15 Simple Swaps for a Zero Waste Bathroom


ZERO WASTE BATHROOM ITEMS

After the kitchen, the bathroom is the place in most of our homes that produces the most waste (and yes, also that OTHER waste). I had no idea how much garbage was coming out of our bathroom until I started really paying attention, but once I did, I was shocked! Tons of paper towels in our cleaning routine, bottles and bottles of soap, shampoo, and conditioner, plastic toothbrushes, and other miscellaneous stuff were constantly going into our bathroom trash can.


I didn’t go out of my way to throw anything away and replace it immediately--that would have been even more wasteful--but as we used up what we already had, I started looking for Zero Waste swaps that we could use instead. I feel like this is the simplest and least expensive way to implement a Zero Waste bathroom routine: If something needs replacing anyway, why not replace it with a Zero Waste alternative?


Because so many items we use in the bathroom--from toilet paper to toothbrushes-- are disposable it really is important for all of us to find more sustainable alternatives that can either be composted or recycled so they don’t end up as more plastic in the landfill.


Now that our family has had time to overhaul most of the products in our bathroom, here are my top swaps to help cut down on bathroom waste:


1. Shampoo and Conditioner


Normal Bathroom: Bottles of Shampoo and Conditioners

Zero Waste Swap: Shampoo and Conditioner Bars.


Bars are a great alternative to bottled hair & body care products. They don’t contain any added water, so they are lighter to transport, meaning they use energy to get from production to the store (or to your door) and they don’t require any plastic packaging. You can find many bars wrapped in paper, and they are becoming easier to find at regular grocery stores. I have noticed that shampoo bars tend to be easier to find than conditioner bars, but I have tried good ones from hi-Bar and Ethique. I currently use bars from Ethique because they work well with my dry/wavy hair type.


Often when people switch to bars, they think they are a bad deal or expensive because they seem so small, but remember, when you buy bottled shampoo and conditioner you are mostly paying for packaged water. The bars are concentrated and last a long time.


Alternative Zero Waste Swap: If you just don’t think the bars are for you, you can make your own shampoo and body wash using diluted castile soap in a pump bottle. Just buy the largest quantity you can for liquid castile soap or dissolve castile soap bars in water. You may also be able to refill your liquid shampoo and conditioners from bulk bins at certain stores. Additionally, more companies are coming out with creative products like water-free shampoo paste, though I personally have not tried these yet.


2. Hand Soap and Body Wash


Normal Bathroom: Bottled hand soap and body wash:

Zero Waste Swap: Soap Bars


Like shampoo and conditioner, liquid soap is primarily made up of water, so switching to bars results in less or no packaging, and much lower energy expenditure for shipping.


Alternative Zero Waste Swap: Again, hand and body soap can be made by diluting castile soap with water.


3. Body Pouf or Sponge


Normal Bathroom: Plastic Mesh Body Pouf or Sponge:

Zero Waste Swap: Sea Sponge or Natural Loofah


While body poufs and sponges aren’t necessarily single-use, they also don’t have a particularly long shelf life. Switch to a sea sponge or unbleached loofah. Both of these swaps work great, are good for your skin, and they can be tossed in the composter when they’ve finally worn out.


4. Toothbrush


Normal Bathroom: Plastic Toothbrush

Zero Waste Swap: Bamboo Toothbrush.


Once again, toothbrushes are something we should be switching out at least every couple of months, if not more often. That can add up to a lot of plastic, not to mention the plastic from the packaging they come in! Bamboo toothbrushes are compostable (except the bristles for some of them. If you buy one without compostable bristles you’ll need to cut those off). They also usually come in compostable paper packaging.


5. Toothpaste


Normal Bathroom: Toothpaste in a Plastic Tube

Zero Waste Swap: Toothpaste tablets



Alternative Zero Waste Swap: Some company’s like Tom’s of Maine sell toothpaste in #2 plastic recyclable tubes. While the current state of recycling is somewhat fraught, this is still better than a tube that needs to be thrown in the trash. This is the toothpaste we use for the kids because it's the one they like the best and because we can easily find it at most grocery stores.


Note: some people do make their own toothpaste. If you think this is something you would be interested in, here is a link to some recipes from Wellness Mama. Personally, I still buy toothpaste because it's one less thing I have to do myself.


6. Dental Floss


Normal Bathroom: Plastic Dental Floss

Zero Waste Swap: Compostable Dental Floss


Assuming you actually remember to floss your teeth regularly, it’s pretty easy to swap to a Zero Waste alternative. Life without Plastic has this silk dental floss and Earth Hero carries this compostable vegan swap. Both companies ship package-free floss refills.


7. Shaving Razors


Normal Bathroom: Plastic and/or disposable Razors

Zero Waste Swap: Metal Safety Razor


Switching your disposable, plastic razor for a reusable metal safety razor is an easy swap to make. While a safety razor may cost a bit more upfront, it will last long enough to pay for itself in the long run. Both the razor handle and blades are recyclable for when they do eventually wear out.


