These days, I find that the promotion of zero waste lifestyles, is starting to be more and more dominated by capitalism and promoting over consumption (the over-buying of “green” items that you don’t really need to live zero-waste), turning what once was a minimalistic low-impact way of living, into just another capitalistic scheme. It is being ingrained into people’s heads that we need to buy all these “eco-friendly” products in order to be a better environmentalist. If we’re not going to be spending money on single-use and individually packaged items that keep money in the capitalists pockets, then we’re now going to spending money one more durable forms of those things, in addition to items that we’ve never used before and don’t really need (but are being told we need now that we are trying to live low-impact). The advertising these types of products are designed to make people think that we have to consume so many things before we can start living zero-waste, which defeats the very foundation of zero-waste living.
While trying our best to live sustainably, even if that means buying products, we should not shame ourselves but rather further examine how certain eco-friendly or sustainable products can cost more and if it is effective for a long-term low-impact lifestyle. Although many of us still use plastic everyday, that shouldn’t mean that we cannot reduce our plastic waste in some capacity.
I find one of the best places to start with reducing your plastic waste impact is the bathroom, because hygiene products are ones you need and would buy anyway, so reducing your waste through simple product switches, is not only a less overwhelming process to start, but it also doesn’t feed into the over-consumptive model that greedy capitalists are pushing.
Let’s start with the things in this photo! We have a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, lip balm, a razor, hand sanitizer, deodorant, soap bar, and a menstrual cup (for all you uterus-bearing bearing folks out there).
As you can see, I don’t like to stick to just one brand, because I find that brand loyalty, for the sake of brand loyalty, is all part of the evil capitalistic scheme. Of course, brand loyalty, for the reason that they just simply sell stuff you like and you like, trust and approve of the company and its production practices, then that just makes sense and should always be the reason why we choose a brand (not because it makes us part of an elite “club” of sorts). find it important to just find brands that work for me and support and align with my overall climate and social justice mission.
For brushing your teeth, compostable toothbrushes made of bamboo are easy to find these days, with so many brands to choose from and you can even find them in some regular local stores. For toothpaste, I make mine out of coconut oil, baking soda and peppermint essential oil (in a nice glass bottle). Some really big zero-waste icons like Bea Johnson, don’t even bother with the coconut oil and just use tooth powder (stevia powder, and baking soda sprinkled on the toothbrush). Another option is those little tabs that dissolve in your mouth, as long as they also have low-waste packaging of course.
For shampoo, conditioner, and soap, packaging of any kind for these is unnecessary. Shampoo and conditioner bars can just be bought as is in bulk stores or some really woke local shops. The stainless steel holders help them keep their shape and are good for travelling too. I actually only use the conditioner bar for travelling; at home, I just run a smidge of coconut oil in my hair, and if needed, rinse it out later. I also use the shampoo bar to wash my face; this one has aloe in it so it feels really nice and doesn’t dry out my skin.
Menstrual cups have been around for a lot longer than most people realize but have gotten really popular these days. These is no one brand that is better than another, since everyone’s bodies are shaped differently and have different needs. It’s best to look around at all the options and find one that fits well.
Hand sanitizer is definitely something that has become something used by almost everyone daily in the past year. I really like the one pictured above, as it comes in a nice glass bottle, and has aloe in it. Lip balm is also a saving grace in dry winter months, I’m sure many can relate. The one in the above photo comes in compostable packaging, and is vegan (no beeswax!). The safety razor is also one that is more or less the same across many brands, using fairly standard-sized exacto blades that you need to change every once in a while (but watch out for rust). This saves the plastic on the disposable razors and is just overall better quality and lasts so much longer.
I envy people who can live un-smelly lives without needing deodorant, that’s the real zero-waste life there, but for those of us clinging to its magical odor-eliminating powers for dear life (a.k.a. me) there are so many options to go for a natural deodorant option without waste. Of course, making the switch from an antiperspirant to a natural deodorant is a serious journey itself, but very worth it. The one in the photo above is in a glass jar, but I’ve also come across some in compostable packaging, pictured to the left which is also vegan, natural and comes in different scents if you want to switch it up. Also making your own deodorant is fun too. There are thousands of recipes online, and once again, Bea does her own thing, using an alum stone or just straight up baking soda. So if you’re really in the mood to run consumerism into the ground even on essential hygiene products, that would definitely be the way to go.
For a while now, I’ve been doing my laundry almost completely off the grid, with the exception being that I use warm tap water to clean my clothes. Seeing as how my apartment is 101 years old (no that’s not an exaggeration) it has no capacity for a washer/dryer set up en-suite or anywhere in the building. So to keep my independence, I got myself a Drumi, which is an off-the-grid portable washing machine. It fits perfectly in my tiny bathroom, and works great for almost everything I need to wash. As for soap, I use laundry strips, which saves so much plastic waste as you can see in my photo comparison of 32 loads of liquid soap v.s. 32 loads in laundry strips. I also recommend using soap nuts if you’re not into smelly soaps, and they’re really versatile too. You can use them in the dishwasher and to make household cleaner.
Toilet paper. Of course here, the best option would be to use a bidet or an attachable-bidet of sorts, which are getting more and more popular in western culture these days. But toilet paper is still the tushy-cleaner of choice for many here in Canada. After researching all the types of sustainable toilet paper, I really love this brand’s recycled paper toilet paper. There’s no plastic packaging here, no freshly harmed trees or mistreated bamboo farm workers. And best of all, their mission is one I love, they donate half their profits to make toilets and improve sanitation in third world countries. I always love to see big companies making great strides for people and the planet!
As for some ~luxury~ items, just to have a little bit of fun, because fighting consumerism isn’t about deprivation, it’s about being satisfied without needing to always consume and buy more things.
Face masks are always fun, and there’s no need for single use pouches, plastic squeeze bottles, or whatever those one-piece things are. This lovely pink clay mask comes in a nice reusable jar, and it’s just the powder that you mix with a tiny bit of water and apply to your face. It lasts really long and no waste here (unless you count the glass bowl that I conveniently dropped and broke right after taking this photo).
Lotion is something I usually only use if my skin is painfully dry, but I know for some, that’s a daily occurrence. I got this lovely body butter for Christmas this year. It came in a cute reusable glass jar and smells like chocolate, which I love. Once again, it’s also easy to make your own body butter with a combination of shea butter, cocoa butter, and coconut oil.
Little cotton pads, I rarely use these, but once again, some people use them daily. So if you’re going to use them, they they might as well be washable and reusable!
Some areas where I can still improve are: dental floss (I have to start actually flossing regularly to make this switch viable), and contact lens solution (there are no sterile DIY options other than just wearing glasses, which I’m not a huge fan of).
Since eliminating my plastic waste in the bathroom, I find I’m not buying any more products than I would have otherwise, I’m definitely buying less (#fightingconsumerism)! For example, I haven’t bought menstrual products in over three years (which should be free in the first place, but that’s a whole other discussion), razors or blades in over one year (I’m still on my first blade in the only pack I’ve bought), I’ve only ever bought one conditioner bar (and it’s still going), and only bought around 3 shampoo bars in 3 years.
I am in no way claiming to be perfect, but the important part is, I have made so much progress on this front and I am proud! Remember to do the best you can, but don’t stop your environmental advocacy at purchasing products. Always aim for #progressoverperfection ❤
Share how you’re #fightingconsumerism in the comments!