Like many people, shaving is a part of my daily grooming routine.
And like all routines, I don’t think about it much.
But the other day, I grabbed a razor from the side of my tub and realized I had three razors sitting there. Plastic razors that I’ve been buying and throwing away after a week or two for the last twenty years.
How could I have never noticed what a waste that is?
The EPA estimates that 2 billion razors are thrown away each year. That’s outrageous, considering that you can’t recycle disposable razors in the U.S. You can recycle the steel blades (check with your local recycling center first), but your standard disposable razor is going to the landfill.
When you think about it, razors may be the most wasteful product we use in the bathroom.
I actually thought that my disposable razor conundrum was going to be solved by just putting a mini recycling bin in my bathroom—old razors to recycle, problem solved.
But it’s not that easy. Single-use items create big problems for the environment.
And add that to the environmental costs of manufacturing, plastic packaging, and shipping (to say nothing of water or shaving cream use, during shaving itself), and the problem keeps growing.
As we’re getting into spring in the next few weeks (the start of shaving season!), now’s as good a time as any to think more critically about your razor routine. Whether you shave daily or as little as possible, shaving is a big cultural habit that doesn’t need to be so wasteful.
Here are 5 ways to improve the environmental impact of your shaving routine:
1. Electric shavers
They’re going to cost you more up front, but you’ll save in the long run. Also, they have the added bonus of reducing the amount of water you use.
If you make the switch to an electric shaver, go for an eco-boost and get a solar charger, too.
I currently spend about $8 for the 4-pack of Lady Bics. If I use a new one every two weeks, that’s $216/year, and 104 non-recyclable contributions to a landfill, plus the packaging for 26 4-packs.
There are electric shavers starting at around $30, so it pays for itself in just a few months, and you can shave without any gel, cream, or lotion.
2. Use recycled instead
If you can’t give up your disposable habit, there are some products that are used from recycled plastic. Preserve offers a razor made from recycled materials, as does Schick. Schick has also moved to zero-landfill production.
This is a better option than non-recycled razors, but that razor you’re done with is still not getting recycled.
3. Buy reusable razors and replace the blades
This trick doesn’t eliminate waste but can reduce it, especially if you sharpen the blades for re-use.
BONUS: Pair either #2 or #3 with a switch from shaving cream to hair conditioner, and you’ll also decrease unnecessary spending/waste from shaving cream cans.
4. Straight razor
Gentlemen, you can use a straight razor on your mutton chops. (This is just not an option for legs and armpits.) But it’s supposed to be a fantastic shave, and has the added bonus of being cool.
Try getting it done by a skilled barber before you invest, to see if it’s a feeling you can get used to.
5. Just don’t shave!
Did you know that No Shave November works as a fundraiser for cancer research? Don’t spend money on your shaving routine, and instead donate that cash to charity for people who lose their hair in chemotherapy.
I know, I know; not shaving is easier said than done.
Guys, I think the world could use more scruff and stubble, but it’s a personal choice, and I hear those things get itchy. But beards work for the Red Sox, and make a nice face-warmer. Just sayin’.
Ladies, it’s all about what makes you comfortable. The completely hairless concept of beauty is a social construct. That being said, it’s not one I feel comfortable deviating from, so I’m going to keep shaving.
But I will promise this instead: I am going to pay attention to shaving products I buy.
I’m making the choice to rethink “disposable,” when so many things with that label are destined for a landfill. Why not take the next step, and shave sustainably?
Emily Rabbitt is a freelance and fiction writer in the Washington, D.C. area. She is a Massachusetts native, iced coffee enthusiast, and marathon runner, and tries to be a good citizen of the planet. Follow her on Twitter: @rabbitterun.