My zero-waste hair care routine

10 January 2019
water only zero waste hair care no shampoo

I started washing my hair with only water three years ago. To be fair, I don't use water alone. Here is what I do:

1. Using my fingers I massage the scalp followed by a thorough brush twice a week, usually after my son goes to bed. If you are new to water only, scalp massage and brushing is key. Regular scalp massage and brushing helps to release the oil from building up at the scalp. It will be over a week before my roots start to look oily. Yay to washing hair less often!

My mum bought me a boar bristle brush after my Acca Kappa brush fell apart. I have read claims from others who wash with water only that boar bristles help move oil from the roots down through the hair with greater efficiency, but I can't say there was a huge difference between the boar bristles and a wooden pin brush.

The boar bristle brush is not my favourite as it's difficult to work through all of my hair (I have alot of hair!) and I can only guess it would suit those with less hair. Plus there is the whole animal exploitation issue of using boar bristles. There are vegan agave fibre hair brushes if you are looking for something similar to the boar bristle style. I'll continue using mine until it's broken then go back to a wooden bristle brush like this Holzstifte hair brush. Similar to my old Acca Kappa the Holzstifte is made of FSC Beechwood with a natural rubber cushion, making it compostable at the end of it's life if there are no adhesives used (I'll update this once Holzstifte get back to Biome who are chasing this information up for me). Only downside is the brush comes all the way from Germany. I would love to know if there are any similar hair brushes made within Australia or NZ.

2. On the day I wash my hair (about every 10 - 12 days) I'll take sprigs of rosemary, steep them in hot water until cool or an overnight cold brew the evening before. Transferring to a spray bottle I'll work it through my hair focusing on my scalp. Rosemary helps to remove any build up, reduces scalp irritation and alleviate dandruff while promoting hair growth. Plus it smells pretty.

Then I get into the shower, using my fingers to scrub at the scalp. I don't put anything into my hair like a conditioner since the natural oils in my hair conditioned perfectly well. It all sounds very lovely, washing rosemary through my hair la la la. Truthfully my son and I shower together, making it anything but a relaxing experience.

Once a month I like to use Ethique's Conditioner Wonderbar to add extra moisture too. Their packaging is compostable paper and cardboard. Being true to zero-waste I reuse the cardboard for writing lists or craft projects with my son, before I consider composting or recycling. One solid conditioner bar is the equivalent of five liquid conditioners, meaning I don't need much at all.

3. When I want to accentuate my waves I'll work through a teaspoon of linseed gel after the shower. Marshmallow root is useful with waves and curls too. Similar to the rosemary, I steep the marshmallow root in warm water, let cool and spray through my hair. The rosemary is collected from the garden or around the neighbourhood, while linseed and marshmallow root are sold at Friends of the Earth bulk store in Collingwood. Linseeds also makes a great egg substitute in cooking. I also share a homemade hair wax with the builder. Recipes for the hair wax and linseed gel are in my book

water only zero waste hair care no shampoo
Boar bristle hairbrush, upcycled glass spray bottle that I've had for years, rosemary from the garden and a wide tooth comb for use post shower that I've owned since so long that I can't remember. 

Since giving birth my hair has lost some of its wave and volume, but that might be because I'm still breastfeeding. At least that's what a friend suggested. If you have knotty hair, marshmallow roots slippery properties help to keep hair tangle free. Simply spray on post shower. I still use a wide tooth plastic comb after a shower, especially if I'm putting linseed gel or my salt spray for a beach wave look.

The water only method was a movement I chanced upon by accident. We were tossing three avocado seeds into our compost each week and I began to wonder if there was another way to use them before sending to compost. I didn't expect to find a recipe for avocado seed shampoo. Over time I began decreasing how much shampoo I was adding until it was just the avocado seed water then simply made the switch to water only. I'm not sure if it was gradual reduction in shampoo or the avocado seed that allowed me to skip the whole greasy hair issue other water only washers experience at the beginning.

