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Shaving energy: The green guide to the pros and cons of disposable razors

Updated on April 4, 2012

Recently I've decided to make an effort to find out more about every day items, what consequences using them has and if there's any 'dirt' on them. Well there's certainly a lot of dirt on my pot of disposable razors and as I was shaving one early morning, I figured it was a pretty good place to start.

Shaving energy might sound like what Sean Connery does on Earth Day but it's actually the amount of carbon emissions created by different forms of shaving. You could be forgiven for thinking electric shavers were a waste of energy but they are surprisingly more ecological than disposable razors.

There are several reasons for this, perhaps most importantly the energy it takes to heat the water used with a disposable outweighs the energy consumed to charge batteries for an electric. Then there's the energy consumed to make the razors in the first place, if you used 5 disposable razors a month, it would amount to 60 a year. The average electric shaver lasts at least 3 years, in which time you may have used 180 disposable razors, unless you've experimented with facial hair during that period and even if you did, the extra washing the beard requires probably used a similar amount of water, if not more.

If you're starting to feel guilty, you may console yourself with the fact that the amount of greenhouse gases created by shaving is no cause for alarm, a single cow's (as opposed to a married one) annual methane emissions are equal to 350 years of shaving but recycling them is also an issue. WIth their metal blades wedged amongst plastic, few countries have the infrastructure to be able to separate them and most of them end up at the landfill site, proving a danger to birds and other dumpsite visitors. BIC in particular are making efforts to improve the situation, they piloted a scheme in France where users could post disposable razors back to BIC for free, they were then recycled and made in to washing machine parts. They also make their disposables from bio plastic which is an improvement on a lot of other brands.

Related hazards

It's not just the disposable razor though, what about the production and transportation of fancy shaving foams? Shaving foams are a bit of an environmental hazard, there was a small leakage in Reading, UK a couple of years back and whilst it only killed three fish, the petrochemical production that goes hand in hand with the shaving foam industry have far more lethal consequences.

71 million pounds of toxins are released into the air and water during the refinement process. Looking through the list of ingredients makes me feel stupid, I don't know what half of them are or what they do. It's exactly this type of ignorance that I wanted to combat when I decided to learn more about things I come in to contact with on a daily basis. Parabens are a class of chemicals known to toy with human and animal hormones by creating more estrogen but have also been linked to breast cancer. Another unfriendly ingredient is TEA and I'm not talking about the leaf based drink, this one is the acronym for triethanolamine, another hormone disrupter that is used in nitrogen mustard gas and has been linked to kidney and liver cancer. Then there's BHA and Triclosan that have a negative impact on aquatic ecosystems.

The Alternatives

There are other greener alternatives out there that don't require looking like an unwashed Santa Claus. Electric razors are not that dear and certainly worth the investment but if you want to keep wet shaving, you could always opt for the old school cut-throat. There's organic shaving cream on the market that's better value than the aerosol foam type and much better for the environment, made from entirely natural ingredients. Small quantities of shaving cream can easily cover your whole face but it's a little tricky to get right at first and without lathering it up in your hands, you end up with a splodge of toothpaste like cream hanging from your stubble while you attempt to paw it to other parts of your face.

Still a fan of disposables?

If lathering up with a mixture of potentially dangerous chemicals doesn't bother you, then you may be interested in at least learning how to reuse your disposable razors again and again by rubbing them on skin, leather or denim in the opposite direction and saving yourself some money as well as limiting harm to the environment. Basically, all that's to it is pushing the razor up in the opposite direction to the shaving motion against a piece of leather, palm of your hand or forearm. I've attached a video below by a dapper American gent to show you how it's done.


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