Refillable Shampoo and Conditioner Can Help Save Money and the Planet

Try reusing bottles to make your hair care routine greener and more affordable.

Here's a depressing bit of news: By 2050, it's expected that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. On the bright side, growing awareness about our impact on the environment has caused many people to start making everyday changes to go green, especially in areas like ditching single-use plastic.

Giving up plastic straws and grocery bags and selecting refillable eco-friendly cleaning products are great first steps among the many low-cost ways to help the planet. But what about your hair care routine? In the U.S., half a billion shampoo and conditioner bottles get tossed every year.

As we try to ensure that our everyday purchases aren't harming the planet, we must demand innovative ideas from product manufacturers, such as creating refillable shampoo and conditioner bottles. The good news is a growing crop of businesses is doing just that. Here are some of the notable brands to consider when it comes to shampoo and conditioner refills that reduce the plastic waste of your hair care routine—and in many cases, also save you money.

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Public Goods

Set of eco-friendly home products, including kitchen cleaners, bags, and wool dryer balls
Public Goods

Public Goods has positioned itself as a one-stop shop for all of the healthy, sustainable, everyday essentials you'll ever need. Founded in 2017, the company has a membership-based website that offers everything from household cleaners to groceries to shampoos and conditioners that are packaged in bottles that can be used again and again—as well as refill pouches.

All of the bottles that Public Goods uses to package its products are made from sugarcane-based bio-plastics. Sugarcane is a form of packaging that does not come from fossil fuels, while traditional plastics do. (Traditional plastics are not only a major contributor to climate change; they also sit in landfills for decades before decomposing into substances that poison the earth.)

"We wanted to create a healthy product, not just for the human beings using it, but for the planet," says Ninah Jackson, Public Goods product expert. "Sugar cane plastic is considered carbon neutral. In addition to not being made from fossil fuels, sugar cane plastics are made from sugar cane plants grown specifically to create plastic products. So it's not being harvested from the wild. It's also a very fast-growing plant, so it's considered sustainable to harvest."

What's more, these non-petroleum-based bottles break down much faster than typical plastic in a landfill. But you won't want to toss them, because they're meant to be used again and again with Public Goods refill pouches.

"As long as you keep them clean, the bottles can be refilled indefinitely," continues Jackson. "You can refill them forever, and reuse them for whatever you want."

Refill pouches are another big step forward for your budget and the environment. The cost for a whopping 34-ounce pouch of shampoo (which is meant to refill your bottle three times) is just $11. The same is true for the conditioner—34 ounces for $11, which will refill your bottle three times.

Meanwhile, by purchasing refill pouches instead of bottle after bottle, the amount of plastic you'll be tossing into landfills will be significantly reduced.

In addition, the refill pouches are made from flexible PET, which consumes less energy, natural resources, and carbon emissions to produce than rigid PET.

The one caveat about Public Goods is that it requires membership with a yearly fee. You can buy any product on the site with a free, two-week trial. After the trial, the annual membership fee is $79. Membership can be canceled at any time.

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Attitude Living

Portrait of Woman with Hair Wrapped in Towel on a Nature Background
Stocksy | Design by Camden Dechert.

Attitude Living is tackling plastic waste by offering cardboard bulk to-go shampoo refills, which carry more than four times the needed quantity of product and use 89 percent less plastic than the company's traditional hair care product packaging.

The cardboard used for Attitude's bulk refills is 100 percent recyclable and eco-friendly. The minimal amount of plastic used for the bag inside the box and the spigot is BPA-free.

A generous 67 ounces of eco-refill shampoo is just $29.95 no matter which option you select—moisture-rich shampoo, volume and shine shampoo, clarifying shampoo or color protection shampoo.

Like many of the trailblazers in this space, Attitude has set out to change the daily habits of consumers everywhere, and is focused on creating "clean products, less plastic, more trees."

"We believe that change starts with our daily choices and that together we have the power to lead to a better future—one product at a time," says the company website. The downside? Attitude does not offer bulk-sized, eco-friendly conditioners.

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Puracy

Puracy refills
Credit Puracy

Texas-based Puracy was started by two best friends focused on making effective green cleaning and personal care products. With hair care products, especially conditioner, Puracy aimed to develop offerings that give your hair the same silky feeling as salon-level competitors on the market, without harming the environment.

"The ingredients that give your hair that slick, frictionless silky feeling—and which are used in 95 percent or more of the conditioners out there—are silicone and dimethicone. They aren't bad for you, but they accumulate in the environment, in water, and in oceans, and do not break down or biodegrade. So, we set out to solve that," says Puracy founder and CEO Sean Busch.

In addition to removing these environmentally harmful ingredients from its formulations, Puracy offers plastic pouch refills for its shampoos and conditioners, which has translated into major reduction of plastic waste. The company has crunched the numbers to track just how big an impact they are making.

"By introducing pouches over bottles, we saved over 300 tons of plastic waste from hitting on landfills. That's since we introduced the first pouch...up through the beginning of this year," says Busch. "That's a huge number, and it's accurate. We ran the numbers a few times to make sure it's correct."

In fact, Puracy's emphasis on refill pouches, as well as reusable glass bottles and biodegradable formulas, is having a major impact—to the tune of more than 5 million bottles prevented from entering the environment, 1.4 million hectares of forest protected, and four tons of CO2 offset every month.

The price of Puracy shampoo and conditioner is also worth a bit of praise. Customers who opt for subscribe-and-save get not only a 16-ounce bottle of shampoo or conditioner, but also a 64-ounce refill pouch, all for just $39. That's a lot of eco-friendly hair care product for a very budget-friendly price.

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HiBAR

HiBar Volumize Shampoo

Courtesy of HiBar

Shifting to shampoo and conditioner refills represents a significant step forward in reducing plastic waste. But a variety of additional eco-friendly options are rapidly becoming available, too, including shampoo and conditioner bars that eliminate plastic altogether.

For those who may be ready to take another step forward, HiBAR's shampoo and conditioner in a bar, for instance, has zero plastic packaging. And the company has created bars for all hair types, meaning those with color-treated hair, or dry hair, or greasy hair don't have to sacrifice in order to go green. Product options include: Maintain, Volumize, Moisturize, and Soothe.

Each bar costs $13.95, which is a bargain compared to how much some of us drop on high-end brands like Kerastase, Oribe, or Kevin Murphy, many of which set you back anywhere from $30 to upwards of $70 to $80 a bottle.

And finally, like many of the other laudable companies already mentioned, HiBAR's founders are on a mission to help save the planet by changing our daily routines for the better.

"We really, truly wanted to make an impact, and by impact we mean not just having an option out there that's maybe available only in natural food stores, or only available from our website," says HiBAR co-founder Dion Hughes. "Those options are terrific, but we wanted to create a product that has the potential of being popular and widely available—not just because we want to have a successful business, but because that's the only way we could see it having a meaningful impact on reducing plastic waste."

Hughes is alluding to what has become widely understood by many of those fighting the battle against plastic pollution: The only way to make a big difference is through critical mass and widespread adoption. That means making these eco-friendly products readily available.

HiBAR is currently sold at Whole Foods, Sprouts, REI, and Kroger, among other locations. However, the company has its sights set on significant expansion.

"At your local CVS, Ulta, or Target there are hundreds of different brands in plastic bottles. In 10 years' time, we want that to be hundreds of brands not in plastic. We want non-plastic to be the norm—and plastic to be the niche," says Hughes.

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