Now for Part 2 of my ‘Going Zero Waste’ series, focusing on toiletries and household products. Just as I pointed out in Part 1 (in the kitchen), it’s about progress, not perfection.
Another nice thing about reducing your trash is that if you happen to miss the occasional garbage pick-up day (or two, or three…) it’s never a big deal. That said, we *do* consistently have a significant pile of recycling every other week (in Ottawa, we have bi-weekly pick-ups). While most of our trash and recycling is kitchen-related, household products and cosmetics can be a significant source of waste as well. By consuming less and consuming more consciously, my hope is to have less and less on the curb each week.
Here are a few areas where we’ve started to make changes:
1. DIY soap and bath products
Whether solid bars, liquids or foams, buying packaged soaps is easily avoidable — and it can be SO much fun to make on your own! For the past two years, we’ve been doing a locally-sourced Christmas exchange (all family gifts were sourced from Ottawa or Canada). Part of our gift list each year has involved taking a workshop at Zoe’s Corner. Through Zoe, I’ve learned to make homemade soaps, bath salts and bombs using natural bulk ingredients like essential oils, clay, tea, sea salt — with no need for packaging and no abrasive chemicals or toxic additives (as a bonus, you get to sample some of the awesome food at the Brookfield restaurant, run by Zoe’s family!). Look for workshops in your area or try making your own products at home! This is also a really fun and educational activity to do with kids — my daughter (age 6) joined me at the bath bomb workshop and is always so proud to use her homemade bombs in the tub. I’m also fortunate to have a crafty genius friend who has made us some glorious purple beet soaps (love you, TR)!!2. DIY green cleaning products
For those of you who know me, you may laugh at the thought of me using *any* cleaning products… ever… but I assure you I DO clean (parts of) my house (sometimes, occasionally…). And when I do, it’s pretty easy to whip up homemade cleaning products using simple kitchen ingredients like baking soda and vinegar (bonus: it’s a fun and educational ‘craft’ to make with kids, too). Rather than disposable paper towels, we use reusable rags (even old t-shirts), and newspaper for windows and mirrors. Some of the benefits of switching to DIY cleaning products include: (1) less exposure to potentially-harmful toxins (especially when you have little people and pets — most DIY products are safe enough to eat, though I don’t recommend it), (2) DIY products are much cheaper, and, of course, (3) much less trash. 3. Laundry
There are a number of ways to cut down on laundry-related waste: (1) try a non-detergent laundry ball, soap nuts or buy detergent in bulk — you can refill detergents at a number of eco-friendly shops like Terra 20, (2) skip the chemical softeners and disposable drier sheets — if you need a softener, try switching to reusable drier cloths or balls, (3) do less laundry. period, and (4) my favourite…. if you can do it, air dry or get a laundry line! For my 35th bday last summer, all I asked for was a clothesline. Nothing beats the smell of bed sheets that have dried in nature.. and nothing bleaches cloth diapers like sunshine 😉4. Feminine Products
Yes, I’m going to talk about menstrual cups and cloth pads. So if this topic intrigues you, but also makes you cringe a little, you’re not alone. I, too, thought cloth pads were cringe-worthy once. And now? I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. They are more eco-friendly, affordable and infinitely more comfortable than the disposable alternatives. And after all the good feels of cloth diapering two babes, these were the obvious choice *for me.* I source my pads from an incredible local Ottawa vendor, the ‘F Wrap’ by Nature Prenatal, offering a variety of pads from organic bamboo charcoal fleece to cotton flannel, with 4 absorbency levels and even thong pads! After having kids, my cycle was dreadful… I literally dreaded that week. Since switching to cloth pads, not only do I feel less irritated (mentally and physically), but I’m also saving loads of money and landfill space with no more synthetics against my delicate parts! Woot! I am also convinced that my cycles are shorter and lighter (apparently this is a thing — not just me)! Karen at Nature Prenatal offers an awesome line of products and even did a promo once where she made custom upcycled pads using pre-loved clothes or scraps of fabric (I seriously have pads made out of my grade 9 t-shirts)! So green and so cool! Check the F Wrap Facebook Page for more.
Another great waste-free option for that time of the month is to replace disposable and potentially chemical-laden tampons with a reusable menstrual or moon cup. There are many options available — apparently these reusable cups have been around since the ’30s!!! Who knew!? I use a Diva Cup, which is made of flexible medical grade silicone and offers up to 12 hours of leak-free protection. For real. You can buy them at most health shops and drug stores. According to the Chic Ecologist, in the U.S. alone, approximately 7 billion tampons and 12 billion pads are discarded annually. Reusable feminine products make me feel better for a number of reasons — less irritants on my parts, less hassle to shop for more disposables, money saved and waste reduced!! So many wins!5. Oral Care/ Toothpaste
We’ve only recently tried making our own toothpaste out of household ingredients — items we always have on hand like coconut oil, baking soda, sea salt and essential oils. Easy, fun and no waste! Admittedly, I have a bit of a dental fetish — I like clean, white, straight teeth and have always enjoyed going to the dentist (even as a kid: so random) — so I haven’t given up on my electric toothbrush just yet. BUT, when it dies, my plan is to switch over to a compostable bamboo toothbrush since, in the U.S., approximately one billion plastic toothbrushes per year are discarded into landfill! Shocking and completely unnecessary.6. Cosmetics/Beauty Products (Use Less!)
My main ‘beauty essentials’ are fresh air, whole foods, sleep and sunshine so I don’t have a whole lot to suggest here. Aside from making your own products and/or buying greener products, another waste-reducing option is to use fewer and/or less of these products. I’ve never used a lot of hair or cosmetic products to begin with, so this was is an easy one for me. I mainly reserve makeup for theme parties and Halloween and I’ve had the same bottle of tea tree shampoo for years because I don’t use it daily (anymore). Instead, I use homemade soaps, apple cider vinegar and occasionally a homemade ‘dry shampoo’ (a mixture of baking soda and starch) — and my hair is happier than it’s ever been! I realize this tip might not be (immediately) desirable for a lot of people (particularly women as they tend to use — or be pressured to use — more beauty products in general), but if it’s something you want to do, there are ways to cut back on the quantities of products you use — and maybe even feel somewhat liberated in doing so.
Just as sardine tins and packaged seaweed are our ‘guilty pleasures’ in the kitchen, there are a few household items I have yet to give up on: my electric toothbrush (for now) and Kleenex… though I may try a washable handkerchief soon 🙂
In conclusion, all we can do is do our best and make changes that feel good to us.
Be the change you want to see in the world — Mahatma Gandhi