Sustainable Bathroom – The Shower

The bathroom involves quite a few different specific areas. Like the shower, the toilet and the sink. This post looks at a more sustainable shower.

The whole room is washing things down the drain.  Water treatment plants cannot filter out all the chemicals we wash down the drain. So eventually they can end up in our waterways. So we need to consider just what chemicals and materials we are washing away.

As talked about in our Sustainable Laundry post, the things that go down our drains affect the environment.
New Zealand got rid of microbeads in our body wash and face scrubs, this was the epitome of washing microplastics down the drain. With so many natural alternatives, there is no excuse for missing this bathroom item.

These replacements can slowly be made as your plastic items run out. It is not exactly sustainable to throw away perfectly good to use products before they are finished just to shift to a more zero-waste or sustainable bathroom.

The Shower

Image credit to Domino.com

Shampoo

This is one switch my hair had some trouble adjusting to at first. Seeing as it has been dyed at least 3 times a year for 13 years, it is very chemical reliant to look healthy. I am now growing out my hair dye to stop using these chemicals and all the plastic they come in. In saying that, travelling with long hair meant I didn’t use any moose, hairspray or similar as I just couldn’t carry it all. This certainly helped to detox my hair and I use no after shower hair products.
My hair naturally frizzes but it’s very greasy at the roots and dry at the bottom. I don’t cut my hair very often (as I do it myself), so dry ends are just a part of that.

 

Cold Pressed Shampoo bars

Image credit to Dirty Hippe (this bar smells AMAZING!)

These are typically made by home crafters or even by yourself. They are packed full of natural oils and ingredients and have no sodium lauryl sulfate (the thing that makes the bubbles).
I tried these bar shampoo’s for a few weeks and unfortunately, they didn’t suit me as I have naturally very oily hair.
There is a detox phase for this kind of bar, normally two or so weeks where your scalp and hair adjusts to maintaining its own oils. To prevent the build-up of this kind of bar shampoo on your hair an apple cider vinegar can be used.
The great thing is, if the samples aren’t working for your hair, they are great for your body!

Synthetic Detergent Shampoo Bars

null | EthiqueBeauty | Gallery
Image credit to Ethique

So moving to another option where the shampoo bars are essentially the same as the bottled stuff but have no harsh stripping surfactants (like liquid does) and are waterless, the shampoo block.
Personally, this worked the best for me and are reported to work well for most people. I use Ethique St Clements bar as this is designed for oily hair. The brand is Vegan and uses no Palm Oil too!
There is no transition period for this kind of shampoo, as they are similar enough to the liquid kind.
I now only have to lightly shampoo around the roots, every day in Summer and every second day in Winter. No conditioner needed either! As I am only washing the roots, the natural hair oils help to hold down my frizz as I am not washing them away to just replace them with a heavy conditioner.

No ‘poo

There is also the no ‘poo option. Literally, no shampoo. A longer adjustment for your hair and scalp is needed. But if you are able to get your hair to this level, you can wash your hair with just water. There are many resources about this option available on the web.

Conclusion for shampoo

The trick to finding the best shampoo would be asking others for their recommendations, looking at reviews and maybe getting a sample pack to try different types.
The synthetic detergent type of block shampoo may seem expensive upfront, but it replaces 3 bottles of shampoo (in Winter this lasts me 5 months, in Summer about 3) so I only need about 3 blocks a year, and no conditioner. The Cold Pressed bars are even cheaper.
Approx. $66 a year for 3 (Ethique) bars, divided by 12 months is $7.33. I was spending about $12 nearly every month on plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner that contained palm oil.

Shampoo bars are great for travelling as well. No liquid to spill into all your other things!
You do need to keep them dry so they last longer, so I remove mine from the shower when not in use. 

Body wash vs Soap

Body wash is often in a plastic container with a plastic pump. Also, depending on the brand, tests on animals and is full of pretty bad chemicals.
Essentially, body wash uses sodium laureth sulphate and other chemicals to strip oils away from your skin and wash them down the drain.
You then get out of the shower and have to use moisturiser to help your dry skin (which you actually just caused by scrubbing your body). Also, what you use to scrub the body wash over you plays a part.

Image result for shower pouf
Something easy enough to replace

A plastic scrubber or pouffe can be easily replaced for a more sustainable option. These pouffes have to end up in a landfill (which may end up in the ocean), as they are not recyclable.
These can be replaced by a soap keeper or a flannel and for those exfoliating showers a jute body scrubber.

Soap saver and Jute Scrubber

Bar Soap

Switching to a bar soap is not only much more cost effective ($2 or $3 for bar soap vs $6 to $10 good quality body wash) but plastic free. I personally like the Only Good brand as it is palm oil free and available at supermarkets.

