One Can Challenge: reducing waste in the bathroom
I imagine that the bathroom is probably the second most wasteful room in the house behind the kitchen. There are lots of disposable products in the loo, but we have some ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling them.
For my family, we noticed a HUGE decrease in the amount of garbage in our bathroom cans after we put small recycling bins in each bathroom. It was such an easy change, but having that dedicated recycling can in the bathroom gave us no excuse for tossing toilet paper rolls and shampoo bottles in the garbage. We even put labels on the recycling bin so that visitors would know what should go in.
Toothbrushes: You can recycle plastic toothbrushes at Portland's Master Recycler Plastics Round-up, but we're a little unique over here. An alternative is the Preserve toothbrush, which you can send back to the company to be recycled. Also, some of those interchangeable heads on electric toothbrushes are made with a lot less plastic and they seem to last a lot longer than a regular old Oral B.
Toothpaste: Tom's of Maine uses aluminum tubes for their toothpaste, which can be recycled (and nope, you don't need to clean it out)! If you go the route of brushing teeth with pure baking soda, that cuts down on a lot of packaging.
Cotton balls and make-up wipes: My family seldom ever used cotton balls, so we stopped buying them. A good alternative is to use the Kirkland wipes re-use method we're so fond of. The wipes are machine washable, which makes them soft and a little fuzzy, and they can be washed several times before they fall apart. Those small, thin baby washcloths would also make good substitutes. If you do use cotton balls, they can be composted. What you do want to avoid are the one-time disposable wipes that are marketed to us for every specific part of the body. There are baby wipes, makeup remover wipes, moist flushable wipes for when your child gets out of diapers and starts using the potty, adult size moist flushable wipes for that adult that wants to feel baby-fresh, and even moist flushable wipes for that woman who's not feeling very fresh down there. I won't get into all the types of cleaning wipes there are...
Razors: We've discussed eco-friendly hair removal options before, and to be honest I'm still using up my stash of disposable pink razors. But I'm almost out, so there's a change a-comin'. (However it will NOT BE WAXING. Holy crap. How do you people do it? I birthed two babies naturally and you couldn't pay me to go through a bikini wax again.) You could go with the recyclable razor by Preserve, which like their toothbrushes, can be recycled. You could go with a 'system' wherein you only replace the blade. My husband is hooked on his safety razor, which uses razor blades that are not encased in plastic and are fully recyclable. (I haven't tried this on my legs yet because I fear the bloody carnage that could result.)
Cosmetics: I recently spent some time at an Aveda store and I was blown away by their lipsticks! They make their lipstick cases from pressed flaxseed and you just change out the little lipstick insert, which uses very little plastic, when you run out. I read on Lime that Stila sells replaceable cartridges for its cosmetics and that you can return empty MAC brand cosmetic containers to its stores for recycling. We'll admit, neither Renee nor I wear much make-up, so we're not all that familiar with other low-waste cosmetic options. Any other suggestions?
Skin and hair care: Many grocery stores now carry various brands of shampoo, conditioner and lotion in bulk. You bring in your own container and have it weighed by a cashier, fill it up and then when you check out, the cashier will subtract the weight of the container from the price so you are only paying for the actual product! I do this at New Seasons here in Portland (love their ShiKai brand, which is available in bulk) and it helps us eliminate plastic waste because we reuse the same bottle over and over.
There aren't many shampoos and conditioners that come in glass bottles (due to the breakage issue) but you can find facial cleansers and lotions that do. Some Aveda skin care products come in glass bottles, which are easier to recycle than plastic. Of course you could always go the 'no-poo' route where you use baking soda instead of shampoo or conditioner. I keep hearing from people that it works, I just haven't had the courage (desire?) to try it yet. Another option is to make your own very basic shampoo from Dr. Bronners, vegetable glycerin and water, using your own reusable bottles. Renee uses this on her kids' hair, and also makes her own hair detangler.
Deodorant: I recently shared my experiment of using tea tree oil instead of antiperspirant. (And by the way, it's still working amazingly well and I'm totally hooked! I've stopped using the lavender oil and am using straight tea tree oil. And I'm pretty sure I don't stink. Maybe.) I've managed to reduce my anti-stink routine down to one small glass bottle of tea tree oil instead of a clunky plastic container. Angry Chicken shared a recipe for homemade deodorant, which would also enable you to reuse a container. She rocks.
Medicine: Consider the packaging options available when filling prescriptions or buying OTC meds. As much as I sometimes would prefer the convenience of individually wrapped pills, we usually opt for liquid meds for the kids in glass jars. This cuts down on waste and cost, and ups your recycling possibilities.
This tip won't help you reduce waste, but it's important to mention that unused medication should never be flushed or rinsed down the drain. Dump them all in a sealed container or plastic baggie with some coffee grounds or cat litter or something disgusting (so that kids or junkies won't find 'em) and put them in the garbage.
Probably the best way to reduce medicinal waste is to take frequent inventory and not buy more than you need. Also, as I recall, mail-order pharmacies will often give you a three-month supply of prescription medication, which packs more pills into one bottle than a one-month supply.
Feminine hygiene: We had a big discussion about eco-friendly feminine hygiene awhile back, so I'm just going to send you over there. I shared way too much information about my Diva Cup experience, which worked really well for me until I got a Mirena IUD and stopped having my period. Woo hoo! Best. Decision. Ever. Check out both of those links for the lowdown on flow control.
Is anyone starting to see a pattern here? The message that runs through all these One Can A Month posts is that we make our greatest impact when we REDUCE. No question, the bathroom is an area where we can greatly reduce. If we take a virtual walk through a drug store, there's a dizzying array of ways to part with our money: q-tips, cotton balls, the plethora of wipes, medications, bandages of every shape and size, shampoos, hair colors and sprays, makeup and removers, sunscreens, lotions and potions... Everyone has their sacred cows, especially when it comes to la toilette. But there are probably a few things you regularly buy that you probably don't need. Or lotions that can do double-duty if you brainstorm on it a while.