Plastic-Free Lifestyle: Is going eco-friendly more expensive?

As someone recently new to the ‘eco-friendly’ lifestyle and also a student at University, I thought I’d share what has surprised me in what it takes to be eco-friendly with 5 everyday items.


1.  Shampoo – only 30p more each month

One of the most talked about alternatives for shampoo bottles is the shampoo bar, especially the ones by Lush Cosmetics. I had been using Head & Shoulders for all my life believing if I kept using it one day my dandruff would be gone (it never did from using it) but any other dandruff designed shampoo was too expensive for my budget. Let’s bring in my shampoo bar called ‘Soap and Float’ retailing at £7.50. I didn’t take a picture of it to start with so here is the picture from the website.

soak and float.png

I bought this 5 months ago and it’s still going! Maybe one more month and it will be completely gone with no waste to put in the bin. Nearly 5 months use so far! So £7.50 for a bar that lasts about 6 months - you’re spending £18 per year. With a regular shampoo bottle it’ll cost you £12-15 per year if you’re spending between £1-1.50 per month. Therefore you’re only spending about 30p more each month. Just £3.60 more each year for zero packaging and no harmful chemicals to landfill is a very little price to pay to help the environment.

The bars are concentrated and not diluted with water unlike regular bottles. Natural ingredients seemed to clear up my scalp for the first time in 17 years and it’s so easy to use as it lathers just the same! Shampoo bottles are not only diluted with water but contain chemicals that possibly aren’t good in the long run, especially for those with sensitive skin. These bars are equal to 2-3, 2 litre bottles of liquid shampoo. I highly recommend these cruelty-free, all-natural bars, there’s plenty of scents and colours to choose from too, not just from Lush. I’m never going back to a shampoo bottle again! Another tip is they’re very travel friendly – no more guesstimating how much shampoo you’ll need to bring on holiday or any leaking for that matter when you have this compact form that be placed in a tub or tin. Plus there are many other brands available at different prices - therefore you could end up saving money!


2.   Reusable bottle – could be saving you £360 per year!

Did you know that the average human needs to drink 4 bottles of water per day, therefore by using one of these, instead of buying and binning plastic ones daily, you could save 1460 plastic bottles per year? 1460! If you spent £5 on a reusable bottle lasting an entire year compared to spending £1 on bottled water each day you would be saving £360!


We buy 1 million plastic bottles every minute, with many inevitably finding their way to the oceans. Those videos of plastic filled rivers and scuba divers swimming in plastic are very much a reality. These bottles range from £2 above depending on how much you want to spend on a lifelong item. I have had mine since Christmas and use it all day everyday I’m never anywhere without it. They are made of aluminium and my own can hold liquid hot or cold water for 48 hours. Preventing the need for plastic resources and helping the oceans!


3.  Beeswax Wrap – a little bit more expensive but completely zero waste

These handy things are replacement for cling film. Did you know that more than 1.2 billion metres of cling film are bought by households each year?! That’s enough to wrap around the world 30 times! These wraps work just the same over any item you need to wrap up and once you’re done simply rinse the wrap with cold soapy water and reuse – also they’re biodegradable! If you buy a roll of cling film once a month then you would save £3.50 year by using one of these! Mine came from Etsy in a 2-pack, 2 for £5, and it means I never have to buy cling film again and no waste to landfill! Etsy is great for homemade and local gems that can be found for a range of prices.


Keeping your purchases is also another thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and support local businesses. I’ve had these for about 4 months now and they are little worn but still usable. Mine stated they can each last up to a year before going into the compost. Being a student and packing my lunches with this has meant it’s less bulky in my bag, than the standard plastic box, which is also a perk. There are plenty of designs to choose from too. There are many guides online on how to make your own by just melting down some beeswax over a cloth, which would probably be even cheaper! For more kitchen friendly swaps check out the link here.


4.  Reusable Cotton Pads – saving you a yearly spend of £12-18 (and you can make your own easily)

I had known about these for a while but was hesitant to buy any before I had seen them in the flesh. Then that day came at a Christmas market so I bought some. They are unbelievably, and still are, so soft! I use the Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water anyway, never been a fan of makeup wipes, so these were a perfect replacement and investment. Cotton pads which are £1-1.50, I no longer have to buy or contribute to my bathroom bin. The cotton pads I bought were £15 for 10 pads. With cotton pads from a drugstore you get about 50 per pack, you’re spending £12-18 per year, so you’re buying a year’s price worth of cotton pads that are reusable. You’re saving the yearly purchase of £12-18 for a one time only purchase!

cotton pads.png

You just put these in the wash, I use a little zip up mesh bag, and let them air dry and hey presto indefinite makeup pads! The quality of them hasn’t changed a bit since I bought them 5 months ago which is amazing. I also made some of my own for myself and a friend from an old towel to make ones just for toner. So see if you have any towels, cut them up into pads or circles, hem the edges and they work just as well! Using materials that you already have is just as good.

Any disposable wipes, whether for makeup or for your hands, cause 93% of blockages in UK sewers, creating giant clumps called “fatbergs”; sounds disgusting doesn’t it.[1] Makeup wipes shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet and go straight into the household bin. Makeup remover itself is something I will invest in, as the cleansing water comes in plastic but lasts 4-5 months for me, and already I’ve saved hundreds of cotton pads from going into landfill by reusing these pads. This and the shampoo bar has been my proudest swap. I guarantee if you use cotton pads a lot you will notice such a difference and the oceans will thank you for it!


5.  All Natural Deodorant stick – yes, but worth trying out different alternatives

This stick, which I bought from Wearth London was another gem I was interested in buying. I have always dithered between using spray and solid deodorant never finding either great regardless of the brand. Also, I can’t stand the unavoidable cloud of spray deodorant, memories of the girls’ changing rooms constantly being sprayed with antiperspirant, which probably isn’t amazing for your pits anyway. This one was £7.95 and has lasted over 2 months now. I think it will last me another 2 months but with summer on the way it could be 1.5.

Now £7.25 seems like a lot for a deodorant when you can buy one for a £1 at Wilko or Superdrug but hear me out – all recyclable packaging, even the box it came in, no harsh chemicals and it actually helps me stink less! It took my skin about 2-3 weeks to adjust to it but after that its been a dream - and that’s not an understatement when you have tried every drugstore deodorant brand formulated for hormonal pits – this has been so good at controlling the smell. So, with this stick or perhaps similar ones you are spending £3-4 more but being completely eco-friendly and kinder to your skin with all-natural ingredients. Again have a look online for DIY recipes or other websites such as Etsy where you might be able to find something cheaper.


Author bio

Sian is a fine art student at University of Leeds with an ever-growing passion for the environment.

Making small changes to my purchases and everyday items has been a journey and I am determined to become as zero-waste as I can. I love DIY and making homemade gifts for myself and friends. My Instagram dedicated to all things eco-friendly is @thegreenartstudent. My art Instagram account is @artworkbysian, a range of media depending on what I look into in my course at the time.