Aveda is showing us the path forward

Last night in Boston, my friend Ryan and I were talking about how the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries are ripe for reform.  Unfortunately, there are few examples of sustainable companies to use as a model.  Aveda stands out in that regard.

In May, the Sustainability Officer of Aveda spoke at the Marlboro College Graduate School to MBA in Sustainable Management students. Aveda, founded in 1978 with the goal of providing beauty industry professionals with high performance, botanically based products that would be better for service providers and their guests, as well as for the planet, manufactures professional plant-based hair care, skin care, makeup, and lifestyle products.

Aveda stands out as a company doing the right thing.  First of all, they use plant based materials as much as possible, and source as much organic material as is available.  Second, they do a life cycle analysis of all packaging, with the goal of minimizing packaging, maximizing the use of post-consumer recycled materials, using materials that can be and are recyclable, and designing packaging so that the individual parts can be separated for recycling. Third, Aveda now purchases all of its power from wind sources. Aveda also parters with their salons to engage with their local communities, and with the communities that they source their materials from.  In short, the industry would do well to model themselves after Aveda.

Unfortunately, as Annie Leonard shows here, the industry is not following Aveda’s lead.  In fact, the industry is a disgrace.  The Environmental Working Group just released the results of a study on sunscreen.  I was shocked to learn that the sunscreen I had used contained oxybenzone, which can cause developmental/reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, allergies/immunotoxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation, and biochemical or cellular level changes.  As Annie says, toxics in, toxics out.  We use many products with ingredients that we know are harmful, even carcinogens.  In fact, the beauty industry is not sufficiently regulated.  Think about the shampoo, the conditioner, the soap, the deodorant, the suncreen, the moisturizer, the detergents, and the countless other products you use, and you get a sense of how pervasive all of these chemicals really are.

Until we demand that our government really screen the chemicals used in these products, and until we demand that words like natural and organic have real meaning when it comes to beauty and lifestyle products, we will all be putting ourselves at risk.  Aveda has had the right idea since 1978; it is time we all started to listen.

By the way, if you have not seen the original Story of Stuff, I encourage you to check it out.