I started transforming my bathroom about 5 years ago. That’s when I decided I wanted to live a greener life. And at that time making one small room entirely earth-friendly felt like a very achievable prospect. Some switches were easy. Others have taken more research and time. As you’ll see, there is still much room for improvement in my ethical and earth-friendly water closet.

So, what criteria means a green bathroom for me?

Whenever possible I’m aiming for the tools and products in it to be:

  • natural (not synthetic, not overly processed, not plastic)
  • free of pollutants
  • zero waste
  • organic
  • fair trade
  • sustainably sourced
  • animal cruelty free
  • available locally

This is a very tall order. Achieving all of these things in one item or product is often challenging and sometimes impossible. And it is still a work in progress for me. I’ve spent hours online and in stores looking at ingredient lists, reading “About Us” pages and diving into the details of product descriptions. Many times I’ve felt that I am a crazy person in pursuit of some unattainable and perhaps unnecessary goal. Ultimately, that feeling is the reason I started this blog and why I am writing this post. I’m hoping that my choices might make your search for sustainable and ethical bath products easier.

Below I’ve first detailed the changes I’ve already made in my bathroom to make it more earth-friendly. And below that I’ve listed the changes I still need to make. Hopefully this will give you some great ideas of where to start, or continue, as the case may be!

Shampoo

Bar soap. I switched a lot of my packaged bath products over to the most simple thing- naked bar soap. I typically buy Bar soap by Good from Whole Foods. These bars can be purchased package free there. They’re also made with natural ingredients which won’t pollute our water as they wash down the drain. They contain palm oil, but it is sustainably sourced, and a number of their ingredients are certified fair trade as well. I used to use shampoo bars, but eventually just switched to using the Good bars for my hair too because they were easier for me to find locally & zero-waste. And this solution is simple while checking all of the above boxes.

Conditioner

DIY from herbs purchased in the bulk/package-free section of my food co-op. I get my recipes from this amazing website. Sometimes if I don’t have the time to make it I go without. (Now that I’m not using super harsh shampoo anymore I don’t need conditioner as often.) Next time I purchase a new batch of herbs I’ll be looking for organic. Fortunately, my local co-ops are very conscious of where they source their products. I feel confident when I’m buying there that what I’m buying isn’t responsible for rain forest degradation, destruction of animal habitat, or inhumane work practices. Another simple solution that checks all the boxes.

Soap

Bar soap again. Also Bar soap by Good – the same ones mentioned above for shampoo. I’m also considering ordering some of these lovely soaps in bulk.

Razor

Safety razor. I used to use disposable razors. This switch took a little time for me to make because the razor was $40. I purchased that one from an online package free store that assured me it was sustainably sourced. I haven’t been able to find a link to it for this post, but I like the look of this razor.

Shaving Gel/Foam

Bar soap. Again. Bar soap by Good again too. Once my boyfriend runs out of his current shaving cream that he uses for his beard, we’ll probably replace it with this.

Bath Towels

Acquired secondhand or new in organic GOTS certified natural fiber. When we moved into our new house, we had a couple of older towels left, but most were purged in our move, so we needed new towels stat. I buy many, many things secondhand but nice towels have always been tough for me to find. So I opted to buy new, but intentionally. Organic fiber was my first requirement. I’ve recently learned that certain fertilizers are a huge threat to dolphins, manatees and other wildlife on the Florida coast, so buying organic has become high priority for me. I went with organic cotton towels from L.L. Bean. We only have two of these currently because we just don’t have the budget or space to buy more. (My partner and I are living in our own renovation at the moment.) L.L. Bean seems to be taking sustainability and fair worker conditions seriously. Check out their policies here and here. The towels are also GOTS certified.

Eventually I’d also like to purchase some of the absolutely beautiful towels made by Coyuchi. They are hard core about being fair trade, ethical and sustainable. I can even purchase them locally at a Philadelphia boutique. But they are also pricey, so my future dream towel acquisition will require much saving before splurging.

Bathrobe

Vintage, purchased used at Goodwill. I advocate buying secondhand whenever possible. I am in love with this bathrobe and regard it as one of my best thrift scores.  My bathrobe has one issue though- it’s made from polyester. I’ve only recently become aware that synthetic fabrics are polluting our water system. I am considering gradually switching all of our textiles over to natural materials, but honestly this concept feels overwhelming to me right now. It’s probably going to be a blog entry in 6 months.

