Still Using a Plastic Toothbrush? Try This Low-Waste Alternative

Ready to green-up your grooming routine? Swap out your old standbys with these eco-friendly alternatives.

Finding perfectly non-toxic and green personal care products is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack! The process of trial and error can result in a pile of unwanted stuff. My low-waste journey started in 2017. Today, as the founder of The Zero Waste Collective, my biggest piece of advice is to use up what you already have, then find replacements when needed. Once you’re ready to make the switch, here is a list of green personal care products to help you get a head start:

Toothbrush: Conventional toothbrushes are a source of plastic that’s filling our oceans and our landfills. So what are the alternatives? Bamboo toothbrushes, like those from Brush Naked, last just as long as a plastic toothbrush. Another way to reduce your waste is to opt for a toothbrush that includes a reusable handle with a replaceable toothbrush head.

Toothpaste: Many toothpaste tubes are made of a combination of plastic and aluminum, which makes them difficult to recycle. But not all toothpaste comes in a tube! Tooth powder sold in glass jars is one alternative. It is used much like normal toothpaste; simply wet your toothbrush, dip it in the powder, and brush. Toothpaste tabs, which you can crush in your mouth before you start brushing with a wet toothbrush, are also available from the brand Nelson Naturals, for example.

Floss: Instead of using plastic, some people opt for silk floss in a reusable glass jar or stainless-steel container. You can also get a water flosser (like Waterpik), which is endlessly reusable.

Razor: When I began to reduce my waste, I switched to a metal safety razor by Albatross Designs, which has a blade take-back program that upcycles the blades. I’ll never go back. I even find my metal safety razor offers a closer shave, too.

Toilet paper: One option is to use family cloth, which is exactly what it sounds like. Each family member has their own set of cotton washcloths to use for number one and number two. You need a sealed laundry bin for used cloths and must wash these cloths separately from other laundry, using hot water and eco-friendly bleach. Alternatively, you can opt for a bidet, which can significantly cut down on toilet paper use, or choose toilet paper made from recycled materials.

Shampoo and conditioner: I prefer shampoo and conditioner bars. If you want to go the refillable route, see if there’s a local bulk or zero-waste shop where you can bring an empty bottle to fill up on shampoo or conditioner.

Body wash and hand soap: I use bar soap for both. You can look into liquid refill options similar to those mentioned above for shampoo and conditioner. Another cool option is to buy concentrated mix that you combine with water in your own reusable hand-soap bottle.

Body and face lotion: One of my favourite solid lotion bars is made from beeswax; it’s smooth, smells nice and is perfect for travel. You can also get a glass jar refilled with body lotion. Looking for some DIYs? Check out the blog at The Zero Waste Collective!

Mouthwash: There are a few low-waste options for mouthwash, like getting it in a glass jar, finding refill stations locally and at zero-waste-dedicated shops, or getting concentrated tablets that you drop into water.

Deodorant: There are many deodorant options, but I often use Meow Meow Tweet, which is aluminum free. You can buy it in either a jar or a solid form that is packaged in a cardboard tube. There are also brands that offer a reusable tube that can be refilled. Simple as that!

Menstrual products: Swap out disposable pads for their reusable counterparts, like Mother-ease and leak-proof underwear. You can rinse reusables in a washing machine on a quick rinse cycle, then add in with towels or sheets to wash. Or, try a menstrual cup.

Makeup wipes, cotton balls/rounds: Go for reusable options! You can buy or sew (using an online tutorial) specialty makeup wipes and cotton rounds, or just use a face cloth.

Cotton swabs: There are both plastic-free and reusable alternatives to cotton swabs. There are reusable versions made by LastObject and NakedSwab, which come in a carrying case, making them easy to travel with.

Hairbrush: If you need a new one, opt for natural and renewable materials like wood and natural rubber that are sustainably sourced.

Tissues: I swapped these out for reusable and washable cotton hankies. I simply use them, toss them in the laundry, then wash them with my towels.

Tara McKenna is the founder of The Zero Waste Collective and author of Don’t Be Trashy: A Practical Guide to Living with Less Waste and More Joy.

From the book DON’T BE TRASHY: A Practical Guide to Living with Less Waste and More Joy by Tara McKenna. Copyright ©2021 by Tara McKenna. Published in the United States by Rodale Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

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Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada