Think about it: our toiletries and cleaning supplies come all nicely packaged in containers we throw away when we're finished with said products. Toothpaste comes in tubes, shampoo and conditioner in bottles, deodorant in special deodorant containers, lotion in pump dispensers or tubes, and dental floss in little plastic dispensers. That's a lot of package waste when you think about it.
Before you throw everything out and make all your own toiletries, here are some easier "start-up" ideas to consider:
- buy shampoo/other hair products and cleaning supplies in bulk at beauty supply stores/warehouse clubs; keep a user-friendly amount in an old regular-size bottle
- don't buy what you won't use (don't keep trying random face creams, lotions, etc. that will only sit in your medicine cabinet or get thrown away)
- recycle what you can: plastic bottles, boxes from toothpaste tubes, etc.
- reduce the number of products you use (for instance, my husband and I both use the same kind of shampoo/conditioner; we now use Simple Green for just about every cleaning need--and vinegar, baking soda, ammonia, etc. will clean just about anything! See here or here for a sampling of ideas/formulas--note that I haven't tested all of these out yet, but they sound promising)
- use biodegradable products when you can (shampoos, dish soap, and such will list "biodegradable formula" on the back--you'd be surprised how many mainstream products fall into this category)
- buy toilet paper that doesn't waste paper (we all know that there are quilted, cushiony brands and the more boring, efficient Scott tissue--which, as you might expect, we use because it's cheap and is very septic-tank friendly (we used to have a septic tank))
- cloth rags as opposed to paper towels (many stores sell cleaning rags; old t-shirts, baby blankets, and cloth diapers also make great multi-purpose rags. We, of course, use blue towels for any and all uses! We also keep a stash of baby wash cloths in the kitchen to wipe off grimy hands/faces after meal times.)
- feminine hygiene products: believe it or not, there are options out there from cloth pads to chlorine-free biodegradable tampons (actually, an insightful article on the various options was posted at Wisebread.com); you might at least consider staying away from plastic tampon applicators and the like (and I'm certainly not giving up my disposable products for cloth in this category any time soon!!)