In the bathroom cabinet

  • Chris Jeavans
  • 26 Aug 08, 01:59 PM GMT

My fridge is a plastic-free zone but the bathroom is a different matter, with plastic bottles and tubs, disposable razors and even products containing plastic.

Hygiene, personal preference and regard for anyone who comes within 10 feet of me all dictate that giving up toiletries is not an option, so, what's a girl to do?

Well, the first thing to point out is that bottles for shampoo and similar products are often easily recyclable.

They tend to be made from HDPE or PET, the same plastic as milk or water bottles, and can be recycled in the same way.

Man sniffing armpitFurthermore they can also be made from recycled plastic. The Body Shop has just announced that its Wellbeing range will be packaged in 100% post consumer recycled plastic.

But hang on, doesn't the Body Shop (now owned by French beauty industry giant L'Oreal) offer refills of its products?

Once but no longer, according to a spokeswoman for the firm. Uptake was reportedly poor as customers found the hassle of remembering the old bottle inconvenient and the policy was ditched in 2003.

One non-plastic option is to lather up with a shampoo bar - a solid version of the liquid stuff. These can get a little messy to transport if you're going on holiday but Lush sells a tin to keep its round bars in.

A more hardcore alternative espoused by some other bloggers such as Life Less Plastic and Fake Plastic Fish is to abandon commercial shampoo completely and use bicarbonate of soda with a vinegar rinse.

Apparently this "no 'poo" regime (as it's known) starts to work after a couple of weeks of greasiness. I am sceptical but I have to admit being too chicken to try it so far.

Bicarbonate of soda is also hailed as an effective deodorant by some. Again I have my doubts but I had my doubts about the wool nappy too and that does work so maybe when my current roll-on finally runs out I will dare to try it.

There are also BO-bashers available with mainly glass packaging or a small amount of plastic although some of the more "natural" ones have received mixed reviews.

Shaving is without plastic is tricky. Men can go for an old school cut-throat razor but I'm not taking one of those to my ankles although I am willing to give a metal safety razor a go.

My usual product is a pack of 10 disposable razors, packed in a plastic bag with two plastic holders, none of which is currently recyclable.

In the US, Recycline offers disposable razors made from recycled plastic and will take back the used razors.

Wax strips suffer from the same problem as throwaway razors in that they are designed to be discarded after use.

But hot wax or sugaring can be done using reusable cotton strips (although some products wash off better than others).

Finally, skin care and cosmetics. As well as being packaged in plastic, products such as exfoliants can contain microscopic plastic beads, as this article from Slate Magazine explains.

Nail varnish contains synthetic polymers and lengthening mascara can achieve its effect by adding polyester fibres to lashes.

And then there's the packaging - almost all cosmetics are largely packaged in plastic although some companies are experimenting with card and metal combinations.

It's all hugely difficult to navigate. But there are some easy changes: I've ditched cotton wool (packaged in plastic) and gone back to a flannel for cleansing my face. Not an exfoliating micro-bead in sight.


  • Comment number 1.

    The virtuosity of this article is making me want to scream - and roll around on poly bags.
    Surely it's more sensible just to cut down and only use what we need to, instead of get ourselves into knots like this. I read it now just to see how much more trivial it can become.

  • Comment number 2.

    I"m enjoying your odyssey.

    The problem with shampoo bottles and all other "recyclable" plastics is the fact that while they can be re-formed into other items, they are not biodegradable. They are photo-degradable and break down into ever small pieces, just the right size to be ingested by birds and fish. I think the shampoo bar is the way to go... and a nice vinegar rinse (of course, the vinegar comes in a plastic bottle! I feel hamstrung by the fact that businesses change their packaging and we have NO SAY about it.

    I also read the "Fake Plastic Fish" blog every day as well as JUNK, about to dock in Hawaii after visiting the North Pacific Gyre, the plastic "soup" in the ocean. They just recently caught some fish, cut them open... and found pieces of plastic in the stomachs... fish that might normally be caught, eaten and then, we probably ingest the chemicals released by the plastic.

    So even "recyclable" bottles are tloublesome. On the other hand, I'm old enough to remember shampoo in glass bottles and dropping one in the tub was dangerous.

    There has to be a happy medium somewhere!

    Ellyn in Los Angeles

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Chris,

    The male perspective is a bit simpler. My plastic reduction here, yet to be complete, will comprise of the all-metal razor, soap stick and lather brush.

    The wooden toothbrush is fine but toothpaste remains a big difficulty. When I find a good alternative others will be informed asap.

  • Comment number 4.

