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The decision to go zero waste is a good one and a big one. It’s a bigly good decision. But sometimes, overtaken by the power of impact, we can swear off all waste from one day to the next, and find ourselves burnt out and discouraged only days later.
And this is exactly what we are setting out to prevent here because waste reduction is no joke! It’s important, very doable, and, if you go about it the right way, it’s actually kinda fun.
No matter where you are on your zero waste journey, we are here to cheer you on. We’re going to break down everything you need to go zero waste in the bathroom and live sustainably both for your wallet and the planet.
We’ll also take it step by step, so that no individual change to your routine feels unattainable! It’s all about making small changes where you can to sustain for the long haul.
The impact of going zero waste in any part of your life can have a huge benefit, so the most important thing is taking that first step! We don’t mean to impose, but let’s start in your bathroom.
Meet Our Partner: Plaine Products
The first step to change is letting people know about the cause, and our partners at Plaine Products are all about making change in the world of single-use plastic elimination!
Plaine Products is one family’s answer to the earth’s single-use plastic crisis—offering plastic-free personal care products that are good for you, your family, and the planet. Plaine Products is a certified B Corporation and 1% for the Planet member. They teamed up with us to spread the word on plastic waste so that you might join them in their dream to have less plastic waste in the world.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our plastic-free campaign.
What Does it Mean to be Zero Waste & Is Zero Waste Possible?
Zero waste means sending nothing to the landfill. Is that even possible!? Very fair question especially given that most people fill up at least a 65-gallon trash can each week to be picked up by their local waste management.
The entire goal of the zero waste movement is to have a circular economy that no longer relies on the current system of production, use, and disposal. We, and the others in the movement, prefer the Plaine Products replacement: Refill, Reuse, Rejoice! You can check out our full Plaine Products review for more insights into the environmentally friendly company.
Long story short, zero waste means we have the opportunity to phase out landfills. Pretty cool, right?
But, while the goal of perfect wastelessness is one we should all aim for, our more immediate focus is how we can create waste-free habits that we can sustain for the long-haul.
No need to set out for perfection right out of the gate (although if you can, fantastic!). Our preferred approach is to take it step-by-step, sticking to your path toward zero waste, until one day, after minimizing your waste piece by piece, you have virtually 0 landfill-bound waste!
Why Start in the Bathroom?
Over the course of a year, consumers spend thousands of dollars on personal care products and, from those products, 18 million pounds of plastic waste end up in our waterways. But there are solutions to this unimaginable amount of plastic pollution!
You might be surprised to learn that there are many eco-friendly and affordable swaps for the soap, razor, and face wash that you reach for each morning.
Bathroom products are a great place to start with zero-waste swaps because the swaps are uncomplicated, don’t require too much energy or research, and honestly, it’s pretty exciting to feel the impact of your new purchases right away.
Watch the Founders of Plaine Products Lindsey & Alison dive deeper into why the bathroom is the perfect place to begin your plastic-free journey.
Also, your bathroom is a good place to start because it’s one room that starts and stops at the door. You’re not getting a lot of non-bathroom use out of bathroom goods. Keepin’ it focused!
Your zero waste bathroom will only have a few products left lining the sink and rim of your shower. And that absence of that clutter will be soothing, in and of itself, and will create the space for that feeling of freedom you’ll experience by letting old habits go and embracing zero waste living to sink in.
Minimizing your impact on the planet while supporting cool brands seems like a win-win that you can wake up to every day!
We also all have the power of voting with our dollar, and with each vote for plastic-free, waste-free products, more and more will burst on the scene. So, you can support the brands that have shared values and promote environmental health at the same time.
How Do I Make Mine a Zero Waste Home?
One effective way to get a jumpstart on zero waste is to focus on waste before it gets in your home. In other words, conscious consumerism. Opt for products that are reusable, compostable, or recyclable then there is no need to create any additional landfill tenants. Lucky for us, tons of personal product companies are making it easy for consumers to make the switch to zero waste living.
Rule #1: Be honest and realistic with your lifestyle and current habits. In other words, if you wake up one day and think, “Today is the day I become zero waste!” And then proceed to throw away any single-use product, well, 1) that’s the opposite of no waste, and 2) you’ll start feeling frustrated with the abrupt shift, and likely not have all the things you usually use throughout the day.
But, with a more phased-in approach, your life won’t be too interrupted if at all, and you’ll give yourself time to get used to any changes that do cause you to raise a brow. We really, really believe this is the best way to ensure long-term success in your zero waste journey.
First, you’ll want to identify what wasteful products you use. Maybe you have been keeping a tally in your head already. If you haven’t, a good trick is to remove the trash can from your bathroom. You will notice what you’ve been shipping to the landfill very quickly.
