How to Make your Beauty Routine Sustainable
Hi, I'm Sarah and I'm a beauty product addict! I love getting a new bottle or jar of some wonderous lotion that promises to change my life. Has it? No, but I still keep looking - and buying! And therein lies the problem. As someone who is quite keen on helping our planet, I can't ignore the fact our beauty addiction accounts for a third of all landfill waste! So what can we do? Well, we need to be reducing the amount of single-use plastic we use and send to landfill, while also increasing the amount we recycle – and fast. But can we do that and keep our beauty cabinet fully stocked? Lets find out how to make your beauty routine sustainable.
The truth is for real change to happen, it has to come from the big beauty brands but it's you that can make that change happen!
Shopping is the equivalent of voting and deciding what to spend your money on is one of the most important activities you can do to make a change!
While there are some simple plastic free beauty swaps many of us are still left scratching our heads when it comes to what exactly we should be buying, and indeed, what we should be avoiding.
So let's look at where beauty brands can make the biggest difference and how you can make your beauty routine more sustainable.
1. Reduction of packaging and waste
When you buy a new product, how much packaging does it come with? For years many companies over-package so that products appear larger and more luxurious. There’s the plastic wrappings, paper inserts, cardboard sleeves, foam, mirrored glass and more, sometimes all present in one purchase.
And this all become waste! The beauty industry is responsible for billions of tonnes of waste every year, but brands are making changes, reducing package and getting inventive. Big brands like Unilever and L'Oreal have committed to using 100 per cent recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025. But you don't have to wait till then. Ren Skincare and the Body Shop announced participation in Loop. A shopping program that will offer products in durable packaging that can be returned, sanitized, and reused (like old-school milk bottles).
Even if you do recycle, a lot of makeup products need specialised recycling techniques, that aren't available locally. Some brands ask you to return your product to them, so they can be recycled properly. And you may even be rewarded for making the effort. Mac (which I don't use, as it's not cruelty-free, unfortunately) will give you a lipstick or eye shadow for free if you bring back 6 empty products.
But what about all the packaging that comes when you order a product? Voya has introduced biodegradable packing peanuts made from natural, non-toxic sources, such as wheat and corn starch. They dissolve in water and can be thrown into compost piles after a single use. Wouldn't it be great if all brands did this!
And some brands are getting rid of packaging all together! Leading the way is LUSH, which launched a limited package free foundation, while other brands are investing in a refillable model, Kjaer Weis offers a refill scheme, cutting down on the waste each transaction produces.
What you can do
- Try to buy products that don't have excess packaging, and where they have to use plastic, use a form of bioplastic. When in doubt go for a product in tube form. Aluminium is endlessly recyclable, which means less to landfill! Plus you can squeeze out every last drop!
- RECYCLE! Recycle, recycle, I'll say it one more time RECYCLE!!! Only 50% of us are recycling our beauty products and while recycling isn't going to get us out of the plastic mess, it does make a difference. If your not sure what parts you can recycle, check the brand's website. There should be instructions on what can be recycled and where to recycle. If there are no instructions, don't buy it.
- Research what your favourite brands are doing to make their products more sustainable. And if they are not doing enough, tell them! Shame them on social media! Due to the number of complaints on social media about their excessive packaging, Glossier is planning on making their famous pink bubble wrap pouches optional when shipping.
2. Responsible sourcing of ingredients
The way plant ingredients in your creams and shampoos are sourced affects local communities and ecosystems—and a product’s overall carbon footprint. One of the urgent examples is palm oil, whose derivatives appear in a whopping 70% of cosmetics! The indiscriminate building of palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia is destroying rainforests. esearch indicates that deforestation releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all the cars and trucks in the world combined!
Thankfully many brands are being more transparent about the origins of their ingredients and are also sourcing locally. For example, most of the ingredients in Tata Harper skincare come from their farm in Vermont. And they list the source of each ingredient in their packaging and on the website.
What you can do
Do your homework! Check where the brand sources their ingredients from, if they don't tell you, it's probably not sustainable. A great guide is to see if they have been certified. RSPO and Green Palm labels will tell you if they sustainable use palm oil, while Eco-Cert and Soil Association will tell you if they are organic. Any brand can call themselves "natural" and "organic" but if they don't have the certification, don't believe them!!
3. Reduction of Emissions
It takes a lot of energy create, package and ship a product. If this energy comes from fossil fuels, well you know by this point, that means more CO2 emissions. But brands are taking on the challenge, L'Oreal reduced their CO2 emissions by 50% between 2005 and 2015 and are on track to reduce another 10% by 2020. And for their USA offices and factories, they are aiming to be carbon neutral by this year!
Fun fact Maybelline Great Lash mascaras sold in America are made with 100% renewable energy (a not so fun fact - Maybelline isn't cruelty-free)
What you can do
Try an eco-audit of your own daily beauty regimen, assessing the number of products you buy and how much waste is produced as a result. The Nature Conservatory’s carbon calculator (nature.org) helps you determine your footprint, then offers tips on what you can do to decrease it. Another certification you can check out is Cradle to Cradle.
Thoughts? Are you concerned with how to make your beauty routine sustainable? Do you use any green or eco beauty brands that you love? Let me know in the comments below!
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ps want to grab yourself a good deal? I've put together a list of beauty discount codes and special offers!
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