When thinking about an environmental hazard, it’s easy to picture big tanks of oil and blame the big corporation for hazardous spillings and waste in the ocean. And while accountability mostly belongs to the ones wearing ties, we ourselves forget our huge role as customers. The decisions we take on our daily shopping influence the market and the production in the most natural way. We could be the boring guy at the party and call it the demand-supply system. But I want to believe we’re all more than capable to grab the gist of it without needing economy jargon. Hence, let’s talk about this thing called Watch what you buy. I bet the enemy has already infiltrated your house: and honestly, who am I to point fingers. It’s hard to achieve that plastic-free, zero-waste, minimalistic life people so easily boast about once they get a YouTube channel. But it’s easy to give but a small contribution. That being said, let’s go peep into your bathroom cabinets and shower – don’t you get any weird idea though.
Why and how cosmetic products pollute
Personal care products fill our lives with joy and nice smells, and that counts even for you, guy on the bus that does not put on deodorant. And I would never take that away from you. But we need to stop and ask ourselves what’s the impact of all these products we bring home, starting from their content.
Generally speaking, creams, shampoo, soap, deodorants and cosmetics contain chemicals that are highly harmful to the environment, especially to animals. A whole cocktail of DEA, BHA, BHT and phthatales (dangerous for humans as well) gets easily served to the aquatic life every time we wash our products down the sink. It doesn’t get any better when we think about the enormous plastic waste that comes with these products. Think about all the bottles of shampoo and conditioner you use throughout life, think about the packaging that comes with makeup products. And to top it all off, let’s bring out our big guy PO – palm oil. You’re probably familiar with him since he’s been evicted practically from any package of cookies. Well, no time to mourn the fellow: you’ll find it still very present inside most personal care products.
Palm plantation and palm oil production contribute to deforestation, air and water pollution, soil erosion, climate change and I’ll stop here or it’ll get too grim.
5 questions to ask yourself before buying sustainable cosmetic products
Something beautiful has happened in the last few years: people have started to care. And the industry has welcomed the demand. Hence, choosing a good alternative to your supermarket shampoo has never been easier. There are tons of big and small companies today producing organic products, or at least trying their best to become eco-friendly and respect the environment and the ecosystem. Here’s the things you want to look up when considering a brand:
- Do they use natural ingredients?
- Are they cruelty-free?
- Do they use alternative packaging?
- Do they contribute with philanthropic actions and social responsibility?
- Are they transparent about their work ethics and products?
You might have heard of Lush, a company selling personal care products that smell like heaven. While they have still to get rid of all parabens and synthetics, they do their best to use natural products, buy ingredients from the source and be transparent about their ethics on their website. They also sell their products unpackaged and use recycled ocean plastic, as well as other biodegradable elements. They strongly advocate against testing on animals and yearly engage in philanthropic events. Another brand going on strong on the eco-friendly trend is Espressoh, a make-up brand. They recently released their sustainability report, got rid of all plastic from packaging, and always act consciously on the ingredients they choose.
Not only environment, but also the body benefits
I could go on and make tons of examples, the bottom line is: stop wasting your time in supermarket aisles, no matter how many silicone-free perfect curls volumizing options of shampoo they offer. Green products are better not only for the environment, but also for your body. And while it might seem tempting to buy a cheap and promising product, you really want to invest your money in quality rather than quantity: in the long term, it always pays off. I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice: be careful of those brands practicing greenwashing. Let’s take H&M or Pull&Bear: when they announce a new sustainable line in their collection, they’re just really doing it for the trend. These types of brands don’t really care for the environment, and the proof is in the lack of transparency about their work systems and ethics. They keep being polluters for the big cash – and there’s plenty of brands busy fooling their customers like that. It’s a harsh reality, one that entails reading small prints and researching; but it’s always worth it to be an informed buyer.
Giada graduated with a degree in Cultural and Linguistic Mediation (Unipd) and obtained a MA in Media Studies (Leiden University). She works as a freelance copywriter and translator, and as a content creator for a platform on digital nomadism. She’s worked for Inditex and other similar brands for several years, witnessing the cruel reality of fast fashion on a daily basis – something that motivated her to participate in Atmosphera lab.