The bar soaps last quite some time in a soap saver, vs it being loose in the shower. I have found mine to last about 6 weeks. As with the shampoo bars, they need to dry out in between uses to last longer, they have a tie so they can drip dry in the shower.
A soap saver means there is no need for any pouffe or flannel. Visit our store to buy your own made by Essenjay Design.

Soap Saver bags

A more natural bathroom

All these bathroom replacements will mean that fewer chemicals are washed down the drain. With less suds from bottled products in the shower as well, there is less soap scum to clean!
We will talk about hot water and cleaning in other posts.

Sustainable Exterior

With Summer getting fully in swing, the Kiwi way of spending days and evenings outside begins. Either because it’s breezier and cooler than inside, you’re BBQ’ing, or having a cooling water fight, outside is the place to be in summer.

So how can we enjoy a sustainable outside experience?

The Garden

One great way to enjoy the outdoors is to grow your own vegetables. Summer is obviously the best season for this, as pretty much everything grows. I am not the possessor of a green thumb, but some things are hard to kill, even for me. As there is more than likely more sunshine than rain in summer (as there should be!) watering often and enough is often the leading cause of death.
To avoid plastic packaging at the supermarket, grow spinach, kale and pick lettuce. Cherry tomatoes are delicious to pick and eat straight from the plant. Rambling tomatoes require no staking, so are easy to grow.
Cucumbers and Courgettes go crazy and need to be frequently harvested.
Vegetables are great if you are renting too. As many things can grow well in raised vegetable beds.
I am in the Wairarapa, so our sunshine hours make it easy to grow many veggies. Tui has a great planting calendar to help guide your decisions.

The tomato plants are thriving!

The Pool

This is a tricky one. Ideally, a saltwater pool would help rid us of chemicals, but these require a bit of research and would be difficult in a pop-up pool as salt and plastic pools aren’t ideal.
Freshwater would be best, but this needs frequent replacing as algae grow with the higher temperatures. In summertime where there is a low supply of water, this is not possible (nor considerate to all the other people using the same water supply).
A balance of fresh water a little chlorine and a pool vacuum might be a good way to cool off sustainably.

The BBQ

This more comes down to the kind of food to use on your BBQ than the BBQing itself. There have been studies that show that when cooking meat the fat dripping onto the charcoal burns and becomes PAH-infused smoke which then coats the cooking food. This is as well as releasing pollution into the air (and your lungs). Propane (or LPG to us) BBQ’s are safer, but make sure you clean them!
Source sustainable meats meaning organic, free range and preferably local, unless you are vegetarian /vegan… then maybe a BBQ isn’t best for this kind of food.

Water Fight!

Now, this is something I can get on board with for a sustainable way. Sometimes a good old hose and a bucket are all that’s needed for some fun (water guns are always plastic and break easily). We had a bit too much fun in Thailand for Songkran, which is the Buddhist new year, which has been adapted into a country-wide water fight in their hottest month.
Back in NZ I still love a good water fight, which for tends to be an all adults battle.
If you are a water balloon fighter, rather than litter your lawn in non-biodegradable latex, you can opt for a reusable crochet water balloon.
Watch this space, we will be selling these soon!

Reusable Water Balloons coming soon to our store!

Sun safe

One serious issue we have in New Zealand is the sun. With no ozone layer, we need more protection than other countries. That old “Slip Slop Slap” campaign comes to mind. I prefer to stay in the shade where possible and avoid the sun at peak hours. But sometimes a simple stroll down the road, outside gardening or being in the pool can cause sunburn. A large hat and long sleeves may be the answer, but sometimes its just too hot for this!

With our countries high rates of melanoma, sunscreen is nothing to be skimped on. This is where being zero waste may not be easy, there are recipes to make your own and herbal brands, but some of these homemade options do not have a high enough SPF to protect us and they may not last in the water.

We don’t spend the summer just in our backyard but at the river, beach or in pretty much any body of water.
This is where our sun protection can actually cause harm to the environment. Even washing off sunscreen down the drain in the shower or sink can inadvertently get into our delicate ecosystem, like with the effects of our laundry room.

Biodegradable sunscreens are the best, as they will naturally protect you, but also break down in the environment.

Protect our coast! (Breaker Bay, Wellington)

There is a lot of information surrounding this issue. Parts of Mexico and now Hawaii has even banned sunscreens containing the two most harmful ingredients to the coral, oxybenzone and octinoxate. I hope NZ follows suit soon!

Healthpost stocks a range of natural ingredient sunscreens and has a good blog post on the subject.

There is so much more to being sustainable in the great outdoors, but this post is directed to the home exterior aspect.
Have a great Summer!

 

 

I am not affiliated with any of the outward links, I just find their information and/or products great!

Sustainable Laundry

Room by room, we can all make simple sustainable changes.
This post is for the laundry. A room in our house we all use, but can have a large environmental impact.

