Towards a plastic-free bathroom

Kate Soar shares her experience on how having an AirBnB helped her to switch her own bathroom to Zero Waste. Read now her story.

My journey to a plastic free bathroom began earlier this year.

I’d never really considered it before but in January I moved house and set up an Airbnb in my spare bedroom. I compiled my three years of know-how from working for a travel company and poured it all into one room and the en-suite bathroom.

One of the things they recommend you supply your guests with is soap and shampoo and I was like well, of course, it’s horrible when you turn up somewhere and there’s no soap.

The next worse thing to nothing was when they had the little plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom. I know they smell good and you can take them home but after a while they build up and end up in the bin and it’s so wasteful.

I always loved the hotels which had the big beautiful dispensers and the B&Bs where they’d done it in a really creative way with things made locally for you to help yourself to. 

I found a zero waste shop near our house where you could go and fill up your own container and discovered that they had some lush smelling things. Then I ordered some pump dispensers online – glass ones are really easy to come by – with a label maker so I could make cute labels for them.

The Airbnb reviews came flooding in… all positive, and one even especially referencing the excellent range of lovely smelling toiletries. *phew*

Then it dawned on me: why do I have this in my Airbnb but not in my own bathroom? Why do the Airbnb guests get fancy glass bottles while our shower’s still absolutely choc-full of ratty plastic ones?

Three people use our bathroom – one has greasy hair, one has dry hair, one has hardly any hair and so you end up with three varieties of shampoo. Plus all the odds and ends of bottles skulking in the back, the last few drops refusing to be squeezed out.

But I’d had enough.

I thought: this is ridiculous, it looks awful, plus how different can each one be anyway?

So I decided to give my own bathroom the Airbnb makeover. I told myself if I want my guests to use this stuff I have to be ok with using it too.

These days, when I go to shower I breathe a smug sigh – there are just three glass pump bottles there – body wash, shampoo, conditioner. It feels a little bit like being in a hotel (except it definitely doesn’t get cleaned as often!) and it smells divine.

I think there were three things stopping me from making the switch to plastic free bathroom.

First reason

I was attached to my own products which worked for ‘my’ type of skin/hair. I distrusted the eco-friendly ones and felt there was less choice available. 

For my hair, which is curly and has a tendency to get quite dry this was a big concern, but I’ve found it freeing taking more of a natural approach to what I use with it and have tried different things including an oil which I find stops the dryness better than my fancy conditioner from before. You might need to try different things and persevere. It’s also always nice to read the ingredients list of the eco-friendly brands and actually spot something you recognise.

Second reason

I thought it would end up being really expensive. And it did cost me a bit at the beginning to buy the bottles and make the switch but it’s so worth it once you’ve got past the initial outlay. I think a lot of the changes we make to a more sustainably conscious lifestyle look like they carry a big price tag but then a lot of those changes also simplify our lives and we end up buying less. Saving the planet’s not going to happen without some kind of cost and neither is feeling good about ourselves and the spaces we live in.

Third reason

I didn’t want to end up with more stuff. I think it’s important to make sure that the switch is a switch and not just adding extra products to your already crowded bathroom shelves. Think of it like a decluttering exercise, like transforming your bathroom into the dream hotel suite you always wanted to walk into.

It can be easy to believe that caring for our planet means somehow not caring for ourselves and our spaces, or giving up that thing that we really love (whether it’s our favourite brand of shampoo, clothes from our favourite fast fashion brand or our favourite chocolate) all in favour of a planet that is so big and beyond our specific immediate need. But I’ve found time and time again that caring for the planet = caring for me. Making good, ethical choices = surrounding myself with good things. Self-care and planet-care = the same thing really.

Have you discovered any great products or ways of reducing plastic waste in your bathroom? I’d love to hear your ideas and recommendations!

Kate has worked in travel and hospitality all her life and now does freelance communications and marketing for charities and start-ups. She’s an avid cook, writer and dabbler in all sorts of creative projects from fabric printing to making her own cosmetics. Since moving to Bristol, UK five years ago, Kate has been inspired to make creative changes to reduce waste, eat more consciously and live more sustainably. She loves the simple things in life, championing sustainable brands and discovering small ways to join in with the movement to better love and care for our planet. You can find her on Instagram @katesoar

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