Sustainability is complex and the term itself means so many different things. In a nutshell, it is about leaving behind less pollution and waste in production, usage, and disposal. But how sustainable is your beauty routine, really?
The question is hard to answer when it's not clear what is being measured. Let's look closer at what sustainability really means when it comes to a beauty routine. Read more to find out how you make more ethical choices, and find products that align with your values to protect our planet.
Carbon neutral, water-neutral, plastic-neutral
Every action that we take impacts the earth. Companies can calculate their total footprint by adding up all impacts of all the activities that make a product: from manufacturing and packaging to transport to administration.
This circular approach to the process of creating goods is important for long-term sustainability. Rather than seeing a linear process of creating a product, brands who recognise their impact on the earth at multiple stages of a product's development can give back to the planet by offsetting the damage of their activities by supporting planet-positive projects.
More and more brands are now taking actions to offset the equivalent of their carbon output, water use, or plastic waste output by investing in certified projects that reduce carbon, conserve water, or reduce plastic waste.
Not every company is active on all fronts, but brands that are serious about reducing their impact will be active on at least one front.
Romer Skincare's commitment to sustainability extends across its entire supply chain from start to finish. Every month, they measure the volume of plastic, water, and carbon their products use or produce, and mitigate the impact through verified offsets. Romer invests in third-party certified projects from plastic waste elimination to carbon offset to water conservation to protect our earth.
Ever heard of this term? Greywater, also known as sullage, is gently used water from bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines. It is not water that has come into contact with faeces but may contain traces of dirt, food, grease, hair, shower and bath products, and household cleaning products.
Products that are greywater-safe, are products that do not contain ingredients that can potentially harm water, animals or plants. Oftentimes, beauty ingredients are made without a thought to the toxins that are introduced to ecosystems. When a product is washed down the drain or sink, it makes its way into rivers and oceans.
Greywater that is free of toxins can potentially be reused for toilet flushing, landscape or crop irrigation, and other non-potable purposes.
Using products that contain all-natural ingredients is a great way to ensure that the shower and bathing products in your household do not produce greywater that will poison the environment.
Dilkara Australia creates hair products that are free of SLS, parabens, petrochemicals, palm oil, propylene glycol, triethanolamine, DMDM hydantoin, and dioxane. Their products are also organic, cruelty-free, vegan, made of natural ingredients, and free of synthetics and pesticides.
Cruelty-free refers to products that have not been tested on animals. The 2013 EU Cosmetic Law prohibits products sold in the UK to be tested on animals, but this has not stopped brands from operating in countries where it is not prohibited. When brands truly care about sustainability, it is not a performance; they will not test on animals in other countries where it is allowed.
Look for brands that are certified by the Leaping Bunny for being cruelty-free. The Leaping Bunny label, operated by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics in the US and Canada, is a certification of animal rights. Brands with the Leaping Bunny certification pledge to end animal testing at all stages of product development in addition to recommitting to the program annually and being open to third party audits.
Kalmar creates formulations that are cruelty-free, vegan and non-toxic.
Vegan products contain no animal products or byproducts. It can be easy to forget that beauty ingredients like honey, beeswax, gelatin, lanolin, yoghurt and even hyaluronic acid (depending where it was sourced) are animal-derived. A vegan diet is not a completely vegan lifestyle without cutting out animal-based body care products, too.
Avoiding animal byproducts in your beauty routine relates to sustainability because farming accounts for a big percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, our global greenhouse gas production is still at a rate that is too high— our world is heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century, far beyond the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing 1.5°C. Read more here: https://www.unep.org/emissions-gap-report-2020
Vegan brands are proud of their formulations and are always happy to state it on their packaging.
Gratium uses purely natural and organic plant ingredients in their hair pomades, shampoos, oils, and scalp care products.
Types of recyclable packaging for beauty products include PET/PETE plastic, glass jars, aluminium tubes, paper wrapping, biodegradable packaging peanuts, most aerosol cans, and reusable containers.
Non-recyclable packaging includes sample-sized plastic packets, single-use plastic, and many of the small plastic or metal parts in dispenser-type bottles.
Brands who believe in reducing the impact of plastic on the earth will opt for packaging their products in recyclable material, within already recycled materials, going packaging-free, or putting products in reusable containers like glass bottles. They may also offer refill options and have their own recycling programs!
Where independent brand recycling options are not available, recycling stations can only give your packaging a chance for a second life if you recycle containers that are empty and clean. Remember to wash and remove all contents within the bottles before putting them into a green bin.
MINZAANÎ uses glass jars to package their skincare products. The amber jars protect from light and help preserve the contents, while being recyclable! Through their recycling program, you can recycle the jars back to the brand, and get a discount on future purchases!
With your definition of sustainability expanded, you are now equipped to buy the right product for you and know what it is doing for the planet. Prioritise sustainability and help our ecosystems. It is worth it.
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Cosmetics testing using animals. (n.d.). RSPCA. from https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/laboratory/testingchemicals/cosmetics