Tips to Reduce Waste in Your Bathroom
Looking for ways to create less waste in your home? Check out these simple tips to help you limit the amount of waste you and your family create in your bathroom.
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This post is part of our Beginner’s Guide to Going Waste Free in 2023.
Are you curious about reducing your waste and living more sustainably but aren’t sure where to start? You’re in the right spot. In a world buried in overconsumption, reducing our waste is one of the best places to explore more eco-friendly living. We’re so glad you’re here and hope you stick around for our Waste Free in 2023 challenge.
Whether your goals are big or small, we all start at the beginning. Maybe you’ve set yourself the lofty goal of creating only a mason jar’s worth of rubbish in 2023. Or maybe you’re just tired of lugging a heavy trash barrel to the curb once a week and want to start somewhere.
Either way, thank you! We need everyone doing a little bit, and the fact that you’re here and ready to take action is awesome.
This guide is aimed to be a ‘Beginner’s Guide to Reducing Waste’ with small, actionable steps to create sustainable living momentum in every room in your home. Once a month, we focus on an area or event in everyday life and provide related tips to reduce waste. We’ll cover everything from each room in your house and garden, to travel and celebratory events.
Although we call it the Waste Free in 2023 challenge (the rhyming name was catchy), we don’t expect with our current infrastructure and systems that it is possible to create no waste at all. “Zero Waste” can be seen as unattainable or overwhelming perfection.
If you can fit all your trash in a mason jar, fantastic. For most of us though, that’s not realistic. So be kind to yourself. Set realistic goals that are sustainable for you and your family. Start reducing your waste in the ways that feel most accessible to you. And come along with us on the journey to incorporating more low-waste habits into your everyday life!
5 Beginner Tips To Reduce Waste in Your Bathroom
As we settle into our room-by-room low-waste living guide, let’s start with the bathroom. We have tried all of these and hope that sharing our experience will help you decide which ones might be the best starting points for you. Here are five simple swaps to reduce waste in your bathroom.
Shampoo and Conditioner
I used to grab whatever shampoo was available for $1 at the dollar store. A couple of weeks later, I tossed the plastic bottle in the recycling (probably hoping it would be forever turned into new plastic and never wasted).
Then I learned that only 9% of plastic is ever actually recycled, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international policy-building organization. Data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) reinforces this metric, as you can see the sharp rise in plastic waste since 1960, and only 8.7% (approximately 3 million of 35 million tons) of that plastic is recycled based on the most recent data from 2018.
Trade organizations for the plastics industry want consumers to believe that recycling rates are higher so consumers don’t feel so bad about purchasing enormous amounts of the stuff. They’ve gone to great lengths to mislead consumers about the life cycle of single-use plastic. But the reality is that most plastic ends up in landfills and waterways. Recycling plastic is just too complicated and expensive to scale.
Try Shampoo & Conditioner Bars
Armed with this knowledge, I ditched the cheap shampoo and conditioner and made the simple swap to a shampoo bar. Shampoo and conditioner bars look like bars of soap and typically come in cardboard packaging that can be recycled or composted.
Many brands sell shampoo and conditioner bars. I’ve tried a few and love Hibar the most. It’s difficult to get in the United Kingdom (where I live now) but widely stocked in the United States (where I used to live). I’ve also heard great reviews about Ethique. Shampoo and conditioner bars last for ages, which means less shopping and saving money in the long run.
Shampoo bars vary from brand to brand and the best will be a personal choice. Ask friends or members f your local zero-waste Facebook group for recommendations. Try a few until you find one you really like. Hibar offers sampler packs, or you find some friends and share a few brands to try them out before you find your preferred one and invest in something long-term.
Buy shampoo and conditioner from local zero-waste shops
If you can’t get on with shampoo bars (and they don’t work for everyone), try purchasing shampoo and conditioner from your local refill shop. If you’re in Massachusetts, Unpacked Living has a great directory that can help you find your local zero-waste shop. Elsewhere, a quick internet search for zero-waste shops will probably do the trick.
I actually ended up with both low-waste shampoo swaps. I use shampoo bars for myself, and I use refills from our zero-waste shop for my kids and guests.
The US EPA once estimated that 2 billion (yes billion) razors and refill cartridges get chucked away in the US each year. That number came from a report in the 1990s, so it’s safe to assume that number is probably much higher now, though the EPA doesn’t specifically track single-use razor waste as a distinct category anymore. Add in single-use razor waste from the rest of the world and the volume of waste from this single product is unfathomable.
Most razors aren’t recyclable due to mixed materials. Recycling products made from a mix of metals or different types of plastics is very difficult because it’s hard to separate the materials, a necessary step to reuse those materials again. Consequently, razors are either burned in incinerators (releasing toxic fumes and greenhouse gases) or end up in a landfill.
I switched to a safety razor a few years ago and, like many who’ve made the switch, haven’t looked back. There are so many more varieties on the market now which helped lower the price of safety razors. To start, you can check out brands like Leaf and Well Kept.