    I do not understand how "skin care and cosmetics" such as nail varnish are essential to personal hygiene. And unless you are a professional swimmer or cyclist, you do not need to shave either. Cut them all out, and the (necessary) basics with which you are left are minimal and can be gained without any new plastic (as described in your article).

  • Comment number 5.

    I usually wash my hair with bicarbonate, say after kayaking and a nice river swim (but not often). It is a good disinfectant for the skin and scalp. However, I find that you need a good conditioner afterwards as it really dries the hair , the same goes for the skin. Make sure to have a good lotion. Although it does work as an exfoliator :)

    For waxing, maybe you could go for a professional threading or sugaring session, although a bit more expensive, you don't have to worry about the plastic.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think Lush sell deoderant blocks, which come wrapped in paper, though I've never used them so can't say how effective they are. I agree though that most cosmetics and such products are completely unnecessary. I never wear make-up or nail paint or any such thing, not just because of the animal-testing issue, but because I just don't see the point of them. My face and hands look fine as they are, and if anyone thinks otherwise they are free to not look at me. These things are personal decisions, of course, but it's worth occasionally examining some of the things we do out of habit and asking why.

  • Comment number 7.

    My scalp and skin has recently become very sensitive to most products, even the ones professing to be unperfumed, etc. I find that Ecover shampoo and shower wash is very good for all over, including my face! I was spending a fortune on many different products and always left with plastic bottles that were almost full of stuff I couldn't use. If I could refill my bottle I would be very pleased. I once tried an African method of washing without water making a dough ball from flour and oil and a dash of essential oil. The theory is that you rub it all over the body and it removes dirt and dead skin cells without the need to use water. It worked well when I tried it but I didn't do it over a long period of time. Allum crystals, bought in a block or stick are a fantastic underarm deodorant I wouldn't be without and it lasts months! Our expectations of beauty need to change, the planet cannot sustain it. We're worth it!

  • Comment number 8.

    Lush products are fantastic value for money as they last a very long time and are excellent for people (like my daighter) who have sensitive skin.

    In addition, Lush have banned the use of palm oil from all their products because this was proving to be an ecological nightmare, with the palms being overlydesecrated and in the long turn causing more of an environmental problem.

    So Lush for me is a good all rounder :0)

  • Comment number 9.

    We have a couple of articles on our website which may help people.

    cosmetics companies who refill and recycle and ways to reduce plastic packaging

    I have done the bicarbonate of soda and cider vinegar rinse routine (Bungalowbabe; I've never seen vinegar in a plastic bottle, only glass; it's amazing how many different products people have access to, isn't it?!) with great success. I did this for three years........

    You've taken one step in the right direction Chris, with the reusable flannels, so give yourself a pat on the back.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have the following products in my bathroom and my bathroom is plastic free zone. All the products are free from chemicals and are completely biodegradable. The packaging is biodegradable, re-usable or recyclable.

    Clay powder - packed in cardboard tubes - for washing hair, face and body - replaces shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, soap.

    Alum crystal deodorant - was tied in string with a paper label - deodorizes, insect bite relief, styptic, helps with shaving rash (not that I shave). Don't be conned by the smoothly formed deodorant sticks - they are made with by-products from the nylon trade and you are supporting the plastic manufacturers.

    Argan oil - packed in glass bottles - replaces night cream and anti-wrinkle agents, moisturizers, eye make up remover, strengthens nails and conditions cuticles. May I stress, that all oils should be packed in glass, as they a very reactive with plastic.

    These 3 products have replaced about 14 or so conventional chemical/plastic packaged products. My bathroom now looks stylist and uncluttered, and relying only on a few products actually saves time when washing and bathing.

    Also I purify and condition water no longer in plastic water filters, but clay pots. Who wants to drink water water which has been leeched by plastics?

    These products are available from

    Besides the 'plastic' issue these products have numerous other benefits.

    Chris, why don't you have a go with these products?

  • Comment number 11.


    Thanks for your information. I will definitely check the web site you recommended.


    Baking soda and vinegar are wonderful for lots of things but they can be drying. When my daughter was on a swim team that practiced in chlorinated water for hours daily, she washed her hair with baking soda and rinsed with vinegar. To counter the drying we tried several things before discovering that the juice from the aloe vera plant worked best. It grows in my yard so getting it was easy. I don't know if it is available where you live. If you had a plant, you could keep it on your window sill. They are very easy to grow, indoors or out. Aloe vera is also wonderful for moisturizing the skin, for sun burn, and for insect bites as well! I consider it the medicine cabinet in my garden and best of all NO WASTE. Good luck!

