Natural and zero waste living: a podcast interview with Agnes London

How was Bottega Zero Waste born?

It all started in 2018 with a blog on slow living which then turned into zero waste and natural living because of the necessity of reducing waste that I had controlling what I was putting on my skin.

It's been a journey of 2 full years of a lot of sacrifices because I have been working a full time job until 2 days ago! I was working on bottega in the morning before going to work, during lunch time I'd take my laptop out and reply to emails, then back home from work at 6-7 pm I'd you know write posts, publish something on Instagram and work on the next workshop organisation, all of this also after dinner. Every weekend was dedicated to having finally a full working day where I could catch up. So, I guess after 2 years of this it was time for my mental health and social life to really go full time and you know, be able to have breaks and real holidays too.

How and why did you start making your own?

I was super frustrated by the fact that not only everything came packaged in single use packaging, but I also couldn't understand the ingredients on a label. It felt like I kind of woke up from a bad dream, I couldn't understand how I could blindly use those products for years. It's clear that just plain marketing had done its work well. But I really wanted to feel empowered and take control to reduce waste and understand the products. The first swap that I came across was soap. So logically the first thing that I did is to go on Youtube and look for a soap tutorial. There were not that many, so the first time I made soap I made almost 3 KGs.

When did you get into essential oils?

I was looking at 3 things:

  1. Transparency. When you use a fragrance you have no idea on what's inside, and that really frustrated me. I am a curious person but also I wanted to understand what I was putting on my skin!
  2. I wanted to switch to a natural remedy and really cut on the synthetics. Believe it or not I think I smelled my first essential oil not more than 2 years ago. When you start using essential oils I think you really start to understand how different a real natural scent is, as opposed to a lab made fragrance
  3. The therapeutical effect of essential oils. Not only the scent but also the effect that essential oils can have on your body and and the mind is incredible. I started using it in my homemade deodorants or in my shampoo bars and you can really see the results. An essential oil will not only give you a good scent but it can soften the skin, clear your pores or even fight off dandruff!

How did you get to learn about your skin and hair type? 

Learning about my skin came with a lot of research on ingredients to use, but also trial and error. I have developed all the soap and shampoo recipes myself by testing them out and then of course having friends and family test them out, especially my very patient boyfriend!

Do you have any tips on how to choose a shampoo bar that works for your hair type?
It's really all about the ingredients. And a truly organic formulation will really hand-pick natural ingredients that are meant to serve a specific purpose. For example, hemp seed oil is packed with essential fatty acids as omega3 and omega6 which can help improve the thickness of the hair. Hemp seed oil is also a very dry oil which does not clog pores and penetrates the skin fast softening it. So this makes it very good for particularly sensitive skin and scalp issues.

I have actually created a guide on my website where you can learn more about ingredients that go into shampoo bars and also learn how to identify which shampoo bar is good for your hair depending on your hair type. It's up on the blog at

Why ingredients are important in cosmetic products?

Each ingredients serves a very specific function and it's normally in conjunction with other ingredients we obtain a balanced product.

Whether it is a 100% natural ingredient or maybe a partially natural ingredient. It's I think important to understand what natural means, and that natural is not always good. For examples, essential oils can be really damaging if not used properly or if used too much. There are strict guidelines on essential oils just like there are on other non-natural ingredients.

Some ingredients manufactured might give a performance that a natural ingredient will not be able to give. For example the powder I use to make shampoo is derived from coconut oil and made into a detergent with the purpose to clean hair gently.

If you used a natural ingredient like soap nuts which naturally contain saponins and clean naturally, you might not be able to clean your hair well enough, which might result in your scalp being clogged with sebum, dandruff and all sorts of problems.

Instead we can use natural ingredients in conjunction with other naturally derived ingredients to obtain a performance product. So you could use the lab made powder derived from coconuts with the addition of soap nuts.

I'd say ingredients to avoid are ingredients that are just too strong, for instance SLS, or ingredients that are derived from plastic, for example polythelene, which you will be surprised in how many creams is included.

You might also want to look at ethical and cruelty free ingredients. For example, proteins. Many proteins such as keratin are animal derived and are often taken from pig's hair coming from slaughterhouses. 

What are the benefits of using natural skincare & haircare products?

You can keep it simple and we really have the chance of giving our skin "a break". If you use a complex product with a list of 20 synthetic ingredients versus a lip balm made with wax, cocoa butter and coconut oil, it will make a difference. Since I have started using a simple aloe vera cream my skin has cleared so much, I rarely get breakouts of redness. Especially if you have sensitive skin I even recommend to skip on essential oils and really keep it as simple as possible.

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Could you tell me more about living in London and dealing with its pollution in relation to skincare?

It's terrible especially because I mostly cycle around. I think it's so important to always conclude your day with a nice cleaning routine. I love the benefits for example of oil cleansing. The idea is that oil removes oil, so instead of adding harsh cleaning agents to our already irritated skin, we use an oil suitable for our skin which will pull out any dirt and then with the use of a damp hot cloth we use the power of steam and heat to open the clog further and really deep clean our skin. You can even follow with a clay mask to pull out all that pollution even more.

How did you get into natural cleaning?

Natural cleaning I feel is one of those areas that is going to explode soon. At the moment I make my own all purpose degreaser spray, which is quite easy you can make one with castile soap, vinegar, a little alcohol and I use baking soda for its abrasive properties so really takes off any stains and acts like a natural bleach. Another natural compounds that is super effective in natural cleaning is washing soda and sodium percarbonate and I use this for example I like to make toilet bombs they are fun and quick to make and when I am lazy I just mix the powders together and add a tablespoon to my toilet.

Another amazing ingredient is coconut oil which can be used to make a coconut oil soap which is one of the most cleansing oils you can find! It's so easy and you can make it with just 3 ingredients where 1 of these is just tap water. SO easy. I feel that sometimes consumerism has really brought us to complicate our lives so unnecessarily!

There are other things that I prefer to buy in bulk like for instance floor cleaner as I have a wooden floor I prefer not to diy it.

Does making your own help you reduce your packing?

Not always! There are instances when you might be better off purchasing a zero waste product. If I need to source way too many ingredients which is not really sustainable especially if they are being shipped to me from different locations.

However, if I am able to create a product with just a handful of ingredients which I know I can get plastic free or in bulk or in a larger quantity, then it makes absolutely sense. For example aloe vera gel is one of those things that comes in plastic but I can get 1 KG bucket and make maybe 20-30 creams with it. That's a lot of packaging saved.

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