How to Start Your Zero Waste Beauty Journey
Plastic production skyrocketed in the 1950s. Along with the then recently invented nylon and other synthetic materials, plastic was commonplace in every American household by the end of the decade. Since then, the man-made substance has found its way into every industry worldwide, including beauty. According to National Geographic, “the booming $500 billion per year global personal care industry relies on plastic.” When we weren’t looking, brands were sneaking billions of tons of the synthetic material into our beauty purchases every year. Euromonitor reported that, as of 2017, the beauty industry was producing 76.8 billion plastic packaging units a year, up more than 15% from 2010.
While waste systems across the globe struggle to create facilities equipped for recycling all this plastic, microscopic pieces are finding their way into our oceans, wreaking havoc on sea life, and ending up in the food we eat. A recent piece in The Guardian even found that it’s begun to rain microplastics. We’re drowning in plastic and the beauty industry plays a massive role in that.
In addition to the proliferation of plastic within the industry, excess packaging of any kind is detrimental to the environment and our overwhelmed recycling systems. Think about those ever-popular pimple patches, which often come individually packaged, inside a box and attached to more plastic. The amount of packaging is astounding. If we are going to keep our earth and ourselves healthy, we need to change the way we consume by moving away from synthetic materials. Zero waste beauty is a movement in support of that.
What Zero Waste Means
In the truest sense of the term, zero waste means generating zero waste. Blogs have cropped up all over the internet discussing how to cut down waste in every aspect of your life. With conscious life choices and strict guidelines, many zero waste influencers are able to showcase the trash they’ve collected over a few years in a single mason jar. Zero waste practices can save millions of pounds of waste from heading to landfills a year. The environmental benefits of a zero waste lifestyle are nicely complemented by each individual’s financial savings. Through strategic bulk buying, DIY recipes, and quality purchases, zero-wasters have found that less really is more.
The mason jar example is undoubtedly impressive, though far from the only way to participate in the zero waste movement, nor is it feasible for most people. Some companies have tried to save customers time and money by making their products zero waste in nature and with minimal packaging. Yet, consumer products will never be able to be completely zero waste unless the brand provides a container take-back program, only sells in bulk or is dedicated to using non-toxic ingredients. In a world obsessed with consumption and hooked on convenience, it remains almost impossible to be completely waste-free. The best way to join the zero waste beauty movement? One small step at a time.
Ways to Join the Movement
Go minimal. Start by assessing what beauty products you have, what you actually use, and what you truly need. Being mindful of your consumption and possessions is a fantastic jumping off point. Instead of going straight to a Marie Kondo approach, continue to use your products and simply make a note for what to resist purchasing next time. Less products means less waste.
Attempt to DIY. Discover a zero waste blogger you respect and follow one of their DIY beauty recipes. This may seem scary at first but making your own products is actually simpler than you think. This will also help you to better understand what goes into the products you put on your skin daily.
Find a brand. Once you’ve run out of your old beauty products, do a bit of research on zero waste and natural beauty brands. Replace those makeup remover wipes with a liquid packaged in glass or find a local zero waste shop which sells lotion in bulk! There are myriad ways to invest in high quality, natural, and zero waste products– take some time to find what works for you.
Have patience. Adding zero waste practices into your beauty routine is truly a journey. There will most certainly be a period of trial and error before you find the recipes, routines, and retailers which are right for you. Don’t rush the process.
How to Spot Greenwashing
No matter what your zero waste beauty journey looks like, being a discerning consumer remains incredibly important. When purchasing from brands claiming to be zero waste, avoid vague wording or claims without any evidence. There’s unfortunately no simple guide to weeding out the greenwashers from the transparent beauty companies. Instead, focus your energy on brands which give detailed information on packaging, ingredients and supply chains. If a beauty business doesn’t provide specifics on their website, they may have something to hide. Transparency is key in this movement towards a healthier, less wasteful future for beauty.