FACING UP TO AN UGLY PLANET
Updated: Jun 3, 2020
I cannot live without plastics. At least, it seems that way. There is so much in my life that it feels impossible to start. There is one piece of plastic that has been on my conscience though. Justin Hofman’s 2017 image of the seahorse and the cotton bud. The saying goes that if we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem. I cannot be a part of this seahorse’s problem.
I am on my last bag of cotton buds and I shall stop after this. I love the sensation of cleaning my ears after a shower and I have not planned a suitable substitute when the last bud hits the bin. Google stop. I did not realise that so many people flushed them down the toilet! Okay, a warm damp cloth from now on and maybe I do not have to use up the last of my stash. I would need them for cleaning bruises and cuts or fixing eye-makeup mishaps. Even then, there are alternatives.
This brings me to the whole cosmetics industry. The packaging, the skincare routines, the point-of-sale samples, the promotions and events: all of these perpetuate the obscene amount of plastic and paper usage.
I just read an article entitled Your Beauty Habit is Destroying the Environment by Shayma Bakht for VICE UK. Through it, I came across a makeup brand that is trying to help the planet in terms of sustainable makeup and bamboo casings but ironically their refillable pots could do with less packaging. I get the feeling that the decision to not just code and shrink wrap the refills is still driven by consumer habits. Many bloggers have put together lists of what they consider zero-waste makeup brands. It is good place to start in terms of using products that are more compassionate towards our health, animals and the planet. However, consumption rates have to fall drastically for there to be a noticeable impact.
The one brand that stood out is based in Michigan. Clean Faced Cosmetics make their vegan and mostly organic products by hand, do custom shades, can omit ingredients to suit sensitivities, provide refills and even allow customers to send back their containers to be reused. Unfortunately, I do not live in Michigan. Thankfully, I do not use much makeup but the ideal solution in this case is for big makeup companies to throw their support and expertise behind small, sustainable businesses like these that can mushroom throughout our communities and allow us to reduce our plastic waste in this department.
Ultimately though, the shift comes from each and every one of us. For while we wait in vain for corporations and celebrities to pave the safe way forward, we ignore the power of one. As long as we remain shackled by our need for makeup to mask our conceived imperfections, and as long as we let advertising and promotions compel us to have more than less, our reliance on these brands will overpower our budding desire to become stewards of this earth.
On ear rags I have decided to use my excessive amounts of lens cloths and I will start converting some old t-shirt material into ‘ear hankies’ soon. The auricle does get a good massage which is good for your immune system!
On bamboo packaging According to blogger Kathryn from Going Zero Waste, make up in bamboo packaging goes mouldy in humid environments.
On mascaras I chanced upon the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge’s Wands for Wildlife program. It is an interesting and useful alternative to throwing our mascara brushes in the bin but it does not mean we need 3 or 4 different mascaras at one go. Also, it would be an interesting thing to start local initiatives in our own communities.
One silicone and plastic reusable swabs There are many brands being sold online. Bamboo ones, too. My take on this would be that whilst providing a better alternative, it is still a business model based on consuming more plastic. Silicone is hard to, if not impossible to recycle and plastics have to be of a certain grade. In this case, the buds would have to be removable in order to properly separate before trashing.