Cotton Balls/Rounds

Reusable facial pads. I bought mine on Etsy. I didn’t buy organic cotton when I made this purchase years ago, but if I had to re-stock today I would.

Ear Swabs

Compostable. I confess that I do still use ear swabs and when I needed to buy some I went with The Humble Co. ear swabs. These are entirely natural and so I can compost them in my backyard tumbler. I’m not crazy about the fact that they’re made with conventional cotton. Additionally, the company doesn’t have anything on their website about where and how their products are manufactured. These are a definite improvement over traditional ear swabs though, which are made with plastic and are disposable, and are an easy switch to make. When I have finished with my massive quantity of these, in about 15 years, I’ll probably switch to something re-usable like these.

Facial Cleanser

Oil pulling. There are a bunch of great videos on Youtube about how to do oil pulling. I like it because the oil is totally natural, which means I’m not putting pollutants down the drain. I wasn’t thrilled when I discovered that my favorite facial scrub has plastic microbeads in it, and the list of crazy ingredients on the back of most chemical facial cleansers is a big red flag. So I switched over to this method. It’s very luxurious and feels like you’re giving yourself a spa treatment. I do this using organic hazelnut oil from Mountain Rose Herbs. I wish the bottle this comes in wasn’t disposable, but this is the best solution I’ve come up with yet. The silver lining is that I recently discovered a local glass recycling non-profit where I can take my bottles for legitimate re-use and repurposing. (Unlike some municipal recycling services unfortunately). I also wish I didn’t have to get these shipped to me, but as of yet I haven’t found a local oil purveyor that is sourcing their products responsibly.

Facial Toner

DIY solution of 1 part apple cider vinegar and 4 parts water. I find this to be refreshing and effective. I love it more than any commercially manufactured toner I’ve ever tried. The apple cider vinegar I’m able to purchase package-free from one of my local food co-ops and I actually just use water from my tap. Doing this means that I have to make a new, small batch every week or so, but it is super easy to throw together. Eventually I hope to build a water still in the backyard so that I can start using distilled water instead.

Facial Moisturizer

Natural oils. Currently I’m using Tamanu oil & rosehip seed oil from Mountain Rose Herbs. I’m also really wanting to try this Frankie + Rose facial oil from Lalin et La Siren. This is another case where the bottles I receive these oils in are disposable.  I recycle them through a local Philly non-profit that I was super excited to find out about. And sometimes I give them away on my neighborhood Buy Nothing group. But I would eventually love to find a zero-waste option. In terms of the oil itself being fair trade and cruelty free, Mountain Rose Herbs is very careful about how they source their products. This shows in the price tag of course. But one bottle lasts me a very long time- I’d say at least a year. I probably spent more replacing my drug-store moisturizers every few months. Additionally there are fossil fuels burned in shipping these items to me, as well as packaging. So I would be thrilled to eventually find a local store for responsibly sourced oils.

Facial Sunblock

Reef safe sunblock. Regular sunscreens typically contain ingredients like oxybenzone, which cause coral reef bleaching. Buying a reef-safe sunscreen helps to protect marine wildlife. I’m currently using one by Pipette, but I’m actually not crazy about this product for myself. It’s designed for children and so I find it to be too oily for my face. Plus it comes in plastic, disposable packaging. So when I’m ready to purchase a new one, I’ll check out this helpful list. Most on this list will probably be reef-safe as well, but I will double check that before purchase. Even better if they are making an effort to source ingredients that are animal cruelty free and fair trade. As mentioned above, I’d love to find one of these products at a local store so it doesn’t need to be shipped.

Body Lotion/Moisturizer

Olive oil. I purchase this package free at my local food co-op. It is also organic. Another very simple solution that checks every box. There are also some great body butter products at Shimirose.

Trash Can

Purchased used at a thrift store (it’s actually a silver wine bucket from Pottery Barn that I am also obsessed with).

Toilet Paper

100% recycled. Recycled toilet paper is a great entry level greener choice if you want to save money in addition to supporting recycling. I’m currently buying 100% recycled from Staples in bulk. This stuff is cheap- buying this once or twice a year has saved us a lot of money on toilet paper. The paper is rough though- for some a dealbreaker I know. It is bleached, so I will probably be switching away from this in the future, once I find something both recycled and unbleached. Even better if it is sustainably and ethically manufactured. When I do that, this looks like a good option: Reel. I also really want to get a bidet installed when we renovate our bathroom.

