The past few years a growing number of households are becoming more environmentally aware. Influential people like Greta Thunberg, Sir David Attenborough and Jason Momoa have made it their mission to educate the world on sustainability and the seriousness of the current problem around plastic pollution. More and more people are seeing how imperative it is to reduce plastic waste, and for good reason.
Did you know that by 2025, there could be one ton of plastic in marine waters for every three tons of finfish swimming in the oceans? Studies indicate that by 2050, the ration of plastics to fish could be 1:1 (source: Beachapedia.org). Let that sink in. And here’s the (even more) scary part: plastics do not biodegrade in our lifetime. Instead, they break down into tiny particles that remain in our oceans, where they adsorb to toxins and enter the food chain through fish, sea birds and other marine life, and eventually end up in our bodies. And that’s not the only way we consume microplastics. Microplastics are everywhere: in our foods, our drinks, even in the air that we breathe. Studies found that we consume microplastics in ways and quantities we don’t even realize. Is this healthy in the long run? Well, no.
When I found out about these shocking numbers, something shifted in me. I realized I had been mindlessly contributing to this problem for years and decided to take a critical look at the ways in which I did this. I started swapping plastics for more sustainable options and to buy less packaged products. My goal is to eventually live a zero-waste lifestyle, which I am not even close to at this point, but I am doing my best and learning more about the plastic-free movement and possibilities every day.
FROM BAMBOO TOOTHBRUSHES TO SHAMPOO BARS: MAKE YOUR BATHROOM A GREENER SPACE
One place in the house where I produced the most waste is also the smallest room in the house: the bathroom. I used to be such a hoarder of bathroom products and cosmetics. My drawers were stuffed with hair and skin care products. I mean, can you imagine the amount of waste created by all that packaging? Once I came to terms with this part of me that was so unaware of all this, I started to make drastic changes. Not only is my bathroom much more sustainable now, I also stopped using chemicals on my body and hair, making my hair and skin look more radiant and healthier than ever before.
Has this sparked your curiosity? Good! Have your notes ready, because below I am sharing 14 easy steps and super fun DIY cosmetics recipes to reduce your plastic footprint in the bathroom – for the sake of better health AND a better planet!
An easy place to start is with your toothbrush. Did you know that in the US alone 850 million plastic toothbrushes get thrown away each year? That’s 50 million pounds (over 20 million kilograms) worth of waste. Luckily there is a great solution to reduce this type of pollution (hey, that rhymes!): bamboo toothbrushes. Once my plastic toothbrush was ready for replacement, I swapped it for a bamboo toothbrush (I’m a big fan of the Swedish brand Humble Co). Toothbrushes made of bamboo are a very sustainable choice, as bamboo is compostable and extremely fast growing. There are two types of bamboo toothbrushes at the moment: one with plastic bristles – which have to be cut off before throwing the used toothbrush in the compost bin, and one with animal hair bristles – which can be composted as it is, but isn’t suitable for vegans. Since sustainability is such a trending topic lately, big dental companies have also jumped on the bamboo toothbrush wagon. However, it’s good to realize that by buying from them, you still support their business in producing wasteful products. Instead, try to support the small, sustainable businesses with a clear mission!
TOOTH TABLETS AND DIY TOOTHPASTE
Toothpaste normally comes in a tube, which annually creates a lot of waste. There are lots of good sustainable options out there like tooth tablets or organic toothpastes which come in mostly recycled tubes. However, you can also very easily make your own tooth powder which cleans your teeth very effectively. All you need is an empty glass jar, in which you mix the following ingredients:
- 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons of baking soda
- A few drops of peppermint essential oil for a fresh taste
This all natural toothpaste recipe is not only better for the environment, it’s also said to be better for your health. Normal toothpaste is stuffed with chemicals like aspartame and triclosan (which is listed as a PESTICIDE and has negative effects on thyroid and estrogen levels, eek!) and microplastics, which of course you shouldn’t want to put in your body. And I won’t even get into fluoride. Of course, you can choose to brush your teeth every now and then with a fluoride tooth paste. Also, not every set of teeth is the same and there’s no 1 allround dental care routine that works for each and every one of us. But I recommend trying out this recipe, as it literally costs pennies to make and the ingredients have been proven to be beneficial for the dental health of many users.
