For being one of the smaller rooms in the home, the bathroom creates a serious amount of waste. The wastes we create from within our bathrooms are various. We waste water, packaging, chemicals, and energy. Plastic packaging from cosmetics and toiletry products are commonly found as plastic pollution in the ocean and environment.
Around 550 million shampoo bottles are thrown away every year, and only 1 in 5 people consistently recycle bathroom items. It's estimated that each person uses roughly 250 toothbrushes during their lifetime, averaging about 6 toothbrushes per person, per year. The point is, bathrooms are super-waste generators. Apart from the kitchen, the bathroom is the next best place in the home to audit waste and create a zero-waste transformation; one that saves you time, space, money, and the planet.
Due to bathrooms being (generally) small, many who desire to zero-waste their life gain great satisfaction from zero-wasting their bathroom. They are usually much more approachable and easier to convert compared to the kitchen and other home spaces. Many who want to experience the benefits of a zero-waste lifestyle prefer to start with the bathroom for these reasons. Zero-waste bathrooms are achievable, affordable, comfortable, and clutterless.
It's estimated that each person uses roughly 250 toothbrushes during their lifetime, averaging about 6 toothbrushes per person, per year.
Even though they are easily transformable spaces in the home, many may not know where to start, what products are essential, or how to make long term changes. The good news is that there has been no better, nor easier, time in history to develop sustainable habits. And dare we say, it can actually be fun!
How to Get Started
1. Know Your Waste!
You're inspired and determined to transform your bathroom into a zero-waste oasis. But, you first must know what items are regularly tossed and wasted in your bathroom. Some common items are toothbrushes, toilet paper rolls, hair product bottles, toothpaste tubes, plastic flossers, feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs, and razors.
Your waste doesn’t stop there, though. Depending on your immpact goals, you may even consider purchasing some newer, water and energy efficient appliances to limit your impact on natural resources. Water is a resource most wasted in the bathroom between flushes, showers, leaks, and running faucets.
You can approach this as slowly or as full force as you wish, but take at least a few days to notice what items you and your family regularly waste in your bathroom(s). Observe, too, in what ways your household uses the most water. This is an important step as each family's size, products, routines, and habits are different.
2. Make Switches
Once you understand your wastage and how it is generated in your bathroom, the fun part comes in: making sustainable product switches that are guaranteed to save you money and counterspace while helping you feel good about your lifestyle. Again, every individual and family is different, the swaps that you need to make will depend on a variety of factors, and may be different compared to other households.
It should be noted that swapping out plastic options for reusable options for your bathroom are likely to cost more upfront. This fact steers some away initially. However, over time, these items will save you money every week, month, and year.
For example, switching from disposable plastic razors to a reusable metal razor may save you upwards of hundreds of dollars within the first two years. The sustainable rule is that the more uses you can get out of an item, the better for the environment, and your wallet. This doesn’t mean you must go out and purchase hundreds of dollars of new zero-waste products immediately. Making zero-waste changes is a marathon, not a sprint. Attempt to make swaps over time, starting with the most commonly used items to the least.
Begin with this small curated list of eco-friendly products that may help you prioritize your zero-waste swaps.
- Hair care bottles for bars: i.e shampoo and conditioner bars.
- Hand soap bottles for soap bars.
- Disposable plastic razors for plastic-free razors.
- Mouthwash bottles for mouthwash tablets.
- Toothpaste tubes for toothpaste tablets.
- Plastic flosser for biodegradable dental lace.
- Plastic packaged makeup for refillable options and bamboo packaged options.
- Plastic deodorant tubes for zero-waste deodorant and refillable options.
- Plastic toothbrushes for beechwood toothbrushes.
- Plastic tampon and pad applicators for reusable menstrual cups or rewashable underwear.
- Disposable single-use cotton swabs for reusable options.
With the help of this list, and your own research and trial and error, your bathroom will become a zero-waste paradise in no time. Products that are essential to you may not be as essential to others. Do your best to make swaps in an order that makes the most sense to you and your family.
3. Maintain Your New Normal
Zero-waste bathrooms are easier to clean, and offer a cluterless environment. Forget knocking over crowded plastic bottles in the shower. Forget emptying your bathroom trash so often. Forget picking up those plastic flossers off the floor that missed that wastebasket. Forget the stacks of dull, disposable plastic razors collecting space in your shower and drawers. With less clutter, cleaning your bathroom will become quicker, and your newly improved space will become one of your favorites in your home.
To make sure your zero-waste efforts last over time, plan ahead. Most large retailers have started offering more sustainable and zero-waste product options, but many are still lagging behind. To achieve your zero-waste bathroom long term it is important to know where you can restock on your essentials when they eventually run out, break, and so forth. Doing this will help you avoid falling back into old, wasteful habits when in a pinch.
It should also be noted that you may feel frustrated in this process and it is normal. Remember why you started: for the environment, or to save money, or to limit your body to toxins in plastic and traditional products. Whatever the reason may be, it is worth the initial learning curve!