Learn how to generate less trash and live a healthier and more sustainable life in The Zero-Waste Lifestyle (Ten Speed Press, 2012). Author Amy Korst offers hundreds of ideas for throwing away less in all aspects of your life. In this excerpt taken from chapter seven, “The Zero-Waste Bathroom,” find out why the bathroom is the hardest place to make garbage-free and what you can do to change that.
Although the kitchen may be the room where most trash is produced, the hardest room to make garbage free is the bathroom. From flu season to dental care, feminine hygiene to birth control, the bathroom offers a number of pitfalls for those seeking a zero-waste lifestyle.
The problem is that most items we use in the bathroom today are designed to be disposable—some after a number of uses and some after only a single use. Whereas single-serve food items offer mere convenience, sparing us from common preparation tasks that we can easily take on, I believe we use disposables in the bathroom for another reason entirely. Sure, disposable razors are convenient, but we also equate single-use disposables with words like clean and safe. I think many of us are grossed out by the idea of reusing a bathroom product (washable menstrual pads, for instance).
The first step toward reducing bathroom trash, then, is a mindset shift. To rid the bathroom of single-use disposables, you must embrace the idea of experimenting with alternative products until you find the right ones that fit into your lifestyle. Know that less than a hundred years ago, the disposable bathroom products we rely on today didn’t even exist.
One of my personal goals is to live as natural a life as possible, and it helps me to keep this in mind when selecting my personal care products. To me, this means using products made from sustainable resources, not chemicals or synthetics. I want to access ingredients and raw materials that have been on the planet for ages instead of relying on manmade materials. This is all part of simplifying my life—just as I want to be able to pronounce all the ingredients in my ice cream, I want to know what minerals my deodorant is made from.
There are numerous ways to avoid disposables while maintaining modern levels of cleanliness and hygiene, and in this chapter I’ll show you how to make the switch.
You should have a list of the items that create trash in your bathroom, including all the products you buy and use. Because I’m a low-maintenance gal, my list is pretty short: shampoo, conditioner, soap/body wash, contact lens solution, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, razors, and occasionally lotion. You might add makeup, face creams, or hair products to that list and, if you’re a guy, shaving cream and aftershave. Contraception such as condoms and other birth control, as well as feminine hygiene products also fall under the bathroom trash heading. And then there are medical products, which we’ll discuss in a later section.
Once you have your list, go through it and determine what makes garbage. Take your list to a grocery store, cosmetic counter, or pharmacy, and peruse the many, many personal care products on the market today. While doing reconnaissance for the bathroom, note any products that come in recyclable packaging. Can you replace your makeup remover cloths (garbage) with a liquid remover in a recyclable bottle, for example? You won’t need to switch out all or even most of your products. I didn’t need to switch out my bar soap, for example, because it comes wrapped in recyclable paper and when the soap is used up, there’s nothing left. I can also refill my shampoo and conditioner bottles from the bulk section or recycle the bottles, along with my contact solution bottles, so these didn’t need to be replaced. That left me looking for alternatives for deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss. Your list may be longer or shorter than mine, of course, so in the rest of the book, I address the most common trash-generating areas of the bathroom and help you find solutions for replacing them with zero-waste options.
Reprinted with permission from The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live Well by Throwing Away Less by Amy Korst and published by Ten Speed Press, 2012.