Episode 4: (Bath)Room for Improvement

Welcome to 3 Changes a Week: your weekly update on how to save the planet!

I’d say that the changes which I’m least likely to go back on, that I feel have made the most impact in my effort to go zero waste, are the ways I have changed up my bathroom products and routine. All of these ideas will need a bit more preparation and thinking in advance, and not just throwing in your basket at the supermarket (yet!) but they are all readily available either online on Amazon (and most of the sellers make an effort to post with no plastic) or in Lush, which has a store in Exeter’s Princesshay.

You may have heard of the rising popularity of solid shampoos and conditioners, and the return of the solid soap – although, I’m warning you, you may not find this the kindest to your skin, and shopping around will definitely be required for those with sensitive skin.

If you shave at all – face or body – you might also realise how much horrible plastic waste is produced by disposable razors or even disposable heads. Below, I’ll tell you all about my switch to a ‘safety razor’ (i.e. an old fashioned one). Here’s a clue: it’s much more successful than I thought it would be!

My third change for this week talks about the incredibly popular bamboo toothbrush (and plastic-less toothpaste alternatives, and biodegradable floss). Now, for a long time I have been using an electric toothbrush, so I haven’t actually made this change myself, but it's something I’m very torn about. Read a little more below, including my recommendations (vetted and tested by my eco housemates).

In a bit of a crossover, another episode this series will also discuss feminine hygiene products, make-up and make-up removal, so if you’re looking to make any more bathroom-based eco changes, watch this space!

 

1. SWITCH TO SOLID SHAMPOO AND SOAP

Ease: ****

Cost: the solid shampoo I buy from Lush is a slightly pricier £6.95, but alternatives are available, and solid soap starts at about £1

A few months ago, I switched to Lush’s solid shampoo and conditioner, as this is easy to buy without any packaging – just pick it straight up off up the shelf and take it home. You can order, or just have a browse, of Lush’s options online for shampoo and conditioner bars. I am currently using the Karma Komba bar (although I preferred the Jason and the Argan Oil one) and the Jungle conditioner.

I know the Lush options are rather pricey, but there are other options out there - check out local fairs, such as the Exeter vegan market, which had several options, or Exeter Cathedral’s Christmas fair will probably have a stall stocking it. This article also lists some top-rated ones, including some on the cheaper side. I have shoulder length hair and wash my it 2-3 times a week; I found that Lush’s shampoo bar lasted me nearly four months and the conditioner just under three. That's a lot longer than the average bottle of shampoo – so perhaps the price is worth it. I also find that my hair seems just as clean and moisturised as with any other shampoo I’ve ever used, so I don’t think there’s any need to be alarmed about what your plastic-free ways may do to your hair’s health. Also, think about how much space you will save in luggage when travelling just having one or two tiny tins instead of big bottles!

Solid soap is even easier to find and there are plenty of options in your average supermarket or in Boots. Some may have plastic packaging, although a lot less than a bottle of liquid, or they may come in cardboard packaging. If you don’t want any packaging, again try Lush – it is still pricey but a fiver’s worth of soap will last you months and months and months. This isn’t just for in the shower, either - consider using solid soap for handwashing too. There is debate around whether bar soap is hygienic enough, but this article suggests just making sure you rinse the grease off your soap, and there are some arguments that too much anti-bac isn’t great for you. However, germaphobes might have trouble with this still.

 

2. DITCH DISPOSABLE RAZORS

Ease: ****

Cost: about £15 for the razor (but it should last you a lifetime) and blades are dirt-cheap

If you actually think about it, those disposable plastic razors are awful – not cheap, not very effective, and thrown away within a couple of weeks at most. Even if you have a more solid razor, the replaceable heads are still throw-away plastic, and still ridiculously expensive in my opinion, especially the better made 'men’s' ones.

This is why I decided to switch to safety razors, which I'd seen advertised on the internet. You only replace the blades, and no plastic is used or disposed of. They are heavy and solidly made of wood and metal, designed to literally last as long as you. I was pretty nervous about using it and put it off for ages as it does look pretty intimidating – but it shouldn't be! They were ridiculously easy to set up (and included a very detailed online how-to guide), felt natural to use, and I haven’t cut myself once. At all. Even with shaving rough and uneven areas like my armpits and bikini line. As a plus, I also found it gave a much smoother, closer shave. I had the armpits of a silken goddess. Result!

I chose this bamboo-handled one on Amazon, by Bambaw, focusing mainly on choosing a product with good reviews and a low price (this one costs £15). I also purchased these razor blades, which are packaged for the most part in paper – although I’m not sure if the ‘waxed’ paper that surrounds the blades is completely recyclable. You may want to do your own digging, but I was mostly just impressed by the very low price. It also came with a shaving soap stick, which is a very effective replacement for shaving foams, I have found. In conclusion, I found this to be a great switch, that I know will save me money overall – as well as the planet.

 

3. REPLACE PLASTIC TOOTHBRUSHES AND FLOSS

Ease: ****

Cost: toothbrushes £2.50 each, floss £4.60 and then £3.30 for refills, and toothpaste about £6 or about 50p if you make your own!

Biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes have taken off like crazy as the ‘thing to do’ to reduce your impact on the planet. Even my housemate who I have barely seen make any other eco-friendly change, has committed to bamboo toothbrushes. Yes, toothbrushes are lots of plastic, and are thrown in the bin, but we need to make more than one change to beat climate change!

As I mentioned above, I don’t actually use bamboo toothbrushes – I have had issues with teeth staining and so have stuck to electric toothbrushes (with sadly plastic, disposable heads :( ) and a specific brand of toothpaste recommended by my dentist. This is one of the changes I feel awful about and really regret not being able to make. Either way, if you currently use plastic manual toothbrushes, try these bamboo toothbrushes, which have great reviews – although there are many, many versions available online - or purchase one at Exeter’s Real Food Store.

Toothpaste tubes are also made of unrecyclable plastic. There are several options if you want to avoid this, such as Lush’s toothy tabs (the bottle is recycled and can be returned to Lush stores for re-use – and you can earn a free face mask for this!) - or this solid toothpaste, or try making your own toothpaste from bicarbonate of soda.

Thirdly, most dental floss is made from plastic, releasing little strings of everlasting plastic into the world. I have switched to this biodegradable floss, which has a pleasant minty taste and I find it very effective. It comes in a little glass and metal pot, which is pretty sweet – and once you’ve finished you can get cheaper refills for the glass container. It is, again, pricey, but I have been using my little pot for several months and it shows no signs of going down at all. If you find floss hard to use, there’s also picks, like these ones.

 

I hope this issue has left you more than a little inspired about changing your bathroom habits. Join me next week as we talk all about waste, rubbish, and recycling! Fun!

Made these changes or already doing them? Post a picture to Instagram or Twitter and tag it to #3changesaweek to spread the word!