12 Years to Change: What Can the Beauty Industry do to Stop Climate Change Catastrophe?
A Response to the IPCC Special Report on 1.5C warming by Acala Founder, Hanna Pumfrey. Our answer ‘Water- Free- DIY-Farm- to- Table beauty’. Sound like a mouthful? Let us explain.
Yesterday scientists said we have 12 years to stop a climate change catastrophe and today we’re giving you an easy way to help. You know we’re not ones to preach and that we prefer to focus on climate positivity rather than negativity and fearsome facts but the direction of travel we’re headed in is terrifying and we need to start making changes. Now.
- Coral reefs are dying, if not already dead.
- Pressure on the arctic is pushing our ecosystems over the edge.
- Risks of severe droughts, floods and extreme heat waves. Extreme heat days will happen more regularly leading to a rise in related deaths and forest fires. Hurricanes, earth-quakes and tsunamis will happen more often.
- Insects needed for crop pollination, will lose their homes and die, leaving us with less food.
- Rising sea levels will displace millions of people, take homes, and put pressure on communities all around the world.
- This will leave hundreds of millions of people at risk of climate-poverty and lack of food
- Our oceans will struggle to provide the much-needed oxygen we need, due to rising temperatures and acidity.
Unless the world can come together in a meaningful way and act immediately to implement changes that halt temperature rises. At the current level of commitments, the world is on course for 3C of warming which will result in the impacts outlined above. The original milestone was set at 2C. Read the full IPCC report here.
But, the report authors are positive which we love. They believe the increasingly visible damage caused by climate change will shift opinion their way. And we’re with them; awareness of this challenge and its impact is at an all-time high. The biggest challenge? Changing the views of those who think climate change doesn’t impact them.
Collaboration over competition: world leaders have a moral obligation to act as a unified force after this report
This is the message from the UN. Traditional leadership has focused on competition as the primary driver; the best leaders win and they win regularly. But the playing field's changing, today different skills are required. As the world and its challenges become increasingly more complex leaders must focus on cooperation and collaboration. Our best leaders will balance winning with collaboration in the quest for solutions that serve the highest outcome for all. People, planet and wildlife.
What can the beauty industry do to combat the environmental crisis?
The global beauty industry creates 120 billion units of packaging every year, most of which isn’t recyclable. Glitter’s an global ecological disaster and wet wipes now account for 93% of UK sewer blockages. Chemical pollution and water waste in the industry is at an all-time high and the UK’s recycling infrastructure is overburdened- adding bioplastics to it WILL NOT help.
To pause for a minute on the bioplastics debate. The short answer to why brands focusing in this area are looking in the wrong place is that they involve the use of mono-crops to produce which kills biodiversity and we do not have the infrastructure in place to dispose of them effectively. This means most end up in landfill where they cannot degrade and just produce harmful gases. You can read more about this in a great piece here by treehugger.com.
The answer as we see it? You’ve heard of Farm- to- Table, now it’s time to embrace ‘Water- Free- DIY- Farm-to-Face’.
Sound like a mouthful? Let us explain
Farm to table is as a social movement where people and restaurants source their ingredients from local farms and producers. Currently, most restaurants get their produce from other parts of the country or around the world. These ingredients need to be shipped long distances, and as a result, they are usually picked before they are ripe to lengthen their lifespan, or they are frozen to prevent spoiling. All of this results in food that is bland and less nutritious. There is also the challenge of more food miles resulting in a higher carbon impact.
On the other hand, farm to table restaurants get their food from local farms, so the food is picked at peak freshness and is bursting with flavours and vitamins. This also means that the ingredients don't need to be dressed up with complex sauces and flavours. Instead the freshness and flavour of the food speaks for itself. Also lowering the carbon impact of transportation.
Sustainable beauty is a complex issue that spans the entire supply chain, from the raw ingredients to manufacturing processes, delivery, packaging and waste disposal but our belief is that we should treat the beauty industry in the same way we do our diet.
