No Nukes, Green Beauty & the
By Remy C.
An afternoon at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit organized by
Bill McDonough who was the opening keynote speaker
C2CCertified, is often coined saying that he supports nuclear power, as long
as it's 93 million miles away! The issue of nuclear power and safe
cosmetics have more in common than you might think. They are
both based in an admission of what is considered to be
acceptible risk, the precautionary principle, due diligence and resistance to change
dependent on large conglomerates who profit immensely from the
I was pleasantly surprised and also quite thrilled to learn that my
media request to cover this event was accepted. It wouldn't have
been possible for me to go otherwise as the admission fee is
quite steep, limiting participation to dedicated professionals.
I was permitted to attend the first day afternoon session, the
following CEO rountable, and the reception. I would miss Stacy
Malkan of the
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
the next day, that "recent study shows radioactive iodine
in the breast milk of women in Japan."
I'll admit, I cheated a bit, and timed my arrival to coincide
with the tail end of the morning panel so I would catch up with
Bill McDonough who I had not touched base with in a long time.
We're trying to bring him on board as a full fledge member of
Rock The Reactors, especially now that he is introducing an A19
LED bulb called
But Bill has reservations about being too vocal concerning his
anti-nuclear convictions for fear it might upset his more
corporate clients, and so Bill I'm sorry for outing you, but
all's fair in love and war! Janet MacGillivray Wallace joined
him for lunch. They are collaborating on a project together.
Janet was with
Riverkeeper for many
years before moving to San Francisco. So I still harbor some
hope that we can enlist Bill to do the right thing, and help us
shut down Indian Point.
By searching twitter archives from that morning, and keywording
read that Bill said two things that captured the attention of
the audience: "How many of you know there are toxins in your
products? Negligence is knowing better and doing it anyway." and
also "Is it your intention to destroy the planet, is that your
business strategy?" Harsh words that need to be put into
One of the main drivers in the chemical industry beleive it or
not, is the beauty industry. Globally we spend over 190 billion
dollars a year on beauty products and services, 20 billion in
the US alone. There are over 256.000 beauty salons in this country.
Worldwide L'Oreal's revenues reach 20 billion annually, making
it the largest, most powerful beauty company on the planet.
So it's no surprise that back in the late 60's the theme of
In Like Flint
starring James Coburn was beauticians taking over the
world! Or that in the TV series Fringe, a beauty conglomerate
rules the planet. The beauty industry is a force to be reckoned
with, with far reaching influence over the development of new
science and patents.
Until the mid-2000s, organic cosmetics were pretty much
limited to shelves of health food stores, founded in 1994
Jane Iredale first comes
to mind, along with other small entrepreneurs
making product in their kitchen. But something happened. The
work that eco-pioneers like Bill McDonough were doing in the
building industry, the development of non-toxic carpet fibers
and cradle to cradle design protocols,
the influence it subsequently had on sustainable clothing design, seeded
dynamic and systemic changes in the fashion industry. Eco-luxury
was born; wealthy, influential women were beginning
to ask for a level of commitment to green ideals that became
standard bearer and motivated the entire fashion industry to start
improving the way it related to the natural world.
Women everywhere started reconnecting with their feminine
selves, practicing yoga, dreaming of owning organic farms,
leading to a very European explosion and rebirth of fresh food
markets. Ingredients in everything were being questioned, the
doctor in the lab coat from the 50's no longer inspired
confidence. To quote Ani DiFranco in her song Decree: "And cancer, the
great teacher has been opening schools downstream from every
factory. Still, everywhere fools are squinting into microscopes
researching cells trying to figure out a way that we can all
live in hell."
It became self-evident that over the years, cancer, a disease
that barely existed in antiquity, was now causing a great deal
of pain, could be traced back to the poisons we are releasing
into the environment, least of which the realization, that many
are being rubbed directly into our skin from the formulations of
top brand cosmetics! And yet, there still hasn't been studies
done on retired fashion models or stage performers to analyze cancer
rates in these
This makes a conference like the
Sustainable Cosmetics Summit very important in the grand scheme of things, because it
starts connecting so many different disciplines, all reliant on
each other to bring products to market. The greatest part of the
beauty business is selling the dream of eternal youth. Anyone who has read Lost Horizons or seen Ursula Andress in the
She knows how fleeting
that aspiration can be.
Open any fashion magazine, the majority of advertisers tout
skin care, lipstick, eyeliner, shampoo, escapes to far away
spas... suddenly, this back to Earth movement is obliging the
top name brands to reformulate both its ingredients and the way
in which it appeals to women sensibilities. And so, editors of
these magazines, must abide by some degree of ethical
principle in regard to the featured ads that financially support their titles, confronted with an extremely difficult dilemma and task ahead.
In 2006, when we formed
Rock The Reactors, we
anticipated this change of perspective would take place, that
most models, photographers, and makeup artists would embrace the
green lifestyle, not only in their personal lives but also in
their chosen profession. So we enlisted the sustainable fashion
industry in support of a reconsideration of the cosmetics
industry, in association with commitment to a nuclear-free
future, and launched GreenMUA.
Green chemistry was becoming a buzz
word, and soon Universities like
Yale created dedicated science
departments to address the rise in concern. My personal vested
interest was to bring the sudden attention cosmetic giants were
putting into the development of more environmentally benign
ingredients to the service of better batteries, which we now
know can be made from aerogel amino acid chains. In turn these
strong bond proteins can be extracted from hemp seed. The
Body Shop, now owned by
L'Oreal, was one of the first large companies to introduce hemp
based consumer goods to the mainstream.
Currently L'Oreal's top celebrity spokesperson is
Longoria, owns a green shopping mall in Portland, and
sits on the board of advisors for dozens of environmental
organizations. I suggested to Pamela Gill Alabaster, senior VP
of sustainable development at L'Oreal, that her company has an amazing
opportunity today to take the lead in the reformulation of
beauty products. Last year it introduced their "Nature"
series in selected salons. L'Oreal contributes generously to
Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
who also owns the Next modeling agency, home of many green super
models like Summer Rayne Oakes and May Lindstrom.
I mentioned to Liliana George, head of green innovations at
Estee Lauder, that in my opinion, it all starts with the
ingredients, everything else is branding and packaging. I think
this boils down the message of this event. That no matter how
many ways you try to green a product's image, if the
ingredients themselves are not up to what we expect of the
standards, you will always fall prey to accusations of green
The Sustainable Cosmetics Summit brings together some of the top
executives in the beauty industry, and leaders from the much
smaller, but increasingly successful organic cosmetics brands
quickly grabbing important shares of the market. It's
interesting to watch this marriage unfold, because it exists
solely from the willingness and desire of these small
brands to share their resolve with the giants in a genuine
attempt to use green beauty as a flagship issue in our quest to
save what's left of this planet.
It's in the way we harvest the botanicals that go into making
these powders, oils and creams... instilling new respect for the
land and its farmers... what cosmetics have in common with the
agriculture of fibers for textiles. We want our emotional desire
to change the world for the better to be contagious, despite the
certainty that if and when these large cosmetics giants go full
steam ahead with adopting these principles, they will continue
to dominate the market, but what better way to save the world
than with beauty as Dostoyevsky once wrote?