Researchers Tullia Jack from Lund University, Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs from the University of Strathclyde and Monia Niero from the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies wanted to conduct a study to understand the environmental impact of a product and what is included in a life cycle assessment of a product. The researchers wanted to test something simple and mundane, and settled on various hair removal products that are found in every home.
– Many users want to find out what impact their items have on the environment, but we rarely realise all that needs to be included in that analysis, says Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs. And as a member of the public, you don't have the opportunity to investigate it either. The production itself we can find out to some extent, but the whole life cycle of the product is more difficult to measure. For example, how does the fact that we often shower while shaving our legs affect the life cycle analysis?
Razor has the highest environmental impact
The environmental impact of the three different products - wax strip, laser and disposable razor – was calculated for 10 years of use. The benchmark was bananas, a fruit known for its high impact on the environment. Measured in bananas, a ten-year use of the wax strips was equivalent to 263 bananas, the laser 61 bananas and the razor a staggering 70 304 bananas, or the production of four laptops.
– Hair removal may seem like an everyday beauty routine and purchase, but there is some environmental impact over the years. Especially considering how many other unnecessary routines we also burden the planet with," says Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs. She says that while it is not up to individuals to solve the world's environmental problems, we can do something by changing our thinking about planetary boundaries.
– We need more information about the environmental impact of the products we buy. Not only the cost of production, but also waste management, quality and most importantly, we need to measure usage. Taking the train is more environmentally friendly than the car, yes. But most importantly, we need to travel less and when we do, travel shorter distances.
But above all, the researchers want to highlight the illogicality of certain behaviours.
– Our most important conclusion is not really which hair removal method is best, but to clarify the social systems we are trapped in, says Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs.
– Instead of finding the product with the least environmental impact, we should start thinking about normalising not shaving. Why don't we leave the new generation alone and stop passing on these practices?
Contact details to the researchers:
Tullia Jack, Associate Professor, Lund University, Department of Service Sciences.
Contact: tulia [dot] jack [at] ses [dot] lu [dot] se (tulia[dot]jack[at]ses[dot]lu[dot]se)
Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs, Chancellor's Fellow, University of Strathclyde, Department of Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management.
Contact: katherine [dot] ellsworth-krebs [at] strath [dot] ac [dot] uk (katherine[dot]ellsworth-krebs[at]strath[dot]ac[dot]uk)
Monia Niero, Associate Professor, Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Sustainability and Climate Interdisciplinary Centre
Contact: Monia [dot] Niero [at] santannapisa [dot] it (Monia[dot]Niero[at]santannapisa[dot]it)