Aqua once sang “life in plastic, it’s fantastic,” but we would have to disagree. Did you know it takes 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose in the environment? And that most of the plastic used in the world today is for single-use items? So if you’ve ever contemplated purchasing a reusable water bottle, the time is now.
We have become a species than demands more, more, more. We want things now, and we want them to be cheap. We only keep things for a short amount of time. In fact, consumer waste has increased more than tenfold over the 20th century—from 40 kilogrammes to 560 kilogrammes of waste per person per year. Rainforests are cut down at a rate of 100 acres a minute. An estimated 50,000 species inhabiting our tropical forests become extinct annually.
Environmental Secretary Michael Gove recently said he wants to ban plastic straws in the UK. Straws pollute the oceans and damage marine wildlife: BBC series Blue Planet II recently showed footage of just how devastating plastic pollution in the oceans can be. Between eight and 12 tonnes of waste plastic are dumped into the oceans each year. If current levels of pollution continue, there will be more plastic than fish in the seas by 2050, according to the UN.
Plastic straws are just the beginning. (In case you’re wondering, yes—you can buy biodegradable straws here.) There are a tonne of facts and figures stating how consumerism is affecting our planet at all levels, from the environment, to human costs and harm to animals—but what can we do to help the issue?
This year I’ve decided to be much more conscious in my choice of purchases, and I have found that there are some fantastic ethical products out there—if you know where to look. Next time you need to buy something, do a quick Google search if there’s a recycled or reusable version. It’s a small effort, but you might be surprised at what’s on offer. Getting into the habit and educating yourself on the effects of not buying eco-friendly are all fantastic motivators.
In general, goods in the UK are cheap—but there’s usually a cost somewhere down the line that we’re not seeing. It’s frustrating, as the consumer is not always aware they’re doing harm. I believe big corporations should tell us where their products come from, who they're made by and exactly what’s in them—but the reality is that they don’t. The option is to do nothing, or take it upon yourself to find out which companies you should be shopping.
Whether it’s buying organic cotton pads instead of the regular kind (ideally ditch both and go reusable like the remover pads below, but small steps.) Opting for Fair Trade, shopping “small” from independent designers, buying from companies that support sustainability, use natural ingredients and don’t test on animals all help the cause. Ideally we’d love everything we bought to adhere to all of these missions together, but one is better than none.
It has been discussed if shopping ethically is a class issue—as eco-sourced and sustainable products are often more expensive, which can exclude those with limited disposable income, even if they did want to make a change. This is true, but it’s not always the case. With picks like our £3 recycled notebook—a price most would pay at any retailer—choosing to buy well is possible, albeit you may have to search that bit harder.
We’ve chosen the chicest products that are doing great things for our planet, below. Prices range from £2 to £90. The feel-good factor is free.
Give your lips some love after the bad weather with this delicious lip tonic. Sophie is the lawyer turned skincare expert behind Sister & Co. She first discovered the benefits of coconut oil following a skin breakout on holiday in India. She struggled to find brands without chemicals in the UK, so she started one herself. The range includes scrubs, haircare and lip treatments. All products are cold-pressed at a small organic farm in Sri Lanka using only the finest extra-virgin coconut oil.
Gorgeous woven baskets are taking over our social feeds of late. If you’re going to buy one, this diamond-patterned beauty is handwoven and fair trade, meaning the makers are paid fairly for their work. Fair trade also ensures environmental standards and sustainability are promoted. It helps alleviate poverty by exporting goods from developing countries, helping producers and workers move from a position of vulnerability to economic self-sufficiency. Buying fair trade empowers the makers of items like this one to become stakeholders in their own organisations and achieve greater equity in international trade.
Bring the outside in whilst helping yourself and the environment. We wrote about the benefits of having air purifying plants in your home—they’re capable of absorbing harmful substances and can also release oxygen into the air. Housing your plants in a recycled glass vase is even better. This version—made from 100% hand-blown recycled —is the perfect on-trend piece to buy now. Whilst the best air-purifying plant is mother-in-law's tongue, eucalyptus is a great one to have around the house. Keep it in the bathroom where the steam will release the natural oils and gorgeous scent.
