In my pet apartment fantasy, I imagine getting free rein to transform our current bathroom into something rather more bright and light and welcoming. Punch a hole in the ceiling and let the light stream in? Anything’s possible in a daydream.
Until then, I keep our tiny bathroom neat and tidy and free from clutter. Part of the reason that working toward a zero-waste and plastic-free home makes so much sense in a small space—and in the bathroom specifically—is that eliminating the clutter of lots of single-use plastic bottles, or a panoply of plastic bath toys, or other packaged products, automatically frees up space and keeps me from feeling hemmed in. For me anyway, trying to find creative solutions to lessen a room’s impact on the environment outside of our apartment has an immediate effect on the climate inside our apartment.
I haven’t written a ton about our recent low-waste efforts in the bathroom, so here are are a few points of progress and a few areas that could stand some improvement. As always, I’m eager to know what all of you have had luck with (and what has been more troublesome).
Shampoo: After writing this post, the women at Plain Products reached out to me about trying their shampoo and conditioner. We’ve been using it since the beginning of the year and I’ve been totally pleased with the product itself in addition to being a fan of their business model more generally: The company allows customers to send back their aluminum bottles for refilling in lieu of bottling in single-use plastic. My only minor complaint is that the bottles are a smidge tall for fitting perfectly in our shower caddy, and I wish they were a little more subtly branded. Overall though, a very welcome helpmate in our efforts to produce less waste.
Soap Saver: Speaking of bathing, a tiny improvement to our morning shower routine has been the soap saver bag that I first mentioned back in the fall. It provides the perfect amount of scrubby exfoliation and it keeps the last bit of bar soap from slipping down the drain.
Toilet Paper: For years James and I have been buying recycled toilet paper for our daily needs, but in the past year we found ourselves increasingly relying on last-minute runs to the pharmacy a block away to stock up on whatever least-bad toilet paper they had in stock. (Who can huff it the extra blocks for the 100% recycled option when there’s a toddler waiting for you on the loo?) After a reader mentioned that I could find Seventh Generation toilet paper in bulk online without the plastic wrappings, I was encouraged to stock up. But then, my shipment arrived very much wrapped in plastic. Better luck next time? Most recently, we received a trial box of Who Gives a Crap toilet paper. The cheekily branded toilet paper is one-hundred percent recycled and free of scents or dyes. (For hygiene purposes each roll comes wrapped in colorful paper that I wish were dye-free, too, but it’s refreshing that the whole shipment arrives without plastic.) I’ve been especially enjoying the fact that the 3-ply rolls are extra large and densely rolled. The paper’s not super plush (though they do have a more luxurious bamboo option), but the recycled rolls are totally sufficient for the job at hand. The one major adjustment for us has been storage. Because the toilet paper ships in large quantities—24 or 48 rolls—it currently feels like we have rolls of toilet paper stuffed all over our apartment. But weighed against constantly running out, that feels like a small price to pay for a good solution to an inherently wasteful problem.
Toothpaste: I know a lot of folks who make their own toothpaste, but we haven’t quite gotten there in our family. In the meantime, finding a toothpaste option in a recyclable tube felt like a step in the right direction. We’ve been trying David’s Toothpaste and can attest to the fact that it’s…delicious. They pride themselves on using US-grown mint and other domestically sourced ingredients and the result is refreshing and lovely, a subtle minty freshness that’s neither too minty nor too sweet. (Faye’s still a bit sensitive to minty things and less great about spitting, so we’ve been using the milder Weleda Tooth Gel for her and for Silas.)
Facial rounds: It’s been a few years since I bought cotton facial rounds. I’ve mostly shifted my grooming habits as a way to make up for the lack of rounds, but when I’m feeling like I need the extra help of a cotton round, it’s nice to have an alternative option around. For the past six months or so I’ve reached for these soft sherpa rounds from blog sponsor, Natural Linens. They’re large enough for bigger jobs like cleaning off a face mask, but still small enough to be perfect for simpler needs like dousing your face with a bit of rosewater.
Hairbrush: I was desperate for a new brush earlier this spring and I bought this wooden Widu brush. My mom had given an even smaller version to Faye and Silas and I love this grown-up counterpart. It’s made from wood and natural rubber and it’s the perfect small size for keeping in my top dresser drawer and for traveling with. (The brush comes with extra wooden bristles in case any need eventual replacing.)
Room for Improvement:
Razors: James and I have had the same razor blade handles for years and years, but our blades themselves are made from both plastic and steel and so they’re not recyclable. I still haven’t made the jump to going totally old-school with a safety razor. Afraid of nicks, I guess. James and I would both love to make the switch but we need encouragement. If anyone out there has had good luck, I’d love to know.
