Colour your bathroom routine green with these simple swaps and eco beauty buys.
There are a few things to consider when making your bathroom routine more sustainable: cutting down on plastic packaging and single-use items, looking for products with less harmful ingredients, and opting for cruelty-free, ethically-made items. Luckily there are lots of innovative alternatives available, from absorbent period underwear to shampoo and conditioner bars in plastic-free packaging. Don’t feel you need to change everything at once, though – it’s more sustainable to use up products you have before buying eco-friendly alternatives.
Before plastic bottles became ubiquitous, solid soap and shampoo bars were commonplace. Brands which are once more embracing these solid cleaners – and introducing solid conditioners, moisturisers, deodorants and more – have helped to cut down on the need for plastic bottles as well as water, which is added to many of these products.
I’ve been using soap my whole life – call me old-fashioned, but I find pumping liquid soap more cumbersome than swiping a bar over my body – and I switched to solid shampoo and conditioner bars a couple of years ago. After taking a short while to get used to them, I’m now a complete convert. I love how long they last and how small they are – they take up less space in the shower and are easy to travel with.
The modern shampoo bar was patented by Lush co-founder Mo Constantine and cosmetic chemist Stan Krysztal in 1988. The UK company, which has seven New Zealand stores, is known for its natural, deliciously scented, cruelty-free beauty and bath products made with fairly traded ingredients. As well as shampoo bars, they offer packaging-free soap and other solid beauty bars, such as massage bars and deodorant.
More recently, local brand Ethique helped to cement the shampoo bar’s popularity after celebrities such as Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher sang the brand’s praises. As well as shampoo and conditioner, the Christchurch company offers solid moisturiser, deodorant, soap and even pet shampoo and baby products. The Ethique range is plastic-free, cruelty-free, carbon-neutral and made with natural, ethically traded ingredients. Since it launched in 2012, the brand calculates that it has saved more than 11 million plastic bottles from being manufactured, and subsequently disposed of.
There are a number of other Kiwi brands now offering solid beauty bars made with natural ingredients, including personal favourite Ahhh, whose range includes shampoo, conditioner, soap, bath bombs, moisturiser, scrubs and more.
While a shampoo bar may seem more expensive than a bottle, they can last up to three times as long (according to a Consumer NZ test of Ethique and Lush bars) – just remember to dry them out on a soap rack between uses.
If you prefer to stick to liquids, you can make your own shampoo (there are a number of tutorials online) or take your empty bottle to a refill station.
1. Period Products
Menstrual cups and period underwear are the revolutionary reusables helping to reduce the need for disposable pads and tampons. Look for local brands Awwa (for period underwear and swimwear) and Hello Cup (for menstrual cups).
2. Toilet Paper
You don’t have to switch to “family cloth” (reusable toilet paper), but buying a roll made from recycled paper or bamboo is a start. Opt for paper rather than plastic packaging, and try brands such as Earthsmart, Smartass and Who Gives a Crap.
3. Natural Deodorants
Natural deodorants may not stop you from sweating, but some brands are surprisingly good at deodorising. If you don’t want to try making your own (there are lots of recipes online), NZ’s Little Mango and Australia’s Black Chicken Remedies are my tried-and- tested favourites – extra points to Little Mango for coming in a cute glass jar which can be repurposed after use.
Opt for natural cosmetics from local companies such as Karen Murrell, Aleph Beauty and Two Birds Beauty, and use reusable make-up wipes and compostable bamboo buds to cut down on waste.
5. Dental Care
There are a number of natural toothpastes on the market (and homemade recipes on the net) but it’s worth consulting with your dentist before making the switch. While “eco” toothbrushes are everywhere, most bamboo or plant-based toothbrushes still have plastic bristles, so make sure to break the head off or pull these out before composting your handle. The Eco Floss is a good option for its commercially compostable floss in a refillable glass jar.
Ditch the disposable razors and blades and try a stainless steel one with refillable blades.