I began my zero waste journey last year, and I still have a long ways to go. But I’ve learned that a zero waste bathroom is one of the many ways to contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle and reduce your environmental footprint.
But let’s be honest, m’kay? We all have a lot of things to do and business to take care of. And our biznizz is not the least of those things.
If you’re like me, you believe the only thing that should go to waste in your bathroom … is your waste. So in this article, I’ll flush away your worries without making a stink!
Umm … what I meant to say is in this article, I’ll outline seven simple ways to cut down on your bathroom trash, from the amount of water you use to the cosmetics you choose to buy.
7 tips for a zero waste bathroom
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#1 Zero waste fixtures
a. Low-flow shower heads
A low flow shower head is one of the best zero waste bathroom products out there because it will help you save water at home.
17% of home water use occurs in the shower. Just letting your water warm up for one minute can allow 2.5 gallons to slip away. And water waste isn’t the only issue because you’re also running up that electric bill to heat up said water.
We had a running joke in my old house that we could walk outside, start a fire, warm up the water in a kettle, carry it back inside, and still have hot water faster than the pipes could pump it to our bathroom. You’d think our water heater was in the next county! I’m sure we wasted a lot.
Anyway, most people don’t want to spend less time in the shower or cut down on how many they take in their move towards a zero waste bathroom. And since I’m all about cutting back where you can, installing a low-flow shower head is an ethical way to indulge yourself in long, daily showers guilt-free because they use less than 2 gallons per minute.
“But wait,” you say. “My home’s water pressure is already low. I don’t want it to be worse!”
Luckily there’s another device you can use instead of a low-flow shower head that allows you to slow the water to a trickle when you’re soaping up or lathering your shampoo. They’re called flow control valves and they are insanely cheap.
Another water-saving tool is a thermostat shut-off valve. This lets cold water out but stops the flow when it exceeds a certain temperature. When the water stops, you can get in and gently pull a cord to take your shower.
b. Touchless faucets
They’re often seen in public restrooms, but motion-sensor faucets like the one below are becoming more popular in zero waste bathrooms as well.
They save water because they only run when your hand is right under the spigot. Additionally, think about how often you turn your water on full blast when you really don’t need to.
Many touchless faucets are made of stainless steel or brass, and they mix air with water, so you feel a more forceful stream of water even though you’re using less. These powerful fixtures can cut your water usage at the sink by up to 50%. Therefore, it’s a must among the zero waste bathroom products.
c. Low-flow toilets
Eco-friendly commodes have been around since the early 90s, but over time they have gotten even more efficient with water usage. Because your toilet accounts for about 30% of the household water you use, consider investing in a low-flow, high-efficiency toilet that uses less than the standard 1.6 gallons. And if you get a dual flush toilet you can save even more.
I know this isn’t the cheapest of the zero waste bathroom products but it is a solid investment that can save you quite a bit over the long haul.
#2 Zero waste make up
A zero waste bathroom should encompass your personal care products, like makeup, brushes, creams, etc. While you’re looking for sustainable packaging that’s recyclable or biodegradable, you probably want to be on the lookout for non-toxic ingredients that are safe for both you and the environment.
These concepts are not new to the beauty industry, and the popularity of zero-waste makeup has been growing over the years, both among big-name brands and small, independently-owned businesses. So what can you buy in order to move towards a zero waste bathroom with sustainable cosmetics? Here are our top ways.
a. Shampoo and conditioner bars
Resembling bars of soap, shampoo and conditioner bars should come with eco-friendly packaging that’s plastic-free and avoids non-compostable items. And many of them are also free of toxins and other harmful ingredients.
I personally like Ethique and Trader Joe’s brands. But J.R. Liggett’s is another popular choice, and they also have shampoo for pets.
b. Reusable makeup applicators
Most store-bought applicators are disposable, and some are made with plastic or other harmful and unnecessary materials. All-natural, biodegradable, and vegan makeup sponges like those from ECOTOOLS are an excellent choice.
