Sustainability is extremely glamorous for certain people. Those Amazon glass jars that our sustainable influencers are marketing, look so appealing (steer clear of shopping on Amazon, please!). There is nothing wrong in things that look pretty, minimal and clean but being mindful of our consumption as per our needs is the bigger challenge. So, Sustainable Bathroom, huh? Sounds not so glam right? Truth be told, our bathrooms are that neglected corner in the house that we do not like paying attention to. We often fail to notice expired creams and empty bottles lying around in some shelf or an old towel losing its existence in there (relatable? I know). To think about it, our bathrooms are probably the first few rooms that we enter into once we wake up. It is where we must ideally maintain the highest hygiene standard besides the kitchen. A sustainable bathroom is a real determinant of our actions!
So, were bathrooms always supposed to be like this or were they ever sustainable in the past? Formerly, chew sticks and cattle bone handled toothbrushes were in use. (not so vegan, eh?) Perfumes were associated with status and used to come in glass bottles. There was no concept of showers or shower gels, only soap bars and powdered shampoos were used. More or less, people, in particular, did not create much waste in the past but times have changed and we want quick and functional solutions. However, we live in a time where it is the need of the hour to think and work towards a sustainable future and starting that change from our bathrooms might seem like a challenge but honestly, it is a breeze and it is cheap!. Let's look at a few swaps which are definitely worth the effort.
Saying Bye-Bye to single-use bottles and welcoming reusable ones
Our bathrooms are filled with several bottles of shampoos, conditioners, serums, lotions etc. Every year tonnes of such bottles end up in landfills and contribute to plastic pollution. We can switch to steel refillable / reusable containers and bottles which might be priced more than the single-use bottles but refill packs bring down the average cost significantly over a period of time! This sustainable swap not only would help in producing less plastic waste but will also be economical and elegant. FYI, you can also upcycle your existing single use bottles and make them suitable for the long run by buying refill packs. (super cheap!)
Swapping shower gels/ liquid soaps with soap bars
Shower gels bottles are piling up in bathrooms and taking over as a prime household choice. Although, studies have shown that from cradle to gate, liquid soaps have led to more environmental degradation than soap bars. Liquid soaps come in plastic bottles whereas most soap bars are packaged in recyclable paper or cardboard which means that every liquid soap bottle adds 200 more years of plastic waste. In fact, liquid soap uses around 5 times more energy than soap bars from cradle-to-gate, and almost 20 times more energy in the packaging process - emphasizing the fact that this swap would also be a step towards energy conservation. Thus, shifting from shower gels to soap bars might not be a big change but it is an eco-friendly change. Soap bars cost way less than shower gels and are the perfect savings tool.
Choose reusable cloth pads! !
We speak about how the beauty, fashion and food industries create a massive amount of plastic waste but we easily avoid looking at the menstrual waste that is filling up the landfills.
People who menstruate, on an average, menstruate at least 450 times in their lifetime. A single menstruating person is responsible for at least 9000 disposable sanitary napkins or 18000 tampons in their lifetime. FYI, disposable sanitary napkins and tampons contain plastic and are packaged in plastic that takes 500 years to decompose. An eco-friendly alternative to them is menstrual cups and cloth pads. Menstrual cups made of medical-grade silicone, rubber & latex are reusable, durable and can last from 6 months to 10 years. On the other hand, cloth pads are washable, reusable and comfortable. Cloth pads are leak proof as well. One basic pack of cloth pads cost you 1200 INR with about 8 cloth pads. You can use these pads for as long as they last, usually five years.
Let us do the math, on an average person menstruates for about 40 years. The entire menstruating expense comes down to buying reusable cloth pads 8 times in an entire lifetime. Easy on the pocket and the environment, right? Encourage this shift now!
No more plastic toothbrushes, only bamboo toothbrushes!
