PRESS: Zero Waste

Graham Fish’s mission to address the cosmetic industry’s plastic problem.

graham fish from man-u mens grooming and rachelle strauss from zero waste weekDo you remember eating Mr Whippy ice cream as a child? While it tasted amazing, it was gone in a few moments and left you hungry for more. I realise now, of course, the product was a brilliant marketing success – inflate not only the product with air, but the price too – and customers can’t get enough of it.

It seems we’ll happily buy air! And it’s no different with our grooming or cleaning products. We’ll readily splash out on aeration and foaming agents without giving it a thought.

Of course, some Zero Waste stalwarts wash their hair with eggs or brush their teeth with baking soda – neither of which produce lather, but both clean effectively. In fact, ‘Which’ tell us that bubbles aren’t always better. In their test on washing up liquid, they cautioned consumers to ‘separate bubbles from cleaning power’.

Waste free grooming products for men

So when Graham Fish told me that his range of men’s grooming products (men-ü ) aim to deliver the right amount of modern, active ingredients where they are needed, with the least waste, I was intrigued. I invited him to Zero Waste Towers to find out more.

You see, Graham – a self-confessed reductionist – isn’t just about reducing waste in the products themselves, he’s committed to ensuring the men-ü brand does what it can to help customers reuse and recycle too. The majority of the products are ultra concentrate & they have, in the last two months, launched refills for these products. The ultra concentrate formulations have a high percentage of active ingredients which not only means up to 90% less packaging but better performance.  This makes me sit up and take notice. It’s been reported that more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry and Graham is quick to admit he doesn’t have all the answers, but at least he’s looking. men-ü is due, later in the year, to reduce the weight of their bottles from 18 grams to 15 grams but they are questioning which is the best packaging material to use:

  • Is virgin plastic better because it produces a good quality recyclate?
  • Should they introduce 30% cent recycled marine plastic to help clear up the oceans (and who is auditing this?)
  • Are Bio Plastics the answer when durable bioplastic has many issues, ranging from changing environments at source eg deforestation to very significant methane emissions, if it gets into landfill?
  • Is plastic free a real alternative in a modern world?

These are a few of the many questions we tossed about in our conversation together. What is the answer without creating a knee jerk response that ends up creating further problems 25 years down the line? (diesel cars we’re looking at you!) And no, we didn’t come up with a definitive answer (if any independent expert in the field of packaging are reading, please get in touch…)

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and Refill)

So back to the products. Although aimed at men, I’m currently trialling shampoo, conditioner and shave crème. The scents are not too masculine – think peppermint, bergamot and tea tree.

Graham warned me that the products take a little adjusting to, as most of us are used to, say, a 10p – sized dollop of shampoo ( some of which, as you’ll see in the picture below,  often works its way between your fingers and down the plug hole before it reaches your hair) or a generous squirt of shaving foam.

The magic with the men-ü packaging is in the pump that dispenses a precision amount of product every time. Although it can appear an alarmingly small amount, I’m impressed with the way these products come to life, once you agitate them in your hand. I’ve realised that much of what we put on our hair and skin is wasted. Products that lather or over-aerate are simply a psychological trick that we wash down the drain. As Graham points out with shaving, “only what is in contact with skin and blade matter, all else is wasted.” This is something powerful to consider with any product we use. Air, lather and foam don’t actually clean, right?!

Environmentally conscious grooming

He even goes so far as to actively encourage consumers to get as many applications from his products as they can. Clearly he’s on a mission to educate people about an environmentally conscious grooming habit, right down to the amount of water we use. His current personal challenge involves only running the shower when he’s actually rinsing a product off, in the style of a navy shower. Pretty commendable and something I admit I’d have to pluck up courage to do! If that’s not enough to convince you he’s one of the good guys Graham shared a few tricks with me to boost the number of applications you’ll get from his refillable products:

  • Once a container is empty, transfer the pump to a refill. You’ll immediately benefit from more product because some of the old product will inevitably be clinging to and within the dip tube.
  • Invert the original bottle (the caps are flat so that the bottles stand up!) to get the last residue of product from that bottle.
  • When you can’t get any more product from the original bottle, dilute with a little water to make it pourable and you’ll be able to use those final precious drops.

And yes, I was then reminded to recycle my old & now clean bottle 😉

Where less is more

men-ü have crunched the numbers, with one pump (0.5ml) being enough for a shave and calculated that 100 mls of men-ü shave crème provides up to 165 shaves, equivalent to approximately three cans of 200 mls aerosol shave gel & approximately 90% less packaging by weight. I’m still getting used to using the products, so can’t vouch for how many applications I get from a bottle, but so far the numbers appear to be adding up. Independent reviewer, Konstadinos said “Some people will think the 100 ml bottle will not last long but trust me, it will. I’m shaving day after day and it lasts me about ten months.”

Graham has coined the phrase ”3 R Grooming”, but after meeting him, I think he’s fulfilling at least four:

  • REDUCE with ultra-concentration
  • REUSE pumps and over caps
  • RECYCLE much less packaging
  • REFILL reducing costs for you and the environment

The biggest challenge I see with men-ü is the price tag. For example, the shave crème is £11.95 (£10.95 for the refill) for 100mls. Aerosol shave gels cost between £1.99 and £4.19 for 200mls. Although you’ll need three aerosols to get the equivalent number of shaves, the initial outlay might be a deal breaker for some.

But I know many of you are willing to put your money where you mouth is, by paying more for unpackaged food or fixing something even though it costs more than buying new. So if you’re looking to reduce product and packaging in your grooming routine, while supporting an independent, British brand, then men-ü might provide the, erm, winning recipe, you’re looking for.

men-ü products are available online, at Boots, Mankind (where, the shave crème is currently the number 1 shaving product) and the men-ü salon in Southampton.

View the online article here

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