A Zero Waste Project: A DIY for reusable cotton rounds

 Reusable cotton rounds to clean your face — made by cutting and sewing circles from a SUBOG T-shirt. Reusable items help the environment by reducing the amount of waste generated through disposable products. Photo courtesy of Alex Houdeshell.

I’ve never had a very intense skin-care regimen; mainly I just wash my face each night (or most nights). However, this semester that strategy hasn’t been doing it for me. My apartment seems to have hard water, and my theory is that the water is leaving residue on my skin causing me to break out. To tackle this obnoxious trend, I’ve decided to add a skin toner to my routine as a cleanser.  

Of course, my first thought in adding a product to my routine is how to make it zero waste. While I don’t want to jump straight to a zero waste cleanser, I also know I don’t want to use single-use cotton balls or single-use cotton rounds. I wasn’t really using cotton balls before, so this isn’t really a swap, but rather just adding a habit in an eco-friendly way. 

Why make this swap? 

First and foremost, using something reusable is always going to be better for the environment than using something disposable. The disposable items keep you stuck in a cycle of never-ending production, consumption and waste. With a reusable item, you aren’t generating more waste and using more resources every month. 

Plus, cotton rounds and cotton balls are obviously made from cotton plants, which take an incredible amount of water and pesticides to produce according to Euronews — which of course has implications for the fashion industry as well.  

What I did 

You can buy reusable cotton rounds pretty easily online on zero waste sites or shops like Etsy, but I was hoping I’d be able to DIY something with supplies I already had. 

I found instructions on Karina Moran’s Lovemade Handmade blog dedicated to homemade clothing. I made a few adjustments to fit the supplies I had, and overall it was a super easy process. 

My supplies consisted of one of my many free University of Connecticut t-shirts, a pair of scissors and a rotary cutter, needles and embroidery floss. I used a t-shirt because it was a cotton fabric I had on hand, but you could use a different old clothing item, or go buy cotton fabric. I used the rotary cutter because I had it, but scissors also worked just fine. And I used embroidery floss, again, because I had it, but any kind of cotton thread will work. 

My first step was to use a cup to trace perfect circles onto the t-shirt. Then I alternated between using the rotary cutter and a pair of scissors to cut the circles out of both layers of the t-shirt at the same time so I’d have two circles of identical sizes.  

Since I don’t have a sewing machine that can do an overlock stitch like the original instructions call for, I just looked up how to do an overlock stitch by hand, and set to work with my needle and my embroidery thread. I used an extra needle in place of a pin to hold two of the t-shirt circles together, and then used the needle and thread to overlock stitch around the edges, sewing the two circles together. 

It was a little time-consuming to do it all by hand, but honestly not as difficult as I was imagining. Plus, once you get in the rhythm of it, it would be easy to do with a video (or a Zoom lecture) in the background. 

What this means for you 

Whether you use disposable make-up wipes, disposable cotton balls to take off old nail polish or disposable cotton rounds to clean your face at night, these products can be really easily and cheaply replaced with something reusable. Whether you want to buy something online or go full anti-consumerist and just use what you have on-hand, this is a really easy swap to save lots of money and waste in the long run. 

Coming up next: TBD 

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