Written by Joe G. Santos
Climate change has been the hottest topic of the past few decades. Despite hearing of all the horrible ways we are causing this global phenomenon, the effort to correct our environmental mistakes is still disproportionate to the time we have before the consequences aggravate even more. As the years go by, we keep observing unexpected fires, extinctions, floods, etc. Still, if you are reading this text, you are likely already very familiar with all of these events that seem to come directly from the Bible's Revelations. Watching all of that happen can be heartbreaking, and with the gravity of all these occurrences, we can often feel small and powerless. Although these feelings are valid and help us empathize with our unconditionally loving Mother Earth, they are no more than helpful illusions. This heartache is simply a tool used to motivate us to make a change. In truth, we bear so much power that it is often hard for us to comprehend it. When we accept the calling to use such force for our Earth's higher good, no corporation, individual, or catastrophe can stop us.
Now understandably, a few motivational sentences are not enough to convince anybody that they can start working towards healing our planet now. Online there is an ocean of information available on recycling, reducing waste, and minimizing our carbon footprint. Yet, as a little boat left stranded in the middle of the Pacific, it is hard to decide what first move to make to save us from our current situation. The possibilities are so vast that it can become paralyzing. In this text, we will narrow things down in the hopes of soothing the overwhelmed climate activist. We will look at something —hopefully— everybody has: a bathroom.
When we talk about making lifestyle modifications to appease climate change symptoms, the bathroom rarely ever takes the spotlight. Although unsurprising due to the amount of time we spend there, this overlooked room hides many ways to reduce our waste considerably. Below you will find different ways to make your bathroom a waste-free zone ranging from simple changes to more rewarding investments.
Practicing personal hygiene can be a wonderful ritual to get in touch with your soul's home. A good shower and a thorough skin routine help us manifest a sense of outer cleanliness essential to our well-being. Still, we are not truly clean if we are littering the Earth due to personal maintenance. The products we use on our daily hygienic routine are just as important as having the discipline to maintain it. Not only is excessive packaging a concern, but some ingredients present in sanitary products can also be harmful to both your body and the environment.
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of being environmentally conscious is attempting to reduce plastics usage. Today, almost everything we buy comes wrapped in layers of plastic. When it comes to personal care products, the frequency we consume them due to their place in our routines generates a copious amount of garbage. However, upon some inspection, a few items found in every bathroom either do not need packaging or have a reusable packaging alternative.
Everyone loves the smell of a nice shower gel, especially if it is a new seasonal scent that your favorite brand has never released before. As exciting as this experience can be, we must remember that most shower gels' plastic containers are not biodegradable. However, this should not deprive us of having the experience of smelling good and having newly hydrated skin. If the shower gel brand you currently use does not supply refills, you may consider switching to an alternative zero-waste option. If you would like to keep the same scent, you could think of switching to bar soap. Many companies provide their scents in both bar and gel form, so there might just be a very easy compromise.
In many countries, toothpaste tubes are not recyclable due to inadequate recycling systems. Commonly, papers, plastics, and glasses are only recyclable if they are exempt from any residue. So it is always good practice to wash your recyclables before tossing it in the bin. Unfortunately, cleaning the inside of a toothpaste tube is borderline impossible, leaving many of it to waste. Still, today it is not uncommon to see a few brands switching to glass containers that are slightly better for the environment. If you want to be completely zero-waste, however, you have a few more options. A few companies are taking a step forward that provides chewable zero-waste toothpaste. With a quick google search, you will indeed find an option that suits your needs. Alternatively, you can also try out a DIY toothpaste recipe.
Moreover, for those who are perhaps wary of making their own herbal toothpaste, a study led by Ramamurthy Shanmugapriya concludes that natural toothpaste is not as inferior to commercial toothpaste as you might think. Although his research does indicate that the herbal toothpaste isn't as good at fighting plaque, ever so slightly, compared to the commercial alternative, it is hypothesized that this fact is linked to fluoride being a prominent active ingredient in most commercial toothpaste. For those who prefer to avoid fluoride, that should not be a problem, however.
This bathroom item got a lot of attention this year with all the afeared hoarders depleting many supermarket stocks. However, an important question is revealed if you were one of the few people (such as the writer of this article) who have had to live without toilet paper for a few days.
Is toilet paper even a necessity?
