Have you ever gone completely went out of your way for someone? I mean - really went out of your way for someone. And, have you ever had someone take it completely for granted because they just expected this from you? They didn’t think twice, and they didn’t show thanks. What was your impression? To say the least, you probably felt devalued and as if you were in a toxic relationship.
Is that how nature feels? It is absolutely necessary to wonder about this. On Earth day, let’s challenge ourselves to reflect and honor the incredible way in which the planet goes out of her way for us, and let’s commit to at least saying thank you with our actions. From the air that we breathe to the food that we eat, we are completely dependent upon nature in every way. So, it’s best to not be toxic to it.
On the other hand, for many cosmetic corporations, it seems that this simple logic is invalid and very “tree hugger esque”. Okay then, let’s apply this logic to a rational and self-interested perspective. If your house was burning down, you wouldn’t be in denial about it and say - oh, it’ll just take care of itself. You would feel panic and fear and immediately take action. As burning flames consumed your beautiful house, yard, and driveway, you would feel a terrifying sense of loss even though you could just buy another one.
If we wouldn’t set our own replaceable houses on fire, why would we continue to do things to increase greenhouse gases, global warming, low air quality, and to destroy the food sources of our irreplaceable planet? To further expand on this, let’s look at the facts.
Greenhouse emissions explained
According to the CDC, “when we burn fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, we release carbon dioxide (CO2),Greenhouse gases are released during the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, to produce electricity.CO2 builds up in the atmosphere and causes Earth’s temperature to rise, much like a blanket traps in heat. This extra trapped heat disrupts many of the interconnected systems in our environment. Climate change might also affect human health by making our air less healthy to breathe. Higher temperatures lead to an increase in allergens and harmful air pollutants.”
Fire occurrences increase with global warming (USGS), and if we do nothing about Greenhouse emissions, our planet will definitely become too hot and unlivable. Many studies suggest that “heating effects could make the world largely uninhabitable by mammals (yes, we are mammals) within 300 years” (Costello; Maslin; Montgomery; Johnson; Ekins 2011).
Moreover, the United States ranks #2 in producing greenhouse gas emissions, and if the greenhouse effect becomes stronger, it could make the Earth warmer than usual (Investopedia, 2020). And did you know that even a little extra warming can cause problems for humans, plants, and animals? Therefore, an increased greenhouse effect has very dangerous consequences. It is possible that “as the climate changes and as species are eliminated from an area, ecosystem functions will change, and that could mean more land degradation, changes in agricultural productivity, and a reduction in the quality of water delivered to human populations (National Resource Defense Council, 2010).”
So, what can we do to heal our planet and likewise heal ourselves?
As consumers, we have to stop patronizing businesses and corporations that fan the flames and refuse to recognize this phenomenon. This is one simple and easy way to show appreciation and to prevent toxic behavior from corporations. For example, plenty of skincare and makeup companies have their sustainability facts readily available on their websites, social media, and even on vendor platforms. All you have to do is scroll, read a blurb, and make an impact by deciding not to support skincare businesses that have toxic behaviors and do not show a commitment to sustainability. If a profit-driven company begins to lose money because of their behavior, they’re going to change it in order to compete on consumer markets. Suddenly, their willingness to trade off our planet will increase their opportunity cost.
This is our house, and as consumers, we have the power to offer these skincare corporations an ultimatum, to change corporate behavior, and to increase the demand for sustainability.
Here are 3 simple ways you can increase the demand for companies to produce sustainable skincare:
- Check for zero use of palm oil in products before purchasing.
“At 66 million tons annually, palm oil is the most commonly produced vegetable oil. Its low world market price and properties allow them to be in abundance of skincare items. Palm oil is widely found in body creams, soaps, and makeups” (Rainforest Rescue, 2017). Because of their CO2 and methane emissions, palm oil-based biofuels actually have three times the climate impact of traditional fossil fuels (Rainforest Rescue, 2017).
