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The Small (But Effective) Tweaks That’ll Help Make Your Beauty Routine More Sustainable

When you think of a “green” routine, do you envision a virtuous lifestyle replete with compost, solar panels, burlap sacks, two-minute showers, and perfectly sorted recycling bins? Does it feel as if you’re falling short by not taking extreme measures to live sustainably? First off, take a breather, because "going green" doesn’t always require dramatic, sweeping lifestyle changes (nor is the future of the planet resting on your shoulders alone). It’s the small, subtle, hardly noticeable changes to your everyday routine — like using reusable cotton rounds to apply toner or putting your reusable grocery bags by the door so you remember to take them with you shopping — that often make for real, long-lasting impact.
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Take it from April Lockhart, a 27-year-old fashion and beauty creator who embarked on her sustainability journey during college, when she got her own place and “began to understand the world around me as an adult and realized how much my actions affect the environment.” Such seemingly minor lifestyle changes might sound ineffective, but Lockhart says it’s essential to “not belittle the little things.” Real change, she adds, occurs when these small changes are sustained over time (and not abandoned shortly after, which can happen with more extreme measures). Ariel Urias, an L.A.-based sustainability advocate, echoes Lockhart’s sentiments, noting that sustainability journeys are not perfect, so being patient and kind to yourself is the first step.
With support from Garnier, which is celebrating the small steps people are taking to live more sustainably via its #OneGreenStep initiative, we asked Lockhart and Urias to share more about how they greenify their routines. Read on for their stories (and to watch them in action via TikTok), below.
Feeling inspired? Share the sustainable steps you take to enter Garnier’s #OneGreenStep contest, where you can win over $500 worth of sustainably minded Garnier products as well as home, lifestyle, and fashion items. Simply share a video or photo of the one green step you’re taking on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Be sure to use the hashtags #OneGreenStep and #Contest and don't forget to tag @GarnierUSA.
@refinery29 Make 👏🏽 sustainability 👏🏽 accessible 👏🏽 @GarnierUSA #onegreenstep #ad ♬ Lofi Vibes - Gentle State
What advice would you give to those who want to make their routine more sustainable but aren’t sure where to start?
“Walk through your routine, morning to night, and consider small changes you can make throughout the day: Use reusable bags instead of plastic bags for food (they look cuter anyway), swap your regular sunscreen for reef-friendly SPF, use reusable cotton pads, make sure your refillable products are made from fully recyclable material.” 
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How do you hope the sustainable tweaks you’ve made in your routine will shape the future? 
“I hope I can inspire other people to not overlook the impact of small changes in their routine. And I hope that more brands follow suit in sustainability efforts — not to be part of a trend, but because it’s just important. We're all really feeling the effects of climate change with hotter-than-hot summers and colder-than-cold winters. So, I hope sustainability efforts [from consumers and brands] will become so normal that we’ll finally start to see a difference in our world. Air quality is a big thing [that drives me], so planting trees really resonates with me. People underestimate the power of the life cycle of trees and how much they can really impact our air quality. Everyone deserves access to fresh, clean air.”
How do you stay motivated to live sustainably when the future feels uncertain or hopeless?
“So many people feel that it’s too overwhelming [to try and live sustainably]. I also felt that way growing up. Like, ‘What am I going to do? Am I really going to make a difference?’ And they don't end up doing anything. But think of it this way: Let’s say you go to the grocery store once a week. If you’re getting five or six plastic bags each time, that's a lot of plastic bags you’re getting, every week for 52 weeks a year. When you think about things like that, you realize how much it adds up. When you make changes, then you can encourage a friend to do it and create a domino effect.”
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What advice would you give to those who want to make their routine more sustainable but aren’t sure where to start? 
“First of all, being patient with yourself is really important. When it comes to sustainability — or just any sort of change that we want to do — we're very much like, ‘I'm going to go cold turkey! I'm never going to buy plastic ever again!’ Funnily enough, that isn't sustainable. So, slowing down and taking a good look at what you're using every single day and doing some research about a swap that may exist is [a good idea]. (Sometimes, a swap may not exist yet, and that’s okay.) Use products made from recyclable materials, and use the containers for something else when you run out.
"For example, I use the glass bottle my toner came in to propagate my plants. And when my candles are finished, I clean the jars out and use them to hold my Q-tips. Ask yourself how often you’re using, say, cotton balls. Are you throwing one away every single day? If the answer is yes, ask yourself if you can spend money on reusable cotton pads. If not, can you make your own? Or, is the product you’re applying with cotton balls (like toner) something you actually need in your routine? If so, can you apply your toner with your hands? Can you buy a toner that comes in a spritz bottle? A sustainable lifestyle doesn’t have to be this big, scary change, but it does require a little bit of slowing down and thinking about things.”
How do you hope the sustainable tweaks you’ve made in your routine will shape the future?
I hope it helps people realize it’s not ‘all or nothing’ — people can be imperfect in their sustainability journey. And I hope it encourages people to demand more transparency from companies and ask them where the products are made, how they’re made, what they’re made out of. I started my sustainability journey by learning how fashion impacts the planet. So, instead of shopping at fast-fashion retailers, I started supporting ethical brands. Then, I took a step back and looked at other realms of my life. I learned about the zero-waste movement, and one takeaway is that a good place to start is your trash — look at what you're throwing away and that’ll give you a good idea of changes that can be made. For instance, I had a lot of products for specific things when I could be using a multipurpose product. So, I hope my journey encourages others to start by making simple yet effective changes and knowing the rest will follow.”
How do you stay motivated to live sustainably when the future feels uncertain or hopeless?
“When I feel defeated, it helps me to remember that I’m trying my best — and my best is good enough. While I’m not solving the problem all by myself, I am doing everything within my capacity to not make things substantially worse. During my time on this beautiful earth, I'm doing everything I can to protect it and leave it better — or at least not fully destroy it. It’s counterproductive for us to get down on ourselves for not fixing everything. I love hiking, going outside, and swimming in the ocean. I’ve had opportunities to travel to beautiful places, and wondering how long they’re going to last really pushes me to keep doing what I’m doing.
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