8. Shaving Cream


Normal Bathroom: Canned Shaving Cream

Zero Waste Swap: Shaving soap.


Once again, bar soap to the rescue to prevent unnecessary packaging and to (literally) lighten the load to ship products.


9. Deodorant


Normal Bathroom: Deodorant in a plastic container

Zero Waste Swap: Zero Waste Deodorant Stick in a compostable tube.


Opting for deodorant in a compostable container is a great way to cut down on plastic packaging and waste. I have also seen deodorants in powder or cream form in reusable glass containers, but the stick version is my favorite: it’s the lightest to ship and easiest to use.


Some people also make their own deodorant. This is another one of those things that I just don’t feel confident doing. I run hard, bike hard, and ski hard, and I also don’t shower every day to conserve water (and because it’s better for my skin and hair) so I need to be confident my deodorant will work. However if you feel like this is something you want to try, here is one of many recipes you can find out there.


10. Cotton Balls


Normal Bathroom: Bleached cotton balls and swabs for removing makeup

Zero Waste Swap: Fabric reusable facial pads that can be washed and used over and over.

Alternative Zero Waste Swap: Compostable single-use makeup remover wipes that can be tossed in the composter after use.


Either fabric or compostable facial pads are an easy, more sustainable swap to make once you run out of your current staff of cotton balls. Just be sure to use fabric facial pads that don’t have any synthetic components so you can also toss those in the composter once they are worn out.


11. Toilet Paper


Normal Bathroom: Paper Toilet Paper

Zero Waste Swap: Bamboo toilet paper.


Bamboo grows faster than wood and absorbs more carbon, making it a good sustainable alternative to traditional toilet paper. This Betterway Bamboo Toilet Paper ships plastic-free & carbon neutral, and Who Gives a Crap is a certified B Corp with an excellent product (and possibly the best company name).


Alternative Zero Waste Swap: A Bidet or cloth toilet paper. Yes, washable cloth toilet paper exists. This...this is not for me. I just...can’t. But if you want to try it, you have my blessing and admiration. Also, a bidet is not a bad choice either (and a very fancy choice if you ask me).


12. Cleaning


Normal Bathroom: Cleaning products and supplies that include plastic toilet wand, paper towels, traditional cleaners in plastic bottles.

Zero Waste Swaps: Bamboo or Wooden Toilet Wand, Bamboo Unpaper towels or reusable cleaning cloths, biodegradable cleaners in reusable bottles.


I’m sort of lumping these together because everyone’s cleaning routine looks a little bit different. Also, how often do you really need to replace your toilet scrubber? However, when it does come time to replace things, look for sustainable alternatives. Washable bamboo unpaper towels and sturdy cleaning rags are great because you can use them over and over. A bamboo scrubber can go into the composter when it eventually wears out, and by either making your own cleaners or buying concentrated cleaners in bulk and refilling your own spray bottles, you can really cut down on your cleaning waste. You can read more about my favorite all-purpose cleaning recipes here.


13. Bath Towels & Linens


Normal Bathroom: Traditional towels and bath linens

Zero Waste Alternative: Towels and linens that are GOTS Certified.


GOTS Certification means the materials used to make the linens or towels were organically grown AND the final product they’ve been turned into aren’t treated with any harmful chemicals during the manufacturing process. You’ll also see OKEO-Tex Certification. This certifies the material is free of 100 chemicals that are known to be harmful to humans but does not guarantee organic farming practices. Organic certification refers to how the product is grown--that is, without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers--but the final product the organic materials are turned into may still be treated with harmful chemicals. GOTS certification covers both organic farming and the exclusion of harmful chemicals, so you know sustainable practices have been maintained throughout the entire process.


14. Hair Comb & Brush


Normal Bathroom: Plastic Hair Combs & Brushes

Zero Waste Swap: Bamboo Combs & Brushes


Again this isn’t something you need to replace super often, but when it’s time, once again, opt for bamboo. Bamboo is much more sustainable to grow, and when you finally do need to replace these items, they can go in the composter. I’ve had the same bamboo comb and brush for years--since before we even started going zero waste--and they are still in great shape, so they also last a long time!


15. Menstrual Products


Normal Bathroom: Disposable pads and menstrual products

Zero Waste Swap: Menstrual cup or washable period products.


There’s actually a really good variety of zero waste and sustainable menstrual products out there now. I really think things have come a long way over the last few years. With these reusable swaps, you won't have to worry about producing extra waste during your period each month.


Alternative Zero Waste Swap: If reusables aren't for you, you can also find menstrual products that are compostable after use (as long as you remove any adhesive portions).

 

As I mentioned before, don’t feel like you need to go out and buy all new things and purge everything in your bathroom. Rather, as you run out of something or the items you have become worn out, opt for the sustainable alternative.


And of course, if there are other items you use regularly that I haven’t listed here, Earth Hero and Life Without Plastic both have good selections of personal care and bath items.


Also, you can check out my post on Sustainable Online Shopping Alternatives for more information. If you’re looking to add more sustainable alternatives to your kitchen too, check out my post on Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials.


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