When I started going zero waste in 2016, I started by tackling the trash can in my bathroom. I couldn’t figure out why that one trash can filled up so often so I went through it to figure out where I was creating waste and eliminated those items one by one, replacing them with more earth-friendly alternatives as I ran out. Here’s what the beginning of my zero waste journey looked like.
It started with a waste audit
For 30 days, I kept track of what I was throwing away - that’s how I found the culprits: An empty tube of toothpaste, a plastic toothbrush, pieces of plastic floss, a stick of deodorant, disposable razor heads, makeup remover wipes, daily contacts, and a silly amount of tissues.
Note: By the time I did this waste analysis, I had already started using a menstrual cup in 2013 (one of the best decisions I’ve ever made - more on that here) and stopped accepting travel size bottles of shampoo and lotion and soap found at hotels.
Here’s how I purged the plastic from my bathroom...
(Of course, we recommend consulting a healthcare professional on any changes to your dental and hygiene routine, to make sure you make the best choices for you.)
After learning that toothbrushes were one of the main items found in beach cleanups, switching to a bamboo toothbrush was one of my first steps towards a zero waste bathroom. It was an easy swap, and I’ve never looked back.
The only catch is that the only compostable bristles on the market are made with boars hair, which is controversial, or plant based material that begins disintegrating a little too soon. So, when my toothbrush wears out, I either down cycle it for cleaning or makeup application (hello, new brow brush) or remove the partially plastic bristles with a pair of pliers so I can compost the handle. Here’s a helpful video tutorial on that!
As for toothpaste, I loved the DIY recipe I found, and it was quite a money saver. It consisted of 1 part coconut oil to 1 part baking soda, plus some mint essential oil to taste. But after awhile, I found it more convenient to purchase pre-made natural toothpaste in a metal tube. The metal tube is recyclable, and it comes with a key so you can squeeze out every last bit with ease. I get a lot of questions about how recyclable these tubes actually are - I’ve been told by an industry veteran that impurities are filtered out in the recycling process for metal recycling, but I can’t speak for every sorting facility on whether it will get to the recycling part - it’s best to check with your local facility. In Seattle, we cut off the end of the tube and rinse it out first, to be sure.
When I discovered refillable dental floss, I was over the moon. Not only does it come in a lovely glass container, the floss is made of biodegradable silk, so it’s compostable! Did you know that if we all flossed as much as dentists recommend, the plastic containers would fill a football field 6 stories high, every year? This one’s a no-brainer.
On top of the plastic bottles, most mouthwashes on the market is quite strong, quite sweet, and dyed an unnaturally bright color. At the Fremont farmer’s market last year, I discovered Herb & Myth’s herbal mouthwash in glass bottles. It was love at first taste! Delightfully full of essential oils that promote gum health, this mouthwash is a game changer. The best part? You can refill the bottle in our bulk section.
Oof, this one took awhile. I don’t know how many natural deodorants I tried before I found one that actually worked. This process really fueled the fire for opening Eco Collective, because I knew so many of my friends cared about the environment and wanted to create habits that protected the outdoors, but weren’t willing to sacrifice the time, money, and inconvenience of trying countless natural deodorants that frankly weren’t deodorizing at all. Finally, I found a brand that was made with coconut oil, arrowroot and baking soda. It was effective, lasting me all the way through the day - even on days when I hit the gym or ran errands. Plus it comes in a simple compostable container! This deodorant was a winner in my book.
After a while, our beloved deodorant vendor moved overseas, but she gave us her recipe and all her leftover containers, so we’ll very soon be carrying our own deodorant with all the same natural ingredients.
In December of 2018, I started using an alum stone, inspired by Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home. I am totally enamored! You simply wet the stone and apply like you would a deodorant. It’s most effective when applied to clean, open pores. It’s just as effective as my favorite all natural deodorant and it’s totally package-free. Plus it lasts so much longer - one stone will last you about a year!
Note: Alum stones are composed of naturally occurring potassium alum that doesn’t absorb in the same way or hold the same risks as the aluminum in some antiperspirants. Read our product description for more information!
At the time I started this project, I had a reusable razor with a stockpile of replacement heads, which had seemed like a less wasteful approach or at least one that had me running to the store less often for new razors. Before that, I had been on a kick of buying men’s razors because they were so much cheaper than women’s due to what’s called the pink tax. After a little research, I discovered safety razors. Once I used my last replacement razorhead, I took the plunge. It’s a return to the way things used to be made - I love that the safety razor is unisex, can last a lifetime, and that the ultra cheap replacement blades bypass the sneaky razor and blades business model. And of course, it eliminates all the senseless waste from disposable razors. You can read more about how to use and care for your safety razor here.
Face wipes were a hard one for me to give up. I like to fill my days with fun things and go to sleep with the sun, meaning I used to get ready for bed as quickly as possible. Disposable face wipes were so convenient. The zero waste lifestyle has led me to adopt a slower pace and although I still have busy days, my evening routine has become something I actually enjoy. I switched to a bar soap, and my skin has actually never been happier. Our face soaps are custom made by a local soap maker and are chock full of nourishing natural ingredients specific to your skin type.
The soap I use is called Fresh Face and it has french green clay and tea tree oil for cleansing and balancing. I wash my face with cold water in the evenings and moisturize with Yay for Earth face lotion in the mornings.
In my zero waste story, I don’t count waste that comes from medical items. Contacts, prescription bottles, vitamins, bandages, etc. are necessities that shouldn’t hold any guilt. But when I’m able to reduce, I do so gladly. The way I see it, our shopping habits are like incentives for larger companies to change their packaging and materials. Instead of using daily contacts, I switched to monthlies! I also wear my glasses more often, but for sailing, swimming laps, running around for errands and all that my work entails, contacts are often the more sensible choice. When you get creative, it’s easy to find simple solutions to reduce your waste.
After realizing how much waste I was creating with disposable tissues, I switched to using a bandana as a handkerchief. My new fabric companion serves many purposes - napkin, towel, tissue… even a way to wrap up leftovers when I have a clean one. It’s old-school, but I swear by it.
Some other fun switches I’ve made are switching to a shampoo bar, buying conditioner in bulk, and even trying a lotion bar from my local farmers market!
By making these changes, I’ve been able to reduce the amount of waste in my bathroom by 99%.
I no longer find a need to keep a trash can in my bathroom at all. This feels so aligned with my values, and I’ve been able to support so many natural brands and farmers market vendors simply by changing my routine. It’s taken years to get to this point, but I am happy to say my bathroom is now entirely zero waste.