Shower curtain

Purchased used on eBay. I do eventually want to replace it with something that better suits our bathroom color scheme. I’ve been keeping an eye out at thrift stores and on Buy Nothing for a white one made of natural materials, but haven’t found anything yet. The old shower curtain will be thoroughly scrubbed and then offered as a give in my neighborhood Buy Nothing group.

Shower Liner

I don’t use one. PVC production is toxic, so this is something I’ve chosen to go without. I just wash the curtain regularly.

Switches I still want to make:

Toothpaste

I’m allergic to mint, which really limits my dental care options. I did find a mint-free charcoal tooth powder from Aquarian Bath, but I don’t love how messy it makes my bathroom sink. I tried to make myself use it anyway, but this just didn’t happen. For a while now I’ve been using Dr. Bronner’s cinnamon toothpaste, which comes in disposable tubes.  This tube is close to running out so I recently did a new search and discovered that there are now a few new mint-free eco-friendly options. I found this list on Sustainable Jungle to be incredibly helpful. I’m considering:


Bar Soap (again): I ran across this fascinating article that talks about why brushing your teeth with soap is good. I use bar soap for body wash, shampoo and shaving gel, so why not cleaning my teeth too? I love it when the answer I’m looking for is something so simple that it completely avoids additional consumption and saves me money too. Right now this is the option I’m going to pursue, because it literally checks all the boxes.

ButterMeUp Organics on Etsy: Very serious about their commitment to responsibly sourced materials and zero waste. I’m not crazy about the glass jar. I can recycle it, but would prefer to avoid consuming these. She offers an organic whitening toothpaste in orange.

Scent Cerae Tooth Nibs on Etsy: Made with natural and organic ingredients. Refills come in a compostable baggie so they are effectively zero waste. (I use a compost tumbler.) They don’t say anything about sourcing fair trade ingredients on the page. I might write her and ask because I’m torn between this and my other Etsy option. They offer several non-mint flavor options.

Good Soap Bars in White & Blue Bathroom

Toothbrush

My last couple of toothbrushes have been purchased in secondhand stores, but of course they are still disposable. So now I’m on the hunt for something long-lasting, sustainably produced and possibly compostable. I’m considering:


Preserve/Popi Toothbrush. Made from recycled ocean plastic. 25% of proceeds benefit organizations working to reduce ocean plastic pollution. Recyclable through the Popi mail in recycling program. I’m wondering about the impacts of manfacturing to create these plastic products and how it compares to the environmental impacts of bamboo toothbrush manufacturing. Right now I’m leaning toward this option because these are offered at my local Trader Joe’s. I don’t like to have daily use items shipped to me because of the greenhouse gases that I’m creating in doing so. So if I can buy a locally available product that’s making an effort to be sustainable, I much prefer that. I also just like that they are trying to clean up the plastic in the water.

Bite Bamboo Toothbrush. They state on their website where the bamboo is coming from, which I appreciate. The brush can be composted, so it’s effectively zero waste. The only downside is the shipping required to receive it.

Dirt Don’t Hurt Bamboo Toothbrush. The bristles are not biodegradable and would need to be thrown away, but the bamboo shaft can be put in our compost bin. They don’t say much on the site about how the bamboo is harvested and whether it’s sustainable. I need to learn about bamboo production and whether it is truly always an ethical alternative.

Dental Floss

This has also been difficult to find mint-free so I’ve continued buying the drug store kind. There are a couple of mint-free options for me, but only one is vegan. I’m not vegan, but I am a bit creeped out by how silk is produced and I’d like to avoid abusing the moth caterpillars. I’m considering:

Georganics: This is offered in a mint-free orange flavor. It is made with organic ingredients, is refillable, and is animal cruelty free and vegan because it’s made from corn, not cocoons.  They also say that they are committed to fair trade. I can’t tell from their website what kind of packaging the refills come in, but I’m hoping it will be compostable. I’m very fortunate that a Philly natural food store stocks this UK brand, so I’m hopeful that I can get it locally. Though it is still ultimately being shipped from the UK.

Well Earth Goods: Unflavored. Does have packaging, but this is made entirely from non-plastic recycled materials, and can be home composted which is a definite plus. They don’t say anything on their website about where they source their ingredients or whether they prioritize ethical production. Still a better alternative than buying drug store dental floss that comes in plastic.

By Humankind: Has cardamom & unflavored. They don’t mention if their ingredients are organic or ethically sourced, although they might be. Also, there is a disposable plastic spool in each refill, which reduces my plastic waste but doesn’t eliminate it.

