November 26, 2010

Part Two: The Bathroom (A List of Methods for the Non-Disposable, Low Waste Life)

Welcome to part two. Be sure to check out Part One: The Kitchen and stay tuned for parts three and four.

The Non-Disposable, Low Waste Life - List of Methods
(This is the entire list in simple form.)

- make our food from scratch
- buy loose tea, bulk items, and no single serving sizes
- reusable, compostable, recyclable packaging
- no paper, no plastic flatware, little non-reusable food storage
- no non-stick or plastic cookware, dishes, etc.
- we don't buy water
- reusable grocery sacks
- compost and chickens

- no make up or deodorant
- cloth menstrual pads
- recycled and recyclable razors and toothbrushes
- pee wipes
- cloth shower curtain
- solid shampoo
- homemade soap
- vinegar rinse
- if it's yellow...
- no chemical cleaners
- buy hemp

- salvaged furniture
- no VOC paint
- lighting choices
- no synthetic clothing
- durable clothes and shoes
- mattresses and linens 

- bike
- combining trips in the car
- cloth ribbon, upcycled packaging
- paper and cardboard as garden mulch
- sew and mend
- soap
- grow food
- wash in cold, dry on the line
- limit air conditioner and heater use


  • No makeup or deodorant
Half of us don't wear deodorant. Neither of us wear makeup. I haven't done makeup since I tried it out for a year when I was 13. Not a fan. I do use lip balm and some lotion in the winter. Making both these things is on the to do list.

  • Cloth menstrual pads
Be still my heart! This is one of the best things I've ever done. Forget sustainable, their extraordinary comfort is reason enough to switch. I'm not sure how I survived summers in my hot humid area while still using plastic disposable pads. For those who use tampons there are natural sea sponges, the keeper, and various other styles of cups

  • Recycled and Recyclable Razors and Toothbrushes
I'd like to find a permanent alternative to the disposable razor but for the moment, this is the best I can do. The razors and toothbrushes are made from recycled plastic and you can send them back postage paid to be recycled again.

  • Pee Wipes!
Yes, I use cloth wipes for pee. Super comfortable. One day I hope to use them for poo but I'm not brave enough yet. I made them out of old flannel sheets but you can buy nice fancy ones. Urine is generally sterile so no need to worry about disease. The wipes wash up just fine in cold water. Other bloggers have had nice long discussions on this topic.

  • Cloth Shower Curtain
We bought a hemp shower curtain, which is more rot resistant than cotton, to replace the plastic sort. We don't use a plastic liner. I will admit that in our bathroom (which hasn't been remodeled since the house was built in 1962) without an exhaust fan and with as little air conditioning as we use, we are having problems with mildew and rot. Since we're about to remodel the bathroom and put in an exhaust fan I was planning to buy a few yards of the hemp this shower curtain was made out of, cut off the bottom of the curtain and replace it with fresh cloth. But then it occurred to me that in our situation it makes more sense to install a glass shower door while we're at it. If we lived somewhere drier or used the air conditioner more this would not be an issue.

  • Solid Shampoo
One of these days I'm going to get around to making some of this so I can totally control the ingredients. After all, your skin is very porous and in all that steam your pores are open and sucking up anything you use on your body. Solid shampoo not only eliminates packaging (I just put mine in my purse wrapped in paper when I buy some) but it requires less in the way of transportation costs (smaller volume means fewer trucks to carry it). Also on the shampoo note... I don't wash my hair every day and when I do I only wash the roots around my face where it gets particularly oily and, depending on the day, dirty. Since I stopped washing my hair every day it is more manageable and just more awesome. Some people are able to go no-poo. I keep trying but so far it hasn't worked for me. 

  • Vinegar Rinse
I have very very thick hair. It's wavy and easily tangles. I used to use a huge glob of conditioner each night just so I could brush it. But then I discovered vinegar. I'm not sure how much I end up using but recommendations are to use 1 Tbl vinegar to 1 cup water. Some people mix it in a spray bottle. I have a gallon jug of vinegar and a stainless steel cup in the shower. I pour some vinegar in the cup and fill the rest from the shower head then just pour it on my hair.

  • Homemade Soap
I figure any time I can make something rather than buy it I've saved packaging, fuel, probably industrial pollutants, and I'm just plain more self reliant. It's a nice feeling. Homemade soap is my newest thing. I'm about to start my first batch. In the past I've bought handmade soap from individuals, normally friends of mine (somehow I know a lot of soap makers). These are the two books I'm using for my soap making: Soap: Making It, Enjoying Itand The Complete Soapmaker

Soap: Making It, Enjoying It    The Complete Soapmaker: Tips, Techniques & Recipes For Luxurious Handmade Soaps

  • If It's Yellow, Let it Mellow
 One day we'll have composting toilets. At the moment we don't flush every time we pee. There is no answer to the question "how often should you flush?" You just have to experiment and see what works for you. The temperature of your house, how strong your urine smells, and personal preference will mean that different families will flush at different rates.

