zero waste

Environmental footprint check-in: Bathrooms, 2018

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The bathroom is a place that can be full of plastic products.  My condominium has a full bathroom and a half bathroom.  I won’t focus on household cleaning products, as I will do this in another post, but I will discuss personal care items.

I use bar soap in both bathrooms. I used to buy locally-made soap, but I found that it invariably became very soft and squishy after a short while. My preference is for triple-milled soaps, as they are durable and you can use them down to a small nub, which is not the case with the local soaps. I use Savon de Marseille in the 300g size, which lasts a very long time. I use a bamboo toothbrush, which can be put in the compost. Because of the very strong evidence that shows the positive effects fluoride has on dental health, I do use toothpaste that comes in a plastic tube; unfortunately, I have yet to find a fluoride toothpaste that comes in a glass container. I have no intention of compromising the health of my teeth, however, so plastic it is. I don’t use dental floss, as it generates a great deal of waste; you can buy floss in a cardboard container, but the floss itself cannot biodegrade and cannot be recycled. The only biodegradable floss I have found is made of silk,  which won’t work for me, of course, since it is derived from animals. There is no  Evidence of a strong positive correlation between flossing and dental health. I brush my teeth whenever I eat anything, and I visit the dentist twice yearly. My teeth and gums are in excellent health, so I will stick to my non-flossing routine until a greener and vegan option is available. I use this stainless steel tongue scraper.

I use a bamboo nail brush, and this wooden body brush for exfoliating my skin. In the bathtub and shower, I use a cotton washcloth (or flannel, as I was raised to call it); bath poufs are made of plastic, and can’t be cleaned easily.  Washcloths can be laundered easily, and thus are more hygienic.  I use a small cotton towel as a bath mat, since I don’t want anything with a rubber bottom. I use this bamboo shower caddy.  I use a cloth shower curtain and liner, both of which can be easily laundered.

It is in the area of personal hygiene and grooming that most of us use a lot of plastic. I have made positive strides over the years, but of course, I can always do more. I have been using cotton handkerchiefs since I was a child. Tissues generate so much waste and, frankly, I find them very unhygienic; seeing a balled up used tissue turns my stomach. Tissues are also hard on the skin. I have year-round allergic rhinitis, which means I would go through a lot of tissues in a year. My preferred brands are both Canadian: OKO Creations, and  Eco Freako; their hankies have lasted me for years. I have sewn a few hankies, as well.

I haven’t used bathroom tissue for five years. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am fastidiously clean, so if I can do this, anyone can. I attached a bidet device to my toilet, which is far more hygienic than bathroom tissue. I keep bamboo bathroom tissue on hand for guests who may not want to use the bidet attachment.

I use the  Erase Your Face cloths to wash my face every night; no cleanser is needed. These cloths remove all makeup and dirt, including mascara, and I hand wash them after use. My skin is dry and very sensitive, and would always feel tight even if I used the gentlest cleanser. I have used these cloths since April 2017, and have never looked back. In the morning, I simply splash my face with warm water. At night, I use a DIY face serum that consists of 2-3 carrier oils that come in glass bottles.  I use a smaller glass jar with a pipette to distribute the serum on my face, neck, and around my eyes.  Because my skin is dry, I usually follow this with a small amount of pure shea butter.  After a long search for shea butter that doesn’t come in plastic, I was glad to find this brand in a metal container, and at a reasonable price. I am fanatical about using sunscreen on my face year round. It has taken me a while to find a brand that doesn’t irritate my skin, but this one does the trick; unfortunately, it comes in a plastic container, but sun safety comes first.  I used to spend a fortune on creams and serums that didn’t do much for my skin. My simple routine of DIY serum and shea butter (night) and sunscreen (day) works well for me.

I no longer buy body or hand creams. I used to make my own hand cream, but I needed three products to do so, which generated too much waste. I use my face serum above for my hands and feet. For my body, I use sweet almond oil that comes in a glass bottle.  I know that stainless steel razors are used by many zero wasters to remove body hair, but I have been using an epilator for this purpose for several years. My device works well, so I’m sticking with it. I used to make my own deodorant, but I developed a very strong reaction to baking soda. The non-baking soda recipes required far too many items, so I am using this travel-sized crystal deodorant stone. The stone does come in a plastic package, but since the stone will last me at least two years, the amount of waste produced is very small. It works like a charm. I use pure shea butter as a lip balm, and in my handbag, I carry a small tin of it with me, which doubles also as a travel hand cream.

I don’t wear nail polish anymore. For one, nail polish and nail remover generate a lot of waste; second, I found that both products dried out my nails and skin, no matter how good their quality. I am lucky to have very strong nails that grow like weeds (thanks, Mum), and I prefer to leave them in their natural state. I don’t get professional manicures or pedicures, as I have been doing these myself since I was 12 years old.

It is in the area of hair care that I generate the largest amount of waste. I have tried various methods to reduce plastic consumption, but have had to make compromises. I have curly hair that is prone to dryness. My scalp is dry and very sensitive. I tried a variety of no-poo methods, such as the horrific baking-soda method, which stripped my scalp and left it all blistered. As I discovered, baking soda is alkaline, with a pH of 9, while the scalp is acidic, with a pH of 5. – not a good combination. I tried the water-only method of washing my hair, but I found my hair became very dull. The best method for me is co-washing, which means using a silicone-free conditioner to clean the scalp, and a silicone free-gel to style the hair. I use the t-shirt plopping method on my wet hair, then let it air dry. I co-wash my hair twice a week, and revive my hair in between by spraying my hair with water and adding a little more of the conditioner and gel. I tried shampoo bars, but they simply didn’t workl they either stripped my scalp, or left a film on my hair.  I have tried solid conditioners with disastrous effect.  My conditioner and gel are in plastic containers, unfortunately, but it’s not from want of trying plastic-free alternatives.

For makeup, I use Elate Cosmetics.  Elate is a Canadian company that uses bamboo and metal packaging. You buy a bamboo magnetic palette, which you fill with eyeshadow, blush, or foundation in metal disks. These refills are packed in compostable containers that are infused with flower seeds: You can plant these containers in soil, which I plan to do soon. The products are all vegan and cruelty free, of course.   I carry the foundation powder in a refillable bamboo compact. The lipsticks and mascara are in bamboo as well.

As always, suggestions for other earth-friendly options are welcome.

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