Words: Vicki Ravlich-Horan | Photography: Ashlee deCaires

The bathroom flies under the radar where plastic waste is concerned, yet after the kitchen it is possibly the biggest source of waste. Having a look at the contents of your rubbish bin will give you ideas of where you could start making changes. Creating a system in your bathroom, similar to in your kitchen, is a great start to reducing waste. This means having a recycling and compost bin in the bathroom—making it easy to do the right thing.

Compost bin in the bathroom? Yep, hair, nail clippings, tissues and unbleached cotton balls, bamboo toothbrushes (without the bristles), bamboo cotton buds can all be composted!*

Once you have the bins sorted, slowly replace products as you run out. Make one change, get used to that and then tackle another. Here are 5 ideas on where to start with less waste alternatives.

  1. Make up or baby wipes – When flushed these cause a huge problem for our sewerage and waste water systems. Save money, reduce the chemicals you apply to your skin and reduce waste by using a good old-fashioned flannel. Flannels can also be used in place of cotton balls and pads.

It takes up to 100 years for a single make-up/baby wipe to decompose. Given that these were created back in the 1950s and commercialised in the 70s, it means that every make-up/baby wipe ever created still exists.

  1. Razors – We toss out about 2 billion razors every year. Switch plastic disposable ones to a reusable version.
  2. Dental Floss – You can find plastic free floss sold in refillable glass dispensers from stores like The Herbal Dispensary in Raglan or online.
  3. Menstrual Products Move away from synthetic based pads or plastic wrapped tampons with alternatives such as the menstrual cup, menstrual pants or washable pads.
  4. Refuse the samples – Everyone loves getting a freebie, but those little sample bottles or hotel toiletries are just an example of excessive waste. Pack your own package-free toiletries when you travel. 

*Double check the content of each product to determine compostablility and if these need to be commercially or home composted.

Raising the Bar

Shampoo and conditioner bottles account for about 80 billion bottles per year according to Ethique.com. Give a package-free brand a go or try to make your own.

In the past two decades we have moved from bars of soap to all manner of packaged products. The convenience of flowing soap to wash our hands or body wash in the shower means more plastic waste being created. The solution is surprisingly simple. You can make your own flowing soap and body wash, saving you money and the excess plastic packaging.

Flowing Soap

One bar of soap which costs between $1–$2.50 will yield 3–4 litres of flowing soap. Flowing soap cost between $1–$2 per 100mls, which means you are saving about $30 making your own.

You will need a large jar to store the soap in plus a dispenser. You can re-use a plastic one or there are a number of glass soap dispensers now available.

1 bar of soap
12–14 cups of water

Grate the soap into a large pot. Add the water and gently heat, stirring until the soap dissolves. Allow the mixture to cool completely (preferably overnight) then stir well to check you have the right consistency, this will vary depending on the size and type of soap. If still thick reheat with more water.

Optional extra step – for a super smooth consistency blend the final soap mixture. A kitchen blender or immersion stick blender will both work; just make sure you clean them well before using again!

Fill your dispenser with soap and store the excess in a large airtight jar.

Body Wash

Use the recipe above and fill a bottle for use in your shower. Make it more luxurious by adding a drop or two of your favourite essential oil or some coconut milk. 1 cup of coconut milk to 3–4 parts liquid soap works well.

Coffee Coconut Body Scrub

If you needed another reason to drink coffee this could be it. Coffee scrubs make use of used coffee grounds as the ultimate recycled and biodegradable body or facial scrub. A coffee scrub can help exfoliate your skin, lifting away dull, dead skin cell build-up leaving you with a complexion that looks more radiant and energised.

50g dried (used) coffee grounds*
350g coconut oil

Dry your used grounds on a baking tray in the sun or by putting in a warm oven once turned off. Once dried completely, measure them into a bowl with your coconut oil and whip up with a fork, or better still get in there with your hands. Your hands will warm the coconut oil making it easier to mix.

Scoop into a clean jar and that’s it!

To use, smooth a small amount onto dry skin, then gently massage onto your skin using wet fingers and rinse off thoroughly with lukewarm water before patting dry.

*espresso grinds are the best, especially if using on your face. Plunger grounds are coarser and fine if making a scrub for your feet.


Words Bronwyn Lowe

There is something very satisfying about making natural products at home. While I make herbal products all year round for my business, every year, usually around Christmas time, I try and make something that I haven’t made before for friends and family.

Creating skincare, household products and herbal medicines over the years has been something I have enjoyed doing, both with my children and also as part of my career as a medical herbalist. The following recipes are inspired by my own experience, inspirational folk, fellow herbalists and ethnobotanists from around the world. I gratefully acknowledge everybody I have worked with and learnt from over the years for sharing their knowledge and wisdom.

