Reducing waste in the bathroom

I have been working on reducing our waste over the last few months.  The bathroom has been one place where we have made some notable changes, in addition to some things we were already doing, and the bathroom is looking a lot less cluttered as a result.

These are some of the changes. They may not all suit everyone but even changing just one thing can make a difference.

Face washing:

A year ago I was using either disposable cleansing wipes or cotton wool with a plastic bottled cleanser. I followed this with Olay moisturiser.   Now I have replaced all of these with a flannel – water seems to work fine for daily cleansing. I do tend to only wear make up on the couple of days I go into the office and I still find water to be OK – I just rub a bit harder although I occasionally just add a little hand soap.

Deodorant:

I was using various commonly available deodorants , generally choosing paraben free varieties – I would use a deodorant most days and an antiperspirant on the days I commute to the office as I get hot on the walk and train journey. These all came in plastic containers.  Now I use a deodorant bar from Lush which comes packaging free and seems to work much better as well. I bought one for my husband too and he was really impressed that he still smells fresh after a day at work.

Shampoo and conditioner:

With 3 of us in the house, we had 3 different shampoos in the shower, plus my conditioner. Now two of us have given up commercial shampoo completely. My son just washes his hair with water, and I now wash once a week with diluted honey, and primarily just wash with water once in between.  Occasionally I add a tea, coffee or even beer rinse – my hair actually loved the beer, which was an opened can left after new year, but I am not about to start buying beer especially for my hair.

My young son switched straight to water with no transition issues, but for most adults there will be a transition period with giving up shampoo, and a bit of trial and error to find what works for you.  This seems to have taken me about 3 months and as is apparently common with hard water I did have a period of “waxy” hair which was helped by applying apple sauce (which I kept putting off as it sounded fiddly but really was fairly straightforward and did the job).  I have also done one egg wash after I made the mistake of adding olive oil to moisturise the ends, as the honey was not enough to remove it.

I had read about people giving up shampoo years ago and although tempted couldn’t get my head around the idea of not washing at all – what happens if you go swimming, or if it rains (quite likely in the UK)?  It was only more recently, actually incidentally whilst researching the use of a sauna in an outbuilding we were bringing back into use, that I discovered a lot of people just use water to wash their hair (and their bodies).  Then I stumbled across an article about using honey as a shampoo and thought I would give it a try.  There are lots of other natural alternatives to shampoo depending on your hair type and whether you have hard or soft water – baking soda in water followed by diluted apple cider vinegar seems to be a fairly popular one.  The honey is a very gentle wash which may not be cleansing for everybody,  but it seems to work for me at the moment.  Ultimately I would like to use water only. My hair is still clean and my husband assures me it doesn’t smell – at least not unpleasant – of course it no longer smells of artificial fragrance – to me the ends , which are the only bits I can smell myself, smell a bit like caramel toffee.

Alongside this I have also stopped using any styling product  so eliminating the need for hair mousse and curl serums, and even tried cutting my own hair.

Sanitary products and toilet paper:

I have already been using cloth sanitary products since I discovered them when using washable nappies (it is a shame they are not marketed much more widely – as an older mum I had spent a lot of years using disposables without really being aware there was an alternative).  They are quite easy, and so much more comfortable than crinkly plastic pads that can end up in the ocean ( who hasn’t seen a few floating in the sea on holiday?).  And if like me you are never sure about timing, you can just wear one anyway without the waste of unecessarily using a disposable.  A mooncup is an even better alternative as you only need one and there isn’t the same amount of washing involved but I haven’t personally tried one.

Since stepping up on waste reduction I began to hear about “family cloth” – by which I mean a washable toilet roll replacement. Not something that had crossed my mind before, but we used washable wipes on our son when he was in nappies so the idea made sense, although I did initially think it was perhaps a step too far. I already had some fleecy baby wipes  – I actually bought them to replace cotton wool to wash my face or remove nail varnish but a regular flannel is so much better for face washing (still working on the nail varnish one) so they had just sat in the cupboard for a few years.   I already have a lidded bin by the en suite loo for washable pads so why not use it for these too – at least on a part-time basis (i.e. wee only).  I haven’t particularly mentioned this to the rest of the family or suggested they do likewise but this still makes a noticeable reduction in how often I need to buy loo roll.

Shaving:

Since deciding to reduce our waste I have been more diligent about cleaning the disposable razor I was using, and am still using it  2-3 times a week nearly 6 months on, although I will need to replace it soon.  I have a few more in the cupboard so will continue this way for a while before investigating alternatives further – I have tried electric shavers and epilators previously but without much success. When I ran out of shaving gel I replaced it with coconut oil (in a glass jar so for safety I always store this out of the shower) – this works really well, and it may be my imagination (and yes it is winter) but I am sure it also seems to have slowed my hair growth.  You only need a tiny amount so the small jar I bought will likely last me a few years.

Toothbrushes:

At the moment we are still using plastic toothbrushes but I have bought bamboo ones ready to use next.  The handles at least are compostable ( not totally sure about the bristles) and they came in a cardboard box rather than plastic.