Image credit: Homes to Love

The Washing Machine

This is the machine that releases plastics into our waterways and also harmful detergents.
Your washing powder is a simple change. A biodegradable brand is not only better for the waterways, but also for your health, as you wear these clothes against your skin.
Choosing a plastic-free brand will help a transition to a zero waste lifestyle. Personally, I use Eco Store powder, but find it needs warm water to properly dissolve. Instead of fabric softener, I add a few drops of either lemongrass or tea tree essential oils to make the clothes smell fresh.

Microplastics have recently been making the news. One source of these is from our washing machines. The clothing we wear, which we wash, shed particles every wash. There are many different studies on just how much they release, it can be up to 250,000 microfibres from one piece of synthetic clothing every time it is washed.

A microscope image of microfibers released during the washing of polyester textiles. Credit to Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology

How can you change this?

Wear more natural materials, such as cotton, linen and wool. Yes, these materials can also have environmental problems, so aim for organic versions when possible. This doesn’t mean you need to throw out all your polyester, nylon, acrylic, microfibre and other synthetic clothing (most work uniforms are made from this!) as that would be adding plastic to the landfills. Just be conscious in your future clothing purchases.

Wash less. Yes, those smelling gym clothes definitely need a wash. But perhaps not your winter clothes every day, you’re not exactly sweating in them. Jeans can be folded and placed in a plastic container and put in the freezer overnight. The cold gets rid of unwanted smells.

Water from our washing machines goes into grey water waste. This is essentially all the water flushed down your drains that isn’t from the toilet. This goes to a treatment plant where most of the plastic fibres (about 60 to 90%) are filtered out, times that by how many garments, how many people and how many washes per day, an average town of 100,000 would release the equivalent of 15,000 plastic bags into the environment every day. This ends up in our waterways, which find their way to the ocean, which makes its way into our food chain. New research suggests that 80% of plastic pollution is unseen. As in microplastics, everywhere.

Image result for microplastics from washing machine
Sourced from Guppyfriend

What can you do to help prevent this?

There are many nifty inventions coming out after this awareness of microplastics made the news. The Guppyfriend is a bag used for your synthetic clothing in the washing machine. This gathers most of the shed fibres in the corners or the bag, you then wipe them out and throw in your landfill bin.
If you are in the market to purchase a new washing machine, top loaders are found to release 7 times the amount of the synthetic fibres than a front loader. Also, check their water rating to make sure they are efficient.
Hopefully washing machine manufactures can develop their own filtration systems in the near future too.

Image result for water rating sticker nz
Austraila and New Zealand water rating sticker

Reuse your water

Grey water can be reused. Depending on council regulations, you can install a system that takes your grey water waste into a tank and then disperses it over your lawn or reused to flush your toilet. You cannot reuse your kitchen grey water.
The greywater system is not to be used on any edible plants. Rainwater harvesting is much better for this.
Greywater recycling systems need a switch to divert the greywater directly into the drain rather than be reused, this is especially good if you are going to be using a drain for something you do not want on your lawn. There are not only council requirements but also building code requirements for a system such as this.

Sourced from Branz

What this all comes down to is that you should be very mindful of what you put down your drains. Toxic chemicals such as drain cleaner, bleach etc. should not be used in your home, but instead something more natural that you can actually inhale safely and like the microplastics, is not harmful to the environment that this eventually ends up in.

Tumble Dryer

We all see these as little energy suckers and I know in winter they are almost essential.

Drying clothing indoors

Drying your clothing inside on clothing racks has actually proven to pose a health risk. It adds moisture to the air with contributes to a damp home. Which, in Wellington means mould.
Sometimes there is nothing to be done about this, as you need to dry your washing and you have no covered outdoor space.
Consider a drying rack (popular in Europe, why aren’t they popular here?!) that you can use in your laundry, open the windows and shut the laundry door with a draft stopper beneath. They use a pulley system so they can stay up high and out of the way.
It would be possible to make one yourself.

Related image
Image courtesy of PullyMaid.

If you are looking at purchasing a new tumble dryer, there are thankfully much better options on the market that use less energy than conventional vented machines.
A Heat Pump tumble dryer is one such thing. This uses up to 50% less electricity than a condenser dryer.

 

In general, there can be minor changes you can make to your laundry room to make it more sustainable. A more environmentally friendly washing powder, maybe a Guppyfriend bag to stop releasing plastic into our waterways and reconsidering how we dry our clothes.

Major changes should only really happen if you have never owned a washing machine or tumble dryer before, they are broken and can be stripped for parts or repaired and sold, or are simply inefficient for you, but can be passed on to another person who cannot afford new.
I am not an advocate of getting rid of things simply because they are outdated.

I am not affliated with any outward links in this post, I just want to share information and hope people gain insight and knowledge from it.