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Going zero-waste can seem like a daunting challenge, but when you break down the products needed room-by-room, it is easy to see how anyone willing to make the change can accomplish zero-waste swaps in their household.
Not only will the zero-waste household swaps that are discussed below help you to significantly lower your environmental footprint, but they will save you money! Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love helping mother nature while simultaneously growing their savings account?
Why don’t we start with a thought experiment? Think about all the different products that you use in your self-care routine on a daily basis; the majority of them need to be replaced once every month or two and most of them are made of and packaged in plastic.
That’s a lot of waste at the expense of our self-care! In fact, the bathroom can be one of the most wasteful rooms in the house. This is because it’s often riddled with plastics: toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, plastic squeeze bottles full of face wash, makeup wipes, hairbrushes, razors, and more. All of this product waste doesn’t just disappear, rather it ends up in landfills where it pollutes our soil and groundwater. But there’s good news for you, readers, because it is easy to make the switch to sustainable products!
We will start with the oral care routine. Alternatives to plastic toothbrushes are the most important switch for a zero-waste bathroom because we replace them so frequently. Bamboo toothbrushes are a sustainable option because they are compostable and emit far less carbon dioxide when produced. The next waste problem to tackle is toothpaste tubes since these aren’t recyclable. Instead, you can try toothpaste powders or tablets. These products are often packaged in glass or recyclable plastic—EarthHero carries Charcoal and Mint Tooth Powder—a natural teeth whitener!
Hair-care products are another extremely wasteful bathroom item. There is no reason to buy yet another wasteful bottle of shampoo or conditioner when you can invest in shampoo bars! Hair-care bars are a sustainable alternative that require no plastic packaging. These bars are the newest hair-care trend because the ingredients are more nutritious for the hair, lack chemical additives, and of course, are the most sustainable hair-care option.
If you’re like many people out there who can’t wrap your head around the thought of a conditioner bar, apple cider vinegar makes an amazing conditioner. Its antibacterial properties allow the product to rid the hair of impurities and soak it with nutrients to help it shine and prevent breakage, plus it is almost always packaged in glass. Don’t worry, it won’t leave your hair smelly either!
When it comes to after-shower hair products, we all can be tempted to buy many products that claim to have “anti-frizz technology” and to “moisturize” our hair—but let’s be honest, none of that ever works! That’s because many hair-care products contain silicone, which coats your hair in a shiny layer that causes it to become dry and unable to absorb essential nutrients. Many products throw off the pH balance of our scalps, causing irritation and itchiness.
Instead of using all of these bogus products, you can simply apply a tiny amount of sweet almond oil to your hair. Almond oil gives the hair an effortless shine, while absorbing fast to prevent a greasy appearance. Plus essential oils are often bottled in glass because they can breakdown plastics, so this will limit your plastic waste!
The last major hair-care product we all need are brushes. Most of the time brushes are made of plastic, and while they can last a couple of years, we end up replacing them a lot throughout our lifetimes. Wooden hairbrushes are a sustainable alternative to the plastic brush. Renewable bamboo wood brushes are some of the most conscious brushes currently available, and with natural pig bristles, the brush will leave your hair shiny and smooth. Not to mention that the brushes are compostable!
With hair-care covered, let’s dive into body cleansing. Getting squeaky clean can be one of the best feelings in the world, but we don’t need a loofah, bodywash, and in-shower body lotion to get that feeling; all we need is a bar of Castile soap and the occasional homemade scrub.
There are many benefits to using Castile soaps. First, these soaps are plant-based, and usually made from olive oils. This makes them vegan, which already limits their environmental footprint. Next, Castile soap can be used to clean the entire body. Rather than buying face wash, bodywash, and hand soap, you can use Castile soap for all three! This will bring down the amount you spend on soaps every month and it will have added benefits for your skin.
