What's in my bathroom?

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Before I tell you about what’s in my bathroom, let’s clear up a few things.

There are about five million zero-waste bloggers out there. They are very amazing, smart, experienced, and insightful. Me? I’m just a normal person who started ‘practicing’ waste minimization and just started on my zero-waste ‘journey’ at the start of the year. I put those words in quotes because I don’t really like them. Reducing your waste is a journey and it takes practice, but the words make me feel like I’m trying to be someone I’m not - so it goes in quotes.

 

Before the start of the year, I would have described myself as someone who cares about the environment. I love hiking and nature, and I always made sure to leave no trace on my outdoor adventures. I am worried about the future of our environment, and I hate waste. I also used to think of myself as a minimalist. I feel much happier when I only have what I really need or what I really love. I enjoy decluttering and organising. I don’t like having a bunch of products or things I don’t really need. I thought I was someone who is pretty conscious about my purchases and who doesn’t have much stuff, whether it’s products or clothes or whatever.

 

Boy was I wrong. I had no idea about the negative impacts of my daily behaviour. I was just completely unaware that my little takeaway coffee was part of the problem. I had no idea there were so many alternatives, so many different ways of thinking. I just needed someone or something to point it out to me, explain it, give me a simple alternative, and normalise the alternative. For me, that someone or something was my job – kind of unavoidable when you work for a social enterprise focused on sustainability.

 

I feel embarrassed for my former self, but I also know Future Anna will be embarrassed for Current Anna because I certainly still have a long way to go. I am not an expert, I am far from perfect, and I don’t think I ever will be (I will always take long-haul flights to go home to see my family, for instance). But I have changed a lot of my habits in the past ten months. Some of the more obvious ones:

  • Before I buy anything, anything at all, I have a wee conversation with myself. Anna, why are you about to buy this? Do you want it? Do you need it? Why? Where did it come from? Where will it go?

  • I say no to single-use takeaway anything. I bring my reusable cup or container or I sit down and have my meal or coffee right then and there.

  • I bring my favourite Cactus bag with me everywhere I go, so I’m always prepared. It lets me say no thanks to bags because I can chuck whatever I’m buying into the ol’ backpack.

  • When I really need a new item of clothing, I pay more for a higher-quality, longer-lasting item made of sustainable materials.

  • I choose products packaged in glass over plastic whenever possible. If it’s not an option, I ask myself if I really need the plastic-packaged product. I usually don’t.

  • I only buy solid soap bars for hand soap, body soap, shampoo, conditioner, and face wash.

  • I dispose of my used oral care products at a nearby TerraCycle drop-off location, so they can be recycled and remade into new products.

  • I get my produce from the farmers’ market.

  • I eat way less meat, eating vegan or vegetarian 3-4 days a week.

  • I bought an urban composter for my apartment and bring it to the local community garden when it’s full.

 

This isn’t much, but for me, it’s a start. The problem: my previously purchased products haunt me like little plastic-covered ghosts! I admit that I am sometimes tempted to chuck all of those ugly items and replace them with beautiful glass, wooden, or bamboo alternatives – which is why I can’t stand going on social media and seeing all of these gorgeous, perfectly styled photos of zero-waste sustainable-living eco-friendly products. I may be a sucker for aesthetic, but I’m pretty sure throwing out all of my plastic crap is the opposite of going waste-free. So my mission today is to do an audit of what I’ve got – all of the ugly gross useless wasteful stuff that haunts me – and make a plan for when it’s all finally used up. I’m starting with the bathroom because starting small is the only way to do anything in my books. Except for eating cookies.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 

Cetaphil face cleanser: After I recycle the bottle, I can buy this same product again because it comes in a bar! I know Cetaphil isn’t all natural but I still like it.

Angel shampoo & conditioner: There are so many hair bar options out there, like Ethique, Lush, Fair & Square, Frankie Apothecary. Think the bottle can be recycled, and won’t have a problem replacing these bad boys. 

Hairbrush: Shoot. Really wish I hadn’t bought this but I will have to live with it! Sure, I’d love to upgrade to a swanky bamboo or wooden comb, but real life zero waste is about holding onto the stuff you already have, not about looking pretty.

Perfume bottle (big & little): I’ve had these for years and will keep for many more years to come. Glass bottle, so I’m not too upset.

Solid perfume: I never use this, but I will start using it instead of the others and once it’s done, will not replace! Don’t think the case is recyclable, so it goes to landfill. 

Box of flosspicks: I truly hate these (although they are very handy for flossing). I reuse the picks until the floss breaks (which is pretty often). To landfill sadly. Will not replace this product. But I will keep the box for storing things!

Retainer case & retainers: Have had these since I got my braces off. Will keep them with me forever (even though I never wear them…shhh).

Eyedrops (2): I have an artificial eye so these prescription eyedrops are a necessity. Does anyone know if the medical industry has any plans to source alternatives to plastic packaging and reduce its impact?  

