May 21, 2018
A certain frog once sang “It’s not easy being green”, and when it comes to beauty products, well, Kermit was right. Because although there may be an abundance of eco choices out there, sorting through the “green washing” to decipher what’s right for you can frankly give you a headache. Here, we give you a rundown of the eco buzzwords so you can understand what green beauty means now.
Sustainable: Talk about a buzzword! Sustainability seems to be the eco term on everyone’s lips right now, reflecting the wider global sentiment of people caring more about the environment - and where their products come from - than ever before. So, what does it mean for beauty? Well, there are many different sustainability practices a company can put in place including offsetting carbon, reducing energy, water and waste usage, tree planting (to replace depleted sources) and looking at the effect that all of their manufacturing and operations have on the environment, and adjusting to be more eco-conscious. Many companies also have involvement with non profits and environmental charities that give back to the community and the environment, as well as sourcing ingredients and packaging for their products. These practices will often be listed on their website, so if you’re keen to know about the sustainability efforts of the brands you love that’s a good place to start.
Recyclable: Here, we’re talking primarily about packaging, including both the actual bottle/tube and the boxing it comes in too. And, with European organisation, Zero Waste reporting that more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced by the cosmetics industry (globally) each year (a lot of which is not recyclable) you can see why this is on the radar. Not only are many products not recycled (out of sheer laziness) but a lot of cosmetics packaging can’t actually be recycled or won’t be accepted by recycling plants. So, if recycling is something you’re passionate about it’s not only important to look for products made from recycled material, but for those than can be recycled after use. Check your product labels (look for the numbers inside the triangle of arrows) - the number explains what type of plastic it is and if it can be recycled.
Organic: These days you can get an “organic” version of pretty much everything. But, it’s not as simple as organic = good. And here’s why: in Australia, the term “organic” is not regulated. That is to say, that there are no national standards or regulations that companies have to follow to claim organic status. That’s why it’s important to look for products which have “certified organic” ingredients - because it’s the ingredients not the product that is certified. They should also be certified by reputable organisations (like the ACO) as these organisations have an auditing process and regulate the products who carry their stamp both to national and international standards. For example, an ACO product carrying their logo contains between 70% and 100% of certified organic ingredients, and it will also comply with organic farming standards.
Natural: Here’s where things get blurry. In Australia any claims to “natural” or “eco” aren’t regulated so it can be tough to tell what standards they are meeting. Generally it means that some or all of the ingredients are naturally derived (come from plants or minerals), but technically you can claim a product is natural even if it’s only one ingredient. If you’re looking for a natural product, look to the label and you’ll be able to decipher just how many of the ingredients are in fact, from nature. Ingredients are listed by percentage (those with the highest percentage rank first) so you’ll be able to tell what it’s mostly made from. If you’re concerned about additives, look for products that are paraben, sulphate, mineral oil and phthalate free as these can be irritating to the skin (and can also be harmful to the environment).