SWAP MOUTHWASH FOR OIL
If you use mouthwash, I highly recommend trying to switch to oil pulling. Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic practice of holding oil (usually coconut oil) in your mouth for about 10-15 minutes and then spitting it out. Ever since I started incorporating oil pulling into my daily morning routine, my gums have been less sensitive and my breath smells way less odorous. And it can be plastic free, since coconut oil often comes in glass jars. Another alternative is to look for all natural mouthwash that comes in a metal bottle instead of plastic.
For the ambitious flossers among us (love a good floss sesh before bed), it’s good to be aware of the fact that normal dental floss will always end up in landfill. If you are looking for a sustainable option, I encourage you to look for silk floss, which is fully biodegradable. Keep in mind though that silk is not vegan.
Making the switch to natural deodorant felt awkward at first. I was so used to applying deodorants with chemicals and perfume toxins that went straight to my brain. But they prevented my armpits from smelling, which was important to me. Yet, when I decided to live a more Ayurvedic lifestyle and made the pledge to only put things on my body that I could also put in my mouth, I decided to make the switch. I started with trying different all natural organic deodorant creams, which did not always work for me. Then I tried a deodorant salt crystal, which definitely helped prevent odor but didn’t help with perspiration. So I decided to try and make my own deodorant, which turned out to be super easy to make and works like a charm for me. All you need for this DIY deodorant are the following ingredients:
- 1/4 cup of baking soda
- 1/4 cup of corn flour or cornstarch (Maizena)
- 2/3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
- A few drops of essential oils of your choice – I use 5 drops of lavender for the pleasant smell and 2 drops of tea tree oil for its antimicrobial properties that target the bacteria that cause body odor
Mix them all together, put the mixture in a little glass jar and – voila! There’s your zero waste all natural deodorant for happy armpits and a happy planet! Depending on your skin type the quantity of baking soda in this recipe might cause an itchy skin. In that case, use about half the amount of baking soda and opt for more corn flour instead. This will make the mixture a lot gentler on sensitive skin.
You’ve probably heard of them before, as they are gaining in popularity: shampoo bars. When I first made the switch from liquid shampoo (which mostly doesn’t come in recycleble packaging) to solid shampoo bars, I was pleasantly surprised by how effectively it cleaned my hair. Without containing any chemicals, the shampoo bar I use (from Funky Soap) foams very well and leaves my hair feeling super clean without weighing it down. Ever since I stopped using chemicals, my hair looks fuller and healthier, grows faster and doesn’t break as easily as it used to (my hair was very damaged due to 2 years of bleaching it). Shampoo bars are available in most organic shops nowadays and also big brands like Lush sell them. And they are totally waste free. Also, shampoo bars tend to last longer than your average shampoo bottle, depending on the length and thickness of your hair.
CONDITIONER BARS AND THE MAGIC OF ACV
As for conditioner, there are apparently some great conditioner bars out there that are great to team up with a shampoo bar. I don’t have any experience with conditioner bars myself, though. What I have been using to treat my hair after washing is apple cider vinegar. If you’ve never heard of this awesome hair care trick, you might think ‘wait, what?’ Yes, apple cider vinegar, or ACV, turned out to be the best all natural care for my precious hair. Here’s how it works:
Use about 1-2 tablespoons of (organic) apple cider vinegar and mix it in with a big glass of water. I take the glass with me in the shower and after washing my hair I pour the mixture over my scalp and hair. Massage it in all the way from the roots to the ends and leave it in for about 2 minutes to work its magic. Then rinse with cold water. I don’t rinse it out completely, but leave some of it in my hair to dry after showering. This might smell a bit sour, but once your hair is dry the smell is completely gone and it will leave your hair feeling super soft and smooth. No more super expensive and chemical hair treatments for me!
SOAP BARS FOR BODY AND HANDS
I use all natural soap bars to wash my body and hands. These are available in a lot of shops made with all kinds of beautiful natural ingredients. They are a great zero waste option as most of these bars are unpackaged! My skin loves them and wow, some of them smell sooo good!
