While sustainability issues are mostly mentioned in relation to food and retail, cosmetics and hygiene are often underestimated ! Did you know that at least 20% of cosmetics contain cancerogenic chemicals (i), and that most non-organic cosmetics contain components that are washed up in lakes, streams, and our water system, affecting wildlife and the quality of drinking water (i)? Maybe you should know that, by making sure that the products you use have sustainable ingredients and packaging, you already contribute to reducing the environmental impact of the concerned sector. Indeed, more demand in sustainable products encourages companies to adopt further sustainable practices: so it’s a win-win!
How Green is your bathroom?
1) What are your hygiene products’ packagings made of?
a. Most/all of them are made of plastic (it’s so much easier)
b. I try to avoid plastic but it is very difficult
c. I avoid plastic like the Corona virus
d. I hate plastic so much that I stopped buying hygiene products altogether (and shower once a month)
2) How do you clean your apartment ?
a. I have very specific products for all different surfaces
b. I use eco-friendly products to clean specific surfaces and areas
c. I make my own cleaning products
d. I found the solution: I don’t clean my apartment
3) If you wear makeup/cosmetics, what are they made of?
a. No idea, I generally don’t check the ingredients list and buy those that look good
b. I want to buy green makeup/cosmetics but don’t know where to start…
c. I make sure to only buy organic and eco-friendly makeup/cosmetics
d. Makeup? Ew, no thanks
4) How long do your showers last ?
a. I love showering, I like to take my sweet time (I also love to take baths)
b. I take as long as I need to clean myself properly, without checking the time
c. I try to take the shortest showers possible
d. I told you, I only shower once a month (but then they’re usually a bit long)
5) How do you dispose of your cosmetics and cleaning products ?
a. I just throw them in the municipal trash bags
b. I make sure to empty the cleaning products in the sink before I put the empty bottles in the recycling bins (same for cosmetics)
c. I take the cosmetics and cleaning products to the Milieuparks
d. I told you I don’t use that stuff
Some things you should know ...
Around 25.5 million tons of plastic are generated in Europe each year, out of which 59% comes from packaging and only 30% is recycled (ii). The manufacturing of such packaging is unclear and may include a range of 906 chemicals, 63 of which are ranked highest on human health hazard and 68 for environmental hazard (iii).
House and cosmetic products
A lot of cleaning products contain chemicals that are highly toxic for human health and the environment (iv), same for cosmetics (i). Plus, a lot of cleaning products are advertised as only cleaning specific areas and surfaces, while you can make your own universal cleaning products with easy to find, non-toxic ingredients! Scroll down to find those recipes and their what ingredients to avoid in cosmetics!
While showering, we use on average 44 litres of water per 5 minutes (v). Reducing showering time or simply shutting off the water while slathering on soap or shampoo might save great quantities of water and avoid a soon to come water crisis ! Know that today, 1 in 9 people on earth lack access to safe water, so we might as well make good use of ours !
Dealing with waste
Beware! Waste produced by many cleaning products contain similar chemicals as industrial waste and is considered as highly toxic for human health and the environment (iv). Washing it down the drain is therefore highly discouraged !! Non-organic makeup can easily be considered chemical waste due to the different chemicals (such as sulfates or parabens) present. Additionally, the presence of microplastics in products such as toothpaste is very harmful to the environment. While you can dispose of makeup in the normal municipality trashbags, it is unadvised to wash it down the drain. Same for cleaning products: washing it down the drain may have great environmental impact! (iv) Check out our sustainability guide on waste to see how to properly dispose of those items !
Our solution: Homemade Cleaning products
Clean your house with these three Green Products!
White vinegar is a great detergent. You can for instance use it to descale your boiler. Simply place the white vinegar in the boiler, dilute it with some
water, let sit one night (careful: DO NOT boil the vinegar, it is very corrosive for your boiler!) It is also very efficient to descale toilets. Additionally, you can place it in a sprayer (diluted or not) and use it to clean your bathroom walls, your stainless steel, or your windows. While white vinegar might smell very strongly, it does not last long, and it is not toxic for humans as opposed to most other chemical products!