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm shampoo free, but I don't use the (as we in the US call it) Baking Soda and Vinegar. I only use conditioner, which really helps my curly hair.

    A friend one explained to me the chemistry behind using conditioner to clean hair. Basically, oil is repelled by oil. When people wash with conditioner we're replacing out stink hair oil with the perfumed oil in the conditioner.

    I love the experiment you're doing and it's really inspiring me :D

  • Comment number 13.

    To Hydroscooby

    Please check my questions #58 to your #56 post from the previous thread, if you have time.

    Thank you

  • Comment number 14.

    Try Thai deodorant stones. They are extremely effective, believe it or not (I was sceptical).

    We got ours in Thailand without any packaging.

    Don't know how they come packaged in the UK, but a quick web search shows they are available, eg. from:

  • Comment number 15.

    Hey Chris:

    You can get Recycline razors from Fresh and Wild, and their toothbrushes from lots of organic shops. Greenface, their distributor in the UK, will accept them for recycling -- just post them back. I've been using Neal's Yard deodorant (glass bottle, reusable) for about ten years, no complaints. Thanks for an inspiring article.

  • Comment number 16.

    To Thatwitch

    Ecover offer a refill facility for some of their products, you can find your nearest stockist based on postcode..

    There are 4 products listed, but I'm sure they also do toilet cleaner. No mention of shampoo or shower gel though.

    It's worth checking out in your area.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think a lot of toiletries and cosmetics are enormously over-packaged. You just need to take a look as perfumes and aftershave with layer upon layer of card protecting a glass bottle that is so thick it could withstand a nuclear war!

    However it is one area that the majority of the average public will not compromise on. I know you guys are doing your bit, which is great. However when Mrs. Average walks into boots to buy some new make-up and a bottle of perfume and is asked to part with £50-£60 she wants it to look expensive!

    Now I am not advocating excessive packaging under any circumstances. I just want to point out that Health and Beauty is one of the hardest areas to deliver significant change (reduction) in. People will be scandalised and complain about plastic punnets for produce, they will shout about sleeves on ready meals, national outcry at xmas re' toy packaging but not one will complain about their five layer box around a heavy duty bottle of perfume.

    Mrs.Average expects a high-end, high value purchase to come in high-end packaging, thus making it somehow 'seem' a more luxurious treat or indulgence.

    Before you all shoot me down, I am merely pointing consumer behaviour.

  • Comment number 18.

    #10 - clayisbest

    "May I stress, that all oils should be packed in glass, as they are very reactive with plastic"

    I must point out that this is not strictly true as there are lots of high barrier plastics on the market that can and do contain oils of all types.

    It's also worth pointing out at this point that typically plastic containers vs. glass containers offer a 20% lower carbon footprint. Typically this is achieved through lower energy consumption in both manufacture and distribution. Also they typically have around an 11% smaller footprint (thinner walls but same internal volume) therefore usually delivering better pallet occupancy and therefore vehicle fill.

    We have all stressed the need for consideration of the wider impacts in our quest to reduce weight. Just because glass feels like it must be better environmentally does not make it so.

    In the words of Al Gore (quoting Mark Twain):-

    "It aint what we don't know that gets us into trouble. It's what we know for sure that just aint so".

  • Comment number 19.

    Its since using lush products that Ive really realised the extent of our families overude of plastic! Now Im not about to shun any of my luxuries in favour or plain old bicarb and vinegar, I have no wish to smell like a chip shop but Im using the smellies we have left in plastic, recycling it and turning to lush for fantastic value, tailored toiletries. Long live their lovely metal tins, their paper wrapped soaps sold by weight and yah boo sucks to you to all the unecessary plastic packaged wannabees! Never again will I bother with body whop. that lost its green, ethical credentials long ago!

  • Comment number 20.


    Thanks again, You Know A Lot, I will remember this. I can get things in recyclable plastic and since I have a good recycle program, I don't worry too much about this. My concern has been the thin films and plastic tote bags from shops, also over-packaging which I mentioned in one of my earlier posts. If these items could be recycled or burned to create clean energy it would be a really good thing.

    Glass and clay items in ancient dumps, middens and privies provide archaeologists with rich sources of information. Wonder what plastic will say about us?

  • Comment number 21.

    #17 I never shoot without a target!

    I am reading backwards. The more expensive the item, the more a consumer wants an expensive package. I, too, have witnessed this and not just with cosmetics.

  • Comment number 22.


    I have a question. I visited the web site you mentioned but, alas, do not think I could get these products here. I sent them an email for more information.

    My question is about those clay water pots that are made by a local potter. You said you are using them. Can you share more about this. I am a potter myself. I am working to trace down this potter to see if he/she will share information but in the meantime, if you can, your input is much appreciated.


