Reduce Your Wasteline: The Bathroom

To kick off Plastic Free July, I thought I would share the changes we’ve made at home over the past few years to cut back on plastic in particular and reduce our “wastelines” in general. If you’ve been wondering how someone can reduce plastic while going about their day-to-day life, this series is for you!

For the sake of complete honesty and disclosure I am also writing about the things I am struggling to change—if you have any suggestions for products or processes that have worked for you, please let me know about them!

While the brands I mention work for me (and affiliate links are occasionally used), you may have your own favourites: please let me know as I am always looking for new environmentally-friendly products for the annual gift guide.

Reducing your wasteline in the bathroom is a great way to not only look after the environment but as you use less packaging, it also becomes much easier to keep the bathroom tidy—no plastic bottle creep around the edge of the bath or shower!

    • Toilet paper: Jon and I made the switch to Who Gives a Crap toilet paper over a year ago and, so far, it’s worked out very well. For the two of us, the cost is roughly the same as buying it at the store, and delivery of 48 rolls comes in a cardboard box every four months. If you have small children or cats, the large box is likely to become a firm favourite, and the brightly coloured paper the rolls come wrapped in would be perfect for arts and crafts projects (or, if feline, crumpling into a ball and chasing). However, I recognise that we are fortunate to have the extra space to store a rather large amount of loo roll. If you are short on storage, consider joining together with neighbours or friends and divvying it up into more manageable amounts. BONUS: Half of the profits go to sanitation projects in developing countries.
    • Hand Soap: This is probably something I shouldn’t admit as someone who is trying to encourage others to reduce their wasteline, but I really dislike bar soap. I have tried A LOT of different brands over the years and they always seems to leave a weird film on my skin (or maybe I just have weird skin?). Until recently, my solution was to reuse a Method foaming hand soap pump filled with a mixture of Dr Bronner’s Castile soap and water. Dr Bronner’s is highly concentrated and one bottle has lasted two or three years. However, as I neared the end of it, I substituted a similar concentrated liquid hand soap from Zero Green in Bristol; simply BYOC (bring your own container) and refill as needed.
    • Facial Cleanser: I recently found a new favourite that is not only plastic-free, but completely packaging free if you use a bit of forethought. Lush do a naked product range and their Tea Totaler and Cold Cream have been fantastic for my skin. They melt with body heat, so it’s just a matter of rub on and wash off with a cloth. If you remember to BYOC to the shop, just pop the cleansing bars into the container and take them to the till: no need to wrap them in paper (if you don’t BYOC, you will definitely need to get them wrapped as they will melt in your hands).
    • Moisturiser: I have dry skin that occasionally flares with eczema, so moisturisers are both an absolute necessity and a weakness: I love trying out new skin products in my search for the Holy Grail of Hydration. On the bright side, there are so many brands now making strides to reduce plastic and waste, that it’s much easier to find one that works for you.
      • Funky Soap Shop: Not only do they do rich moisturising products (olive oil and moringa is a favourite), but they also operate a refill service. Simply send back the clean, empty aluminium container to be refilled when needed. If you remember to save the packaging, you can use that again and again too!
      • Herbfarmacy: This is literally a British-grown brand that makes a variety of lotions and potions that will make your skin feel great and smell like a meadow (in a good way!). They were already pretty eco-conscious, but they are switching to aluminium containers and looking to go completely plastic free.
      • Refill Shops: Zero Green does a locally made body lotion, and it wouldn’t surprise me if other refill shops offer similar products. Simply BYOPB (bring your own pump bottle … or desired container) and refill when needed.
      • Lush: Lush is known for their black pots, which are recycled inhouse and made into new products. They have a lot of moisturisers to choose from, and if you bring five pots back to the store, you get a free face mask. But they also do a naked body lotion that I’ve just started using; just bring a container to pop it into if you want to avoid any packaging.
    • Deodorant: We’re batting 50/50 on this one. Jon switched to Kutis deodorant, which comes in a cardboard tube, and he hasn’t had any issues with it. I tried the same type and ended up with itchy armpits for a few weeks before I realised that the bicarbonate of soda was likely irritating my skin. So I’ve gone back to my normal roll-on for the time being. Do you know of a gentle but effective plastic-free deodorant? Please let me know!
    • Makeup: I don’t often wear makeup, but this is can be a difficult item to find a good plastic-free or low-waste replacement for. Lush do some and their translucent powder is pretty good, but I am trying to find an alternative foundation or facial moisturiser with SPF 30. If you have any suggestions, drop me a line.
    • Makeup Wipes: I used to love makeup wipes: they’re quick and convenient to use, and great while travelling. They also do what they say on the tin: remove makeup. But the amount of waste they (and all wipes) produce is shocking. I found that standard flannels tend to just smear makeup, but the Human+Kind Deep Cleansing Cloths actually remove it while feeling great on the skin. They come in packs of two so one stays at home and one goes on the road with me. A number of places have also started to do reusable makeup removal pads, so there is bound to be something that fits with your routine.
    • Cotton buds: I just made the jump to bamboo cotton buds that are advertised as being compostable in a garden composter. They came in a cardboard box, which I recognise is a low threshold, but so many products advertised as plastic-free get delivered wrapped in plastic that I feel I should give credit where it’s due! So far they are working as intend, but I’ll find out how well they breakdown (or not) once they work their way through the composter.
    • Toothbrush: Our dentist prefers us to use an electric toothbrush, so this is something that I don’t anticipate changing in the foreseeable future (although this is worth investigating further!), but our travel toothbrushes are bamboo.
    • Dental floss: Okay, the whole dental hygiene area is something I am working on with regards to eliminating plastic. As someone with a permanent dental appliance, I love dental picks as they make cleaning between teeth much easier because using standard floss can be quite tricky. That being said, plastic-free floss is now available made from bamboo or other biodegradable products.
    • Shampoo/conditioner: I was fortunate that the very first shampoo bar I tried (Lush’s Honey, I Wash My Hair) worked well for me from the start. I have since experimented with others that just don’t play nicely with my hair, so you may have to try a few to find your best fit. Perhaps group together with friends to get a variety of types, cut them into sections, and then each of you can give different brands a try? Conditioner is proving a bit trickier as Lush’s just didn’t seem to do much for my hair so I am still on the hunt for one that will do the job. CAVEAT: 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.
    • Shower gel: As I mentioned, I really don’t like bar soap and at the moment I am using up the last of a batch of shower gel I was given as a gift. I will be looking for a replacement soon so if you have any suggestions, send them my way please!
    • Razor: I still use a Venus razor with replaceable heads that produces its fair share of plastic waste. I know should invest in an electric razor or epilator but haven’t done so yet due to the convenience/pain factor/weird skin. Any recommendations?
    • Menstrual: There has been a big push towards plastic-free periods over the past few years and I admit I’ve been 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.
    • 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 earlier this year 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: their shop and café bus near Berwick-on-Tweed in incredible!

