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Why I Don’t Use Biodegradable Glitter

A lot of people tell me I should add glitter to my lip balms and bath bombs. I get it, kids love the colour and an extra bit of fun and luminescence that glitter brings. I’d probably sell more products and the company would grow more quickly. Bottom line: The decision to not use glitter could be eating into my profits. Is it worth it? Yes, and I’d like to tell you why.

I started ON! Juniper for three reasons. First, I couldn’t find anything that I considered safe for my kids who were aged 5 and 6 at the time. Safe for me meant all organic + natural ingredients. Take lip balms for instance – I didn’t want my children smothering their lips with the likes of petroleum by-products, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and parabens. Even though studies have shown that these ingredients may contribute to endocrine disruption (and even cancer), most children’s lip balms still include them. It isn’t logical.

Second, I’ve always been an environmentalist. Concern over the footprint that I leave on the environment has always impacted the way I live my life. This includes the products I buy.

Third, in searching for these organic + natural products for my kids (and myself), I started to get really cynical about the amount of greenwashing. The term isn’t new to me, but I have to admit I’ve been caught out by some of these tactics. In particular, it really bothers me when I see companies advertising their product as natural or organic only to realise later that only a small percentage of it is actually made with organic and/or natural ingredients. Greenwashing to me shows traits of dishonesty & a total lack of caring for the environment, just to sell more products. It also shows a lack of respect towards the consumer and integrity within the company. When I buy a product, I am buying into and supporting the company’s ethos. If the company’s ethos doesn’t align with my values, I simply don’t support them.

One of the founding elements of ON! Juniper is to provide straightforward, clean and simple products for children and tweens. Our messaging is clear and honest. And this leads me back to the issue at hand: glitter.

We don’t use glitter because there isn’t any currently available on the market that is 100% biodegradable.  Remember when I said that I’ve been caught out by greenwashing? Well, this is one example. I bought a sample pack of what was advertised as biodegradable glitter for the bargain price of £35. In hindsight, I should have asked some hard questions about the glitter’s lifecycle before purchasing, but I didn’t. I believed what I read. It was advertised as 100% biodegradable, even the baggies they came in had “100% biodegradable glitter” stamped on the front.

However, something about the product still bothered me so before testing it, I asked the distributor about how the glitter biodegraded & what it was made of so that I could feel confident that it met ON! Juniper’s test of being organic +natural. And after a bit of back forth, the answer surprised me. The ‘100% biodegradable glitter’ as advertised on their packets was in fact NOT 100% biodegradable. It was “92% plastic free”, with the other 8% being composed of styrene acrylates. Not cool!

Since then I’ve gone back to their website and have noticed a lot of changes. They now identify that their item is not 100% biodegradable and that achieving 100% biodegradability is not their target. I’m not going to name and shame. I just want to relay how greenwashing can really skew perception. At least this company has realized their mistake and has made substantial efforts to be more clear; however, I still see some persuasive language that borders on greenwashing.

So, what is the alternative? Support companies who don’t greenwash. Knowing who to trust comes with getting to know the company and asking intricate questions like I did with the glitter. That takes time and effort and with today’s hectic schedules, time can be a luxury! At the end of the day, all we can do is try our best & read the ingredients. If something is listed that you don’t understand, do a quick Google search to find more about an ingredient’s benefits and risks. You can also email the company for further information and clarity on an issue you are unsure about.

In an ideal world, it should be the company that is looking out for you and communicating in a clear way. It is our responsibility to provide the public with better choices, choices which don’t cost the earth, jeopardise human welfare or put animals and their habitats at risk. We also hold a responsibility, to be honest in our messaging so you can make an informed choice that reflects your lifestyle and values.

In my eyes, as both a company founder and as a consumer, blurring ethical lines in lieu of profit is wrong. Consumers shouldn’t have to dig around for the answers.

At ON! Juniper I’m making every attempt to simplify matters for the consumer so it is easy to make an informed decision. This involves more than just listing ingredients and what is written on a product’s label. The ingredients we use or don’t use, contribute to only a small fraction of the thought that goes into developing our products. Every ON! Juniper product has a Product Lifecycle Sustainability Plan (PLSP). The PLSP is a shifting document that evolves throughout a product’s life in order to identify social, economic and environmental impacts of the product. This is important. When you buy something, you are supporting more than just the final product. You are saying yes to the type of ingredients used. You are supporting how those ingredients were harvested or excavated. You are approving or disapproving the use of genetically modified organisms…

The concept of PLSP provides a segue into my next blog coming March 5, 2018. I’ll be writing about the positives…and negatives of the anti-plastic movement. Even though I full-heartedly support reducing plastic, there are some critical issues being lost within the plastic debate. The current focus is on the product’s end-of-life. It doesn’t account for a product’s full lifecycle and this doesn’t provide us with the complete picture we need to make an informed decision. Stay tuned!

Please feel free to comment and share this and any of ON! Juniper’s blogs. I’d love to hear your thoughts and get the conversation going towards more transparency within the beauty and personal care industry.

Tess is the Founder and Owner of ON! Juniper, an award-winning company that handcrafts organic + natural products for kids in Surrey, England.

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