By Melissa Federico, LE and Beauty and Fashion Writer
Nature-lover and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit.”
What would good ol’ Waldo think of our modern society of convenience and disposability? Playing around with our natural resources has left a huge environmental impact. The United Nations has set forth 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a blueprint towards a better future, but we are still grasping at straws for how to deal with the issues. Meanwhile, consumers can be easily fooled by clever marketing and eco buzzwords.
How do we wise up and stop getting played? By understanding how spending habits have an effect on the world, remembering that when you dispose of something it doesn’t magically disappear and championing sustainability.
According to Forbes, U.S. online retailers have seen a 68% growth in sales since April. Can you think of how many items you’ve had delivered in a box 3 times the size it needed to be? 500 billion plastic bottles are produced every year, and 90% of them are never recycled. By 2050 scientists claim there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. Plastic is not biodegradable and that’s why UC Davis researchers reported finding plastic debris in twenty-five percent of the fish caught in California.
The beauty industry alone has a big impact on the environment when it comes to packaging found in the ocean. In 2018 it was reported that 7.9 billion units of plastic were created for beauty and personal care items, just in the United States. Since some chemicals in plastic don’t degrade in water, they can be toxic. This disrupts oxygen levels and eco-systems as well as kills wildlife and pollutes our food.
How can I help?
Look for specific disposal instructions on packaging and not just green buzzwords. Big companies may claim to use green packaging but not everything that is biodegradable is compostable. On the flip side, a compostable material will always be biodegradable.
Our future depends on us making better choices when it comes to the brands we endorse. Choose beauty brands that use pre-consumer recycled materials and eco-conscious packaging. They aren’t hard to find as most brands take pride in using recycled plastic, glass, bamboo, biodegradable and compostable packaging. Kjaer Weis claims it takes over a 1000 years for plastic makeup to decompose, so they opt for refillable packing. RMS Beauty and Tata Harper are also big into sustainability – using glass packaging and recycled paperboard or biodegradable packaging printed with soy-based inks, of course.
You may not eat meat or wear fast-fashion, but inevitably something you utilize has contributed to the environmental crisis surrounding farming. Agricultural expansion is the top reason for deforestation today. Even healthy food lifestyles can have unintended consequences and can contribute to deforestation. Oat milk megabrand, Oatly, recently came under fire for greenwashing and selling part of the company to an investment group responsible for huge amounts of deforestation in the amazon. Everyday consumer products like coffee and palm oil contribute to the destruction of rainforests, indigenous people and endangered animals because it takes room and the right climate to grow to goods for millions of people.
How can I help?
Be a wise shopper. Enjoy making your own coffee (sourced from a local roaster with sustainable and Fair Trade beans) and plant-based kinds of milk at home. Holistic nutritionist and celebrity wellness chef, Shauna Faulisi @shaunafaulisi, recommends the Good Mylk Co. @goodmylkco because the natural preservatives and sustainable packaging allow it to be shipped and whipped up effortlessly with water to feel homemade.
After the oil industry, textile production is the next largest contributor of greenhouse emissions. It’s believed that the fashion industry will be responsible for 60 percent of carbon emissions by the year 2030. And for a little perspective, it’s currently only at 10 percent.
Yet fast-fashion and coal-powered manufacturing plants that churn out cheap clothes continue to grow. Packaging is an inevitable by-product of e-commerce, but all textiles and plastics can be recycled and repurposed. Getting a handle on consumption starts with calling out for brands to be more eco-conscious. This requires using recycled materials as well as shortening the production cycle and practicing more sustainable methods through all levels of production.
How can I help?
Other than buying an electric car or self-sustaining homestead, purchase items made from pre-consumer recycled materials. The Pangaia (Pan meaning all-inclusive and Gaia meaning Earth) is a smart materials science company that goes beyond sustainable fabric. They incorporate ethical practices by using environmentally friendly and botanical dyes, organic and recycled cotton materials as well as compostable packaging. They also reuse water during washing processes and further reduce waste by releasing limited batches with each collection. Special collaborations like Pangaia x SDGs and The Mother Earth Capsule Collection, give you a chance to actively contribute to conservation and share in their mission for unifying the world.
Emerson also wrote that the universe is made of nature and the soul, so taking care of the earth is a form of self-care. It’s contributing to something that benefits everyone. When we can’t do the little things like use reusable cups or bags, we have to find other impactful ways to be a better consumer. Where you spend your dollar will influence others and if we have any intent on saving our planet, it will depend on how we choose to lessen our environmental footprint.