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I have tried both, a low-cost electric shaver and a medium-cost regular razor for water-based shaving.

Water and Electricity, are both, equally important factors to be considered for sustainable living. I currently live in a place where the supply of both are okay, so shortage is not a factor.

I want to adopt the more sustainable option. I don't mind a one-time investment in an electric razor, or the periodic buying of razors for water-based shaving. Currently I use a Gillette Mach 3 that costs 2$ per cartridge and lasts a month, I shave once in three days, rinsing the razor in a mug of water.

So, taking into account, the water, the plastic in the razor and the use-and-throw of the cartridge after use, is electric shaver a more sustainable option or will the power usage out-beat the consumption waste ?

  • 1
    In this article they tried to answer the same question. I disagree with some of the assumptions made in the article (lifespan of electric razor only 4 years, I have mine for about 20 years now), but it does show you what is involved in determining which is better. BTW, the conclusion is that overall electric shaving is better (compared to disposable razors). – THelper Dec 11 '15 at 11:34
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Your most sustainable choice is an old straight razor, but there's a reason the replacement is called a "safety razor"... you're much less likely to kill yourself with a safety razor. But these last a long time and you can shave using a small amount of water and a soap stick. You can buy one second hand, that's how long they last.

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Much safer is an old style single-blade safety razors. They are almost plastic-free, and the disposable blade is only plastic coated. They look like this:

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and the blade like this:

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Those will be almost entirely recycleable, and I'd be confident putting a collection of used blades in the steel recycling bin. I wouldn't put one in there, simply because it's surprisingly sharp and unexpected so you could easily hurt someone. But a bit of tie wire holding 20 or more in a bundle is safer and more obvious.

There are also recycleable disposable razors like these where the company that makes them will take them back. BIC en France has a stupid "mail-back" program where the cost of recycling is greater than any possible return on the razors (you can't just put a stamp on a razor so you have to package them, then transport them etc etc, it's very inefficient).

As far as compared-to-electric goes, the electric razor can be powered by renewable electricity, but it's very hard to find one that's not made of hard-to-recycle parts including a lot of non-renewable plastic. You almost certainly won't be able to pay someone else to disassemble it, you'll have to do that yourself and then take the parts to a scrap metal dealer.

With a disposable or plastic-blade razor you're probably less sustainable than an electric razor purely on the amount of plastic used. But that's assuming your alternative is a decent electric shaver, rather than one that needs to be replaced every year or two. My experiment with an electric shaver lasted about 5 years, but when the shaver stopped working I decided that I preferred blade shaving.

Finally, you can make how you shave more effective

  • Carefully rub a little Bikini Soft Razor Saver or baby oil on your razor’s blades after each use. The oil will keep the blades sharp and rust-free.

  • Instead of buying cheap disposable razors that come all in one piece, buy cartridge razors. These have higher-quality handles with removable heads, meaning you only have to throw the small piece with the razor blades away. Also, consider double-edge razors as opposed to those with three or more edges since they require fewer raw materials.

  • Consider shaving less often. Some men can skip shaving on their days off from work. Women can shave only below the knee if they do not wear short skirts or not all if they so choose.

  • Much of the environmental impact of each shaving session actually comes from all the hot water you use. If you shave at the sink, do not leave the water running. If you shave in the shower, turn off the water while you work on your legs.

  • This article from Slate.com posits that electric razors have a lower carbon footprint than even eco-friendly disposable razors.

  • See more at: http://recyclenation.com/2015/04/how-to-recycle-razor-blades#sthash.RysGfalm.dpuf

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This will depend on where you live.

It is a question of energy;

First of all take into account the carbon footprint of the electric shaver relative to it's expected lifespan - this is likely to be higher than the safety razor proposed by Nui (Which I agree with by the way).

Secondly - as I alluded too; it will depend on where you live, more precisely - what altitude you live at and where your water comes from.

If you assume water takes 9.8 joules of energy to lift 1L by 1 Meter - which is about right, and you live at the top of a hill 100m above your water source - well then its about 1 unit of electric for every 1000 litres of water.

Further to this, this site shows the current UK carbon footprint of electricity per unit. at the time of writing it is 426g/unit. Some parts of Birmingham in England are 200m above their water source. Using this as an example and assuming you only use 2L of water when you shave (Below average - it would be about 4 IF you turn off the tap). So assuming 2 litre each time - that's 365 times a year. 730 litres is .730 units of electricity - and we can reasonably assume you do so at peak times of day for energy use. So about 310g of carbon emissions per year.

Now to assess the electric razor - Mine has a 2600 mamp/h cell which is putting out at about 14 watts. I can shave with it in about 8 minutes.

I would do that every 2 days.

365/2 = 182 * 8 minutes = 1460 minutes / 60 (hour) = 24h (Shoot me now!!) 24 hours at a rate of 14W is 0.336 units which is 143g of C02.

Assuming you don't then wash the electric razor with water like I do!

Conclusion - find out where your water is coming from.

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    A great, totally different angle on the subject, I would have never thought of it myself. However, I was looking at factors within my control, as a lay user, the choices I can make (without upsetting many other choices like where I live or how the water gets pumped). For the fact, though, I live in an arid region, water gets pumped from distant rivers through government pumping stations or from lakes. There is also some pumping from borewells when groundwater is available. – Whirl Mind Dec 13 '15 at 16:13
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    In that case you may be able to find out from the water company what the carbon footprint of the pumped water is, or you may be able to see the financial data from the agency or company/ government department.. What country are you in? – user20110 Dec 14 '15 at 15:13
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One-piece safety razor with replaceable blades might be an option. They are vegan (unlike your Mach3) and you only throw out the blades (although I'm not sure that you can recycle them).

  • I throw out only the blade with the Gillette Mach 3 as well, I mean the blade strip, not the handle thing. I use one with replaceable blades, but the blade has plastic too, thats my concern. – Whirl Mind Dec 11 '15 at 12:03
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    @WhirlMind: Of course you don't throw out the handle! Anyway, see Ⴖuі's answer -- it's the same idea, only spelled out more explicitly. – Ivan Kapitonov Dec 11 '15 at 23:32

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