Zero Waste Menstruation

Menstruation is one of those things that society is really uncomfortable talking about even though it happens to roughly 50% of the population and is a necessary part of our ability to continue as a species. Periods are at best a minor inconvenience and at their worst, they prevent young girls from accessing education or isolating them from a society because they are seen as “impure.” Periods can also wreak havoc on the planet because of the products we use to manage them. The average person will menstruate for 40 years and use approximately 20 tampons per cycle, a total of 9,600 tampons in a lifetime. Not only is that a lot of waste, it’s also a lot of money. Fortunately, there are a myriad of products on the market that will make your cycle easier on the planet and your wallet.

The closest I get to a tampon these days is this rad pin gifted to me by a friend.

1: Menstrual Cup

The Diva Cup has been my product of choice for over 4 years now and I don’t think I could ever turn back. At this point I’ve converted at least 4 friends to the Dive Cup life and chances are if you know someone that uses a menstrual cups you have heard how amazing they are. There are a number of menstrual products on the market, but they all function in the same basic way. You fold the cup and insert it and then can leave it in for up to 12 hours. Menstrual cups are made of medical grade silicone that is non-toxic and doesn’t come with the risk of toxic shock syndrome associated with tampons. A lot of people are put off by menstrual cups at first due to the lack of applicator and the removal process, but once you get the swing of things it’s not only a mess-free process it’s also a great way to become more comfortable with a reality of your body. To clean the cup between changes just wash it with warm water and an unscented soap like Dr. Bronner’s (you can just wipe it with toilet paper if you need to change it in a public restroom) and then boil it between cycles.Because you only need one cup, they particularly convenient for traveling and you don’t have to worry about running out of them during the day. Menstrual cups run for about $30 but can last up to 10 years if cared for properly, meaning they are a great zero waste swap. Want to learn more about the menstrual, there are tons of Safe-for-Work review videos on YouTube.

2: Reusable Pads

For people that aren’t fans of internal period products, reusable pads could make a great swap. Reusable pads are shaped like a traditional pad with wings but are typically made from some combination of cotton, fleece, and/or bamboo with a snap closure to keep them secure. I found quite a few people that sell reusable pads on Etsy, so they’re a great option if you want to support a small business (or you could make your own if you’re crafty). The care instructions varied across vendors, some indicated that they should be soaked in salty water until wash day and others said you could just wash them like any normal clothing item, so pay attention to the specific instructions from the vendor you choose. These are also supposed to last a year, but one drawback is that you would have to have quite a few on hand to get through a cycle and so they will end up generating waste when they need to be replaced.

3: Period Underwear

The brand Thinx comes to mind anytime I think about zero waste period products. Thinx are underwear that remove the need for an additional period product by combining them into the underwear. They make underwear in a variety of styles for different levels of flow as well as activewear gear. I couldn’t find information online about how long Thinx are supposed to last and they run from $24-$39 per pair so they could be an expensive option to use for your entire cycle, but they could be a good backup for the heaviest day.

Having a period doesn’t have to wreck havoc on the planet. It’s also not something we should be embarrassed to deal with or talk about. While it may seem like an icky zero waste swap at first, I’ve found that it is one of the best swaps I have made in my zero waste journey. Gone are the days when I have to rush to the store because I wasn’t prepared with disposable tampons on hand. Now, instead of dreading my period it’s just another fact of my zero waste life that is pretty unremarkable.

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Product Review: Safety Razor

One of my last swaps in moving towards a zero waste bathroom has been changing over from a plastic razor with disposable razor cartridges to a safety razor. I’ve been shaving my legs for a decade, meaning I’ve gone through hundreds of razor blades that have all ended up in the trash. Not only that, but women’s razor blades are ridiculously overpriced, with a 4-pack of my old razor blades running $16. Obviously, the most zero waste approach to shaving would be to forego shaving entirely, but that just isn’t my thing. So in an effort to shave money and reduce my waste, I ordered safety razor from Wowe. I ordered a razor with a bamboo handle that is both aesthetically pleasing and sustainable. I was particularly impressed with Wowe when my package arrived because everything was packaged in cardboard, proving their commitment to sustainability.

The thought of switching to a safety razor was a bit intimidating at first. I was used to a razor cartridge with multiple blades surrounded by moisture strips, not a single blade held in place by stainless steel. My experience, though, has been overwhelmingly positive! I would say the two biggest things to keep in mind with a safety razor is to go a littler slower and to 100% use a good shaving cream. I picked the D’Fluff shaving soap from LUSH and while I like it, I don’t think I’ll pick it up again since it’s $13.

Razor and D’Fluff ready to go!

In reading up about using a safety razor, I read a lot of comments about going with the weight of the razor. The description is a bit vague, but it totally makes sense when you have the razor in your hand and can feel the difference in weight from the razors we’re used to using today. The handle is definitely heavier and because of that weight, you don’t need to press as heavily on your skin when shaving. The single blade of a safety razor provides a much closer shave than the crappy razors sold by brands like Venus. This is supposed to be particularly great for people that suffer from ingrown hairs.

Taking apart your safety razor and letting it dry outside of the shower is key to good maintenance.

Safety razors require a little bit more upkeep than a regular razor to keep them in good condition. I store my razor out of my shower and disassemble the head after each use so that I can rinse off any hair and let it air dry. This helps maintain the life of each blade, saving money and reducing trash. I’ve been using the same blade for about a month and plan to replace it within the next few weeks. Individual razors run for about $0.20 a piece, much cheaper than a standard razor cartridge. I plan to keep old razors in a jar until I can dispose of them properly in a sharps container.

Overall, I’d highly recommend a safety razor! It’ll save you money, it’s great for the environment, and it just looks cool.

 

Product Review: Uncle Harry’s Brushing Soap

At this point, I’ve tried a few different toothpaste products in the effort to maintain good oral hygiene without throwing plastic tubes of conventional toothpaste. I made my own (which was no good) and also tried the Tooth Fairy tooth powder from LUSH. I didn’t love Tooth Fairy because it was a bit messy to use and didn’t last long enough to be worth the $9.95 price tag. So, on a recent trip to Whole Foods, I picked up the Uncle Harry’s Brushing Soap.

The bottle declares, “wash your mouth out with soap – literally!” True to the product description, the first ingredient in this brushing soap is Castile soap. Because of the Castile soap, the product does suds up quite well (which makes it feel like it works better than my DIY toothpaste, even though I’m sure it’s just the placebo effect).

 

I don’t know who Uncle Harry is, but he makes a good toothpaste.

The Brushing Soap comes in a glass jar (yay!) with a small plastic lid (a bit of a bummer but at better than a tube at least). I’ve repurposed a small plastic cosmetics spatula to scoop the soap onto my bamboo toothbrush, but the bottle says the antiseptic properties of the essential oils make it hygienic to dip your brush directly into the bottle.

 

I think my jar will last quite a long time, so at $6 a jar, I feel pretty good about my purchase. I might try adding some cinnamon essential oil to cut the soap taste, but other than that I’m really enjoying the product. UPDATE: I put a few drops of cinnamon oil on my toothbrush and basically burned my mouth. Probably best if dropped directly into jar then stirred to combine.

Pros: Made in Washington (so local to me), pretty sustainable packaging, feels effective, only need a little at a time, and leaves my mouth feeling clean.
Cons: Tastes like soap.

P.S. Uncle Harry’s has a 30% discount code on their website right now so if you want to try Tooth Soap, or any one of their other products, now is a great time to buy.

DIY Toothpaste: A Zero Waste Fail

A few weeks ago I ran out of my regular toothpaste and so I decided it was time to give DIY toothpaste a go. As I am still early on in my zero-waste journey, there are still plenty of leftovers from my old lifestyle that I am working my way through, like Q-Tips, conditioner, and floss. These everyday items are convenient, necessary, and have fewer zero-waste alternatives. The first of my “scary swaps” was toothpaste, and unfortunately, my first go at it was a bit of a fail.

There are a number of DIY toothpaste recipes floating around the internet, most of which involve baking soda, coconut oil, and essential oils. Some recipes also call for stevia powder to act as a sweetener, but since I don’t keep this on hand it seemed to be counterproductive to buy it just to make toothpaste.

I ended up using the following recipe for my toothpaste:

  • ~1/2 Cup of coconut oil
  • ~2 Tablespoons of baking soda
  • ~10 drops of cinnamon essential oil
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The base of what I had hoped would be a great DIY toothpaste.

The texture is a thick paste that is a bit grainy. I have mine stored in a glass jar and scoop it onto my bamboo toothbrush with my finger. Unfortunately, the toothpaste has not worked for me. I am not a huge fan of coconut so mixing that with baking soda is rather unpleasant. Coconut oil also turns liquid when warm (rather than lathering like a traditional toothpaste), so it can be a messy brushing experience. I wouldn’t say brushing my teeth was ever a fun activity for me, but when I was using this toothpaste it was something I actively dreaded. Not something you want as part of tour oral hygiene experience.