  • Comment number 23.

    Hi there. On the subject of exfoliants without plastic beads - try a knitted string glove. Or a good old fashioed loofah if you know it's from a sustainable source. Another option is porridge oats tied in a handy tennis ball-sized muslin bag or cotton hankie. Gives a lovely creamy texture to your skin and you can compost the oats or feed to the birds afterwards if you don't taint them with soap or bath oils.

  • Comment number 24.

    I am very heartened to see the supportive and positive comments here as we all navigate for new ways to make a smaller footprint. In creating a new mindset, I believe, the small ways count just in the way that big changes do. The Gripes of those who tut and shake their heads at, what they see as token gestures, help nobody. Many small actions will take us forward: less plastic use, less driving, less flights.

    Ultimately, consumerism is driven by the depression and misery of isolation. So take good care of yourself and find ways to connect with all the others who need you too.

  • Comment number 25.


    I forgot how wonderful that oatmeal (porridge oats) are for skin. You are so right. I would put this in an old sock for my children to bathe in when they had chickenpox or other skin irritations and we did feed the remains to the chickens. So soothing.

  • Comment number 26.


    You put this all so well.

    I think this blog has given us so many ways to do small things in our own power to help the environment. If we all work together we can each do something that improves all of our lives and future. None of us alone can to everything but if each of us do something we can create a better world.

  • Comment number 27.

    The only complaint I have about Lush - even though I think they are the best smellies shop around - is that they tend to giftwrap their special occasion items in cellophane.

    Which kinda defeats the object of them being eco-frindly LOL.

    Mind you, its a small blip but even then one that still gives me the means to reuse over and again the packaging.

  • Comment number 28.

    Thinks would be so much simpler if all packing was PET or HDPE, manufacturers should be forced (or persuaded with heavy taxes) to use these.
    With regard to toothpaste, you used to be able to buy tooth-powder in a small round tin, is this not still available somewhere?

  • Comment number 29.

    Lush also used to do a deodorant block which was quite nice, if a bit strong-smelling. It was non-greasy and didn't leave white marks either. I think they still use greaseproof paper to wrap everything in as well, so no aerosol or plastic roll-on packaging to dispose of.

  • Comment number 30.

    The problem with razor blades is theft... at £8 or £9 for 4 'brand name 4 bladed razors' in a pack the size of a matchbox its the number 1 item for shoplifters. As a result they have hard plastic cases the size of wall bricks built around them to make them harder to pocket.

    In the real world this is a problem you'll have to overcome.

    They're eye wateringly expensive but you can get cut-throat style razors made in japan that use a disposable 4" blade. I had the best shave of my life from one of those and when the blade blunts the only item for disposal is a sliver of steel. proper old fashioned cut throats last forever but sharpening them is an art I don't have.

  • Comment number 31.

    #18 idontmuchbut

    You wrote, "It's also worth pointing out at this point that typically plastic containers vs. glass containers offer a 20% lower carbon footprint." and "We have all stressed the need for consideration of the wider impacts in our quest to reduce weight. Just because glass feels like it must be better environmentally does not make it so."

    I fear that these days many people are so focused on global warming and lowering our carbon footprint that they overlook many other environmental hazards in the quest to reduce weight and transport costs.

    But plastic comes with a host of other environmental problems: non-biodegradability, the fact that it attracts and accumulates oil-based pollutants, and the leaching of toxic additives, to name just a few.

    If glass is heavier and therefore requires more energy to ship, then instead of switching to plastic, we ought to reduce the amount of products we consume in the first place. And we should focus on finding as many locally-produced items as possible. Let's not simply substitute one environmental problem for another!

    And Chris, I just want to weigh in on shaving and deodorant!

    1) Baking soda really, truly works as a deodorant! I've been using it for months and actually have experienced less odor than previously using deodorant! Don't be afraid! :-) Plus, it's a lot cheaper than Lush deodorant bars or alum crystals.

    2) I do shave... but not with plastic! I use a metal safety razor and double-edge blades. I purchased the razor in an antique shop, but you can still buy them new online or used on eBay. And I bought a box of 100 blades from a guy on eBay. These blades last a very, very long time. And the box was just simple cardboard. If you're interested, I'll dig up his contact info.

    Oh, and metal safety razors aren't scary either!



  • Comment number 32.

    As several people have already mentioned, Lush is a great option if you're trying to reduce plastic. they may not have got everything right yet, but most of their products are solid, meaning that they can be sold without packaging or, if you want them wrapping, they do it in paper that can be recycled (or put in your underwear draw as the left over paper bags always smell amazing). Notably, even lush, who are more environmentally aware than most cosmetic companies only recently switched from plastic to paper bags.

