Is your bathroom routine harming the environment?

OPINION: By 2050, it is predicted that there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. My lightbulb moment was realising that one small tweak to the products you buy can help change this.

As the founder of the world’s first zero-waste full beauty range, I’m seeing more and more people committed to being more environmentally conscious, and wanting to reduce their footprint on the world we live in.

When it comes to your bathroom, there are quite a few things you can do to lower your impact on the environment.


Reduce your plastic waste 

More than 80 billion plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles are used globally every year. That’s 80 billion, just from two products that most people use almost every day. The one-in-five people who bother to recycle their personal care bottles are unfortunately wasting their time, as only nine percent of plastic ever made has been recycled. Most of it is sent offshore to countries such as Indonesia, where they lack the infrastructure to deal with the incredible amount of plastic that countries like NZ, Australia and the USA produce. So what happens to it? It is either stockpiled and left to rot (or not rot, of course), or worse, burnt. Both options causes harm to both the environment and the people who live in it, so the only option is to reduce this plastic usage.

As most of us know by now, eight million tonnes of plastic hits the ocean every year (that’s about a full dump truck every minute) and the majority of this comes from those same countries that accept our plastic waste. Because their infrastructure can’t cope with our wasted plastic, it gets washed down their waterways into the ocean. So it is everyone’s responsibility to ‘turn the tap off’ and stop using plastic.

What you can do: Where possible avoid buying your personal care products in plastic bottles, jars or containers. Use products packaged in metal (which is easily recyclable), in cardboard or even those which come naked. Solid products such as shampoo, conditioner and moisturisers in bar form are a great option!

Support products with compostable packaging

For hygiene and ease of use, beauty products almost always use packaging—but some types of packaging are more harmful than others. The cosmetic industry is a huge source of waste as there are many different types of plastic used in each container—rendering it unrecyclable, if indeed your recycling centre does have the capacity. The most environmentally safe products use compostable materials instead of soft plastic packaging. For example, at Ethique our cardboard boxes are acid, chlorine, laminate and plastic free so they are completely compostable and you can pop them in your compost bin or bury them in your garden. We also use soy inks.

What you can do: Check to see if your favourite beauty products use compostable or readily recyclable (like metal) containers.  If not, switch to brands that do.


Don’t forget about water waste

Shampoo or bodywash can be made from up to 80 per cent water. Conditioner can be even higher, at up to 95 per cent water! Isn’t that crazy?! It doesn’t make sense to pay for a product that’s largely water and therefore has to be packaged in plastic bottles when there is water in your shower already.

As a practical example, an Ethique conditioner bar is equivalent to five 350ml bottles of liquid conditioner, or 1.7L. Using one conditioner bar, instead of those equivalent five bottles, saves up to 11 litres of water from being used in the manufacture of the plastic bottle and the conditioner itself.  And no, you don’t use anymore water when using a water-free product.

What you can do: Look at the first few ingredients in the products you buy. Is it water? Make the switch to a more concentrated product.


Avoid harmful and unsustainable ingredients 

When it comes to beauty products, there are three questions you need to ask yourself: is this product safe to use; is it cruelty free; and is it sustainably produced?

There’s no reason why your daily moisturiser should use ingredients of dubious safety (which then of course ends up in our waterways), cause harm to animals, or use ingredients that deplete the environment they are grown in.

What you can do: use beauty products that contain no palm oil, and that use 100 per cent naturally-derived and sustainable ingredients. Extra points for ingredients sourced from fair trade sources.

Words — Brianne West