How to lower the environmental impact of washing your hair

Have you ever really stopped to think about what impact washing your hair has on the environment?

In a survey we ran in 2020 40% of men said they wash their hair daily. An additional 33% said they wash their hair at least once a week.

That's the best part of 75% of men in the UK washing their hair weekly or more.

Which adds up to a lot of water and shampoo being used every week.

Before we get into how you can lower the impact of your hair washing routine, let's address why you might want to do that.

Of all the daily and weekly rituals and habits you have, washing your hair is probably not top of the list in terms of the negative impact it has on the environment.

Data tells us that your transport usage, how you heat your home and what you eat form the biggest portion of your personal environmental impact.

However, at Tidy we believe that every little change adds up. And often, making the small, simple changes like to your hair washing routine can be a catalyst for making some of the more substantial changes in the future.

So, with that in mind, here's how your hair washing routine impacts the environment and the planet.


The lowest impact hair washing routine is no routine at all

The single best thing you can do to lower the impact of washing your hair on the environment is to simply not wash your hair.

Not washing it will:

  1. mean no need for shampoo (or conditioners)
  2. reduce the time you spend in the shower, reducing both the amount of water you use and the energy used to heat it
  3. save you (if you're careful ;) ) from having to dry it, saving the energy required to use a hair drier, and / or the energy required to dry a wet towel.

But, unless you've got a very minimal amount of hair, or are happy to shave your head, this option isn't really practical for most.


If you do wash your hair, lower your impact by doing it less often

The next best thing you can do to lower the environmental impact of washing your hair is to wash it less often.

If you wash it daily, try every other day instead. Half the washing will half your impact on the environment.

It'll save you money and time too.

40% of the men who completed our market research survey shampoo daily. Almost as many again (33%) shampoo weekly. If they can do it, maybe you can?


Lose your bottle - use a solid shampoo bar

If you do need to wash your hair, even if you can reduce how often you do it, you can further reduce your environmental impact by choosing to use a solid shampoo over a liquid one.

Using a solid shampoo reduces waste in a number of ways:

  1. it removes the need for bottles, pumps, lids or other packaging and containers
  2. it allows you to use the whole of the product you've bought (no stubborn, final-last-drop stuck at the bottom of the bottle you can't get to)
  3. solid shampoos use less water to produce (did you know that liquid shampoos can be more than 80% water?!), so you get more cleaning power for your money and use less precious water in your shampoo's manufacturing process
  4. they take up less space, so are cheaper and easier to transport and store, saving on fuel costs and emissions associated with distribution.


If you need a shampoo bottle, bring your own

As much as it pains us to say it, not everyone likes a solid shampoo (do try them though!). If you're in "team liquid" and will only use liquid shampoos you can still reduce the impact of your hair washing by buying refillable bottles and visiting your local refill shop when you run out.

Reusing the same bottle over and over, not only reduces the number of bottles that are thrown out and need to be (at best) recycled or (at worst) put into landfill, but it also reduces the number that need to be made in the first place.

The manufacturing of a disposable bottle takes a huge amount of time, energy and material resource. Not having to make as many will allow for those resources to either be saved, or for them to be used on more worthwhile production.


Go big with your refillable shampoo bottle or go home

If you're bringing your own refillable bottle or buying shampoo in a new bottle, buying bigger is less wasteful.

The bigger the bottle, the fewer refills / re-buys you'll need. Saving you trips to the shops. In some cases you'll get a better price for buying more too, saving you money in the long run.

Top tip: if you are refilling shampoo, use a large, multi-litre container when you get your refill and decant it into a smaller more practical bottle for day to day use in your gym bag or bathroom. Yes, that's two bottles, but the more you buy at a time the lower the overall environmental impact will be and it's not really practical to keep a 5-10 litre + bottle in the shower is it?


Buy recyclable shampoo bottles only

If you really have to buy shampoo by the bottle with the intention of disposing of the bottle, try to buy bottles that can be recycled. Ideally those that are made of recycled materials themselves.

Then make sure you actually recycle them. Check with your local authority regarding what they can and can't recycle, some are more fussy than others. Remember to rinse the bottles out before putting them in the recycling too, many recycle centres can't process dirty materials (yet). You may also need to separate the lids and the bottles if made of different materials.


The single worst thing is single use shampoo

Finally the worst possible way you can wash your hair from an environmental impact point of view is to use those single serving bottles you get at some gyms and hotels.

Making those little bottles, transporting them, filling them, transporting them again and delivering them all over the country is a huge unnecessary waste.

When finished with they need to be disposed of and replaced (in many cases, daily).

To make matters worse most of those little bottles are only partially used before being thrown out. So not only is the bottle being disposed of, so is most of the shampoo itself! Add to that the fact that each little bottle of shampoo will often be accompanied by a similar sized mini bottle of conditioner and you've got a bonus two-for-one waste situation.

The semi-good news on this front is that there is an organisation (clean conscious) who collect unused and partially used soaps, shampoos and conditioners from hotels around the country, reclaim the useable product and repurpose it.

So it's not all going in the bin any more.

Still the fact that such an organisation needs to exist is madness.

So there you have it. A sliding scale of how much negative impact your hair washing habits have on the environment.

Have you tried to lower the impact of your hair washing? Or other daily or weekly habits? Share your experience in the comments below.

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