I stumbled upon an article in an issue of Cosmetiscope-- a journal for cosmetic scientists-- detailing what 'green' means in the cosmetic industry. What I once thought to be no more than an eco-fad has quickly become quite important to a great majority internationally. Here's what I learned...
In order to be considered green the cosmetic manufacturer must make an effort to prevent waste. Generally chemical waste is detrimental to the environment so you can see why this would be important. A few other requirements are linked to preventing or reducing waste, so I'll discuss them now. Any substance that is used for the sole purpose of making a reaction work has to be renewable. It cannot be 'used up' in the process and it cannot be inactive when the process is complete. Similarly, green processes minimize the creation of side products that cannot be used in other applications. In addition, green processes make use of what I would call personal assistants which speed up the reaction and minimize the amount of starting material needed.
Next on the chopping block-- unnecessary chemicals. All the ingredients tossed into the mixing bowl have to be needed for effective application of the product. In other words, all those 15-35 letter ingredients that fascinate me so much (nerdy I know!) have to be in there for a darn good reason! Additionally, a fantastically green product serves its purpose and then calls it quits leaving no chemical scars on our blessed environment. And just for good measure, a real-time pollution prevention tool should be in place. Toxicity and risk of chemical disaster-- like explosions, fires, gas leaks (no big deal, right?) are kept to a minimum.
And with all the talk about energy conservation locally and on capital hill, its no mystery why the cosmetic industry would strive to be particular about the energy use in their chemical processes.
Stay tuned to see how well your cosmetic company of choice is doing with the transition!