It’s Earth Day on the 22nd, and there has never been a better time to sit back, reflect and most importantly act when it comes to the amount of waste we generate as human beings.
Yes, out there in the seas there are rugby fields’ worth of water bottles, milk cartons, plastic bags and takeout containers. But also: shampoo bottles, lipstick tubes, shadow palettes, powder compacts, lotion pumps, and fancy packaging that once held luscious creams that we hoped would be that elusive Miracle in a Jar.
According to Brianne West, biochemist and the founder of zero waste beauty brand Ethique, every year, over 80 billion plastic bottles are disposed of from just shampoo and conditioner alone. In fact, by the middle of this century — that’s not as far away as you think — the ocean may contain more plastic by weight than fish.
Changes requires a little extra effort from us all, but a shift in routine isn’t as difficult as you would think. We’ve compiled five ways to dramatically reduce your beauty waste, with some of our favourite products thrown in that will help you do exactly that.
Wipe Out Wipes
It can be all too easy to reach for the nearest disposable wipe when it’s late at night and the last thing you want to do is wash your face. The ugly truth is that many wipe options on the market are made of synthetic fibres, pile up quickly in the bathroom rubbish bin, and don’t degrade when they reach the landfill. Synthetic wipes are often made of plastic fibres such as polyester and rayon, and one disposable wipe can take up to a hundred years to decompose.
Microfibre cloths are the perfect eco-friendly option for removing your makeup, and many do double duty as makeup removers and gentle exfoliators. Be sure to clean the cloths regularly to avoid transferring dirt and bacteria back onto your skin, and always allow them to dry fully between uses. Tailor Skincare’s Towels are suitable for even the most sensitive skin, or invest in a Foreo Luna Fofo – a 2-in-1 facial cleansing and massaging device that removes all traces of oil, makeup, sweat and dead skin to leave it looking fresh, smooth and luminous in just 30 seconds.
Make Your Brushes Cruelty-Free
A clean and cruelty-free makeup brush – or several – are our tools of choice, with cotton buds and the like kicked firmly to the curb. Using a soft blending brush to smudge eyeshadow can offer even more precision and control than a cotton bud, and dip an eyeliner brush in makeup remover to perfect your most precise winged eye look ever. Aleph’s Vegan Diffuser Brush, Powder Brush and Lip Brush tick all of the boxes, with densely packed vegan bristles that are designed to work just like animal hair, but are hypoallergenic and far less likely to harbour bacteria. Sustainably made in Italy, they are designed to last.
Minimise Your Packaging Output
According to a recent study by the Ocean Conservancy, plastic has been found in 60 per cent of all seabird species and every type of sea turtle. And it shouldn’t take dead sea creatures washing up filled with rubbish to remind us that our dependence on plastic is a major threat to the planet.
To make your own beauty journey more sustainable, consider reaching for products that have minimal or no packaging, like bar soap in the shower and shampoo and conditioner bars from New Zealand’s own Ethique. A single Ethique shampoo bar is the equivalent to three bottles of traditional shampoo, and making the change is easier than you think!
You can also wave goodbye to your pumpable body lotion with a delicious Butter Block from Ethique. You have to remember to apply after a shower before fully towelling off, but the moisture passed on by just a few passes of one of their blocks is enough to put that nasty plastic pump well into retirement.
Reuse, and Reuse Again
A great way to reduce your impact is to repurpose beauty packaging where you can. Bigger jars and empty candle vessels are the perfect way to keep your makeup brushes tidy and upright, meaning they retain their shape and last longer too. Most soy-based candle residue can easily be removed with a good soak in boiling hot water and some elbow grease, then allow to dry. Or, create your own travel minis by keeping clean empties of smaller products on hand for when a road trip gets added to your schedule. Also, at often half the size or less they will most definitely come in handy when we’re travelling internationally again, and allow plenty of space in your luggage for extra shopping!
Think Twice Before You Buy
The phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” may have been coined many years ago, but its relevance as a mantra has never been more important than right now. Every product we purchase has an environmental footprint, from the materials used to create it to the pollution emitted during manufacturing, to the carbon miles that bought it here and the packaging that ends up in landfills. So before you buy something, ask yourself if you really need it. If you do, look for minimal packaging and shipping, and brands close to home. Once you stop purchasing things you really don’t need, chances are you’ll find that your money goes further, your bathroom cabinet is less cluttered and your carbon footprint is reduced drastically.