Sustainable Ingredients for Health and Wellness

March 19, 2019
Written by Moni Wahid

Every day we all do simple things like brushing our teeth or showering. We’ve also established our go-to products we like to use when doing these things. However, have we ever really looked at what these are they made of? What kind of impact do they have on the environment? A crucial component of the things we use is literally what they are made of and the ingredients that go into making things such as your favourite lotion.

Reading the Package

Brand loyalty is a great thing, however, to move towards a zero-waste lifestyle, a great place to start is to take a look at the ingredients used in what you are using.

All of these ingredients runoff from our use into the environment and are found in animals and their habitats-- especially aquatic organisms. These ingredients lead to disruption in animal reproduction, genetic mutations, and water pollution to name a few of the more pressing issues.

An example in our own backyard is how sunscreen is harming the ecosystem of the Cowichan River. Ingredients such as parabens and triclosan are harming the insect life and creating a decline in insect population. While this seems insignificant, their absence has a direct influence on various fish such as the coho salmon. The coho salmon come to the Cowichan River to spawn. Their numbers are declining from having a lesser amount of insects as a food source.


Palm Oil

This ingredient is very common in so many of our products. Using it has a huge effect on our environment. To make palm oil, valuable forest land and peatlands (a type of wetland that help prevent flooding), are razed to make palm plantations. Deforestation is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and greenhouse gasses. The production of palm oil also leads to soil, water, and air pollution, and loss of habitat for indigenous peoples and animals.

A tip, palm oil isn’t always obvious on labels. It often masquerades as glyceryl, stearate, stearic acid, etyl palmitate, octyl palmitate, and palmityl alcohol.

A great step in eliminating the use of these ingredients is by looking for specific terms on the labels. Look for:

  • Biodegradable ingredients

    • Which means it’s decomposable and can break down safely into the earth

  • Free of parabens

    • Parabens are a chemical that helps prevent growth of bacteria; it mimics estrogen in animals and causes mutations

  • Free of SLS/SLES

    • SLS/SLES are a chemical that is used for cleaning; it’s made from palm oil

  • Animal cruelty free/no animal testing

  • Septic safe

    • The used water from our sinks and showers go into the septic tank system and go into bodies of water

  • Safe in rivers, lakes, and oceans

Ultimately using sustainable products is easy enough if you know what to look for. The best suggestion is to look for stores and brands that specialize in eco-friendly products. Try checking out stores like The Soap Dispensary or Port Moody Refillery. Once you find something you like be sure to buy in bulk or choose packaging that’s environmentally friendly (more information on that coming soon). Or you can try your hand at making your own products so you can be sure that the ingredients are zero-waste. Try finding alternatives to your favourite lip balm, lotions, shampoos, and etc. today.