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: