Cotton balls come packaged in plastic. So do cotton facial rounds. And even organic cotton balls come in plastic. So I’d pretty much given up using either of them after my last bag ran out a few years ago.
And then, in March, I discovered cotton balls in a cardboard box at CVS. I checked inside the box to make sure there wasn’t a plastic bag hiding in there. Nope. A paper bag. I got all excited and bought a box.
But as I walked home, I started to think. And the more I thought, the less excited I got. First of all, the packaging might not have been plastic, but there sure was a lot of it. Double packaging — box AND bag. It didn’t seem like such great alternative to the plastic after all.
The problem with cotton
And then I started thinking about the cotton balls themselves. I could get organic cotton balls in a plastic bag, but the cotton in this box was not organic. And, according to the Organic Trade Association:
Cotton is considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health. Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop (1).
Now I really felt confused. So I decided to put the question to fans (or should I say “likers”?) of the My Plastic-free Life Facebook page. I posted:
Your opinion please! Compare enviro impact of a) regular cotton balls inside disposable paper bag PLUS disposable cardboard box vs. b) organic cotton balls in disposable plastic bag.
And I got 30 responses! Some people chose paper over plastic. Some chose organic in plastic over paper. And then someone suggested cutting up flannel for reusable cotton squares. Oh duh! Reusables are always better than disposable! And another person suggested checking on Etsy. Of course, EVERYTHING is on Etsy! And finally, someone pointed me to a company called Better for Grownups that makes reusable cotton rounds from organic cotton and packages them in plain brown boxes. The best answer yet.
Reusable Cotton Rounds
Better for Grownups’s cotton rounds are each made from two layers of organic, fair trade cotton velour and come with an organic cotton mesh bag for collecting and washing soiled rounds. Just toss the whole bag in the washing machine and dryer, or hang it to dry.7
(01/07/2012 Update: Sadly, Better for Grownups has gone out of business this year.)
There are a whole ton of other Etsy sellers who make them. And if you’re crafty, you could make them yourself and save money and shipping.
Why use cotton balls or rounds in the first place?
Here’s where someone’s going to question the necessity of using any kind of cotton ball or cotton pad, so I put the question to you all. Do you use them? What do you use them for? Me… I was really only using cotton balls to apply antiseptic to the occasional boo boo. I don’t really wear much makeup, and I find a wash cloth is fine for the times that I do. And I don’t put any kind of astringent on my face. I’m just lucky with good skin, I guess.
But what do you use them for? And could reusables be a better choice for you?