You might not be thinking about what’s going on environmentally when you participate in your daily beauty regimen. There are so many more resources needed to bring you that morning glow than you might realize. In addition to the water, electricity, and packaging components we consume, there’s a whole lot more we’re contributing to in the background.
It’s a tough conversation, but it’s an important one. This week, we’re creating the space for the discussion.
In a recent Forbes article, it was reported that the cosmetics industry contributes 120 billion units of packaging every year. Additionally, this production volume contributes to 18 million acres of annual deforestation.
Much of the massive packaging volume is due to marketing. Frequent seasonal product redesigns and unnecessarily wide product offerings are a huge culprit.
Many beauty brands have noticed the repercussions and begun to simplify production by slimming down on the variety of packaging shapes and sizes. It cost more in both resources and environmental impact to have sprawling permutations of packaging types for a line of products.
Another environmental issue is the concept of overpackaging. Many products come with unnecessarily large packages and multiple layers of product wrapping.
What we see on the shelf at the store isn’t even the majority of the packaging problem. The shipping packaging used when the warehouse ships bulk product to the store is where most of the excessiveness resides. If you’ve got friends or family who work in retail, ask them about the behind the scenes packaging. You’re in for a surprise.
Much of this packaging isn’t even recycled.
Insiders report that sustainability is usually not a top concern within a brand. While the efforts toward conservation have seen an uptick in the past decade, there’s still a long way to go.
The hair care industry makes up 33% of the beauty industry products in the United States. Setting a precedent of sustainability within the hair care segment could have huge impacts on the rest of the beauty world.
This unsustainable cycle makes the beauty industry such a massive contributor to waste— but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Surges in Accountability
Hair care brands are being held accountable for the lack of recycling information on their bottles and their overall commitment to sustainability in general. Some brands are proactive both in tackling this and addressing their own wasteful practices.
Aveda arguably represents the gold standard when it comes to haircare brand sustainability. It was the first beauty company to use 100% recycled plastic, and more than 85% of its bottles and jars are made entirely from post-consumer recycled materials.
In fact, it’s the brand’s mission to push for 100% post-consumer recycled materials. Aveda is also kicking investing in plastic alternatives into overdrive. The products themselves are made using 100% solar and wind power, and most of their manufacturing waste is recycled or reused.
Would avoiding the environmental impact of unsustainable practices be easier? Sure. But retooling a brand’s focus to align with global eco-friendly practices doesn’t mean a loss in product quality and success.
Aveda has found increasing success due to its eco-friendly brand practices. There’s a sentiment floating around that sustainability is the sole selling point of “green” brands. Let’s bust up that myth. Hair care and beauty brands can simultaneously provide luxury product results combined with earth-friendly production habits.
Many of these brands first see success because they have incredible products, and garner additional popularity because of sustainability.
CB Insights, a New York based market intelligence platform, recently published a study based on trends in the beauty industry. They investigated the partnership between farms and production facilities and reported the following:
“As the line between food and beauty products thins, expect to see beauty brands partner more closely with farmers for ingredient sourcing.”
These business relationships between small American farms contribute to accountability, job creation in agriculture, and smart sourcing. Popular natural ingredients such as carrier oils (jojoba, almond, coconut etc.) are acquired directly from these farms.
Here’s some of the methods eco-friendly brands are rallying behind:
- No Animal Testing
Some brands test skincare and beauty products on animals and then observe any potential adverse effects. Once these practices began to come to light, they were met with strong opposition. The movement against animal testing within the cosmetics world didn’t gain serious momentum until the early 2000s.
- Post-Consumer Recycled Packaging
These materials refer to packaging created partially or entirely (depending on the brand) by previously recycled materials. The great part about this packaging is that it directly contributes to the minimization of plastics, papers, and other recyclables which would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.
- Naturally Derived Ingredients
Cosmetics are packed with lab-created and synthetic ingredients. Are all of these harmful? No. However, the very process of creating these ingredients generally entails more involved production and more waste. Plus, most of us would rather be placing natural essences on our hair and skin as opposed to chemicals. The issue of ingredients transcends eco-friendliness— it’s simply a purer option across the board.
- Clean Energy Sourcing
Wind and solar energy is taking over the beauty world one brand at a time. It all points back to the drive for more green alternatives. The more brands who decide to take up clean energy, the more normalized it becomes. It isn’t radical, it’s the future.
- Reduced Water Consumption
There’s a lot of water involved in producing products. Around 75% of a bottle of shampoo is comprised of water. What you don’t realize is that producing that bottle of shampoo requires over tenfold more water. Brands are finding ways to reduce excess during production methods. At the end of the day, the gallons of conserved water is in the millions.
By following these methods, hair care brands are supporting overall sustainability and contributing to the normalization of environmental accountability.
State of the Industry Via Statistics
- Over half of Americans would rather purchase an organic or naturally-sourced hair care product.
- The hair care industry is rapidly expanding in the United States market, showing no signs of slowing.
- Global hair care is projected to surge to a 100-billion dollar industry by 2024.
- 73% of people report that personal cosmetics use improves quality of life.
- Cost is cited as one of the biggest deterrents from purchasing natural hair care products.
Energy’s Role in the Environmental Equation
So, there’s a long way to go in terms of packaging. But what about the amount of energy that we use? Let’s start with the environmental impact of an average daily routine of washing our hair.
- 3750 gallons of water annually
- The energy equivalent of leaving a lightbulb on for 20,800 hours (over two years)
- The equivalent to a half-ton of carbon dioxide emission
These numbers are huge. And they represent a single individual over the course of a year. Imagine if millions of households across the world implemented smarter washing habits. Billions of gallons of water saved. Enough energy conserved to power homes for years to come. Reduction of millions of tons of CO2 emissions. Just from washing hair.
Overwashing not only contributes to environmental waste, but also hair damage (see our article The Miracle Treatment for Dry Hair and Scalp and learn how to fix this in a snap).
What does this mean for at-home hair washing routines? Cut down on the amount of washing. This can be achieved by using dry shampoo to buy some extra time from wash to wash.
Concerned about the price tag of organic and sustainable hair care products? What if we told you the money saved by cutting hair washing could bankroll your luxury hair products with money left over?
The journey to progress isn’t just for corporations and brands— it starts in homes all around the world. Purchasing decisions, hair washing, and product usage all play a role.
Here’s where we get excited.
AER has had a commitment to sustainability since we were founded. We don’t need to be convinced to adapt our products to be eco-friendly— they were initially designed with that very intent.
To begin, AER uses dramatically less power. A third of the wattage, to be precise. AER’s engineers constructed the AER Dryer with the ability to operate at lower wattages while still delivering the heat needed to get the job done. We found the best of both worlds, and made it accessible to homes around the world.
AER is also ultra-quiet. This is where our energy efficiency comes into the picture again. Our brushless motor and professional design cut noise and wasted power.
Remember how the annual energy used by washing your hair ends up being the equivalent of a light left on for over two years? Time to level up the comparison. For every 100 standard dryers replaced with AER dryers, we remove the energy equivalent of 4.5 car emissions from the road annually.
That’s just the start. Our next goal is to replace 10,000 dryers. That’s equivalent to removing 450 car emissions from the road annually (we didn’t calculate how long that would be in a light bulb equivalent, but it’s a lot more than two years…).