Fortunately, there are a number of purchasable options for low-waste toothpaste. I ended up back at Lush (which has quickly become my go-to store for package-free or low-waste products) and picked up the Tooth Fairy Tooth Powder, which comes in a recycled plastic container that can be returned to the store when I run out. I may also repurpose the container if I can find a DIY tooth powder recipe to make at home. To use the tooth powder, I just wet my brush, take some of the powder in my hands, and press it into the bristles. The powder also froths like a conventional toothpaste. I’m sure this is just a placebo effect, but it does make it feel like I’m actually cleaning my teeth.

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In the tooth powder vs. DIY paste competition, the powder is a clear winner.

This experience has taught me a couple of things.

  1. Not every swap will be easy or right the first time, but
  2. There are way more alternatives to conventionally packaged products than we might think.

I may give the DIY toothpaste another go, but for now, I’m happy to have a happy medium between conventional plastic and DIY.

 

 

Zero Waste Bathroom

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the ways that I am reducing waste in my kitchen. The other focal point in my zero-waste journey has been in my bathroom. I’ve been guilty in the past of being a bathroom product junkie, testing out different face masks, shampoos, and liquid body soaps in the hopes of finding the best in each category. I’ve also had a bad habit of not recycling in the bathroom. When bottles ran out I would simply toss them because I was too lazy to rinse them out and place them in the recycling bin mere feet away in the kitchen. I still have quite a few swaps to make in the bathroom (and one swap I will not be making) before I reach my desired goal, but I’m really happy with most of the swaps and they are easy enough for anyone to make.

1: Reusable cotton wipes

I wear makeup pretty much every day, including waterproof mascara, so it’s important that I am able to remove my makeup every night before bed. In the past, I’ve used cotton rounds you can buy at the drug store to take off my makeup, using multiple per day and going through many packs per year. I have a couple of reusable products in my collection, including some terrycloth face towels that remove makeup with only warm water (mine are a knockoff of the Makeup Eraser that I found at TJ Maxx) and a pack of microfiber squares. I don’t think both are necessary (I prefer the microfiber squares). Both options are machine washable and are going to be far more affordable in the long run over disposable cotton rounds.

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I’m still working through some single-use products (anyone know a good Q-tip alternative?) but these reusable cloths have been a great swap!

The one problem I foresee is when I want to remove nail polish. I can’t imagine nail polish remover would be gentle on my reusables, which is probably why I never see pictures of zero-wasters wearing nail polish.

2: Solid Everything!

I’ve already declared my love for solid deodorant but I found other solid products to love on that same LUSH trip. Solids are great since they’re often sold package-free or at least in cardboard that can be recycled more sustainably than plastic.

I picked up a bar of Fresh Farmacy, which has been a lovely solid face wash that is gentle on my skin. It doesn’t leave my skin as soft as my previous cleansing milk, but it works for my skin so I can’t complain. I’ve been using the Lullaby shampoo for a few months now (one bonus about solid shampoo, it lasts forever). I also made the switch back to solid soap a few months ago. I had been buying bar soap at Walgreens but recently picked up Sexy Peel from LUSH. I go through solid soap more quickly than liquid soap, but I’m happy to make the swap in order to reduce my waste. To avoid plastic packaging I buy the bars of soap individually so I don’t have to buy them all wrapped together in plastic.

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My trusty bar of T’eo and a face soap that will probably last long than the current President.

3: Bamboo Toothbrush

Oral hygiene is one area where I absolutely do not want to make sacrifices in order to be more environmentally friendly. Fortunately, I’ve found that the bamboo toothbrushes from Mother’s Vault have not been a compromise when it comes to keeping my teeth clean. The bristles are firmer than my previous toothbrush and my gums were a bit sensitive at first, but that has passed. The handle is compostable (though I believe I will need to use pliers to remove and recycle the bristles) so I can just toss it in my food waste bin once it’s done. I haven’t swapped floss, tooth paste, or mouth wash yet since I have all of those in stock, but I’d love to hear any zero-waste option other people use.

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I clearly buy toothpaste more often than needed. I’m planning on switching to a DIY alternative when these tubes are empty.

4: Menstrual Cup

I have been a menstrual cup convert for going on 4 years now and I can safely say I will never go back to conventional menstrual products. If you have a period, you know how frustrating it is to a) pay money to manage a biological process that isn’t pleasant and b) throw away menstrual products every month. Since switching to the Diva Cup, I have purchased exactly 3 boxes of tampons (all to donate to my local domestic violence shelter) meaning I have spent $0 on my own period since December of 2013. There are plenty of other sustainable options including menstrual underwear and reusable pads if a menstrual cup isn’t your thing.

The average period-haver uses 10,000 tampons in their life, that is a HUGE amount of waste and a TON of money. I think reusable menstrual products have an added bonus of encouraging us to talk about periods and removes some of the stigma around them. This is easily the swap I would reccommend the most.

