With so many ‘national’, ‘international’ and ‘world’ days it’s near-impossible to get stand out for the messages that truly deserve air time. With so many well-established calendar moments such as Earth Day, International Women’s Day and Black History Month, how do all causes jostle for space? Some have grown in the last few years, particularly around wellbeing and mental health (hello World Mental Health Day and Veganuary) and the events that highlight the urgency of the climate crisis: Plastic-Free July and World Environment Day. I’d not even heard of the latter until the other week, so to raise awareness of this day I’ve delved into what it’s all about and what tangible actions we can take. Unfortunately I found the official website lacked in substance and authenticity. It was peppered with marketing catch phrases such as ‘transform your relationship with nature’, ‘build your earth action number’ and ‘we must go from harming the planet to healing it’. So far so disappointing. I perked up when I came across the quiz to help you determine what 3 key actions you can take as an individual to make a difference:

  1. Tackling the causes of climate change
  2. Conserving and restoring nature
  3. Preventing controlling and managing pollution

But there were no helpful ideas of what you can do to achieve your goal, it fizzled out to just a pledge-type form to fill out where the onus is on you to share what you will commit to. But how do I increase energy efficiency? What can I do? I even downloaded the ‘Practical Guide to living sustainably in harmony with nature’ but that also felt waffly and devoid of clear actions. So I’m taking matters into my own hands and suggesting 5 improvements you can make in your day-to-day life specifically around beauty habits. Challenge yourself to all five, tackle one at a time or focus on a couple, it’s up to you.

1. Improve waste management with zero waste beauty bars

Apparently in the UK each person produces nearly 500kg of household waste a year (source: CB Environmental Ltd). That’s half a ton of waste. Per person. The physical proof is in the number of filled bin bags that make their way out of my kitchen on a weekly basis, and that’s with my household being pretty switched on about recycling and upcycling. And I’ve recently invested in a wormery to limit food waste. What is going out in these black bins?? Beauty as an industry is one of the worst offenders, with overpackaged products in materials that can’t even be recycled. But solid beauty is remedying that, with brands like Balade en Provence bringing out innovative skincare formulas that you wouldn’t previously have dreamt of seeing in this format: solid serum anyone? This is now a reality, so much so that you can carry out your entire beauty routine using only beauty bars, from haircare to cleansers and moisturisers. And what are you left with once you’ve finished your beauty bar? Nothing. The product has been all used up (certified organic formulas will break down into water streams without harming wildlife) and the packaging will either be non-existent or simply consist of a carton which can be easily recycled – it is the most recycled material in the UK so there is no excuse not to do so. Embrace the zero waste beauty bar with Balade en Provence’s Hydration Boosting Solid Serum (with hydrating Hyaluronic Acid, Rosehip Oil and Jojoba oil and using 100% compostable packaging printed with vegetable ink) and their multi-purpose Solid Face and Eye Cream for men.

2. Ban single use plastic

One day I will write an empties post that will feature absolutely no empty packaging – because all the products will be naked, i.e. solid bars. There will be nothing to show because everything will be either all used up or refillable. I’m not having a dig at plastic packaging by the way. This is a recyclable material and PCR (Post-Consumer Recycled) plastic is now widely used to package beauty products. But plastic that is only used once then discarded is not only a poor use of material, it’s also highly unlikely to go into a recycling stream: think of all the throwaway items you would find at a picnic – plastic straws (now banned in the UK), plastic cups, plastic cutlery. In beauty single use products would be face wipes and sheet masks. So swap these for proper cleansers and face masks in jars (which you can dip into many times) and why not give shampoo bars a go in the shape of Eco Warrior Sensitive Scalp Shampoo Bar to cut down on plastic bottles in your bathroom.

3. Use regional produce and cut emissions

There’s been a renewed focus on locally sourced ingredients in food and cooking: cook seasonally, using local produce to reduce carbon footprint. Can you apply this rule to your beauty products? Seek out local brands that manufacture in their home country. There are so many independent natural British skincare brands to choose from, many of them proudly hand making their products right here in the UK. Did you know that Neal’s Yard Remedies manufactures nearly all of its products in its eco factory in Dorset? The certified organic soothing calendula which is featured in many formulas, including my everyday eczema-prone skin essential Calendula & Oat Lotion, is grown and harvested in the factory’s gardens before being transported to the tincture house, a mere few metres from the field where it grew, then being bottled in the factory. Talk about a streamlined supply chain. And minimal carbon footprint.   

4. Eliminate the idea of waste with upcycled ingredients

REN describe the zero-waste movement as better utilising and reusing available resources and materials to eliminate waste. This clean skincare brand has been on a mission to tackle packaging waste by using recycled plastic including ocean plastic. But what about the ingredients used in the actual formula? Can these be made from waste too? UpCircle have made it their mission to use upcycled ingredients in their beauty products. They started with the idea of giving used coffee grounds a new lease of life (in their bestselling Coffee Scrub), and they’ve not stopped there, using fruit waters, a by-product of the juicing industry, in their toners, date seeds in their body cream and argan shell powder in their moisturiser. Evolve Beauty, another of my skincare favourites, features upcycled Raspberry Oil (a by-product of the jam industry) in their deliciously scent Super Berry Body Oil.

5. Support environmental brands

Put your money where your mouth is: as individuals our own choices may seem like a drop in the ocean, but putting our health & beauty budget towards environmentally conscious brands sends a message to the wider beauty industry. Decide what credentials are important to you then look out for certifications that will back the claims you’re interested in: the Leaping Bunny for cruelty-free brands, the Soil Association or COSMOS logo for natural and organic formulas, 100% PCR plastic highlighted on labels… and if it’s a natural beauty bar, chances are you’re on the right path.

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