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Zero waste : transform your toiletry bag

Posted on April 5 2020

Zero waste toiletry bag
Home > Live differently > Zero waste : transform your toiletry bag

Why completely review the contents of your toiletry bag? Because it’s an effective way of reducing your daily use of harmful products! It’s a small, simple step towards a more conscientious way of life, which will also save you lots of money and space.

Taking into account the purchase of tampons and sanitary towels alone, a woman spends, on average, nearly €4 000 throughout her life. This represents between 10 000 and 15 000 disposable products, which take 400, or even 450 years to break down… Not to mention the chemicals that they contain, packaging, plastic applicators, and the CO2 cost of their production and transport.

The same goes for deodorants, make-up removal wipes, cotton buds, soap, shampoo and toothpaste… In fact,  most basic hygiene products  necessitate a considerable production of plastic, CO2, and chemicals which endanger our health and harm the environment.

Yet it is easy to avoid them. Here are some ideas to reduce both your plastic usage and your cosmetics budget.

Replace sanitary products with a menstrual cup

First and foremost, the cup! Although it is often believed to be modern, it has actually existed for 80 years. However, unable to compete with tampons, it failed to establish itself on the international market. This was simply due to personal habits or lack of raw materials during the Second World War.

However, it has a huge number of advantages.

Most importantly, it’s reusable. No more used products thrown out in nature or flushed down the toilet. No more need either to worry about having a sanitary bin at your disposal; all you have to do is rinse it with water.

The €15 spent on this product will cover you for the next 10 or 15 years.

The €15 spent on this product will cover you for the next 10 or 15 years, which is tempting compared to the €4 000 average estimated lifetime expenditure for disposable hygiene products.

Many also appreciate the cup for its comfort, which is very practical while travelling. Another notable advantage – it takes up very little space. No more need to carry entire packets of products in your backpack.

It is also very efficient, respects the vaginal flora and can be worn during all activities, at night as well as during the day. In short, despite some possible initial practical difficulties, it will win you over very quickly!

Dump classic deodorants

Another product which is used every day, yet is harmful to both our health and the environment: the deodorant.

Two components can be singled out: parabens and aluminium salts. They are likely to increase the risk of breast cancer, recognised as the most commonly occurring cancer in women.

Furthermore, they cause a large amount of waste. The containers are generally made of steel or aluminium and can take between 50 and 200 years to break down if not placed in the recycling system, which is itself also an energy intensive process. Meanwhile the spray is composed of chemical materials to which propellant gases are added. These are highly flammable and likely to diminish air quality.

In short, it is no longer possible to go on using these products! In their place, different options are available to us:

• Natural products

There is an ever increasing amount of natural products available that are much better for our health. While these products might still promote the use of plastic, they have the advantage of  being made from more eco-friendly materials, sometimes even being produced organically.

• Alum stone

Using natural alum stone permits freedom from both chemicals and all kinds of containers. It also lasts a lot longer than classic deodorant. It takes up very little space and requires no preparation.

There is, however, a significant downside to alum stone because it is composed of… aluminium salts. To date, no real studies have been done about its use, but in any case it is strongly advised not to use it when armpits are irritated, such as after epilation or shaving.

• The « home made » deodorant

The best thing to do, which requires a little more preparation: make your own deodorant. There are all sorts of possibilities, using coconut oil, baking soda or essential oils. In this case, the containers are reusable and the products are natural, good for your health and environmentally friendly.

An Alum stone in the grass
Alum stone is a natural and effective deodorant.

Choose Marseille soap over shower gel.

Shower gel and shampoo also have a tendency to invade our bathrooms. A huge variety of these products exists, the most criticised being those containing microbeads. Justifiably so, their « massaging » or « exfoliating » properties come at a huge environmental cost. In fact, these particles are so tiny that they aren’t filtered by water treatment stations. Therefore they end up, in large quantities, in our waterways and seas, where they are likely to be swallowed by fish. This could cause the fish to die, or lead these materials to becoming part of the food chain… a veritable plague.

While some countries, such as the USA and Australia, have already decided to ban them, this does not seem so evident in Europe!

