An Ethical, Vegan, Green Bathroom Guide
If you cast your mind back to April of this year, I had grand plans to start a series of guides for going “green”. What I mean by that was making ethical, vegan, cruelty-free, waste-free choices as far as possible, and in the introduction to the series I chatted about this more because… it’s definitely complex! Here’s the bathroom guide to going green, and hopefully a few ideas for a more environmentally and budget friendly bathroom situation!
Common Bathroom Problems
I think the biggest problem with bathroom stuff is the idea that everything needs to be disposable because of hygiene. That’s ridiculous! You wouldn’t throw out a fork because it touched your mouth one time or a pair of sunglasses that spent a day sitting on your nose, would you? Even pants just get chucked in the wash after a whole day of close contact with our nether regions.
Another big issue with bathroom stuff is that it is tough to find vegan cf bathroom products; nearly all of the big toiletry suppliers are owned by non-cf parent companies and it’s just not what you want to be funding really, is it? Add to that the fact that everything comes in plastic or some sort of plastic lined, non-reusable bottle and it’s one of the hardest places to start tackling. That said, I think we’ve got a pretty green bathroom system for the time being so I’ll detail below!
The other big problem linked to disposability is that we aren’t used to spending money on stuff. The culture around most bathroom stuff is to buy cheap, use, and replace – if you’re a cheapskate like I was, then the Laila of old who bought cheap, basic razors and whatever make-up wipes were on offer might sound familiar to some of you. Thankfully that person is long gone, but there was definitely a transition period between “buying the cheapest thing possible” and “buying to last”. Ironically I spend way less money because nothing needs replacing; in my teens I was in Boots at least monthly and now I haven’t been into a pharmacy or chemist for years. (Also, Boots are owned by a parent company so I wouldn’t go there now but let’s get into that in the high street shopping post…!)
What I Use
Two companies I’ll spotlight are Lush; they’re recyclable in store, cruelty-free, independent, have clearly marked vegan products, and are mostly pretty ethical. A lot of things bother me about the company, but I know most of you are going to be high street shoppers and they’re a cut above most of the alternatives. I’m also a BIG fan of Neal’s Yard Remedies; again, take empty pots/containers in and they recycle them, plus everything is made in London, cruelty-free, independent, majority female board staff and mostly vegan. Expensive, but it’s good quality and lasts forever.
There’s quite a few other places I source my toiletries from but detailing everything here would be pretty lengthy, hence I’ve picked the two most readily available (and that you probably already know!). Truth be told I don’t have a massive bathroom routine but maybe I’ll detail a few more products in a later post.
If it’s good enough for Caroline Hirons, it’s good enough for me. To stop using all those one use make-up wipes, get some decent make-up remover in a bottle and use with flannels. I bought some “reusable make-up wipes” from Amnesty about 2 years ago and felt like an absolute twat when I realised it was basically just a flannel square (still use them though). Also, cut up bits of old t-shirt if you want softer cloths for going round your eyes. You need never line a landfill again!
Here’s a classic “Buy To Last” scenario. Buy the best flannels you can; preferably skip Primark and find something nicer. We have two flannel sets (of 5) from Amnesty and apart from being really pretty to look at and soft and cosy, the money went to a charity we support and the towels were made from repurposed fabrics by a womens refuge in India. £20 for a pack of 5. It may sound like a lot, but for a few quid more it’s definitely worth it. Could be a grown-up Christmas present?
I switched to a metal razor with razor blades about four years ago. So first of all, why ditch the plastic disposable ones? There’s literally no reason to have a dispoable one. It would be like using disposable cutlery to eat with and having no actual knives or forks. Even the “biodegradeable” plastic razors have these annoying plastic bits around the blades rendering them non-recylcable. You also don’t need all these weird gel strips and what-not which again, render the whole thing landfill fodder. What you do need is decent shaving soap (Lush’s is quite good) and then a moisturiser.
I invested in a metal-handled propellor safety razor about three years ago. You can find vintage versions of these knocking around that are still perfectly usable and date from WWII. How’s that for built to last?! As mine is completely metal it’s totally recyclable should I need to get rid of it. So, what’s it like to use? Well, you feel like a badass changing the the razor around (yes I do sing Sweeney Todd to myself in the bath), and the shave is a lot better. I accidentally nicked myself once or twice (nothing major, similar to when you first start shaving) when getting used to the heavier weight, but now I’ve mastered the art I far prefer the sleekness of a proper razor.
