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The Toiletries Amnesty

Hygiene is a fundamental human right – we meet the woman who is on a mission to make sure everyone has access to the essentials

Take a look at your bathroom and what do you see? It’s probably cluttered with shampoo bars, your favourite scented shower gel, lavender bubble bath that is reserved for stressful days, and various lotions, potions, polishes and scrubs – the list goes on. Although we try our best to live minimally, bathrooms can very easily become a dumping ground for unused or part-used cosmetics. If this sounds familiar (and no shame if so), fear not, as there’s a solution. We caught up with Karen Harvey, founder of the Toiletries Amnesty, to find out more.

A few years ago I was looking in my airing cupboard and I came across a couple of bottles of shampoo that I had bought but wasn’t going to use and wondered ‘what do I do with these?’ It would have been a waste to get rid of them and I thought maybe homeless shelters would want them. I got in touch with Winter Comfort (, a company in Cambridge who support those who are homeless by offering them welfare services and opportunities for learning and training. They said they would take them, so I started speaking to friends and asked if we could start collecting other bits, as there was no point taking just two bottles of shampoo. I posted about it on my own blog and people kept getting in touch offering products. Dozens of people were saying ‘can we send stuff to you to pass on’ and from there it went crazy.

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About Be Kind

Hello, When I was little, my parents had a new fridge-freezer delivered. It was a very exciting time because, after a lot of begging, I was allowed to keep the box and I had big plans for it. I became all-consumed with my project – rushing home from school to colour in a panel, pin up a picture or paint numbers on the door. I transformed this brown cardboard cuboid into my own little office, complete with seat, desk and window, and I remember feeling totally satisfied with the finished article. I’d taken something drab and boring and, with a lot of imagination, turned it into something I deemed wonderful. What has my funny little box office got to do with saving the world? Well, this issue we are looking into how with a bit of creativity and ingenuity, we can change things for the better. There are brilliant companies who are taking plastic bottles and making them into swimwear, people that are using their crafty skills to make items for those that really need them, such as blankets for refugees, and a whole bunch of talented social media stars who can help you upcycle the items you no longer love into things you really do. We also look at the incredible benefits of indulging your creative side and how, just like when you were a kid, you should regularly set your imagination free. If you need me, I’ll be decorating my office. Have a great month, Phillipa Editor