A more earth-friendly approach to your favorite products
Sometimes it feels like addressing environmental concerns can be an uphill battle. Doing your part to take public transportation? Well, don’t forget to keep your red meat consumption in check, too. There’s always something more that can be done. Instead of feeling discouraged that you aren’t doing enough, we suggest making small behavioral modifications across the board. Why? Because a lot is at stake. Our whole society is built around consumption, so changing our habits can be hard, but it is possible!
According to the Euromonitor International (via Vogue.com), 152.1 billion units of beauty and personal-care products were sold globally in 2018, and much of it will never be recycled. Sure, you’ve probably heard of the three R’s for product consumption: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse. These directives may seem intuitive, but there are layers to each. When in doubt, focus on reducing and reusing the most, as recycling can be a bit tricky. Below, I'm sharing some small ways to make big changes across your personal care routine.
1. Learn your numbers
Ever noticed the number imprinted on the bottom of your plastic packaging? It’s part of a 1-7 number system that was designed by the Society of Plastics Industry to help consumers understand what goes into each type of plastic. Harder plastics tend to be more difficult to recycle than softer plastics, so this system is in place for each city’s sanitation department to decide what they can and cannot recycle. For example, in New York City, all plastics can be recycled except for #6. Be sure to check with your city’s recycling coordinator to better understand the requirements at hand.
2. Raise the bar
Bar soap isn’t just for your hotel room anymore. Using bar soap or shampoo is actually a smart way to cut down on plastic consumption. Not only does liquid soap typically come in disposable plastic packaging—but it also takes 5x more energy to produce than solid bar soap, according to the University of Washington. This study also found that bar soap is almost more economical, as we tend to use 7x more liquid soap than bar soap. So next time, skip the liquid and stick with the bar.
3. Opt for the right wipes
We get it— when you’re on the go and have a mess on your hands, there’s nothing more convenient than a wet wipe. But they can do real harm. Not only do wipes cause massively expensive pipe blockages or “fatbergs” for cities to untangle, but most also are not biodegradable and are therefore environmentally dangerous. Whether using wipes for cleaning your body or your kitchen, be sure to check the label and make sure they are biodegradable. For removing makeup, I recommend LaserAway Beauty City Cloths, which are 100% biodegradable.
4. Bulk up
If Costco has taught us anything, there is major merit to buying in bulk. Not only do you tend to save money and require fewer trips to the store, buying in bulk is better for the environment (assuming you actually use the entirety of the product). For example, one of the hardest items to recycle is the plastic pump on a container. By purchasing larger (and hopefully refillable) containers, you consume fewer plastic pumps. Fewer pumps in your house = fewer pumps in landfills.
5. Get with the program
Many popular beauty brands understand the influence they hold and the change they can affect. They also understand that they can incentivize their customers to recycle by offering exclusive discounts or rewards as part of a recycling program. Want to see more environmental activism from the brands you love the most? Brands want to keep their customers happy, so it never hurts to drop them a line.
Blair Smith is a lifestyle and beauty writer who currently resides (and will likely stay forever) in Brooklyn, New York.