What are you trying to get rid of? Hair from your hairbrush? Compostable. Toilet paper roll? Recyclable. Empty bottle of shampoo? Likely neither, so replace it with an option that is!
Then, take stock of the items in each room. Do you have junk drawers full of items that are no longer useful? Maybe a drawer in your bathroom is dedicated to travel-sized hotel soaps. Use all of these products up and recycle the containers if you’re able.
Next, start with simple swaps for everyday items. On your way to the store? Grab a tote bag, your KeepCup, and our list below!
Are There Cues I Will Notice That I’m Living a Zero Waste (or at least Less Wasteful) Life?
It’s the small day-to-day wins that give us momentum.
Zero waste is an attainable solution to a global issue, so recognizing and celebrating your progress is important!
You’ll know that you’ve accomplished a zero waste lifestyle when your trips to take your trash out are minimal and instead you’re doubling down on recycling. Maybe you’re able to reduce the size of the garbage can you have at your home, and that means the amount you pay the city as well!
Maybe you are noticing your refill process work into your grocery store routine. You’ll likely notice you’re making far fewer emergency store runs. Soon you’ll be reciting the benefits of composting to anyone who will listen and asking what everyone’s dog beds are made of when you’re in other people’s homes. Yes indeed, you’re on the right track!
Steps to Go Zero Waste & Plastic-Free in the Bathroom
So now to the step by step process to get you to plastic-free.
These small changes will start becoming ingrained in your behavior and make it easier to make tough decisions later on. This is actually how the Co-Founder of Plaine Products, Lindsey McCoy, got started on her own zero waste journey and now, with her sister, has built an entire business around getting others making an impact as well.
Pretty soon, you’ll look around and realize your home is stocked with reusable cloths for cleaning, your bathroom has refillable products, and your kitchen is a composting heaven. Let’s take the first step together by making simple swaps in the bathroom.
Phase #1: Tackle the Usual Suspects
We all use some form of the following basic general hygiene products. As you’re getting low, start thinking about how you’ll replace them with a zero waste solution. The zero waste movement isn’t about consuming new things right away we don’t need yet, it’s about slowly implementing change in the things we already do use.
Hand Soap: Calling all rinse-onlyers and straight potty-to-partyers, now more than ever, we know the importance of using hand soap consistently. Luckily, there are products like Plaine Products hand soap that strike the perfect balance of being zero waste and not having any harmful sulfates or parabens.
All vegan, cruelty-free, and baby-safe, this soap is a win across the boards. Once you use up all your soap, you hand washing fiend you, simply order a refill (or, with a subscription, this is automatic). Keep your pump and return your empty bottle to Plaine Products with the prepaid shipping box included in your original purchase. They’ll have already sent you your refill as ordered and once they get your old bottle, they will reuse it! That *cool spin, snap, & finger guns* is what we call a circular economy.
If you’re a procrastinator or just a busy person not checking your soap supply levels regularly, we suggest a subscription, so you needn’t ever worry about running low on this all-too-taken-for-granted necessity!
If a soap bar is more your speed, make sure it has recyclable packaging and is free of microplastics and harmful chemicals.
Estimated Cost: $5-$20
Hair Care: Plaine Products for another win! Plaine Products has zero waste shampoo and conditioner formulas that are great for all hair types and the planet! Step up your hair-care routine with their Hair Repair and Beauty Oil that will keep your locks frizz and damage free! Plus you’ll love their heavenly scents too!
If you’re into a totally naked product, shampoo bars and conditioner bars are great alternatives to the half-full bottles that normally line your bathtub. You can also go for dry shampoo on non-wash days, which comes as a powder in recyclable bottles.
Estimated Cost: $25-$54
Body Wash: Another easy switch once more, Plaine Products Body Wash has you covered. Feel free to pump it up (with your reusable pump, of course)! Or you can also go old school and opt for regular bar soap. Pair any zero waste soap with a natural loofah and your body and planet will thank you.
Estimated Cost: $5-$27
Toothbrush: You may have heard that the same toothbrushes you had as a kid are still rolling around in a landfill or in the ocean. Sadly, this is true. But making the switch to an eco-friendly toothbrush can make an immediate impact.
If you choose a bamboo toothbrush today, you’ll save 150 plastic toothbrushes from entering our waterways over your lifetime. That’s a lot! Bamboo toothbrushes are a fantastic choice because they’re biodegradable and can go in your own home compost with the bristles removed.
Estimated Cost: $3.50-$20
Phase #2: Now Let’s Address their Companions
Unlike the seamless switches of the items above, some products may take a little more of an adjustment to implement into your bathroom routine because they are a little different than what you’re used to. These products might require some getting used to, but you’re already well on your way to being a zero waste expert.