This chic little toothbrush is made from bamboo, which has been recognised as one of the most versatile woods on the planet, with an incredible capacity for growth. Many toothbrushes are made from polypropylene, with 50% of the eco costs incurred during the manufacture and distribution process alone.
As if that wasn’t enough to put you off, it’s estimated that up to a billion toothbrushes end up in landfill every year. Whilst the bamboo is entirely biodegradable, unfortunately there are no nylon-free bristles on the market yet, so this toothbrush isn’t perfect (but it comes pretty close and is definitely a better alternative to plastic.)
Packing a lunch is a great idea (check out our recipe for glowing skin); just be sure to wave goodbye to plastic forks, knifes and spoons, which can’t easily be recycled. (According to the U.S. National Park Service, it takes plastic up to 450 years to decompose in the environment.) This eco-friendly birchwood cutlery set is a much better option.
I recently stopped using makeup wipes after learning many are made from nonbiodegradable polyester, which can be catastrophic for the environment. A report by the Marine Conservation Society revealed wipes have become the fastest-growing cause of pollution on our beaches. Volunteers pick them up from our coastline at a rate of 35 wipes per kilometre. Britain spends more than £500 million a year on wipes, and our spending is forecast to continue leaping by £10 million every year.
These reusable makeup wipes are made from organic velour (coloured) and fleece (cream). They’re half moon–shaped to create zero waste from the fabric cutouts. They’re washable, meaning you can use them again and again. Goodbye, single-use cotton wool pads in a plastic bags. Not to mention that they’re more economical. These also arrive unpackaged, with just a piece of string tying them together. To remove makeup, just add micellar water (trust us, your skin will thank you for it.)
If you’re trying to be healthy (and organised) this year, why not use these cute bee wraps to keep your tasty lunch recipes fresh? Whilst you may usually reach for cling film, it’s all about thinking long term and cost per use. Instead of buying numerous £2 rolls of cling film (the contents of which you’ll throw away), spend £15 on these natural food wraps that are just as efficient and will last a lifetime. They look pretty stylish, too.
Golden Glow is a blend that can be enjoyed at any time of the day in juices, smoothies, and lattes, and as a nutritional supplement. Glowing skin starts from the inside out, and this blend of turmeric, maca, Siberian ginseng, brahmi and black pepper is full of beneficial antioxidants and vitamins. Golden Glow focuses on consumption with a purpose and a preventive approach to health, ethically sourcing all its organic turmeric from community farms in Sri Lanka.
If your soles can get a bit chilly during yoga (where normal socks are a slippy no-go), you may be in need of a pair of tread-bottom socks. These have elastic straps and an anti-slip strip on the heel to keep them in place. The brand, Great Soles, is equally as impressive as its product. It’s committed to sustainability and supporting local businesses, and carefully chooses materials to minimize its environmental impact. Great Soles also supports cancer research and education by donating a portion of the profits from the sale of each product.
Turns out even working out can be eco-friendly. Veja Sdu trainers are aesthetically pleasing (we love the mix of burgundy and pink) and made from sustainable vegan materials—the inner sole is organic cotton, and the “V” logo is wild rubber. Veja Sdu works with Brazilian farmers to produce its socially conscious trainers and is committed to ethical business practices.
Did you know the average life span of a single-use cup is just 13 minutes? Plus, due to their plastic content, less than 1% get recycled. So know that every time you use your bamboo travel mug, you’re helping make a tiny dent in the 100 billion single-use coffee cups that go to land fill each year. Imagine if we all changed this habit—it could change the world. There are so many stylish alternatives available, but we especially love this patterned number from Leon.
As if chocolate wasn’t feel-good enough, this particular bar can make a real difference on people’s lives here in the UK. Arthouse Meath is a social enterprise made up of collective of artists living with complex epilepsy and learning disabilities. The artists work alongside instructors to create art that’s then developed into products for sale (like the beautiful printed packaging on this chocolate). All artwork derives from the skills each artist brings to the enterprise, and every contribution holds real value. One hundred percent of the revenue sustains the enterprise, enabling it to expand and evolve. The bar is handcrafted in the UK by a specialist chocolatier using cocoa beans sourced from the Dominican Republic.
