Cover Diane Van Zwanenberg, founder of eco-friendly brand Coconut Matter tells us how to make our skincare and beauty routine greener (Photo: Courtesy of Coconut Matter)

Coconut Matter founder, Diane Van Zwanenberg tells us why our skincare and beauty routine should be more eco-friendly and how we can achieve it

A lot of us might not know but the beauty industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging globally but only nine per cent of all plastic waste ever produced is recycled. Seeing this problem, Diane Van Zwanenberg started Coconut Matter. Wanting to break big sustainability goals into smaller steps, Coconut Matter allows people to get closer to living a more mindful lifestyle, without feeling overwhelmed.

The sustainable brand produces natural, vegan ingredients that are fair trade and organic, without testing on animals. Echoing with their mission to break down sustainability into smaller steps, we asked Diane to give us eco-friendly beauty and skincare tips so that we too can do our part in keeping the planet green.

See also: Why Improving Your Skin's Health During Covid-19 Matters, According To Tatcha Founder Vicky Tsai

Why does “greening up” your everyday beauty and personal care routine matter?

“Greening up” to me is about choosing products that are safer and simply kinder to our bodies and the planet.

Did you know the average woman uses 12 products containing 168 unique ingredients every day? Your skin absorbs what it encounters, so using products with less controversial chemicals means you’re basically reducing your exposure to potential health risks. Take Aluminium in traditional antiperspirants as an example, it’s been linked to breast cancer, so why take a risk with something that you’re applying on your underarms every day?

The global beauty industry also produces over 120 billion units of packaging every year—79 per cent of them end up in landfills, dumps, and oceans. When you start creating a more sustainable beauty routine, you’re essentially helping to reduce waste and do good for the planet just within your home.

See also: 7 Eco-Friendly Beach Essentials To Enjoy Summer In Hong Kong

In what ways have the way we consumed beauty and skincare products impacted the environment?

In the past, we tend to overlook the hidden costs and underlying implications of the products we buy.

Before I started Coconut Matter, I never really cared about my own environmental footprint. It was always more about me—what looked good to me, what was convenient for me—and I thought issues like climate change were more the responsibility of our governments.

My perspective only changed when I saw how much trash was being washed up on our shorelines and how much of it was made up of everyday household items. My family and I live by the beach, so it’s especially painful to watch when it’s typhoon season in Hong Kong.

Everyone wants to pay less or buy the product with the most aesthetic packaging, and I can understand that from a consumer point-of-view. Plastic packaging is very stable and always looks “cleaner” when compared to paper packaging but that also means it stays forever in our environment, taking hundreds of years to decompose. The full picture needs to be considered for our future generation.

See also: Climate Neutral Certifies Beauty Brands That Have Zero Carbon Footprint

How can we make our beauty and skincare routine more sustainable?

Tip 1: Don’t Stress & Make It Fun

To make your routine more sustainable, you’ll first have to make it sustainable. Be kind to yourself and remember lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight. Otherwise, you’ll end up berating yourself and eventually giving up altogether.

Start by doing a plastic audit with your family and brainstorm changes you can start making—whether it’s reducing your use of a specific item, making your own DIY recipes, or making new plastic-free swaps. You may love it or find yourself feeling icky about specific swaps and that’s okay! The key is to rediscover and find out an alternative way of life that works for you and the resources you have.

Tip 2: Buy Less, But Better

Make resourceful use of the products you already have and ask yourself if you really need to buy something because let’s be real, how many unopened tubes of lipsticks are just sitting on our bathroom shelves?

If you do need to buy, prioritise water-free products that are compact and high-performing. A lot of brands bulk up their products with water and other filler ingredients—when you choose solids, you’re buying products that are full of good stuff and will last you a long way. You’re basically also avoiding preservatives normally required in water-based products to prevent bacteria from growing.

See also: 8 Eco-Friendly Everyday Essentials

Tip 3: Choose Natural

What doesn’t get absorbed into your skin goes down the drain and into the environment so choosing products made with natural and biodegradable ingredients is key, so you know it won’t end up harming our environment. Take microplastics, commonly found in makeup and personal care products like scrubs, toothpaste, and hair products as an example, once they are released into the ocean, they end up harming our marine life or being in the fish we eat.

At Coconut Matter, we use COSMOS-standard as the guiding principle when we select our ingredients so we can make sure what we use has no known harmful effects on humans and are truly sustainable.

Tip 4: Ditch the Plastics & Say Hello To Reusables

Start identifying plastic items in your bathroom and discover ways on how you can reduce your plastic use or even go plastic-free. Some easy swaps you can begin with is using a soap bar as an alternative to body wash or choosing multi-purpose products. Do you really need a separate product to moisturise your hair, skin or remove your makeup or a good jar of coconut oil could do the job? Instead of using common single-use products like disposable razors or face wipes, invest in long-lasting products like a safety razor or a good quality reusable makeup remover cloth so you can reduce the waste you create.

See also: Miranda Kerr On Kora Organics, Her Beauty Secrets And Why We Should Switch To Organic Skincare

Tip 5: Ask & You’ll Receive!

When you pick up a product, scan the label and go through the ingredient list so you know what you’re buying. Ingredients are listed from the highest to lowest concentration, so if you see Aqua as the very first ingredient, you’ll know that you’re essentially paying for water. There are so many amazing resources out there now like ingredient analyser apps that help decode what’s really in your skincare and beauty products.

Hold brands accountable and research about how they’re making their products and who’s making them. Do they responsibly source their ingredients? Are they paying their workers a fair wage? Ask and keep yourself informed so you can ensure you’re buying from brands that are doing good for the planet and our community.

See also: Introducing Burberry's Bold Ambition To Be Climate Positive By 2040

How have brands changed over the years to make their products more sustainable?

We were one of the very first brands to launch plastic-free products back in 2015. I still remember how difficult it was to find a manufacturer who could do it for us and was willing to go through all the trial and error since it was a relatively “new concept”.

Now many big cosmetics brands are rethinking the way they package their products and are exploring plastic-free alternatives. We now have manufacturers coming up to us and asking if we’d like to give their plastic-free packaging a go, which would be crazy to imagine then. We also see the big trend of more and more products going water-less and being made using natural, biodegradable ingredients. It’s great to see how the conversation and system are shifting as a whole and it’s all thanks to consumers, especially the younger generation, who are now more conscious about what they buy.

As for ourselves at Coconut Matter, we’re also constantly looking for ways we can improve and do better! One exciting thing we’re working on this year is revamping the packaging of our boxes and Mood deodorants so it's fully compostable and not just biodegradable. We’re working hard to have them rolled out this year so stay tuned.

See also: Tom Ford And 52HZ Launch US$1.2 Million Plastic Innovation Fund To Develop Solutions For Thin-Film Plastic

What other things can we do to contribute to sustainability?

Join your local beach cleanup and I promise you will feel inspired and motivated to make a change. Just start noticing and being more mindful of your daily habits. Small changes make a big impact. Document your journey and share it with the people around you so more people can get involved.

See also: 7 Zero Waste Stores In Hong Kong


This article was originally published on July 28, 2021 and was updated on August 17, 2021.