How to have a zero waste shower

When the news came out about how lots of our ‘recycled’ plastic actually ends up in dumps on the other side of the world, I realised I had to start cutting down on unnecessary bottles. I’ve always been low-key worried about plastic consumption, and never really saw recycling as the answer, but I’d kind of repressed that worry for years because I didn’t know what to do about it. But after seeing those news reports, and learning about microplastic pollution, I decided that I was going to make changes. At the time, my bathroom was completely covered in tubes and bottles of shower gel (a byproduct of working in the beauty industry and being addicted to long hot showers) and so I decided that once they were all used up, I would try out bar soap in the shower instead. I was worried that bar soaps might dry my skin out – but if that happened, I decided I’d just apply body oil afterwards to counteract the effects.

What it did for my skin

It’s been almost a year since we started using bar soap full time again, and you’ll be amazed to lean that the skin on my body has barely needed moisturising at all in that time. Maybe once or twice a month, rather than after every shower. It turns out that apparently, soap and body skin (still not sure about the face) are perfectly suited, and I actually have SOFTER skin than before! There are lots of ways to use soap – if you rub it on a body puff you’ll be virtually drowning in bubbles before you know it (very fun), but obviously they aren’t ideal because they’re made out of plastic. Otherwise, you can just rub the soap directly all over your body, or rub it in your hands until it lathers, and then massage that all over. You can also buy a natural sponge, but they’re expensive as hell (and not vegan), or a loofah, but they’re pretty harsh and I can’t seem to get them to soften up.

How to shave with soap and a safety razor

Given the hundreds of shaving products lining up alongside all those plastic razors in the shops, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d need something from all those shelves to successfully shave your unwanted body hair. But as it turns out, that’s just not true. Bar soap is perfectly adequate for shaving your skin, and safety razors are brilliant! To get a thick lather for shaving, wet the soap ever so slightly, rub it between your palms to get them well covered, and then rub your hands fairly vigorously over your leg (or wherever) until you get a good layer of white over your skin. Then shave away! It is slightly different to shaving with a disposable, but this blog post is getting long so I’ll revisit that later. My safety razor is by Bambaw, and I like it because it has a bamboo handle, which lessens the amount of metal that went into making it.

What about guests?

I don’t know about you buy I’m not going to make my guests use the same bar of soap as me, or even make them use bar soap at all if they don’t want to. Instead, I keep a glass bottle of Bloomtown Botanicals’ divine Hedgerow Body Wash in the shower for guests to use.

Zero waste exfoliators

I exfoliate with this Body Shop hemp bag – you just put a bar of soap in it and rub all over yourself. But when I remember, I also like to use leftover coffee grounds – I just stir in a bit of coconut oil or tea tree to make sure they don’t go mouldy.

Which soap to choose?

There are sooooo many bars of soap out there that it can be hard to pick (and very easy to go totally wild and fill your bathroom up with them…) so I thought I’d share a list of the ones I’ve tried so far, to give you an idea of what to look for, and what to avoid!

Lush soaps

These were the first we tried, and I hated them. They don’t lather up at all when you rub them on your skin, and don’t leave you feeling particularly clean. I also got a UTI while using them, I don’t know if the two things were related, but I’ve only ever had one UTI in my life before, and haven’t had one since. Do not recommend. 3/10 (only for the scents)

BECO Soap

I’ve tried the honey blossom and spring meadow scents and I think they’re both delicate and lovely. The soap itself cleans really well, and fits into my small hands perfectly. But the most amazing things about this soap are its eco and socially conscious credentials. They employ people with visual impairments, disabilities and financial disadvantages, and go the extra mile to accommodate their employees’ needs. That is tragically unusual, and absolutely brilliant in my opinion. In addition to that, their bar soaps are totally plastic free (including unlaminated boxes, which very few brands actually offer) and their ingredients are sustainably sourced. AND AND AND!!! You can get them in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and the Co-op. Effortless, eco friendly and the most socially conscious company I’ve come across. 11/10

Aesop Cleansing Slab

I’m so frustrated that Aesop wrap this in shrinkwrap plastic! If they didn’t do that, this would be one of my favourite soaps. The scent is divine, it leaves my skin perfectly clean, and it creates a super rich lather. It’s certainly the most expensive soap I’ve tried, but at £17 it’s less than I would have expected from Aesop. If it didn’t have that plastic on it, it’d be a solid ten, but as it is, 8/10

