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Sustaining Beauty

While ethical clothing has been an issue at the forefront of the fashion industry for some time now, the beauty industry is also catching up—not just in terms of abandoning animal products and testing techniques, but in embracing sustainable practices.


The Body Shop is one of the first brands that springs to mind when many consider ethical beauty practices. Director of corporate responsibility, Christopher Davis, tells Elle that while many firms source their ingredients from international traders, The Body Shop gets several of their natural ingredients through their Community Trade programme, a fair trade project that supports 25,000 people via suppliers in 21 countries around the world.


Many brands are also moving to ensure that their containers and stores that sell them are kinder to the Earth, too. Neal’s Yard, for instance, are not only using 100% recycled plastic bottles and recyclable glass, but have partnered with City to Sea charity in selected UK stores to provide free water refill stations to discourage reliance on single-use plastic bottles. L’occitane concoct their products with ethically-sourced ingredients, use environmentally friendly packaging and, some of their range such as the Almond Shower Oil comes in a refillable bottle. Return six empty Mac products to one of their stores and you’ll be rewarded with a free lipstick, and, similarly, in the US, Kiehl’s offer a coffee-shop loyalty card-like stamp system whereby you get stamped for every empty returned—10 stamps equal free travel-sized products. You’ll also get a free Fresh Face Mask at Lush when you take back five of their (cleaned) black pots.


Davis says that by understanding what goes into a product, consumers can make sure they have a positive impact on the environment to ensure the planet can “flourish” for years to come: “We can call make positive choices, starting with how we behave, what we choose to buy and use.”


One company has really taken things to the next level by establishing its very own sustainable beauty production village. The Davines Group was founded in Parma, Italy, in 1983 by the Bollati family as a research facility serving some of the world’s largest haircare and cosmetics companies. The following decade Davines began producing its own hair- and skincare items and developed sustainable philosophies to “encourage people to take care of themselves, of the environment in which they live and work, of the things they love”. In 2008, the firm was voted one of the country’s top 100 places to work by Institute Italia. Earlier this year came the announcement of the opening of their jaw-dropping village complex.


Designed by Matteo Thun’s and Luca Colombo’s Studio MTLC, around a fifth of the 77,000-square-metre eco-site in Parma is occupied by a gaggle of the greenest buildings including offices, a research and development laboratory, production plant, warehouse and a central greenhouse—the focal point of the complex designated for brainstorming and dining. All power comes courtesy of renewable sources like photovoltaic panels and a solar thermal system. There’s even a clever geothermal system that harnesses an underground aquifer. A near-pharmaceutical-grade filtration system ensures the air remains sterile in the production plant, while organic waste heads to the gardens, plastic drinks bottles are banned as are those awful coffee pods.


The ecovillage grounds are separated into various grounds and designated research areas such as the intriguing Scientific Vegetable Garden, an ‘open-air laboratory’ that grows medicinal plants and produce. All edibles head for the on-site eatery, and the space also doubles as an education destination for visitors. Other courtyard areas contain features like pools with aquatic plants, greenhouses, water features and small woodlands to further enhance the general air of wellbeing and reduce carbon footprints. Ten charging stations are available for those with electric vehicles. 


Looking to improve the immediate area, and inspire others to follow suit, Davines are installing the first experimental 300 metres of the Green Kilometre, an environmental project conceived by company owner Davide Bollati to cancel emissions from the local motorway. The idea is to encourage business overlooking the 11km stretch of road across this part of Parma to plant trees to create a functioning, literal green belt.




Some top Verve tips for keeping your beauty and styling regime eco-friendly:

  • Drinking through a straw means less need for lipstick touch-ups which means less need to buy more tubes. Just make sure the straws are biodegradable or reusable ones—plastic kind of misses the point!
  • While you’re shopping for your ‘green’ straws, invest in some makeup brushes crafted from sustainable materials such as bamboo.
  • The average Westerner uses 200 litres of water every day, yet 50 litres is plenty to meet our basic needs. Be mindful of your water use; turn off the tap between teeth brushing and face washing (more than seven litres are lost for every minute the tap runs), and do you really need to spend so long in the shower?
  • Make sure to squeeze every last drop from your products, and run dried mascara under a hot tap to make it liquified. You’ll save money as well as the Earth.
  • Plastic cotton buds are top of many an eco-evil list, and it’s little surprise. Many of these unbiodegradable items wind up in the stomachs of fish and sea birds, plus they’re also likely doing more damage than good to your ear anyway.
  • Even the shape of your product’s bottle can make a big difference to the environment. Rounded shampoo bottles, for instance, don’t stack as neatly as rectangular ones, so require more packaging and space for storage and transportation, reducing efficiency all round.
  • We all have wardrobes bulging with rarely—or even never—worn clothes, so why not hold a monthly get together with your friends where you can share wine and nibbles and swap those outfits and accessories?


Words: Jamie Christian Desplaces