This story is part of Earth911’s “Green Eight” series, where we showcase eight ways to green your life in various areas.
One of the easiest steps to take toward more eco-conscious living is greening up those tasks you do every single day, such as your hygiene habits.
By incorporating these eight simple tips into your everyday health practices, not only will you be squeaky clean, but you’ll also have a consistently clean conscience when it comes to the environment, too.
1. Choose Greener Hygiene Products
It’s time to start reading the backs of your bottles. Some personal hygiene and beauty products contain harmful substances known to be skin irritants, poisons and even carcinogens. Choosing natural-ingredient products over those highly processed ones has many benefits.
First, the toxins will no longer be coming in contact with your body each day, and you’ll also be avoiding companies that produce excessive greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing.
So, which ingredients should you avoid and what products might contain them? In partnership with the Environmental Working Group, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has created Skin Deep, a searchable online database of cosmetics and personal care products where you can check your sunscreen, shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream and more for toxic ingredients.
2. Opt for Energy-Efficient Appliances
Being aware of how much electricity you use during your daily hygiene routine could help you make some cutbacks. Think about this the next time you’re in the market for a new electric razor, curling iron or hair roller set.
Most modern hair dryers use between 1,700 and 2,000 watts of electricity. If you use a hair dryer on a daily basis, switching to one with a lower wattage would not only use less power but ultimately save you a little cash on your electricity bill each month – making those additional five minutes in the morning worth it.
3. Conserve Water
You may not realize how much water you’re losing from that leaky sink faucet or shower head in the bathroom. Fixing leaks like this as soon as possible is important – a single faucet dripping once every second could waste more than 2,000 gallons of water over the course of a year. Or, why not go one step further by installing high-efficiency faucets and toilets?
Compared to their standard counterparts, high-efficiency bathroom sink faucets use 30 percent less water. Also, WaterSense-labeled toilets use 20 percent less water, and high-efficiency shower heads save 2.5 gallons per minute.
More things you can do to save water and power:
- Take shorter showers
- Take colder showers
- Turn the water off while brushing your teeth and shampooing your hair
4. Find Green Cleaning Alternatives
The next time you have to wipe down the bathroom counter and clean the mirror above the sink, opt for products with fewer chemicals.
Standard cleaning products can irritate allergies, cause headaches and make your eyes burn, so getting rid of them will not only improve your home’s air quality, but it could also improve your quality of life.
Standard cleaning products can not only be toxic to your skin and lungs, but they’re also considered hazardous when it comes to disposal.
The next time you need to throw out a half-empty bottle of traditional cleaning fluid, take it to a hazardous waste recycling center instead of tossing it in the trash.
5. Recycle Product Packaging
Sometimes we forget about the recycling that's outside of our kitchen wastebasket, but don't forget about the bathroom too! Much of the packaging for hygiene products can be recycled.
Try keeping small, separate waste baskets just for paper or cardboard and plastic in the bathroom to make the task of sorting easier. Also, the next time you go shopping for personal hygiene products, keep an eye out for items packaged in recycled or recyclable materials.
The production of packaging materials accounts for roughly 3 percent of the U.S.’s energy consumption, but it takes less energy to produce packaging from recycled materials than it does to begin processing the materials in their natural state.
6. Use Non-Toxic Towels and Shower Curtains
Green your bathroom by outfitting it with non-toxic towels and bath mats, as well as an eco-friendly shower curtain.
Towels made from 100-percent organic cotton are free of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, formaldehyde and other synthetic materials, and over time they won’t emit toxic fumes. Best yet, organic cotton towels are highly absorbent and breathe and wear well.
Consider getting a high-quality, 100-percent organic cotton or organic hemp shower curtain as a durable and mildew-resistant alternative to a standard toxic PVC or vinyl shower curtain. A curtain or liner made from responsibly-harvested bamboo would be even better, as bamboo wicks away moisture and is known to be more anti-microbial than cotton.
These types of shower curtains are great because they can be thrown in the washer and dryer along with your eco-friendly towels, guaranteeing water stains and mildew will never be a problem again.
7. Purchase Recycled Toilet Paper and Facial Tissues
They may be after-thoughts when it comes to determining how to green your hygiene routine, but don’t underestimate the impact of single-use items such as toilet paper and facial tissues.
According to Greenpeace’s “Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide,” American families could save more than 400,000 trees by replacing just one roll of their standard toilet paper with a roll of recycled-content toilet paper.
Switching to recycled, unscented toilet paper and facial tissues will also mean switching to products free of chemical fragrances and lotions, but if you find your nose gets dry, use the Skin Deep database to find a safe face lotion.
8. Ladies: Switch to Chemical-Free Feminine Hygiene Products
Eco-conscious women might be alarmed to discover that the vast majority of feminine hygiene products on the market contain chlorine-bleached cottons and harmful substances called dioxins, which the EPA has declared to likely be carcinogens. Artificial fragrances in these products can contain more unsafe chemicals, including phthalates, also considered by the EPA to be toxic.
But the problems with standard feminine hygiene products don’t stop there. Many applicators and adhesives are non-biodegradable. Purchase feminine hygiene products through a company like Seventh Generation, whose products are not only free of bleach and phthalates, but also come in paper or cardboard packaging.