In this article, I will discuss the eco-friendly alternatives to shaving. I will talk about sustainability in shaving soap, options including vegan(Plant-based) and tallow(animal-based) shaving soaps, insights into sustainable alternatives to plastic disposable cartridges, including safety razors and I will touch on sustainable packaging in shaving soaps and shaving gear.
Is vegan shaving soap or tallow shaving soap more sustainable and eco-friendly?
Regardless of which type works for you, many shaving creams and gels come in aerosol cans that contain propellants harmful to the environment. Using traditional vegan or tallow-based shaving soap or cream with a safety razor eliminates the need for any type of aerosols for shaving.
The sustainability and eco-friendliness of vegan shaving soap versus tallow shaving soap depend on various factors, and it's essential to consider multiple aspects when making this comparison:
Vegan Shaving Soap:
Vegan shaving soaps are made from plant-based ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and essential oils. If these ingredients are sustainably sourced, it can be an eco-friendly option. As mentioned vegan soaps do not include animal products.
Tallow Shaving Soap:
Tallow is animal fat, often sourced from beef or other animal by-products. Its sustainability can vary. If the tallow comes from animals raised for meat production, it can be seen as a way to use more of the animal and reduce waste. However, concerns may arise regarding the environmental impact of livestock farming. Tallow soaps often also contain vegan ingredients.
Vegan Shaving Soap:
Many vegan ingredients are biodegradable, which can be more environmentally friendly. They are less likely to harm aquatic ecosystems when washed down the drain.
Tallow Shaving Soap:
Tallow is biodegradable as well, but it's essential to ensure that the soap doesn't contain other non-biodegradable additives.
Vegan Shaving Soap:
Vegan products are cruelty-free and do not involve animal by-products, making them the preferred choice for those concerned about animal welfare.
Tallow Shaving Soap:
The tallow used in shaving soaps is a by-product of the meat industry. Some people see using tallow in this context as a way to minimize waste, although it may raise ethical concerns for vegetarians and vegans.
Some shaving soaps, both vegan and tallow-based, may contain palm oil, a vegan ingredient. The production of palm oil is often associated with deforestation and habitat destruction, which can have severe environmental consequences. Look for products that use sustainable palm oil or are palm oil-free.
Some of the specific issues with Palm oil and its lack of sustainability include:
Human Rights Concerns & Conflict with Indigenous Communities:
Palm oil production is often associated with labor rights violations, including poor working conditions, low wages, and child labor. Workers on palm oil plantations can face hazardous conditions. Palm oil plantations have sometimes been established on lands traditionally inhabited by indigenous communities. Palm oil is primarily grown and harvested in 3rd world tropical regions near the equator. The countries that produce the majority of the world's palm oil are located in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.
One of the most significant concerns with palm oil production is deforestation. To make way for palm oil plantations, large areas of tropical rainforests, which are rich in biodiversity and serve as vital carbon sinks, are cleared. This deforestation leads to habitat loss and fragmentation, putting many species at risk of extinction.
Lack of Sustainable Practices:
While there are some, albeit challenged, sustainable palm oil certification programs like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), not all palm oil is produced sustainably and credible. The effectiveness of such programs in mitigating environmental and social issues varies.
It's important to note that not all palm oil production is environmentally harmful. Sustainable and environmentally responsible palm oil practices exist, which aim to reduce the negative impacts associated with palm oil production. Consumers and businesses can support sustainable practices by purchasing products made with certified sustainable palm oil or by seeking alternatives to palm oil in their products.
In summary, the sustainability and eco-friendliness of vegan shaving soap versus tallow shaving soap can vary based on ingredient sourcing, packaging, and other factors. Both types of soap can be eco-friendly if they are produced with care for the environment, and it's essential to consider the specific brand and product in your decision. Look for products that are transparent about their ingredients and production practices, as well as those that align with your personal values and environmental concerns.
Why is using a safety razor more environmentally friendly than other shaving alternatives?
Using a safety razor is considered more environmentally friendly than any other shaving alternatives(except a straight razor) for several reasons:
Safety razors are made of durable materials like stainless steel or brass. With proper care, a high-quality safety razor can last a lifetime. In contrast, disposable razors and cartridge razors are designed for limited use and are discarded after just a few shaves, contributing to plastic waste.
Reduction of Plastic Waste:
Disposable razors and cartridge razors have plastic components embedded with steel, including the handle and the cartridge itself. Millions of these plastic razors are discarded every year, adding to the global plastic pollution problem. This type of waste is particularly hard to recycle because the metal is melted and fused with the plastic. Safety razors, on the other hand, have no plastic parts, and the blades are recyclable. I review common questions about the safety razor and the environment here.
Lower Cost Over Time:
While safety razors have a higher initial cost, the long-term savings are substantial because you only need to replace the blades, which are relatively inexpensive compared to purchasing multiple disposable razors or razor cartridges.
