From choosing upcycled apparel to buying water-less products, simple changes to your wardrobe and beauty regimen can help save the planet

If there is a silver lining from this pandemic is that retailers are finally doing something about climate change. While many skincare brands have transitioned from plastic packaging to recyclable glass bottles or done away with excessive paper packaging, couturiers are using more recyclable or ethically-sourced materials and adopting manufacturing processes with less carbon emissions.

Perhaps being on lockdown has forced open the eyes and ears of retailers to pay closer attention to consumers’ concerns about the environment, especially their demands for accountability and transparency. Or it could be just opening their windows to fresher air, flourishing wildlife and cleaner water canals has given them more cause to Restore Our Earth, the theme for Earth Day 2021.

Fashion is notoriously one of the environment’s biggest polluters. Second to the oil industry, it releases 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and is responsible for 20% of all water pollution worldwide. Similarly, the beauty industry contributes to 120 billion units of packaging a year and more than one billion tons of carbon dioxide a year from just shipping alone. If nothing gets done, these industries may be responsible for 30% of the world’s pollution by 2025.

Now more than ever, the importance of sustainability in the world of luxury is crucial to businesses staying relevant and successful. Not only are fashion and beauty conglomerates rethinking their value chain to ensure their products are environmentally and ethically sound, factors such as inclusivity and social responsibility are also heavily considered.

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Fashion’s leaders in sustainability
Some of the biggest names in fashion are taking a softer, more thoughtful approach to all things sartorial, whether it is a commitment to more sustainable practices or responsible actions. Leading the charge is Stella McCartney — a sustainability advocate who has refrained from using fur and leather for 20 years — is living proof that designers can create luxury goods while respecting animal rights and our planet as a whole. In the past decade, the eponymous vegan luxury label has scaled up its commitments to using eco-efficient organic, recycled or bio-based materials such as the latest and world’s first, mushroom leather.

More recently, brands such as Balenciaga, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and Coach have all created collections made with certified sustainable, organic or recycled bio-based fabrics, while leathers are tanned with natural dyes or manufactured through processes with lowered environmental impact.

To address the issue of wastage, designers like Alexander McQueen have been donating surplus fabrics to fashion universities in the UK, while Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli has pledged $34 million worth of old inventory to organisations in need. Louis Vuitton, too, has found clever ways to repurpose both its fabrics and show sets via the ‘Be Mindful’ initiative, a capsule collection of excess textiles reinvented into fashion jewellery.

For more transparency and accountability, Chanel has documented a four-pronged commitment to fighting climate change. Among the tenets are the reduction of its carbon footprint by 50% and its supply chain emissions by 40% per unit sold by 2030. The house will also transition to 100% renewable electricity in its operations by 2025, and finance climate change adaptation for communities and landscapes in need of assistance.

Locally, L’Oréal Singapore switched to fully recyclable FSI-certified carton boxes, Fasfil paper box filler and paper tape to deliver its products purchased online. This initiative was launched last year in July in response to the surge in e-commerce activity in Singapore due to the pandemic. The French beauty conglomerate is also doing its part to lower carbon emissions by starting Electric Vehicle delivery trials in the west of Singapore.

With Earth Day just around the corner, it is a timely reminder for us to support the brands that are making more effort to create a greener, more liveable world for future generations to enjoy. Beauty brands that are working for the collective good include La Mer, Jurlique, Dr Hauschka, Clarins, Ren, Aveda and The Body Shop, not to mention hundreds of cult brands like Tata Harper, Nudestix and Love Beauty and Planet.

Whether you choose something as simple as paraben- or cruelty-free or want to go full-on vegan or organic with fully recyclable, zero-waste or biodegradable packaging, anything is better than nothing.

For a start, here are a few ways you can go greener with your beauty and fashion choices, and maximise your contributions with minimal effort.


In addition to being vegan and cruelty-free, pop star Rihanna’s eco-friendly beauty line Fenty eliminates boxes, incorporates post-consumer recycled materials and creates refill systems where feasible.

Environmentally sound packaging
Many skincare brands are now switching over to more environmentally-sound packaging to promote sustainability. French natural brand Caudalie packages its latest Vinoclean cleansers in 100% recycled plastic, while Clinique and Estée Lauder have transitioned from plastic to glass containers for their revamped hero products Moisture Surge Intense 72H Lipid-Replenishing Hydrator and Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex. Lancôme Clarifique Dual Essence’s slender bottle uses a FSC-certified hybrid recyclable material made of 25% recycled glass.

To reduce wastage, haircare brand Phyto and Fenty skincare have completely eliminated boxes altogether, or made packaging out of post-consumer recycled materials.

If you do not recycle at home, many of the greener beauty companies can do it for you. Eco brands like L’Occitane and Origins “Return to Origins” recycling programme welcomes all empty cosmetic containers regardless of brand. The Body Shop has a “Return, Recycle, Repeat” initiative where LYBC (Love Your Body Club) members will receive a gift with every four empty plastic bottles or tubs returned.

Choose water-less products
A trend that is here to stay, many companies are tackling water shortage by opting to use less water in their products. For example, Levi’s new collection Water Less uses up to 96% less water. The denim label is committed to sustainability through the entire design and manufacturing process, including working towards 100% sustainably-sourced cotton and reusing old jeans for home insulation.

