The term “sustainable” is one that’s been used almost excessively in recent years but what does it actually mean and why is it so important? How does sustainability apply to beauty products, specifically? It can be a confusing topic which is why in this article, we’ll discuss what makes a beauty product sustainable, what sustainable ingredients are, what sustainable packaging is, and why it’s so important to our planet. We’ll also discuss why we, at Fleur & Bee use sustainably sourced ingredients and why we use sustainable packaging.
IN A NUTSHELL
Main Takeaways: Although we usually think of “sustainability” as making sure we’re not harming the environment, it also means making sure we’re not causing harm to future generations.
Good to Know: Fleur & Bee not only makes sure all our ingredients are sustainable, we also go to great pains to make sure our packaging is, too.
What Is the Definition of Sustainable?
The definition of sustainable depends on whom you ask but generally speaking, the one most people refer to is the one set by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development. It is as follows: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Put in another way, it’s the belief that natural resources are finite and if the current generations aren’t careful, they could exploit or misuse those resources in a way that will make it impossible for future generations to put them to use for themselves.
As a simple example of what can happen when we don’t practice sustainability, let’s use deforestation. Let’s say that we chop down a whole forest in order to build a mall. Once that wood is chopped down, it’s gone--those trees aren’t coming back. And because of that, animal species that once made the forest their home have nowhere to go, and they may die out. Deforestation also causes an environmental imbalance which leads to climate change.
Obviously, this is just one small, very simplistic example of why sustainability is so important but it’s a quick way to see how just one circumstance can drastically change an environment.
Why Are Sustainable Ingredients So Crucial in Beauty Products?
If you’ve read our blogs before, you’ve probably noticed that we talk about how we make our products “the right way,” but what does that really mean? Overall, it means that we won’t use ingredients that harm the environment, even if they’re commonly used by other companies.
For example, parabens. Aside from the fact that they are thought to act in the body as endocrine disruptors and can cause cancer, parabens - which are often used as a preservative in beauty products- are thought to be harmful to the environment. Found in some sea life (believe it or not, parabens end up in the ecosystem through our sewage systems when we use products containing them), they can have a detrimental, even devastating effect on creatures and plant life in the oceans.
Sulfates are another category of ingredients you should know about. If you’ve ever used a soap or shampoo that really lathers up well, it might be from the inclusion of sulfates. Sulfates are often used in beauty products to help generate lather & make your products foam up. The reason sulfates are on the list of “baddie” ingredients is that sulfates are thought to cause irritation to the skin; but aside from that, they’re pretty bad for the planet. Sulfates often contain palm oil, which has come under fire in recent years because the methods for obtaining it include deforestation in tropical rainforests. This upsets the delicate ecosystems of these forests and disrupts the habitats of many endangered species.
And can we just discuss phthalates? If you’ve read about phthalates on our other blog posts, you know just how damaging they can be to humans. Technically, phthalates are esters of phthalic acid that are used to make plastic stronger. From infertility issues to obesity to really, really serious health issues like cancer, phthalates are thought to be incredibly harmful to our health but that’s not the only problem. Like sulfates and parabens, phthalates find their way into the ecosystem via sewage and landfills where they get into the earth’s soil and thus, into crops. When we eat the food that comes from those crops, we ingest those phthalates. That means that even if you make every effort not to use phthalates in the products you use, they can still end up in your food. Not surprisingly, just as phthalates cause health issues in human beings, they also cause them in animals. They are even thought to be responsible for a decrease in the population of certain reptilian species.
Finally, let’s just talk about artificial fragrances. If you’re someone with a highly sensitive sensory system or have really bad allergies or asthma, artificial fragrances are like kryptonite. One whiff of the wrong scent and you can end up with a week-long sinus headache; but aside from the fact that they can cause irritation on a personal level, they can also wreak havoc on the environment. Artificial fragrances can actually cause air pollution--something to think about the next time you’re spraying your favorite fragrance into the air!
What To Look For in Sustainable Beauty Products?
Now that we’ve gone over some of the ingredients you don’t want in your beauty products, let’s talk about what you should look for in sustainable skincare products. You might think it’s as simple as finding a company that claims to be “green” or “natural” or “environmentally friendly,” but the problem is, those terms aren’t regulated and even if their products are “green,” their packaging might not be and vice versa. That’s why we’ve created a good checklist of what to look for in sustainable beauty products as you’ll see below!
1. Check the ingredients - For starters, you want to look for a company or product that uses NO parabens, sulfates, phthalates, silicones, GMOs, artificial fragrances, gluten, or dyes, period. If they do, that product should be a non-starter for you. At Fleur & Bee we are completely committed to making sure ALL of our products are completely free of these ingredients.
2. Check the packaging - Just like dangerous ingredients end up in landfill, oceans, and crop soil, so do the materials from packaging. At Fleur & Bee, our packaging is 90% recyclable and is printed with eco-friendly soy based inks. Our goal as a company is to be 100% carbon neutral as soon as possible!
3. Check to see if the company uses animal or animal byproducts - With all the companies out there today that claim to be “cruelty-free,” it might surprise you to learn that the term “cruelty-free” isn’t actually regulated so it can mean a lot of different things. If you really want to make sure the beauty products you use aren’t causing harm to animals, check to make sure they’re Leaping Bunny certified. If they are, that means they’ve passed a rigorous set of criteria that proves they do not perform any kind of animal testing or cruelty, nor do they incorporate ingredients from companies that do. Their supply chains are also free of animal cruelty and testing, and they agree not to resort to animal testing to comply with the requirements of other countries.
As we said, this is a very rigorous list for a brand to be considered Leaping Bunny certified (spoiler alert: Fleur & Bee is proud to say we are Leaping Bunny certified ourselves!).
4. Check the company’s mission statement - You know the great Maya Angelou quote, “When people tell you who they are, believe them?” Well, usually, when a company is really committed to sustainability they’ll tell you. If you’ve ever read through our site, you know we have a very strong commitment to a “do no harm” attitude whether that means the ingredients we use, our commitment to recyclable packaging, or the lengths we go to to make sure we’re not harming animals.
Why Is This Important?
Perhaps the biggest lesson is this: when you refuse to use products that contain “baddies” like the ones we’ve mentioned here, you’re not just protecting your own health, you’re protecting the collective health of the planet, its animals, its ecosystem, and your fellow humans. We hope we’ve convinced you to have a look at your beauty products and make some changes if you haven’t already!