The ultimate goal for the future of humanity, as we all know, is to become sustainable. The cosmetics industry is no exception. I’m happy to report that the United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) lists Principles of Green Chemistry on their web site for the entire industry to aspire to. These principles were first published in the book Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice, in 1998. They include:
1. Preventing waste.
2. Designing safer chemicals and products. In other words, trying to make raw materials as non-toxic as possible.
3. Designing less hazardous chemical syntheses. In other words, when combining chemicals, make sure the resulting combination is non-toxic.
4. Using renewable feedstocks. In other words, using agricultural materials that are renewable.
5. Using catalysts. In other words, using a very small amount of a special chemical compound which can carry out a reaction multiple times, thus eliminating waste.
6. Avoiding chemical derivatives. In other words, use the original compound, not parts of it which require distillation or chemical reactions to separate out.
7. Maximizing atom economy. In other words, use everything. Don’t throw anything away.
8. Using safer solvents. In other words, use water or other safe solvents whenever you can and avoid more toxic solvents.
9. Increasing energy efficiency. In other words, produce products at room temperature so you don’t need to heat or cool anything for prolonged periods of time.
10. Designing chemicals and products to degrade after use. In other words, make products that will break down after use and not accumulate in the environment.
11. Analyzing in real time to prevent pollution. In other words, test as you go to avoid transporting materials for testing, storing materials for testing, etc.
12. Minimizing the potential for accidents. In other words, use safe ingredients which won’t explode or otherwise be released into the environment.
That all sounds great, right? Well, it is. But the industry is not close to being able to brag about being “green”. I have spoken to several sources about it, and the consensus is that achieving a “green” industry is at least a decade away. I have a hunch that if you were to press these industry insiders, they would honestly tell you it is probably more like two decades away. And if you looked down at their hands, I think they’d be tightly crossing their fingers, hoping for the best.
While Acne.org is admittedly not there yet either, when we make our products, we make sure to work with companies which actively employ available green technologies, and we stay on top of them, offering creative solutions whenever possible. If we can be a part of making a green industry happen in just a small way, we’re proud to do so.