Which is less green: soap or shower gel? © Getty Images

Which is less green: soap or shower gel?

Shower gel vs. bar soap - while both have their merits, which one is the most environmentally friendly overall?

Asked by: Anonymous

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There are arguments for both. The detergent in shower gel is a petrochemical product, so it uses up fossil fuel reserves and it doesn’t biodegrade well. It also tends to be packaged in plastic containers that don’t biodegrade either. Soap is made by reacting plant or animal oil with sodium hydroxide. This is an efficient process that requires very little energy and the only by-product is glycerine, which is also useful, so there aren’t lots of chemicals dumped into drains or landfill. On the other hand, most soap is made using palm oil, nearly all of which is harvested unsustainably and contributes to rainforest deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Soap usually contains some detergent as well. The greenest option is probably to use natural soap that isn’t made from palm oil.


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