With the ice caps melting and carbon emissions skyrocketing, it's easy to feel helpless about the dire state of our planet. But at some point, the conversation has to shift away from the doom and gloom and focus on action; the ways in which we can change our daily habits to ensure we're kinder to the earth in general. Eating less meat and recycling on the regular is a great place to start, but there are a few more steps you can take that will make an enormous difference — and it all begins with your makeup drawer.
A report from the Environmental Protection Agency states that nearly one-third of waste in American landfills is created by personal-care products, which includes everything from shampoo bottles to foundation tubes. The beauty industry as a whole has moved toward more thoughtful, environmentally-friendly policies, with numerous brands promoting their efforts to be zero-waste, or using a refill system to cut down on it. But in all actuality, making a single beauty product that is fully recyclable is surprisingly — and frustratingly — difficult.
Āether Beauty founder Tiila Abbitt, who previously worked at Sephora as a senior director of product development specializing in sustainable materials, knows this well. "I've always been a packaging junkie," Abbitt says. "I worked on the sustainability team at Sephora leading research development, so I was always trying to research and find greener alternatives, but so many brands wanted to put the client and their needs first over the environment." With her own brand, Abbitt was able to create the first-ever entirely recyclable eyeshadow palette — and you still can't just throw the entire thing into a recycling bin without taking out the little tin eyeshadow pans first.
"It's the first palette without any mirrors or magnets, and that’s not really done," Abbitt says. "I even had to research the paper and ink I was using in this to make sure it could go back into the [recycling] system. Making little tweaks like that, there’s a market for it. If you look at the natural beauty space right now where they claim to have sustainable packaging, there's often parts of it that people don't know about that aren't actually recyclable. Like, you can recycle the glass bottle, but not the plastic lid."
The average consumer simply isn't aware of all the tiny details — the little parts of your beauty products that make them not recyclable, and therefore not-so-eco-friendly after all. Ahead, Abbitt breaks down the top five product components you didn't even know were non-recyclable. Prepare to be shocked.