They say a good crisis should never go to waste, and the coronacrisis turned out to be a wake-up call for me to change some wastef habits in the bathroom.
I’ve been wanting to ditch the plastic for a long time. I tried a bar shampoo a few years ago and really disliked it. The smell was overpowering (I had to hide it away between uses, otherwise it completely filled the bathroom) and after a short while it crumbled into pieces. It wasn’t cheap, and I was disappointed. Then in January 2020 a friend visited and was very enthusiastic about the bar shampoo she and her mother had been using for a year or so. They were ordering some more, and upped the order to include a couple of bars for me. I’ve never looked back. It doesn’t smell, it gets my hair really clean, and the first bar has lasted all year and I still haven’t finished it. I wash my hair less frequently than many people, but I have thick hair and lots of it, so maybe the two cancel each other out. Anyway, this swap is definitely a keeper.
My one reservation is that it arrives without any labelling from China (or maybe they got the labelling?), so I don’t know what is in it. There are obviously carbon costs of making and shipping, but against that there is no packaging waste (the cardboard packing gets composted or recycled) and no moving plastic packaging around. With two relatively small bars lasting over two years I’m definitely not going to beat myself up over the shipping.
So – not a perfect solution, but definitely good enough to continue with.
Over the years like many I’d drifted to using liquid soap. Not for any good reason that I can think of. The first lockdown and the lead-up to it, when shops began to run short of some items spurred me on to go through all the drawers bagsand cupboards where nice bars of soap were stashed away. It turns out we already had more than enough to last us through the year, without needing to buy any more. All those nice bars of soap people had given me or I had treated myself to over the years are now in use, and they’ve been lovely to use. There were also bits of soap brought home from holiday stays (rather than leave them to be thrown away). I now have a small bag into which all the left-over small ends go, and I use this in the shower and bath – it’s nice to use, and great for finishing off those last scraps of bar soap.
We also have some liquid soap around (not least of all because not once but several times last year when intending to buy hand gel I actually bought liquid soap). We’ll use it up, mostly for visitors, when such luxuries return. Apart from that, I’m sticking with naked bar soap. Zero waste.
Toilet paper (look away now if you’re of a sensitive disposition!)
Toilet paper became the quintessential lockdown luxury item. People seemed to be buying it as if it would disappear overnight (which of course in some shops it did, because people were buying so much. A self-fulfilling prophesy if ever there was one).
I’d been toying with the idea of moving to cloth wipes instead of paper. Then last spring I heard an interview with a woman from Cheeky Wipes on Women’s Hour and she convinced me. (She memorably described her job as ‘talking about pee poo and periods’ – if you’re still menstruating, you might want to consider those products as well).
As chance would have it, d-i-l had recently given me some surplus wipes she had been using since granddaughter was born. I gave them a try, and I’ll never ever change from them. Reader, they are so nice to use!
The cloths are pure cotton, very soft (I chose the organic cotton, to reduce toxicity in the making).
There was an investment cost to this. I bought quite a large pack of cloths, plus needed two bins (one for each toilet) – fortunately I already had bins I was able to repurpose. I also bought two mesh liner bags for each bin. The drill is use a cloth, put it in the bin. When I do a machine wash each of the two bags in use goes into the wash along with everything else (with the used cloths in it), and a clean mesh bag goes into each bin.
This was not cheap, but will last many many years. And no waste at all.
They came in 5 colours, so I’ve organised them by having two colours upstairs, two colours downstairs, and the fifth I use as cleaning cloths – they’re perfect for mopping up small spills, wiping away condensation on the windows etc.
Of course now I’m washing more things, but the cloths add little to our normal once or twice weekly machine loads. I doubt they make any appreciable difference to electricity or water use. I’m still washing at the same relatively low temperature as before (30º OR 40º). Mostly they’re line dried. Whenever possible we time doing the washing based on the weather forecast.
I know this swap is controversial. I gave some to a friend, she’s using them but definitely not for the purpose I intended! Nor is Malcolm a convert. But living happily with other people is about agreeing to differ, and negotiating what compromises are mutually acceptable. I use the cloths for wee only, and only I use them.
We still have plenty of toilet paper available for anyone who wants to use it – and that’s everyone except (mostly) me. As for years, we buy a brand that is 100% recycled paper (though sadly it comes wrapped in plastic – we reuse the plastic bag, but would still prefer not to have it).
I’ve finished the last un-recyclable plastic tube. I won’t be buying that again. I tried a toothpaste tablet and didn’t like it one bit. For now I’ve switched to a brand that comes in a metal (recyclable) tube, which is ok but I’m not particularly enjoying using it (though I’m sure it’s effective). I’m still looking around for the next switch.
The battery in my electric toothbrush has finally died, after many years use. It doesn’t seem to be replaceable. I’m going to see what the hygienist says about my gums when I next see her – if there hasn’t been any deterioration, I’ll stick with the hand toothbrush. And then I’ll want to find a good one that isn’t made of plastic.
And the failures…
Water. This is the one where I backslid from all my good work the previous year. With all the lockdowns and everything else happening, I just wasn’t in the mood, and once I’d lost the habit it was hard to get back into it. I’ll be looking at the bills relating to the period to see what difference it made, and then come the spring I’ll be restarting to focus again on reducing my water use.
Hair conditioner. I have thick curly hair, apt to be coarse and frizzy. I like using the leave-in conditioners I’ve been using for years, and haven’t found an alternative. Yet?