Our Plan: Keeping Us Greener
Local MP Ranil Jayawardena MP visits the men-ü head office to discuss
It was interesting to visit men-ü, a local business between Hook and Hartley Wintney, to see their work to make product packaging more environmentally friendly. They have adopted a ‘3Rs’ approach: reducing the amount of product per bottle by concentrating it, plus using packaging that is reusable and recyclable. It’s a very simple approach that has a huge impact – up to 90% less packaging.
It is great to see a local business leading this work. We’ve got to encourage others to become more sustainable and it shows how we really can make small changes to save our planet for future generations.
Different box but the same amazing products inside!
With more men shaving, as beards decline & men seek healthy skin, a key focus for the New Year & 2020 will be on shaving. The foundation to a great visual frontline is a great shave & the start of 2020 is a good time to take a modern look at shaving. The optimum is achieved by using the best software with the best hardware. What’s the point in using an expensive, quality blade with a cheap & significantly aerated shaving product e.g. shaving soap, aerosol gel or foam?
57% of men are open to receiving more grooming education based on research we undertook amongst 2040 men conducted by Atomik Research. Of these, 88% thought shaving education would be the most valuable.
Some key points with regard to shaving are:
- Only what is in contact with skin & blade matters, all else is wasted! Shaving soaps, aerosol gels & foams tend to have too much aeration. There is little point having a beard of foam / aerated bubbles that makes you look like Father Christmas.
Aeration is not helpful as per the diagram & why men-ü shave crème works so well. A good shave requires the best, modern, active ingredients between skin & blade. Good shaving software can make the hardware last longer, as well as providing a smoother ride for the blade with less irritation & nicks.
- A good shave is not just about creating a smooth surface but we believe as important, healthy skin. Shaving provides exfoliation a woman can only dream of & by deep cleansing after with men-u healthy facial wash, provides freshly exfoliated, clean skin that is probably the best preventative against spots & breakouts. The latter often caused by dead surface skin cells & hair blocking pores. Men’s faces are totally different to women’s with facial hair & generally more active, sebaceous glands ie greasier skin. Good news for older men being less wrinkles but for male teen’s – more breakouts. It is often found that when teenage boys start to shave their skin improves based on the aforementioned.
- Knowing the direction in which one’s facial hair grows is also important for a good shave & why we provide free facial hair mapping at our salon academy in Southampton. This enables one to shave with the growth pattern, causing less irritation & nicks. No one shaving should be unaware of their hair growth pattern as this makes shaving an uphill struggle & accounts for why so many men think they have sensitive skin.
- Researching the best hardware to use for shaving should not be difficult albeit the optimum blade may come at a premium. The latter being why using the best software is so important. If you are really interested, find the company that spends the most on hardware research & has the most patents & start from there. Most definitely do not go thinking that if one has the right hardware one only needs the cheapest software. This would be like filling up a Formula One car at your nearest garage.
- men-ü ultra concentrate Shave Crème with refills available, provides up to 165 shaves from a 100ml bottle costing from £10.95 & uses up to 90% less packaging by weight.
ultra concentrates with a high % of modern, active ingredients = better performance and much less plastic / packaging.
See the digital booklet below for more details.
ultra concentrate – up to 165 shaves ultra concentrate – up to 265 washes ultra concentrate – up to 120 apps ultra concentrate – up to 165 apps ultra concentrate – up to 120 apps ultra concentrate – up to 120 shampoos ultra concentrate – up to 120 shampoos ultra concentrate – up to 100 apps ultra concentrate – up to 100 apps ultra concentrate – up to 800 sprays ultra concentrate – lasts up to 6 months ultra concentrate – lasts up to 6 months
ultra concentrate – up to 165 shaves
ultra concentrate – up to 265 washes
ultra concentrate – up to 120 apps
ultra concentrate – up to 165 apps
ultra concentrate – up to 120 apps
ultra concentrate – up to 120 shampoos
ultra concentrate – up to 120 shampoos
ultra concentrate – up to 100 apps
ultra concentrate – up to 100 apps
ultra concentrate – up to 800 sprays
ultra concentrate – lasts up to 6 months
ultra concentrate – lasts up to 6 months
Graham Fish’s mission to address the cosmetic industry’s plastic problem.