They are more expensive initially than single-use razors, but you recover the initial investment pretty quickly (especially given the exorbitant cost of replacement blades). Safety razors are eco-friendly and you’re saving money in the end – Hooray!
If you’re a little nervous about using a safety razor, you’re not alone. They can be scary, but don’t be intimidated. I’ve not met anyone yet who doesn’t love theirs. Go slow and you’ll be fine!
No one wants to be the smelly person in the room, do they?! Most of us apply deodorant daily to block our sweat glands and stop that telling body odor smell. I’m not advocating that everyone go ‘au naturale’ (do what works best for you). And I’m definitely not the kind of person who could or would make her own deodorant.
When I started looking at making this switch, I found all the cardboard tubes very alien. It took some time to get used to the new offerings and packaging of eco-friendly deodorants. As with any new product you try, you may need a bit of trial and error to find the best brand that works for you. This isn’t all that different from finding the right health and beauty products regardless of their sustainability measures.
Fortunately, plastic-free and more sustainable brands are showing up on the shelves of big box stores, making them more affordable and accessible. Native deodorants and Dove refills are now sold in Target. In the United Kingdom, Wild offers deodorant refills. And you’ll like find a range of different options at your local refill store.
On a side note, natural deodorants don’t contain aluminum which has been linked to possible health issues. Even if you don’t switch to cardboard or zero-waste deodorant, check your ingredient list and review the research to make sure you know what you’re putting on your skin.
Toothbrushes and toothpaste
For many, swapping to a bamboo toothbrush is one of the first low-waste bathroom swaps they make. Some dentists even hand out bamboo brushes to patients to avoid adding to the mountain of plastic toothbrushes already filling up our landfills and oceans.
The American Dental Association recommends switching toothbrushes once every three to four months, which is about 3-4 toothbrushes per person per year. That’s a lot of toothbrushes! It’s estimated that we throw away 3.6 billion toothbrushes each year globally. Using a bamboo toothbrush that can be composted can cut your dental waste significantly. Tiny Yellow Bungalow is an awesome, online zero-waste shop that has a few bamboo toothbrushes that the owner has tested and vetted if you’re not sure where to start.
And what about toothpaste? To be honest with you, this is one we’ve not solved yet in our family. I don’t mind toothpaste tablets, but my husband and kids are not so keen on them. Some toothpaste comes in glass jars too. We’ve tried this, but it doesn’t work for us. For now, we prioritize using every last drop of paste in the tube, and then we recycle the plastic toothpaste tube with Terracycle. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s progress!
Finally, it’s the 2020 product of the year …. toilet paper! And before you get any ideas, I’m definitely not suggesting you give up toilet paper completely. If you’re a ninja-level zero waste pro, you can get a bidet or reusable clothes, but I know that’s not reasonable for more families.
Instead, I’m talking about swapping to brands that reduce plastic packaging and use more sustainable materials for the toilet paper itself. There are lots of alternative brands these days like Who Gives a Crap (get $10 off your first order) and Reel. Gone are the days when a huge stack of toilet rolls filled my trolley or shopping cart. Toilet paper is delivered to my door, free of any plastic packaging, and it’s glorious.
As a family of four, we order Who Gives a Crap toilet paper about twice a year. Our family consists of two kids (10 and 8) and two adults – two females and two males (it makes a difference in the amount used!). A pack of 48 rolls of toilet paper lasts us at least six months and works out to be pretty cost-effective relative to comparable alternatives from our local shopping options. Our editor did a deeper dive on cost analysis a while back if you’re curious.
The drawback is you need storage to be able to buy in bulk. Alternatively, why not club together with neighbours and share it out to spread the cost? Then you can order more frequently but require less space for storage.
Use what you already have
Lastly, before splurging on fancy new anything, the most eco-friendly things you can use are almost always the things you already own. Don’t throw out the shampoo and conditioner or the toilet paper already stashed in your closet. Use them up and wear things out first. Then, when you’re ready to replace items, consider the simple swaps above.
Which low-waste bathroom swap will you try?
So there you go, five simple swaps to reduce the waste from your bathroom. Which will you try? Consider picking one a week, or do them all when you next need to buy each item. Remember, we don’t need a handful of people going zero waste perfectly, we need everyone going zero waste as well as they can. It all adds up and will make a difference!
Stay tuned for February when we’ll be looking at the kitchen.
If you like low-waste bathroom swaps, you might also like
Easy Swaps For a Cleaner and Greener Bathroom
My Favorite Sustainable Subscriptions
15 Easy Steps Toward Zero Waste You Can Take Today
About The Author
Sarah Burgess is co-founder of the social movement Just1bag2020, mother of two, and British Expat who spent four years living in the United States and recently moved back to the United Kingdom. Sarah spends her time promoting local sustainable change through small, easy-to-do actions that everyone can do to help out the planet. When not picking up trash and persuading others to do the same, Sarah and her family can be found travelling the world and experiencing everything this precious Earth has to offer.