Green Beauty: Do It Right, Do It Cheap
Unlike “organic,” “FDA-approved,” and other regulated adjectives, any company can claim that its product is “green.” In some cases, in fact, “green” may only be a reference to the product’s color. Huzzah.
Here’s a list of the easiest ways to make sure you don’t get scammed in your quest for meaningful consumer choices. Happy hunting!
What Companies Don’t Want You to Know About Green Beauty
1. The greenest purchase you make is the purchase you don’t make. We buy green products because it makes us feel good. The thought process goes something like this: Hey, I can have a great new purse made from old candy wrappers by Rwandan women AND save the environment! It’s not quite that simple. The most important part of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle triangle is not Recycle; it’s Reduce. If you don’t need another purse, the best thing to do, from an ecological perspective, is not to buy a new one. Common sense, right? That’s what environmentalism is.
2. Watch out for the words that look good and mean nothing. ”Green,” “natural,” “fresh,” “ethical,” “skin-healthy.” This is called greenwashing. Unless it’s backed up by what the company actually does, in the fine print of their daily activities and policies, it means zilch. This takes a lot of consumer effort, so here are some sites that can help you keep track of meaningfully green companies:
- The Greenwashing Index focuses on informing consumers AND pressuring companies into holding to their claims. The site is non-partisan and impartial. Look up your favorite stores and brands here. (They also give a great, frustrating example of greenwashing: ”A hotel chain that calls itself ‘green’ because it allows guests to choose to sleep on the same sheets and reuse towels, but actually does very little to save water and energy where it counts — on its grounds, with its appliances and lighting, in its kitchens, and with its vehicle fleet.”)
- We’ve mentioned The Good Guide before: extremely user-friendly as a Website, less so as a mobile app. But the easiest way to focus on green cosmetics in particular is with the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. Find the healthiest, safest, and Earth-friendliest shampoos, sunscreens, toothpastes, self-tanners… If it ever comes in contact with your skin, it’s on this site.
3. Look for independent, small-scale beauty. This is basically the equivalent of supporting small farmers rather than factory farms. The best way to do this is to explore your own area–it’s certainly the greenest way! In Gainesville, this means going to places like Ward’s, Sunflower Health Foods, and other local stores that stock cosmetics and assorted beauty supplies.
And as far as clothing and accessories go, look for high-quality used clothing stores, like Plato’s Closet. (Not exactly independent–it IS a chain–but you really can’t get better than used.)
4. Make your own cosmetics. It’s not very hard, at least when it comes to products like fragrances, skin creams, and acne treatments. You’ll know exactly what goes into your cosmetics. It’s cheaper too!
Here are some sites for making your own green beauty: