low waste bathroom
From left to right: Baking Powder, Coconut Oil, Soap, DIY multipurpose balm, Reusable face wipes, DIY toothpaste, bamboo toothbrush, and deodorant.
Along with kitchen, I think the bathroom waste is one of the hardest and most time consuming to change when transitioning to a lower waste lifestyle. We use so many products, and are constantly told we need more, so when lowing your waste you have to access what are necessities in the bathroom and what aren't. Before you begin buying a bunch of eco products, go through your bathroom and minimise what you have. Throw out things that are used, give away things that you never use yet still hoard, and give away brand new things that you've never opened (which we all have). The process of minimising my bathroom was a big one, you wouldn't believe how much makeup I had, and I am not a makeup maniac. I had so many skincare products too, even though I used none!
Once you've minimised find alternatives for what you do use.
Even before starting a low waste lifestyle, I just washed my face with water, so I didn't need to find a swap! I do however like to use a bentonite clay mask a couple of times a month. The one I have comes in a plastic container but has lasted me for honestly over a year and a half, and I still have over half of it left! It is entirely reusable so if I run out and don't find another option by then I may just get it again, super helpful for buying things in bulk or DIY stuff. I use the aztec secret indian healing clay and you can buy it from Just Green or online! Lush is also a great place to look in HK for skincare products (both package free and reusables they take back). Native Essentials is also a great company for good quality skincare products. Personally, I've found minimal skincare works well for me and saves me both waste and money so I'm happy!
Other than this, I've used baking soda (can be brought in bulk at live zero) as a spot treatment but I'm not the biggest fan, it works well as a last minute redness reducer but not great on a day to day basis as spot treatment. I am currently trying Plant Makeup's blemish balm which comes in a small tin container and have high hopes, review will come soon so stay connected! You could also try tea tree oil (often in glass) which I've heard works for a lot of people.
If I am having dry skin I usually use either a dab of coconut oil or a small amount of our DIY multipurpose balm and it works like magic!
As a makeup remover I use coconut oil (any oil works fine) which comes in glass, along with reusable cotton wipes from Plastic free HK. You can definitely make your own, but at the time we didn't really understand that part of zero waste so went ahead and purchased them. Only thing I would recommend is get black ones so that even if they stain it doesn't show, and be aware that they may shrink if you machine wash them!
Coconut oil as a makeup remover I was even using pre zero waste because it is gentler on the skin and works super well, though I would say wash your face first and then use the coconut oil, otherwise the coconut oil will go all over your face and can block pores. Also I don't use coconut oil to remove skin makeup, only eyes, the latter comes off fine with water and a bit of scrubbing as I don't wear a lot. If you are removing heavy amounts of makeup a DIY makeup remover may work better (that isn't oil based), a google search should help you just fine!
Makeup has taken me a looonnnggg time to get through and I will definitely do a separate post on it because there is so much that goes into it. This is one of those things where the best thing for reducing your waste is to minimise, so I am down to three - five products on a daily basis depending how I feel, and then maybe 2 extra products if it's for a special occasion. I DIY my mascara which works great, for my brows I use a pencil (which is therefore plastic free), for skin I also use dirty hippie cosmetics. This video details my zero waste makeup routine!
The toothbrush I've spoken about loads now, but to reiterate some popular brands are humble brush and 'brush with bamboo'. The humble brush can be gotten from NO!W No Waste and Lively Life, Livezero have their own bamboo toothbrush, PlasticfreeHK have brush with bamboo, and Style by Asia have Panboo, and delightfully green have 'a good day' bamboo toothbrushes. All in all, there are lots of options, and honestly after trying a few of them I think any are fine. Humble brush has good representation in Hong Kong so I think shipping wise it is possibly better for the environment as they would get in larger quantities, also they have different coloured bristles which may be good for kids. The brush with bamboo one has recyclable bristles which I think is good, seeing as for all of them you can't compost the bristles only the bamboo. In general, choose whats easiest to get for you (and cheapest, because they are more expensive than normal toothbrushes).
We have now tried two DIY toothpastes, one is a paste and we have the recipe on the blog, the other is a toothpowder recipe we got from 'Going Zero Waste'. Honestly neither of them have been great options, the first just tasted odd and I wasn't a fan of, and the powder has totally lost its consistency and just clumped together. We are going to try the Georganic's one that comes in a glass tub (can be gotten online or from plasticfreehk or nownowaste) because I'm too lazy to find another DIY recipe and if this works it saves us time! Live zero also has bulk toothpaste which we may give a try. You can also get David's toothpaste which come in a recyclable metal tube (or any other brands that do) if you aren't ready to make the switch to DIY just yet.
I use the meow meow tweet deodorant, Plastic-Free HK has it but I get mine online. You can also most likely find some deodorant solution at your local zero waste shop/community, otherwise you can DIY them as well, but I LOVE this deodorant and highly recommend. It comes in a glass jar which lasts me around 4 months. I absolutely adore it! It is by far the best deodorant I've ever used, plastic free or not. Mine is the grapefruit baking soda free version which is marketed for those with sensitive skin but I just preferred the scent. I got my mum the lavender one with baking soda and I found it harder to use because it has a thicker consistency, I prefer mine! Alex uses the compostable stick version in lavender which he got at live zero and finds that application easier, it also works well for him and I think it could last him over 6 months (possibly a year? Will update).