Do 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.
View the online article here
Men-u’s mission to fix the cosmetic industry’s plastic problem.
There are no two ways about it: the cosmetic industry has a problem with plastic. Most households are plugged with rows of cosmetics, largely contained in single-use plastic pots.
Globally, the beauty industry produces more than 120bn units of packaging every year, the majority of which is not recyclable, according to Zero Waste Week. This throw-away culture has received a lot of air-time recently, after Sir David Attenborough shone a harsh light on the harm that plastic waste poses to the world’s marine life.
Funnily enough, the same day that I meet the founder of men’s grooming brand Men-u, Extinction Rebellion activists are down the road causing havoc in an act of defiance against corporate carelessness towards our planet.
Men-u might exist in the plastic-riddled beauty sector, but it’s a company that appears to care about minimising the amount of waste it produces.
The central premise of Men-u – which launched in 2001 and is sold in Boots, Mankind, and online – is to provide ultra-concentrated hair and skin products which aim to perform better than mainstream brands, while simultaneously leaving consumers with less waste to dispose of.
Graham Fish (pictured) comes armed with an unbranded aerosol can, the sort you would typically see lined up in the men’s section of Boots. He pulls it apart, showing me the small plastic bag which holds the shaving gel, the plastic dip tube, and steel can. He tells me that it’s partly the intermix of plastic and metals which makes these products so difficult to recycle.
By comparison, a Men-u shaving creme is comprised of a simple plastic bottle, pump or cap, and a cardboard collar.
The ingredients within the container stretch further too. One standard 200ml aerosol shave gel would give you around 50 shaves, while a 100ml Men-u shave creme will give you around 165, provided you use it properly. And Fish tells me that the products amount to between 60 and 90 per cent less packaging than most mainstream brands.
The high concentration of active ingredients means that less plastic is being used overall (a 500ml bottle of Men-u shower gel is equivalent to about two litres of regular shower gel).
There’s a challenge, however. While a 200ml Gillette shave gel is typically sold in most shops for about £2, a 100ml Men-u shave creme comes with a £11.95 price tag.
Encouraging consumers to pay extra for a product that is petite in comparison to the bulky bottles you tend to see in shops is especially difficult with men, who are less likely to splash their cash on luxury hair and beauty items than women. But considered overall, Men-u products work out as better value than a first-glance comparison implies.
Going Against the grain
Fish also wants to make sure that less product goes down the plughole.
“Lots of men are used to this big aeration when they use shaving foam, without realising that it’s the product that comes into contact with the skin and blade that does anything – the rest is all wastage.”
So how do you stop customers from lathering up with the same amount of product that they would use with ordinary brands, thereby undermining the whole point of the business?
First, the bottles all have pumps so that customers can be accurate about the quantity they are using, removing the temptation to “overdose”.
Customers are also advised to use a shaving brush to disperse the product properly on the skin.
If this all sounds a bit instructive, it’s intended to be. Fish, who used to work for American beauty giant Alberto-Culver, says his business vision isn’t just about plastic, it’s also about educating men around how to shave.
He points to research carried out by the firm which found that most men don’t know how to shave properly.
“How do they learn?” he asks. “Most men don’t do facial mapping to see how their hair grows, so they end up shaving against the grain. That’s why lots of guys end up with sensitive skin.”
Shaving the way
I ask Fish if he has considered going completely plastic-free by switching to other materials like bioplastics, but he’s dubious about whether that’s really the answer.
“I’m worried that it could be a bit of a diesel moment,” he says, referencing the government’s environmental crusade to encourage drivers to opt for diesel-powered vehicles instead of petrol, before U-turning shortly after.
