The Future Cost of Beauty

I am astonished by the inability of some people to connect the dots. “Which dots?” you may ask. The dots that connect the massive three weeks of storms, floods and slides we’ve had in California to the ongoing international dedication to petroleum-based chemistry.

To be very clear: CO2, a product of combustion engines and other forms of petroleum derived chemistry, is one of the major greenhouse gases changing our atmosphere, heating the planet and (connecting the dots) creating the “atmospheric river” we experienced here in California this month. Fifteen of my neighbors are out of their homes due to concerns about potential slides. This is VERY real.

As odd as this may be, there is another big dot to connect that effect to the cosmetic industry (really the entire chemical industry) now and in the future. Why do I say this?

Let’s review the facts…

Sprouting plants in a field at sunset.

FACT 1: Facts about petroleum:

From “On average, 44.4% of petroleum becomes gasoline. There really are no waste products from petroleum. The lighter chemicals are natural gas, liquified petroleum gas (LPG), jet fuel, and kerosene. The heavier products are used for the manufacture of lubricants, plastics, and asphalt.

They make EVERYTHING from petroleum! Your gasoline, food packaging, the ingredients in cosmetics, computer parts, fertilizer, etc., etc. To be fair it is one of those good news/bad news things. The good news is petroleum is an amazing substance that is a remarkable set of molecules which allows the development of an industry that dominates the planet currently. The bad news is that the industry spews CO2 into the atmosphere and plastic onto the planet. Not to mention, petroleum is not renewable.

FACT 2: In California all combustion engine sales of new cars will no longer exist after 2035. Less gasoline means fewer by-products.

FACT 3: In 2010 there were 31 million vehicles registered in California. Bottom line, as the demand for gasoline plummets, then the cost of all those by-products (plastic and chemicals used for everything else) will skyrocket.

FACT 4: This increasing cost of petroleum derived chemicals will push us all to depend on agriculture more heavily as our primary RENEWABLE supply of molecules. See where I’m going with this?

Furthermore, we know that agriculture is the primary source of renewable molecules for us all – food, oil, clothing, you name it. There is also enormous growth in the “bio-synthesis” world using yeast and enzymes to “grow” molecules replacing petroleum derived molecules, but they have to use plants as a feed stock. How are we going to do that sustainably?

FACT 5: As I have said, organic farming methods have proved, multiple times, to sequester CO2 at around 12% or more. Conventional farming adds about 10% CO2 to the atmosphere. Sustainable supply chains must start with plant materials grown using organic methods.

Say it all together now – petroleum is not renewable!

We need to recognize how dependent we will become on efficient and sustainable farming and then we need to figure out how to make that happen worldwide. This is the big challenge our society faces – and no one is talking about it.

We need better planning for the future from our suppliers and our governments. Vote with your dollars and start to question sustainability claims and then seriously think about where you spend your money. The sooner we fix this, the better.