Prior to the avocado seed shampoo I refilled my shampoo and conditioner at the local bulk store. I used a shampoo bar like the brand Ethique when I travelled as they were light, before I knew zero-waste was a thing or that our obsession with plastic was an issue.

I did try the popular zero-waste no poo method of bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar. This never worked for me. The bicarb left my scalp red and sore, the apple cider vinegar didn't seem to do anything either. Rye flour was OK, but I have a lot of hair and I found it took a long time to get out.

When it comes time for a haircut I do let the hairdresser wash my hair with their shampoo. It's only a couple times a year so I treat it as a deep clean. My hair doesn't change and there is never a transition phase back. But this could be because the salon I go to uses gentle products. They are part of Sustainable Salons Australia. Sustainable Salons Australia help hair salons recover up to 95% of salon waste, diverting it from landfill through different programs. Think items like chemicals, paper, hair, plastics, razors and tools. Proceeds from selling materials such as foil goes to OzHarvest providing meals for the homeless. If your salon is not with Sustainable Salons Australia, let them know about this zero waste community initiative.

I was very nervous in the lead up to the photoshoot for my book. Part of me wanted to get my hair washed and blow dried, plus my makeup professionally done. But I decided to stick to what I do in my day to day to keep it authentic. I even went water only for my wedding day. When I have a speaking event or TV interview I'll usually style it straight or curl with my hair straightener. If I have time I'll use my blow dryer too. 

As my hair gets closer to wash day, I do need to sprinkle dry shampoo at the roots which is simply tapioca flour. It doubles as my face powder too. Usually by this time my waves have vanished.

Most of the time I wear my hair down or in a bun using a hair stick stick gifted to me by Saya Designs, braided, braids pinned up and if I have time a crown braid (my fave). The wood used to make these plastic-free hair sticks are from the large roots left behind from logging plantation sites in Indonesia. Their packaging is made of 100% recycled materials too. I love the hair stick because when when someone asks where my beautiful hair stick is from (which is often) it’s an opportunity to tell them about the issues with deforestation and mass production. Wearable activism, I like that.

The kind folk from Rubber Cuppy gifted me hair bands made from recycled bike inner tubes. They are a bit stiff at first but with some wear they begin to soften nicely. Rubber Cuppy are a Melbourne based reusable coffee cup company using old bike inner tubes as the protective covering around the glass. They are not selling the hair ties at the moment though. But they might if you ask!

I have hair ties collected off the street too, boiled to remove germs. If the thought of picking up hair ties sounds too germy then I'd recommend the Kooshoo a natural and biodegradable hair tie made of organic cotton and natural rubber, instead of the synthetic kind you'd find at most stores.

water only zero waste hair care no shampoo
water only zero waste hair care no shampoo
My upcycled hair ties, a Christmas gift from Rubber Cuppy and the beautiful Moonflower hair stick by Saya Designs

So why the water only? Why not just stick to shampoo & conditioner if your bottles can be refilled at the bulk store? Or at least shampoo bars?

When I started thinking about how much rubbish I was making (and leaving for the next generation) I also began to question everything I've told been is necessary. Turns out shampoo ended up being a product I did not need for myself. Simple answer to what people think will be a long winded reply. Zero-waste/minimal waste/low waste (whatever you want to call it) isn't purely focused on reducing rubbish, it's also about questioning the status quo. At least it is for me. Much of the stuff we use and bring into our lives is probably not needed yet we do it simply out of habit. I like to question those habits and hope to gently nudge others to do the same.

What kind of hair do you have?

To give you context, my hair is thin but there is alot, making it look deceptively thick. As I mentioned before it is wavy which means my hair is on the drier side as wavy and curly hair tend to be. My hair is naturally red but does have some henna colouring through it after I left it in too long when I was doing a conditioning mask with it. Henna is to messy for me and I'll continue to stick with the regular hair masks that I share in my book Waste Not. If anyone in Melbourne is looking for bulk henna visit Wholefoods on Lygon Street, East Brunswick.  No longer available but Lush might still sell blocks of Henna wrapped in paper. 