On another note, determining the « healthy side » of a product is a real headache. Many brands are trying to keep up with trends by highlighting their key ingredient. However, lavender, aloe vera or sweet almond typically only represent a tiny percentage of the overall formula.

• The advantages of soap bars

So, to avoid this surplus packaging and daily use of preservatives and colourants, why not go back to hard soap?

It can be used on your hair as well as your body! Gone are the days of having dozens of half empty bottles. You just need a small airtight container: very practical and easily transportable. What’s more, when you find yourself in the great outdoors, for example on a camping trip or on a boat, you can avoid directly polluting the ground or the sea.

The most popular are of course the famous Marseille soaps. Made of vegetable oils, they are completely biodegradable, good for your health, eco-friendly, and, last but not least, they are very affordable!

Many other types also exist. Organic, artisan, made by hot or cold processes…. However, remember to read the labels and check the products, because here as well, it is possible to end up with mass produced soaps made with added components that are not always as wholesome as they claim to be!

A truly black Marseille soap
Natural and biodegradable, real Marseille soap respects the environment and health.

Forget single use products: cotton buds and make-up removal wipes

Why use single-use products when you could do otherwise?

In the case of cotton buds, it’s very simple. All you have to do is replace them with an « oriculi ». This little metal ear-pick has so many advantages! It costs almost nothing (just a few euros) and lasts a lifetime. All you have to do is use a piece of paper to remove earwax and clean it with water and a little soap after use.

What’s more, it’s better for your health because blockages, which are often provoked by classic cotton buds, are avoided.

Incidentally, these should be banned by the EU – along with numerous other single-use plastics –between now and 2021. When we know that all these disposable products represent around 50% of marine waste, it is best not to wait until then!

The same goes for make-up removal wipes. Why burden yourself with packets of these when all you need are one or two washable cloths? They do the same job, and all you have to do is put them in the washing machine when they’re dirty – that’s it!

Contents of a zero-waste toilet bag: make-up remover cotton and oriculi
Make-up remover wipes and oriculi can considerably reduce the waste in your toilet bag.

Choose your toothbrush and toothpaste carefully

• No more « classic » toothbrushes!

In the ongoing pursuit of sophistication, an increasing number of toothbrushes are becoming electric. You can even find « connected » toothbrushes on the market which give highly technical information about brushing time, the surface to be covered or the pressure to be placed on your teeth.

Is it really necessary to use electronic components and power for such a simple task? At first glance, nothing really proves their superior efficiency relative to the  classic toothbrush…

However, non-electric toothbrushes are not beyond reproach. They are also composed of petroleum derivatives and can’t be recycled because of the different types of plastics that are mixed together. It is a sobering thought that nearly 5 million toothbrushes end up in the oceans every year.

Luckily, there are alternatives in place here as well; toothbrushes made of bamboo or wood with compostable handles. Or others with replaceable heads.

• Choose the right toothpaste

Toothpaste meanwhile poses the same problems as shower gel and shampoo: chemicals, plastic microbeads and large amounts of packaging.

For example, « ConsoGlobe » estimates that 4% of toothpaste is left in the tube, ultimately thrown away and therefore wasted: 2.2 kilos per second on a global level. That’s 70 000 tonnes of toothpaste lost each year without even mentioning the 3 000 tonnes of toothpaste tubes.

To avoid all this, we should turn our preference towards products that are better for our health and the environment. Organic toothpastes are composed of natural ingredients, which have been farmed organically. They often contain baking soda and can even be scented with essential oils or aromatic plant extracts.

They also exist in powder form. This allows you to use a small box which can be refilled as needed.

And plenty of other possibilities

By making these few changes, you’ll end up with less pollution linked to manufacturing, less packaging, fewer toxic products…. All while saving a significant amount!

There you have it. You’ll find yourself with a small toiletry bag; efficient and perfect for travelling!

So many other possibilities still exist! Organic make-up, metallic razors, make-up removal oil… In the bathroom as elsewhere, the most important thing is to be vigilant of what you are expected to consume. And very often, common sense rebels… really, it’s up to you!

To help give us new ideas, don’t hesitate to share your tips or thoughts!

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