot of DIY options are overwhelmingly salty or unpleasant, and this one is a rather gentle transition away from traditional toothpaste. It’s kind of pricey, but it lasts far longer than a traditional tube of toothpaste and the glass bottle could be reused once you’ve finished.
Dental Lace for floss. Traditional floss can’t be composted – Dental Lace can! It’s made of silk with a vegan wax that helps it mimic the effect of normal floss. It’s housed in a small glass container with a metal lid and even the ‘plastic’ packaging is actually 100% biodegradable!
Pictured is the realistic look at a shower shared with a non-zero waste person. There’s a disposable razor and plastic shampoo bottles. I have a secondary shelf with my items, but it is what it is – zero waste with a partner is not always Instagram-perfect.
My biggest tip for changing shower habits? Go slowly and don’t invest heavily in zero waste options you won’t stick with. Be open to experimenting to find the best fit for you!
Plenty of soap options. One of the easiest ways to make your shower routine more zero waste friendly is to replace liquid soaps with bar soap. Bar soap is easily found unpackaged in grocery stores, health food stores, and even gift shops. Plus, switching over to bar soap is a much easier transition than no ‘poo or other more extreme zero waste hygiene rituals.
Shampoo and conditioner. While my husband still uses traditional shampoo and conditioner (we buy the largest options available since we don’t have bulk shampoo options), I’m still cycling through shampoo options. I’ve used the aforementioned bar soap as a shampoo bar. Before that I loved J.R. Liggett’s shampoo bar, but unfortunately it doesn’t work with our water here. I’m currently using soap nut shampoo. I bought soap nuts (they come in a paper bag!) and boiled them down – recipe here. It works for me.
Safety razor. It’s pretty cool to say, but actually you can find safety razors in places as common as Walmart and Target for very reasonable prices (about $17 with five blades included). That’s where I bought mine. You can see a full post about using a safety razor here, but suffice it to say it A) won’t kill you by slicing off any body parts and B) will save you tons of money and packaging trash.
The next part of my zero waste bathroom tour is a tricky one.
I’ve pared down my beauty routine to my personal bare minimum (ie. lotion, mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow, and some lipstick). While I could be even more hardcore zero waste by making all my own makeup or just going without, this is where I’m comfortable so this is where I shall stay for now.
Face/body lotion. For my all-purpose lotion, I made a 1:1:1 mixture of shea butter, coconut oil, and olive oil. Simply melt the shea butter and coconut oil in a double boiler then add the olive oil. Once it dries, you’ve got lotion! (You can also use a blender or whisk to make it more like body butter.)
Everyday makeup. My makeup routine right now is not very unpackaged, but most of them were rescued from the trash in some way so I feel pretty OK with that as long as I reuse or recycle what I have. I love and continue to use Besame cake mascara with an old mascara wand – the mascara comes in a metal tin that I’ve got plans for once it’s empty! The eye shadow is from ELF and the eyeliner is from Cover Girl – both rescued from people who didn’t want them. Ask around, there’s a lot of unused makeup floating around in the world.
Hand soap. I’m going to be honest – I’m not the biggest fan of hand soap. It just seems dirty to me, even though 99% of the time it’s just my husband or I touching it. That being said, it’s easy to source it unpackaged (or in recyclable/compostable wrapping). It’s also cheap and lasts for a long time, so I’m getting over it.
Nothing too wild on this bit of the zero waste bathroom tour. We still use regular toilet paper, though we try to buy the eco-friendliest options (recycled paper, no plastic packaging, or larger plastic packages when necessary). My husband grew up with an outhouse and is not keen to go back to primitive living. I get it, I respect it.
I’m currently considering investing in a bidet as well as switching over to Who Gives a Crap? toilet paper but it’s a bit pricey and haven’t pulled the trigger yet.
Oh, and we clean the toilet with a mixture of my homemade citrus vinegar and baking soda. We use an old plastic scrubbing brush that came with the house; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Our closet is full of mysteries; well, less so since I gave it a good clean-out, but the fact remains that a closet is the catch-all for whatever doesn’t quite have another home. I try to keep my bathroom closet fairly empty since a cluttered closet leads to more waste, I’ve found.
A non-exhaustive list of what I like to keep on hand in the closet:
- deodorant and DIY ingredients. Baking soda, cornstarch, coconut oil, witch hazel… it all hangs out in the closet, ready to be used when needed.
- essential oils. I use them for my diffuser, in cleaning solutions, and in DIYs. I’ve stuck pretty faithfully to Plant Guru and I can only say good things about them from a essential oil newb like myself. I will definitely be buying more and repurchasing empties from them in the future.
- extra towels. We have several 100% cotton towels purchased somewhere years ago – nothing too exciting there. I got two linen towels for my birthday and I absolutely love them. Huge, lightweight, and highly absorbent!
- cleaning supplies. As I mentioned earlier, I use a citrus vinegar cleaner (diluted with water) for my cleaning. I also have a bucket and several old sponges that can be used for bathroom or floor cleaning.
So that’s the (mostly) zero waste bathroom tour! What products or habits would you recommend that you use in your own zero waste routine?