When I began the journey to make sustainable changes in my bathroom there’s one thing that really surprised me… I saved money! Sustainability – living green – is often thought to be very expensive. It can be if you get swept up in all the beautiful packaging, but look beyond sophisticated marketing techniques and you can easily end up with an eco friendly bathroom without busting your budget.
Here’s seven ways to lower your environmental footprint while saving money in the bathroom.
An easy change to help the environment is to stop purchasing liquid soap. Instead, choose bar soap for hand, facial, and hair cleansing. Why? The carbon footprint and cost for liquid soap is significantly higher than bar soap.
The actual process to manufacture liquid soap requires five times more energy than the process to make bar soap. Bar soap can be sold in a simple paper wrapper. Liquid soap, however, needs a bottle which requires materials and manufacturing. This packaging uses twenty times more energy than the simple packaging required for bar soap. These added processing and packaging requirements use more energy, but also explains why liquid soap is consistently the more expensive option.
Another significant problem with liquid soap is what happens to that packaging once the soap is used. Only 9% of plastic is actually recycled! 89% of plastic ends up in landfills only to sit there for decades.
A common argument against bar soap is that germs are spread from person to person as the bar of soap is used. Studies have been conducted to see if bacteria from a persons hands transferred to bar soap and then to the next person using the bar. This study from the Natinal Library of Medicine states the answer is no. Bacteria does not transfer to the next user and is a safe and effective way to clean hands.
Bar Soap for Shampoo
Bar soap for hands isn’t a new concept. Shampoo bars, however, are a relatively new option for consumers and one of my favorite eco friendly swaps. Shampoo bars eliminate the need for a plastic bottle drastically lowering your monthly amount of waste.
Shampoo bars work great. Simply wet your hair and the bar and then rub the bar over your head. It lathers just like liquid shampoo. Scrub with your fingers and rinse. I’ve been buying my shampoo bars from Lush as there is a store near me. But many vendors are now realizing that consumers want more sustainable options and are including shampoo bars among their products. Although the cost for a bar may seem high at first, the bars I buy from Lush last well over a month even with daily use.
The other thing I love about shampoo bars is how easy they are for traveling. I can literally throw a months worth of shampoo (one bar) in my purse or day pack and walk right through security. Not lugging around a heavy bottle or using all those wasteful tiny bottles is a game changer.
The trick for using bar soap for hands, face or hair is a good soap dish which allows your soap to dry between uses. Soap that sits in water will melt. Look for a soap dish with ridges that keeps the soap lifted above any moisture.
Toothbrushes are typically made of plastic. As everyone uses several toothbrushes a year, this amount of plastic headed to the landfills adds up to around 300 toothbrushes in a lifetime. Multiple this by every person on earth, and it is a significant amount of plastic.
Toothbrushes made of bamboo are a great alternative. Bamboo is biodegradable and will decompose in a compost bin. Sustainable Jungle has an extensive blog post comparing all the companies selling bamboo toothbrushes and charts which brands are low waste versus which ones are 100% compostable.
I toss bamboo toothbrushes in my family’s Christmas stockings each year. The best way to encourage someone down the sustainability path is to gift them useful items!
I am so looking forward to the day that the major toothpaste companies switch to compostable packaging. Toothpaste is typically sold in plastic tubes which creates more waste than necessary. Here’s two great alternatives:
Several companies are now producing a new product called tooth tabs. They are small pill-shaped tabs that you bite and then brush your teeth. The water from the brush dissolves the tab and then foams as usual.
Tabs are fantastic for travel as they take up so little space and aren’t considered a liquid so therefore aren’t restricted. You could carry a months worth of toothpaste in your pocket! If you like to travel with minimal luggage, tooth tabs are the way to go.
Making Your Own Toothpaste
For homemade toothpaste, the main ingredient is baking soda. Brushing your teeth with just baking soda is a great option. It is actually listed as an option on a chart produce by the American Dentist Association.
There are articles out there on the net stating that baking soda is too abrasive for teeth. But the opposite is actually true. Baking soda is far less abrasive than most commercial tooth pastes and completely safe for teeth as detailed in this Journal of the American Dental Association article. In fact, of 74 toothpastes tested, the only option less abrasive than baking soda was brushing with water. Every other commercial toothpaste scored higher on the abrasive scale.
Wet your toothbrush and then dip it in the baking soda and brush as normal. It isn’t sweet, as we’re used to with commercially produced toothpaste, so it takes a little getting used to. Baking soda is inexpensive and the cardboard packaging can be composted. (Don’t buy baking soda in plastic containers!)
If you’d like something more than baking soda, here is an easy recipe to make your own toothpaste at home.
6 TBL Coconut Oil, soft but not melted
4 TBL Baking Soda
20 drops food grade peppermint oil
Mix together with a spoon and add to a jar for storage. Apply to your brush and use as you would your commercially purchased toothpaste.
Coconut oil has been used since ancient times and is regarded as important for oral health care in Ayurvedic practices. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest holistic (“whole-body”) healing systems. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India. It’s based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit.
Coconut Oil – Nature’s Mouth Wash
It was through my reading about Ayurvedic medicine that I discovered ‘oil pulling’ and the use of coconut oil for oral hygiene. Oil pulling is swishing 1 TBL of coconut oil or sesame oil for 20 minutes first thing each morning. The oil ‘pulls’ toxins located in the mouth which are absorbed by the oil and then spat out. I started oil pulling about four years ago and was amazed by the results. Here is a research article from the US National Library of Medicine that provides more details.
This is why using coconut oil in your homemade toothpaste is so beneficial for oral care and why you might want to consider also adding oil pulling to your daily routine.
Dental floss is made of nylon coated with wax which takes 50-80 years to decompose! It is also sold in plastic containers that will take even longer to decompose in landfills. The good news is now there are compostable alternatives available.
One option is a floss made from silk. The silk is coated in wax and will compost fairly quickly. It is often sold in a glass jar that can be used for years as spools of refills are available for purchase.
For a vegan option, lucky-teeth.com has a bamboo floss that is coated with a plant based wax. Sold in a stainless steel container, they also sell refills so you only need to purchase the container once.
Remember getting a plastic shower body scrubbers in every gift basket at the holidays?!
Ditch those plastic versions forever for an all natural loofah. A loofah is the dried, internal skeleton of the loofah plant. Although stiff when dry, it softens when wet.
My loofah scrubber invigorates my skin and when it eventually wears out, I just pop it in my composter.
Make Up Removal Cloths
Another easy swap to lower your waste is to switch to reusable cloth make up removers. These cloths are sold in packs and can be tossed in the laundry and then reused. Here are options made out of bamboo.
If you like to sew, creating your own make up rounds (or squares) is an easy project. You can cut squares or circles from a soft fabric or terry cloth and sew two of them together. If you don’t have a machine, themakeupdummy.com has a tutorial of how to use a blanket stitch to sew them together by hand. This is a great project to use up fabric you have lying about and to introduce children to sewing.
That nasty culprit plastic is everywhere! Disposable razors are made of plastic and end up in the landfills for decades to come. Terra Cycle offers the option of sending your used razors to them to be recycled into non personal care items such as park benches.
An easier option is to purchase a reusable razor which will last for years. Reusable razors are a bit of an investment to begin with, but over the course of time you’ll be saving money as you’ll no longer need to buy disposable. Cosmopolitan Magazine recently recognized the importance of choosing more sustainable products and published an article in February, 2021 detailing all of the options available for eco friendly razors.
Once you’ve got your bathroom humming along sustainably, here are ideas for tackling your laundry room and kitchen. Thanks for reading and taking an interest in an eco friendly future! You’ve got this!