20 Jun Easy Ethical Living: How to green up your beauty routine
Did you know that only 50% of bathroom waste is recycled, compared to 90% of kitchen waste?
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint then the bathroom is a great place to start – and you might even discover some unexpected benefits along the way too.
Like every area of ethical and sustainable living there’s lots of different issues to consider. Everyone has their own ethical priorities so in our ‘Easy Ethical Living’ series, we’re presenting the issues and some suggestions for more ethical and sustainable alternatives but if and how you implement them is up to you – you can be green in any colour you want!
Start by understanding the issues, the you can choose what your priorities are and start making small steps to change your habits and make your beauty regime greener.
Without a doubt plastic has been one of the hottest topics so far this year and we all want to play our part in reducing the amount going to landfill and polluting the ocean.
If you’re anything like me, the more you learn about plastic pollution, the worse you feel whenever you walk into the bathroom – it’s one of the worst offenders when it comes to plastic waste in the home.
We probably all felt shocked to see the heartbreaking image of a seahorse clutching a cotton bud – but it’s often these seemingly insignificant items that play a part in our daily routine that are doing the most damage. So how can we reduce the plastic in our beauty regime?
A few simple swaps can keep a huge amount of plastic out of landfill and the ocean. Opt for paper or bamboo cotton buds instead and go for a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush (Billions of plastic toothbrushes are disposed of annually – the amount thrown away each year in the US alone weighs the same as 11,500 full grown African elephants!) I use Woobamboo – the bristles aren’t biodegradable but can be recycled, and don’t fall out during use like other brands I’ve tried!
Disposable plastic razors can be swapped for metal safety razors and you’ll actually save money because you’ll only need to purchase replacement blades. Switch to a solid soap bar, shampoo and conditioner and you’ll feel the added benefit of never having to kick empty bottles around the shower floor again too!
Even toilet roll usually comes wrapped in plastic, but there are plastic-free brands out there. While we’re on the subject, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about toilet paper, but there’s actually a lot of sustainability issues to consider – as with any paper we need to make sure it’s sustainably sourced and ideally buy from brands that use recycled materials.
Shampoo bottles, toilet rolls and bathroom cleaning products could all easily be put in the recycling bin when they’re finished, but for some reason we’re not doing it.
Make bathroom recycling easy for yourself by following royal advice – Prince Charles has suggested that we should all adopt a separate bathroom bin for our recycling, and it’s not a bad idea!
Recycling has grown from 12% to 45% in the UK over the last decade, but there’s still a lot more to do. The Circular Economy Taskforce, which was brought together by Prince Charles’s Business in the Community environment charity, says there’s a lot of confusion about what bathroom waste can be recycled and without separate bins it’s not easy for people to sort.
Most plastic bottles, toilet roll tubes and even deodorant aerosols can go in the recycling so treat it like the kitchen and make that behaviour switch.
Palm oil, chemicals and natural ingredients
“Rinse-off” products that we use in water can cause harm to waterways and oceans. In England and Scotland microbeads are now banned because a single shower was sending up to 100,000 pieces of these tiny plastic particles into the sea. Microbeads were used for their exfoliating properties, but there’s actually plenty of natural sugar, coffee and oat scrubs out there that have the same effect.
Although the microbead ban will help keep these plastics out of the oceans, we need to also be aware of the potentially harmful chemicals in our rinse off products. Our skin is like a giant sponge and will absorb whatever you put on it, so you might find that opting for more natural, organic cosmetics is beneficial for your health as well as the environment.
One ingredient that’s hard to avoid is palm oil. Around 70% of cosmetics contain some derivative of palm oil, but its production is destroying the rainforests, biodiversity and the communities of indigenous peoples – as well as valuable habitat for rainforest animals like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger, which are being pushed to the brink of extinction.
In the EU, labelling regulations require food products to be clearly labelled to indicate that they contain palm oil, but the same regulation doesn’t apply to cosmetics. Read the label and get to know the different chemical names producers might be using to hide it.
(For a palm oil and plastic free exfoliator, I choose Bloomtown’s Sugar Scrub – the berry one smells good enough to eat!)
Creating a zero waste bathroom
The idea of going ‘zero waste’ can feel overwhelming, but reducing any waste is a great start – it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
The first step is to find replacements for disposable products. Suggestions by the UK Government to ban wet wipes earlier this year were met with controversy from outraged parents, but many wet wipes contain non-biodegradable plastic and they are responsible for 93% of blockages in UK sewers. Many dermatologists don’t approve of face wipes anyway so opt for a gentle natural cleanser and reusable flannel for a makeup removal routine that’s kind to your skin and mother nature (I love this Comfort Cleansing Balm from White Rabbit Skincare which is plastic and cruelty free!)
One simple swap you can make towards zero waste is to opt for a solid soap, shampoo and conditioner bar rather than plastic bottles. Although many come in paper wrapping, it’s better than plastic – and it lasts longer so saves you money too! (Acala sell a range of solid bars as well as these handy bamboo pouches which keeps your soap hygienic and gives your skin a good scrub too).
Try to support brands with circular economy principles too. Circular economy aims to keep reusing existing resources as much as possible – and some beauty brands like Lush will let you return, recycle or refill the packaging with them. Some even offer you discounts or rewards for doing so! It’s a great way to reduce your waste and get treats too.
Making your bathroom and beauty regime more green doesn’t have to be difficult. You might want to throw everything away and start again, but that wouldn’t be very environmentally friendly – so instead, start small and come up with a ‘replacement plan’ so one step at a time you can get greener.