The future of the beauty industry must be 100% waterless and green, taking inspiration from the farm to table movement with fresh, locally sourced and minimally processed ingredients. This helps to retain potency and effectiveness, reducing the need to dilute or chemically pollute products. Even green products today can still contain up to 95% water or some level of synthetics or other chemical based ingredients.
Water poverty is set to impact two thirds of the population by 2025, with water becoming a global commodity. Water or ‘aqua’, as it is often listed, is the main ingredient in a lot of beauty products. Large quantities of it are required to manufacture many of the synthetic chemicals used in them and deal with waste by-products.
Most conventional beauty products are liquid chemicals so they need packaging that doesn’t disintegrate, such as plastic, which is also water and energy-intensive to make. After manufacturing, the products are shipped to retailers, meaning more energy is used to transport what is mostly water. Water-free products have a 25% lower CO2 footprint in transport and production and can be packaged in compostable containers.
We must assess the whole supply chain and ensure products and packaging is food grade, reusable glass and certified compostable materials. Supply chain initiatives should work to eliminate waste not only in packaging but in ingredients. Pioneering initiatives like up-cycling from food into beauty products to minimise waste that have been pioneered by eco brands like Loli Beauty should be held up as standards for the industry to follow.
The industry must work with local authorities, much in the same way as Garnier has with its Terracycle programme but taking it that stage further. The future is in compostable and refillable packaging. Where compostable is used beauty brands have a responsibility to support local authorities in the implementation of the infrastructure needed to dispose of these materials.
There are many opportunities in this farm-to-face approach, but the industry must act now and together to create meaningful change.
How can we help combat climate change as individuals today?
There are so many things we can do and we’d urge everyone to read this Guardian article to find simple switches that will reduce your carbon footprint. Here we will be focusing on three simple changes to your personal care routine that can have big impacts.
Choose Water free products
Water is often used in formulations as a cheap base but once you remove that water, botanicals and oils are used instead, which results in a much more potent offering. Essentially, you're getting more for your money as conventional products are often watered down to increase profits for big brands.
Additionally, while water is synonymous with hydration, topical application dries the skin. Excessive washing or use of water-based products can strip the skin of oils and weaken its natural barrier.
There are also some really exciting new products out there like tooth tabs rather than toothpaste. And mouthwash tablets rather than liquid mouthwash. As well as shampoo cubes that give the same experience but minus the water.
They can also be easily packaged in card or other compostable packaging that leaves no waste.
Our favourite water free beauty products are:
2. Go DIY
We can take it back to basics and learn how raw ingredients can be used as their raw form in super simple homemade recipes that eliminate the need for single- use packaging, as well as help us to use less.
DIY beauty is hugely empowering. It’s a skill. There are ingredients that are right on our doorsteps and in our pantries, that have so many wonderful uses just in their natural form. You’ll soon discover that you can use just a few staple ingredients for everything from toothpaste to haircare, reducing your costs as well as allowing you to buy in bulk to reduce waste.
Going DIY also means you can take the Farm-to Table approach into your own hands. Find out more by downloading our Easy Zero Waste DIY Beauty Guide.
3. Simply use less
Ultimately, the best way to deal with this complex issue is simply to use less. This doesn’t necessarily mean using lemon slices instead of deodorant, unless you're into that kind of thing. But it does mean thinking about whether we really need such a vast array of cosmetic and beauty products in our lives; from the tiny free samples and sachets we get at events, to the multiple creams for use at different times of the day/month/year.
We know it’s all easier said than done but let us leave you with a comment recently made by Annie Leonard, Executive Director at Greenpeace USA; ‘If there is one great sustainable beauty product that we all should get on board with its activism. It’s a lot more fun and emotionally rewarding than spending $75 for a small bottle of face cream.’
We have the power to make a change. Let’s act now and let’s act together.