    They also offer tins for shampoo bars, massage bars etc. They even do solid cleansing or deoderant bars that fit in a tin and do wonders for my rather sensitive skin.

    they still package their shower gel, conditioners and other liquid products in bottles but they're recyclable in my normal household collection.

    As with most things, this is possible because lush are a shop who sell only their product, therefore they can govern their packaging (and contents of their products) closely. In many ways, lush are the cosmetic version of your local butchers, bakers, deli... i do think that this is the best way to cut out plastic.

    However, no one is perfect - lush have a sister cosmetic line and i decided to try it in the hope that they also had minimal packaging. Sadly, not so. Each product i bought came with a bottle, then a layer of plastic, then it was all individually wrapped in gold guaze bags and ribbon. A nice touch, but i'm still trying to recyle all the guaze and ribbon into present wrappings! Clearly we cannot reduce our plastic AND be beautifully made up :)

  • Comment number 33.

    #27 VikEvans,

    Regarding the cellophane. My understanding, from talking to a rep from LUSH is that this 'cellophane' is safe to put in your compost bin. it's a kind of biodegradable plastic.

    In addition, you can specify that any items are sold unwrapped or put into recycled paper bags.

    LUSH employ an Environmental Officer who's job is to take her environmental knowledge to the company to make sure they are doing all they can for the environment.

    Her name is Ruth and she can be emailed at:
    savetheplanet AT


  • Comment number 34.

    Use soap flakes from dri pack- they come in a cardboard box - mix them up with water and essential oils and you have lovely shampoo that costs sweet FA and smells like it costs a whole lot more.

  • Comment number 35.

    I visited Lush today after the recent posts, to check the possibilites for ZeroWastePackaging. A deodorant-only soap bar (Aromaco) was purchased. This was wrapped in recycled paper and so was sustainable.

    It is different from the usual spray but the lack of waste is a big plus.

  • Comment number 36.

    Reuseing bottles is best of all - Ecover do it for cleaning liquids - see their website for a list of shops that do refills. If Ecover can do it perhaps its time for others to rethink that service. NB I use Ecover washing up liquid for hand soap and shampoo when I run out of either - and you know what - its just as good. And (until now) no one realised that I was doing it.

  • Comment number 37.

    I say get down to your local lush! Packaging free exfoliators, cleansers, deos and shampoo. Massage bars can be used as solid body lotion. They sell tins in 3 shapes/sizes to keep things in, or paper bags for packaging.
    I think you're doing really well, don't fancy the wooden toothbrush though!

  • Comment number 38.

    Going back to the hair removal problem, have you thought about the electrical solutions out there? Some are made of plastic, but not all, and they are generally very hard-wearing (I've had mine over 10 years now). They're very low-voltage and you don't risk slicing yourself to pieces.

    I personally would recommend an epilator, as it takes up to 6 weeks for hair to regrow, but it does take a little while to get the right technique and get used to the pain!

    Plus, my LA take any and all electricals for recycling, so I know when my ancient machine finally gives up the ghost, it won't be going into landfill!

  • Comment number 39.



    Good to see you posting here.

    What is your view on SmartCycle and ZWinc over there. Are they fully sustainable? We are looking for sustainable alternatives here to help reduce waste.

  • Comment number 40.

    We tried to cut down drastically on packaging both in the kitchen and bathroom.

    We tried the Lush products but found the soaps dissolved horribly, the shampoo bars were so harsh that we all ended up with hair like straw, the deodorant deliquesed and the massage bars were not 'slidey' enough and got hairy and then broke into bits. The muscle rub was weedy. The conditioner would not dissolve and stayed in lumps on the hair. Any complaints were met with deaf ears. They are also expensive.

    We did change to Caurnie soaps though and these keep well if not soaked in water. My son even washes his hair in this.

    We tried a soya milk maker but the milk tasted yucky no matter what we did and then the handle snapped on the machine.

    We tried to make our own fresh juice but the machine took ages to wash.

  • Comment number 41.

    Oh I forgot. On a positive note the Pit Rok deodorants are amazing. No sweat, no smell (from the user or from the product) and never mind lasting for months! I just can't wear mine out .. it's lasted well over a year.

    Also the Microbrush/Microfibre (Deeply Clean) bathroom cleaning cloths are fantastic. No chemicals required and lovely shiny surfaces. Works on baths, shower screens, mirrors etc. Also great in the kitchen.

  • Comment number 42.

