Ever have that moment while you’re brushing your teeth when you think: “Lord Almighty! There is so much plastic in my bathroom! It’s time to make some zero-waste bathroom swaps.”
No. Just me?
My guess, if you’re reading this, is that you know exactly what I am talking about. That toothbrush you’re using? Plastic. Your hair ties? Plastic. Your favorite body wash? Plastic. That new lipstick? Plastic.
The reality is, most of the products we use and store in our bathrooms are packaged in disposable plastic.
In fact, the global cosmetics industry produces about about 120 billion units of packaging every year! Much of which is not recyclable and, as a result, ends up in our landfills and oceans.
A few thoughts on plastic
Now, I am not dissing plastic as a whole. Actually, I don’t think all plastic is bad.
In fact, in a lot of ways I think plastic has revolutionized the way we live, from medical equipment to transportation. The technological advancements that have arisen due to the development of plastic are truly lifesaving. I am really grateful!
My challenge with plastic, more so, lies around our “make-take-dispose” behaviors, i.e. our excessive consumption of single-use, disposable plastic products. For example: single-use plastic water bottles, cutlery, bags, toothbrushes, etc.
And even then, I think it’s important to note that not all single-use plastics are bad. For instance, a single-use plastic water bottle could mean the difference between life and death to someone who doesn’t have regular access to clean water. In these types of scenarios there’s no arguing that disposable plastic is a godsend.
But chances are, if you’re reading this, that’s not the situation you find yourself in. For most of us, our excessive dependence and usage of disposable plastic stems mostly from a convenience standpoint. We don’t need plastic cutlery, water bottles, etc. we just prefer not having to bring our own.
Unfortunately, things are getting a bit out of hand. We are producing and consuming too much plastic and, as a result, our planet is paying the price.
Did you know?
- 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year. Of those 300, 8 million metric tons end up in our oceans.
- By 2025, the annual cumulative output of plastic into the world’s oceans is estimated to be around 155 million metric tons.
- 80 percent of plastic pollution comes from just 20 countries, including the United States.
- About one truckload of plastic waste is dumped into our ocean every minute.
- Between 2012 and 2016, the number of species documented to have been affected by marine debris, of which plastic is the predominant source, has risen to 817; the primary impacts are from “ingestion, entanglement, and habitat damage or destruction.”
What Can You Do?
Fortunately, there are various simple zero-waste bathroom swaps and eco-friendly alternatives you can make to help reduce the amount of disposable plastic from your bathroom.
12 Simple Zero-Waste Bathroom Swaps
1. Hair Ties:
Instead of using disposable hair-ties made from non-renewable or biodegradable materials, such as plastic, consider using biodegradable plastic-free hair ties made using naturally sourced, reclaimed, or organic materials.
Eco-Fact: According to KooShoo, “about 20,000 pounds of elastic hair ties — or the equivalent weight of a city bus — are dumped into our planet each day.”
2. Dental Floss:
Rather than purchasing floss coated with potentially harmful ingredients, such as PFAS, and made from non-renewable plastic materials, such as nylon, consider opting for a plastic-free, non-toxic, and compostable dental floss.
- Plastic-Free Dental Floss Alternatives: Dental Lace, Public Goods, GeoOrganics, Bite, Treebird (vegan vs. silk)
Eco Fact: If everyone in the U.S. flosses their teeth according to ADA recommendations, every year our empty containers alone would fill a landfill the size of a football field that’s 6 stories high—just for the empty floss dispensers!
A simple way to reduce plastic waste is by switching to a biodegradable, upcycled, or recyclable toothbrush.
Eco-Fact: Did you know that about 3.5 billion toothbrushes are sold worldwide each year? 99% of these are plastic and don’t get recycled.
Struggling to find a more natural and zero-waste deodorant that actually works? Check out this piece I wrote for Conscious Life & Style here: “9 Non-Toxic Deodorants: Reviewed & Ranked Best to Worst“
5. Menstrual Products:
Read more about the environmental benefits of using eco-friendly menstrual products and my 20+ favorite zero-waste period brands here.
