What we do on a day-to-day basis matters. As one person, our habits won't contribute much to global warming and plastic waste that is slowly choking our world. But as a collective, we have the power to greatly reduce human impact on our one and only planet. And it can all start by what we purchase and what we do in our homes.
The bathroom in particular breeds waste, and I'm not just talking about human waste. Water, toilet paper, disposable utensils; it seems items don't last in the bathroom. So I present to you ways to combat waste and help the environment, little-by-little, starting in our bathrooms.
Yep, this is a thing now, and I'm glad it's gaining popularity and I'm finally seeing them in stores. Bamboo is an amazing, sustainable plant. Unlike trees that take decades to grow and with plenty of water, bamboo is small, doesn't need much room, and it grows fast with minimal water. This is why bamboo items are considered eco-friendly, at least for hard items (textile bamboo might be another story).
The average person will throw away over 300 toothbrushes. Considering most people throw out their toothbrush ever 3-4 months, it's alarming where all those hard plastic dental sticks end up. So the bamboo toothbrush can be thrown away, guilt-free, not only because it will decompose naturally in the wild, but its production doesn't leave a footprint on the environment.
Bamboo toothbrushes may have natural bristles, but most will have BPA-free plastic bristles, which is better than the alternative. Some even have charcoal-laced bristles, which is said to help clean teeth. Either way, it's better than throwing out heavy plastics that cannot be recycled.
There are a few downsides to the bamboo toothbrush, depending on the tolerance of the individual. Firstly, the bristles on the toothbrush are on the softer side, so you may have to brush harder and longer than normal for the usual effect. Also, because the bristles are softer, they tend to fray quicker, and while you're not hurting the environment when throwing them out, you will have to purchase more because of their frailty.
Secondly, some people may find it hard to adapt to the new feeling of wood on the hands and in the mouth, which contrasts greatly from smooth plastic.
And thirdly, they are often more expensive; some ridiculously. My recommendation is to buy bamboo toothbrushes in bulk online. On Amazon, you can buy a dozen, with each costing just a little over a dollar. And see about how they are packaged. Store bamboo toothbrushes are packaged in plastic, but you can find cardboard and paper packaging online. Some have colors, some are bland. There's a variety. And those with rounder edges will naturally be more comfortable.
- Made from natural, sustainable material
- Guilt-free when pitched
- More costly
- Can take a while to get used to
- Bristles may be too soft
If soap can be in a liquid and solid form, why not shampoo? While not common in retail stores, this is a wonderful idea for people who want to cut down on plastic and save money. Whereas liquid shampoo can sometimes be overdone, resulting in wasteful amounts, a shampoo bar only needs a few seconds of scrubbing on the scalp and the suds overflow! You wouldn't think a little bar would hold more than a liquid bottle, but that's the real benefit of the shampoo bar; it's compact but lasts a long time. Obviously how long it takes would depend on the brand, but it's a guarantee to last. I bought my little shampoo + conditioner bar over a month ago, and it has barely dwindled in size.
So, no more disposing of plastic bottles of shampoo. Online, you can find shampoo (and conditioner) with no plastic packaging, but be sure to check. I've investigated some that had plastic wrapping.
Make sure the shampoo bars are placed on soap dishes so they can dry; if they stay damp for too long, they will start to deteriorate. I just keep mine in open space.
In addition to switching shampoo and conditioner to solid bars, the same benefits apply to soap. So switching to bar soap will also save on money and reduce plastic.
- Lasts longer than traditional liquid shampoo
- Saves you money
- Reduces plastic waste
- Will deteriorate if constantly moist
- Hard to find; buy online (make sure no plastic wrapping!)
Recycled Toilet Paper
It's not what you think! This is TP that is made from recycled paper (not previously used toilet paper). Once toilet paper is used, it cannot be re-purposed, as it deteriorates in the water. So we are talking about paper in general that has been converted to TP. I have been using one particular brand for a while, and there isn't a noticeable difference from the cheaper, off-brand toilet paper. I remember being weary of trying it, but I have no regrets in buying recycled materials. It's a shame the kind I buy is wrapped in plastic; once again, online purchases often provide plastic-free packaging for eco-friendly items.