Razors: Plastic razors can be tricky because they’re so close to being recyclable, but they’re usually not. In some areas, the blades are recyclable or companies do Terracycle collection.
Instead of contributing to the staggering 2 billion disposable razors that get sent to landfills each year, switch to a safety razor. These may have a learning curve, but you’ll find that safety razors will last a lifetime and perform just as well as any disposable razor you ever used (probably even better).
If you prefer a plastic razor, Preserve is changing the game by using recycled plastic to make their razor handles and they offer a recycling program for hard plastics.
Estimated Cost: $20-$80
Mouthwash: If you use mouthwash, you probably accost your poor mouth with an alcohol-based, fake mint-infused wash. *gasp* End the madness and make a zero waste swap to a tab-based mouthwash. These are much less consumptive and can be kept in a glass container on your counter. Simply add water, swish, and spit. No waste, just fresh feels.
Estimated Cost: $9-$15
Toothpaste: Finding a toothpaste with thoughtful packaging, all the benefits needed for oral hygiene, and healthy ingredients for you and the planet can make for a touchy transition. Some people miss the foaming action that traditional toothpastes have, but we promise this switch will keep your chompers squeaky clean with a minimal impact on the planet.
Zero waste toothpaste options are plentiful and include toothpowder, toothpaste tablets, and even DIY toothpaste. If you’re unable to give up the toothpaste tube, there are alternatives with recyclable aluminum packaging and even a key to squeeze out every last bit (which is usually a battle, let’s be honest).
Estimated Cost: $7-$13
Dental Floss: Don’t freak out, but floss can have some pretty harmful ingredients. It’s not so great to think about, considering it’s in our mouths most days. Floss is usually encased in plastic, which is encased yet again in mixed cardboard and plastic packaging. Bits and pieces of this might be recyclable, but overall it’s not zero waste.
Products like these are revolutionizing the floss we thought we were stuck with forever. Silk, bamboo fiber, and other plant-based dental floss are all 100% biodegradable, so you don’t need to worry about it plaguing landfills.
Estimated Cost: $5-$10
Next time you’re at the dentist and they offer you that bag of goodies, just refuse and say you’re stocked up at home. Small behaviors like this can make a big impact on your peers and make zero waste living the norm!
Skincare: The skincare industry sells around $5.6 billion worth of products each year. Although we’re seeing trends in more sustainable options, the skincare industry is still responsible for a lot of single-use plastics ending up in oceans and landfills.
Instead of buying makeup remover, consider making your own with reusable cotton rounds and coconut oil. That way, you don’t need disposable cotton pads, cotton balls, or cotton swabs. We have to mention the new reusable cotton swab here that might have graced your Instagram discover page. Each purchase of these reusable swabs saves 1,000 disposable cotton swabs. That’s a big enough difference to consider making the switch.
Plaine Products’ face wash and facial toner go by the same method as their other products! Keep your pump, recycle your bottles, save the earth! Be sure to use reusable facial rounds to apply your toner and finish up with a dab of their zero waste face moisturizer or their all-purpose Beauty Oil . And start feeling great about phasing out your plastic use.
Coconut oil can be also used for many beauty needs, like moisturizing your face or even serving as a lotion for your body. Many bulk stores have big containers of coconut oil that you can store in a glass jar in the bathroom for its multitude of uses. Try making your own moisturizer with shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, and essential oils and store it in your own container.
Estimated Cost: $12-$25 depending on your needs
Phase #3: Zero Waste Final Fixes
Now that you’ve conquered the switches that have already greatly reduced your impact on the planet, consider tackling the few remaining pieces of your routine. We admit, these can be the most challenging, but you’ve already conquered Phases 1-2, so this is just crossing the finish line.
And let’s keep perspective: the challenge is changing your habits. The actual switch is a piece of cake. These swaps will significantly reduce your individual demand for petroleum-based plastics and unrecyclable materials. These zero waste bathroom swaps will round out any journey in waste-free living.
Menstrual Care: To cover all the bases, we simply have to mention menstrual products. In the average woman’s lifetime, they’ll use between 5,000 and 15,000 pads and tampons. In 2018 alone, just women in the United States purchased 5.8 billion tampons. These plague landfills and oceans due to their inability to biodegrade, not to mention the fact that they’re typically laden with toxic chemicals. We already know the importance of saving our oceans, so this is a great way to make a direct impact.
It can be a difficult leap to switch to something reusable when you’ve been using traditional products for years or decades.
However, many women have found menstrual cups to be quite liberating since they only require changing every 12 hours. Can you imagine?
If you sanitize it between uses (which of course, you will), menstrual cups can last up to 10 years. In that same amount of time, every person that switches to a menstrual cup will have saved an entire truckload of waste.
