It’s clear AF that Mother Earth is pissed off with us humans. First came the storms and earthquakes, then the apocalyptic wildfires and now a global pandemic so completely unprecedented and so throughly devastating that we can finally understand how a species as hardy as the dinosaurs could vanish off the earth.
It’s easy to see the sheer scale of the mess that we humans have created.
Millions of tons of plastic dumped into oceans, cruise liners the size of small towns rocking through tiny waterways, air pollution so dense that smog has become a default weather pattern, wildlife killed for sport, toxic chemicals that decimate entire coral reefs, a fast and wasteful fashion industry that chokes landfills with non-biodegradable synthetic materials (approximately 85% of all textiles end up in the dump every year), trash lining the beaches and forests… need I go on?
And all it took was roughly three months for the earth to put us in our place. And clean up our mess. Since the almost-global lockdowns, air pollution levels have plummeted drastically across the world, waterways have cleared (Venice has sparkling canals for the first time in maybe a century), wildlife is filling the vacuum left behind by quarantined humans and it’s no longer surprising to see deer grazing near the White House in Washington or peacocks strutting in Wales, and seismologist says that even the earth’s very vibrations seem to be growing calmer.
So, yes, nature is striking back and reclaiming its ground. Which sort of makes me worry: What if we humans are the virus and COVID-19 is the vaccine?
Which is really something to think about. The curve may be flattening slightly but as world economies start to open back up, isn’t it time we took stock of our harmful practises so that we can thrive in co-existence with nature rather than it becoming an either-or situation?
And what better time to put new resolutions in motion that on the 50th Earth Day? Which, coincidentally, also falls on a new moon (for the first time since 1974). New moons are seen as the chance to make a new beginning. To wipe the slate clean.
So, let’s start a new environmental cycle? Beginning with our beauty products, which have long been part of the problem? All we need is a few tweaks for our beauty routines to become more sustainable, making us more responsible occupants of Planet Earth. Surely, it’s time we made the change?
This is all it may take.
Be more conscious about packaging
The global beauty industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging annually, at least 70% of which is not recyclable. Just one example: That jar of moisturiser you used in the morning may be hanging around in a landfill for more than 1,000 years!
And the onus rests on both consumers and brands alike.
While there are brands both big and small that are doing brilliant work on this front – Lush has gone entirely packaging-free for its Naked Range, L’Occitane sells refillable pouches for several of its liquid products, and even a young startup like Bloomeffects ensures that all its packaging is plastic-free (products come in fully recyclable glass jars or tubes made from sawdust), and packed in 100% recycled cardboard, with soy-based inks for printing – there is scope for a lot more.
And while that happens (hopefully soon), here’s what we can do as consumers to cut down on the environmental load of our beauty routines:
- Swap minis for regular or even super-size versions, which translate into less packaging
- Switch to refillable products rather than single-use ones
- And consciously recycle your beauty jars and bottles (more than 50% of us don’t!) – this may even be to your own advantage, with brands like MAC offering up one lipstick for six empties.
This may be one of my personal favourites. Once you are done with the products, upcycle the packaging itself! Dotted around my house are empty Diptyque and Cire Trudon candle jars that make for the most unique cocktail glasses.
There is a sunshine-y row of tiny succulents growing out of L’Occitane’s Almond Milk Concentrate and Farmacy’s Honey Potion. Tubs of La Mer’s Soft Cream hold loose change.
A row of Chanel No. 5 EDP bottles (I tend to go through a lot of this one!) make for glorious bud vases. And Laura Mercier’s Body Crème empties do double duty as spice cellars. The only limit is your imagination!
Go local… or try DIY
While this may be the most difficult switch to make in our beauty routines, not only does it lower our carbon footprint (less shipping) but it also helps small businesses, which are suffering tremendously with the pandemic’s economic fallout.
And going local may leave you pleasantly surprised with the discovery of beautiful, niche finds that are small batched, handcrafted and use fresh ingredients, which larger brands cannot manage so effectively. So look around your city for surprises that may be hanging just around the corner.
For example, one of my favorite wellness brands is Anima Mundi, which is a glorious small batch apothecary in Brooklyn. Plum & Ashby is my first stop in London. And I can never leave the South of France without a huge crate of authentic Marseilles soap. Or Singapore without a selection of Sén Natural lipsticks, which are so clean that you can actually eat them (not that I eat lipsticks as part of a regular diet!).
Or try DIY. One of my favorite things during the lockdown has been to research and play around with homemade beauty products. And it’s empowering to discover how much good you can do for your skin or hair with just a dash of pure honey or a palmful of plain yogurt!
Ditch wet wipes and conventional cotton buds
Started the day with a cotton bud to clean up that errant mascara? Or wiped off your makeup with a wet wipe? Your beauty routine may be less earth-friendly than you would like to believe.
Cotton buds and wet wipes are virtually indestructible, and will ultimately end up in our oceans and landfills. Is this the footprint we should be leaving on the planet?
Want to make a change? Swap the plastic-stemmed cotton buds (which should actually get banned, like plastic straws) for eco-friendly bamboo ones. And look for wipes that are biodgradable – like Yes To’s cellulose version. Or just switch to face cloths!
Support sustainable brands
Today, there are plenty of brands that are not only going the sustainable route in processes and ingredients but are also actively giving back to the environment. For example, the Clean Beauty Collective’s portfolio of clean perfumes are underlined with safe and sustainable manufacturing processes, combined with eco-conscious packaging. All while maintaining its luxe, premium signature. Its new limited edition Clean Reserve Radiant Nectar not only smells like summer but also helps support the Protect Our Species campaign to help protect endangered bees.
Others that are doing a fabulous job: Bastide, Chantecaille, Origins, Rahua, Osea, Sana Jardin, Farmacy, Sol de Janeiro, La Mer, Neal’s Yard, Vegamour, The Body Shop, Caudalie and Burt’s Bees. Look and you will find enough to build an entire beauty wardrobe!
Glitter looks like glamour, glitz and games. Till it ends up in the stomachs of our fish and other marine life, starving them to death. That’s because these shiny shards, like the banned microbeads, are a microplastic – which refers to pieces of plastic smaller than 5 mm.
Microplastic is almost impossible to control so like microbeads, glitter ends up in the seas. In fact, some studies estimate that microplastics actually account for 92.4% of the plastic pollution in our oceans.
But don’t worry – you don’t have to give glitter altogether. There are now enough alternatives available in the form of plastic-free biodegradable glitter, so you can continue to sparkle and shine. You just need to know where they look.
Look at labels
Do some basic research and you will find a whole tome of knowledge which proves that certain cosmetic ingredients are super-harmful for the environment. Like synthetic fragrances and dyes, which don’t break down and accumulate in the marine environment, often finding their way into the tissues of fish and other aquatic wildlife. Ditto for BHA, BHT and DBP (Dibutyl Phthalate).
Or oxybenzone, which is present in several sunscreens and leads to coral bleaching, ultimately killing off entire reefs. Hawaii has become the first state to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and we hope others will follow soon. Till then, use your discretion and ability to read ingredient labels!
Which are you favourite sustainable and earth-neutral beauty brands?