    I make my own conditioner from a hair dresser in Chicago. You'll have to test out the portions based on your hair type and length. For 1 foot length, soft, straight, black hair, I use this:

    1.5 cup cold water
    1 capful apple cider vinegar
    3 drops lemongrass essential oil
    3 drops eucalyptus essential oil
    2 drops olive oil
    Shake thoroughly!

    Wash with shampoo (cold water, or your pores will open and make you greasy). Then rinse thoroughly with the concoction above. The vinegar smell WILL go away.

    You can change the essential oils depending on your preference.

    This is a great non-plastic way for conditioning.

  • Comment number 43.

    Spray deodorants come in metal cans, not plastic!

  • Comment number 44.


    You are right. However there is normally a non-recyclable plastic cap on top.

  • Comment number 45.

    #33 theoriginalmrsgreen

    Thanks for that info on the cellophane that Lush use. Very helpful :0)

  • Comment number 46.

    #31 - fakeplasticfish

    I absolutely agree that using less in the first instance and cutting down on consumption are the immediate goals.

    However usage will continue. people will still want 'conventional' toiletries and we need to be aware that glass is not the most environmentally appropriate packaging material. It's a tough one to swallow but plastic is significantly lower carbon, more efficient to distribute and fully and widely recycled.

  • Comment number 47.

    # 33 - theoriginalmrsgreen

    Traditional 'cellophane' IS biodegradable and certified as such to EN13432, the European standard for biodegradability.

    Cellophane is derived from wood pulp I believe.

  • Comment number 48.

    #39 - johnhcrf

    How may times sir.......

    Smartcycle is purely 50% PCW recycled Content plastic. The UK is leading this area as I said so let's be proud of the fact we are leading.

    Innocent = 100% rPET bottles, Lucosade = 100% rPET bottles, Supermarkets use huge amounts of recycled content in packaging already and this will only increase as more feedstock becomes available.

    Believe me, we are leading the US.

  • Comment number 49.

    I'd like to second Urbanimp's message (msg 41) about Pit Rok deodorants. They do come with a hard plastic surround, but they last for ages - I have had mine for the best part of a year and it's hardly any smaller than when I started using it; at this rate, it'll outlast a great number of 'conventional' deodorants.

    PLUS - and this is the important bit - despite initial scepticism, I have found it even more effective than its counterpart.

    Highly effective, less waste and no nasty chemicals: what more could a girl want?!

  • Comment number 50.

    Due to an allergic reaction I had to regular deodorant, I've been using baking soda for about 9 months now. The only waste produced is a small cardboard box, and it is far less expensive than any other deodorizing product and for me, at least, it has been much more effective! The deodorant crystals didn't work at all with my body chemistry. Baking soda also makes a safe, effective body scrub for exfolliating--again much cheaper than any commercially prepared scrub. I just keep it in a large salt shaker in the bathroom.

  • Comment number 51.


    I used my deodorant bar for the first time today. It has been on for 7 hours and the scent is still there. It is a bit like aftershave but effective.

  • Comment number 52.

    I think that you will find, if you do some hard research, that commercial deodorant ingredients: Ammonium Alum and synthetic Potassium Alum are made from by-products of the nylon (aka plastic) trade of Asia. For some reason on the labels these products can contain the statement, 'made from pure natural mineral salts' - I don't suppose that they would like to say made from, 'nylon factory waste.'

    Commercially, the two most important alums are potassium alum and ammonium
    alum. Ammonium alum is manufactured by the crystallization from an aqueous
    solution of ammonium sulphate and aluminium sulphate. Ammonium alum
    crystals are also produced by treating a mixture of aluminium sulphate and
    sulphuric acid with ammonia.

    Potassium alum can also be artificially manufactured by treating aluminium oxide with sulphuric acid and potassium sulphate. Another method of production involves heating of alunite followed by treatment with sulphuric acid to obtain crystals of the alum. I wonder who could do a caarbon footprint calculation on a commercial deodorant?

    Alum is also available in its natural form as alunite, having been formed by a volcano, but I don't think that any deodorant makers are using this source over here. Commercial deodorant makers favour the commercial ammonium alum and potassium alum over natural alunite - perhaps chemical behaviour of the synthetic alum are more predictable?

    As far as I can tell, my company, Natural Spa Supplies, makes the only natural source of alum (alunite) in a granulated form available to cosmetic makers for deodorants, I am hoping that some of my new commercial customers will develop a product from it soon.