Castile soaps contain no toxic chemicals or perfumes that many other soaps have, which will lower the amount of breakouts and skin imperfections. The Castile soap can be drying to the face, so simply use some almond oil as a face moisturizer! And in order to keep the rest of your body moisturized, you can use an organic lotion bar, which allows you to skip any plastic packaging. You’ll already have it as a hair serum, but it doubles as a face cleanser and moisturizer as well.
To make a homemade body scrub, all you need is organic sugar, organic baby oil, and a reusable glass jar. Simply mix sugar and baby oil in the jar, so that there is a pretty even ration, with slightly more baby oil. You can keep this mixture in the shower to use before shaving, it smells great, lasts a long time, and is super easy to make!
Shiny and Smooth Skin
Another self-care step is shaving. When it comes to the razor industry, they have us hooked on the system of buying cheap, disposable razor heads that only last two to four weeks, forcing us to buy more plastic waste. This results in over two billion plastic razors thrown away in the United States each year.
Luckily, there is a much better solution: safety razors! These razors are composed of brass and steel which are both high quality materials that will last long and are recyclable at the end of their usable life. While Castile soap can be used as shaving cream, it doesn’t give that silky smooth feel that traditional shaving cream has. A great alternative to shaving cream packaged in plastic is simply coconut oil. It will coat the skin in a thin layer, allowing for a close shave, and a natural in-shower moisturizer.
The kitchen is probably the second most wasteful room in the house, and most of this comes from food waste and plastic packaging, but there is also a large amount that comes from cleaning products.
Sponges are a major cause of ocean microplastics and are often individually packaged in plastic, how wasteful! Instead of replacing your sponge every month or so, you can invest in a wooden dish brush. These brushes are made to last for years. Another wasteful product many of us buy is dish soap; it comes in plastic and is often full of harsh chemicals that pollute our water. Castile soap makes an excellent dish soap when hand washing dishes, and for all the reasons discussed earlier in the bathroom self-care section, castile soap is much more eco-friendly.
Food waste is another huge problem almost any modern kitchen faces. When food is thrown away in landfills, it decomposes anaerobically, releasing methane (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. This is why composting is vital to limiting the greenhouse gas effect, but before we compost, it is much better to be able to consume the food we bought so as not to waste money.
There are reusable sandwich bags that are BPA, PVC, and platelet-free. These will replace those wasteful Ziploc bags. Another swap to make is from plastic Saran Wrap to reusable beeswax wraps that can be used to cover bowls, wrap produce, and wrap sandwiches. It’s also important to invest in eco-friendly Tupperware containers that will allow you to store food for longer, take it with you on-the-go, and pack lunches easily.
Recently, there has been a lot of news coming out about how microplastics are being released from our clothes during the washing cycle and end up in world oceans. Every single load of laundry releases hundreds of thousands of microfibers, which has become a growing health concern.
In order to prevent this from happening, products like the Cora Microfiber Laundry Ball were invented to collect these fibers before they get washed into the water system, where they are unable to be filtered. Laundry bags are another way to solve this problem. A similar issue happens as a result of using toxic laundry detergents that contaminate water. A much healthier option are Soap Nuts! These are actually dried Himalayan berries that release a natural cleaning agent when used in the washing machine, making it a 100 percent natural laundry detergent that’s gentle on skin.
Finally, dryer sheets contribute to tons of laundry waste. Dryer balls are the new way to freshen and soften clothes while helping the planet. Made of all organic ingredients and cruelty-free wool, these dryer balls are handmade by women in Nepal.
Remember, it is never too late to begin switching to zero-waste alternatives in your home! Whether you switch to zero-waste products in one fell swoop or gradually transition your plastic products to sustainable ones over time, you will have a significant positive impact on the health of our planet.
We tend to think that our individual actions do not have much impact, but when eight billion people start to believe that their actions matter, that’s when we truly have the power to make a difference. So start small, and never get tricked into thinking that your actions aren’t making a difference, because every small reduction in plastic is a win for the planet and for you!
You can explore thousands of zero waste, plastic free, and reusable products at EarthHero—the one-stop-shop for everything sustainable! Use code: ELEPHANT15 for 15% off your entire order!