One Swap I will not be making: Toilet Paper

I’ve had quite a few friends jokingly ask me if I’m going to keep using toilet paper, the answer is yes. I know that some zero-waste people use bidets, but this is an change I am just not interested in. I have a roommate that is supportive of my zero-waste goals, but going toilet paper free is a huge thing to ask of someone (especially since I don’t want to do it myself). Going toilet paper free would also be a huge inconvenience to any guests I may have. While I want to influence other people to use less waste, I am not going to force my choices on anyone.

I still haven’t found a perfect toilet paper option. There is a great looking company online that makes bamboo toilet paper, but since I don’t have secure package delivery at home I get packages delivered to work. I’m not sure I want to have a box of 48 rolls of toilet paper delivered to work that I then have to take home on the bus. I’m going to try buying more individual rolls and look to see what other options I may have online.

How do you reduce waste in your bathroom? And if you end up trying any of these swaps (or products I’ve mentioned in earlier posts) I’d love to know how they work for you!

Product Review: T’eo Deodorant

This may be a little more than you’d care to read, but I’m gonna be honest. I am a sweaty girl. I can put on a shirt when I get ready in the morning and by 9 am when I’m at work I’m keeping my arms as close to my body as possible because I can feel the pit stains forming. So a good antiperspirant is very important to me. A lot of people opt for “natural” deodorants because they don’t like the ingredients (like aluminum) in your typical drugstore deodorant. Not me, I would cover my pits in sheets of aluminum foil if it kept me dry all day. Now, thankfully, I don’t have to do that.

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My new best friend, a tiny, perfect, bar of deodorant.

I picked up the T’eo Deodorant on a trip to LUSH thisweekend. I’ve been finding myself buying more and more products from LUSH because they sell products in solid form or plastic jars that can be returned so they can reuse them. I didn’t go to LUSH anticipating that I would buy deodorant. But when I thought of my near-empty stick back home, and all the deodorant sticks I’ve thrown out since puberty, I figured it was time to give package free deodorant a shot. I opted for T’eo because it comes package free (unlike their deodorant powder) and for whatever reason Aromaco didn’t sound like it would pack enough punch.

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A mixture of ingredients like Sodium Bicarbonate and Cream of Tartar give T’eo its crumbly, solid texture.

The ingredients in T’eo are designed to combat the bacteria in sweat that makes it smell bad. The combination of tea tree, juniper berry, and lemongrass gives it a subtle, fresh scent that doesn’t overpower perfume or other scents you may wear. I have noticed though that it does leave a nice scent in my bathroom cabinet. To apply, I just rub the bar onto my fingers and then rub the powder it leaves behind onto my skin. The bar has a waxy bottom that I hold onto while I use the product, though I have noticed that this is already crumbling away a little bit. There are also some cute flowers imbedded into the top of the bar, but those didn’t last past the first use.

I’m happy to report that T’eo has worked perfectly for me! The timing was a bit fortuitous as it has been in the 80s in Tacoma this week (which is high for us) and I went on a long walk in the afternoon the first day I tested it out. Not only have I not experienced the “detox” from switching from a conventional deodorant that I’ve heard about, I think T’eo works better than any deodorant I’ve ever used. While T’eo isn’t marketed as an antiperspirant I haven’t noticed any excessive perspiration, or much sweat at all really. And, I haven’t gotten white marks all over my clothes as is so common with standard deodorant bars.

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Applying this much of the powder keeps me fresh all day!

T’eo is available for $10.95 from LUSH, which will get you 3.1 oz of product, or $3.53 per ounce. I use so little at a time that I imagine my current bar will last months, if not longer. This is slightly more than the $2.30 per ounce price of a deodorant I’ve previously purchased from Walgreens, but it is significantly cheaper than $8.24 per ounce for the Lavanila deodorant that is extremely popular from Sephora. Overall, I would definitely recommend T’eo to anyone, whether or not they are trying to live low-waste.  I am very to happy to have found a product that uses no packaging, doesn’t require that I experiment with any DIY recipes, and that doesn’t use aluminum (which may or may not be harmful to us).

Have you used T’eo and do you love it as much as I do? If not, what do you use to keep perspiration at bay?

Product Review: Reusable cutlery and straws

One of the most recent additions to my growing collection of sustainable products are a set of stainless steel straws and a 4 piece stainless steel cutlery set. These have been a great way to incorporate sustainability into my life that is about as easy as it gets. I bought the two items separately, but have gotten in the habit of keeping one of the straws in my bag so that I’m always prepared for a spur of the moment iced-coffee run.

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Everything I may need for a meal on the go!

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