Kerry L. Bridle's hypothesis on the breakdown of hygiene paper products (toilet paper, tissues, and tampons) enlightens us on how slow the decomposition process is—even for paper products. After burying the products mentioned earlier and observing the decomposition process for two years, the results were unsatisfactory. Considering how routinely the worldwide use of these products has become over the years, the garbage keeps piling up, while the paper is not decomposing fast enough. With that in mind, what is a viable alternative?
Bidets have been around since the 1600s, but the gadget has only really become prevalent in Japan, the Middle East, and a few other countries. The idea of swapping toilet paper for bidets can be a little strange to some. Yet, before the Chinese invented the toilet paper we are familiar with today, it was not uncommon for people to use water and other organic materials instead of paper. Understandably, going back to past practices might seem like a regression to primitivity, but the numbers do not lie. Just America alone uses, on average, 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper per year. To cater to such an abysmal number, toilet paper companies need to use an equally alarming amount of resources. 36.5 billion rolls equal to the deforestation of 15 million trees and about 1 trillion gallons of water per year. This much water would be enough to dry out Lake Powell in nearly three years. Contrastingly, if every American swapped from toilet paper for a bidet and used the bathroom three times a day on average, we would only require 4.7 billion gallons of water per year. To illustrate how that affects our previous example, Lake Powell would take approximately 638 years to dry out. Now that would be progress.
When we switched from only using organic materials to a mix of organic and synthesized compounds, we consequently disrupted many ecosystems not used to deal with such chemicals. The only way to fix these issues is to be mindful of what substances you are using in your daily hygiene routine. Remember, you vote with your money. If you want a product to be terminated, you simply must not buy it. Not only is your body one of these ecosystems subject to disturbances, but you are also part of a bigger ecosystem that—as we already know—is under a lot of stress. Below you will find a few of these ingredients.
BHA (or butylated hydroxyanisole) is a common additive present in some soaps and exfoliants. This chemical aims to aid in the purging of dead skin cells and excess sebum. Although skin irritation is a problem some people face when using products containing this active ingredient, that is not the most concerning fact about it.
When BHA reaches water bodies, it can disturb many organisms, but perhaps the most concerning is Vibrio Fischeri. BHA appears to affect the bioluminescence of this bacteria. Although Vibrio does not seem to perish directly due to the exposure to the chemical, a loss in bioluminescence disables their camouflage mechanism. Additionally, numerous other sea life species such as the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid that live in symbiosis with the bacteria could also face adverse effects.
Palm oil is perhaps one of the ingredients most harmful to the environment at the moment and the hardest to avoid. This ingredient is present in many different items ranging from food to personal care products, and for that, it had to make it into this list. However, the reason why it does it is not due to toxicology. Since palm oil is in so many different products, the demand for it is colossal. People are consuming the vegetable at such a high rate that companies have turned to awful practices such a child-labor, land burning, and the use of glyphosate, a potent herbicide known to affect untargeted plants and highly toxic to amphibians. A paper by Kanokwan Saswattecha links the production of palm oil to global warming, ozone formation, acidification, and human toxicity.
Phthalates are generally used as a plastic softener to make materials more flexible. Additionally, it is also used in many personal care products to control viscosity and overall texture, including but not exclusive to soft soaps, hair products, and perfumes. Like palm oil's environmental impact, phthalates have become threatening due to the wide range of uses the chemical has. Perhaps the synthetic substance we come into daily contact with the most, the ester in invasive to both our air and water. The substance is also linked to in utero male animal fertility issues, leaving babies the most vulnerable through breast milk contamination.
Even though this article's primary goal was to narrow things down and make taking action more accessible, the first move is unambiguously difficult. Especially when the world's fate is at our hands, it is elementary to want simple solutions. Unfortunately, that is not the case. We must celebrate that we even have the opportunity to turn things around. It is a great privilege to be one of the heroes who will surely save our planet. If you are ever feeling overwhelmed and impotent, please also do remember that you are not the only one who has to make lifestyle changes and that you are not alone doing it either. With that said, you also should be wary of trying to fix all of our problems at once. We are all in this together, and the things you cannot do, someone will. To conclude, thank you for being a hero and fighting for our planet.
About the author: Joe G. Santos
Writer, Thinker, and Visionary. Through writing, I aim to clarify the most pressing questions about human behavior and world issues, pointing to practical resolutions in an entertaining and accessible manner. You can find my work and contact me at https://www.joegwriting.com/.
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