The adage “beauty is pain” is highly disputable. But when beauty packaging and empty beauty containers make up a whopping 1/3 of waste found in landfills, “beauty is waste” seems a far more fitting, not to mention, indisputable saying for these modern times.
Despite the best of intentions, it remains that not all plastic bottles and containers are recyclable, which means that for all of our efforts spent sorting and properly disposing of them, many of them still end up in landfills. But the folks at TerraCycle have certainly demonstrated that it doesn’t have to.
The brainchild of wunderkind Tom Szaky, since 2001, the proudly green non-profit organization has been breathing new life into garbage, rendering previously non-recyclable goods, recyclable. There’s no such thing as waste for Szaky and his team, who collect everything from candy wrappers to cigarette butts (yes, you read right) to then repurpose into eco-friendly products, available for purchase at terracycle.ca. and other major retailers like Wal-Mart, Whole Foods Market, and Target. The latter feat, the green organization achieves in two ways: the first, upcycling, which entails taking a waste product as is and finding a novel use for it. Think of a used door converted into a table, for example. The other way is recycling, or extracting the materials that make up a waste product and using said materials to fashion a brand new product.
We recently made our way to TerraCycle’s offices in Toronto to see, and experience the magic of waste repurposing for ourselves. TerraCycle lives and breathes eco-friendly solutions, made evident by their rather psychedelic headquarters, replete with repurposed innovations. Frankly, it takes seeing the mind-boggling sorts of DIY projects like the ones lining the walls, shelves, (and even the ceiling) of the organization’s offices to believe in the infinite potential of waste repurposing. And it’s nothing short of eye-opening.
From left to right: The front entrance at TerraCycle; a disco ball made of compact discs; plastic bottles make for artistic décor; dresses made of old candy wrappers.
Luckily for us, we got to put our own DIY skills to the test, fashioning everything for gift bows to chandeliers out of empty plastic containers and beauty packaging. Upcycling is not only sustainable, but also wildly fun and addictive (even if you have two left hands, like I do!). But most importantly, waste repurposing, with concerted effort on the part of individuals, communities, and organizations, can effect real environmental change, one repurposed object a time. This alone is reason enough to eschew the rather lazy and unsound waste-management ways we’ve grown accustomed to.
1. Getting our arts & crafts on. 2. Plastic containers ready to go for some DIY fun. 3. Desk organizers, made easy. 4. Jessica from Beautezine, and yours truly, hard at work. 5. Gift bow made of Garnier labels. 6. A little beauty packaging goes a long way. 7. Our upcycling arsenal. 8. Waste repurposing is an engrossing task, can’t you tell? 9. Tah-dah: a chandelier! 10. A plastic garland, neat no?
Thanks to TerraCycle, and with the help of over 14 million people across 11 countries through collection programs, more than 1 500 products were born out of the recycling and/or upcycling of billions of waste since the company’s inception, subsequently reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions resulting from landfills and the use of incinerators.
Now, what can we, as consumers, do to reduce the alarming amount of waste our consumption of beauty products generate? Simple. Sign yourself, your household, your school, or even your community up and join the TerraCycle Personal Care and Beauty Brigade, a waste collection program made possible by Garnier Canada, a world-renowned sustainable beauty label who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. Suffice to amass all your empty beauty bottles and containers, and once you have a full collection box, simply print a postage label, which you’ll find online at terracycle.ca. And that’s it! Once your beauty waste makes it to destination, TerraCycle will credit you with points, each one redeemable for $0.02 towards the non-profit organization or school of your choice.
But, should our efforts stop here? Certainly not! We can also produce real change be being mindful of the very cosmetic products we use. How? Simply by supporting and purchasing from sustainable beauty brands, like Garnier. In addition to its partnership with TerraCycle on behalf of the beauty industry (Garnier and TerraCycle’s Beauty Brigade accepts all packages regardless of the brand), between 2005 and 2012, Garnier, the second largest beauty brand worldwide, has significantly reduce its water usage, as well as reduced its plastic usage by 10%. What’s more, the nature-focused brand’s Fructis Pure Clean hair care collection comes in PET (Polyethylene Teraphthalate) bottles–one of the most recyclable forms of plastic–and is free of silicone, parabens, and dyes, instead made up of 92% biodegradable formulas, which are capable of breaking down within 28 days. And during the month of April, for every Garnier product sold at Wal-Mart, Garnier will donate $.025 to Evergreen Canada, a national organization whose aim is to render our cities environmentally sustainable through greening projects in schools, parks, and communities across the country.
And in our everyday lives, the smallest of changes to our beauty regimen can make a world of difference:
- Opt for multitasking products, like 2-in-1 shampoos and conditioners, and 3-in-1 hairsprays.
- Use no more than a marble-size amount of shampoo or conditioner, and nickel-size amount of hair serum as a rule of thumb.
- Always be mindful of your water consumption, not letting the water run whether you’re brushing your teeth, shaving, or washing your face.
- Air dry your hair, and minimize the use of your hair tools (flat/curling irons, blow-dryers, and the like)
- Get the most recent shower head model you can get your hands on, as newer versions dispense less water per minute.
- Unplug appliances and hair tools when not in use, as they draw power even while they’re switched off.
- Hang your clothes in the bathroom while you shower. The steam generated will steam your clothes, and save energy that would otherwise be spent with the use of an iron or steamer.
- Decorate your home with plants. The latter organisms absorb airborne particles and contaminants, in addition to cycling air through their leaves.
- Keep your consumption of plastic to a minimum. Instead of a shower puff, opt for a loofa made of natural materials like hemp.
With Earth Month well underway, there’s no time like the present to commit to Mother Earth, and make that commitment one you’ll carry long after April.
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All photos by Cory Vanderploeg from Hermann & Audrey