Baking soda : You can use it to clean multiple things. Very efficient on stainless steel, you can put a little bit on a humid sponge, scrub the surface, then rinse the surface with water. Done! You can also use it to clean pots that have been burnt by putting some at the bottom, cover it with boiling water, let it sit for 15 minutes and rinse it with water.
Savon de Marseille: You can use it to replace dishwashing soap simply by rubbing the soap on the sponge and use it to clean your dishes. WARNING: most
savon de Marseille are originally made from palm oil but you can check the composition and opt for one mostly made from olive oil instead.
YOU CAN COMBINE THEM: an excellent drain cleaner can be made with salt, bicarbonate of sodium, and white vinegar.
… or make your own products!
Laundry detergent pods: Grate a Castille soap (or any olive-oil based soap) in its entirety and place it in a large bowl. Add 2 cups (200 grams) of washing soda. Add around 2 cups of distilled vinegar (you can also add a few drops of essential oils for the smell). Mix the substance until you get a more or less solid paste that you can place in an ice cube tray in order to get nicely shaped pods (you can always add more vinegar or washing soda if you think the paste is too watery or solid). Let dry overnight and use those pods to clean your laundry.
Dishwasher pods: In a large bowl, place one cup (100 grams) of baking soda, one cup (100 grams) of washing soda (not baking soda!), one cup of salt, and one and a half cups (50 grams) of citric acid. Mix around and finally add water until you get (just like for the laundry detergent pods) a more or less solid paste that you can put in an ice cube tray in order to get nicely-shaped pods. Let dry overnight and place it in your dishwasher.
Tip: you can find bicarbonate of sodium, white vinegar, and citric acid (which is found in lemon) in any grocery store! For Oil-based soaps such as Castille or Marseille soap you can look in Gedeelde Weedle, Ekoplaza or Holland and Barrett (don’t forget to check the composition to avoid palm oil)!
Ingredients to avoid in cosmetics
make the swap !
The Human Cost of the Beauty Industry
We talked about the health and environmental risks associated with the cosmetics industry but human rights are also significantly abused in the beauty industry. This also applies to organic cosmetics!
Did you know?
Cosmetics made of natural products can be linked to human rights abuses. Indeed, more than 20,000 children are believed to work in mines worldwide to extract minerals used in cosmetics. This is partly due to the fact that the cosmetic industry supply chain greatly lacks transparency, making it prone to violate human right policies. Here are some example of ingredients used which are produced in very unethical ways:
The mineral Mica is especially linked with human rights abuse, notably child labor. It is a huge risk on health, education, and constitutes fundamental human rights abuses and violations of children rights around the world (vii). Despite this, a recent report (vi) revealed that Mica was found in 100% of blush/bronzers, 60% of foundations and lipsticks and 40% of mascaras tested in the study.
How can you help?
READ READ READ (or watch): document yourself on the subject and look up the ingredients of the products you consume if you don’t know what they are
RESEARCH: take a look at your favorite brand! Can they tell you with 100% confidence where their materials come from, how they are produced and by whom?
CHECK the presence of ecolabels that ensure social responsibility and no human rights abuse, like the fairtrade ecolabel
DEMAND: transparency in the supply chain of cosmetic corporations
CONSUME only products you consider ethical and sustainable as more demand by consumers leads to more supply by producers!
Lets talk eco-labels
Gedeelde Weelde: Eco-labeled, organic, non-plastic (or recycled plastic) packaging cosmetics (shampoo, creams, etc…)
In bulk cleaning products (bring your own bottles or buy one at the store and reuse it)
Holland and Barrett: Eco-labeled, organic, non-plastic (or recycled plastic) packaging cosmetics (shampoo, creams, etc…)
Vegan, reused packaged makeup*
Lush: Vegan, reused packaged makeup*
*Reused package: you can bring back your packaging to the store, and the brand will clean it and refill it for the next customer (who might be you)!
Ekoplaza: Eco-labeled, organic, non-plastic (or recycled plastic) packaging cosmetics (shampoo, creams, etc…)
Package free products (bar soap, shampoo…)