I once wrote that my minimalist practice was not necessarily a step towards zero waste. Now, however, the longer I travle on this path towards curating a slower, more mindful life, the more I understand how “the less is more” and the “quality over quantity” mantras of minimalism also applies to choosing long-lasting, zero-waste products over one-time-use or discardable objects. After all, every time we need to go out and buy consumables, we partake in the consumerist mindset. Instead, by choosing to buy zero-waste products that can be used time and time again and be discarded, we avoid partaking in the consumerist, impulsive habits that mainstream society encourage. And thus, zero-waste can be a great addition to our practicing of minimalism.
Admittedly, turning around habits of buying disposables proposes a challenge. It’s, after all, due to some sort of idea of convenience that we have created a society focusing on mindless consumerism to begin with. It takes less thought and less maintaining to just buy in bulk and dispose of the waste that we create as we go along. Changing this mindset is obviously not done over night. However, the products that I finally took the plunge to ‘zero-waste’, as it were; I can’t believe I didn’t do them sooner.
The Safety Razor
Shaving my legs, I was always very aware of the waste my disposable plastic razors produced. Still, the convenience of them coming in bulk and being ‘ready to use out of package’ made them desirable. Or rather, that was the norm, the mainstream option, should one prefer manual razors as opposed to battery driven electric ones.
My curiosity was tickled when I heard of the safety razor. It tickled me the same way other kinds of ‘analog’ equipments (such as vinyl records, for example) tickled me; they told tales of times where quality of product and result was in center rather than efficiency and convenience; of times of craftsmanship and style. With their metal appearance and their removable, traditional blades, they seemed like the obvious choice if one wanted to up the quality and longitude of one’s razor.
Used to my disposables, however, I perceived the safety razor as a tool that would be very sharp and difficult to handle. After all, drawing blood with the disposable plastic razors I had was nearly impossible, but the safety razor seemed to be able to draw blood very easily. It didn’t help that all the blog posts I read about them stressed the need to be utmost careful when shaving with this kind of razor. Thus, I sat on the fence for quite some time.
I finally decided some time last year to put my words into action, and I purchased a safety razor and a packet of blades. It was reading an article on how the different kinds of blades had different kinds of sharpness that ultimately swayed me into this purchase. I could buy a duller blade and the risk of cutting myself would be less prominent! Who knew?
I think I put off my first leg shave quite a bit. What if it was harder than I though? Would I end up cutting myself on the blade? Using my shaving cream from Lush, my first shave turned out well. I made sure to apply the principle of not pressing the blade towards my skin, instead using the weight of the razor to do the job. I managed to complete the shave with no cutting, and I was also rewarded with the tightest shave ever.
Now, I’ve been using my safety razor for well over a year, and I love it! Do I still, from time to time miss the convenience of the disposable plastic razors? Sure! I shave my legs outside the shower now, instead of while in the shower, and I must apply shaving cream which I usually skipped prior.
However, this process allows me to practice a kind of mindful and more deliberate act of self care when I shave my legs, reminding me that not everything in life should be hasty and hurried. It allows me to take my time and to be present, while at the same time reducing my environmental foot print. It’s a win-win in my book, and I can’t believe I didn’t make the change sooner!
The Menstrual Cup
Ever since I got my period, my periods have been tiresome affairs. Of course, one gets used to it after a while, but with pads and tampons, there’s not getting around the fact that several times a day, one is faced with the bloody mess of it all. Tampons reduces this somewhat, but that mostly depended on how heavy the flow was this particular day. Of course, there was also the risk of infection when using tampons, and so pads was the safest options in most cases.
I think there’s an informational gap around what options women has in terms of sanitary products. Ever since the disposable pads and tampons came to marked, that’s been it. I don’t know when I first heard of the menstrual cup, but because of the limited information in the public eye about this product, I must admit that the menstrual cup sounded like something only hardcore flower-children and spiritual people were using. And if you didn’t quite identify with this culture, you’d think the menstrual cup was not for you.