A mass movement away from plastic to other materials could have unintended consequences, which end up being more detrimental to the planet than the initial plastic was. Indeed, Fish points out that some durable kinds of bioplastic need to be broken down by combusting units under high temperature, which then blow lots of methane into the environment.
The Men-u boss is also critical of the government’s decision to tax plastic packaging which contains less than 30 per cent recycled material from 2022, warning that it will be difficult to police. “I also don’t think it’s going to reduce consumption of plastic, because companies will just pay more to use virgin plastic, and pass the costs onto consumers.”
Another problem is that many plastics can only be recycled once, making it even harder for landfills to separate what can be reused and what can’t.
Instead, Fish would prefer the government to hone-in on decisions to help reduce the amount of waste in the first place. When you consider that each UK citizen wastes about 76kg of plastic each year, while in Sweden it’s around 18kg, it’s clear that a lot more can be done by the British government and retailers.
“The decision is being left to consumers, when we really need brains to come together to design a good system and police it, because otherwise it’s up for abuse,” Fish says.
As well as reduction of waste, he argues that the recapture system – that is, how plastic is reused – is just as important as recycling. “Plastic is a great invention – it has some great characteristics which could be put to good use in many ways, such as outdoor furniture or building materials.”
It’s refreshing to hear of a cosmetic business that is thinking about its broader impact on the planet, but also aware of the practical considerations of various solutions.
Of course, there is no clean-cut answer to solving the plastic problem, but if both companies and consumers can work to shave the amount of waste that is produced in the first place, it’s definitely a good start.
Wednesday 31 July 2019 6:10 am
Founder & Director, Graham Fish appears live on Sky News with Ian King to discuss less plastic & the revolutionary 3R grooming approach from men-ü – reduce, reuse, recycle.
It’s only what’s in contact with the skin & blade that matters, all else is wasted! One pump of men-ü Shave Creme is enough for a great close shave, slip and smooth ride for your razor blade means less resistance, less nicks and a longer lasting blade! See the video for yourself!
You are either reading this missive on our website or in the reception area of our salon in Southampton and thanks in advance for doing so. I have given recent interviews to the likes of Sky Business News with Ian King to CityAM and Katherine Denham. The subject of plastics and packaging has been hot on the agenda and I thought it would be good to share some of the information that has come up with you.
Do we have all of the answers? – Absolutely not but we have worked hard to make sure we have better performance with ultra concentrate products that have a high percentage of modern, active ingredients, as well as much less packaging where we can. The secret to product performance, is to get the ingredients where needed, with minimal waste. men-ü ultra concentrate Shave Crème is a good example of this, with the 100ml bottle providing up to 165 shaves and equivalent to 3 x 200ml aerosol shave gels (approx.)
UP TO 90% LESS PACKAGING!
We are continuously working to reduce the size and weight of our packaging and this is highlighted by the recent launch of refill packs which are cheaper. Styling pucks are single wall, rather than a puck within a puck, to make the pack look bigger. Our styling pucks are full to the brim at 100ml.
Precise data is very difficult to obtain regarding packaging & in particular plastic packaging. Perhaps not surprisingly, because it is not in the interests of the producers & generally large manufacturers that use, such packaging. According to the Worldwatch Institute in Washington – 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013 (an increase of 3.9% over 2012), which accounted for 8% of global petroleum consumption (4% going into the plastic & 4% used to power plastic manufacturing processes.) Assuming the same growth rate to 2019, this would equate to 376 million tons this year! It is guesstimated that 10-20 million tons of plastic are now ending up in the Oceans per year. One of the best articles I have read regarding the problem of packaging & plastic in particular was written by Jessica Morgan in January 2019. Jessica includes a lot of the key elements surrounding this problem.