Toothbrushes: For years James and I used toothbrush handles with replaceable heads. The brushes felt like a nice compromise because less toothbrush was getting thrown out every three-months or so, but the heads still weren’t recyclable. Indeed, most toothbrushes are made with nylon bristles, which do a great job of cleaning teeth, but which can’t be recycled or composted. (Even on a bamboo brush that’s advertised as compostable, you need to pluck out those nylon bristles before composting.) Last year I began using an electric toothbrush on the very strong recommendation of my dentist. I admit that I really enjoy using it and I’m reluctant to switch back to a more conventional brush, but I cringe thinking about the waste. Anyone gone down the sustainable electric toothbrush rabbit hole and found anything promising?
What about you guys? New habits or products that you’ve found to be helpful?
In case you missed them, a few more bathroom-related posts:
I think it would be a lot less appealing without in-home laundry, but I have a few friends who swear by family cloth. I haven’t made the switch, due to squeamish family members, but it would eradicate your TP need! For toothpaste, I had a dentist say that a toothbrush, wet and dipped in a bit of baking soda, is really all we need. I think that’s likely a bit more abrasive than we might want twice daily, but I occasionally do that (or dip my toothpaste in baking soda for a little extra scrub).
Ah, yes. I think family cloths might be a lot more than I’d willingly take on at this point! Always fascinated by the toothpaste discussion! I’ve never had a dentist recommend anything but conventional paste, but there are so many alternatives! Curious to know what might be actually preferable from a dental hygiene perspective!
I’ve been tempted twice (thrice now) by the Plain Products but it seems so expensive… Am I wrong about that?
I use baking soda for teeth cleaning (at night, in the morning just a wet toothbrush). I haven’t dragged my husband and son down that road yet so they still use Toms of Maine. We all use the bamboo toothbrushes.
I’ve been using a safety razor for a year or two now and it’s fine. If you google too much you’ll get intimidated. I just use soap or plain water to shave.
Oh no, I dont think you’re wrong about that at all. I really like the concept, but there is no way I can afford those prices for my family, and neither can anyone else I know. I really wish there was a depot shop I could refill on my own near my house, but none so far.
Would never tell you you’re wrong about what your family can or can’t afford! We can all only do what makes sense for our circumstances!
Have you given Lush shampoo bars a go by chance, not sure where you’d tabd on their ingredient list but might be worth a look!
I went safety razor this past year and won’t go back. Truly not nearly as scary or nick inducing as I had thought. I do use a shaving cream now but blades last me several uses and then you may drop them in a razor box (small, discreet, not even the tiniest of fingers can break into) and they can be recycled in many places. YouTube and reddit were very helpful when learning the was of safety razors.
I love my Lush shampoo bar! I have been a little hesitant to try the conditioner bar because I need a lot of moisture, but the shampoo bar smells great and leaves my hair looking shiny and bouncy.
I have tried Lush bars! They weren’t perfect for my hair and I generally avoid sodium laureth sulfate where I can, but I didn’t totally hate them either! Glad to hear you’ve had luck with the safety razor!!
HI all, there are many shampoo bar brands that don’t use SLS. Chagrin Valley and Long View Farms are two of my favorites, but there are many small vendors on Etsy as well. There are conditioner bar vendors on etsy also. (The whole vinegar rinse thing, so not sufficient for my thick curly hair, so i still have to have a separate conditioner).
I’ve used a safety razor off and on. The pro is all metal, of course, and very inexpensive blades. The con is that it’s definitely a less exacting shave (missed spots and not as close a cut) and in our small damp shout prone to rust. Am currently compromising with the smallest disposable heads I can find from a brand that makes them from recycled yogurt cups.
What is the name of the recycled yogurt cup blade company? Thanks!
Think it’s called Preserve! They also make toothbrushes!
And last I checked, they will take back the toothbrushes for recycling. They come with a little mailer (or at least they used to)–just pop it in and send it back.
I was super excited to try Bambu toilet paper when I saw it available on shelves close to home – bamboo tp in a paper (bamboo?) wrapper – but the quality of it was so terrible I couldn’t wait to get back to a more conventional brand. It is the thinnest, scratchiest 2 ply ever and several of the rolls had the plies rolled such that the perforations were so far out of sync that it was always a mess to tear. Something you have no idea could ever be a problem until it is! So a word of caution there.
I switched to a safety razor about a year ago and love it. The first shave gave me a few nicks, but since then, i’ve been enjoying superior shaves and love that one tiny tiny paper package of blades costs me so little money, takes up so little space, and uses zero plastic. I converted another wary friend who also now loves her safety razor. Go for it!! I was fortunate to “inherit” my handle from my granddad but there are lots of affordable ones out there. I buy a puck of locally made shaving soap and lather up with a wooden / boar bristle brush and love it all.
So glad to know!
What are your thoughts on the sustainability of shipping? I’m always reluctant to go with refillables that I can’t replenish at a local shop because I’m not convinced that putting a bottle in a package, shipping it off on a truck, and then having it packaged and shipped back to my door on a truck is more sustainable than a recyclable bottle that I buy at a drugstore and doesn’t come in packaging to my doorstep.