    Alum crystals are also sold on the internet to individuals at though it is necessary to call for a price as the weight of each piece varies. This alum comes from the Western Desert, and the deposit, originally made with the free energy of nature - a volcano, with a low, or effectively spent carbon footprint, can be viewed on googe earth. Don't be taken in by cosmetic makers who tell you that they use natural products unless they can tell you the provenance of each ingredient!

    One additional point. My husband used a deodorant containing ammonium alum and after about 3 months of usage came up in a huge rash stretching from his arm pits across his chest. I can only presume that the synthetic ingredient, a by-product was contaminated, or that it was perhaps a sulphuric acid burn. It vanished when we replaced the product with natural alum (alunite), which we have been happily using for about 6 months now. More and more people are now telling me that they are allergic to deodorant - perhaps this is why, because, a lot of the time it starts off life as industrial waste! Smoothly moulded forms, and those in plastic cases are more likely to be the synthetic kind - ask the maker if you are in doubt.

    Unless you trust your cosmetic maker, it is best to buy the natural crystal (also known by the trade name potassium alum!) which is never perfectly smooth or formed - Natural volcanic alum splits into irregular chunks, with somewhat rough surfaces. They smooth off with use.

    A slight rant, but this is a blog which examines the ways in which plastic is so ubiquitous - even, no doubt to your surprise the source of most deodorants.

    So be cautious about plastic, especially the plastic we can't see!

  • Comment number 53.


    The Lush person told me alum was not part of this deodorant bar as it is not anti-perspirant. I think the idea is that you can sweat but with no body odour.

    I have had it on from nearly twelve hours with the scent still present but no singificant sweat or body odour. To me that has done the business. I will need to do some serious exercises to test more closely but that can keep until another day.

  • Comment number 54.

    A new day for the Lush deodorant bar.

    There are alternatives which I will try later. Beth from FakePlasticFish suggests baking soda and Mrs Green from MyZeroWaste suggests a mail scent addition when required. Good advice.

    The moist bar was a bit drier but worked under arm as before. It is a sustainable deodorant, a good addition to Zero Waste.

  • Comment number 55.

    It's great what you have done. We've been trying to decrease plastic use at our house. I'm sewing a cloth bag to hold the dirty laundry I used to put in plastic. Many Americans line every waste basket with plastic bags and also line their trash can/bin with a large plastic bag. Fewer smells this way but lots of plastic. We never have gone that far, but for the kitchen and bathroom trash containers, we did line with plastic. Now we're trying no liners and I bought some biodegradable plastic bags to hold really yucky kitchen garbage.

    We compost and we can recycle plastic tubs, bags, and bottles, as well as cans, glass, newspaper, miscellaneous clean paper of all kinds (though some paper here in the states is very wierd - hard to determine what it might contain) and aluminum. If we sign up for a special bin for yard waste and pay something extra as well we can put dirty paper like cardboard pizza boxes in there. So my yucky kitchen garbage is mainly dirty kitchen paper, chicken bones, and the cat food cans which I don't recycle cause I hate cleaning them. Ideally I suppose you would be able to toss meat waste etc in a completely enclosed compost bin -not really sure - does anyone know? Our compost pile is open so rats would be a big problem if we did that.

    I'm wondering if you, Chris, or others on the blog know if plastic recycling actually results in a lower overall carbon footprint? Also, as you mentioned on our National Public Radio today, what's the trade off? If you wash the diapers in hot water with a bio-friendly detergent, using however many gallons/liters of water as that requires, are you doing more harm or less to the planet than you would using disposable diapers?

    I am thinking that the really big problem on earth is going to be water and it will make our fuss about oil look like child's play. If I use less water from our spring today is that going to be a good thing ultimately or is it just silly to conserve water here in a part of the US where water is fairly abundant? My partner's opinion is that the water will just pass through our septic system and back into the ground with little net loss. The cities near us do restrict water for use in gardens during dry summers. Is that type of water use different from me doing 5 loads of wash per week?

    This is very long compared to the other comments. As I have never blogged before I don't know the etiquette. I'm just delighted that Chris you've been doing something this month which matches my current domestic and environmental dilemma.

  • Comment number 56.


    Meat/fish/fat/bone can be put into Bokashi bin/Green cone. These cost a bit but allow you to remove food waste totally from bin waste, leaving mostly plastic packaging.

    If you cannot manage that and have to use the compost bin, to prevent rats use a wet compost. You can buy composting liquid to dilute and wash over the compost and rats will stay clear. They like the warm dry conditions of the other kind.

    I hope that helps.

  • Comment number 57.

    #56 - 'to prevent rats use a wet compost.'

    Thus creating anaerobic conditions, and the uncontrolled venting of methane...

    You don't want to be doing this if you are worried about the bigger picture.