And when you’re ready to remove your makeup with some facial rounds, check out some washable makeup remover pads from Grenzla.
c. Zero waste moisturizers
I know of a few companies moving toward a zero-waste plan. But I want to highlight Ethique. They are taking it above and beyond by being a 100% plastic-free company, from packaging to shipping. And I LOVE the fact that they are also Certified Palm Oil Free.
Ethique pledges to offset their carbon emissions by 120% in a variety of ways. First, their offices are powered by 100% renewable energy, and they also plant a tree for every order.
In addition to moisturizer bars, they also have shampoo for different hair types, soap for different skin types, deodorant, shower storage containers, face scrubs and cleansers, and lip balm, making your move to a zero waste bathroom much more effortless.
d. Ethical cosmetics
Izzy Zero Waste Beauty is really forging a path through the zero-waste cosmetics industry. A Carbon Neutral Certified company, they currently have mascara, lip gloss, and brow gel to choose from. Everything is reusable and recyclable, from their makeup to their packaging. You should check them out if you’re serious about eliminating waste.
Another company that’s going above and beyond to be more ethical with packaging is Antonym cosmetics.
They are ECOCERT Certified, and their packaging is FSC Certified. They are also committed to using only all-natural and/or organic ingredients. Besides using beeswax in their lip balm, their makeup is vegan and cruelty-free.
P.S. Donate your wand to Wands for Wildlife when you’re done with that mascara tube.
When it comes to cosmetics, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to find these zero waste bathroom products both in stores and online. There’s really no reason the average person can’t make the switch, at least a little at a time.
#3 Zero waste lighting
The most obvious way to reduce waste through lighting in your bathroom is by using an LED bulb. But what if you want to go above and beyond?
Finding a company that specializes in sustainable bathroom lighting may be a bit of a challenge. Still, I found one with stunning vanity lights, and their business practices are entirely sustainable.
Bicycle Glass Company is by far the most “eye candy” of the zero waste bathroom products. Seriously! I never thought lighting fixtures would appeal to me this much. But here we are.
They use green business practices when making their eco-friendly lighting, all of which is hand-crafted from post-consumer, local recycled glass.
On top of that, they only ship with 100% recyclable materials, avoiding bubble wrap and the like. And they are striving to become carbon neutral by implementing renewable energy practices.
Every light you get is hand-blown, and LED bulbs are included with every order.
#4 Zero waste hygiene
Hygiene products are one of the most significant areas where waste can occur, and the environmental impact is enormous. Here are some small and simple zero waste bathroom products that are not only affordable, they’ll help you save money and hopefully make your life easier.
- Bidet. They come in various forms, from handheld & portable to pre-installed within the toilet seat. A good bidet can reduce your toilet paper usage by up to 75%.
- Recycled toilet paper. I know a lot of people will scoff at this one. But if you’re not into bidets and you still want to shift towards a zero waste bathroom, this is one of the ways to do it. I buy mine at Harris Teeter, and it’s a bit scratchy, but I’m a weirdo and prefer this to super soft toilet paper. There are other brands out there, and one in particular, Who Gives a Crap, has stellar reviews and is affordably priced.
- Menstrual cups. They’re ridiculously affordable, and you can save literally thousands of dollars over a lifetime of periods. Look for brands that are reusable, antimicrobial, plastic-free, and contain no harmful chemicals, like those from DivaCup or Saalt. Alternatively, choose an applicator free tampon, steering clear of those that contain titanium dioxide.
- Period Panties. I also like these leakproof period panties from Knix. They are reusable, washable, and OEKA-TEX certified free of PFAs and other harmful contaminants, making them awesome alternatives to pads and tampons.
- Toothbrushes. Sustainable toothbrushes made of bamboo, like those from Etee, are biodegradable and much more eco-friendly than plastic ones.
- Compostable trash bags. MUCH better than the alternative and reduces plastic waste.
- Rechargeable batteries. Use them in your electric razors, electric toothbrushes, etc.