Cleaning:

Commerical bathroom cleaner has now been replaced with a home made version made from borax substitute, vinegar and water, fragranced with a little geranium essential oil. With washable cleaning cloths of course.

Still to do:

At the moment we are still using regular bottles of shower gel and liquid hand soap ( although I did manage to buy a large container to refill the smaller ones).   I am sure the simplest thing would be to replace both with a bar soap, such as the pure olive oil one I have bought to try, but they do tend to dissolve into a sludgy mess.

UPDATE:  Yay, we have now switched to bar soap so no need for either shower gel or liquid soap dispensers.

 

If anyone has any other ideas, it would be great to hear them.

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Vegetable Curry in a Wonderbag

I have been lusting after a Wonderbag for ages.  This year one arrived under our Christmas tree. Hurrah!

Wonderbag

With this new piece of equipment I thought it was about time my I posted a recipe as I haven’t done one for ages, having got really engrossed in reducing our household waste and otherwise reducing our environmental impact. Which is where this fits in quite neatly. The Wonderbag, if you are not familiar with the concept, does not require electricity. You do still need a heat source to start off the cooking process, but once it is piping hot through you pop it into the Wonderbag which is so well insulated that it keeps in enough heat to continue the cooking process for around 4-5 hours ( maybe longer depending what you are cooking).
This suits us well as we have solar panels producing electricity in the middle of the day but we don’t get a chance to eat until quite late. As I work part time I am able to get the dinner going when the sun is out on those days I am home, and still have it hot when we are ready to eat .

For our first go at this I thought I would play it safe with a vegetable curry. The recipe is approximate – feel free to substitute in whatever spare veg you happen to have and vary the spices and quantities to taste, but this is (roughly) what I did. This is enough to serve 4 – as there were only 2 of us eating I just froze half and reheated in the microwave another day.

Start by getting your Wonderbag ready in the place you want to leave it cooking – the instructions suggest you place a trivet or pot stand inside to put your casserole on but you can also line with tea towels – actually I did both this time.

Ingredients:

  • Sweet potato – diced ( I used half of one as that was what we had)
  • Cauliflower – broken into florets ( depending on size half to one)
  • Broccoli – broken into florets ( again I used about half)
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion
  • Garlic
  • Approx 2cm cubed ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 green chilli, sliced
  • Handful of green beans
  • 400g tin of chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • A few mushrooms
  • A couple of tomatoes, chopped
  • Coconut milk ( either 1 can or the powdered sort diluted in hot water)
  • Vegetable stock ( if you like – I think I actually forgot this and just added water)

Additional spices to taste:

  • Chilli flakes or powder ( 1tsp)
  • Turmeric ( 1 tsp)
  • Cumin ( 1 tsp)
  • Ground Coriander ( 1tsp)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • In a tight lidded casserole safe for using on the hob, heat a little oil and fry the onion for a few mins till it is starting to soften.
  • Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and continue stirring for a minute, then add the other spices and stir in to release the flavour.
  • Next add the rest of the vegetables, coconut milk and stock – you want enough liquid to just cover all the vegetables ( not too much as the liquid doesn’t thicken/reduce in the Wonderbag).
  • Stir well and bring to the boil, cover tightly with the lid.
  • Boil for around 10 mins to make sure it is really hot.
  • Transfer carefully to the Wonderbag and seal it up tightly with the drawstring.
  • Get on with something else and come back to it up to 4 hours later ( but as it is all vegetables 1-2 may suffice).  Open it carefully – remember it will still be hot.
  • Serve with rice or Naan bread.

And sorry I forgot to take a photo of it before we ate it 

If you like it spicier you can add any additional spices you like or some curry powder. You could cook the rice in the bag too to save even more energy – you’ll need to add it at least 5 mins before you transfer to the Wonderbag and it will absorb some of the sauce.

Wonderbag 2

 

Notes on sourcing ingredients with minimal packaging:

If you are a more expert food grower that myself you may well have some of the ingredients straight from your garden or allotment – in which case I am in awe.  At this time of year we only had homegrown garlic and windowsill chilli and I had to go out to buy the rest.

I generally find the local market to be the easiest way to get unpackaged veg – so I went off with my trusty shopping trolley and filled up with most of the required veg either straight into my trolley or my own cloth bag. The ginger was unpackaged from supermarket.

The only veg I can’t find package free are the green beans – we have decided the best way to get these out of season is frozen so we can buy a larger amount ( less packaging pro rata) and my thinking is that it might also be more local than the out of season fresh ones shipped from Kenya – although I have yet to check this out ( note to self to do this soon). Sometimes we do have luck growing these so would have our own in the freezer, but sadly not this year.

Rice – I buy bulk 5 or 10kg  bags of basmati rice which last us ages – they are still in plastic but again, relatively less than buying the small bags.

Spices – I didn’t buy any especially this time but they are either in glass jars or again bought in bulk size bags.

Chick peas – I tend to buy in tins rather than dried for convenience – at least the tins are recyclable.

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