Earth Day 2021 is just around the corner. Every year since 1970, we’ve been celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd. According to earthday.org, every year, 1 billion people around the globe are mobilized to take some action to save the planet by discussing climate change, calling for sustainable energy use and waste management, and promoting and switching to environmental products.
But, if the action would happen only on April 22nd, would it have a chance to have much impact on the future of the planet?
Change does indeed start with every single action, but it must remain a sustained action. Using a sustainable straw once won’t make much dent in our plastic use, but switching to using only such straws for life definitely will. Planting a tree on Earth Day is a nice symbolic gesture, but it will be even more productive to plant a veggie garden in one’s backyard or to switch the front yard landscaping to a waterwise bed or xeriscape.
The switch to sustainable consumption must also be sustained long-term. It must become a habit, rather than a once-in-a-while act of conscience.
What is Sustainability?
We, humans, are really greedy when it comes to earth’s resources. We want more, more, and still more. More energy from the earth’s limited resources, more food, more water, more land to grow and build.
All of this might seem to serve humans pretty well. But, we know that the benefits are short-lived. The planet’s resources are not limitless. There is not an unlimited amount of space, fuel, water.
Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. … Ecological integrity is maintained, all of earth’s environmental systems are kept in balance while natural resources within them are consumed by humans at a rate where they are able to replenish themselves.McGill University
Therefore, for earth-friendly humans, it is crucial to look for solutions to lead a simpler life that is more self-sufficient and not relying only on earth’s ability to keep on giving. By reducing our negative impact on the environment, we can implement a change for the better.
And, it’s not only the planet that will benefit. We also will be able to switch to a less toxic environment and safer food and drinking water. We can spend more time in un-affected nature and get closer to the earth and to one another in the process.
Not everyone, and in fact, only a very small number of people, can live truly “off the grid.” We all have a carbon footprint that is unavoidable to a certain degree. Our work often requires commuting and almost always the use of electricity. Not everyone can start a home garden or begin composting in their backyard. Very few of us can completely swear off electronics and wi-fi.
Many aspects of our carbon footprint are like a toothpaste that’s been squeezed out of the tube and there is little chance it will be put back into that tube. We simply will not go back to living in log cabins and lighting our evenings exclusively with candles (although it would be nice, at least for a while).
That doesn’t mean that we cannot do something to offset our carbon footprint and live at least a bit more sustainably.
- Everyone can reuse and recycle.
- Everyone can switch to more efficient ways to use electricity and fuel for transportation.
- And, everyone can turn to more eco-friendly and sustainable purchases when buying for yourself or others.
How to Find Environmental Products?
Labels such as “sustainable”, “eco-friendly,” or “green” are not regulated, which means they can be used very broadly and really can mean just about anything. Any brand can call itself ethical or sustainable but oftentimes such terms are used as a marketing ploy rather than an actual practice. So how do we know which are really “green” and which ones are just “greenwashing”?
A good way to discover environmentally-friendly brands is to check their certifications. A company that has received one of the certifications below has been vetted for their practices and sustainability plans in regards to diverse impact areas: governance, treatment of workers, impact on the community and the environment, greenhouse emission offset, the giving practices, global awareness, and more.
Click the links below to see and search for brands that have been certified by these:
Eco-Friendly Beauty Industry
Let’s take the beauty industry as an example. As you know, I am passionate about detoxing my skin- and hair-care and use only organic and toxin-free products, be it homemade from only the best ingredients or purchased from the most reputable source I can find.
Finding a sustainable or ethical beauty brand adds another layer to the idea of clean beauty. Not all organic beauty brands are sustainable, but most sustainable, environmental products are organic. But, caution is needed.
In the USA, the beauty market is pretty much unregulated which brings about a great deal of greenwashing. Many brands put words like “natural”, “clean”, “green” on their labels. Sometimes, these claims are backed up by certifications like the ones mentioned above or the Leaping Bunny or Vegan certification. But not always.
Getting certified might not be an option for boutique brands or small start-ups as it costs money, time, and effort to get certified. Even then though, the brand can and should be transparent about their ingredient sourcing and use and their environmentally friendly practices such as packaging, recycling, energy use, etc.
When deciding which brand is sustainable, two factors are to be considered:
- non-toxic (free of toxins such as phthalates, parabens, mineral oil, GMOs, and others)
- cruelty-free (not tested on animals)
- vegan (without any animal ingredient, even when such ingredient would not require the death of the animal)
- palm-oil-free or only with sustainably sourced palm oil (more about this point later)
Sustainable Business Practices
- Sourcing (how the ingredients were sourced? what is the impact on the local community?)
- Packaging (zero waste would be best but it is not widely available yet)
- Resource management (thoughtful use of energy while producing and packaging, carbon offsetting)
- Giving back (charitable giving to ethical causes as part of the company’s revenue policy)
That Palm Oil Issue
As mentioned above, some environmental groups are dogmatic about the use of palm oil and give it a big no-no when it comes to sustainability.
The use of Palm Oil in food production and beauty industry has caused for many controversies over the years. It is undeniable that the overuse of palm oil has been the reason of wide-spread destruction of forests. To date, around 2 billion hectares of forests have been destroyed to make room for palm growing.
So why use palm oil at all?
First, it has a lot of great benefits for the skin. Second, you can grow 5-10x more Palm Oil on an acre of land when compared to alternative oils. Third, when done right, organic palm oil can be one of the most sustainable oils out there, nurturing animals, people, communities, and the environment.
Here is the list of benefits of organic and sustainably sources palm oil:
- excellent source of antioxidants (15 times more beta carotene than carrots)
- choke-full with essential fatty acids (like omega-3 and omega-6)
- preserving the skin’s natural oil barrier
- keeping the skin hydrated, plump, and rejuvenated
- aiding in reduction and delay the appearance of wrinkles
- regulating the skin’s oil production
With all these benefits, palm oil can be a great ingredient. Additionally, a lot of it can be produced in a relatively small space, compared to other oils. But, these benefits could only if the price to pay is not the health of the planet.