My one was sourced from a local London based company who make the razors on site and cost about £30 (blades are shipped in but UK made)*. If you take the razor out of the bath (or at least away from water so it doesn’t rust), the handle will theoretically last forever. You can get wood or plastic handled varieties as well (obviously I’d urge you to avoid the plastic ones). I replace my blade every 3 months or so (you can recycle the old one) and it costs about £5 for a sixpack of blades. Even if you’re buying a 12 pack of razors from the pound shop it’s cheaper to just get a proper one! Do the maths, then stop destroying your budget (and the environment).
*I bought mine in a shop, but this website looks pretty good as a starting point.
I know the zero-waste baes out there have moved on from toilet paper to resuable wipes… but I’m not quite at that stage yet, and the next best thing (especially for a shared house) is ethical, high-quality toilet paper from a company that is also a charity. All our house TP comes from Who Gives A Crap? – check them out, also recommend the tissues and kitchen roll.
Turn The Tap Off
This is just a quick reminder that we waste literally GALLONS of water (and all the energy that brought us that water) each year by not turning the tap off when we’re washing our face/brushing our teeth and so on. Not a big tip but a helpful one, hopefully!
Soap, Or How To Instantly Be A Better Person
Those squirty hand soap dispenser things are the absolute BANE OF MY LIFE. WHY DO THEY EXIST. I don’t see how they are more hygienic, not one single part of them is recyclable THEY JUST GO STRAIGHT TO LANDFILL, they take up so much space and I don’t know WHY they are so much cheaper than just a bar of soap in paper packaging. (Well, probably because the environment is taking the hit.) AND PEOPLE CONTINUE TO BUY THEM FOR THEIR HOUSES OH MY ACTUAL GOD STOP.
Best thing to do soap-wise. Get a metal or ceramic raised dish with holes in. You can find these in the charity shop or you can make one using a pile of stones from your nearest outdoor area. Next. Go on etsy. Find a local soap dealer (there are shit loads) making organic, vegan soap (aka no beeswax – check!), and then contact them to ask if they can package in plain paper and not waxed paper. There should be no need for waxed paper; (if the soap is in danger of melting, DO NOT BLOODY BUY THAT SOAP) so that should be cool. Then sit back and relax until your amazing new soap arrives and you need never use one of those godawful dispenser things again. Oh my fucking fuck I hate those things. Just WHY. UGH.
We switched to compostable bamboo toothbrushes ages ago (these also feel and taste a lot nicer), and you can get them from most online eco shops. I am constantly swapping companies and trying new ones out.. out the moment we’re using Brush with Bamboo but I’m curious about HumbleBrush as well, and have previously used GivingBrush too. I also use compostable wooden picks (rather than the plastic interdental brushes/TePe brushes). I’ve not yet found a solution for electric toothbrushes; I’ve got compostable toothbrush heads… but the actual body is plastic. Any ideas?
For actual toothpaste, this can be a bit of a nightmare because virtually everything on the market is owned by one of two major companies and (spoiler) they are both awful companies. I like the little tooth tabs from LUSH, although I’m trying to find something with more flouride in at the moment. Any ideas?
Time Of The Month
Period-wise I don’t really get on with menstrual cups (I’ve tried 3 different ones). I also never got on with tampons and I think the two are related. However, I do have a whole stack of reusable sanitary towels. I’ll admit at first I was like “Ewww so unhygienic!” before I beat that societal taboo firmly out of head… because really it’s no different if you get some blood on your pants/clothes during the period and then wash. Except the towels have been designed to absorb it all and then go back to fresh and new. They always come out the wash fully clean, and I feel a lot better not generating 5 inches of waste every time I’m on my period.
Plus. Not spending £2-5 every month just for the luxury of non-bloodied pants IS AMAZING. The comfort levels are also amazing – they are so much more comfortable than sanitary towels (and way less nappy-ish). I bought mine from female-run independent UK business Earthwise Girls (WHO I LOVE) during their Black Friday sale two years ago, when for every pad you bought they donated one to a girl in need in Kenya. I’ve found a couple of other companies to try from should I need to expand my collection in the future too.
Cutting Your Hair
Get some sewing scissors and just do it at home. Hair can go in the compost, or do what I do and leave it strategically (read: haphazardly) strewn around the garden for birds to find. I’ve not paid for a haircut in over a decade and it’s going ok so far!
So there you go! A few ideas. Quite a lot of those points could have been whole blog posts so let me know if there’s anything you’d like to know more about. I’m the first to admit I’m not perfect and there’s lots of things I could tweak about my bathoom, but that’s where my green levels are at for now. As ever, please throw me all your tips and leave any questions below!
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