Why should you care about sustainability when you buy a skin care product?
So I've been planning to write about sustainability and now that we have all been over-taken by events with Covid-19 our focus has obviously changed in the short-term from the health of the planet to our own health. But some of the stories emerging from this health crisis may bring long-term change for the environment for the better. One of these is that in some areas of the world people are seeing the stars for the first time as there is less air pollution and a researcher from Stanford University believes that many thousands of lives have been saved due to the reduction in air pollution from the cessation of transport systems.
I hope that the world can put these lessons to good use in learning how to live our lives differently in ways that benefit human society as well as the environment. No matter what happens I’m sure things will not go back to exactly how they were.
Sustainability – Where Are We Headed?
I had been planning the launch of Skirr for quite a while and wanted to build the brand on a solid base of values that included protecting the environment as much as possible. I discovered how difficult it can be to purchase ingredients and packaging, to make decisions on manufacturing, retail and shipping and find the best option for branded items all while trying to do the right thing by the environment. Inevitably I had to make compromises but not without weighing up all the information and trying my best to do what was within my reach and not just take the easy way out. I kept thinking about sustainability and where we are headed and where we should be aiming for and asking myself when someone is looking for a skin care product why would they care about sustainability? This blog explains some of the research and decisions we had to make when designing our anti-chafing Sport Body Balm.
"we can get frustrated by the complete lack of options"
So what do we mean by sustainability? Well to me it means trying to weigh up all the information to work out the best way of doing something to protect the environment that is within your control and your means (financial or otherwise). An example might be weighing up all the information about methods of transport to see which is most environmentally friendly but maybe having to take different decisions if you have limited funding, need to travel a long distance or have a job with strict time restrictions. So different people will come to different conclusions on the same question for different reasons. It doesn’t necessarily mean one of them is wrong, it might mean there are differences in their circumstances. When we consider our personal options we can get frustrated by the complete lack of options there sometimes are, for example, if we live some where remote (like me) and there is very little public transport or if we want to cycle but there feel there is no safe route. That is why we need to keep pushing those who make policy decisions to make the right decisions too and prioritise funding into environmentally friendly options which may not always be the cheapest option available.
When we are talking about skincare products there are so many different issues about sustainability….
"farming and harvesting techniques protect the soil and the eco-system"
About Ingredients. As well as wanting to use quality ingredients there are choices to be made about natural versus synthetic and what about bio-identical? Is it better to use materials that can be created in a laboratory if they are critically endangered in nature or it uses less energy to produce it? Do we want our ingredients to be certified organic and to know that the farming and harvesting techniques protect the soil and the eco-system? Do we want the growers to be working in a Fair Trade system? Do we want them to be paid a living wage?
"do you even think about the packaging?"
Packaging Too. Where is our packaging material made? How far is it shipped before we even put our product in it? How was the factory powered? How are the people that work there looked after? Do you even think about the packaging your product came in? Can it be recycled or reused? Is it part of a circular economy? Is it a material that fits with the ethos of the natural and organic product you are buying?
"how many miles has your product travelled?"
Manufacturing and Retail. Where was your product made? By whom and under what conditions? Was there renewable energy used in production? How much water is used in production? Is there a good waste reduction/recycling policy in place? Is your product shipped to a distribution centre and then shipped to a retailer before you then take it home? How many miles has your product travelled? What are the ethics and values of the distribution system and do the companies consider the environment and sustainability? These are all good questions to ask yourself when buying any product. Of course there is one more – do I really need it in the first place?
"sometimes it was difficult to get answers"
Skirr and Sustainability. When creating Skirr I sat down and thought a lot about these questions. It changed the way I did things. For example, I determined to find a non-plastic packaging solution made in the UK for the anti-chafing Sport Body Balm. It took a lot of searching, when I found a manufacturer I asked questions about the wood, was it Forest Stewardship Council Certified, was the product compostable, was the packaging bleached? Sometimes it was difficult to get answers but I persevered until I found a company that met my values as much as possible. When I wanted to purchase Skirr branded T-shirts I wanted to buy organic, ideally Fair Trade and know that they were produced in a factory that protected the environment as much as possible as I know the process can use a lot of water. In the end I discovered Rapanui who have a plant powered by renewable energy with a wage protection system and a water recycling process. For ingredients I always commit to use organic certified ingredients wherever possible so that they are not contaminated with pesticides and farming practices support local wildlife. Better for us and better for the environment.
If you buy a Skirr product you can rest assured that we have been through this thought process on your behalf and try our best we can to protect the environment whilst running a business.
"sequester more cabron in the soil than is released"
Inspiration. There are some great leaders in the industry to inspire us, I particularly love Patagonia but I’m also keen on Alpkit to name a couple of sport retailers. Patagonia is probably my main inspiration and it’s founder Yvon Chounaird, who is leading the revolution in the move towards regenerative farming to sequester more carbon in the soil than is released. I love UK based Alpkit’s Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle policy with their repair centres and Continuum Project for donating preloved kit. There are also companies out there like ReRun who make new running gear out of event T-shirts.
"banning single use plastic cups and gel sachets"
Events. When you go to a sporting event or any event, think about what you can personally do to reduce your impact on the environment. Better yet choose your events and pick those that are doing their bit to help the environment. Check what it says on the event website about sustainability such as banning single use plastic cups and gel sachets, an opt out of event T-shirts and perhaps an option to plant a tree instead, look for medals that are made of a sustainable material, think about public transport options to get there. We can all help to make a difference.
"how about taking your bike on the ferry?"
Time on Your Hands? If you are sat at home surfing the net it might be the best opportunity to plan a holiday that is better for the environment. How about getting the train to the Alps instead of flying, how about taking your bike on the ferry to Europe (we did that last year and I’ll have to write about it sometime), have a staycation in Scotland and explore somewhere you have never been to. Seek out local food that is fresh and untravelled too to add to the experience. Make use of the Sustrans National Cycle Network, I can totally recommend the route from Oban to Inverness with the last section being completed any day now!
"a net zero carbon producer"
Eco-Brands. You could also check out some UK based eco-brands that have to come to the market in the last few years. Findra who make good looking outdoor clothing have great eco-credentials with lots of information on their website about sustainability in fashion. Presca who make cycling and running gear aiming to be a net zero carbon producer and have every garment part of the circular economy by 2020. Active Root, a Scottish based brand who make natural ginger sports nutrition now offer biodegradable refill options online or a refill service at their Powder Stations.
Sustainability – it’s about how we can all make a difference with our every-day decisions! We all need to care about sustainability when buying skin care products as well as other products. As we have talked about there are a lot of aspects to sustainability from ingredients to packaging and retail and manufacturing. We think we did a good job with our anti-chafing Sport Body Balm and we hope you will too!
In these difficult times for small business owners we would love it if you could let a friend know about us, share our social media posts (Facebook and Instagram) and you can also still buy from us. Thank you for your support!