Sustainable Beauty

Dear Sam,  

I’ve just begun hearing a little about sustainable or clean beauty. Can you explain these terms to me?


Dear Estee,

Many of us would never have thought that our beauty routines could make a difference in our environment. But it is interesting to note that, according to Cleure, more than 120 billion packaging units are produced by the cosmetics industry every year, and a good deal of it isn’t recyclable. Brands pack their products in excessive plastic packaging that isn’t necessary and takes hundreds of years to break down, all while emitting harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Overwhelming, I know, but there are a few things you can do:

1. Keep your empties out of the landfill by recycling them or returning them to either companies that provide free shipping or to local TerraCycle bins at Zeroish and Tare Market mentioned below. Here are some resources from Tare Market for recycling your beauty. Also, Nordstrom’s department stores accept most tools and empty containers for recycling. You can donate your unused items to Share Your Beauty at Glass, cardboard, and tin can be recycled. Plastics can be recycled if there is a 1, 2 or 5 in the triangle.  

2. Sustainable waterless beauty comes in the form of concentrated natural ingredient products that don’t require water for use. Larger, heavier, water-filled products create a larger carbon footprint on the environment during transportation. Serums, creams, and powders are good examples of concentrated products.  

3. Another way to improve sustainability is to look for multi-use natural products such as bar soaps that also serve as shampoo. Lip sheens can be eyeshadow, highlighter, or blushes. Facial moisturizers can serve as hair conditioners.  

4. Pay attention to which brands hold their suppliers accountable for their environmental footprint. You’ll see many sustainable beauty brands supporting suppliers who opt for renewable energy to support sustainability and environmental protection. Also, avoid products containing microplastics, microbeads, and glitter, which pollute our oceans and other waterways and harm aquatic life.  

5. Zero Waste + Plastic Free. 

Zero-waste ensures that you end up with as minimal waste as possible from the product or packaging, and any packaging left is either biodegradable or recyclable. This includes reusable packaging and products that can be reused or are multipurpose. Cotton, washable face wipes are a good example, as are glass jars, tins, or cardboard containers, all available locally. And check out the bars – shampoo and hand soap bars are two of the best ways to go plastic free. Bamboo brushes are also a great option to consider.

6. Sourcing ingredients locally helps sustainability by cutting out unnecessary transportation during product production, reducing the carbon footprint. Ask at your local stores or check them out on their website to see how far your products have traveled. 

7. Organic and natural ingredients protect the environment, food chain, ocean, and waterways from toxic pesticides. Read the labels. Target offers the new Target Zero icon, which identifies products designed to reduce waste and make it easier to shop sustainably. The collection features hundreds of products with packaging designed to be refillable, reusable, or compostable, or made from recycled content or materials like aluminum, steel, or glass that reduce the use of plastic. 

Locally, some businesses dedicated to sustainable products are Tare Market at two Minneapolis locations and Zeroish at 50th and Penn. Both carry products that meet most or all of the goals of sustainable beauty discussed above. Zeroish has started a line of their own products composed of all-natural “clean beauty,” the newest buzz phrase. For instance, their new brand has bulk dry shampoos in three shades and organic moisturizers in refillable glass jars. 

Both stores offer TerraCycle bins where you can recycle various items, which change monthly, such as tooth care products and deodorant containers. In addition, Zeroish offers a bin for collecting even your used mascara wands! Wands for Wildlife sends the sanitized wands to wildlife refuges, where one of their more delicate jobs is to clean the nits from the baby wild animals.

Estee, I hope this gives you some things to think about over the holidays and some doable actions to reduce your carbon footprint while maintaining your beautiful inner self.