Faith in Nature Lavender Soap

For some reason I expected this to be rubbish, I’m not sure why, but all I can say is I was completely wrong! This is a great soap, really lovely lavender scent, and the best part is, this is one that can be bought completely packaging free in some health food shops! Plastic wrapped in others though. 8/10

Oliva Soap

I like the simplicity and affordability of this soap, but it doesn’t smell good, and it isn’t the most ‘lather-ey’. My skin didn’t feel very clean when I was using it, so I did a second cleanse with the Aesop afterwards. I ended up throwing it away because I couldn’t stand the smell, but it is a very tightly packed soap so it’s good value for money. 2/10

Dr Bronner’s Rose Geranium Soap

Love love love this soap. It’s a great shape, perfect for rubbing all over yourself, and it cleans just as well as their liquid soap. It’s a great option, not too expensive, and very solid so it lasts really well. Oh and, like with BECO, this comes in unlaminated card packaging. 9/10

Suma Rose Geranium Glycerin Soap

I LOVE this soap! I find the way it goes clear when it’s wet to be really satisfying, and the circular shape is really easy to hold. It lathers really well and it also leaves my skin feeling very soft too. This is also another one that you can buy packaging free in health food shops, or in an unlaminated box. 10/10

MOR Cyclamen Tuberose Soap

This is without a doubt the most heavily scented soap I’ve ever had in my possession. Luckily, the fragrance is absolutely divine, it’s like a Diptyque candle! It’s heady and floral but not at all sweet, I really love it. And you can get it from Waitrose. When I bought it I thought I was onto a winner – wrapped in brown card with a beautiful design, held together with a rubber band… but then I opened it and discovered it was wrapped in plastic. Eyeroll. 7/10

Well, I hope you found that useful! I’m on a mission to zero-waste my entire bathroom, so keep an eye out for a follow-up blog post when/if I ever manage it…

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Trilogy Mineral Radiance Mask

There are so many  bad and important things going on in the world at the moment that I’ve been finding it really hard to think or talk about beauty recently. There have been a few stressful things going on in my life that my skin hasn’t taken to very well, and with the added stress of the absolutely dreadful events tearing through nearly every corner of the world, I was recently treated to a horrendous stress-breakout over my chin and right cheek. It was really painful, and impossible to cover. So I absolutely had to share with you my saviour, Trilogy Mineral Radiance Mask*

*PR Sample; all opinions given are my own

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Trilogy is a 100% natural, cruelty free and vegetarian brand. This product is also vegan, and Trilogy’s ingredients support ethical trading by having a traceable supply chain. They work with worker collectives, non-profits, the UN, and even directly employ their their own supplier for their bestselling rosehip oil. For a worldwide brand, this is very impressive if you ask me. You know when you’re reading the ‘ethical statement’ of a brand and you can tell (perhaps it’s just from working in the beauty industry for 5 years, I don’t know) that they’re manipulating words, trying to convince you that they are far more ethical than they actually are? Trilogy are the opposite.

They hold themselves to a genuinely high standard and it’s inspiring. Their prices are honest too; the mask that I’m about to (I promise, we’ll get there) tell you about is £20.50, which is a good, honest price for a brand with great ethical trading standards, top quality ingredients and lots of research behind it. Anyway, sorry. If I was a more business-minded person my dream would be to work as an Ethical Trading Manager so I tend to get carried away on brands that really do the work! On to the Mineral Radiance Mask

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The mask has a super thick, buttery smooth consistency that spreads gorgeously over the skin. It doesn’t really dry out so if your skin is delicate or dehydrated you don’t need to worry about it being uncomfortable, and it rinses off really easily. The main ingredient is kaolin clay which is a sticky, fine type of clay that attracts ‘surface debris’ like dead skin and excess oil (from inside the pores). This helps restore radiance to dull complexions but also helps to reduce breakouts by deep cleansing the pores. There’s also rosehip oil in there; Trilogy is famous for its Organic Rosehip Oil (I still haven’t tried it but I know so many people who love it!) which is a light oil that helps to regenerate, calm and soften all skin types. Pohutukawa extract (a native New Zealand plant) helps to tone the skin, whilst aloe vera gel, chamomile and sweet almond oil soothe and hydrate. Finally, detoxifying carrot and rosemary oils are great for microcirculation and skin repair.

