For many, reducing, reusing, and recycling are becoming a way of life. But there's one area that's often overlooked when families start going green: bathrooms.
Bathrooms are often full of disposable items—cotton balls, paper towels, paper cups, and cotton swabs—usually destined to end up in landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans produce 258 million tons of trash every year with roughly 68 million tons coming from paper or paper-like products. Yikes!
Good news: it's easy to create an environmentally friendly bathroom by switching to a few earth-friendly alternatives to cotton balls, cleansing wipes, and other everyday products. Greening your bathroom is a marathon though, not a sprint, so start slowly. Here are four simple swaps that are both easy on your wallet and great for the planet.
1. Cleansing Pads
Reusable cleansing pads are one of the best alternatives to cotton balls. Start with an old, soft shirt or pillowcase. Opt for terrycloth or flannel—you can even use an old baby towel—and cut out ten, 3-inch by 3-inch squares. Stack two squares and stitch them together around three edges. Leave the fourth open, and turn it inside out so the seams are inside. Now, fold the last edge under and top-stitch to finish.
Use the pads with your favorite cleanser, toner, or eye makeup remover. You can even make another set for cleaning scrapes and cuts. When they get dirty, just put them in a mesh bag and toss them in the wash.
2. Nail Polish Remover Jar
Retire your last manicure without using heaps of cotton balls or tissues.
What you'll need:
- Small mason jar with lid
- Favorite nail polish remover
- 1 or 2 biodegradable sponges
Cut the sponges in half and tightly roll the pieces up, sushi style. Place each rolled section into the jar until it's packed full. Then, saturate them with polish remover. When you're ready to use, simply dip and twist your fingers in the sponges until the polish is removed.
3. Ear Cleaners
Ditch the swabs in favor of soft cotton strips from an old t-shirt to dry out your ears. Simply cut the shirt up into strips and keep them in a small mason jar to use as needed.
Avoid becoming overwhelmed by upgrading your beauty routine by degrees—you don't have to go green overnight. Choose, say, one product per month to swap and you'll be simplifying the transition for your whole family.
4. Step up Your Cleaning Game
We've covered your self-care regimen. Are there ways to green your cleaning routine in the loo, too? You bet!
When it comes to keeping your bathroom squeaky clean, it's tempting to rely on paper towels or cleaning wipes so you can toss the germs. But using items like microfiber cloths and biodegradable sponges are a better choice for a more environmentally friendly bathroom.
Wipe down counters, windows, and mirrors with microfiber cloths. They don't leave any fibers behind so they'll leave your surfaces sparkling. Sinks, tubs, toilets, and showers can be cleaned with biodegradable sponges. Look for ones that are made of 100 percent cellulose. They can be soaked in hydrogen peroxide to disinfect between uses.
Your cleaning products can also get an overhaul. According to the National Institutes of Health, many traditional cleaning products contain harmful chemicals like phthalates, which have been linked to reproductive and developmental issues in animals. More research needs to be conducted on phthalates, but consider these initial findings when you reach for your conventional cleaners.
Try making your own green cleaner with ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap. Add an essential oil, like lavender, to boost the antibacterial properties. The American College of Health Sciences, praises lavender essential oil for its deodorizing properties and states that it's an effective antibacterial agent, even against bacteria like streptococcus.
Try this easy, all-purpose cleaner:
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 tbsp. castile soap
- 20-30 drops lavender essential oil
Add mixture to a glass spray bottle, shake, and use as needed.
Transitioning to a green bathroom doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Choose one disposable item at a time and replace it with one of these eco-friendly alternatives. You'll reduce waste, save money, and keep your bathroom clean and fresh.
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Why It’s Good
The thought of going green can be overwhelming. But if you get started slowly, with the commitment to make one simple swap at a time, you get the benefit of momentum, and the good feeling that it's the small habitual changes that make the most difference.