6. Cotton Balls:
Most conventional cotton balls are made using synthetic and non-biodegradable materials. And, if and when cotton is used, generally it’s grown using harmful pesticides and chemicals that are harmful to our environment. So, rather than purchasing single-use cotton balls or cotton pads for your daily skincare routine consider opting for reusable and washable face wipes.
Eco-Fact: To produce just one pound of cotton requires up to 1,320 gallons of water. And, according to the WWF, it can take 2,700 liters (about 713 gallons) to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt.
7. Cotton Swabs:
Consider replacing your single-use plastic cotton swabs with an eco-friendly alternative such as reusable swabs or plastic-free swabs made biodegradable and organic materials.
Eco Fact: Approximately 1.5 billion cotton buds are produced every day, with the average person disposing of 415 a year. Unfortunately, many of these cotton buds and their rigid plastic sticks, end up in our oceans.
Instead of using makeup made from potentially harmful ingredients, i.e. undisclosed ingredients, and packaged in non-biodegradable or recyclable materials, opt for plastic-free or refillable products. The additional benefit to supporting zero-waste makeup brands is that, for the most part, these same brands are also using safer, more natural ingredients in their products, all of which they readily disclose on their websites. So, if ingredient transparency is important to you, check out some of the brands I’ve listed below.
- Zero-Waste Makeup Alternatives: Cheekbone Beauty, Madame Gabriela, Axiology, ATHR Beauty, Kjaer Weis, Elate Cosmetics, just to name a few.
Eco-Fact: According to Bloomberg, “the LCA Centre, a Netherlands-based group that studies the environmental impact of packaging, some 70% of carbon emissions attributable to the industry could be eliminated if people simply used refillable containers.”
Instead of using plastic disposable razors, consider using a more eco-friendly alternative such as a safety (metal razor with recyclable blades), upcycled, or recycled razor.
- Eco-friendly Razor Alternatives: Albatross, Leaf Shave, Preserve (upcycled plastic), Eco-Roots, or Gillette’s Planet Kind (recycled plastic razor which you can recycle via Terracycle’s Gillette Recycling Program).
Eco-Fact: According to the EPA, in the 1990s about 2 billion plastic razors and blades were thrown away each year! That’s enough razors to wrap around the earth end-to-end 6 times.
10. Body Soap & Shampoo:
One super simple zero-waste bathroom swap you can make is to replace your body wash and shampoo bottles with more natural and plastic-free alternatives. I am a fan of shampoo and body soap bars! Packaged in eco-friendly and compostable materials soap bars tend to last longer than your average bottled shampoo and body wash (most bars last 50-80 washes). Plus, most eco-friendly soap brands are also mindful and transparent about the ingredients they use in their products.
- Zero-Waste Soap & Shampoo Alternatives: Chagrin Valley Soap, Ethique, J.R. Liggett, Nana + Livy, Unwrapped Life, Meow Meow Tweet, Mint + Laurel Soaps, Samudra Skincare, Dr. Bronner’s
Eco-Fact: According to Johnson & Johnson’s Care to Recycle Program, more than 552 million shampoo bottles could be ending up in landfills every year. That’s enough to fill 1,164 football fields.
11. Adhesive Bandages:
Instead of purchasing band-aids made from from non-renewable petroleum by-products, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene (PE), or polyurethane (PUR) with polyester gauze pads and acrylic adhesives, consider opting for non-toxic, plastic-free, and compostable adhesive bandages.
- Plastic-Free Alternatives: Patch Strips, Essence of Life Organics, and FEBU Bandages (more budget-friendly).
Eco-Fact: 2300 tons of Band-Aids are burned in the hospital or thrown in the landfill in the USA each year.
While using conventional sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all, I personally prefer using low-waste and natural sunscreen brands. Why? Generally speaking these brands aren’t loaded with questionable ingredients and tend to be packaged using eco-friendly packaging materials.
- Click here for a list of some of my favorite non-toxic, low-waste, and reef-safe sunscreen brands.
Eco-Fact: It is estimated that every year, anywhere between 4,000 and 6,000 tons (!) of sunscreen washes into our oceans and deposits in coral reef areas. The greatest damage is often found in popular reef areas such as in Hawaii and the Caribbean.
pssstt…click here for a complete list of my favorite eco-friendly and non-toxic skincare, dental and beauty products.