If you’re gonna shop for healthy foods on a budget, you might as well do it using a fashionable (and reusable) bag. Say bye to plastic bags, each of which take 10 to 20 years to decompose. And even when they do, they break down into smaller toxic parts, contaminating soil and waterways, meaning animals accidentally ingest the harmful substance. Approximately 100,000 sea turtles and other marine animals die every year because they either mistake the bags for food or get tangled in them, reports Natural Environment. This tote’s slogan is uplifting, and you’ll feel good every time you use it.
H&M’s eco-luxe Conscious Collection is entirely made from organic and recycled materials. The H&M group does not own any factories—all products are made by independent suppliers, often in developing countries. The brand prides itself on the way its suppliers are treated (e.g., with fair wages and good working conditions). H&M encourages garment recycling and has a voucher program offering discounts to those who donate their old clothes at its stores. If your flat could do with a little spring spruce-up, look no further than H&M’s Conscious Homeware Collection—this cushion cover brings the greenery trend inside (no watering needed).
Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Zinnia adds a touch of subtle, sheer colour whilst giving your lips eight hours of moisture. Burt Bees use shea butter and botanical waxes free from parabens, phthalates, SLS or petrolatum. Ingredients are responsibly sourced and sustainably made. The company is also raising funds to support vital research and education projects to help save the honeybee.
These may not be the most glamorous of products included in our list, but they are something the majority of us use, so why not ensure they’re eco-friendly? In 2015, the Marine Conservation Society reported that cotton buds make up around 60% of all sewage-related beach litter. The campaign #switchthestick followed, and many major brands and retailers—including Johnson and Johnson, Waitrose and Aldi—agreed to stop producing plastic cotton buds. These buds are made from bamboo and cotton, which means they can easily break down. No plastic = fantastic.
Containing vitamin E, jojoba and evening primrose oils to moisturise and soften the skin, plus anti-ageing sea buckthorn essential oil this balm has been specially formulated for stretch marks. Cowshed products are made from sustainable sources, with every effort is made to ensure that ingredients are sourced ethically. All oils are organic, natural and wild-crafted. The brand uses fair trade botanicals with products made to order in the UK. Cowshed use minimal cosmetic materials, and no products are tested on animals.
This elixir features a trio of the purest salts to cleanse, balance and heal skin. This soak’s Mediterranean, pink Himalayan and Dead Sea salts will naturally restore your skin’s glow. The sea clay boosts radiance and helps to rejuvenate, whilst lavender and calendula naturally relax mind and body. Any product Free People sells coincides with its sustainability ethos: From recyclable shopping bags, partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters to run a donation drive or using a reusable design and restoration strategy in our offices and stores, Free People make decisions with the environment in mind. With that in mind, this sounds as if it’s shaping up to be the most relaxing bath ever.
We’ve already written about how journaling can help with anxiety, so why not go the whole feel-good way and write in an eco notebook (and a chic patterned one at that). This notebook is only £3, but it’s made from 100% recycled paper, is designed and made in the UK, and is from a small business. Even the packaging is recycled—an ethical bonus!
Nude by Nature is committed to delivering 100% naturally derived and cruelty-free makeup, formulated without unnecessary chemicals, synthetic ingredients or preservatives. This highlighter stick is long-lasting, super shiny (in a good way) and comes in three shades. Nude by Nature cosmetics are sourced from the Australian environment, harnessing powerful ingredients such as kakadu plum, known to have the world’s richest source of natural vitamin C. All products are formulated without synthetic ingredients or preservatives like talc, silicon, siloxanes and parabens, which can all negatively impact the environment. The brand pledges not to do business with any company that practices child labour.
This shea butter soap with damask rose extract will gently cleanse, moisturise and soothe your skin. Based in Cumbria, the Bath House uses sustainable palm oil and makes all its products in small batches. This soap is vegan and free from parabens, SLS, animal testing and triethanolmine. All-natural goodness mixed with the joy of prosecco? Win-win.