Wow, 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.

Tomorrow 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.

I have been wanting to separate the anti-litter work of Off the Ground from general waste reduction for a while now, and I am pleased to announce that I am gearing up to launch a new blog:

It will not be focusing on going zero waste or completely plastic free (although I applaud you if that’s your end goal!), but rather about doing what you can, when you can to make a positive difference. Please sign up to be notified once it is ready to go public.

9 thoughts on “Reduce Your Wasteline: The Bathroom”

  1. Because the loo rolls are individually wrapped, they are great for construction of forts, towers, pyramids and similar. (and not just for kids)

  2. Toothpaste – I couldn’t get on with the georganics but the lush toothpaste tablets are good for me. I’m a bit disappointed that they still come in a plastic container bit it’s recycled and recyclable and is significantly less plastic than the equivalent toothpaste tubes.

    • Thanks for the tip, Jo! I’m heading to Lush later this week so I’ll have to check them out. I also just discovered that Humble Co. do a lot of dental products, but the cost is considerably more the plastic versions. It’s another brand to investigate though.

  3. I am finding that the bathroom is one of the easier places within the home to eliminate plastic.
    So many things with an ‘eco’ slant are very expensive. It’s not surprising that large numbers of people don’t make the switch. I can’t afford to do as much as I would like, nor can I get over the feeling that I’m being ripped off!

    • This is exactly one of the reasons I’ll be starting Reduce Your Wasteline, with a focus on looking at the cost, convenience, and effectiveness of different products. That being said, while I’m sure some products have artificially inflated prices, many smaller companies that are genuinely eco-conscious will have an increased cost due to ensuring that the different components of their supply chain are likewise ethically sound (and increased production costs for glass, increased fuel costs for the increased weight of packaging, etc.). Greenwashing is a very real threat to products at the moment, and this is something else I want to look into to ensure that there aren’t negative unintended consequences to making the switch to plastic-free products.

  4. I had been using this shampoo bar https://www.cosycottagesoap.co.uk/products/caring-shampoo-soap-bar but I had found it left my hair sticky/waxy. I had chosen that company because it’s local and palm oil free.
    After reading your blog I thought I’d try out Lush and ended up getting this shampoo bar https://uk.lush.com/products/shampoo-bars/seanik. It has left my hair feeling softer and cleaner than the other one and it smells nice! However it does contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate which is palm oil derived. It’s probably the SLS that makes the hair feel cleaner.

    • I’ve heard good things about Seanik and I’m glad it’s working well for you! The SLS is an issue I am planning to look into further because I agree that it’s not ideal (on a few levels–it can also be a skin irritant). I think the challenge will be to find something as quick and easy, plastic free, and doesn’t involve making it by hand or an apple cider vinegar rinse.

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