Floss (3): Ugh freebies from the dentist. Will use these up and say no thanks in future. Will replace with eco floss in glass jar.

Toothbrush: Another freebie from the dentist. I’ll bring this to TerraCycle drop-off once it’s at the end of its life and look into a bamboo toothbrush. But first I want to check with my dentist that bamboo toothbrushes are good for my teeth because I’m a skeptic!

Moon cup: Hopefully will last me forever! Although to be honest, it doesn’t always work right, so I do need to invest in something like Thinx or Modibodi.

Moroccan oil conditioner: Put this one out of commission when I got the Angel shampoo & conditioner set (to solve some dandruff issues). Will use after the Angel is all gone, and then replace with solid conditioner bar.

Sukin face cleanser: Annoyingly bought this on a whim thinking it might be better than my tried and true Cetaphil. I was wrong, and now I’m paying for it! Will see if anyone wants it on OLIO and won’t replace.

Razor: Almost on its last legs and think it will go to landfill. My partner uses an electric razor which I think I will test out.

Sukin moisturizer: This is my daily moisturizer that has lasted me ages and comes in a glass jar. Happy, although I’d prefer a solid bar. Any recommendations for combination skin?

Hand & body cream: Took this from a hotel I stayed at last year. I never use it. Will check OLIO.

Face mask tester: This was given to me after I got a facial earlier this year.  I didn’t say no. Will use. 

Nail clippers & tweezers: probably forever items.

Rosehip oil: bought this because someone said it’s good for getting rid of wrinkles. Ha! I do use it (still thinking it will get rid of my wrinkles, it doesn’t) and it’s in a glass bottle so not too bad, but won’t replace. Wrinkles aren’t hurting anyone.

Tea tree oil: So handy and multi-purpose! It’s in a glass bottle so I’m not upset.

Concealer: Gah. I use a whole one of these tubes once a year but will look for a glass or bamboo alternative once this runs out. I wish I could say I didn’t need it but adult acne is no joke.

Toothpaste: I don’t trust toothpaste tabs (scared of dentist), so I buy regular old toothpaste tubes and bring the empties to TerraCycle to be reused.

Soap holder & hand soap: recently replaced empty soap pump, A+

Lip balm tin: aluminium tin so not the worst but I don’t really use lip balm so will not replace once it’s done. 

Lip balm: Dentist freebie that I’ll use up. Tube goes to landfill and I will say no thanks in future.

Face scrub bar: recently replaced St Ives scrub, A+

Body soap bar: recently replaced body wash pump, A+

Mini sunscreen (3): Dermatologist freebies. Will keep in my bag to use up but will never replace! Minis are the worst.

Vaseline-like products (4): Why do I have so much of this?! I do use it occasionally for random things, and I imagine I have enough of it to not worry about its replacement for a few years. 

Anti-itch cream (2): Got lots of sandfly bites once and went overboard. Handy to have in case of a bite and have lasted me for years.

Panadol (2): I’ve never thought about this until doing this audit, but do ANY companies sell pills that don’t come in the plastic aluminum blister packs? Is there a legitimate reason for not having all of the pills together in one glass bottle? Genuinely curious. 

Cough drops: May come in handy the next time I get a cold but sheesh that’s a lot of waste for something that can surely be relieved by a cup of tea and honey?!

Muscle tape (2): Does this stuff break down? Not sure. Handy to have for emergencies I guess but not really necessary. 

Sunscreen (5): Same as Vaseline. Oh dear.

  

Learnings & Actions:

  • Writing out the nitty gritty details of each product’s origin in my life and plan to dispose/replace makes me realize how much excess stuff I have.

  • I will say no to freebies, unless I really need it (I probably don’t).

  • I will get period-proof undies to avoid tampons when moon cup isn’t playing ball

  • I will research the impact of waste in the medical industry and what’s being done

  • I will remember that I have enough sunscreen and Vaseline to last me a lifetime (but at least it’s a lifetime of sun protection and no chafing, am I right?!)

  • My zero-waste products actually make me happier, look nicer, cost me less money, and last longer.

  • I’m not throwing ANYTHING away until it’s all been used up. Sucks because I’d love to be rid of it but going zero-waste isn’t as pretty as the Gram makes it out to be!

  • I don’t have deodorant…

 

I’m going to do another audit in six months and see where I’m at. Future Anna, please do not buy any more products until you run out (except deodorant?!), please use up all of the product that’s useful to you or find someone else who will use it, and please recycle any packaging that can be recycled. When and only when it’s time to replace, replace with zero-waste products wherever possible. Otherwise you will have to take it up with Current Anna and she can get real testy sometimes.

 

Have you ever done an audit on your products? How did it feel and what did you learn? Please share your tips and suggestions with us at hello@cogo.co.

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