- Eco-friendly deodorant. These should be plastic free and come with recyclable or compostable tubes. Companies like EcoRoots and Ethique operate their entire business model on sustainability, so they’d be good to check out.
Here are some things to avoid or to start shifting away from a little at a time:
- disposable razors
- plastic bottles
- traditional cotton swabs and Q-tips
- plastic brushes and combs
- chemical bathroom cleaners (see more below)
#5 Zero waste vanities and sinks
If you’re in the market for a new vanity or cabinets, and sustainability is high on your list, look for companies that use renewable and responsibly sourced materials. This means avoiding toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, and non-recyclable products.
Brands that have certifications, like FSC Certified and SFI-Certified wood, are usually a safe bet.
Longevity is also a concern, too. You want something that will last a long time, otherwise it isn’t really classified as “zero waste.”
Let’s look at one company in particular, Native Trails. They are a Certified B Corporation, focusing on “artisan crafted, eco-conscious furnishings and fixtures.” They use sustainable materials like reclaimed wood, recycled concrete & copper, and spun glass. This vanity below would look super chic in any zero waste bathroom.
#6 Zero waste cleaning products
If you’re ready to be done with all the clutter and plastic bottles under your sink, you’ll love diving into zero-waste cleaning products. The good news is that you can easily make your own. In the long run, you’ll save money, lower your exposure to chemicals, and help the planet.
Common DIY cleaners that promote a no-waste bathroom include a 1:1 ratio of distilled white vinegar and water as an all-purpose cleaner. For floors, mix about 1/2 cup vinegar to one gallon of warm water.
To get your sink and tub nice and clean, mix 1/2 tsp baking soda with several tbsp of eco-friendly soap, like Castile. Then add 1 tsp of vinegar at a time until the mixture is smooth enough to apply as a scrub.
And cleaning your toilets is pretty easy. Pour approximately 1/4 cup of borax into the bowl, followed by 1-2 cups of white vinegar (depending on how much water is in your commode). Let it sit for 1/2 hour then scrub with a brush and flush.
If your shower gets clogged, pour equal parts baking soda and vinegar down the drain–like 1/2 cup of soda followed by 1/2 cup white vinegar–plug the drain to hold down the bubbles, then let it sit for about an hour before rinsing with hot water.
Do NOT pour boiling water down sinks or shower drains, as this can melt any plastic rings that might be present.
Another tip: Apple cider vinegar on its own can clear up a mildew problem.
If you choose to purchase pre-made cleaning products, check out Etee. They have all plastic-free products, including toilet bowl, glass, and floor cleaners. And biodegradable, plant-based, or wood pulp sponges can be purchased from many local stores.
#7 Zero waste decor
Whether you’re going for the upscale look in your zero waste bathroom, or you’re all about a minimalist design, there are many ways to approach zero-waste decor in your bathroom.
- Replace plastic cups, storage bins, and hampers with natural wood like bamboo or wicker. Try to avoid products that have been treated or stained with harsh chemicals that can off-gas over time.
- I like the hampers from Swahili African Modern, and they are all handwoven and 100% sustainable and ethical.
- If you’re partial to over-the-toilet storage units, Mupater has one that’s non-toxic and made of bamboo.
- If you’re a candle junkie like me and my daughter, go with eco-friendly options like those from Hyggelight. They’re soy-based, vegan, pure wax candles, free of all chemicals and additives. And the candle pots are handmade, ceramic, and reusable as plant holders.
Zero Waste Bathroom – Some Final Thoughts
As you can see, there are a ton of creative ways to shift in the direction of a no-waste bathroom, and tons of affordable zero waste bathroom products out there that actually simplify your life. And some of these I would consider zero waste bathroom essentials.
It’s unrealistic to think we will ever achieve a 100% zero waste life as a whole, but if we all do our part to choose ethical brands, reduce our consumption, and recycle or upcycle when possible, we can make a positive impact over time.