Choosing Sustainable Alternatives for Personal Care and Beauty Items

By Angela Tague in Thinking Sustainably

It's the end of a long day and you're winding down for bed. You grab a few cotton balls and drizzle them with jojoba oil to help wipe away your foundation and mascara. You feel good about using a natural makeup remover. But, then you start to wonder about those cotton balls as you toss them in the trash on top of yesterday's tissues, cotton swabs, and paper towels. You sigh as you realize: that's a lot of waste. Are there sustainable alternatives?

As you work on greening your routine, let's chat about the products you use to apply and remove your environmentally friendly skincare products like makeup and creams. Here's how to produce less landfill waste with your beauty routine.

hands holding a pile of cotton swabs

Environmental Impact of Disposable Personal Care Goods

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) measures the generation and type of waste in the United States. This helps it determine the success of its management programs and address waste management needs.

In 2018, Americans generated approximately 4.9 pounds of solid municipal waste (that's the stuff we toss in the trash can, compost pile, or recycle bin) daily per person. That's nearly 35 pounds every week!

When it comes to landfill composition, 18 percent is plastics—which includes the stick part of cotton swabs, eye makeup applicators, and other plastic-handled brushes. Paper and paperboard make up 12 percent of the waste in landfills. That could include facial tissues, cardboard cotton swab sticks, paper towels, and other paper goods.

By being a bit more mindful of how we choose and dispose of these products, we can reduce our impact on landfills.

compost bin outdoors with vegetables and soil

Better Ways to Dispose of Personal Care Goods

If you're like me, you likely have several of these disposable items on hand. As you use them and consider replacing them with sustainable alternatives, you can make better choices for the environment when it comes to disposal.

For example, did you know cotton balls can be composted? Recology, a west-coast business that promotes "a shift from traditional waste management to resource recovery" accepts compostable materials including cotton swabs, waxed cardboard (think cotton swab sticks), and cotton balls. If you have a compost pile, perhaps your single-use beauty products could be included? The only way to know is to give it a try and see if the items decompose along with your organic waste materials. (Worst case scenario, you may be diving into the yuck to pick out bits.)

Young woman applies a facial cream to her cheeks

Sustainable Alternatives to Consider

As you shift to choosing more reusable, sustainable personal care items, you can feel good about putting less in the trash.

For example, Napa Recycling and Waste Services in California suggests residents steer clear of cotton swabs made with plastic sticks altogether. Instead, choose options constructed from cardboard, which is compostable. This is a simple choice you can make when filling your shopping cart.

As you're becoming more aware of your contributions to the local landfill, you might try some of these other top tips for avoiding single-use personal care goods.

  1. Use bathroom washcloths instead of single-use, foil-packaged wipes to remove skincare products and makeup. Then, toss the cloths in the laundry basket to wash them before their next use.
  2. Apply makeup and skincare products with freshly washed fingers. I find that I can blend foundation, night creams, and eyeshadow better this way. I rarely use makeup wedges or applicators anymore!
  3. Invest in washable makeup pads, cotton swabs, and makeup applicators. If you rely on them daily, they can be a good investment. Choose items that can be recycled once their usefulness expires.
  4. Try new hygiene methods. The World Wildlife Federation in Australia suggests replacing the use of cotton swabs for ear cleaning with fluid ear washes. This helps to keep cotton swabs out of our oceans and away from curious wildlife.

What change can you make this week? Can you start adding used cotton balls to your compost bin? Or choosing washcloths over disposable wipes to remove makeup? Every decision to toss less in the trash and adopt sustainable alternatives decreases the negative impact on our beautiful environment.

Loving this topic? You might also enjoy "Your Guide to Choosing Eco-Friendly Bathroom Products" and "Eco-Friendly Bathroom Organization DIY Ideas."

Images source: Pexels | Pexels | Pexels | Pexels

The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.

Why It's Good

Embracing sustainable alternatives to your favorite personal care goods not only lessens your impact on the landfills in your community but also reduces environmental litter. Less waste being tossed in the garbage means fewer waterways tarnished by trash and fewer incidents of wildlife injured from plastic cotton swab sticks.