Engaging Our Environmental Crisis One Shave At A Time

Jul 5, 2013 | Field Notes

It is summer, the season in which to engage the out of doors. It is the season to enjoy all the pleasures of our created world. It is the season to build, to renovate, to garden. I have been delayed in engaging this season because of a nasty respiratory virus that had me housebound for several weeks in June. But, I’ve almost fully recovered and am returning to the active life and its demands. I am also making whatever changes I can make after living the seasons of listening and discerning.

One small, almost imperceptible, change that I have made is how I go about my daily shave. When I first started shaving at the age of 13 I used my father’s safety razor to remove the peach fuzz that eventually, over time, matured into my present stubble that requires a daily shave. Shaving is a rite of male passage and each man handles it in his own way. It is a small daily ritual; one that gives expression to a man’s personality.

Over the decades I have succumbed, almost unconsciously, to marketing pressures and taken to using track two, then track three, and then power track cartridge blades. The latest manifestation of new shaving technologies has been the battery operated, multiple blade razors; all promising to give the smoothest and closest shave possible. Advertising, the right arm of capitalism, promotes these new technologies vigorously.

I must admit that the shave with these razors is pleasant and effective. Still, I have over the past little while become somewhat annoyed with them. My annoyance is partly due to the escalating cost of the cartridges and partly to having to recharge the batteries. But, apart from the economic costs, I began to have qualms that my non-recyclable blade cartridges were simply going into landfills. The producers of these cartridges appeared to be little interested in taking the environment into account and are making no attempt to produce biodegradable blade cartridges. The net effect is that, through my continual use of these razor cartridges, I am simply adding to the non-recyclable items added to our landfills. The more conscious I became of this reality, the more frustrated I became. I resolved to find a solution.

When my father recently gave me the gift of a little cash on my birthday I purchased my own safety razor and returned to using this. It took me a while to find a store that sold safety razors and purchase some blades for it. This store was not easy to find for it seems that safety razors have fallen out of fashion in North America. Perhaps as safety razors are seen as more environmentally sustainable than the current glut of non-recyclable razor cartridges we may have more stores willing to sell these razors and the accompanying safety blades. I have also taken to switching from shaving cream in an aerosol can to using shaving soap, which is more environmentally sustainable. Lathering the soap each morning takes only a few minutes and the ingredients are better for my skin.

Shaving today takes longer than it used to. Now I find I go slower and pay greater attention to the work of the blade much like when I first began to shave. However, the net result is essentially the same. What is different for me is that my frustration with shaving has gone. I now see my daily shave as one action that I am taking for the good of the earth and for a sustainable future for all. It is a small action for sure, but it is a good action, one that I am able to breathe deeply into in a way that helps me to begin my day more mindfully and prayerfully than before. This is simply one small action connecting the personal with the political and the environmental. It’s a great way to begin each day, prayerfully engaged.


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