Why sustainable beauty matters.
Why Sustainable Beauty Matters
The Future of Beauty
We have been gifted with only one planet to call home and thanks to the many movements around the environment and climate change, we are now all well informed about how important it is to take care of our home in every possible way. This year on World Environment Day the #OnlyOneEarth campaign rallied the global community to act. The United Nations painted a grim picture of our future on earth and urged that “we must go from harming our planet, to healing it”.
The enormity and consequence of the issues we face may seem unfathomable. From global warming, air pollution, urban sprawl, climate change induced weather events and rising sea levels, to the potential for food and water shortages, the numerous challenges to solve are immense. It is easy to think a task so large and complex can’t be solved by the simple actions of you, an individual. But here lies the greatest challenge.
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan
We all must do our part to save mother nature. Making changes for more sustainable living is key. Small actions from individuals collectively have the power to change the future. So what changes do we need to make in our daily lives? It’s normal to feel overwhelmed at where to start, the most important step to take is to make a start and at The NATIVES Co. we think your beauty cabinet is as good a place as any. Let’s take a deep dive into what sustainable beauty is and vacate the confusion.
What’s the problem with conventional beauty?
Conventional beauty products have been instrumental in forming the foundation of modern personal care and wellness. However, as a part of the marketing hype and profiteering that goes with a booming industry, brands have primarily focused on consumption, often with little or no consideration for safety or environmental consequences of the ingredients, materials or manufacturing practices.
Cheap disposable plastic packaging has paved the way for affordable and accessible beauty solutions. Designed for shelf appeal and longevity, plastic dominates the beauty space. But when you look around your bathroom and beauty cabinet from shampoo to moisturiser, lipstick to mascara, all that convenience of plastic packaging comes at a cost. The waste and landfill from beauty consumption runs into the billions of bottles every year. Compounded by the poor recyclability of plastic and non-mono materials, beauty as we know it has become an environmental disaster. When you consider that remnants of the degraded micro-plastic from the tube of lipstick you used today could still be present on earth in four hundred years’ time it doesn’t feel so luxurious or beautiful!
Beauty’s environmental problem doesn’t stop there. What we now know about bioaccumulation in the environment has shown us that ingredients in our beauty products can have long and far-reaching consequences. Mass manufacturing practices that use enviro-toxic chemicals, as well as rinse of products at home – soaps, exfoliants, shampoos, sunscreens, all end up in our waterways and can have devastating effects on our wildlife. The ban on micro-plastic beads in exfoliants is one example, but we are continuing to battle against toxic chemicals in sunscreens and other rinse off preparations still in use today.
What is sustainable beauty?
Sustainable beauty is about environmentally friendly standards from source to skin. Consideration for every step from ingredient sourcing and formulation to manufacturing methods, packaging (production and after-life) and distribution channels are all crucial in making the environmental impact as small as possible. Exact definitions of sustainable practices still in fact allude us, partly because there are various ways to be sustainable and partly because research and science is constantly finding newer and better ways. In reality no brand or product is perfect, but it is the cumulative benefits of sustainable brands that are making the difference and the best brands are dedicated to the cause and constantly improving.
Choosing sustainable beauty products can be daunting, it is important that any beauty product you buy is of good quality and performs. Buying better and buying less is a key sustainable lifestyle habit that helps reduces our over consumption. If a product fails to meet your expectation you are likely to throw it away half used, defeating any benefit of sustainable practices along the way. Performance aside, there are some key aspects of sustainability that can help guide your choices.
Where sustainable beauty can make a difference.
Sustainable and ethical Ingredients
Cruelty free and Vegan:
Cruelty-free and Vegan are excellent starting points for sustainable beauty. Despite strong activism to outlaw animal testing, it is still widely used in the beauty industry and you may be alarmed to find just how many products and brands use ingredients and end formulations that subject animals to cruel testing. We think cruelty-free skincare and beauty is non-negotiable and adopt a zero tolerance for any product or brand that conducts animal testing.
Vegan skincare and plant-based beauty is also a valuable step in the right direction toward sustainable beauty, however labelling can be confusing and not always transparent. Vegan formulations by rights simply don’t contain ingredients derived from animals, but they can contain toxic synthetic chemicals, non-sustainable crops or be tested on animals. It is best to look for certified vegan products that meet the standards of recognised certifying bodies. Other animal derived ingredients such as organic honey and beeswax are wonderful beauty ingredients available from sustainable sources, and are actually beneficial for the environment. Understanding the difference between vegan beauty and cruelty free can help clarify your choices.