I’m curious about this in other arenas as well–I’ve heard things that suggest that a lot of the carbon output that results from recycling and the shipping and hauling involved in more labor intensive efforts at sustainability often outweighs the intended environmental benefits. It seems like there is a lack of transparency in terms of the real environmental costs of lots of things, and I worry that my conscientious efforts at sustainability are in some cases counterproductive. (This is not precisely what I have in mind, because the problem here results more from user error, but the kind of issues that are in the vein of what is discussed in this Atlantic article: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/09/to-tote-or-note-to-tote/498557/).
So complicated isn’t it? Cardboard usage is indeed super troubling and I can’t claim to have the right answer. I still strive to avoid as much single-use plastics as possible. More generally, agreed that sustainability can feel awfully elusive. No doubt that some of our sustainability efforts might be giving us a false sense of comfort.
This is exactly where my poor well-intentioned hippy brain starts to break. See also: I’ve been using recycled toilet paper for years and only just found out that many brands don’t degrade fast enough to prevent creating issues with sewer systems.
My parents use Who Gives A Crap in Australia and when we visited I loved it. Swore I would buy it when we got home to Britain but alas it’s just too expensive (and this is in a family were we go the extra mile to spend money on environmentally and ethical products). For now I have to rely on the recycled paper from the supermarket.
On a side note, you mentioned it at the start of the post in passing so can you please do a post on bath toys for little ones. We have avoided plastic everywhere else but in the bath all the wooden toys we have been lucky enough to be given have not lasted great.
I don’t have enough to merit a whole post but after a long time with having only a rubber duck, we bought a set of three BPA-free cups for water play during bath time. We have a painted bath tub that scratches super easily, so we wanted something that wouldn’t ding up the tub too much, or, break in the bathwater. They stack neatly so they’re not too terrible, even if the colors aren’t something I’d typically choose!
Plan toys have great bath toys! Ours all from there and have lasted well.
In our house, our 2.5 year old gets to choose three “tools” from the kitchen while the bath water is running to use as her bath toys. Favorites are measuring cups/spoons, ladle, whisk, and colander. After her bath, she brings them back to the kitchen to put in the dishwasher. It’s worked perfectly for us!
Love that! All of ours were metal, alas, and too hard on the tub!
We don’t have any bath toys and just use whatever she wants. Sometimes even sticks, shells or what ever she collects. If she wants to bring collected stones to the tub we put a towel in first. So they won’t hit the tub too hard.
Blades….did you ever hear of the strop (shave face) ? It keeps disposable blades sharp for months. Or you can use your jeans to sharpen them, too.
Lauren, I love that idea! We have a little wire basket of bath toys, but honestly, my kids rarely use them. They run and get whatever plastic toys they’ve been given (Schleich animals, Lottie dolls), and do love using a little plastic pitcher I had when I was little, a sea sponge, and a couple of wooden boats.
Prompted by your Mother’s Day Gift Guide last year, I tossed out my jarringly pink plastic shaver in favor of the safety razor you linked to and will never go back. I continue to shave with just bar soap (and often in a hurry) and can’t recall a single nick. You can do it!
Oh awesome! So glad to hear!
I second this! Plus, the razors blades are super cheap and sharp, I get a way closer shave on my legs and armpits. I did need a little more practice to shave my bikini line but I finally got the hang of it.
Yay! So encouraging!
Not plastic free, but Scott now makes a tubeless toilet paper roll that has been great. You do not realize how annoying it was to have to change and build up in the recycling all those empty tubes. I just looked and it says right on the packaging that the plastic can be recycled with stores that accept plastic bags. The paper, however, is not recycled, rather it is sustainable forest certified? I did have to promise my child that we would buy different toilet paper if she needed the tubes for a craft project!
Yes! Was going to leave this recommendation. We have been using tubeless toilet paper for over a year. The tubeless paper is softer and thicker than regular Scott paper, which surprised me. Where I live (in CT), I can ony find it at Target and maybe one big supermarket.
yes, there is no need for those cardboard tubes in TP! it should be standard in any toilet paper, no matter the brand….to stop putting those in! they are so not necessary.
Like you Erin, I can’t stand the busyness of branding and packaging. I have the Simple Human triple wall mount dispenser in both of my bathrooms (easily removed for renters). This allows me the ability to buy shampoo, liquid soap, and conditioner in bulk at my local grocery store (I can bring my own glass jars for transport). The dispenser is tidy and while made of plastic, it has held up well for many years so it has to be an improvement over individual plastic bottle purchases. I’ve read oil pulling can replace brushing altogether and I’m so curious if this is really effective. I hope a modern new-age dentist or hygienist chimes in!
I went to the dentist yesterday after I published this piece! They were pretty skeptical about oil pulling and dental hygiene. Not totally dismissive, but they felt like if you’re going to spend precious extra minutes on something in your mouth it should be flossing, not oil pulling!
Extremely effective.. whitens teeth. .. outstanding.. but you have to google in how to do it.. no eating drinking prior and U just do for as long as I can..
I would check out this video on the latest research of oil pulling. https://youtu.be/4zf5PKnKIJc
Apparently the risks outweigh any marginal benefits, which is a bummer. I had such high hopes.
