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Your Guide to a Low-Waste Bathroom

Written by Posted On Wednesday, 08 August 2018 15:25
Your Guide to a Low-Waste Bathroom The Greenlight Collective

I recently discussed the values of a low-waste home, one that works to eliminate harmful waste and prioritize sustainable living habits. Committing to a zero or low-waste lifestyle all at once can, however, be an overwhelming prospect. It can also be costly for some individuals who simply do not have the means to eliminate plastic and replace wasteful items with low-waste alternatives.

I like taking mindful, little steps when making grand changes of any kind. I suggest starting the journey to a low-waste lifestyle by working room-to-room in your home. The bathroom, for example, can be one of the easiest places to begin when identifying means of reducing waste in prominent areas of your home.

Here are some valuable changes you can make today to navigate bathroom waste with the earth in mind.

Choose biodegradable, sustainably-sourced, and/or recycled toilet paper.

Toilet paper is nearly ubiquitous in American households. I say "American" because bidets are standard in some European and Southeast Asian countries.

In fact, installing a bidet in your bathroom can help you reduce your toilet paper usage by at least 60%. Some bidet-users can eliminate their need for toilet paper altogether.

I recognize that installing a bidet may not be in the future (or budget) of some households. Many bidets, after all, begin at $250. Bidet usage can also increase water footprints.

For this reason, the most cost-effective zero waste bathroom uses biodegradable, sustainably-sourced, recycled toilet paper.

Most toilet paper already is biodegradable, which means that it can effectively decompose once returned to the earth. However, some scented toilet papers (as well as their packaging!) are not. Thus, seek out toilet paper composed of 100% biodegradable ingredients such as paper or bamboo.

It's also important to inspect packaging, as most toilet paper comes wrapped in plastic. Sometimes this is recyclable (if it is #4 plastic), but many times it is not. Look for toilet paper wrapped in paper or buy TP in bulk (so that it comes in cardboard boxes).

Sustainably-sourced toilet paper is TP that is ethically (and hopefully lovingly) created. It often is the result of ethical farming, recycling, and agricultural habits. Check out Rain Forest Certified products, for example, which promote environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Recycled toilet paper is the result of recycled paper or wood products. Using recycled items in your zero-waste bathroom often does mean saving trees or bamboo stalks, but not all. Sometimes recycled paper is riddled with BPA, which is used in newspaper and packaging ink.

For that reason, if purchasing recycled toilet paper, look for TP that is also BPA-free.

Replace wasteful products with waste-free alternatives.

Now that we're done chatting toilet paper, let's talk zero-waste bathroom products.

In general, the gold standard for a zero-waste bathroom lies in limiting dependence on wasteful products--items that generate landfill waste or end up in the landfill themselves. Examples include plastic razors, packaging for shampoo or face wash bottles, and Q-tips.

The best way to limit dependence on these items is to replace them with waste-free alternatives!

Razors

I spent years swearing by the magic of Bic disposable razors. But then I stared at that word disposable. Disposable in the commercial world does not necessarily mean waste-free and eco-conscious!

Weary of tossing those plastic shavers into the trash, I made the switch to a stainless steel double-edge safety razor. These look like old-fashioned men's razors, but they are non-disposable and the right brands will supply blades that are 100% recyclable.

Dental Care

What happens when a toothbrush loses its bristle toughness? It flops into the trash with the rest of the "disposables."

Break this habit by investing in a zero-waste toothbrush, which will consist of 100% biodegradable and/or recyclable components. I'm a fan of the standard bamboo brush with nylon bristles (nylon is recyclable and bamboo decomposes easily), although alternatives--like stainless steel or aluminum brushes--exist.

Toothpaste also frequently comes in a plastic tube, and the paste itself may not be ethically sourced and/or biodegradable. Look for pastes or powders stored in recyclable containers.

Lastly, look for biodegradable and/or compostable dental floss packaged in reusable containers.

Soaps

Luckily, zero-waste soap is one of the easiest bathroom products to source. Zero-waste hand soaps, shampoos, conditioners, facial products, and body bars are available from multiple providers.

With zero-waste soap, prioritize soaps packaged in recyclable, plastic-free containers. This often means seeking out bar soaps, such as shampoo and conditioner bars. Look for the added benefit of 100% biodegradable, natural, organic ingredients.

Q-Tips

In the past, it was tough to find a viable zero-waste alternative to Q-tips. I have had some luck using ear candles, although their effect is debatable. For now, the best option is cardboard, 100% cotton swab Q-tips, which can fully biodegrade and be composted.

Be cautious with packaging, however. It is possible to source biodegradable/compostable Q-tips from brands that package these ear aids in non-recyclable or plastic-heavy packaging.

Mind the cleaners.

We must keep our bathrooms clean for hygiene's sake. It is possible to maintain sparkling surfaces without using harmful chemicals packaged in non-recyclable containers.

It's possible to create your own zero-waste cleaners, of course, which often include a combination of white vinegar, baking soda, and/or essential oils.

You can also seek out mindfully-packaged biodegradable products. When cleaning your bathroom, swap the paper towels out for microfiber towels or old rags.

Eliminate plastic packaging.

I've emphasized this many times in this post, but decreasing your plastic dependency is an essential part of approaching a low-waste lifestyle. When purchasing anything for your zero-waste bathroom, do your best to purchase products in recyclable and/or plastic-free packaging.

I realize that a few products mentioned in this post do come in plastic packaging, as do many hygiene essentials, particularly those related to medical needs. This should not prevent you from using these necessities--I certainly wasn't keen to trade my contacts for standard glasses--but do be conscious of whether or not the packaging for these products is recyclable. Don't be shy about seeking out alternatives.

Compost what's left.

The rest of the usual bathroom waste can be composted, provided you do so mindfully. Hair, used tissues, nail clippings, earwax, and other bodily waste can be safely composted with the rest of your food scraps. This step, however, may be uncomfortable for some homeowners who would rather just bin these items and cart them to the landfill. If you do opt for this, consider replacing plastic garbage bags with paper or biodegradable alternatives.

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Kate King

Kate King is a freelance writer, editor, and blogger. 

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