The bathroom can be a big eco crime scene, from the amount of water we waste, to all the virgin plastic packaging in our beauty products, to unsustainable tissue paper and poor waste disposal.
I don’t know about you, but I spend hours in the bathroom every week. I am really into body and skin care and I have a lot of products. To think about that every toothbrush and every plastic cream jar I ever used still exists on this planet and will for another few hundred years is staggering. For that reason I dug deep into finding more sustainable solutions and made quite a few changes. It’s really not a big deal and complicated, so there are simply no excuses not to. 😉
Here are some easy adjustments you can make for a more sustainable bathroom.
A Few Notes on Water
The lack of high-quality freshwater is one of the world’s greatest challenges according to the International Water Association, IWA. It affects food security, human health, and our ecosystems. The world water crisis is severe. Approximately 3 billion people are without water at home or in the vicinity. About 4 billion are without continuous access to water. While some people are literally dying of thirst, others need to conserve.
Home water consumption worldwide ranges from 28 to 631 liters (7 to 167 gallons) per person per day according to a publication by the International Water Association. The UN recommendation is about 50-100 liters (13-26 gallons) per person. That means a lot of people consume more water than they need.
The average American consumes more than 370 liters of water (98 gallons) per day. Taking the UN recommendations into consideration, each person in the United States could single-handedly save 98,550 liters (26,034 gallons) per year. This means the nation as a whole would save 31.8 trillion liters, which are 8.4 trillion gallons. Let that sink in for a moment.
- Take short showers. Turn the water off while you’re soaping and shampooing. You’ll also use less soap because you are not rinsing it off immediately with running water as you are applying it. Makes sense, right?
- Use a low-flow shower-head to save water at home. Also, showers are better than baths. However, in order to actually save water compared to a bath, you have to take 5 min showers (or less). By using a low-flow head, you could even save more water, and allow yourself up to 10 min under the shower. If you are using a power shower head, you might be using more water than a bath, no matter how long you stay in there.
- Don’t let the water run unnecessarily when brushing your teeth or washing your hands. For example, when you leave the faucet on for 5 minutes while brushing your teeth, you will consume 18 liters (5 gallons) of water. If you open the tap only when you need to wet the toothbrush or rinse and close it right afterward, your consumption will drop to less than 2 liters (half a gallon). You can save even more by filling a glass of water and just use that to brush your teeth. You’ll consume only 250 ml of water (1 cup).
- Use ‘half’ flush, if available, when using the toilet (saves water).
- Switch to 100% recycled toiler paper with no plastic packaging, or toilet paper made out of bamboo. If that’s all not available check out this guide ‘The Issue With Tissue’ for more sustainable options.
Ditch the Plastic
- Use natural and biodegradable wooden comb and hairbrushes.
- Look into getting a soap bar after your liquid soap pump is out of soap. Or keep refilling your existing pump. You can even get shampoo soap bars.
- Replace your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo biodegradable one.
- DIY Toothpaste: Two tbsp of baking soda (neutralizes the ph of the oral cavity. It has mild abrasive properties to remove stains from teeth). Two tbsp of coconut oil (has natural antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties. It also protects the teeth against cavities.). Ten drops of peppermint oil (gives a fresh breath and nice taste!).
- Use refillable dental floss. Most brands are made of nylon and come in plastic packaging. Try using biodegradable silk floss or vegan activated charcoal dental floss in a glass package. If that’s not for you and you want to stay with nylon, make sure it’s PFAS and PTFE free. Our favorite is Dr Tung’s Smart Floss in plastic-free packaging.
- Use mouthwash tablets you can dissolve in a glass of water.
- Replace your disposable razor and replacement heads with reusable metal safety razors. Instead of packaged shaving creams use a shaving soap bar.
- Go for plastic-free personal care. If you use tampons and can’t live without an applicator buy a reusable tampon applicator. It fits every size of tampon, is antimicrobial, and easy to insert. After use wipe it, rinse, and return to the storage box. You can sterilize in hot water between periods.
- If you have a baby, choose a better diaper option. Use cloth diapers or a new, environmentally responsible disposable brand.
- Those travel-sized beauty products are so convenient but cause a huge amount of waste for no reason and very little product. Instead, buy in refillable travel bottles and pots or, even better, wash out and reuse any mini bottles you already have.
- Pick the right packaging. Brands are starting to introduce PCR (post-consumer plastics) in their packaging, which means no new plastic is being produced. If made of PCR, it is indicated on the packaging, so read the labels. Aveda and REN are such brands but there are many more. Alternatively, you could opt for products packaged in glass.
Ditch the Disposables
- Switch to reusable face pads made of bamboo instead of disposable single-use cotton rounds to clean your face and remove make-up. A staggering 20,000 litres (5283 gallons) of water are needed to create only 1kg (2.2 pounds) of cotton.
- For the ladies, consider letting go of tampons and get a menstrual cup. It’s a very sustainable option. Every month menstruating women throw away tampons, pads, applicators, plastic, and paper packaging. Using a menstrual cup eliminates all that trash.
Check out the Environmental Working Group’s EWG’s Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics, which rates 70,000 personal care products for their safety. They look for toxic substances and subsequent dangers. They even have an EWG VERIFIED™ certification. When you see the EWG VERIFIED™ mark on a product, you can be sure it’s free from EWG’s chemicals of concern and meets their strictest standards for your health. You can also check out our cosmetics certification label guide for clean beauty products.
Look for 100% organic cotton towels with the GOTS – The Global Organic Textile Standard certification label. It ensures that no harmful chemicals are used during the manufacturing process for organic cotton. Conventional cotton on the other hand is a very destructive crop to grow. Pesticides seep into the ground, poison farmers and other workers each year.
While most of us only recycle our kitchen waste, we recycle only 50% of our beauty packaging, probably because our recycling bins are in the kitchen. For that matter Joseph Joseph makes an aesthetically pleasing Split Trash Can Recycle Bin.