I don’t shave my legs in winter, but in summer, I use the same epilady I’ve had since the late 90s. It’s plastic and ugly, but no disposable razor blades, and I only need to do it once a month or so, which is awesome because there are a lot of things I’d rather spend time doing than shaving my legs!
Oh, awesome. Never heard of an epilady!
Ooh , I had one of these, ouch !
Oh! I’ve been thinking of finding my Epilady (it’s somewhere in my needs-organizing mess!) and using it again! I usually use a battery-operated shaver for my legs, and unfortunately a disposable razor for my underarms, but using it only twice a week in the shower means that it lasts for quite a while before it’s dull.
I’ve switched to getting my legs waxed every 6-8 weeks rather than shaving, and I really really like it. Admittedly more affordable here than in NYC I’m sure, but I love not having to ever think about it other than that hour (including travel time). In fact, lately I’ve been too busy /lazy to make the time to go, but I’m still very unwilling to get out the old plastic razor. I’m trying to convince myself that I’m being extra super-duper feminist instead of just dirty. Why am I convinced that my body hair is dirty anyway??!! My sister-in-law swears by her epilator though.
I, too, was going to suggest either waxing or using an epilator! (I switch back and forth) Over time, there is less hair to deal with, which is nice. And yes, why are we so upset about having hair on our bodies ?!?
Also, back to the toilet paper question: if you’re ever in the position to remodel your bathroom, maybe consider installing a bidet!
The shots make your bathroom look so lovely and simple! For our zero-waste bathroom we use baking soda for so much (deodorant, exfoliant, cleaner). Our toothpaste is made with bulk baking soda, bulk stevia powder, and a little bit of peppermint essential oil (which has a small plastic cap, but I bought the largest size I could get so it should last for years). It took about a week to adjust to it, but now, five years later, I’m so completely used to it, that when I had to resort to using Tom’s toothpaste during an unprepared overnight trip, I just about gagged. Strange how we get used to things… In a mark toward gender fairness, I implemented a handkerchief system for pee (I’ve had a long-standing jealousy issue of men and their ability to ‘zip and flip’ as it were, and grabbing a handkerchief for a hike or just a really long car ride means I can stop at any point and not have to dig a hole), but we still use bamboo toilet paper that comes in compostable packaging (The Cheeky Panda, though it might be only available in the UK) for the, er, heavier eliminations. The nylon bristles on our bamboo toothbrushes can be recycled back to the company (though I think that’s just a UK option). And my husband and I share a safety razor, cutting down on space, and completely worth the bit of extra care necessary to prevent little cuts…
oh, ha! not in my bathroom—no window in there!
I think you’ll find the safety razor’s bare-bones simplicity very rewarding! I was SO anxious to try it but I promise you I will never go back to plastic razors now. It takes a tad longer to shave but not long to master the process, I believe in you!
Too bad you don’t have room in your tiny home for a case of 7th Generation toilet paper, which I’ve been buying for years. Rolls are wrapped in paper (wish they weren’t wrapped at all, but it’s better than plastic) and it’s the original cardboard case package, with no plastic other than the packaging tape. I get it from Amazon, as a single person one carton a year is enough for me.
Yes! This is what I tried to buy, but for some reason it didn’t arrive as promised! Does sound much like the option we’re using now though!
I buy 7th Generation in bulk on Amazon, too, and mine also comes in plastic. How do you get this?
If you find any ecological options for an electric toothbrush, I’d love to hear about it! Like you, I use one, because I don’t want to have to repeat the $11,000.00 gum surgery I had to have. But I can’t stand the waste. I also have to use toothpaste for sensitive teeth and only Crest and Colgate make one with the most effective ingredient. Again, the waste drives me crazy.
Yes, I’ve been struggling with electric toothbrushes. I am currently using a fuch’s brush that I’ve had for over 10 years now (!!!), but it is becoming almost medically necessary that I have an electric brush. My teeth are…not great. I haven’t done any research yet, but hope that maybe there’s a magically company out there that accepts used heads for recycling. I’m willing to bend the “no-waste” rules for medical necessity.
Georganics do a fairly eco-friendly electric toothbrush: https://georganics.co.uk/collections/eco-toothbrushes/products/electric-sonic-toothbrush-t35-c. They are based in the UK but I think they do ship to the US.
Erin I am older than you and wish to god I had taken better of my teeth.. No fluoride. ( the devil) in my country.. and..
I am also as zerowaste as I can be but today would not sacrifice my teeth for anything.. Also oil pulling is fantastic! No plague wire teeth. So good for you..
Hi Erin, hubby and I swapped to safety razors three years ago and have never looked back. I used to cut myself all the time with plastic razors, I NEVER even nick myself with the new razors.ours are Merkur are made in Germany and are amazing, although we live in Europe so you may have American brands which are just as good. Go for it, it is honestly much easier than you think.
Awesome! I know there’s an old razor of my grandfathers at my mom and dad’s house! Curious if I can dust that off and put it back to use!
