How the Beauty Industry Is Becoming More Earth-Friendly

Jan 30, 2020

Beauty products can have some ugly effects on the environment, choking landfills with trash and polluting our waterways. Thankfully, companies large and small are stepping up their sustainability game, prioritizing the responsible sourcing of ingredients, implementing earth-friendly manufacturing processes, and experimenting with inventive recycling programs. But we all have a role to play. Even the tiniest gestures make an impact, right down to the number of styling products we use in our hair. Here, how you can help.

The issue: squandering our resources.

The way plant ingredients in your creams and shampoos are farmed affects local communities and ecosystems—and a product’s overall carbon footprint. One of the most egregious examples is palm oil, whose derivatives appear in a whopping 70 percent of cosmetics. Indiscriminate building of palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia has decimated rainforests, and research indicates that deforestation releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Also, most personal care products use water in manufacturing and as a main ingredient—and the availability of clean, drinkable water is expected to nose-dive by 2050, thanks to climate change, pollution, and increased demand.

What’s being done?

Mega-companies are making major changes. L’Oréal, which has committed to being deforestation-free by 2020, and Estée Lauder are working closely with the global nonprofit Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to ensure that their cultivation methods and sourcing have minimal negative environmental impact.

One of the most exciting developments, though, is brought to us by biotechnology, which companies are using to create environmentally responsible ingredients. The skincare line Biossance makes its squalane, a naturally occurring oil traditionally derived from shark livers or olives, from renewable sugarcane, and the brand Algenist’s key anti-agers, alguronic acid and microalgae oil, come from sustainable algae.

What can you do?

At home is start by being mindful of your water use. Turn off the shower while shaving, and skip a shampoo occasionally. If you want to go full-on farm-to-face, choose green beauty standouts like JurliqueJuice BeautyDr. Hauschka, and Tata Harper—they all grow botanicals on their own farms. Otherwise, look for labels such as Ecocert, which guarantees the use of renewable ingredients. Seed Phytonutrients founder Shane Wolf, who worked to develop the first-ever shower-friendly paper bottles, made from 100 percent recycled material and used for the brand’s shampoo, conditioners, cleansers, and hand wash. More than 60 percent of paper is recycled, while less than 10 percent of plastic is, “Any move away from plastic toward paper is a move in the right direction,” says Wolf. And hidden inside each bottle is a packet of seeds, which can be planted to grow heirloom herbs.



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