Think for a moment of a planet where humans and nature exist in harmony. Wonderful huh? Fortunately, this intention was brought to life in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). We are starting to wake up to the effects that our way of everyday living has on our beautiful planet, along with the other living beings that can fall victim to our decisions.
As individuals, we sometimes feel powerless or small in this great, big world, but even our smallest actions can have big impacts. For example, the shampoo you just rinsed out of your hair may not be ocean safe and might be harming wildlife, unbeknownst to you.
We at Luminance love our planet every day, but in honor of Earth Day, we wanted to talk sustainability and share some best practices for giving Mother Earth the TLC she deserves.
Are Your Products Ocean Safe?
Not only can some of the products we use be harmful to our hair and body, but also they could be responsible for harming marine life. We’re familiar with the damage that oxybenzone and chemical-laden sunscreens have on the Great Barrier Reef (which is in a pretty critical state due to climate change and human impacts), but it turns out that we use a lot of other products that are damaging. This includes hair care, makeup, and skincare products.
One of the biggest offenders of commercial skincare is microbeads. Think of the cleansers with those colorful little beads in them. These beads are not an actual ingredient, they’re just plastic. This plastic bounces off of your skin and gets sucked down the drain. Since they’re plastic, the microbeads don’t degrade. Once those particles make their way to the ocean, fish and other marine creatures ingest them.
Other things to be wary of are ingredients such as silicones, parabens, synthetic fragrances, triclosan, and certain preservatives like BHA and BHT. Most of these ingredients are already harmful to us and can impact our fertility, and it turns out that these ingredients can have the same impact on marine animals that unintentionally ingest them.
Let’s talk product packaging. The skincare and makeup industry put out billions of products per year, and some of that product packaging is not recyclable or has aspects of their packaging that cannot be recycled.
For example, a bottle might be recyclable, but the pump or applicator cannot be. These are things that need to be considered and researched because tossing a product into your recycling bin that cannot fully be recycled can cause your recycling to end up in a landfill.
If you end up with a product that simply cannot be recycled, see if you can find an alternate use for it first before resorting to tossing it into the trash.
If you have a product that can be recycled, make sure it is completely empty and rinsed out if need be. Remember, the packaging is what we are recycling, not the product inside.
Another hot topic is how the product is shipped to you. Some companies still use excessively large boxes for the smallest product, and they pad the products between wasteful packing peanuts (Note, our packing peanuts are completely biodegradable! So, there ARE earth-conscious options out there!) or synthetic packing ingredients that are not the slightest bit eco-friendly.
While a lot of companies are stepping up and changing their tune, some are not. It’s up to you to change that by voting with your dollar and holding these companies accountable by your communication with them.
Reducing Waste Overall
It’s pretty hard to live a completely zero waste lifestyle, but there are baby steps you can take that make a larger impact than you might think. One great example is a photo of an individual thought blurb that states “it’s just one plastic bottle,” then expands to share the sentiment shared by millions of minds.
This is where we, as the individual, have a chance to make a real difference. By reducing our carbon footprint and the amount of waste we contribute to, we are making a positive impact. It can be a little scary to jump into the unknown, so here are some tips that might help you:
Don’t Buy More Than You Can Consume
It’s tempting to build up your makeup vanity or medicine cabinet with a lot of beautifully packaged products, but each of these products has a shelf life (which we often ignore) and if we have too many options, we aren’t able to use them within that recommended shelf life. Limit yourself to one or two options for each product type: for example, cleansers or mascara. This reduces your waste, and you aren’t wasting your money throwing away unused, expired products.
Invest in Reusable Items
Your reusable items like insulated water bottles or shopping bags, in addition to saving you money, are saving energy, reducing gas emissions, and saving resources for future generations. Single-use items are placed into landfills that are already overflowing, and they end up in places they shouldn’t – like the ocean or littered on the side of the road. If you have to use a single-use product, try to choose one that has less packaging or more eco-friendly packaging.
Eliminate Fash-Fashion Pieces From Your Wardrobe
Clothing is an environmental nightmare that we don’t often consider. The fabrics used, the amount of energy required, and the depletion of resources.
Making clothing uses enormous amounts of water (approximately 700 gallons for a t-shirt), and synthetic fabrics take several hundred years to biodegrade. These synthetic fabrics contain plastics, and the manufacturing process results in a host of harmful gases. The dyes that are used in clothing directly pollute our oceans because the water leftover from the dying process is dumped directly into rivers and streams that lead right to it.
To combat this, opt for timeless pieces that you won’t want to ditch when the trends change. Buying secondhand is also a great way to increase your wardrobe and reduce waste.
If you know that you’re not going to get around to using that 56-color eyeshadow palette you were gifted, pass it on to someone else who will enjoy it, or bring it to your local thrift store. There is an astonishing amount of perfectly usable items that end up in landfills, items that someone else could have used.
Another credible option: do some spring cleaning and have yourself a little garage sale. Take the proceeds and spearhead change by donating them to an organization fighting climate change or another notable cause.
Composting organic matter like food scraps can go a long way. Because there isn’t enough oxygen in landfills, food scraps don’t break down. This is somewhat of a good thing because as this organic matter breaks down, harmful methane gas is emitted; however, the more space we can save in a landfill the better. Consider recycling your food scraps to your local composting center instead of tossing them in the trash. If you’re feeling adventurous, nowadays you can compost from the comfort of your backyard.
At the end of the day, none of us are perfect, but if we can consciously take baby steps toward a greener lifestyle, Mother Earth will certainly appreciate us.