SWAP BODY LOTION FOR OIL
As for body lotion, I stopped buying fancy body lotions and moisturizers a while ago and swapped it for oils, which I buy in glass bottles. Now in the summertime I use pure coconut oil, because of its cooling effects. It leaves my skin feeling smooth and hydrated. It doesn’t clog the pores and I just love the smell of coconut. My partner is a big fan of using organic olive oil on his body, which actually smells and feels very nice on the body as well. Where we live in Spain, olive oil is the most local and therefore more sustainable oil you can get. Sometimes he adds a drop or two of lavender essential oil to make it more fragrant. Other beautiful oils I like to use for my body are sweet almond oil or sesame oil, which are very warming and nourishing in the cold winter months.
Razors nowadays are mostly made of plastic and come in plastic packaging. If you have a reusable handle, you still keep buying the blades, which go straight to landfill. A more sustainable option is to go back to the old school safety razor, or metal razor. These take some getting used to, so you should be extra cautious when trying it the first few times. But once you get the hang of it, you can enjoy your smoothly shaved legs and other body parts without harming the environment!
DIY: DRY SHAMPOO
Dry shampoo is a total life saver for me, as I only wash my hair with shampoo about 2 times a week. I found out that there is absolutely no need for me to go out of my way to buy it. Apparently I had the ingredient for a super effective all natural dry shampoo in my kitchen all this time: corn flour! Simply use corn flour or arrowroot powder and apply it on your greasy roots with a (clean) make-up brush. For darker hair, just mix the flour or arrowroot powder with some cacao powder. I keep my dry shampoo mixture in a glass jar. Not only does it work like a charm, it’s also much healthier for your hair and scalp.
They look so small and innocent, yet they cause our environment so much harm: plastic-stemmed cotton swabs. They easily pass through filters because of their size, and find their way right into the ocean where birds and marine life mistake them for food. More environmental options are cotton swabs with stems made of bamboo or cardboard. There are also niche brands that sell reusable ear cleaners, you simply wash it with soap after using!
FACE WIPES AND MAKE-UP REMOVER
For cleaning make-up off of your face, you don’t have to rely on single-use cotton pads or make-up remover wipes anymore. Nowadays, you can get great alternatives like washable wipes and pads made from sustainable materials like hemp, cotton and bamboo. They are super easy to use and wash. You can also find single-use face wipes made from biodegradable material.
As for a plastic-free alternative for make-up remover? Well, you better stock up on coconut oil after reading this post, because coconut oil turns out to be a great make-up remover/face cleanser as well. It’s literally nature’s multi-purpose miracle product! Also jojoba and sweet almond oil great natural make-up removers. Afterwards you can wash your face with bar soap or, if that’s too drying and you aren’t vegan: raw, unfiltered honey is supposed to be super beneficial for your skin when used as a face wash.
Ladies, have you considered the amount of waste produced each month by disposable period products like tampons and pads? To give you an idea: an individual throws away over 11.000 single-use period products in a lifetime. Along with their packaging, period products create more than 200.000 tonnes of waste each year, which all ends up in landfill, our oceans and on our beaches. Not only that, they also contain certain chemicals, such as dioxine, chlorine and rayon, stuff we really shouldn’t want to put inside our bodies. It’s time for change. Opt for reusable period products, such as period cups (I use and love the brand Organicup), washable pads and/or period underwear (Thinx is a great brand for this). I personally find using a menstrual cup very comfortable and easy, as I usually only have to change it every 8-12 hours. Plus, it’s a great way to keep an eye on the color of your menstrual blood, which tells you a lot about your womb health.
THE TIME FOR CHANGE IS NOW
Switching to a plastic-free lifestyle might seem overwhelming and impossible at first, but you will quickly realize that it’s really not that difficult. It is SO important for all of us now to wake up and take responsibility for the damaging impact we have on our planet as a collective. Let’s change the way we consume and produce waste, and inspire others to do the same. Together we can make a change!
What changes have you made in your lifestyle already? And which of the bathroom swaps listed above are you going to incorporate? Anything you would add to this list? I’d love to hear you!
Sending love to all beings,