If you’ve nailed vegan cooking and are now looking at other ways to live more sustainably, Lottie Storey outlines why your bathroom could be the next place to have an overhaul…
Look around the bathroom shelves of most UK homes and you’ll see the same thing: bottles of shampoo and conditioner, pots of make-up, tubes of toothpaste and boxes of sanitary towels and tampons. You’ll no doubt find toilet rolls stacked up near the toilet, a medicine cabinet stocked with vitamins and painkillers and at least one bottle of shower gel knocking around too.
For those of us looking to reduce our waste, the bathroom is either a brilliant place to start or the last bastion of environmentalism, depending on how you look at it. Plastic is the main culprit, of course.
According to a recent study, as many as 16 million plastic bottles are disposed of as rubbish every day in Britain, with 2.9 million people in the UK admitting that they never recycle plastic bottles. With so many cosmetics companies out there now offering alternatives to plastic, this one is an easy win.
Opt for metal* or glass instead, or spend your money with companies such as Lush who only use recycled plastic for their containers (with money off when you bring back your empties for reuse). Swap plastic toothbrushes for bamboo, and disposable razors for metal. Avoid packaging altogether and opt for bars of soap, shampoo and conditioner bars, and you’ve eliminated three bottles without even trying!
*Metal is recycled more than any other packaging — an estimated 80 per cent of all metal ever produced is still in use today. Due to its intrinsic value, once made metal is rarely wasted.
An estimated 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products are used in the UK every year. According to City to Sea (who campaign to prevent marine plastic pollution at source), a standard box of menstrual pads contains around the same amount of plastic as five carrier bags.
Every single day in the UK around 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads are flushed down the toilet — many of which block our sewer systems and escape into our rivers and seas. The answer is obvious: reusables. There are so many on the market now, from period pants to cups to washable pads.
And don’t forget the toilet paper. The majority is still made using virgin trees, so switch to brands that use 100 per cent recycled paper and non-plastic packaging, such as Who Gives A Crap.
Feeling inspired to clear up your bathroom? Zero waste blogger Lucy Lucraft shares her top tips…
Lucy Lucraft is a freelance journalist and sustainability influencer based in Brighton. Here she shares her tips for making your bathroom plastic-free. Visit her blog at lucylucraft.com or find her on Instagram @lucylucraft.
“I worked in premium beauty for many years and had thousands of products. I was addicted. When I went travelling I had to ditch the lot. I lived on a small island known for diving so became hugely interested in sustainability as I was seeing the effects of plastic pollution and climate change first hand.
I now have a really low maintenance hair and skin routine, plus I have two kids and zero time so I use shampoo and conditioner bars and homemade face oil, too. We switched to bog standard soap and both my husband and I use safety razors with blade refills — 100% per cent recyclable and cheaper (Astra blades are approx £10 for 100).
When it comes to ditching products, everyone has different priorities, needs and privilege. For me, ditching unethical and unsustainable companies was key. I don’t buy anything from Amazon (including ingredients to make my own plastic-free products). I’d rather buy a more ethical, ready-made version.
There are some things I just haven’t been able to swap. I have tried so many different eco toothpastes but I find them to be revolting so I stick to Colgate who take back their old packaging to recycle. Medicines are also non-negotiable.”
Lucy’s top five tips
- A zero waste bathroom is going to be different for everyone. It doesn’t have to be all Kilner jars and expensive products!
- Pick one thing to change and see how you get on with it. Solid shampoo, a safety razor or menstrual cup are all really satisfying swaps.
- Watch out for greenwashing! As sustainability becomes more ‘on trend’, brands are using it to make you buy their products. Learn what it is so you can avoid any sneaky traps.
- Try not to get too caught up on the idea of ‘zero waste’ — it’s an unachievable goal in a world not set up for it. Those of us with the most privilege should shoulder the most responsibility so that those from marginalised groups aren’t expected to pay the price.
- Get creative. I store dry soaps in a basket, while things like shampoo bars that aren’t used every day can be kept in a tin, a hessian/jute bag, or in tupperware!
Lottie is a writer from Bristol. Vegan for three years, she’s always on the hunt for new recipes and ingredients, and is a self-confessed cruelty-free skincare junkie. Visit her blog at oysterandpearl.co.uk