Maybe the cup isn’t your speed and that’s totally cool. Check out period underwear or reusable pads. These are great alternatives and still facilitate zero waste living. Be sure to check out our interview with Madeleine Shaw, the former CEO of Aisle (formerly Lunapads), to learn about how much impact your period care can really make.
Estimated Cost: $29-$45
Deodorant: Another potentially tricky switch is a zero waste deodorant. Natural deodorant can be hard to adjust to since our bodies have become normalized to the aluminum and other chemical additives in mainstream deodorant.
We’ll tell it to you straight—the trials of switching to natural, zero waste deodorant often comes with crying pits and weird smells. Yes, we know. Just remember: this is not a plea that you stay drenched and stinky! We just ask you stick it out to find the one that’s right for you, and we promise you will!
So, try them out, and find the one that gives you (and your roommates who live near you) everything you need. Instead of buying an entirely new plastic deodorant every few months and agonizing over it not being recyclable, you simply reuse what you have and order new zero-waste deodorant sticks.
Many natural deodorants don’t have antiperspirant in them, which is what keeps you from sweating. That’s why many people complain about the wet feeling with natural deodorant. Many brands use other ingredients to calm that effect, like baking soda. Baking soda can be irritating to the skin at first, so if you have sensitive skin we recommend browsing for alternatives that have specific formulas for sensitive skin.
Estimated Cost: $12
Toilet Paper: You might be surprised to learn that we use enough toilet paper in just one year to wrap around the planet 50,000 times. The toilet paper industry is also responsible for unnecessary deforestation, excess electricity use, and incredible amounts of bleach use, which pollutes the environment. Classic, Big TP.
Now, to the exciting part!
Two things we don’t like about toilet paper: 1) bad for the planet, and 2) we never notice supply levels until we are out. That’s why many on our team opt for a Grove Collaborative subscription that includes bamboo toilet paper (check out our full Grove Collaborative Review if you haven’t already).
You can also try Who Gives A Crap’s 100% recycled toilet paper that’s plastic-free. Skip the chemicals that come with products that have scents or dyes, like many brands on the market do.
Another option for the toilet curious is a bidet. I know, it’s a touchy subject. But bidets can save millions of trees each year, and they use a minimal amount of water to get you clean.
Estimated Cost: $34-$48
Frequent Visitors: How to Clean Your Bathroom, Zero Waste Style
Who doesn’t love a good Sunday deep clean? Even if you’re shaking your head, chances are you still need some products on hand to keep things clean. Don’t worry, tons of brands are creating essential cleaning solutions with the planet and your zero waste lifestyle in mind.
Glass bottles and cleaning tabs can replace the bottles and bottles of cleaners we use every year. Each time you run out of cleaning solution, just pop in an eco-packaged tab and add some water to the spray bottle. Voila!
Even better, you can DIY cleaning solutions with some white vinegar, essential oils, and dish soap. For a deep clean on the bathtub, try the vinegar and baking soda volcano you made for the science fair. Instead of creating lava, the combination of these two ingredients will get deep into the grime between tiles. Opt for bottles that can be reused for a long time and buy liquids like white vinegar in large recyclable containers.
For the dreaded toilet cleaning day, most of us have a cheap plastic toilet brush and off-brand bleach toilet cleaner. Next time your brush needs replacing, check out this bamboo toilet brush that’s totally compostable and thrown in some of your DIY cleaner.
Estimated cost: $16-$40
Zero Waste, One Step at a Time
Congratulations on making your way through your zero waste journey! We’re excited that you’ve decided to take the leap, whether it’s switching one product per month or going all out, we commend you on your commitment to reducing your impact on the planet by rethinking bathroom products.
If you find yourself making a mistake here and there, don’t sweat it. No one is perfectly zero waste, and it’s all about the impact you make over time. Companies like rePurpose are making sure that your recyclables are actually making it to a second life, so if you have a bottle here and there, know that it can serve a purpose again and again.
Zero waste doesn’t just mean packaging either, you can save 8 gallons per day by turning the tap off when you brush your teeth (with your new stylish bamboo toothbrush!). Taking your sustainable bathroom products on-the-go? Check out our Stasher Bags Review to find out how to store them.
Keeping an open mind and always learning how to improve are key components for any zero waste journey. For more resources, check out all the simple switch, waste-free solutions at Plaine Products.
Sustainable Workplaces Manager & Writer
Jackie is the Sustainable Workplaces Manager at Urban Green Lab, a sustainability education nonprofit in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s passionate about connecting people with actionable ways to make a positive impact on the environment. She graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in Environmental Studies and a certificate in Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Jackie worked in the nonprofit world in Washington D.C. for Ashoka and the National Building Museum.
Jackie enjoys hiking with her rescue dog, finding craft breweries, and traveling the globe in search of plant-based eats.