You may think after my talk of bamboo being so great, that bamboo TP and paper towles might be eco-friendly too, but you might be mistaken. To make bamboo textile, they often go through a chemical process that results in a toxic by-product, which makes the product no greener than the alternatives. Do your own homework if you have a brand in mind, but I prefer recycled toilet paper.
- Re-purposes used paper, thus reduces waste
- Can be slightly more expensive
- Not super-soft like the more expensive non-recyclable brands
Beverage Dispenser for Unused Water
You don't often see a beverage dispenser in one's bathroom, but if you visited mine, you'd find one. I got this particular beverage dispenser online through Target, as it is small, clear, and it wasn't an eye-soar. My shower can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute and a half to finally heat up. In that time frame, an average of several gallons of water are going down the drain without any purpose. That's 60 gallons of wasted water per month, or 720 gallons per year.
So the moment I turn on my shower, I grab the dispenser and open the top, then hold it under the shower for about a minute or however long until it's full. I quickly set it to the side and I jump in. Obviously taking shorter showers and cutting out baths are effective measures of reducing water waste, but this idea helps. I will later use this water for my hands, toothbrush, or what have you. It's also perfect for emergencies, when your water is temporarily shut off. And it you need to use the faucet while someone is in the shower, you're not risking giving him or her a cold/hot shower.
- Saves on water
- available running water when the faucet is not
- Can be heavy when holding it up for a minute (but hey, it's a workout for your muscles too!)
Labeled, Recycling Bin
Yes, have a recycling bin in your bathroom. Why not? Too many times I want to recycle a plastic container or a cardboard TP roll, but I'd forget. That, or it would just collect by the sink, cluttering what little space I have. While TP and flimsy plastic should always be thrown in the trash, plastic mouthwash bottles, cardboard toothpaste packaging, and toilet paper rolls can be recycled. So why not have a container that is specifically for recyclables? It de-clutters the bathroom and once it's filled, you can lump it with the other recyclables in your home. I would label the container with the universal recyclable sign, as you don't want to risk guests using your recycling bin as a normal trashcan.
Do not use a plastic trash bag. In fact, I don't use a plastic bag for my normal bathroom trashcan either. I have one of those step-on plastic trash cans, which has a detachable lining, and I simply use that to carry and dump into the main trashcan of my home. Of course, you can use a normal trashcan as well to serve as your recycling bin.
- Promotes recycling, no matter where in your home
- Organizes trash and recyclables
- People might find it weird, or funny. Depends on the people
- Takes up a small bit of floor space
Water Pick / Reusable Flosser
Dentists are always raving about the importance of flossing. So why do so many people skip the floss? Well, it's a bit of a hassle.
Unlike a toothbrush, where you just scrub all over for a minute or so, flossing takes precision. We need to be sure we have a good grip, that it's angled right, and our darn fingers are out of the way. It is a hassle, even though it is a short process. And so they invented flossers, these little hook-like plastic picks that ease the floss between your teeth without the headache. I admit, I love these things. They are the only reason I actually floss. However, you're wasting more plastic than if you used a plastic toothbrush. It's a shame they haven't invented bamboo flossers (not the floss, but the actual picks you discard). So what is one to do?
The most obvious solution is the water pick. I was raised on water picks; as long as you don't rush it, it does an amazing job cleaning your teeth. Yes, you have to use water (but not much). And yes, there is some maintenance to the device, but the water pick will knock debris from every nook and cranny of your teeth and gums, as long as you take your time. This means you have no plastic picks to pitch, not even the floss, which are often non-degradable. It's completely waste-free in terms of plastic.
I'm still a fan of floss though, and I have used a plastic (but permanent) flosser where you twine the floss yourself every time. They can become loose if not tightened properly, and they are bigger and less mouth-friendly in comparison to their disposable counterparts, but hey, at least I'm not using the disposable plastic flossers anymore. I strongly encourage getting the water pick because it is the simplest and waste-free. But if you feel flossing is the way to go, and you love using flossers, than a permanent flosser may be for you. They are not easy to find, and your choices are limited online. Since traditional floss is almost always non-degradable, I suggest buying silk floss. They even sell them in reusable glass containers and refills can be purchased on Amazon!
- Zero plastic waste
- Needs to be cleaned regularly
- Must take your time, like brushing
Permanent Flosser Pros
- Reduces plastic waste
Permanent Flosser Cons
- Bulkier than disposable
- Hard to find
- Must do prep work with the floss
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.