Non- toxic ingredients:
We are becoming increasingly aware of the effects our beauty products have on both the environment and our bodies. A growing list of ingredients are banned from use in personal care products because of the harmful effects they have on our bodies. From irritants to endocrine disruptors and cancer-causing toxins, beauty products have been found to be doing more harm than good. Clean beauty brands have blown the lid on toxic ingredients found in skincare. Not satisfied with the short banned list enforced by regulators these brands are taking a stand against GMOs, harmful preservatives like phthalates, parabens and other questionable ingredients. Instead choosing to embrace natural and organic ingredients that are not only kinder to the environment but also better for your skin.
Organic farming, sustainable harvesting practices and support for biodiversity are vital to protecting the environment and ensuring the sustainability of ingredients. Organic certifications allow for transparent sourcing of ingredients that are farmed in ways to protect and nurture our precious and limited resources. Organisations such as RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) are paving the way for the harvesting and supply of ingredients in ways which do not harm or exploit essential natural habitats.
Biological diversity is essential to life on earth. The combination and variability of the species that inhabit the planet are what make life itself possible. Today biodiversity is being used as the foundation of sustainable practices and development, including ingredients for your beauty products. Look for products and brands that advocate organic ingredients, support small and local farming, create waterless formulations or reduced water production practices, as well as actions to protect natural habitats and protection of biologically vast species.
Sustainable and ethical business practices.
A more recent evolution in the beauty industry and often less transparent, the concept of divulging and discussing business practices as a key indicator of the true ethos and purpose behind the brand. These are challenges that are not always easy or cheap to overcome, it takes dedication and effort, but genuinely sustainable brands believe in their cause. Let’s take a look at some of the practices that are indicative of a truly sustainable beauty brand.
Packaging: Minimising and recycling packaging
“There is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard, Proponent of Sustainability.
As we have discovered packaging of beauty products and the associated waste and landfill is of major environmental impact. It matters how brands choose to package their products, just as it matters what we choose to do when we no longer need or want an item.
Zero waste is the dream, packaging that is compostable or readily biodegradable after use. Unfortunately, this is not always practical for all beauty formulations. The next best option is minimal packaging and/or recyclable packaging.
Recycling is the process of breaking down a product into its component parts and then re-using the materials, reducing the amount that goes to landfill. Glass and metals like aluminum are easily and infinitely recyclable. But it’s not so simple for plastics. Recycling of plastic remains challenging and costly, only a small portion of plastics produced are successfully recycled. When it comes to recycling, less packaging is better and this is especially true of packaging made from virgin or recycled plastics.
Ethical sourcing and charity:
Genuinely sustainable brands understand that to be green means not putting profits before people or the environment. Sustainable beauty brands are aware of what’s going on in their supply chains and pay a fair price for the raw materials and goods. Ensuring that suppliers are committed to positive environmental and social impact, providing safe working environments for workers is a priority.
Socially conscious brands may also have a commitment of charitable giving. Giving back to organisations that emulate their philosophy on environmental preservation or social change to drive impactful work in the community means your purchase goes just that little bit further toward change for the better.
Not satisfied in just producing a sustainable product, brands that truly care about their impact adopt robust internal resource and waste management policies. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by opting for sustainable energy sources or renewables when available, minimising manufacturing by-products and waste and greener operational practices all contribute to ensuring a brands environmental and carbon footprint is as small as possible.
The future of beauty is sustainable
There is no unicorn, nor is that what we need. We need awareness and participation, we need effort and innovation, and ultimately we need change. Thankfully there are beauty brands who are driving the charge toward a more sustainable and better future, and with so many new sustainable brands making a difference what we need now is YOU!
The availability of green beauty products made from nature with environmentally friendly practices is growing. They are gaining popularity by adopting sustainable practices and forcing the industry in a new direction. Not only are these products more sustainable, but they are also often more effective at nourishing the skin and building a strong resilient barrier. Sustainable beauty brands are making a difference by employing eco-friendly packaging methods, sustainable ingredient sourcing and manufacturing practices and creating highly effective organic natural beauty products, that are as good for your skin as they are the environment. So what are you waiting for? Buy sustainable beauty, do you part for the planet and get great skin!