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Simple Swaps for Students – Bathroom Edition

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Elissa Knowles introduces us to her go-to simple sustainable swaps for students!

Image Credit: Oana Cristina on Unsplash

As autumn term gets closer, all new and returning students alike will have a list of much-needed supplies to get ready for their new academic year – myself included! Whether it’s a prehistoric toothbrush in need of replacing or a restock of shampoo and conditioner, hopefully this guide to sustainable living will encourage you to consider a greener alternative. In saying that, I think we are all well acquainted with the difficulty that faces us when making those initial first steps to becoming more eco-friendly, but simple swaps are one of the best ways to get started! In this article, I’ll take you through some of the best, student friendly options from my own research and experience.

To start simply, I believe changing the toilet paper in your home is a good first step, as it imposes little change to your normal routine, when university life can feel hectic enough. As you may already know, toilet paper contributes to an unnecessary amount of deforestation that is already on a very large-scale, which only increases with the growing population. By clearing millions of acres of forest, not only are we removing the planet’s natural air-purifying solution, but we are also releasing many tons of CO2 back into the atmosphere.

Astonishingly, up to 37 gallons of water are used to create one single toilet roll, and the number of habitats lost for dozens of species around the world makes this process incredibly wasteful. So, an eco-friendly alternative is much needed, and has been brought forward by several companies; two of my favourites are: Naked Sprout or Who Gives a Crap. Naked Sprout is made of bamboo (easily renewable) and is said to emit 30% less carbon emissions than recycled paper and 65% less than regular brands. Overall, both companies manage to avoid many of the pitfalls that come with ordinary toilet paper – visit their websites for a full explanation of their eco-friendly approach.

Image credit: Antonia Devereux

Another easy swap I found making was replacing my plastic toothbrush with a bamboo replacement. Plastic-made brushes take up to 500 years to decompose, meaning that every toothbrush ever made is still in existence, and those that are degrading are creating micro-plastics that wash into our water system and oceans. Since the first toothbrush was made in the 1930s, and on average 4.7 billion toothbrushes are made each year, that’s over 400 billion toothbrushes still somewhere on our planet. An environmentally friendly option that is biodegradable is a bamboo toothbrush, which are easy to find as they are becoming so much more common. Two of my favourite sites include Peace With The Wild and Anything But Plastic. Plastic-free toothpaste tabs/paste and biodegradable floss can also be found on both these sites, which are swaps that contribute to a plastic-free bathroom and a guilt-free conscience.

Whether you’re getting ready for a big night-out or planning an all-day session at the library, we all need a reliable deodorant to keep us feeling fresh. I have recently swapped my deodorant as I felt like a change of fragrance and texture but can highly recommend both products. The Lush powder bar is incredibly powerful, long-lasting and completely waste-free, while the Wild deodorant cases and refills provide a range of fragrances and colour choices to personalise your experience, packaged in all recyclable materials. Not only are most deodorant brands harmful to your skin, but they are also incredibly damaging to the environment

Aerosols contribute majorly toward air pollution due to containing volatile organic compounds (VOC) while roll-on deodorant contains triclosan, which keeps body odour at bay, but threatens aquatic organisms once washed into our water systems. Both alternatives I have mentioned are organic and sustainably packed, so that neither the product nor the packaging damages our planet.

Image Credits: Elissa Knowles

Regardless of whether you’re hungover or tired from a day of studying, nothing improves my mood better than a long, hot shower and that feeling of being squeaky-clean. Unfortunately, many shower routines include a multitude of plastic bottles and harmful sulphates. Greener alternatives for shampoo, conditioner and body wash can be found at sites such as Friendly Soap or Little Eco Shop, to name just two of my favourites. Moreover, for those that choose to shave, sustainable razor and shaving cream alternatives can be found at Peace With the Wild, who offer a range of choice.

Finally, for my fellow menstruators, sustainable period products are a must when the impact everyday tampons and pads are having on the environment is devastating. With 90% of menstrual products containing plastic, and a possible 2 billion tampons being flushed down the toilet each year in the UK, these products are taking up to 1000 years to decompose. Fortunately, there are an array of sustainable alternatives to fit all shapes, sizes and preferences, which are also likely to save the average student a lot of money. Personally, a menstrual cup is my go-to product; after finding one that fits perfectly, I have saved an overwhelming amount of money over the space of just 2 years, as one cup will last you around a decade if cared for properly – OrganiCup is just one example. Of course, there are other options, such as a flex disc, period pants, free bleeding or eco-friendly made pads and tampons.

Whatever you choose to swap out, remember that putting pressure on those in power will always be more environmentally proactive and make the largest impact. Having conversations, educating one another on relevant politics, and voting, should always be a top priority for anyone who wishes to create a greener planet. We shouldn’t let larger companies, celebrities and politicians impose climate guilt upon us without first holding them accountable – they won’t be taking 5-minute showers either.

About the Author: Elissa Knowles is a third-year Psychology Student at the University of York, loves taking care of her many (many) plants and hopes to go into environmental journalism.

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