Body Hair Removal
Changing to a stainless steel safety razor is a super easy change, and for those who use single use disposable razors this would be an amazing swap to lower your waste. I don't shave (which is the lowest waste option but not one everyone is a fan of, which is totally cool) and Alex rarely does BUT he still uses it to clean up his beard to make it look nice n bbeaauutifuull. We brought ours from Cheung Leung Kee store in north point and though it is quite expensive the costs will even out over time as this lasts forever, and the blades aren't expensive at all. You can also get them at live zero and plasticfreehk. It is super smooth to use but can take a bit of getting used to because it cuts super easily.
I am going to be posting my zero waste hair routine soon but the only product I use is shampoo brought in bulk at live zero. Alex uses a shampoo bar from lush because he prefers the soap and washes his hair more frequently so it is more cost effective! We get the bar package free and have one of their tin containers that make it easy to use for travelling, it makes the whole bathroom smell amazing so I guess it doubles up as an air freshener! To brush we have a wooden comb and hair brush from pre zero waste, but there are loads of eco options out there!
This is by far the easiest swap; change from liquid soap to bar soap! It is so easy and a great change you can make to avoid plastic packaging in your bathroom, whilst having nearly no difference to yourself! I am not going to list everywhere you can get liquid soap from because that would be stupid, they are everywhere, but all of the eco companies listed throughout this article will have an option, and live zero has them package free which I would recommend if you are going to shop there anyways. The ones we have I found around my house and were pre zero waste days, and we still have two more for when this one finishes (but it's lasted forever).
When it comes to moisturising I'll be honest I don't really do it, BUT, you can just use any oil you can get in bulk or DIY a body butter which from what I've seen is super easy to make. You can also use aloe vera which you may have on hand for burns (I am super pale so I definitely do). If I have any cuts or any dry patches then I just use our DIY multipurpose balm!
I have yet to find a suncream that is zero waste and worth the overseas ordering. I also am super cautious of buying zero waste suncreams because many of them are low SPF and not tested as religiously as others. I am super pale and have a family history of skin cancer so this is one thing I'm not willing to give up a packaged version of yet, especially when I can use recyclable packaging. One thing I will say though is that I try my best to rely on it less, covering up well when it is super sunny.
For mozzy repellent oil is a great zero waste option, you can often get them in glass or package free (live zero has some). Because of the consistency it stops mosquitos from being able to penetrate the skin and I find works fine! Soap mum also has a repellent packaged in tin if oil is not your thing!
Wiping ya bum
This swap could make one of the biggest changes to the waste you produce in relation to your bathroom. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive change. In general, the myth that living zero waste is more expensive is not true. But, with the toilet paper, at least for Hong Kong, it is definitely a more expensive change. We buy the Australian brand 'Who Gives a Crap' from 'Feather and Bone' and it is $8 a roll. It comes packaged in paper and is made out of recycled paper, though I've heard that bamboo would be the best option (because it requires a lot less water). Alex and I buy this one for ourselves, so the cost is fine (one roll lasts a week), but for a larger household it would be a lot to spend. The rest of my family uses one that is individually paper packaged, and then packaged in a large plastic bag, which is much better than the large plastic bag PLUS the individually plastic wrapped. This one we get from the Sai Kung pharmacy and is $20 for 12.
You can also go with a bidet, which is another eco-friendly option! We haven't used this simply because we are lazy and don't want to make that swap yet but it's a popular one within the community.
If you are feeling especially adventurous and hippie you can also go with reusables wipes for number one's, and then a bidet for number two's.
Not to toot my own horn (since I still have ways to improve), does your bathroom countertop look like this? And no, we aren't hiding a million products in a cupboard. Here is a lil overview, and likelihood is that if you compare this to your bathroom there will be a big difference so I'm not lying when I say minimising is the big first step. These are all the bathroom products for two people.
Dental Hygiene - 4 products (2 Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Floss)
Face ~ Skin care - 5 products (Multipurpose balm, Bentonite clay, blemish balm, undereye balm, rosehip oil - the latter three were sent to us for review not brought by ourselves)
Skin care - 10 products (Suncream, self tanner - pre low waste, massage oil - a gift, Tiger balm, Zam-buck, Soothing gel - sent to us for review, 2 Bar soaps, 2 Deodorants)
Makeup - 12 (Reusable Wipes, Coconut oil, DIY mascara, eye brow pencil, tinted moisturiser, 2 lipsticks, eyeshadow palette, cheek tint, 2 brushes, concealer)
Hair care - 4 products (Shampoo bar, bulk Shampoo, Comb, Hairbrush)
Body Hair - 1 product (Safety Razor)
Others - 3 products (Perfume, Bath Salts, Loofah)
From pre-low waste days:22
After low waste (bought/made by us): 13
Sent to us: 4
Now I never tallied up my products pre low waste, but if I were to guess I'd say I was at 110 ish, excluding duplicates of items, and only for one person. This is why I would highly recommend tallying up all that you have and then decluttering it before even beginning to look at sustainable alternatives. AND it's more proof of how a zero waste lifestyle can save you some $$$$$. Enjoy decluttering, I sure did!