I'd venture to say our kitchens create the most waste in the house, but our bathroom's aren't too innocent either.  Look around a typical bathroom and you'll see lots of disposable plastic - plastic which could be easily substituted with an earth-friendly option.  Let's check out these alternatives and see how to change a wasteful bathroom into a sustainable one!

bathroom alternatives

1. TOOTHBRUSH - One of the easiest ways to purge plastic from your life is to trade in your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one.  It's estimated that over 2 billion (yes I said BILLION) disposable toothbrushes are thrown away every year, which means if everyone opted for a sustainable option, a lot of waste could be saved from the landfills and oceans. Currently I haven't found a toothbrush that is 100% plastic-free, but Brush With Bamboo is getting pretty close.  Their bristles are made out of 62% castor beans and 38% plastic, and they're hard at work to get that number to 100% plastic-free.  We'll let you know when it happens! 

2 TOOTHPASTE - Sometimes I wonder if plastic toothpaste tubes don't pollute our world more than toothbrushes.  The paste doesn't last that long and many of the tubes aren't recyclable.  So what's the answer?  In my quest for the perfect option, I've settled on 3 possibilities.  

  • Firstly, and most simply, you can brush with a baking soda-based paste.  I tried this recipe from Trash Is For Tossers for a little while, and although it took some getting used to, I do think it's a very good and effective option.  Yes it's basic, but it really is all you need.  
  • Secondly, and the least eco-friendly, you can purchase a toothpaste sold in an aluminum tube, which aside from the plastic cap is recyclable.  I've sampled two as of late, David's and The Goodwell Company, and I'm a huge fan of both.  Top-notch ingredients made from companies who care about the environment and sold in a tube that can be recycled.  The down side is the cap is plastic, and for me, one small plastic cap is one too many.  All I can think about when I throw that cap in the bin, is a sweet little sea turtle ingesting it and suffering.  
  • Which brings us to my final option, toothpaste sold in a glass jar with a metal cap.  For me, this is the best option at the moment.  Plastic-Free HK has found a fabulous paste from Georganics, made with natural, organic ingredients and sold in a 100% plastic-free container.  And we're happy to be selling it too!

3. FLOSS - What gets me with floss is that most of the product is just a bulky, plastic case which gets tossed when you're finished, left to sit in a landfill for 400 years until it fragments into teeny, tiny pieces.  And of course the floss is plastic too, so every way you look at it, it's just a big blob of waste.  There are a few different alternatives for this as well, so let me tell you what I've discovered.  

  • Toothpicks: they're wooden and come in a cardboard box.  Can't get much better than that.  But for people like me, who really love the effectiveness of floss in between the teeth, this just won't cut it.    
  • Biodegradable flossers from The Goodwell Company (and sold here at Plastic-Free HK) made from bamboo and vegetable starch.
  • Silk floss which comes in paper sachets from Radius (also found on iHerb.com).
  • Or our favorite option, silk floss sold in little tin cases by Le Negri, which Plastic-Free HK is currently in the process of importing.  
  • And if none of these options excite you, then do it like the zero-waste founder herself, Bea Johnson, and unravel a piece of silk thread and floss away.

4. RAZOR - I am still in the process of using up my disposable razor heads for the Gillette razor I use, but once they're gone, I'll be trading mine in for a straight razor, similar to the one pictured here.  From what I've been reading, they're easier to use then one would expect and much more economical since the replacement razors cost a fraction of the price than the typical disposables.  Aside from straight razors, the only other waste-free option is laser hair removal.  Although you'll dish out a chuck of money up front, the benefits of your hair being gone forever could make it worth it for you. 

5. SOAP - HAND + FACE + BODY - Two words: bar soap.  You really don't need anything other than this.  And there are so many amazing products out there, made with such quality ingredients, you won't be craving for anything more.  Ditch the liquid soap and change your perception on what convenience and necessity look like.  I used to think I needed a different soap for every part of my body, and that my baby needed some sort of special liquid soap separate from what I used.  The only thing true about this, is that there are some very clever marketing companies behind these campaigns.  Advertisements have made us believe we need way more than we actually do.

6. SHAMPOO + CONDITIONER - I'll be the first to admit, I LOVE my bottled, liquid shampoo.  It took me many years to find a shampoo and conditioner that leave my hair feeling exactly the way I want it to.  But the more I learn about plastic pollution, the more I find it hard to justify my desires for soft hair in exchange for more non-biodegradable bottles in the world.  So I've been looking around for alternatives, and this is what I've found.  

  • Firstly, you can go for the "no poo" method.  From baking soda to apple cider vinegar, coconut oil to water, our sisters out there have experimented with lots of different waste-free products.  Maybe one day I'll get on this train, but for now I'm too attached to an actual shampoo product.  
  • Then there's the shampoo bar, sold in a form very similar to bar soap.  The two products I've purchased to try are from Lush and JR Liggets.  Between the two, my fellow shampoo bar users have said JR Liggets is more effective and that Lush's bars have too many nasties like SLS's.  So we shall see and I'll be sure to update you once I give them a try.  
  • I think in my perfect world, I'd be able to refill my shampoo and conditioner at a local bulk shop, but I haven't found anything like this in Hong Kong yet.  This is what I'm hoping for in the future.  
  • And finally, if you absolutely cannot part with your plastic-bottled shampoo and conditioner, at the very least, buy it in the biggest size possible and only wash your hair once or twice a week.  Before I became mindful of creating less waste in my life, I bought huge bottles of my favorite shampoo and conditioner last year, and since I only wash my hair every 3 or 4 days, the bottles have lasted me months, and in fact I'm still working my way through them.

7. SHAVING CREAM - The good ole bar soap wins again!  Just make sure you lather really good when using the straight razor and you should be fine.

8. LOTION - Buy coconut oil, or any other natural nut or vegetable oil in a glass jar, and use this instead.  Pure, unadulterated oil straight from nature's heart.  What could be better for us?  I'm a huge fan of almond oil for the body as it doesn't leave your skin too greasy, and I love evening primrose oil for the face for it's anti-aging properties.  What are your favorites?

9. EAR BUDS - With this product, just like many others, the plastic waste often comes more from the packaging more than the product itself.  Make sure to purchase ear buds sold in a cardboard box and ones without the plastic stick.  There are paper based sticks, as well as ones made with bamboo, so it shouldn't be too difficult finding a better option.  PFHK is currently trying to source ones made from bamboo and we will let you know once we have these stocked!

10. FACIAL ROUNDS/COTTON BALLS - Just like the ear buds, this product is often packaged in some form of plastic.  And although the rounds/balls themselves aren't toxic to the environment, it is a waste that doesn't need to be occurring.  Instead, you can either use a washcloth solely designated for make-up removal and such, or buy reusable, washable facial rounds that can be used over and over again.  We stock some super soft ones that have been very popular.  Check them out HERE.

Cosmetics are another huge waste maker, but we'll tackle this in a blog post all for itself.  We're currently working to source quality, effective make-up products to stock and will let you know the very minute we have them.  

I hope this helps some of you transition to a more sustainable bathroom and please let me know if there's anything you'd like to see more of on the cyber-shelves of PFHK!  

February 24, 2017 — Lisa Odell

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