Good luck here! My husband and I started to share a safety razor last year and I’m happy with the switch. Yes, I occasionally nick myself but am getting better with practice. I find shorter strokes is key. For dental health, I use OraWellness. No more tooth sensitivity nor eroding gums! Also, they are developing the first non-plastic Bass toothbrush — bristles included. Finally!
I use these toothbrushes, which are entirely compostable, head, bristles and packaging included!
Such a great sounding company and definitely a step in the right direction, but the bristles still aren’t quite biodegradable. Here’s their explanation: https://www.brushwithbamboo.com/about-the-brush/!
Here with encouragement: Try the safety razor. I don’t think you’ll regret it and there’s no need to worry about nicks. Just use short strokes at a 30-degree angle and don’t apply any pressure. It sounds more complicated than it is. Second nature now. I won’t go back to plastic razors. Easy switch!
I make my own bath soak (epsom salts, bicarbonate, essential oils) using ingredients already around the house and store it in an old candle jar. I’ve also made bath oil (sweet almond oil and essential oils) which can double as a silky soft moisturiser.
Sals suds is a good all-round cleaner but in the bathroom I prefer something more powerful (especially with toddlers weeing in the bath/on the floor/everywhere…). I use Ajax powder in a recyclable cardboard tube.
Will be interested to see others recommendations for razors and electric toothbrushes. My dentist, too, has recommended an electric one.
The only change I’ve made in the bathroom was switching to reusable cloth menstrual pads, thanks to a post you wrote about Thinx (I believe). Reading the comments, a lot of women suggested cloth pads and I was so intrigued, I did research on them right then and there. I bought a set on Amazon that, if I didn’t like them or didn’t work, I wouldn’t be out a lot of money. I wore them for one cycle and was so impressed, I bought several pads on Etsy. I absolutely LOVE them and I recommend the cloth to anyone who will listen. My health has improved from switching from toxic tampons to cloth pads. I used to get painful bladder infections each month during my period, which I think my gynecologist determined the cause to be bacteria from waste on the string. Sorry for TMI, but if I can help just one woman learn from my painful experience, it will be worth it. I’m coming up on two years using cloth. I will never go back.
I also switched to cloth pads and a Diva cup. Easiest zero waste switch I’ve made!
Yay! It’s such an easy switch. I’ve had a very light period for the past 5 years, and it’s since been almost nonexistent since using cloth. I don’t even need to try a cup. Glad you found things that work for you.
Same here! I hadn’t heard of cloth pads until Erin’s post either. I tried them and I’ll never go back. So much more comfortable and less odor. Love them! I’ve tried many different ones (Etsy, etc) and my favorites are Party in My Pants (fun name too )
My solution to getting sick of paying for/disposing of razors was to stop shaving at all. Not shaving my legs has been a great choice for me for a few years now, and I’m coming up on a year of not shaving my armpits. Much more challenging for folks who need to shave their face, though. Maybe an electric razor would work?
Otherwise haven’t gotten very radical in terms of bathroom products. The best I aim for is to use fewer products in general, and less of each one at a time.
I think this is part of the reason I haven’t made the switch. Not a super regular shaver and only rarely replace my blades, so it hasn’t been a priority! Still, feeling inspired to try the safety razor!
I’ve been looking for something exactly like this, so thank you for sharing it! I’m really making an effort to do the zero waste thing, but there’s not a lot of info out there when it comes to cosmetics – I’ve been trying to find loads that are actually good but aren’t packaged in plastic, so I’m interested in the shampoo and conditioner you tried!
Pure Anada has some eyeshadow discs (with a metal container to hold the powder) that come wrapped in cardboard and you can buy a magnetic compact to put the various shadow and powder discs in. The makeup is not toxic and made in Canada. I’ve been using their eyeshadow for maybe two or so years now.
I’m replying to myself because I didn’t realize there was already a Jenny in the comments. I’m adding a comment to make user name different.
I was in desperate need of a new hairbrush when you first posted about Widu. Like, hairbrush was so old that every time I brushed it the brush part fell off the handle and ended up in my hair! So I got the Widu, and just wanted to say that it is AMAZING. I have long tangle prone hair and love that I can use this to brush wet so I don’t have to bother with getting a comb and it feels so good on the head.
Yas! Love it.
My husband and I recently switched to a safety razor and have had good luck. So far, I’ve only cut myself once. I do get the usual razor burn, especially with a new blade, but my skin is really sensitive. There were two blog posts that really helped me make the switch:
I would second the use of an epilator over disposable razors. The device itself is plastic though I have been using the same one for nearly ten years and it is still going strong. Not going to lie, the first few times are painful but then it becomes just like any other grooming routine. During the summer I use it on legs and underarms once a week. During the winter…less frequently 🙂
I was so afraid of the safety razor, too! The youtube tutorials and the practicing on a kiwi did not help. They just made it scarier and look way more complicated than it actually is. You just have to jump in. For me, going slowly on a plain soap-lathered leg was the start of a beautiful love story with my safety razor. To keep it real: yes, you will probably nick yourself until you get the hang of it (still working on that myself) but it’s nowhere near as horrible as you think it will be. I promise. If you’re looking to support a smaller company, I got mine from this lovely Georgia shop: https://www.tinyyellowbungalow.com/product/long-handled-double-edge-safety-razor/ . I also get Shark blades which are a little sharper and can better handle my Mexican legs.
