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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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