If you are interested in home manufacturing I would encourage you to join a class or workshop (in person or online). This way you will gain a deeper understanding of the herbs, essential oils and other ingredients you will be using, which will allow you to experiment and create your own recipes as you get more experienced.

Rose Water

Rose water is often used in cosmetics for its lovely scent and its light astringent actions. It makes a lovely simple facial toner for fair and dry skin, but really can be used by anybody.

To make your own rose water you will need access to fresh roses (unsprayed) that have just begun to open, the more fragrant the rose the stronger the scent of the rose water. Collect your roses once the morning dew has dried, and before the day gets too hot, mid-morning is an ideal time.

Mix with 3 parts witch hazel extract, 1 part distilled water.
Place the fresh roses in a jar and completely cover with the witch hazel and distilled water, you want 2–3 cm of liquid above the flowers. Cover tightly and place in a warm area, but out of direct sunlight, for two to three weeks.
Strain out the roses and rebottle into a spray for use.

Facial Steam Baths

This mini sauna for the face is a fun project which has you playing with pretty herbs. Stored in a pretty jar it makes a wonderful gift.

The following recipe suits most skin types and can be adjusted depending on the dried herbs you have on hand.

Mix together:
2 parts chamomile
2 parts roses
2 parts calendula
1 part lavender
3 parts comfrey

In a pot bring 6–8 cups of water to the boil, add a good handful of herbs and let the mixture simmer with the lid on for 2–3 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, let cool slightly (to a comfortable temperature).
Place a large towel over your head and place your face over the hot water. It will get very hot under the towel. To control the heat, you can come out for a while and or lift the corner of the towel to let some cool air in.  Ideally steam for 6–8 minutes.


Tooth Powder

Tooth powders were in use long before the invention of the toothbrush. They were rubbed on the teeth with one finger. Whilst not a powder, using sage leaf is a great way to get your teeth feeling smooth and sparkling. If you have a sage plant in your garden, try picking a fresh leaf and rubbing the leaf directly onto your teeth. You will be amazed how clean and smooth your teeth feel afterwards.

Sage & Sea Salt Tooth Powder

Again, this is the simple version of a tooth powder. Some recipes add in ingredients such as kaolin clay, baking soda, coconut oil, essential oils and xylitol. I like this recipe as it uses the fresh herb and only has 2 ingredients.

350g of salt
100g of fresh sage leaves

Grind the salt and sage leaves in a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a chopping board and a rolling pin or similar to pound the salt and leaves together.

Place the mixture on a clean oven tray and bake at the lowest oven temperature setting. This will take at least 20 minutes; keep an eye on it, to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Grind the mix to a fine powder in a coffee or salt grinder and store in a suitable sterilised jar with a lid to keep it airtight.

Use as normal toothpaste to brush your teeth.

This will keep well if you sprinkle the tooth powder onto your toothbrush (i.e. don’t put a wet toothbrush into the jar). Keep using until the scent of sage has gone.

Herbal Hair Rinse

The oldest hair rinses were made from fresh herbs and pure water. Today most are made with dried herbs. Use as a final rinse after shampooing to nourish and add shine to your hair.

For light hair use chamomile tea.

For dark hair use rosemary or nettle tea.

For problem scalps use a mixture of nettles, rosemary and calendula.

For all herbs or blends use 15–30g of dried herb per litre of water.

Place your choice of herbs into a suitable jar. Pour boiling water over and let stand for 30–60 minutes. Strain and use on the same day.

Lip balm

This is a great base lip balm that can also be used for irritated skin. Once you have mastered the recipe you can experiment with more additions such as shea butter, honey, vitamin E and flavourings. With lip balms you can alter the consistency of the finished product by altering the beeswax to liquid ratio. More beeswax will give a firmer result. I tend to make them slightly firmer in the summer and softer in the winter.

5g beeswax pellets
50ml infused herbal oil (see recipe below), choose one or a combination of the following; calendula, rose, lemon balm, hypericum.

Put the beeswax pellets in a saucepan over a very low heat. Keep an eye on it. You do not want to overheat the beeswax. Heat until completely melted then remove from the heat.
Add in the infused herbal oil, stir until combined.
While the oil/beeswax mix is still liquid, pour into small sterilised jars. It will set solid within 60 minutes and last for 1–2 years.

Infused herbal oils

You can make your own infused herbal oils or purchase them from herbal shops. Infused oils are similar to making a herbal infusion, except you are using an oil (olive, almond or apricot*) base rather than water and placing the herbs and oils to infuse in a covered  jar in a warm place  for 2 weeks before straining and using.

*olive oil is traditionally used, check for allergens when using any products intended for cosmetic/skin application

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