Fun fact, I used to work for a leading hair care brand. My hair was smothered and sprayed by a variety of products (I had a HUGE box of free hair products). It was dyed many fun shades when they needed hair models. I loved it :) But I love my zero-waste hair care routine more. 

#trgcollab: The Moonflower hair stick was gifted to me by Sava Designs. I use the hashtag #trgcollab to help readers idenifty items that were gifted to me or are paid post. This item was an unpaid gift. All views are my own. I only accept gifted items I would use personally. 

Our son's 1st low waste birthday party

2 January 2019

We celebrated our sons first birthday at the end of March...last year. It makes sense I'm posting this nine months later, right? I know, I know. It's almost the second birthday. Technically I did begin writing this blog post after his birthday, but the book promotion and talks, followed by writing another zero-waste lifestyle book has amongst other things, taken up some of my writing time. So here it is, better late than never. By the way, we did create rubbish....more than anticipated.


Digital invitations were sent out via SMS using the location as the party theme. We invited around 70 people and 65 attended. Everyone was punctual with their responses however I did make the RSVP ten days before the party so we could plan what we needed accordingly. If you don't fancy using the SMS option try GreenInvite or even a private Facebook event.


We are very lucky to be surrounded by parks and bushland where we live. I decided to utilise one of the local parks to host our sons party as it had BBQ facilities, toilets, water fountains and a playground. The Black Pearl Pirate Ship located on the Maribyrnong River in Aberfeldie provided the perfect backdrop and entertainment for free. Next to it was a pavilion with picnic tables and seats, meaning we didn't have to bring much from home apart from ourselves and the food.

Being the tail end of summer, we crossed our fingers the weather would hold out. It did by an hour.


Food and Drink

We served popcorn, fruit, biscuits, small baked goods, 'sausage' rolls and 'cheesy'mite folls, followed by a falafel station with bread, dips and salad. Everything was easy to grab and vegan. The day ended with a homemade cake.

It was the kind of food we wanted people to be able to eat while standing up and moving, because with younger kids adults are always rushing off making sure everything is OK and well, bigger kids are always moving. I didn't get any photos of the food, or many photos at all! My time was split between socialising and making sure nothing was flying away.

Everything but the biscuits and cake were purchased pre-made and this is when we ended up with plastic, some obvious and some sneaky. The Lebanese bread used to eat the falafel with comes in plastic, but we did try to purchase without. The owner of the bakery told us that if we were to buy the bread without plastic it would dry out by lunch time. We cringed and went ahead. It was only three bags (we quartered the bread) but still the decision was agonised over. The plastic is a soft plastic that can be recycled (ahem, downcycled!) through the major supermarkets recycling programs. Three bread bag ties went into my waste bin.

Our falafel and dip were bought in our own containers that we organised before the day. Nuts and popcorn came from local bulk food stores. We assembled a fruit platter but I think in the future we'll just serve watermelon as it was the only fruit devoured by everyone. The ingredients to make the biscuits and cake were purchased at the local bulk food stores too. My mother in law provided a salad to have with our falafels, and used tea towels instead of cling wrap.

Now the sneaky plastic came from our small baked goods. I had intended to drop off reusable plastic containers to the bakery the day before but simply forgot. I wasn't to worried at the time since I had seen cardboard carry boxes. When we took the empty boxes home after the party I noticed the inside  was shiny and I did the hot water test to see if there was a plastic coating. Sure enough there was. So I separated all the plastic (polyethylene) from the cardboard, took the plastic lining to the soft plastic drop off with the Lebanese bread bags and recycled the rest of the cardboard in our normal kerbside recycling bin. It was less than a handful of plastic but still, it was plastic and would have ended up in landfill during the recycling process.

The Builder accidentally dropped the esky carrying the beer and wine, smashing two beer bottles on the footpath. These were swept up and put straight into the bin at the park. This is kind of funny because the effort I went to find second hand plastic plates and plastic drinking glasses was done so we wouldn't have to worry about any of the children breaking glass in a popular public location.

