Plastic Free July 2020: Reducing Your Wasteline in the Bathroom (Part 3)

This is the third and final day of looking at bathroom products that can be swapped or substituted to cut back on waste, starting with one of the easiest switches to make:

Shampoo/conditioner

When it comes to shampoo and conditioner, there are a few ways to cut back on waste. The first is with shampoo or conditioner bars. These are solid bars of cleaning product that are brilliant for travel (no limitations around liquids in your hand language or worries about spills), and they can be purchased from a number of shops on the High Street or online.

The downside? You do need to give shampoos and conditioner bars a trial of a few weeks at least; you may find that you need to use far less than you thought for it to be effective, and apple cider vinegar rinses are sometimes recommended to remove all residue. Perhaps group together with friends to get a variety of bars, cut them into sections, and then each of you can give different brands a try?

One potential issue to watch out for with bars is that some contain sodium lauryl sulfate and/or palm oil. The former is a chemical that can cause skin irritation, and the latter is a product that has caused enormous damage to rainforests and biodiversity. Check the ingredients if these are important factors for you; Beauty Kubes is a brand that’s been recommended to me, and Friendly Soap likewise do no-nasty shampoo and conditioner bars.

There are other options beyond bars though, which is good depending on your hair type and whether you have hard water. As more and more refill places are springing up, save your favourite plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles and have them refilled with Faith in Nature, Alter/native, or whichever liquid product your local zero-waste shop sells.

If you can’t refill the shampoo/conditioner in a plastic bottle (and I’ve been told on good authority that some are designed not to be refillable!), consider using a glass pump bottle instead. I learned this lesson the hard way: the product is often too thick to flow easily from a glass jar or aluminium bottle, and they cannot be squeezed like plastic to get the product out, leading to a frustrating time getting the liquid from the container. A pump bottle should give you the best of both worlds: easy access to the product in a more aesthetically pleasing container. Just be careful if you have a tile shower as they won’t bounce!

Shower gel

As I don’t particularly like bar soap, I have switched to using Funky Soap Castile soap. Diluted and put in a pump bottle, it seems to be doing the job without leaving a film on my skin.

Menstrual

There has been a big push towards plastic-free periods over the past few years and I admit I was a bit late to get on the bandwagon. However, I made the leap to a menstrual cup earlier this year and haven’t looked back. Yes, it does take a little time to get used to, but once you get the knack, it’s a game changer. The cup I use is made by Saalt; I chose them after A LOT of research (seriously, it’s a bit of a rabbit hole once you start seeing what alternatives are out there) and I like the fact that they support education and sustainability programmes in developing countries. If you want more information about making the switch, feel free to drop me a line or check out Put a Cup In It.

Washable pads and liners are also available from a number of sources; try Etsy if you want to support an independent maker.

Suncream

My ideal product for daily use is something like Aveeno’s facial moisturiser with built-in SPF 30 in a refillable container, but I haven’t stumbled across anything similar yet. Lush do a sunblock bar that you can either apply in the shower (?!) or rub directly on the skin; I do the latter and it seems to get the job done. However, it’s not as portable as a typical bottle: it was designed to melt with body heat, so it’s not a product to toss in a bag to take with you on a day to the beach—it will liquify.

Lip Balm

My favourite is Chain Bridge Honey Farm’s honey and beeswax. This is actually a product I’ve used for ages because I like it so much, and the fact that it comes in a glass jar was always a bonus. It is very moisturising, the jar lasts for ages, and it can then be reused for other toiletries, e.g. I use one to hold paracetamol tablets in my travel bag and decant moisturisers into another for weekends away. I was in touch with them previously about the packaging they use during shipping and they are investigating eco-friendly materials; you can request this when you check out. Or pay them a visit once travel is in the cards again: their shop and café bus near Berwick-on-Tweed in incredible!

It’s not until writing it all out that I realised that there are A LOT of products we use in the bathroom! And it can feel quite overwhelming if you try to change everything at once.

Hint: Don’t.

Instead, make one change at a time and give yourself the opportunity to incorporate it into your daily routine. By taking the time to get used to it, you’ll be able to build up positive habits bit by bit. This makes it easy to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed and making it more likely you’ll stick with the switch.

There are a few more things to consider in the bathroom from an eco-perspective:

  • DIY: Some of the products above can be made yourself, just make sure that the packaging for the supplies you use are also plastic free or low waste. Perhaps you can buy products in bulk at a refill store and have a DIY party with friends or family?
  • Compost: There is also a movement to make more toiletry products compostable at home. For this to be convenient for you, make sure you have a small compost bin in your bathroom. I found a simple ceramic jar at a charity shop that looks good and doesn’t take up much space; I just empty it into the garden composter every few weeks.
  • 3 Ps: Only the three Ps should be flushed down the loo: paper, pee, and poo! Cotton buds, makeup or cleaning wipes, and everything else should be added to the bathroom bin or compost bin as appropriate.

Next week I’ll take a brief look at our wardrobe. Rather than a gateway to Narnia, the country’s obsession with fast fashion has meant that clothing has become a large contributor to the nation’s wasteline.

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