– On toilet paper: I used to get Who Gives a Crap tp, but recently switched to Marcal since it’s closer to NY and a lil cheaper.
– On shampoo: I use bar shampoo–also from Tiny Yellow Bungalow– and and apple cider vinegar rinse ( about 1:3 acv-to-water). To apply the rinse, I use a thrifted glass vinegar/olive oil dispenser. Like the kind you see at pizza restaurants. The rinse is the only way I could use the bar shampoo. Without it, my hair feels scummy. With it, smooth and so shiny.
Keep at it, girl. Zero waste transitions are hard. You’re doing great!!
Hi Erin. I’m in awe of all the sustainable choices you’re already making. But if your dentist is recommending an electric toothbrush so strongly, s/he must have a pretty good reason for doing so. As the saying goes, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Take care of your teeth!
Another vote for the safety razor! A much better experience than a disposable. I have a Merkur and will never go back. Also, have you considered True Nature Botanical shampoo and conditioner? Not refillable, but comes in nice metal bottles with muted label. Thank you for the discussion.
We bought a Japanese toilet seat and it has had a huge impact on our toilet paper usage! We chose a model that both cleans and dries, so we really only use toilet paper about 10 % of the time– huge in a house with three girls! Plus, we all love feeling so clean. After enjoying the toilets in japan, we could never go back!
I was just about to write a similar comment, then I saw yours. A friend of mine who travels through Asia quite a bit SWEARS by those toilets, so much so that he bought an add-on hose contraption on amazon that fairly easily converts a standard American toilet into the Japanese style with the hose to wash your underbits. Hardly uses any toilet paper. And he’s not doing it for the environmental impact … he just insists on having THAT kind of toilet now, because he likes them so much.
I just saw an ad on instagram for a bidet the other day that clips onto your standard toilet. It’s called hello tushy and is a reasonable price.
Yes! We still have our old toilet. We bought a seat with the hose attachment and it operates just like the toilets we loved in japan. I think the total cost was around $300.00– SO worth it!
I started using quip (www.get-quip.com) last year, and love it! The handle is brushed aluminum, the refill heads are sent quarterly along with a battery (non-rechargeable, sadly).
The heads are not recycled nor recyclable, but they are just a brush head – a smaller bit of waste than a whole toothbrush, so perhaps an improvement?
Agreed! We have a tushy that just uses cold water (a little brrr in the morning) but have definitely noticed a huge difference in how much paper we use.
I second the quip! We got ours last year and have really enjoyed how they can hide on the inside of our medicine cabinet and not on the sink counter like those bigger, clunky electric ones. They DO have a place on their site you can ask for no battery with your brush head if you’re using rechargable batteries. I feel bad about the plastic shipping bag but I recycle it along with my other plastic bags at the grocery store. I’ve thought about writing to them to ask to take the old heads back, but like a previous commenter, worry if the transportation and packaging back would be worth it. Now if only they’d make a kids version!
It’s not waste free but flushable wipes are clean feeling. Use much less TP.. Can dry using hanky’s etc And purchase refillable.. and use plastic bag for cat pee..
Eeks I’ve heard that flushable wipes aren’t great for sewer systems though–https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/10/are-wet-wipes-wrecking-the-worlds-sewers/504098/
I have used a safety razor for about 5 years with no complaints. I would never use a disposable razor again. Recently I have been using Dental Lace. A refillable glass bottle for your dental floss. Love it!!
If babies can use cloth diapers, then…ya know. It really is the best solution of you want to commit.
Maybe one day when we’re not carting laundry to the laundromat!
I share the hole-in-the-ceiling dream. We buy recycled loo roll in bulk, each pack of 9 is wrapped in compostable wrap with guff about “100% commitment” written on it, but as we buy in bulk I see the wholesale packaging which is… ordinary plastic. Very annoying but haven’t found anything better (short of go the Indian route and install a bidet??). Toothbrush – manual one is Preserve, recycled and can send back for re-recycling; electric one is wasteful but def gets the teeth clean. Toothpaste – I use none, due to salicylate intolerance, had no complaints from the dentist; found some Finnish research that said no toothpaste actually cleans better. I just stay hairy in the winter, and in the summer opt for sugaring over shaving – been buying jars and using cloth strips cut from an old shirt, but plan to try the no-cloths method and cook up my own sugar paste this summer: http://www.paris-to-go.com/2017/08/zero-waste-hair-removal-sugaring.html
My other half and I switched to bars of cold-pressed soap for most of our needs. We did experiment with using them on our hair for a few months (worked great for him, they just made my hair a little greasy after a while). We’re now really happy with a coconut solid shampoo from Lush, and unpackaged soaps that we find at our farmer’s market.