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I find that after I use Mineral Radiance Mask, my skin feels incredibly fresh, looks far brighter and is really soft. And after using it regularly for a couple of weeks, my breakouts dried up and completely disappeared, with no new ones taking their place. My skin is quite sensitive but it absolutely loves this mask! However, it contains essential oils and salicylic acid so if you have allergic skin or eczema, I would avoid. Every other skin type though, I think would really benefit from it. It gets rid of dead skin cells, deep cleanses, soothes and hydrates whilst also being kind to the planet and its inhabitants. What’s not to love? Get it here for £20.50

 

How to do something for the world (instead of just feeling bad about it)

The world is in terrible state right now and it’s frightening to sit and watch it happen. It’s easy to feel powerless when we look at the awful things that are happening to people at home and abroad. I’ve participated in my fair share of volunteering and activism over the years, so I thought I would share a few ideas on ways that you can help. This isn’t about being a ‘saviour’, this is about the fact that people reading this almost certainly have a far more comfortable existence than a lot of people in the world. We have a moral duty to do something with our personal resources. Sharing posts on Facebook, by the way, isn’t on this list. Sorry, but it isn’t enough just to ‘care’ anymore. I’ve split these suggestions into sections – things everyone can do, things you can do with money, things you can do with your time, things you can do with yourself. I hope you find something helpful! It’s not exhaustive by any means, but if I’ve missed something you think is vital, please let me know.

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Things everyone can do

These are just a few little ideas that you can adopt into your life to help your everyday life make a more positive impact on the world.

Reduce meat consumption or cut it out entirely. The meat industry contributes to global warming more than almost anything else, so the less of it you can eat, the better. If you feel you have to, stick to poultry. The dairy industry is also linked to this of course, so reduce that too if you can.

Buy ethically. Sounds daunting but it’s really not! Shop in Lidl, Aldi, the Co-op, M&S or Whole Foods. Make leftover food into lunches. Use The Guardian’s ethical fashion directory for clothes, or buy on second hand apps like Depop. Get clothes, homeware items and cosmetics from independently owned companies or creators. Donate your old clothes to charity. If you have enough money to be looking for a car, get a hybrid. Let your license fee lapse (the BBC promotes fascism, sorry). Consider boycotting some of these. Bank with Nationwide or the Co-op, if you have a choice of energy supplier get an ethical one like Ovo Energy. Buy cosmetics and household products that are as natural as possible, and buy recycled toilet paper. Basically whenever you hand over money for something, think to yourself ‘is this doing damage, is it fairly neutral, or is it doing good?’

Do what you can to make your home more energy efficient. From double lining your curtains to making sure nothing gets left on standby, from timing your showers to only flushing the loo when you have to.

Join a political party (you don’t have to have any money OR time to do this), and vote in every election you can, even if you think it’s meaningless. There’s no such thing. Not sure who you should join? Take the Political Matchmaker!

Things you can do with money

There are thousands of worthy charities in the world – you can commit to one and donate just to them, or dot your donation around different ones. Either way, if you have disposable income this is the best way to use it if you want to help people. 

Donate to Syria. There are specific Syrian charities such as Syria Relief that you can donate money too, or you can donate to UNICEF, UNHCR, Oxfam or Save the Children.

Donate to environmental charities. While humans may be pretty preoccupied with killing each other right now, the war on the environment rages on in the background. Deforestation, waste, the depletion of resources such as rare earth elements, fossil fuels and water is still happening, as it global warming. Pollution is through the roof, in the UK especially. Crops are fucked. The World Land Trust, WWF and Rainforest Alliance are solid choices.

Donate to human rights/wellbeing charities. Mental health care in the UK is in disarray at the moment, and it’s clear that huge groups of people are suffering massively from mental health problems. You can donate to Mind to help with this. Or how about Amnesty International, to help end female genital mutilation, to help hold war criminals to account, to protect refugees and to protect human rights worldwide. If you’re particularly concerned about women, perhaps you could donate to Womankind, a charity that supports female entrepreneurship in developing countries. Or Women’s Aid, a UK charity that helps female and child victims of domestic violence. What about water availability? Wateraid works to provide safe drinking water around the world. Poverty in the UK is rising fast. Why not donate to Shelter or Barnardos?

