Beauty products can have such a negative impact on the environment, choking landfills with trash and polluting our waterways. But, did you know that your carbon footprint can be reduced by just making a few tiny changes in your beauty habits? We’ll get there in a second, after shedding some light on the problem as a whole.
When it comes to eco-friendly beauty, there are now a lot of impressive-sounding terms making waves. From “plastic-free”, to “green”, to “clean”, to “sustainable beauty”, to the latest “carbon-neutral beauty” - these eco buzzwords have all grown in popularity, yet … Do we really understand the concept?
What is carbon-neutral beauty?
In the 5 easy ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your workday routine article, we’ve clarified the concept of carbon footprint and carbon neutrality.
The only difference is that carbon-neutral beauty involves the beauty industry alone. A carbon-neutral beauty product means it’s emitting the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as the amount you offset by some other means, such as contributing to schemes around that world that help to tackle climate change.
In order for beauty brands to understand their carbon footprint, they have to start by looking at the entire life cycle of their products and have a complete picture of what is involved in producing their products.
Thankfully, a lot of beauty and wellness companies - large and small ones - are stepping up their sustainability game, giving us the opportunity to think greener and make smarter choices for our planet. Our options are not as limited as they used to be - every day new responsible sourcing of ingredients, eco-friendly manufacturing processes, and recycling programs are being prioritized and implemented by some of these companies who are trying to make a difference.
What’s being done?
Natural and organic ingredients are becoming more popular for their health and environmental impacts.
Even mega-companies are making changes to reduce their carbon footprint. The beauty industry is stepping up in many other ways. A lot of companies are using recycled packaging, choosing organic and sustainable beauty products, banning microbeads, using renewable energy, and implementing an eco-friendly green policy. The Body Shop, under the Anita Roddick vision, for instance, was one of the first companies to decry animal testing and to use Fair Trade, natural ingredients in some of their products. About 45 years later, they continue to make sure their products have a positive impact through schemes like Return, Recycle, Repeat, and Community Fair Trade recycled plastic.
But, of course, all of this isn’t enough. It takes both consumers and brands to take action to protect people and the planet. Therefore and because even the tiniest gestures make an impact, here they are:
5 easy ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your beauty habits
1. Repurpose cosmetic jars and containers
Finding new uses for your makeup bottles or cosmetic containers doesn’t just save you money, it saves the environment too.
Empty compacts can be used to store hair elastics or even a tampon. It’s small enough to slip into your purse, which makes it perfect for a girls’ night out.
How many perfume bottles do we accumulate because of their unique colors or formats? Let’s repurpose them into vases. They will look great as a piece of décor. Also pick perfume brands such as Le Labo, where you can refill your perfume bottle at a lower cost.
Old lipsticks make gorgeous repurposed makeup containers. How about using them as substitutes for those boring and bulky pillboxes?
If you decide to step up your game and make your own natural skincare cleansers, don’t forget to use your empty cosmetic containers.
2. Choose reusable cotton pads
Whether for removing makeup, cleansing, or applying a moisturizer or toner, many people use disposable face wipes, cotton balls, or pads as their skincare habits, which add up to a lot of waste. They end up in landfills almost immediately after we use them.
According to the WWF, cotton’s most prominent environmental impacts result from the use of agrochemicals, water consumption, and the conversion of animal habitats for agricultural use. Think about this: each kilogram of cotton takes 20,000 liters of water to be produced.
Reusable cotton pads made from cotton or bamboo are a great eco-friendly option for removing your makeup. After using them you can simply throw them in the wash and they’ll be as good as new.
3. Buy products with minimal packaging
According to Zero Waste Europe, every year, about 120 billion units of cosmetics packaging are produced globally, and mostly (95%) for one-time use. Also, the shipping industry - an integral part of the process - contributes to more than 1 billion tons of CO2 a year, according to an article in The Guardian. The shocking part is that only 9% of the world's plastic is recycled.
That’s why the plastic-free beauty concept comes as a solution - it means that the brand’s packaging is made from something else, such as aluminum, glass, or paper.
The more packaging there is, the worse the carbon footprint, so when shopping, gravitate toward items without excess packaging or none at all. Nowadays there are a lot of bath products, hair care in bar form, and facial soaps with no packaging whatsoever. As an alternative, you can always look for a label that specifies 100 percent recycled content.
4. Seek out refillables
We all know plastic is problematic: sadly, at least 8 million tonnes of it are dumped in our oceans every year, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The fact is that recycling isn’t always as easy as we think - according to National Geographic, only seven percent of plastic waste makes it all the way through to become repurposed. Did you know that most available pumps are not recyclable? Applicators neither. Makeup brushes are generally not recyclable, even if they are composed of primarily eco-friendly materials.
This could be avoided if we used refillable products. Lots of beauty-boosting products we use every day are refillable. Makeup, perfumes, deodorants, bath products, razors… Let’s seek out refillables and change a few of our beauty habits.
5. Check for eco-labels
Sustainable brands often aim for a quartet of eco-labels: recyclable, cruelty-free certification from Leaping Bunny, certification for good business practices (like Fair Trade or B-Corp), and organic ingredients.
By checking for eco-labels we are helping protect the planet because it means control bodies certify them and recognize them as really eco-friendly; we are having a positive social impact because human rights are a priority, and the products’ ingredients must be fair-trade whenever possible; plus we are helping the animals because the brands selling certified products must use alternative methods to animal testing.
To conclude, if we’re talking about carbon-neutral beauty and reducing the carbon footprint of your beauty habits, we can’t avoid the elephant in the room: we’re all consuming way too much stuff.
The beauty industry has perpetuated this idea of continuous consumption and it’s time to focus on trying to create and sell more multipurpose, multifunctional, and longer-lasting formulations. What can we do as consumers? Buy from eco-friendly and sustainable brands, do our research, buy in bulk, and use more products that do double duty. Read 100 simple ways to help save the planet for more.
Sustainability is no longer a choice but a necessity. Are you ready to change your beauty habits to a more sustainable alternative and save the planet? If you want to know more about how to be more sustainable check out 5 easy ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your workday routine and 5 easy ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your fashion choices.