Deodorant

I’ve used a bunch of natural deodorants that still left me stinky. My work as a photographer can be quite physical so I demand a lot from my deodorant. I’m currently using a natural stick that works well called Crystal. It does have the benefit of being natural and very long-lasting, but it’s packaged in plastic.

I found this version, called Biork Deo, which is basically the same thing, but packaged more sustainably. I have a compost tumbler so I can compost the cork that it comes in. The company seems pretty committed to sourcing sustainably and has a lot of info about that here and here. This is a pricey item, but it lasts for a very long time. I think the one I’m using now has lasted for over a year. This would also need to be shipped to me using fossil fuels, so I’ll probably buy a few at a time to try and offset the impact of the shipping. This product isn’t officially organic or fair trade, so I want to inquire with them and will update this when I do.

Make-Up

Very little of my make-up is currently sustainable. Sustainably minded make-up options are much more abundant now than they were when I started this journey 5 years ago. It’s very cool that so many zero-waste and mindful products have been created since then because of the demand for them. I haven’t needed to purchase much new in recent years, but I have bought a few totally non-sustainably minded products. So in the future, as each of these make-up products runs out, I’ll be researching & upgrading each item one at a time. I’m considering doing some DIY. So much can be made out of natural products which can be purchased in bulk package free, for example this bronzer. But I also really like what I see on the following sites, so I’ll be starting with them:

BLK + GRN

Dab Herb

Clean Faced Cosmetics

Bee You Organics

Water Consumption

The water usage in our bathroom is currently pretty standard. I will sometimes take showers with my plants but outside of that I haven’t done a lot to manage it’s use yet. This is mainly because we moved in just a month before the pandemic lockdown happened and I realized pretty quickly that I could not do every single thing I wanted to and also preserve my mental health. But as we move through our earth-friendly home renovation we will be installing:

Low-Flow Showerhead. I’m hoping to install one in the next year or two.

Low-Flow Sink Faucet. I’m hoping to install one of these in the next year or two too.

Water Efficient Toilet. I haven’t yet done a lot of research into alternative toilet options. I have a feeling it’s going to be a major rabbit hole, like all of the water management options in our bathroom. This section is probably also going to merit a separate post when we do get to it.

Bidet. I have used one when traveling and absolutely love it. I can’t wait to install one and cut out a ton of toilet paper use.

Gray Water Collection System. My ultimate goal here in the bathroom is to be able to collect shower water and reuse it in some fashion. Environmentally friendly building and infrastructure choices have thus far been really challenging on a budget, but we are managing to rise to the challenge. So I’m hopeful we will here too.

Medicine Cabinet

This is another super non-sustainable section of my bathroom. I have been learning more about herbal and natural remedies, but this has been a very gradual process for me. So far I’ve got a great concoction for cough and chest tightness- mullein leaf and marshmallow root tea. I’ve also started taking apple cider vinegar diluted in water when I have heartburn or an upset stomach. I’m surprised at how effective this has been for me, someone who was once very dependent on Pepto Bismal. I would like to find a good natural painkiller so that I can stop buying ibuprofen. And I’d love to come up with a reusable, waste free version of band-aids too. So this is definitely a work in progress. We use these things infrequently though, so I feel like the other switches I’ve already made in the bathroom have the most impact.

Bath Mats

These were purchased from Ollie’s ages ago. So not a sustainable or fair trade choice. Early on when I was making a ton of changes in my life to be more sustainable, it was overwhelming and expensive to do every single thing in an earth-friendly way. Our bath mats purchase was something that slipped through the cracks as a result of this.

As I’ve gotten further on in my sustainability journey I’ve become more particular about making any new purchase a green and ethical one. Even still, there’s always a push and pull between time, budget, need and want. I’ve talked about this a bit in this post. For now, we’ll just keep using the bath mats we have.

Ultimately I do want to update my bathroom decor, but this will be a slow process, and when I finally do purchase new bath mats, I’m probably going to go with BolĂ© Road Textiles. This company has a real focus on ethical and sustainable sourcing and handicraft, which translates to higher prices, so it’ll take me some time to save for this purchase too. But I do want my dollars to be supporting businesses like this, and it’s important to me to make thoughtful purchases of new items from time to time for this reason. If I end up needing to save more money on this purchase, I’ll look at what’s available secondhand on eBay and Poshmark.