Take a little look around your bathroom. How much single use plastic do you see? If you’re like me, then probably quite a lot. Shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, body scrubs, body moisturisers.
Then there’s the oral care. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, dental floss – they’re all generally made with plastic.
That’s before we even get to all the skincare products for the face. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for a face cream and a serum or two. And don’t even get me started on makeup.
For me, the idea of a zero waste bathroom has been quite a challenge. Everything I like to use is encased in plastic. As much as I recycle, recycling isn’t the answer. Taking steps to use less plastic in the first place is.
Reducing plastic in the kitchen has been my focus for a long time. I’ve changed my shopping and eating habits significantly.
Cutting down on plastic as I’m out and about has been relatively simple. Carrying a reusable water bottle, bamboo coffee cup and cutlery is easier with all the choices available now.
But shopping for a plastic free bathroom has been neglected, both by me and by shops and supermarkets. So I’m on a mission to cut plastic from my bathroom and I’ve found some amazing zero waste bathroom goodies.
Why Should We Care About What We Leave Behind?
It’s easy, isn’t it? To toss our rubbish in the bin and never give it another thought. It gets collected and ‘dealt with’ (whatever that means). Then we go ahead and buy more stuff that goes in the bin. And so the cycle continues.
We might have a little niggle at the back of our minds about it. Especially when we see images of overflowing landfills. Or birds with bottle caps moulded around their beaks. But with our busy lives, most of us are trapped in the linear cycle of make, use, dispose.
Even if we recycle, we’re now learning that isn’t as green as we thought it was. Recycling still takes energy and resources and is a dirty process.
It’s also fairer to use the term downcycled rather than recycled when it comes to plastics. They tend not to maintain the same integrity as they’re turned into other things. After a few cycles, they will eventually be of no use and will end up in landfill.
So taking steps to reduce our waste, especially in the bathroom, is something we can all do to help.
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A Plastic Free Bathroom: Washing Without Waste
Liquid hand soap and shower gel can easily be replaced by the humble bar of soap. There are plenty of plastic free options that come in recyclable cardboard packaging. These vegan friendly, handmade soap bars from Suma are also free from palm oil.
If you’re concerned about your soap going soggy in the shower, you could use a soap pouch. These nifty bags double up as an exfoliator too. Plus, they’re perfect for holding all those slivers of soap that get wasted towards the end of the bar.
Soap also makes a great shaving cream, whether for the face, legs, underarms or anywhere else. Shaving only needs something that lathers up. It doesn’t actually need squirty foams and fancy balms.
On that note, disposable plastic razors can be ditched in favour of metal or bamboo versions. There’s even replacement blade subscriptions that you can sign up to.
Looking to get luxurious in the bath? Lush stock a great range of bath bombs. Most come in their signature ‘naked packaging’.
If you like to exfoliate, use a loofah rather than a plastic bottle of body scrub. This completely natural product can be composted at the end of its life. Or, mix used coffee grounds with coconut oil and scrub away.
Zero Waste Hair Care
Washing your hair in a zero waste bathroom is a little trickier, but again, it’s bars to the rescue. Shampoo and conditioner bars apparently take a bit of getting used to (they’re top of my list to try). Once you do, they’re said to last about three times as long as a bottle of shampoo.
Lamazuna shampoo bars are free from synthetic ingredients, palm oil and plastic. Many zero waste bulk buy shops stock Faith in Nature shampoos and conditioners. This plastic free shopping experience allows you to fill up your own bottles and only pay for what you need.
We can also give hair brushes, combs and hair ties the zero waste treatment. Choose bamboo or metal over plastic and use scraps of material to tie your hair back.
I’ve been fighting the frizz for decades and I’ve tried every hair serum under the sun. My naturally curly hair responds best to castor oil. And by a happy coincidence, this usually comes in a glass bottle.
Body Care, Minus the Plastic Waste
Striving towards a zero waste bathroom doesn’t mean you can’t slather on the body lotion. We just need to make sure we choose one that helps reduce packaging waste.
Castor oil also doubles up as a dry skin saviour. So ditch the expensive body moisturisers and use caster oil instead. Have an old dressing gown to wear whilst its sinking in and you’re good to go.
Eco brand Shade also make natural sunscreens in zero waste metal tins.
Plastic Free Dental Care
It isn’t only bamboo toothbrushes that help our plastic free bathroom ventures. Now, we can buy plastic free toothpaste, dental floss and mouthwash.
Georganics are doing the most, but there are many new zero waste oral care brands emerging.
From sticks of tooth soap in kraft paper, to glass jars of mouthwash tablets and dental floss made from silk. We can change our teeth brushing habits with a little bit of rethinking.
Plastic Free Facial Skincare
Ever since I was a (frizzy haired) ten year old and my nan showed me her pot of face cream I was hooked. That luxurious, silky pink cream melted over her face like butter. Kissing her cheeks was always a pillowy soft experience.
Being the budding scientist I was, I made the connection. If I wanted pillowy soft cheeks, when I grew up, I had to use that cream too.
That cream probably didn’t exist when I grew up. But plenty of others did. And they’re all encased in plastic.
