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Package Mentality

Beauty companies lessen their environmental impact with recycled and renewable packaging.

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Beauty companies lessen their environmental impact with recycled and renewable packaging.

The cosmetics industry is hoping to make the Earth a more beautiful place — one recyclable jar at a time.

Given the upswing in consumer awareness about environmental issues, beauty brands are increasingly opting for greener packaging. Brands like Aveda and Natura are offering eco-friendly containers made from materials such as recycled plastic and cornstarch, while others are taking the recycling theme even further by embedding seeds in outer cartons, which can later grow into plants.

"Consumers are being educated to be conscientious about packaging waste and that's filtering through to our beauty products," said Nica Lewis, cosmetics research consultant at London-based tracking firm Mintel.

"It's a selling point for the brands whose very philosophy is about sustainable production," she said.

However, the trend isn't limited to niche organic lines. Many global beauty brands are taking steps to reduce the ecological impact of their packaging.

"People are looking at the back of the bottle and wanting to know not only what's in it, but what [the bottle] is made from," said Ashley Rosebrook, executive director of packaging design at The Estée Lauder Cos.-owned Aveda.

Since last year, the brand's annual Earth Month Candle is packaged in a box made from cardboard usually discarded during the printing process, and soy ink is used for labeling. Later this year the firm will introduce caps made from ground plastic caps collected at its own recycling points in schools.

Brazilian brand Natura, meanwhile, has set itself the target of only introducing packaging that has a lower environmental impact than items it replaces; the Ekos body care line, for example, uses recycled Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, bottles.

"If you want to do a good thing for the environment, the best thing is to use material that would be in the [trash] bin otherwise," said Alessandro Mendes, manager of Natura's research and development laboratory in France.

In addition, every product in Natura's new makeup line, due to launch in France in June, will be refillable.

"Buying a recharge saves packaging by around 50 percent," said Denise Figueiredo, managing director of Natura France.

Poly Lactic Acid, or cornstarch plastic, which is said to generate zero greenhouse gasses, is also generating buzz.

"Every company is looking to corn, it's renewable," said Natura's Mendes.

Aveda introduced labels made from PLA last year and plans to use the material to make caps for upcoming lines. In February, cosmetics firm Cargo launched PlantLove, a 12-unit lipstick line with tubes made from cornstarch. Estée Lauder's Origins brand is also planning to use corn derivatives for its caps, jars and labels.

Packaging can't get much greener than biodegradable cartons by brands including Pangea Organics and Cargo's PlantLove line, which have seeds embedded in biodegradable boxes, so that when they're discarded they grow into plants.

"We are constantly looking for ways to lessen our impact on the environment," said Joshua Onysko, Pangea Organics chief executive officer and founder. Added Aveda's Rosebrook, "We're practicing what we preach."