- 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry, most of which are not recyclable (Zero Waste Week)
- Approximately 250 of the world’s largest companies, accounting for 20% of all packaging, have teamed up with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to pledge to end plastic waste. Committing to eliminate plastic when it’s unnecessary & to shift to reusable packaging in some cases. By 2025, they plan to make all plastic packaging either reusable, recyclable or compostable.
- Greenpeace points out how the leading consumer brands involved in global initiatives such as The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment have no plans to reduce their overall plastic output (Louise Edge, UK Senior Oceans Campaigner.) “…individual commitments being made by companies to date just don’t go far enough.”
- “Refills are available for washing up liquid and fabric conditioner, why not shampoo and conditioner?” (Rachelle Strauss, founder of Zero Waste Week.)
The UK Plastics Pact was launched in April 2018 with one of the aims of encouraging consumers to recycle more & industry to aim to use recycled plastic on 30% of products by 2025. Many of the major retailers & manufacturers have signed up to this pact. Emma Priestland, Friend of the Earth campaigner told Huffington Post UK “Many companies over-package so that the products appear larger, but providing refillable packaging is what would really get them noticed.”
- The UK government have said that by April 2022 they will put a tax / duty on imported & UK manufactured plastic that consists of less than 30% recycled plastic. This is unlikely to reduce the overall level of plastic use & any cost increase is likely to be passed on to the consumer. There is also an issue about how many times plastic can be recycled & how safe the plastic will be going forwards. Will there need to be new recycling categories, based on the number of times plastic within the mix has been recycled, as well as the question, as to whether it is safe? Surely SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION is a good start point, in anyone’s book.
- Plant based bio-plastics that can biodegrade. “The use of alternative materials will always look positive on the face of it, but not when it is putting pressure on another habitat, country or ecosystem. Using sugarcane to produce biodegradable plastic is fantastic, but all the positive change can be undone if this isn’t implemented responsibly.” (Jessica Morgan Independent Jan 31, 2019)
Thoughts from the men-ü brand
Our position is quite clear, in that we believe the first significant & obvious step, is significant reduction, as part of our 3R approach to grooming (REDUCE – REUSE – RECYCLE.) As many of the Experts involved with this problem have highlighted, it is ultimately for governments to decide / regulate. Charities / Protest Groups can heavily influence this but if their first approach is to want money for this influence, then the big companies will dictate the pace of change, as they have the funds. Also Pacts seem to just have aims without much guaranteed commitment. Governments & Influencers should be talking to Disruptor Companies / Brands, as they tend to start from a blank sheet of paper, are not looking to retain the status quo & most definitely are looking to push the boundaries. By all means talk to the big companies to hear the case for the defence but start with the Disruptors, if you want to consider significant change & at pace.
We do not consider plastic free as an option, when it is essentially a great invention but the production, use & disposal / recycling, needs to be treated with the utmost respect. Plastics have added positives to society, in terms of it being light, durable & in the right environment offers product security & stability. What has not been handled at all well, is the disposal / recycling!
If the top Experts in their field, related to this issue, do not get together to make decisions on the right way forwards – a) recycled plastic mixed in, b) bioplastic or c) maybe significant reduction in plastic use, along with the right systems to recapture & recycle will be enough? There is the real possibility here of a Diesel Moment. Not so long ago Diesel was seen as a significant way forwards, as a fuel & along came the push for bio diesel. I am not a strong historian who knows the facts related but there was certainly a push from the EU & one would assume Germany, being a strong part of this, which is maybe why so many German car manufacturers sunk so much money, into developing diesel engines.
With men-ü we know that product performance is our key objective but that packaging is also a key element, related to performance & the first significant step is REDUCTION & this is what we have done where we can, with ultra concentration & now the launch of refills. We would like the men-u brand to be seen as a Smart / Hi IQ brand, with an Eco responsibility & not as just an Eco Warrior. In terms of the next step in the future, as to what plastic to use & how, governments & leading Experts, with no hidden agendas, need to get involved. Join the debate to get resolutions quicker!
FOUNDER & DIRECTOR