Are homemade shampoos better for the climate?


There are two methods of soap production: the “hot” and “cold” processes. They are very similar, except in the hot process the mixture is heated on a griddle, which is the one I used. When you drop the lye into the hot oil, it triggers an endothermic reaction. The pan suddenly goes from hot to very cold as heat is absorbed from the surroundings into the mixture to fuel the chemical reaction.

The extra energy used in the hot method speeds up the setting and curing time, but if you really want to reduce emissions, you can be patient and opt for the cold method.

The mixture is then left to harden and harden to allow the water and any residual sodium hydroxide to evaporate. Due to the sodium hydroxide, the mixture can initially be very irritating to the touch, so handmade soaps may need to be left for several weeks before they are fully hardened and ready to use.

If you’re willing to wait that long for your bar soap, it can save you some money. Even in small quantities, homemade soaps, shampoos and shower gels can be significantly cheaper than consumer products. The soaps I made (in batches of 24) cost between 30-40p (40-50 cents) each.

There are unavoidable environmental costs associated with homemade soap. Some plant-based soaps use coconut and palm oil, which, depending on how they’re produced, can have significant downsides. More than 90% of the world’s palm oil is produced in Borneo, Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, but oil palm plantations in this region are expanding into tropical forests, leading to 50% deforestation in Borneo in Malaysia, for example. The oil palm also contributes to the drying and burning of peatlands in Southeast Asia. Peatlands are extremely important for storing carbon. Although they cover only 3% of the planet’s surface, they sequester twice as much carbon as the world’s forests.

Alternatively, you can use other vegetable oils like olive oil and castor oil. Although palm oil can be a good choice if it is sustainably sourced, as it is a more productive crop than other oils.

If you want your homemade solid shampoo to be fragrant, you will also need to add essential oils. Although they represent only a very small fraction of the ingredients (sometimes less than 1% by mass), according to research by Kröhnert and Stucki, they are one of the main contributors to environmental costs such as land use. and eutrophication.

So if you want to reduce emissions from your shower, it might be worth making your own simple, solid shampoo. But an even simpler solution? Lower the water temperature a degree or two.

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