Clean, Green Bathroom Routine


30 days ago, I joined Groundswell Community Project in a #NoPlasticNovember live-a-thon. The goal of the challenge was to get rid of one type of single-use plastic (or all plastic!) for the month of November and I decided to eliminate plastic-packaged bathroom toiletries.

It was a good place to start too, because I happened to have 80 of them lying around

The thing is, single-use plastics are killing our oceans. And the $432 billion dollar beauty and personal care products industry could really care less. Probably because every product we buy that's packaged in a single-use plastic is us voting for them to make more!

I used to not think that way. I used to pick up a plastic-packaged product and think, "Well. It's already made, so I might as well buy it, right? Also, what difference is one purchase by one person going to make?"

In fact, honestly? At one point, I used to not care at all. But now, after doing more research and watching documentaries like "A Plastic Ocean"on Netflix, I am heartbroken and ashamed. 

So I have officially started my plastic-free journey with a strong disclaimer: I don't claim to have the whole plastic-free thing totally figured out yet. I am simply committed to figuring out my personal approach and sharing that here in a way that's as personal and educational as possible. The last thing I want to do is come off as self-righteous or preachy... I have no right to be. And I'll share this all with the sincere hope that others will share their journeys with me in return or be inspired to try to reduce their own use of plastic. 

But, back to my bathroom. 

Giving up single-use plastic toiletries was a start, but it was only one step I took over the past month to make my bathroom a little more green and a little more zen in the process. And I did it all in four easy steps. 

A little pinched pot I made in pottery class that reads: "Go Surf"

Step 1: Assess the Plastic Elephant in the Room... Then Take a Deep Breath. 

Single-use plastic is a sneaky bitch. Most people probably don't even realize how exists in their homes. When I started this project, I decided to pull out every piece of plastic in my bathroom and after I compiled all 80 items, my first instinct was to dump them all straight into the trash or recycling and start my plastic-free lifestyle. 


I was so anxious to start with a clean, plastic-free slate that I almost missed the point entirely. So I reassessed my options, then did the following: 
  • Return The Products I Don't Need: I had literally bought a new shampoo and conditioner the day before, both packaged in single-use plastic, so I found the receipt and went to the store to return them.
  • Donate The Products That Are Still Good But That I Don't Want: In my neighborhood, we have a Facebook group where you can give products away that you don't want but that are still good to use. I put a couple of things on there and I asked friends if they wanted other things. 
  • Recycle the Products That Are Expired: I had a lot of products that were just sitting in my bathroom, gross and expired that I decided to get rid of, so I emptied the contents of the containers into the trash and then recycled the container.
  • Reuse Good Containers: There were a few bottles, pumps and containers that were in good shape once I discarded the products they contained, so I washed them out and saved them for buying from bulk dispensers later. 
  • Finish the Rest: There were a ton of things I wanted to use that were still good, so I set those aside to finish them. 
For someone with an all or nothing mentality, this was the first big hurdle: to realize that I didn't have to eliminate every speck of plastic all right away, right now. This is the first step in a lifelong journey that is not going to ever be perfect. I have to remind myself constantly that all that matters is that we try and get a little better each day. 

Step 2: Find Plastic-Free Alternatives That Work For You

This is not something that's going to be done in 30 days or less and I'll be writing about this a lot as time goes on. But here are a few suggestions for plastic-free swaps that I'm in the early stages of testing out: 
  • Swap Plastic Shower Curtain Liner for a Fabric One: This one's obviously not a toiletry, but it was the largest piece of single-use plastic in my bathroom... and I go through about one every four or five months. The one I had at the start of this challenge was getting crusty, so I took the opportunity to swap it out with a fabric one that I can easily wash if it starts to get gross. 
  • Swap Plastic Toothbrushes for Bamboo Ones: After researching a few brands, I decided to go with Brush with Bamboo, for their wild harvested, sustainable bamboo, plant-based wrapper, vegan bristles and compostable handle and packaging. 
  • Swap Gel Soaps, Body Wash and Hair Shampoo In Single-Use Dispensers for Bar Soap: You can make your own or buy some and request that no plastic be used in your packaging. I found a great family-owned company, Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve, that doesn't use any plastic packaging and makes great natural and organic hand soap, body wash and hair shampoo in bars.  
  • Swap Deodorant in Single-Use Plastic Containers for Deodorant in Cardboard or Glass Containers: This one will be something I tackle in a different post because the search for a good, natural deodorant that works for me and is not packaged in plastic is maddening. But right now, I'm using one from Chagrin Valley... only I'm apparently allergic to the baking soda. Sidenote: my specification that the deodorant be natural is not because I believe in the myth that aluminum in deodorants causes cancer (because it doesn't)
  • Swap Plastic Loofahs for Natural Fiber Loofahs: I ordered an Ayate Bath Scrubber from Chagrin, but I'm going to try a natural sponge next. 
  • Swap Face Wash with "Exfoliating Microbeads" for DIY Sugar or Coffee Scrub: Microbeads may actually be the worst plastic in our bathroom. Good news! There's an app called Beat the Microbead that can help you avoid them when you shop! As for my own trial and error efforts at homemade scrubs... those are coming to the blog soon. 
  • Swap Plastic Razors for Vintage Stainless Steel Safety Razors: I haven't braved this one myself just yet, but there are some great blog posts on how to buy an awesome vintage safety razor, like this one that recommends finding a Gillette Super Speed or this one or this one. I found a lot of great, "like-new" vintage razors on Etsy. I've got my eye on the Gillette Flare Tip Super Speeds made between 1955-1965. And most of them only cost between $10-30 bucks! 
  • Swap Hair Conditioner, Witch Hazel, and Other Products in Single-Use Packaging for Filling Them Up From Bulk Dispensers Into Reusable Containers: Yeah guys, I made it 31 years on this planet without knowing about refillable sections at the supermarket. If you don't live in a crunchy granola neighborhood like mine, you can do some research and find a refillable store near you or online.
  • Swap Cotton Makeup Removal Pads and Q Tips Packaged in Plastic for Reusable Linen Pads and Cotton Swabs Packaged in Cardboard: The linen pads are easier to find but finding non-plastic packaged Q Tips has been a challenge! Will update here if I find them. 
  • Swap Plastic-Packaged Feminine Products for Resusable Feminine Products: Also haven't fully committed to this switch yet. Still exploring the many options like Thinx and DivaCup. 
  • Swap Toothpaste in a Plastic Tube for DIY Toothpaste, Toothpaste in Glass Jars or Toothpaste in Aluminum Tubes: Right now I'm finishing my existing plastic packaged toothpaste before I explore other options. Someone who works for Crest gifted me a bunch of tubes a year or so ago and it'll be a while before I use them all up! 
Have any favorite plastic-free alternatives? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Step 3: Swap Out Your Shower Head and Sink Faucet With Water-Saving Options

I recently replaced our shower head and sink faucet with a low flow shower head and a faucet aerator. Yes, the shower head is plastic, but it's not single-use plastic and it helps to conserve water.

Step 4: Add Plants and Other Natural Accents

Because who doesn't need more plants in their life? This is the easiest way to make your bathroom feel clean, green and fresh. I bought a hanging plant for inside the shower, a small palm to go next to the sink and Spanish Moss to the top of the mirror. 

I'm also in the process of building a driftwood curtain rod and I've added some bamboo accents to the room as well. I can't wait to add even more!