Currently, waterless beauty products can be found in powdered masks and exfoliators or essential-oil rich balms and face oils. L’Oreal offers a powdered hair colour called Botanēa that is peroxide- and ammonia-free using 100% natural ingredients to gently dye the hair. Some cult brands like Lush and Drunk Elephant also offer soap bars for shampoo, body and face cleansing, exfoliating and more.

Last year, beauty powerhouse L’Oréal pledged to reduce water usage by 60%. One of its haircare lines Biolage, bottles its shampoos in recyclable PCR plastic in a factory that uses 100% renewable energy. Supposedly, its Spanish facility is a “dry factory” where any water used goes into products or is used by employees.

Not only is using less water great for the planet, but it’s good news for our skin. The average cream or lotion is made up of about 70 percent water which means there’s little room for any actual skin-caring ingredients.

Support tree planting
Paper packaging is one of the biggest contributors to global deforestation, which is causing escalating temperatures and pollution levels. To combat this, various brands are working with government bodies to replant trees.

A brand that adopts ethical and sustainable ways to create effective skincare products with minimal impact to the environment, Origins has planted over 750,000 trees as part of its Plant-A-Tree program to aid reforestation projects around the world. In Singapore for the month of April, it will donate $10 per nature-inspired post with tags @origins.sg #OriginsSH #GreenThePlanet to the Plant-A-Tree programme by the National Parks Board. This contribution will go toward the park’s Garden City Fund to support the OneMillionTrees movement to plant one million trees in Singapore over the next decade.

Natural makeup brand Nudestix has also pledged to plant 10,000 trees globally with EarthDay.org’s The Canopy Project. It intends to plant one tree for every limited edition Heaven & Earth makeup palette sold on Earth Day on Sephora.sg. It will also plant a tree for every Heaven & Earth look on Instagram with tags @nudestix #nudestix #GoNudeAndSaveTheEarth.

Look for the word ‘biodegradable’
Plastic pollution is a huge global problem, with some of the biggest polluters being household or personal care products. It is for this very reason that a growing number of beauty brands are going the extra step to make their packaging and formulas entirely biodegradable or compostable.

Some commonly used biodegradable materials include cork, bamboo, plant-based bioplastics, seaweed, mycelium, hemp and coconut husk. Compostable materials include paper, straw, cardboard, brown paper bags, bagasse (sugarcane pulp), corn starch (Polylactic Acid), palm leaf and wood pulp.

Canadian clean makeup brand Nudestix packages its eye and lip pencils in recyclable tin containers and uses 100% biodegradable plastic packaging.

According to reports, 10% of cotton buds end up in waterways and oceans, adding to the 150 million-plus tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans. To address this issue without compromising on your personal grooming, you can opt for biodegradable dental floss or cotton buds made with bamboo stems rather than plastic

Swap single-use packaging for refillables
There are many brands that now offer refills to help customers save on cost while saving the planet, including luxury brands like Chanel who has been offering fragrance refills for years.

French natural skincare brand L’Occitane, which offers a wide selection of refill pouches for hair and body washes, has used over 90% less packaging and has saved over 100 tonnes of plastic from being dumped in landfills.

Rihanna’s Fenty line offers refillable options for some moisturisers, while cosmetic brands like YSL Beaute, Dior and Chanel all offer refills for their foundations and powder compacts.

But if you are looking for eco-friendly lipstick, Hourglass Cosmetics offers a sleek Confession Ultra Slim High Intensity Lipstick that is refillable.

Use less tissue and cotton
Consuming less skincare peripherals such as tissue wipes or cotton to remove makeup is so much better for the environment and your wallet. Instead, remove dirt and impurities with cleansing balms or oils like Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil which does an amazing job of gently removing makeup. Sephora also retails various brands of machine-washable makeup remover towels that effectively remove makeup and exfoliates the skin.

Going green does not mean you have to ditch your beloved sheet masks. These days, reusable versions are becoming more readily available in the market, such as dry sheet masks from Charlotte Tilbury and Trish McEvoy which can be reworn about three times. You can also opt for biodegradable versions, such as The Body Shop Drops of Youth Concentrate Facial Sheet Mask.

Beauty For Good

Moving from plastic to glass packaging are revamped formulations of skincare faves: Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex Serum and Clinique Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator.

The limited edition Dr. Andrew Weil For Origins Mega-Mushroom Relief & Resilience Soothing Treatment Lotion was launched to coincide with Origins’ Earth Day initiative to raise money for NParks Plant-A-Tree programme.

For every limited edition Heaven & Earth kit purchased, Canadian vegan makeup brand Nudestix will help The Canopy Project plant one tree with the aim of planting 10,000 trees this year.

 

Love Beauty and Planet conditioners bottled in 100% recycled plastic have a fast-rinse technology to save water when you shower, and use only sustainably and ethically-sourced essential oils in their fragrances.

 

Supergoop! offers refills for its Re(setting) 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35 available at Sephora e-store from 13 May, and all cartons used are 100% recyclable.

 

L’Occitane’s refill packs have contributed to 90% less packaging and saved over 100 tonnes of plastic pollution.