After being part of the minimalist community for some time, however, the reusable menstrual cup in silicone somehow reappeared on my radar. But the mystery around this product was still a fact, and I hesitated to learn more about it.
It wasn’t until a very hot summer day and an invitation to go swimming combined with a pending period that I took the plunge. Because how would one go about preventing leakage to go swimming in the beginning of a period where tampons were off the table? Pads were obviously out, going without anything was out, and passing on the swimming invitation was also out. What kind of sanitary product could be used under these circumstances? The menstrual cup. Safe to use any time of the period, and great for use in water. So, to avoid turning down an invitation to go to the beach, I bought my first menstrual cup.
In full honesty, the first use was not the most pleasant of experiences. It was difficult to insert, and while the trip to the beach was a success because of this new purchase, the removal that following evening was also one for the books. I had no idea how to remove the cup, and managed to panic quite a bit, to be honest. Eventually, though, I realized that I could use my pelvic muscles to push it down, and then I was able to release the vacuum and take the cup out. At one point, I thought I had to let Chris help me take it out. Haha. Kind of glad it didn’t come to that.
I wasn’t ever going to use it again, due to my unpleasant first go at it. But, somehow I ended up using it again. And this time it got better. After all, I knew now that I could get it out and it’s all a matter of practice, right?
The first time I used it properly, I was amazed at the benefits of it. In addition to it being sustainable and zero-waste, it provided me with a whole new experience in terms of period management. I’d insert it in the morning, empty it at night, emptying and inserting it again the following morning and so forth. Consequently, the only times I ever had to confront my periods were two times a day. The rest of the time, it was a mess-free and pleasant experience.
And now? It’s all I ever use. I can’t imagine going back. If you’re hesitant to try it, I’ll encourage you to go ahead and give it ago. I mean, even with my lousy start, I managed to transition to it. Why shouldn’t you? Mess-free and stress free periods awaits, with sustainability and zero-waste to boot!
The Bamboo Toothbrush
I’m not sure if I have it in me to write a long anecdotal piece on the swapping to the bamboo toothbrush. It’s just one of the very natural, easy to perform swaps that don’t require too much consideration – it’s just one day in the supermarket, choosing the bamboo toothbrush option instead of the plastic one.
It was, however, a bit of a transitional period – a stretch, maybe seeing as it only took a couple of brushing sequences to get used to it. But, being used to the smooth surface of the plastic brush, initially it felt like brushing your mouth with a wooden plank. Odd sensation, to say the least. This sensation, however, quickly went away and now the bamboo toothbrush is as normal as anything.
It looks better, it feels better and is plastic-free, and is nothing to ponder. You could, of course, look into other plastic-free/low-waste toothbrushes should you wish. There are different ones in store, such as brushes made of recycled materials – you could take a look around and see what suits your needs.
The Soap and Shampoo Bar
As an aesthetically driven minimalist, transitioning to the soap and shampoo bar doesn’t just satisfy my desire to reduce plastic waste. It also satisfy my desire to visually unclutter my bathroom space.
The soap and shampoo bars allow me to choose natural, non-toxic products that come in little to no packaging. In addition, their ‘bare’ nature makes them an aesthetically pleasing object in my bathroom, relieving my visual space from plastic bottles full of text, colors and logos.
Buying my soaps from local stores, such as Neven, I’m also able to chose sustainable, Norwegian produced products and supporting small businesses. I believe they also ship internationally, should you be interested to try their organic products.
In an attempt to go water only (or acid only), I tried to ditch my shampoo once. I still do from time to time, but the shampoo bar paired with a white vinegar rinse proves to be a necessity at times when my hair just refuse to comply. The vinegar rinse seem essential, though, as without I often find shampoo residue stuck in my hair.
I’m sold on the soap and shampoo bars, though, and will not go back to plastic bottles any time soon.
There it is. The 4 zero-waste products I wish I had purchased sooner. With this in mind, I hope the next zero-waste options I think to begin using won’t be so hard to decide on.
What’s your favorite zero-waste products?