  • No Chemical Cleaners
We use elbow grease, Bon Ami scouring powder (which is feldspar... no bleach like other scouring powders), and vinegar to clean our bathroom. Same thing goes for the kitchen. Elbow grease gets a lot done. Scouring powder works very very well. Vinegar dissolves hard water deposits and works wonders on mirrors. 

  • Buy Hemp Linens
At the moment we're using 12 year old towels from college, some of which are so threadbare they hardly absorb water anymore. When we remodel the bathroom we're going to start replacing the towels with these hemp towels from Rawganique.

Hemp is an awesome plant. Nothing eats it so it doesn't need pesticides. It requires far less water than cotton and it's not as picky about the land it grows on so it doesn't use fertilizer. Hemp has a huge root system which improves the soil it grows in and its dense growth habit and huge leaves shade out other plants, thus no herbicide. It is stronger, more resistant to rot, and softer than cotton. Hemp was used for thousands of years for food, rope, cloth, and paper. It is frankly insane that industrial hemp is illegal to grow in the United States. So, in addition to writing your congressmen, buy hemp when you can. Hemp towels, hemp washcloths, hemp sheets, hemp paper. Hemp is good for the environment. Cotton is generally not. Even organic cotton is a seriously flawed crop. In large plantings it's hard to keep pests away without some sort of pesticide. Because of this it is often grown in very, very dry areas where the pests can't live. However cotton requires a lot of water to grow so aquifers are drained in dry ecosystems in order to irrigate organic cotton crops. The quality of the harvest (when harvested with a combine) is significantly effected by even minor weed contamination in the field so herbicides or excessive cultivation (resulting in soil loss) are used.

Hemp Horizons: The Comeback of the World's Most Promising Plant (The Real Goods Solar Living Book)

*I recommend Hemp Horizons by John W. Roulac for some good information on hemp.

*For more info on sustainable textiles check out this post.

Keep in mind, we've made a decision to be a one income household in order to have time and energy to do things the slow, sustainable way. For more on living deliberately and limiting income to limit consumption there are some books I recommend: The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living, Better Off : Flipping the Switch on Technology (P.S.), Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture

The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living   Better Off : Flipping the Switch on Technology (P.S.)   Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture


  1. Again, lots to think about. Many things that you mentioned we are doing. I love making soap. That is the only soap we use now. Also made laundry detergent from that & use it to hand wash dishes too. I use a combo of baking soda & cornstarch for a body powder & I am using a crystal deo. I have tried the no-poo thing but after 6+ months I had a terrible eczema flare up. I wasn't diluting the baking soda much or the ACV at all, so today I started that up again using them in diluted forms to see how that goes.

    For towels, I think we have enough towels to last us a life time. And I buy most of my clothes second hand.

    There are still so many things to do and try. On my list is sewing wipes, menstrual pads (need to find a pattern I think) and more clothes to sit by the sink (no paper towels)

    I am trying to grow as many herbs as I can. Also STILL trying to use up what is stockpiled in the cupboard. Switching to loose tea as I use up what we have. Also moving plastic containers OUT and glass in. Have used glass for a while now, but found out while trying to store Thanksgiving left overs that I really need more.

    Thanks again for the thought provoking post.
    Sincerely, Emily

  2. The first time I tried the vinegar hair rinse I didn't dilute it but poured a ton of it on my head and I was like, "this can not be right"! I nearly suffocated from the smell. So then I went back and read the posts on no-poo and things went better the second time.

    Buying second hand is a fantastic green option that I don't think I mentioned. Thanks for bringing it up.

    When you make laundry detergent... are you making a liquid or just using the grated soap? I've used the grated handmade soap method before and I think it worked well (I was working on a ranch at the time and my clothes were unbelievably dirty). Is there an advantage, do you think, to the liquid?

  3. So far I have only made the liquid kind. grating the soap, melting with water and washing soda and borax (will not use the borax next time). I like the liquid because I can just pick up the bottle and pour directly out into washer tray. Just used to liquid I guess. The first time I made it a few years ago I made it with fels naptha and the clothes seemed to get a bit dingy. Now I use my own soap and all is good. Everything gets hung on a line to dry. I imagine the grated version would be the same, just what ever you prefer to use. I don't like using grated in the front load washer tray, I don't think it gets dissolved as well, but could put it straight into the washer and skip the tray I would think.

  4. I think you got cut off in the paragraph about reusable menstral pads. Perhaps you were going to mention the diva cup?

  5. Ack! You're totally right... not sure what happened but I will fix that right now. Thanks for pointing it out! And yes, I was going to talk about the Diva Cup.