9 totally free changes for a more zero waste bathroom
In light of week one of the zero waste shopping ban, which focuses on the bathroom, I’ve compiled some more (totally free) ideas. As easy as it is to focus on plastic bottles and straws, a huge amount of the harm we do to the environment is invisible, like depleting water systems, wasting electricity produced by burning fossil fuels, and consuming products we don’t need.
Let’s think beyond the bamboo toothbrush and talk about the equally important (and equally easy) changes we can make.
An oldie but a goodie, shorter showers are a must, especially if you live somewhere currently experiencing drought or water shortage. An unbelievably large amount of the US is experiencing drought or water shortage at any time. As of the first week of January 2019, there are an estimated 51,393,965 people living in drought areas domestically. Since you didn’t read that number, that’s fifty-one million, three hundred and ninety-three thousand, and nine hundred sixty-five people. It is estimated that shortening your shower by only two minutes could save ten gallons of water, not to mention save the electricity (most likely generated from the burning of fossil fuels) that is needed to heat those ten gallons of water.
Grey water is essentially clean water leftover from showers, washing machines and the like. While saving grey water isn’t always simple, one thing we can do is keep a container in our shower to collect some of the water. Save the water to manually flush the toilet or water some plants! I’m new to using grey water, but here are some more ideas of what to do.
Most of us have a trashcan in the bathroom, but if you still rely heavily on products like bottled shampoos, lotions, and hair care products, it may be worth considering a small bin for recycling in the bathroom. This way, as those products run out and you dispose of them, they are more likely to make it to the recycling bin. Keep in mind that recycling is imperfect, and that less than 10% of plastic is recycled, however, plastic that doesn’t even make it to the recycling bin is 100% not recycled.
Anybody else have the habit of running the bathroom fan for hours after they shower? While the exact amount of electricity pulled by running these fans constantly is difficult to know as they vary, it is recommended by the North Carolina Energy Office that fans not run constantly, especially at an industrial level due to cost and waste of energy. Once the steam is gone after your shower, flick the fan off.
Another tip you’ve already heard, the EPA claims that you can save up to 8 gallons of water a day by turning off the water when you brush your teeth. While the exact amount of water we all need a day varies by our size and activity level, FEMA suggests we all need at least a half gallon of water a day. This means just brushing our teeth with the water off could save enough water for sixteen people. Likewise, we can extend this to other activities, like turning the water off when shaving or after wetting hands to lather soap.
The actual location of your washing machine aside, it’s time we talk about laundry. Energy.gov claims that a hot wash could use up to 25 gallons of hot water. This is, clearly, a lot of water and a lot of energy is needed to heat it. When you do wash, be sure to wait for full loads of laundry and wash on cold or lukewarm when possible to cut energy use by more than half. Shorter cycles also usually include less water, so choose shorter cycles if the machine you use still gets everything clean.
Blow-drying isn’t great for our hair, and skipping it could save some electricity. Hair dryers, especially when run hot, can pull a lot of energy. Electricity costs vary by region, but if electricity were to cost 29 cents per KWH, drying your hair with a 1500 watt hairdryer would cost over $40 a year. It’s enough electricity to charge your smartphone 12,507 times (twelve thousand, five hundred and seven, since you didn’t read that either) and is the equivalent of burning 107 (bet you read that one) pounds of coal.
According to the New York Times, about a quarter of home electricity use comes from appliances that appear to be idle and draw electricity anyway. Even things that are off, including the television, kitchen appliances, and devices that are fully charged, can still draw electricity. Be sure to unplug hair irons and electric razors when not in-use or charging.
Buy and use less! We don’t need specific cleaning products for every surface in the home, and soap is soap; it doesn’t need to be more complicated. Using fewer products means less packaging and less time spent trying to find truly zero waste alternatives to products you don’t actually need.