The bathroom is probably the second most wasteful room in the house behind the kitchen. There are lots of disposable products in your bathroom, but we have some ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling them. So, use the below tips to create your own zero waste bathroom!
For my family, we noticed a HUGE decrease in the amount of garbage in our bathroom cans after we put small recycling bins in each bathroom. It was such an easy change, but having that dedicated recycling can in the bathroom gave us no excuse for tossing toilet paper rolls and shampoo bottles in the garbage.
We even put labels on the recycling bin so that visitors would know what should go in.
10 Ways To Have A Zero Waste Bathroom
The recommendations below are to help educate you and offer solutions for bringing items into your home that are more environmentally friendly. Leaving behind those items that have packaging that is doing harm to the environment is the ultimate challenge – but the ideas below should give you the nudge you need to know what to look for to reduce bathroom trash and leave a lower carbon footprint!
1 | Trash Can For Recyclables
Make sure you are using a recycling can in your bathroom – or even a paper bag if space is an issue! Most people use one garbage can and throw everything in that one can without sorting it – and that is a big no no! Making sure your paper and plastics that you do have are recycled is critical.
2 | Toothbrushes
Many use plastic toothbrushes which are not always recyclable. Definitely check with your local recycling center to see if they accept them or have options for you.
An alternative is the Preserve toothbrush, which offers something called the Gimme 5 program that encourages recycling. Also, some of those interchangeable heads on electric toothbrushes are made with a lot less plastic and they seem to last a lot longer than a regular old Oral B.
3 | Toothpaste
Tom’s of Maine uses aluminum tubes for their toothpaste, which can be recycled (and nope, you don’t need to clean it out)! If you go the route of brushing teeth with pure baking soda, that cuts down on a lot of packaging.
4 | Cotton Balls & Wipes
My family seldom ever used cotton balls, so we stopped buying them. A good alternative is to use the Kirkland wipes re-use method we’re so fond of. The wipes are machine washable, which makes them soft and a little fuzzy, and they can be washed several times before they fall apart. Those small, thin baby washcloths would also make good substitutes.
If you do use cotton balls, they can be composted. What you do want to avoid are the one-time disposable wipes that are marketed to us for every specific part of the body. There are baby wipes, makeup remover wipes, moist flushable wipes for when your child gets out of diapers and starts using the potty, adult size moist flushable wipes for that adult that wants to feel baby-fresh, and even moist flushable wipes for that woman who’s not feeling very fresh down there. I won’t get into all the types of cleaning wipes there are…
5 | Razors
Disposable razors are popular but are probably one of the worst options for those of us that are environmentally aware. You use them a couple of time and throw them away and are rarely recyclable.
You can try using a reusable razor which is a little better. The system features a handle and then you just change out the razor heads as needed. These are a bit pricier than the disposable but the handle should last a long time if properly maintained which will minimize cost and waste.
Electric razors would be one of our preferred options – the cost one time is a bit high, but with the minimal cost of electricity and long term use life this is just a great option.
6 | Cosmetics
I recently spent some time at an Aveda store and I was blown away by their lipsticks! They use responsible packaging which is 40% post consumer recycled aluminum and can be recycled.
I heard that Stila sells replaceable cartridges for its cosmetics and that you can return empty MAC brand cosmetic containers to its stores for recycling. We’ll admit, neither Renee nor I wear much make-up, so we’re not all that familiar with other low-waste cosmetic options. Any other suggestions?
7 | Skin and Hair Care
Many grocery stores now carry various brands of shampoo, conditioner and lotion in bulk. You bring in your own container and have it weighed by a cashier, fill it up and then when you check out, the cashier will subtract the weight of the container from the price so you are only paying for the actual product! I do this at a local store where I live and I know I am saving a ton of money.
There aren’t many shampoos and conditioners that come in glass bottles (due to the breakage issue) but you can find facial cleansers and lotions that do. Some Aveda skin care products come in glass bottles, which are easier to recycle than plastic.
Of course you could always go the no shampoo route where you use baking soda instead of shampoo or conditioner. I keep hearing from people that it works, I just haven’t had the courage to try it yet – my hair is so thick I am afraid it would never work, but I know I should try it. Another option is to make your own very basic shampoo from Dr. Bronners, vegetable glycerin and water, using your own reusable bottles.
8 | Deodorant
I recently shared my experiment of using tea tree oil instead of antiperspirant. (And by the way, it’s still working amazingly well and I’m totally hooked! I’ve stopped using the lavender oil and am using straight tea tree oil. And I’m pretty sure I don’t stink.
I’ve managed to reduce my anti-stink routine down to one small glass bottle of tea tree oil instead of a clunky plastic container.
9 | Medicine
Consider the packaging options available when filling prescriptions or buying OTC meds. As much as I sometimes would prefer the convenience of individually wrapped pills, we usually opt for liquid meds for the kids in glass jars. This cuts down on waste and cost, and ups your recycling possibilities.
This tip won’t help you reduce waste, but it’s important to mention that unused medication should never be flushed or rinsed down the drain. Dump them all in a sealed container or plastic baggie with some coffee grounds or cat litter or something disgusting (so that kids or junkies won’t find ’em) and put them in the garbage.
Probably the best way to reduce medicinal waste is to take frequent inventory and not buy more than you need. Also, as I recall, mail-order pharmacies will often give you a three-month supply of prescription medication, which packs more pills into one bottle than a one-month supply.
10 | Feminine Hygiene
We had a big discussion about eco-friendly menstrual products awhile back, so I’m just going to send you over there for some options. I had a really good Diva Cup experience, which was an option that worked really well for me until I got a Mirena IUD and stopped having my period. So whether you go for the IUD, Diva Cup or other option it can make a big impact on the environment!
11 | Toilet Paper
OK, I know what you are thinking – eww how can toilet paper be no waste! Well, you may be kind of shocked, but lots of people who are try EnviroMom’s have incorporated reusable toilet paper into their homes. While this may not be an option for everyone – it is definitely one that can save a lot money – while saving the earth.
Is anyone starting to see a pattern here? The message that runs through all of our posts on how to reduce waste is that we make our greatest impact when we REDUCE. No question, the bathroom is an area where we can greatly reduce. If we take a virtual walk through a drug store, there’s a dizzying array of ways to part with our money: q-tips, cotton balls, the plethora of wipes, medications, bandages of every shape and size, shampoos, hair colors and sprays, makeup and removers, sunscreens, lotions and potions…
Everyone has their sacred cows, especially when it comes to la toilette. But there are probably a few things you regularly buy that you probably don’t need. Or lotions that can do double-duty if you brainstorm on it a while.