Head to the Bar to Stay Green and Clean

By ecoRI News staff

In the past few years, many producers of personal hygiene products have introduced what are commonly referred to as “body washes.” These liquid soaps, usually packaged with plastic scrubbers, are not environmentally or economically sound purchases.

It may seem like an insignificant decision, but choosing bar soap over liquid soap for your daily ablutions can have a significant impact on your personal carbon footprint. Bar soap is inherently more eco-friendly than body wash, due to both its ingredients and the way in which it's sold.

Find soaps that use minimal packaging. Avoid extra layers of plastic or wax paper. One reason that bar soap is greener than body wash is the packaging. Many bar soaps are available in recyclable cardboard boxes, but body wash comes in plastic bottles. Plastic bottles are recyclable in theory, but according to Environmental Protection Agency data, as of 2009, most plastic bottles still end up in landfills.

The largest percentage of most body-wash formulas is water. This makes the product heavier and more expensive to ship than a comparable amount of solid bar soap. Hard soap's more concentrated formula means less energy is necessary to ship an equivalent amount of cleanser.

By buying soap made with natural ingredients, you avoid potentially hazardous chemicals such as the antimicrobial triclosan. Triclosan continues to be under review by the Food and Drug Administration, due to concerns that the chemical may alter human hormone production. It also has proved toxic to multiple forms of aquatic life. The chemical has been shown to accumulate in an organism's fat cells, which can lead to degradation of the food chain. The American Medical Association suggests avoiding antimicrobial products such as triclosan over concerns that frequent use of such chemicals can contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance.

For the most environmentally friendly soaps, skip the supermarket or pharmacy and head to your local farmers market. You can find soaps made from beeswax, honey, goat’s milk and other natural ingredients. Soaps made and distributed locally usually have the least packaging and move the fewest miles from production to your sink.