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How I got rid of the trash can in my zero waste bathroom

On creating a zero waste bathroom…

The bathroom: a space of our house we often tuck away and forget about, despite using it for some of the – ahem – most vital functions. In fact, the bathroom is full of many items we can choose to not repurchase, DIY, or find non-disposable alternatives for.

Trust me when I say there’s definitely plenty of room for our collective improvement. To the tune of two billion disposable razors and one billion toothbrushes thrown away per year. Luckily, easy, low-cost investments can drastically reduce that number without much of an effect on your daily routine.

Let’s talk about all the ways you can easily build your own zero waste bathroom…

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at The sink

It’s funny how zero waste suddenly brings small things into sharp perspective. Toothbrushes, those innocuous little things, are a gigantic burden on our environment. One billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away every year in the United States alone. And once they end up in the landfill, they take centuries upon centuries to even begin to break down.

Clearly, better choices need to be made. Thankfully, there are options.

Easy actionable step: limit your capacity for stuff with a box. Assess your space, grab a container that fits how much counter space you want to take up, and commit to only using products that can be stored in that container.

  • Toothbrush. I use The Green Root bamboo toothbrushes, and Brush With Bamboo if I run out since I can find them in the grocery store. (I’m not a fan as their packaging contains industrial compostable bioplastics.) Both are 100% bamboo with nylon bristles – just remove those and throw them away before composting.  Many mainstream grocery stores are stocking bamboo toothbrushes (although in plastic – hi, greenwashing) in their dental aisles.
  • Toothpaste. I’m ride-or-die for Fig+Yarrow tooth powder. It’s quite expensive but lasts way longer than a tube of toothpaste! David’s Toothpaste (in a metal tube) and BITE Toothpaste Tabs also get high praise.
  • Floss. Dental Lace is a great company for plastic-free silk floss. Here is a bamboo-fiber option if you prefer vegan.
  • Hand soap. I’m a fan of a basic castile bar for hand soap (or see here how to elevate a basic bar). If you can’t hang with a bar of soap, Zero Waste Chef has a dish soap recipe that I use for my bathroom pump.
  • Hand towels and washcloths. While using what you already have is best, Boll & Branch is an organic, ethics-driven company that sells gorgeous cotton products if you’re looking to invest in new ones.

in the Shower

The big benefit of working toward a zero waste bathroom is that you’re able to pare down the products you use – saving you money and avoiding the sketchy toxic ingredients in commercial products. The shower is a high-impact way of getting this done.

Easy actionable step: the first Rs of zero waste are refuse and reduce. Flex that muscle by downsizing your shower routine by 10-20%. (20 items in your shower? Once you’ve finished them up, do not re-buy 2 (10%) to 4 (20%) of your products.)

Want to explore a waste-free bathroom even further? join the Essential zero waste blueprint – it’s zone 2!

Zero Waste Bathroom - Body Lotion - Green Indy Blog

toiletry items

We’re constantly sold that we need a different item for each specific part of our body. Luckily, that’s almost never true. A big part of a zero waste bathroom is minimizing the amount of toiletries we think we need.

Easy actionable step: do a toiletry audit. Divide your items into “keep”, “DIY”, and “do not re-buy” to help visualize what you need to pare down.

How I got rid of the trash can in my zero waste bathroom - Green Indy Blog

in the makeup bag

Finding the right zero waste makeup brand can seem almost impossible… It takes a lot of trial and error to find what works for you, but paring down your cosmetics is a key part of a zero waste bathroom.

Easy actionable step: just like at the sink, create a specific amount of space for your makeup to help keep the product creep at bay.

A list of low-waste makeup options:

  • Besame Cosmetics. Not specifically zero waste, but my holy grail for mascara. They’re a vintage company, and their cake mascara in a tin is the best. Beautiful and functional.
  •  Alima Pure. They offer refillable compacts with magnetic pans and has some major dedication to the Earth. They’re a carbon neutral company (unlike any other on this list), they donate 1% of their gross sales to grassroots organizations, and all their ingredients are listed and explained in an easy-to-understand way.
  •  Elate Clean Cosmetics. Vegan, cruelty free, gluten free, and toxin free cosmetics made in Canada. Their cases and containers are made of sustainable bamboo.
  • Kjaer Weis. Luxury, sustainable cosmetics. Their compacts and other cosmetics containers are high-quality metal which are meant to last; the company offers refills for its products that drastically reduces the amount of packaging you create with their products.

Makeup remover? A simple oil with an old washcloth (or reusable facial rounds instead of cotton pads) works perfectly well.

Read the full post on zero waste makeup options here.

Zero Waste Bathroom - Toilet - Green Indy Blog

The toilet

Nothing too wild on this bit of the zero waste bathroom tour. We still use regular toilet paper, though we try to buy the eco-friendliest options (recycled paper, no plastic packaging, or larger plastic packages when necessary). My husband grew up with an outhouse and is not keen to go back to primitive living. I get it, I respect it.

Easy actionable step: get together with the people in your house and see what limits can be reached. Can you switch toilet paper brands? Get rid of toilet paper altogether? 

  • Toilet paper. The least scary option for most is to invest in toilet paper that doesn’t cut down trees to make something we wipe ourselves with, like Who Gives A Crap. The next step would be to cut out toilet paper altogether and make or buy family cloth wipes. You could also pair either with a Tushy bidet to further reduce the need for wiping.
  • Toilet brush. Use what you have until it no longer works, but consider replacing the plastic option with 100% natural brush and stand when the time comes.
  • Toilet cleaner. I use 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water. Spray, let sit for 5 minutes, and scrub clean. For particularly tough spots, I sprinkle baking soda, spray with vinegar, and let it sit for 10 minutes before scrubbing. (Need even more zero waste cleaning recipes? Here they are!)

Talking water usage

Easy actionable step: make sure all of your water-fixtures and appliances are water-saving when you need to buy new ones.

While in fact the bathroom has a fairly limited impact on your overall water footprint (really – see where you waste the most water by far here), there are some simple ways we can reduce water waste in the bathroom.

  • Switching to water-efficient items like faucets, toilets, and showerheads can reduce your home water usage by 20%.
  • You can do a simple shower test: if your shower fills a one-gallon bucket in under 20 seconds, it’s not water efficient.
  • Little things can have a big impact: if your faucet drips once per second, you waste five gallons of water per day! (source)

There are thousands of different items we can swap and actions we can take to create a more zero waste bathroom. It’s important – though – to choose just a few things to take on at once, otherwise the process can seem overwhelming. If you need more guidance towards a zero waste life, I recommend checking out The Essential Zero Waste Blueprint.

My (mostly) zero waste bathroom tour - Green Indy Blog
My (mostly) zero waste bathroom tour - Green Indy Blog
My (mostly) zero waste bathroom tour - Green Indy Blog