From supermodels toting reusable water bottles, to celeb vintage clothing finds, it’s increasingly cool to be green, particularly where fashion and beauty are concerned.
But what exactly constitutes green beauty? What makes a brand sustainable? Is there a difference between upcycling, recycling and repurposing?
The world of eco-chicness can be confusing at first — greening your closet and makeup bag can admittedly be a daunting experience, and for many of us a disagreeable first try is a deterrent to continue. But the perks of an eco-friendly existence far outweigh the initial effort. Cleaner beauty products nourish our skin and bodies. Environmentally and socially responsible clothing and business practices respect and sustain our world.
So in the interest of bettering ourselves and bettering this beautiful planet that we all call home, we’ve come up with relatable explanations for some of the more popular terms you might be hearing as of late.
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1. Green Beauty
Green Beauty is an umbrella term describing a growing segment of the beauty industry that is committed to all-natural ingredients. Makeup and beauty products that are deemed Green are made from plant-based ingredients. As the demand for natural alternatives to our conventional products increases, it’s exciting to see entire boutiques such as international franchise The Detox Market, and local hotspot The Health Hut dedicated to housing a carefully curated selection of green beauty brands all under one roof.
Plant-based products are derived from plants, using nourishing oils such as seabuckthorne, marula and argan. They are often scented with essential oils like lavender and wild rose;and might contain exfoliating ingredients like coffee and raw sugar. Toronto-based beauty brand Perk Naturals offers a line of scrubs for body and face, even a teeny pot of lip scrub using a sweet, scented variety of plant-based ingredients.
Vegan products contain no animal products, so for example non-leather leggings are vegan as they are made from synthetic fabric. Vegan beauty products are entirely plant-based, so a green facial scrub containing honey would not be considered vegan, but it would be plant-based. Boho chic brands like Anthropologie and Free People carry an enticing selection of vegan alternatives to conventional leather pieces, and beauty brands like Harvey Prince specialize in vegan fragrance and skincare.
Cruelty-free products are not tested on animals and will often be labelled with a stamp to indicate this commitment to humane practices. Several hundred cosmetic companies in North America have received this certification, with many more joining the #becrueltyfree movement. It is unusual for smaller local green beauty brands to display this stamp on handmade packaging, but they are still cruelty-free in practice. One Love Organics proudly displays the cruelty free stamp of approval among other certifications.
Locally-made garments and beauty products are designed and produced in close proximity. Instead of being outsourced to overseas factories. Buying local supports the immediate economy and helps grow a community full of artisans and small businesses. Pop-up shops, farmers' markets and urban fairs are a great way to discover locally-made items like Toronto cosmetics company Rhode and Rue, West coast makeup brand Lippy Girl, and Toronto denim designer John Addison Jeans.
Locally-sourced refers to ingredients that come from a region close to where the product is made...for example Canadian skin care brand Nova Scotia Fisherman uses Nova Scotia sea kelp to in their lotions and balms, while Toronto’s Wild Wood Botanical Alchemy makes day trips to their family farm in Niagara to harvest nourishing botanicals. And finally, local five Province Apothecary is aptly named, gathering ingredients from each of our 11 provinces.
Wild-crafted plants are grown wild in nature without human intervention, and are harvested following wild crafting guidelines to ensure that the population is not wiped out. Ingredients are often gathered for their medicinal ingredients and used in tinctures, oils and balms. Local beauty brand Wildcraft specializes in natural ingredients with innate healing properties.
Organic ingredients are grown in organic soil without the use of chemical pesticides. Most green beauty brands are not 100 per cent organic as the certification can be challenging to come by and it is important to note that a plant can be grown naturally without chemicals and still not have official organic certification. Beauty brands such as Juice Beauty, however, are certified organic and as such display an official stamp on packaging.
Recyclable packing is usually glass or cardboard. Some green beauty brands such as Graydon Clinical Luxury offer larger, refillable containers to save on packaging waste. On the other hand, Petit Vour vegan beauty boxes come in pretty pink recyclable cardboard boxes with paper filling as opposed to polystyrene chips, while H&M offers an incentive to recycle, offering a money back discount in exchange for a bag of your used textiles.
Repurposing usually involves vintage clothing cut and sewn or redesigned to create new items, and is another creative way to cut down on fashion industry waste. LA-based Reformation has cornered the market on this eco-friendly trend, creating covetable pieces like sweatshirts turned into dresses, carefully selecting reworked vintage denim and tops made from deadstock fabric to delight their conscientious followers.
Upcycling is very similar to repurposing and uses end of bolts, or gently-used fabrics to make new garments. Trmtab uses leather scraps handcrafted in Northern India to create sophisticated woven bags and tech sleeves, and Sanuk uses old yoga mats to create beach-worthy sandals and flip flops.
12. Sustainable Practices
Sustainable practices do not deplete the earth — they sustain the business and the environment using a variety of methods such as recycling, the use of solar panels and other sources of renewable energy, and working with sustainable fabrics like bamboo. Vancouver-based clothing company Sole-One manufactures luxury loungewear and sunglasses from this versatile tree, which is extremely cost-efficient and has the highest growth rate of any plant on the planet.
Ethical sourcing respects the way in which the materials are grown and harvested, and the people involved in the process. Workers are paid fair wages and work conditions are monitored. Craftspeople in rural villages are able to earn money to support their families, and crops are harvested and replanted so that a sustainable supply chain is created. Dr. Bronner's All-In-One has set up a Fair Trade Around The World initiative to support the famers and communities that supply their ingredients, helping to build wells, renovate schools and purchase medical equipment.
14. Giving Back/One-For-One Model
Many fashion and beauty companies give back a portion of their proceeds to help charities that they are interested in. Aussie eco boutique Love Child supports Animals Australia and Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge, and Toronto’s own Peace Collective donates to Breakfast For Learning. TOMS popularized the one-for-one mode, donating one pair of shoes or glasses to a child in need for each pair of shoes or glasses purchased.
We can conclude that eco-chic refers to any combination of one or all of the above: Your vegan leather moto jacket, your all-natural sunscreen, your favourite vintage T — all of these are considered eco-chic. It’s an awareness of how we consume, and a desire to exist within the worlds of fashion and beauty conscientiously. An Eco-chic sensibility is more than the sum of its parts; it’s a choice, a lifestyle and a beautiful way of living.