Apart from beer and wine, there was a drinks dispenser from home full of lemonade, the same recipe from my book and used at our wedding. We had several glass bottles of water for guests to fill their cups up with too.

We set up a recycling bin for bottles and a small compost bin for any scraps too. 


Plates, cups and serving platters

We had regular plates for the adults and plastic plates for the kids, along with plastic drinking cups and wine glasses for the adults. As mentioned above I was trying to be cautious in a public area. I had the crockery plates from previous events on hand, so all I had to do was find the plastic kids plates and drinking cups. Luckily Savers had more than enough. Actually, I don't know if it is really lucky...goes to show just how much second hand plastic there already is. We've decided to hold onto these for future parties and loan out for friends and family to use. If you are in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne, feel free to get in touch should you like to borrow anything.

Extra serving platters and bowls were gathered from family and secondhand stores to. We used cotton napkins too. It was also a straw-free event but I did bring some of my metal ones from home just in case.

I will admit we are lucky to have storage space in our home to keep a lot of these party specific items. But we wouldn't hesitate to borrow everything instead of buy disposables. People are more helpful than we give them credit for so that's why I always encourage people to ask those around them to borrow and share. Otherwise buying from a secondhand store and returning is worth considering too as you can view it as a monetary donation while helping reduce waste.

In my book I break down how I plan for parties to help reduce relying on disposables through to planning the food to be bought and cooked. Using a piece of paper, usually a scrap of paper from The Builders invoices, i'll draw a line creating two columns. The first column lists each dish to be served, with second column used to work out how many plates or serving platters I need. This helps me work out if I need to borrow or buy extra, and whatever is needed will go onto my shopping list.

Related blog posts: My newborn essentials list and Baby shower gift ideas and Our Zero Waste Wedding



The day of the party was VERY windy and it turned out the pirate ship was located in the windiest spot along the river. The linen table cloths, bunting and fun pirate decorations I had collected stayed in the car. We had a hard enough time stopping the wind from blowing the food away! It was a calamity but I can laugh now at all the effort I put into decorations for them to not be seen. At least for this birthday. When you have a party outdoors everything is at mercy of mother nature.

The pavilion next to ours was also hosting a party and they had balloons, single-use plastic cups and plates blowing around. It was hard to watch, especially being on the river. Another reason to avoid disposables.

Party bags

No party bags were handed out but we did encourage kids to take home as many cakes they wanted.


We asked for no presents, but were aware some people would bring them. I've said before i'm not against presents, understanding people will bring them because some people are gift givers. And that's OK. Out of all our guests we received five presents, mainly champagne for us! But we were also happy to receive cuddles for our son.

The request for no presents was put into the SMS message like this:
We kindly ask for presents, your presence and a cuddle with the birthday boy is enough.

The gifts for our son were wrapped thoughtfully like this set of books in scraps of cloth and the leaves as the card and gift tag. Others wrapped gifts in old wrapping paper and even cloth bags.

To be fair, everyone knows the lifestyle we live so we didn't have to ever bring up the subject of wrapping paper with anyone. If you'd like to but don't want to offend anyone, try sharing a blog post or an image from Pinterest to your personal Facebook page to help pass on the hint you are trying to reduce your plastic and rubbish.


The party was easy to plan and this was because my son was turning one, so he had no say in what he wanted. Apart from the plastic, broken bottle and windy weather, it was a successful party. The party was also a learning experience, as are most things when we try them for the first time. We'll be better prepared for the next children's party which we might do when he turns 5. Hopefully my cake baking skills will improve by then and I can attempt a Woman's Weekly Birthday Cake. 

Our son was happy, enjoyed his cake and we got to celebrate making it through the first year with our family and friends. A big thanks to my mum and dad who helped us get everything ready for the day and especially my mum, who saved the day with the cake. For anyone wondering, it was this banana cake recipe with a passionfruit glaze. The flour was substituted for a gluten free option and tasted great!

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