Donate to your chosen political party. This will help them to fight the rising altneo-rightnazis which as we can all clearly see, is growing problem that we really fucking need to do something about. Donating to the party that you believe is the best for the job will help them to eradicate white extremism.

Things you can do with your time

Not all of us have spare time, but if you do, these are great ways to spend it.

Take the UNICEF free online course on Social Change. This is a wonderful thing for anyone who wants to be a better citizen, activist or campaigner. The course looks at the distinctions between societal norms and societal conventions, before moving on to social change, and the tools that can be used to enact it.

Do volunteer work for political parties or charities. Small charities and parties in the run up to elections are often desperate for tech savvy people to do a bit of SEO, HTML, Photoshop or photography for them. During the last general election I volunteered on Natalie Bennett’s campaign and learned photoshop so I could produce digital campaign communications as well as doing some social media. Unfortunately I was in the middle of moving jobs and I had to stop, which is why it’s very important to work out if time is something you have to give. Just like some people don’t have money to give, others don’t have time.

Work for a helpline. I put this in ‘time’ but it depends. Sometimes helplines that offer online or social support will let you do it from home, and I’ve heard about helplines doing the same, but more commonly you will have to go to their office. Samaritans, LGBT+ Switchboard, Refuge and SANE all offer volunteer positions.

Sign petitions and write to your MP. A while ago I campaigned against funding cuts that were being made to the research teams at Kew Gardens – I attended some advisory meetings and learned a lot about how to put weight behind a cause. Making ‘noise’ is one of the best ways to do this, and can be done by writing to your MP about an issue you are concerned about, whether it’s sending aid to Syria, poverty in the UK or violence against women For lots of campaigns, especially ones that have a petition attached to them, you will be able to send a pre-written letter to your MP that you personalise as well.

Things you can do with your self

Some of these are very big commitments indeed, but I thought I’d put them in because if you’re in a position to do something big, why not? 

Sign up to the UN Volunteers Database. I joined this recently. Basically you go on their website, fill in all necessary details about yourself and your skills, as well as the level of commitment you can offer. If anything comes up that’s suitable for you, they get in touch.

Do VSO. Voluntary Services Overseas is an organisation that sends skilled people to other countries to help the community using their skills. I know someone who helped with tourism infrastructure in Sri Lanka because she had lots of business knowledge, but there are positions for loads of different areas of expertise including accountancy, education and agriculture. The great thing about this particular organisation over others is that you are required to have skills that a community can benefit from before you can be placed somewhere. You aren’t just buying a trip to ‘Africa’ to ruin the lives of some children play with orphans.

Join MSF. Médecins Sans Frontières is one of the most important critical aid charities in the world. They are at the forefront of every health crisis, be it conflicts, epidemics or natural disasters and their teams are fearless. They don’t just need healthcare professionals though – HR managers, pharmacists, technical engineers, supply chain management, finance, communication and admin coordinators are all needed. This is a very big choice. I’m not suggesting you join MSF after reading one blog post by an irrelevant woman in London. But it’s worth being aware of, no?

Do some community volunteering. Something less perilous and much closer to home! There are always local groups looking for help maintaining a nature reserve, painting a school, being a friend to an isolated person or working in museums. I can’t link to this obviously, but here’s the website for my area, hopefully it will give you a clue as to how to search for yours.

Canvas for a political party. I’ll never forget how cold I got handing out leaflets at 7am for the Green Party in February 2015. But it was important, so I did it. You can do house calls, leafleting or phonecalls for your chosen party, depending on what you prefer.

Join a protest. Numbers make an impact. If a protest for something you believe in takes place, stand up and be counted if you can. Protest marches have been effective many times before. Often they aren’t, but it is one of the purest expressions of our democratic rights and you can’t deny its importance.

Fundraising! Everyone loves a sponsored half marathon, coffee morning or whatever else you fancy doing. Not only does fundraising generate more funds than you might be able to give yourself, you also raise awareness of the cause you’re helping. Plus, it’s usually pretty fun, especially if you’re an outgoing sort of person with lots of friends.

And one final thing that everyone, everyone who doesn’t have to use them should do? Donate food to your nearest foodbank. 3.8 million workers in the UK are now living in poverty – and that’s just people in work, let alone people out of work. If you can afford to feed yourself, you can afford to buy a little bit of food for someone else.