If you need a stain remover, cast aside your plastic-bottled, chemical-ridden spray in favor of Living Naturally’s stain-remover stick. This handy product is made with all-natural, biodegradable ingredients. There are no artificial dyes or perfumes—just the fresh, clean scent of natural eucalyptus and the deodorizing power of litsea. It works on grass, red wine, ketchup, blood, grease and sweat stains (to name a few), and won't discolour clothes or fabrics. At under £4, there’s really no excuse to choose a chemical alternative.
If you’re trying to beat the bloat, peppermint tea can be a real godsend. One brand in particular is ruling with its environmentally friendly and ethically sourced tea. Clipper tea is prepared entirely from 100% organically grown peppermint leaves using only unbleached paper in the bag’s manufacturing. Tea is sourced exclusively from producers that implement comprehensive social and economic policies. They pay workers fairly and pursue environmentally friendly practices to ensure the protection of the land, animals and people who live on it. Tea with a conscience, if you will.
These therapeutic eye pillows are perfect for yoga, meditation and relaxation. They can even be heated to relax or sooth sore muscles, or cooled to reduce swelling and relieve headaches. All Blästa Henriët products are made from natural, hypoallergenic linen that’s kind to your skin. Each piece is designed to last, made by hand in London using water-based, nontoxic inks. Shopping “small” from local businesses is great for the environment—UK purchases require less transportation, plus smaller businesses and handmade products don’t have the factory emissions of larger brands and often use less packaging. They’re also key to creating local employment.
A luxurious vegan conditioner is sulfate-free and paraben-free, stimulates hair growth, and combats dandruff—sounds good, right? Maria Nila is dedicated to being cruelty-free whilst creating high quality products. The brand is certified PETA, Leaping Bunny and The Vegan Society. Plus, every time you buy, you contribute to the planting of new trees in South America.
Lebon uses ethical and natural ingredients combined with delicious natural notes from Grasse, France, to make its toothpaste extra special. Lebon contains certified-organic aloe vera and green tea to naturally help protect gums and prevent tooth decay. Plus, all the brand’s toothpastes are vegan and naturally sweetened with stevia.
This perfect T-shirt bra comes from Weekday, a brand that strives to use resources as efficiently as possible and minimise waste. Weekday helps the environment by using freight methods that lead to the least carbon dioxide emissions to transport its items, dispatching clothes by ship. Weekday believes in good working conditions, meaning you can be confident that when you buy an item from the brand, the person who made your garment was fairly treated. These things may sound as if they should go without saying (and they should), but trust us, they’re unfortunately not the practice of every company.
Made from natural soy wax and boasting a gorgeous lime-and-bayleaf fragrance, this vegan candle is the perfect evening pick-me-up after a stressful day. The producer of this candle, Natural Collection has been supporting sustainable production, ethical innovation and green ideas since 1999. The Natural Collection range is organic and responsibly manufactured, and uses recycled and biodegradable materials, aiming to “harness nature’s benefits without exploiting her resources.”
If you’re going to buy a new makeup brush, may we suggest EcoTools? Sisters Jen and Stacey set out to create a brush collection that was not only environmentally friendly, but chic, high-quality and affordable too. They sourced recycled materials, renewable bamboo and better manufacturing processes and in 2007, EcoTools was born. Last year, the company marked a decade of living beautifully by making a £74,000 donation to Glamour’s The Girl Project via the #MyTrueBeauty campaign. All EcoTools products are PETA certified, and 100% cruelty-free and vegan.
By Sarah’s handy travel-size facial oil is the perfect addition to your makeup tote. It uses a signature blend of all-natural and certified-organic, cold-pressed plant-based oils. Ingredients provide skin-boosting nourishment, softness and deep hydration. The Organic Lip Balm is a soothing and protective balm blended using 100% certified-organic ingredients. All products from the brand are vegan and cruelty-free, and made in England. All products are produced in amber glass and customers are encouraged to recycle the bottles and postal box.