The blades used in safety razors are made of stainless steel and can be recycled and are bio-degradable. Many communities and recycling centers accept used razor blades.
Reduced Carbon Footprint:
The production and transportation of disposable razors and cartridges generate higher carbon emissions due to the need for more frequent replacements and the materials used in their manufacture. Safety razors require fewer replacements and, therefore, have a smaller carbon footprint over time.
The manufacturing process for disposable razors and cartridge razors can be energy-intensive. In contrast, the production of safety razors, especially those made of metal, maybe less energy-intensive.
Support for Sustainable Shaving Products:
The use of safety razors often aligns with eco-conscious consumers who prefer using natural and environmentally friendly shaving products like shaving soaps and creams.
While safety razors are more environmentally friendly compared to disposable and cartridge razors, it's essential to consider the entire shaving routine, including the products used, to minimize your environmental impact further. Using natural, cruelty-free, and sustainably sourced shaving products can complement the eco-friendliness of safety razors and create a more sustainable shaving routine. I talk about more alternatives to plastic disposable razors in this blog here.
What shaving soap and shaving product packaging is the best for the environment?
The best shaving soap packaging for the environment is packaging that prioritizes sustainability, reduces waste, and minimizes its environmental impact, including aerosol type soaps. Here are some environmentally friendly packaging options for shaving soap:
Paper or Cardboard Packaging:
Shaving soaps and razors that come in recyclable paper or cardboard packaging are among the most eco-friendly options. These materials are renewable and biodegradable, and they can be easily recycled or composted. Generally the soaps are harder(not creams) but can be lathered using a high quality shaving brush.
Minimalist or Plastic-Free Packaging:
Packaging that is minimalist, without excessive labels, inserts, or plastic components, is better for the environment. Look for shaving soaps and products that come in plastic-free or biodegradable packaging.
Some shaving soap brands offer refillable containers made from sustainable materials. Customers can purchase the initial container and then purchase refills in minimal or bulk packaging, reducing waste and conserving resources.
Metal or Tin Containers:
Shaving soaps in metal or tin containers is a good choice because these materials are recyclable. After using the soap, the container can be repurposed, recycled, or returned to the manufacturer for refilling. In most cases these containers are bio-degradable.
Photo courtesy of @agravic1331 on Instagram
Glass or Recycled Plastic Containers:
Glass containers can be recycled, and some brands use recycled plastic containers for their shaving soaps. These options are better than using new plastic packaging.
Biodegradable or Plant-Based Plastic:
Some companies use biodegradable or plant-based plastic for their packaging. While these materials are not a perfect solution, they may be preferable to traditional petroleum-based plastics.
Some brands offer packaging-free shaving soaps, which can be purchased in bulk or with minimal packaging. These are the most environmentally friendly options but may not be as common.
Participation in Recycling Programs:
Some companies have established recycling programs for their packaging. They encourage customers to return used packaging for recycling or repurposing. In our experience they are rarely recycled...
Safety razor packaging tends to be minimal, at Carbon Shaving Co. all our packaging is plastic-free. In contrast, disposable and cartridge razors come in excessive plastic packaging, designed for retail stores, which generates additional waste. These packages are designed larger to capture your attention on the retail shelf, we only ship direct-to-consumer in cardboard packaging. There are many double edge razor refills that use paper and cardboard only in there packaging.
When choosing a shaving soap, razor or refills consider not only the type of packaging but also the overall environmental commitment of the brand. Brands that prioritize sustainable sourcing, environmentally responsible manufacturing, and ethical practices throughout their supply chain are more likely to offer shaving soaps with eco-friendly packaging. Additionally, you can complement your eco-friendly shaving soap with other sustainable shaving practices, such as using a safety razor and avoiding disposable plastic shaving products.
At Carbon Shaving we are committed to an environmentally sustainable solution. While trying to eliminate plastic use is difficult, when designing our products we are often presented with these sustainable questions. A good example of this dilemma came when we designed our shaving brush...while the handle is Titanium we questioned whether to use a traditional badger hair, shaving knot.
All of this hair is predominantly sourced from China and comes from the Eurasian badger. This raised ethical concerns with us because it involves the harvesting of animal hair and we are unable to verify cruelty-free harvesting. These badger species are protected in some places, and international regulations are in place to prevent the use of hair from threatened or endangered species. To address these concerns, we opted for hand-tied synthetic(plastic) shaving knots made in Germany.
We have talked about a number of environmentally friendly shaving solutions and alternatives. Starting with a safety razor is a good start...take your time finding that perfect shaving soap that works with your skin and hair type. Look for the smaller artisan shops with good reviews!
Would love to hear your thoughts...leave a comment below. If you have ideas on how we can do better feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to us here.