Climate Change has reared its ugly head in every avenue of life these days, from work considerations to vacation plans. Our April email entitled “Does your Beauty have a Footprint?” got me fired up however, and questioning how big of a role we, the average citizen, can play in making environmentally impactful choices, in beauty and in life. Are we really able to make a difference to the environment? As with all of our blogs, we welcome discussion, criticism, and deep thinking!
The green beauty market has already 'educated' us (read: marketed to us) about the benefits of supporting brands that use environmentally friendly practices. Some brands are accused of what is referred to as ‘greenwashing’, using certain principles of environmentally friendly operations and convincing us they are wholly ‘green’ or ‘good’ when indeed there are many aspects of their business that are not. This can get confusing in the beauty industry because of many misleading words that we can use like ‘green’, ‘clean’, ‘eco’, and ‘conscious’, which do not have legally defining parameters. For example, a brand can use recycled cardboard packaging, but also have ‘toxins’ or irritating chemicals in their products. Likewise, a brand can say it is “free of synthetics”, while not all synthetics are unhealthy or controversial.
Evan Beau’s aim is to use these words in our marketing along with the information and actions to back it up. For example, we consider ourselves eco-conscious as we do use fully recyclable bottles and post-consumer packaging materials. That being said, we sometimes run out of eco-paper shipping tape and use the cheaper and non-recyclable kind to ship your packages. There is no such thing as complete innocuity in business–between manufacturing, shipping, and even utilizing social platforms who carry their own environmental loads, everything and everyone has a ‘carbon footprint’.
This isn’t meant to be a confessional. It is transparency, and like all aspects of our lives now, a lesson in due diligence to the consumer (you! me!). But while you find companies to trust in and align yourself with, please remember that it is noble to do the best you can, but that the environmental destruction on the planet, is not your fault, nor is it the fault of the beauty industry. Did you know that the term ‘carbon footprint’ was coined by Big Oil company BP (British Petroleum) in the early 2000’s in their marketing, to divert the onus from large fossil fuel-burning companies onto the individual ? Like, isn’t that crazy? The corporation moved the responsibility onto the individual for their lifestyle choices, for the magnitude of their emissions, as opposed to the multibillion dollar profiting corporations and policy-makers–when according to the independently run organization The Carbon Disclosure Project, it is only 100 corporations worldwide that cause over 71% of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases! And meanwhile, Suzy feels guilty about throwing her favourite lipstick tube in the garbage because she can’t scoop out the remnants enough to recycle it!
It is undoubtedly a good thing for the future of our Earth that we have all become more aware and conscientious about our own individual spending and consumption habits. But we are simultaneously being greenwashed into forgetting that the clean energy sector investors, like Google, Facebook, and Apple, are owned by people who fly anywhere and everywhere on their private jets (yes, even to the Davos convention, the environmental and economic sustainability conference that took place in late May). There’s a clip circulating from this year’s convention of Alibaba Group president J. Michael Evans discussing the individual carbon footprint tracking technology currently in progress. Do we need this? Is it necessary for anything other than social/moral status? Can it possibly have an impact on global warming and if not, what is its inherent value within our current “climate change crisis”? Or, is it more plausible for the individual to meet emissions targets than a country or a corporation?
There are environmental benefits (benefits, not impact) to working with small beauty businesses and not Big Cosmetic, and the same goes for many other industries. For one, it’s pretty easy to get an answer from a real person if you are unsure of an ingredient’s origin (the butylene glycol in our serum is derived from corn, not petroleum, for example), their involvement with philanthropic agencies, or their manufacturing practices.
You can also be sure small business is not 100% profits-driven– in such a saturated market as beauty for example, privately-owned brands have to work incredibly hard to even be seen. Very often it is the passion/mission/quality of the product that drives a project forward. But small can also mean less energy output due to a smaller delivery radius and an increase in local components sourcing and manufacturing. Could back-to-basics, local sourcing, backyard farming, and consuming less be the way forward? Is there value in simply doing better, even when our system, culture, and climate are broken? I think so, and our actions are proof that Hope is still alive.