Palm Done Right
How to ensure that palm oil is sustainably sourced? Turn to Palm Done Right to make sure the product you choose contains only environmentally-friendly oil that checks all the boxes for sustainability.
Palm Done Right is a movement to prove that palm oil can be grown for good. When “done right”, growing palm brings a positive impact to people, communities, animals, and the environment.Palm Done Right
Palm Done Right is a partnership of brands that take the pledge to use only sustainably produced palm oil. Here is what the pledge contains specifically:
1. 100% organic – because “Organic agriculture is essential to securing healthy resilient ecosystems.”
2. deforestation-free – prohibiting “the conversion of primary and secondary forests into agricultural production areas, tree plantations, or other degenerating land uses.”
3. wildlife-friendly – because “conserving fauna and flora ensure ecological balance and stability in the world.”
4. committed to revitalizing the soil, composting, cover cropping, and other organic soil management practices
5. fair & social – providing economic and social benefits to growers, workers and communities where they operate, respecting the workers’ rights and paying fair prices and wages. “Through community projects, we support education, healthcare and cultural activities.”
To ensure that the palm-oil-using brand is one of the truly environmentally friendly brands out there, check for certifications such as Fair for Life or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Going even further than the certification created in the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) – a collection of NGOs, including Greenpeace, and progressive producers (New Britain Palm Oil, Agropalma and Daabon) that aim to provide independently verified, responsibly produced palm oil.
A Few of My Favorite Environmentally Friendly Brands
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This amazing company from Vermont is focused on providing the cleanest, ethical, sustainable beauty products that will nourish the skin and not destroy the planet. Tata Harper is toxin-free, cruelty-free, GMO-free. It has zero artificial colors and fragrances. And, if you want real proof, it is certified by a number of reputable organizations as this graphic shows.
Our non-toxic products will never make you choose between health and results or between natural and high-performance. You shouldn’t have to compromise your ideals when it comes to beauty. That’s why every product we make is formulated without compromise. Period.Tataharperskincare.com
Discovery kits let you try their products with a substantial discount. There is an anti-aging kit, a “glow kit”, and this new “Ultimate Hydration Kit,” featuring a mask, toner, serum, moisturizer, and face oil.
Fivesso Coffee Beauty
Only recently I discovered this small sustainable brand. Their soaps are made with organic coconut, olive, and palm oils, organic coffee and glycerin, and essential oils, this soap is packed with antioxidants and vitamins that won’t strip the skin’s protective barrier. It is also clean and green, and the company’s use of sustainably harvested organic palm oil is certified by Palm Done Right. The soap is also vegan, toxin-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, and cruelty-free.
Dr. Bronner’s organic ingredients are all certified by environmentally and socially sustainable organizations. Also, all of their plastic bottles are 100% post-consumer recycled. Dr. Bronner’s operations are based on fair-trade principles which include fair pricing offered to farmers and suppliers, environmental stability, and no forced or child labor.
Not only are Nutiva’s products healthy and delicious, the company also has an awesome mission, including social activism and environmentally-friendly innovation. The company strives “to make a positive impact in consumers’ lives, in their supply networks and in the world.”
Nutiva is my go-to for culinary oils such as coconut, olive, and red palm oils, but I especially love their organic hazelnut spread. As a kid growing up in Europe, I was a slave to Nutella. Great taste, terrible ingredients (mostly oil and sugar).
Nutiva’s Hazelnut Spread tastes delicious and has added benefits: “40% less sugar than the leading brand” (wink, wink, Nutella). Better yet, it’s also vegan, non-GMO, made from sustainably sourced superfood ingredients like organic flaxseed, sustainably sourced organic palm and coconut oils and chia seed.
A great company that I just recently discovered. Their story is simply mind-blowing. The brand was founded by Mr. Hideo Nakayama, who was suffering from post-World War II health complications. He was given only a few years to live by his doctors until he started consuming chlorella. Once he realized the amazing benefits of this green alga, Mr. Nakayama started spreading the word and founded this company which brings the best quality, cracked-cell-wall chlorella to the public.
Their products range from chlorella powder that can be used in smoothies or simply mixed into juices and enjoyed as a nourishing drink to chlorella-fortified skincare. Not only are the products organic, vegan, and cruelty-free, but the company is also giving back by supporting “non-profit organizations that promote vitality and wellness through volunteering, in-kind donations, and financial support.”
I love these Life-Made straws! They are made of certified bio-based materials and are 100% HOME and COMMERCIALLY compostable. Offering the same strength and weight as traditional plastic straws, these earth-friendly straws reduce waste – not performance.
LifeMade makes other environmental products such as compostable cutlery, earth-friendly coolers, and ice substitutes.
LifeMade is all about making life better through sustainable innovation and product experiences. Every step we take in this direction brings us closer to our vision of a no-compromise future — one where everyone has access to disposable products that are as good for the earth as they are convenient and enjoyable to use.LifeMade
For the past six or so years since my cancer diagnosis, I have been laser-focused on limiting the amounts of chemicals in my life by detoxing my skincare, cleaning-up my nutrition, and unburdening my household from toxins and fragrances.
But, there is so much more to be done. Looking for brands and products that are committed to sustainability and protecting the environment in the largest sense of the word takes the game up another notch. This step is necessary for all those who want to see the future of this planet bright and clean. Do it for yourself and for the generations to come!
Looking for other ways to improve your nutrition, clean up your beauty regimen, and detoxify your home? Check out this E-Book for easy swaps to make your life healthier, cleaner, and better.