So, on a mission to find facial products in glass jars, I found PHB Ethical Beauty moisturisers. Sukin also produce moisturisers in glass jars. Unlike the metal lids on PHB products, Sukin lids are plastic.
Coconut oil makes a great eye makeup remover, then you can wash away the rest with a bar of facial soap.
Whatever you do, don’t use face wipes! They’re made with plastic fibres that don’t break down in landfill. If you have to (and I do sometimes), opt for wipes made from bamboo fibres. They’re not ideal as the bamboo has probably been shipped from China. But it’s all about finding a good balance and choosing products that align with your values.
Even wipes that claim to be flushable aren’t green. Yep, they’ll flush. But that doesn’t mean they’ll break up in the sewer system. And we’ve all seen those gross images of fat bergs made worse by thousands of wipes.
Reusable face pads and coconut oil are a great alternative to face wipes. Or make your own by cutting up old clothing and towels that aren’t in a good enough condition for the charity shop.
Zero Waste Makeup Solutions
My Name’s Hannah, and I’m a Makeup Addict.
Makeup is the most challenging part of my zero waste bathroom quest. But I’ve discovered that Lush stock packaging free makeup. It comes in a recycled cardboard box and is partially wrapped in a vegan friendly peelable wax.
Zao makeup comes in bamboo and cotton packaging and their products can be refilled. I haven’t tried these yet, but I’m excited to check them out! They’re organic and vegan friendly too.
I’ve also found foundation in Superdrug that comes in a glass bottle. (Albeit with a plastic lid.)
It doesn’t tick the no palm oil box, but it’s so hard trying to get it all right. (I have faith that in time, and if we all use our green pound to demand change, that we’ll see more and more options widely available.)
Other Zero Waste Bathroom Essentials
- Cotton buds – soon due to be outlawed if made from plastic, most shops now sell paper and cotton versions.
- Period products – the most zero waste and plastic free you can get is using a reusable menstrual cup. They’re not for everyone, so washable pads are great too. Or, you could try period pants. A new invention, these period pants from Cheeky Wipes are worth a try. Plastic free products from NatraCare are also a better option than plastic lined pads and tampons.
- Toilet roll – always opt for plastic free toilet paper. Ecoleaf toilet rolls are made from recycled paper. They also come wrapped in compostable packaging.
- Deodorant – all kinds of plastic free, zero waste deodorants exist. From deodorant stones made from mineral salts to glass jars and tins of deodorant cream. There’s no need for plastic under our arms. (Or pore clogging antiperspirants.)
- Lip balm – I’ve recently discovered zero waste lip balms from Nirvana Naturals. They last for ages and the packaging is 100% compostable.
- Glitter – yep even glitter. Biodegradable glitter is exploding, quite literally, onto the scene. I love Eco Glitter Fun. Their Bioglitter PURE biodegrades in 28 days in wastewater systems. That is, once you’ve had a post festival shower (using a bar of soap)!
A Word on Glass and Getting the Family on Board
Glass is, on the whole, better than plastic, eco wise. Even when we take into account the extra carbon costs of shipping such a heavy material. But let’s face it, glass can be dangerous, especially in a room with tiled floors.
Drop a glass jar on the bathroom floor, in the bath or inside the shower cubicle, and we’re in trouble. If the bathroom is shared with kids, even more so.
Buying glass jars or reusing them to refill your shower gel or make your own scrub is commendable. But my advice comes with T&Cs. Take care! If you’re worried or a bit clumsy, stick to reusing old plastic bottles.
It can be tricky getting everyone involved when trying to avoid plastic and reduce waste. Partners, teenagers, guests. They could all take issue with your zero waste bathroom ambitions.
If you do the shopping, then problem solved. You’re in charge! But talk to the family, explaining why the liquid soap has suddenly disappeared. Showing them this article might help your crusade. Good luck!
A Plastic Free Bathroom: The Holy Grail of Green-Ness?
Single use plastics litter our environment and will continue to do so if we don’t all make small changes. We might think of single use as meaning a plastic water bottle that we drink from once and chuck away.
But washing our hair with shampoo from a plastic bottle that might last for 30 washes is still single use. That plastic bottle has only been used for one use – to hold shampoo, albeit 30 times.
Changing our shopping habits is tough. Trust me, I know. Walking past a fancy new moisturiser that promises to knock years off my laughter lines is hard. But maybe those 40-odd year old lines just tell the story of who I am anyway?
Buying things and throwing them away isn’t helping the planet’s environmental woes. And if recycling isn’t the complete solution either, what is?
Simply put, it’s using less stuff and creating less waste.
For most of us, a completely zero waste bathroom isn’t a reality. But reducing waste and reaching the dizzying heights of a plastic free bathroom is. Even for me.
It’s a slow process. Swapping all the things I love to use is going to take time and sacrifice. I’m finding that not browsing online and avoiding temptation (read: cold turkey) works well.
Switching to a bar of soap and ditching the pump bottle is the easiest thing I’ve done. If you have the means to do one thing, do that.
I’m now on a mission for a complete bathroom overhaul, replacing one product at a time as I use it up. And being more frugal with the things I do buy. We all have a duty to make a change. So I’m off to work out how to use a shampoo bar. Are you going to (not literally) join me?