Toothbrushes are the first thing we look for in the morning and the last thing at night. Every year, around 23 billion toothbrushes made of polypropylene plastic, end up in oceans and landfills worldwide, leaving a huge impact on marine life and carbon emissions. Recently, bamboo toothbrushes made headlines and have begun to be part of our shelves. Bamboo is biodegradable and even cultivation of bamboo is environmentally friendly as it requires less water to grow and no pesticides. On an average, a person uses 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime.
Instead of using plastic toothbrushes that take 100s of years to decompose, opt for bamboo toothbrushes, collectively increase its demand and push down its price! Yes, bamboo toothbrushes have a 10-20% markup compared to its plastic devil but in the future the prices may go down, simply because of your conscious buying! Stay tuned to buy your own bamboo toothbrushes at our Ema stores.
A basic slogan but a sustainable hack-save water!
All our lives we have been taught how water is a scarce resource and why it is important to save it. The most use of water inside our homes happens in the bathroom, for washing, flushing and bathing purposes. A 10 minute shower takes up to 17 gallons of water which is approximately 65 litres of water being drained every day.
Average shower length flow chart. Source: https://blog.constellation.com/2016/07/05/average-shower-length-flowchart/
No, we do not advocate skipping a shower but measures like installing water-efficient showerheads which fit fine with our tight budgets or a zero cost measure of using buckets to take bath, avoiding bathtubs and being mindful of the shower running can help us in reducing water wastage every day!
On average, 14 gallons of water (and in some cases upto 30 gallons) is drained every time we use the washing machine. Given this, it becomes intuitive that we should switch to either energy-conserving washing machines or front loads which are both light on power and water usage. However if such a shift would cost an arm or a leg, you can instead focus on small things like treating the stains on clothes (for example) by using stain removers before putting it in for washing as stains don’t really come out with one wash or trying to wash a full load of laundry instead of putting in 3-4 clothes on a daily basis - which are steps that also helps save a lot of water. Along with these, we can employ other small conscious efforts like closing the water tap while brushing & shaving, regularly checking up on leaks and using greywater in our gardens and all of the other examples that we have covered in our article, “5 simple ways to lead a more sustainable lifestyle”.
Saying Yes to Recyclable Toilet Paper !
We spoke about plastic waste, menstrual waste, industrial waste and now it is time to talk about paper waste that originates from our bathrooms. Worldwide, around 42 million tonnes of toilet paper are used which means around 712 million trees are cut to make toilet paper. Cutting down trees leads to deforestation which in turn results in soil erosion, loss of fauna in the area, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; all contributing towards global warming. On the other hand, the production of Recycled toilet paper requires less energy, water and does not cost us a tree as compared to a toilet paper roll made from timber. A simple change by using recycled toilet paper would help save so many trees and protect our environment. FYI, us Indians really love our jet sprays, quick and doesn’t waste much resources. (we won’t push it, okay?)
Pocket-friendly way of saving water with each flush
We use toilet flushes countless times a day and with each flush, 1.6 gallons of water is used which accounts for a lot of water consumption per person per week. There are many suggestions for conserving water by installing low-flush or low-flow toilets but not all of us are ready to invest in that yet. Another way of doing this is putting a bottle or a water pouch inside the flush tank which would occupy some space in there and with every flush, less water would be used. This is a very simple, zero cost, home hack that helps us save some water every time.
Using washable cotton/makeup removing pads
All of us are worried about single-use plastic and plastic pollution but what about single-use cotton pads which also have a detrimental effect on our environment? Mass Cotton farming in most cases requires a lot of pesticides and water and is subject to soil degradation and contamination. Using washable Cotton make-up removing pads not only help in living a sustainable lifestyle as we produce less waste behind us but also is economical in the long run as you can use the same cotton pad countless times before putting it up for recycling in place of single-use cotton pads which make their way to our shopping basket every month.
Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” To think of it, this quote could make the most difference in healing our relationship with the environment. We must try to understand and implement these small changes in our lives. We must realise that these “convenience creations” by humankind have not really worked in our favour. They are threatening our future. It's about making that small change and protecting it.
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