Sustainable bathroom swaps: Just plain gross or worth a try?

You’ve mastered the reusable coffee cup. What next?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By: Bethany Williamson, SFU Student

You remember to bring your own shopping bags and have ditched the plastic wrap. Looking for ideas on what to do next? I suggest moving onto the bathroom.

My own eco-friendly journey probably started a couple of years ago while deep diving YouTube. Who would have known that there were masses of people out there reviewing natural deodorants, shower essentials, menstrual cups, and period underwear? I was initially disgusted, but also intrigued. Many of these videos were brutally honest about bodily functions, fluids, and smells. Everything seemed inconvenient, unsanitary, expensive, and honestly smelly — but I kept on watching. Why were these people willing to ditch conventional hygiene products for these nasty alternatives? The longer I thought about these YouTubers, the more I realized that I had to try these things or die curious. After all, I cared about the environment, too, right?

In the years since I started trying all of these ideas and products, I have found some genuinely good ones, as well as some that didn’t quite live up to expectations. Some of my friends have also started to express some curiosity about it, much to my delight. And so, without further ado, here are some of the easiest ways to make your bathroom routine more eco-friendly, and some of my favourite products you can try:

1) Try solid shampoo, conditioner, and body wash: 

This one is pretty trendy, so there’s a good chance you’ve already tried these, but switching to bars instead of bottles is a solid way to reduce your plastic waste. It seems that every craft fair or farmer’s market has someone selling these, so you may be able to support local businesses in your switch as well. If not, then chain stores such as Lush offer many vegetarian and vegan options. One of my favourites is their Jason And The Argan Oil shampoo bar, which has a nice rose scent.

Solids just not for you? Try to buy your bottles from stores that use recycled packaging, don’t test on animals, and use fair trade and sustainably harvested ingredients. Again, it is always good to support local stores, but we can turn to large-chain stores for some ethical options. For example, The Body Shop uses 75% recycled plastic in many of their products’ packaging and runs a recycling program where you can return your empty containers.  

2) Use washcloths instead of disposable makeup wipes, cotton pads, and plastic loofahs:

This one is also pretty easy, unless you ask my family that adores disposable wipes. Using disposable wipes or cotton pads for makeup removal is expensive and wasteful. And those plastic shower loofahs? Have you heard how often you’re supposed to replace those? A set of regular old washcloths or facecloths can do the job just as well. If you’re worried about stains, you can get them in a dark colour. And, if you’re crafty, you can even try to sew them yourself out of old clothing or other fabric items.

3) Try using a safety razor instead of a disposable one:

Now I’ll admit that this one really has its pros and cons: the main one being that a good safety razor is going to cost you a few bucks. I own a cheap one that I got on Amazon, and I will admit that it does not shave as well or as close as a disposable razor does — but it gets the job done. They seem to have a bit of a learning curve, and they don’t have the fancy heads that bend to go around your knees or other hard to shave areas. Nevertheless, even if you get an expensive one, it will save you money in the long run because you will only need to replace the blade, instead of the whole thing, for essentially the rest of your life. 

4) Try a natural deodorant:

If you are a naturally smelly person or someone who exercises a lot, then this one might be tough. But if you are completely sedentary like me, then this one shouldn’t be so bad. I have tried three different natural deodorants in my life, and only one of them has impressed me: Routine Natural Deodorant

My favourite scent so far is the “Bonita Applebom,” which is a sort of spicy apple-pie-like scent. I also like that these deodorants are made with basic and understandable ingredients like coconut oil, clay, and baking soda. The only downside is that the lids of the containers I’ve purchased seem to be a combination of metal and plastic, and so I haven’t figured out how to recycle them yet. The website listings say that it will last you three to six months, but if you put it on twice a day like I do (once after showering at night, once in the morning), then you can expect it to last about two to three months. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that when people say that natural deodorants have an adjustment period, they are NOT lying. You will probably smell pretty bad in the second week because your body will produce more smelly bacteria initially as your body is adjusting to not using a normal antiperspirant. This means that your body would produce more smelly bacteria initially. In my experience, natural deodorants also tend not to have the same level of antiperspirant qualities as conventional deodorant, so don’t expect it! I still recommend trying them, though.

5) Try some reusable period products:

My true eco-friendly passion! There are many options out there such as menstrual cups, cloth pads and pantyliners, and period underwear.

First of all, they’re not as gross as you’d think. Yes, you will touch some blood, but it’s YOUR blood. The menstrual cup can be cleaned with a mild, unscented soap, and/or boiled in a pot of water on the stove for a more thorough cleaning. I try to boil mine once a month. 

There are about a million different cloth pad and period underwear cleaning tips and tutorials out there. I choose to just keep my used ones in a bucket under the bathroom sink, let them build up for a couple of days, soak them in cold water with a stain remover for a couple of hours, rinse them, wring them out, spot treat any stains with a stain removing treatment, and then wash with my regular laundry. Some cloth pads have a plastic layer and therefore should not go in the dryer or be washed in hot water, but if you are concerned about bacteria or fungus, then you can easily buy ones without the plastic layer so you can subject them to hotter temperatures. 

Think about it though: they’re not really any grosser than anything you’ve ever accidentally gotten blood on, and the cleaning is pretty thorough. A lot of stuff goes near and/or in vaginas. I’d bet that a good deal of it doesn’t get cleaned as well as reusable period products do. Just saying.

HOWEVER, there are a lot of things to think about before trying these things. I lucked out with the DivaCup working for me, but while the size/shape of that one might not be right for you another brand could be perfect. The same thing goes for cloth pads. I suggest getting ones with an absorbency and length that is similar to whatever disposable ones you like. One of my favourite companies, Yurtcraft, allows you to choose the top fabric for your pads, the absorbency, the length, and the backing fabric. Other companies, such as Lunapads, a local Vancouver company, allow you to add inserts to your pad or underwear to increase the absorbency.

Ultimately,

I’m not claiming that these products or ideas are going to make your life a million times easier like some other articles on eco-friendly products do. In fact, I’ve learned in my eco-friendly journey that some of these ideas and products are LESS convenient than conventional alternatives. For example, I don’t find the DivaCup convenient to take out and empty in a public washroom, but with some attention to your schedule you probably won’t need to do this. Also, the washcloths will add to your laundry load. The bar shampoo switch might mean that you can never use your favourite type of shampoo again. But really, I think that we can all handle a little more inconvenience to save the environment, don’t you? I’m here to tell you that if you make the switch to eco-friendly alternatives, you will not only get used to it, but will even wondering how you ever used conventional products before.

 

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