In February of 2021 alone, the U.S. imported $106.19 million worth of palm oil. Moreover, despite environmentalist claims, the palm oil imports to the U.S have actually increased by 12.24% from February of last year, and it became the 60th most imported product to the US (US Trade Numbers 2021). Because of its high demand, palm oil is one of the primary drivers for deforestation and greenhouse emissions. Deforestation releases more than 17% of all emissions, and in addition, the carbon dioxide stored in vegetation from cleaning our air is released back into the atmosphere when plants are cut down (National Resource Defense Council, 2010).
However, lessening deforestation is actually a relatively low-cost target for emissions reduction (National Resource Defense Council, 2010), and it’s also one of the easiest ways for you to help. Food might be one thing, but we certainly can lessen our use of palm oil when it comes to skincare, and there are plenty of alternatives. Decreasing the demand for palm oil and likewise, the supply of it is as simple as reading your skincare label and avoiding products with palm oil.
- Check for products made from recycled/repurposed materials, and beware of greenwashing.
Recyclable packaging is good, but packaging made from repurposed materials or recycled materials is far better. Some skincare companies market sustainability to consumers, but in reality, the production of their “sustainable packaging” might largely increase the company’s greenhouse gas emissions or “carbon footprint.”
A 2020 report from Sancell, states that “while paper packaging is perceived to be more environmentally friendly than plastic because it is derived from a renewable source, paper packaging requires forests to be cut down and the manufacturing process uses 71% more water and produces twice as much toxic chemicals than plastic. Paper also weighs more, requiring more energy to transport and takes 98% more energy to recycle than plastic” (Northern Ireland Assembly, 2011). In 2011,a research paper produced by the Northern Ireland Assembly “found that it takes more than four times the energy to manufacture a paper shopping bag versus manufacturing a plastic bag.”
Sancell also states that “the key to sustainability and reduced carbon emissions is to move away from the economic model of using and discarding, but instead we must adopt a circular economy that keeps products and materials constantly in use through recycling and re-purposing. Additionally, a 2016 report from theWorld Economic Forum says “this will help address issues of production cost, pollution, plastic waste, and rising greenhouse gas emissions from landfill waste.”
Therefore, if about every woman has 12 beauty products (Harvard Health) and if at least 3 were packaged with repurposed materials, that would make a tremendously positive impact on our environment. By buying from skincare companies that use recyclable and repurposed packaging, we can make it clear to other companies that this is the type of packaging that consumers value.
- Check for vegan/cruelty-free practices before purchasing.
Of course, cutting down on or eliminating meat and dairy has significant benefits for your health and our planet. But regardless of the diet you eat, skincare is definitely an area of your life where going vegan would not require major change on your part. In this day and age, animals losing their lives for the sake of human nutrition is questionable in many cases, but animals losing their lives because of makeup and serums is most definitely problematic.
Meat and dairy products are responsible for 60 percent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions (UC Davis, 2019). Both the skincare and cosmetic industry are multi-billion companies so just imagine if we chose vegan alternatives for ingredients like milk protein, collagen, allantoin, gelatin, goat milk, and fatty acids (NYT, 2019).
The product’s front label indicates whether or not the product is vegan, and since there are so many alternatives, going vegan with your cosmetics and skincare really doesn’t require change. All it requires is a different demand and a redirection of attention.
Ultimately, our planet and our home needs your attention. Our planet has truly made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live with commodities and with comfortability. But with rising greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, and painful deforestation, she may not have anything left to give one day. She’s done more than her part so it’s time that we do ours.
It’s time to put of the fire on this toxic relationship, to make the choice, and to demand a better choice from companies and for our planet.
After all, it’s not like we can buy another one.
Costello; Maslin; Montgomery; Johnson; Ekins 2011.Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. Vol. 369, No. 1942, The sustainable planet: opportunities and challenges for science, technology and society (13 May 2011).