    I avoid rats by having a cat :-)

  • Comment number 58.

    #55 - 'I'm wondering if you, Chris, or others on the blog know if plastic recycling actually results in a lower overall carbon footprint?'


    It takes over 100 times more energy to make virgin plastic than it does to make plastic out of recycled plastic. Even if you collect it and truck it large distances, you are still very much in credit.

    Plastic recycling should be maximised as much as possible, and we need to avoid as much of this waste stream from entering landfill or energy from waste (or lower value plastic product such as 'plastic wood') as possible.

  • Comment number 59.


    Ignore the previous 2 comments. I have been using a wet compost system for 2 years. There is no methane from this process, as insects,slugs thrive in the conditions. The worms from the soil below deal with the lower levels to pruduce a rich soil for growing Veg etc.

    Composting is a great process and it does not help when people with absolutely no experience give misleading advice.

  • Comment number 60.

    #59 - Do tell me what your 'experience' is? I have 20 years experience as an environmental scientist, much of this working with waste, some of this time in waste research (including composting). What's your 'experience' here then?

    Perhaps you ought to try taking the advice of the Compost Association who stated in an article of the 24th February 2006 that 'Composting works best if you add a lot of materials at once. Chop large items into small pieces to help speed up the process. Try to ensure your compost is moist but not wet. Add water if it is too dry, cover and add dry material if it is too wet. '

    See the operative word here? It's 'moist'. Which does not equate to 'wet'. Wet conditions = anaerobic conditions = lactogenesis/methanogenesis, a poor compost, the build up of ammoniacal nitrogen - and the uncontrolled release of methane. Composting is an aerobic process, after all. It's hard to maintain aerobic conditions in a wet compost heap.

    Here's some podcasts giving composting tips for #56.

    Perhaps you ought to listen to them too?

  • Comment number 61.


    The compost I have is damp rather than wet. However this type also serves to deter rats, which like heat and dry conditions.

  • Comment number 62.

    #61 - Rats really aren't bothered. They are primarily interested in the availability of food. A damp compost heap is no barrier to them. I don't see them as a problem anyway. No worse than seagulls or pigeons :-)

  • Comment number 63.

    Surely the answer to the toothpaste problem is tooth powder? Surely some of those must come in metal tins still?

  • Comment number 64.


    Other Composting enthusiasts have had problems with rats and my advice has helped them. It is important to help other Zero Waste enthusiasts aspiring to Zero Food Waste.

  • Comment number 65.

    #62 - Has it? I doubt it. Rats aren't bothered about how wet a compost heap is. They're only interested in accessible food. They don't necessarily have to nest in the heap - they can nest nearby. The best way to avoid rats is to secure the heap by using a plastic composter (that word again!), and get in there frequently to turn it. Having a cat helps too :)

    Wet compost heaps are not a good idea for a number of reasons. As I have pointed out in this thread. Ask the Compost Association (now known as AFOR)

  • Comment number 66.


    I use a plastic compost bin and I would recommend it to anyone seeking advice.

    Fully wet compost is not a factor in my home composting. I like Anearobic Digestion as it can eliminate food waste from landfill.

  • Comment number 67.


    The Lush deodorant bar has been in use for a few days now. It is way different from sprays but I like the absence of waste at the end of use. It certainly is a sustainable choice.

    What we need is a soap shaving stick, and a toothpaste preparation, to use with my sustainably sourced wooden toothbrush.

    Part of the Zero Waste challenge is to find alternatives to all current waste items. These are appearing in more frequent numbers as more people join-in.

  • Comment number 68.

    #66 - Good to see you using a plastic compost bin. The other alternative is a decent wooden one. Such as the 'New Zealand' type with slatted wooden walls.

    [Having said that, I made compost quite happily for a few years in an old concrete coal-bunker that someone was throwing out. When it cracked in the frost one winter it got re-used to make the footings for my shed. Then the council gave me a plastic composter, which was nice of them.]

    Anaerobic digestion is also good. But in an AD plant, and not in your compost heap :-)

  • Comment number 69.


    Further Zero waste finds have been the all steel razor and blades and coffee beans in a reusable container.

    As Beth said earlier containers may be the way to take food commodities from stores with combination plastic packaging totally avoided.

  • Comment number 70.

    Lush plastic pots can be taken back tothe shop to be refilled/recycled and used for another customer. I believe they sell a shaving cream in a large tub so lasting a considerable number of weeks/months ( a little goes a long way!)
    You also get a free one when you take 5 pots back

  • Comment number 71.

    The measures she is taking - how extreme are they? For instance the bathroom sink, is that made out of plastic?


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