As for hair removal, I’ll admit that I’ve struggled a bit with my safety razor. I do have very sensitive skin, and nicks have been an issue, although I’ve had the best results when shaving with oil (I use jojoba) which I find to be kinder to the skin. I’ve found sugaring to be the most gentle method of all. Time-consuming to do both legs, but I tend to keep some in a jar to do my underarms every few weeks, so I’m not subjecting my skin to a sharp razor blade quite so often.
There just got out the “Podusche” (german for Buttshower) in Germany. Didn’t try it yet, but first it seems strange it is not so stupid in the second thought. 🙂 https://happypo.de/
I love the safety razor now. And now I am not cutting myself anymore. Totally recommend the change 🙂
I use plain hand cream or sometimes baby oil on my legs after a shower and that softens the hair enough to shave as I sit near a window where there is good light and I never miss a hair! Plus my legs are no longer dry and flaky.
I just went to safety razors after months of agonizing over the switch. I love love love it! It’s way better than a regular plastic razor and so easy and safe. I went with the Edwin Jagger DE extra long handle. It’s awesome. I definitely recommend a long handle razor, because the one I have doesn’t that long, it’s just right. and it works well for ALL your saving needs.
Ooh this is SO timely! This topic has been a very big discussion in my office lately / we just published this last night: https://www.buzzfeed.com/terripous/what-is-the-family-cloth-and-why-should-you-use-it-an?utm_term=.fcBvqqdNN#.bi3g330DD
Ah! So fascinating. The name kind of grates, doesn’t it? V. intrigued.
Don’t fear the cloth! Using cloth to wipe pee only adds a very minimal amount to your laundry, and you don’t have to wash it separately like cloth diapers or soiled cloth. I used it for years (for urine only) where we had a washing machine, but no dryer.
Ha! I’m sure. But having a washing machine is so very different than having no washing machine! Maybe one day!
My favorite, now even almost taken for granted! Sustainable item in my bathroom is the bamboo bath math. It’s perfect to step on just out of the shower, and gets cleaned easily every once in a while. I would get one for everyone I know.
I’m with the rest of the crowd in being a huge fan of the safety razor. I’m an occasional shaver, and it works perfectly for me. Stays clean and dry hanging vertically from our shower caddy (in a notch maybe made for a toothbrush? or razor??), and I only replace the blade about every two months.
As far as soap or cream, anything with a good lather or ability to coat the skin is great. I’ve used castile soap, bar soap, and my favorite- coconut oil. I get the best shave in the bath, with oil, otherwise a quick shower shave is fine! It can definitely be intimidating, and though I started out slow and left with funky patches, it didn’t take long to get the hang of things and shave confidently. Keys I got from my research: start out slow, let the razor rest on your skin without adding too much extra pressure, and keep skin taut and flat. It’s basically all about angles. Good luck if you make the switch!
I love my safety razor. I get a closer shave which allows me to go longer between shaves and with four little ones underfoot it’s all I can do to take a shower. As previously mentioned avoid pressing too hard on the razor and you should not get any nicks. Seven years in and I’ve only cut myself twice. Thanks for all the lovely inspiration!
Another option to avoid razors is laser hair removal – I’ve done armpits, legs, and bikini. As a lady with lots of hair, it’s been so worth it. It hasn’t totally eliminated the hair but I’ve gone from shaving armpits / legs daily to every couple of weeks (with very little to remove even then).
Love this topic, as I’m on a less-waste journey myself! If you ever try your hand at toothpaste, I highly recommend the recipe from Trash is for Tossers. Like you, I was recommended an electric toothbrush by my dentist. I adore it and don’t plan on going back. That being said, I would have gotten a different model with less bulky replacement heads would I have known better. And as for safely razors, I get nicks more often than I’d like. I’m not giving up on it, but definitely worth mentioning.
Amazing post. This really got me thinking….what do you do about receiving gifts? I personally have a mother who loves to gift things and (bless her heart) they are usually disposable , cheaply made, etc. Of course we love the notion and thought, but how should I proceed going forward? Did you ever tell your loved ones about your minimal-waste mindset and minimalist lifestyle, or did they just catch on?
Afraid mine won’t just “catch on” but the last thing I want to do is offend. Any tips?
I have to say that I find it almost impossible to cut myself with a safety razor. It’s a much smoother shave and since there are no multiple blades to clog up you not just get more use out of it but you also don’t ever get “stuck” because the blade is all covered in hairs. I converted first and my boyfriend joined me after a few weeks and now we both won’t look back. Oh, and did I say it’s cheaper?! Honestly, these things are almost failproof.
Erin (or anyone who has used)-
The soap saver bag- do you use it with the entire bar of soap? I was thinking this would be a great replacement for the puff that I use that needs to be replaced at times. And does it dry out between uses? I am just worried about mold.
You can do either! We usually just put the little pieces in and even in a windowless, fanless bathroom, no mold for us so far!
Years ago I bought my husband a piece of rubber that cleans off disposable blades, extending the lifespan of each significantly. He was skeptical of the claim but was quite impressed –one pack of blades will last him nearly a year.
Nice article! I would like to add that it is also about textiles you use in the bathroom. Linen is my favouriteoption ( https://www.linenme.com/news/how-linen-is-helping-save-the-planet/)
Safety razors are the way to go and amazing. I understand the fear of nics (it took me a few weeks to phyc myself up to use it) But it is seriously amazing. such low waste and it really does a much better job then disposables.
My son who started shaving also uses it and has had no issues.
Ah tooth care. The bane of my zero waste efforts. I also have teeth that require more care than others. At my dentist’s insistence, I use an electric toothbrush, I have found floss we can compromise on with minimal plastic, but I use standard toothpaste (minus the triclasan thankyouverymuch and fluoride mouth wash. I wish I didn’t need to – but my teeth apparently have softer enamel than average – so they need all the help they can get.
For those who use safety razors – what do you do about travel? I’m a die-hard no-checked-bag girl.
For those who recommend linen towels, have you found any reasonably priced large bath towels?
Not sure if the same rule applies, but I’ve always traveled with my razor—albeit not a safety razor—and have never gotten stopped.
For towels, we have the linen towels from Fog Linen. They’re not inexpensive, but they’ve held up super well. We’ve had them since we got married in 2012!
Those towels look lovely – it’s good to know they have stood the test of time! Thanks!
TSA classifies safety razors differently – since the blade is removable their guidance says they aren’t allowed in carryon luggage.
Sure! Gotcha, re those razors!
Love my safety razor from Oui Shave (https://www.ouishave.com/). It’s a woman-owned, NYC based company that also makes lovely shaving oil.
Late to the game here, but I’ve been using Goodwell toothbrushes (https://thegoodwellcompany.com/) for a few years now after meeting their founder at a pop-up market in Portland. Sadly they aren’t electric, but the head is fully compostable without needing to pull the bristles out and they have additional heads like a tongue scraper to swap it out with. As a designer, I too care about how products look on my counter and this toothbrush makes me happy every time I see it. Plus it packs down easy for travel!
I’ve loved following along with your blog over the years and am looking forward to revisiting some of my favorite posts once I make the move from Denver to a smaller New York apartment this year. Cheers to great things!
The plaine products logo is very easy to scrub off the bottle 🙂 I scrubbed all but “shampoo” off and it’s much prettier..
Aww yeah, but then they probably can’t reuse it!
I just take the full bottles they send me, pour the product into my already scrubbed bottles and send the now empty bottle back. The conditioner is liquidy enough that it’s not too much work. 🙂
I am a total convert for Ethique shampoo/conditioner (and several other products): https://ethiquebeauty.com/
They are a NZ company, but available in the US via amazon. Here in NZ they are shipped entirely plastic free but I can’t speak for how they arrive from Amazon. But all products are in a solid form so they can be wrapped in compostable or recyclable paper/card packaging. The products work extremely well but I also am consistently impressed by the ethos and morality of the company.
The safety razor was one of my first switches when I started looking for zero-waste(ish) replacements! It definitely takes some getting used to because it can be soooo easy to nick or cut at first, but after a few uses the blade dulls a bit and it becomes easier to shave. I’ve had mine for two years and with a bit of coconut oil I get both a smooth finish and a little protection for the blade.
Believe it or not, Staples carries a 100% recycled paper, paper-wrapped toilet paper that comes (to my door anyway) in a brown cardboard box, from their Sustainable Earth line. I’m in Canada but it looks like it’s available on the US website too.
I am not sure if this applies to everyone but having a bidet (or a dipper and a pail!) at home to wash (with soap) and wipe themselves using a clean linen or flannel cloth (which can be washed afterwards) is definitely a good excuse to not buy toilet paper. Since I live in a tropical country and a bidet is too expensive to set up, traditionally we use a dipper and a pail to wash afterwards with soap and wipe with clean linen or flannel.
I use a quip toothbrush and I love it. The heads come in the mail every 3 months automatically so you don’t have to stock up or remember to buy. The top part that contains the actual bristles is the only part that is not recyclable, the rest is. It was explained to me by quip (and later verified with my dentist) that nylon bristles are the only material made (so far) that clean teeth properly and gently. Other plant based bristles are too rough on enamel and gums.
I also love that quip is battery operated so no clunky charger to deal with. Plus, it is slim like a regular toothbrush.
After living in Japan a few years ago (heated toilet seats, built in bidets and sometimes they come with a ‘bum dryer’!!), I had a douche spray plumbed in next to my loo* to wash with at home (about £13 for a douche spray here in the U.K). Then I wipe myself dry afterwards with a flannel cloth. This has reduced my own loo paper use, though I still have loo paper for guests and ‘time of the month’. It’s also a really good conversation starter when you have guests round as they inevitably ask what the miniature shower head next to the loo is for.
*otherwise known as a toilet here in the U.K
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