Being Sustainable Is Good — But We Can Be Better, Says This Beauty Expert
"Being less bad doesn't mean you're doing good," says Alex McIntosh, Thrive Natural Care co-founder & CEO, in this episode of Clean Beauty School. "We've done so much damage to the earth that being 'less bad' doesn't work. We have to figure out a way to leave it better." McIntosh and I met several months ago in Costa Rica while visiting a co-op that practiced regenerative farming while growing a botanical used in several of Thrive's products. (Read about my trip here.)
I asked him to join me on the podcast because I so enjoyed his insights into what it really means to be eco-friendly and thought my listeners might as well—most notably, about how just being "sustainable" isn't going to cut it.
Why we should move beyond sustainability.
As McIntosh explains to me in the episode, picture three arrows: One points down, one points sideways, and one points up. These arrows are essentially the ecological health of the planet.
The arrow pointing down represents what some modern-day companies do and have been doing for years. "These are companies that go into places, mine or harvest whatever the resource is, leave pollutants, cut down trees, deplete the soil, and then leave once they've gotten all that it can take," he explains. "Most of modern capitalism and recent human history has been us getting really efficient at doing just this: Taking something from the earth, turning it into something to be used, and then it gets put away as waste."
And then we get to sustainable measures—or the arrow pointing horizontally. "What that means is we're going to do things today so that they're not worse in the future. And if your land is in a good spot—is healthy, and productive—then this works," he says. "But if you're starting in a bad place—the land is eroded—this isn't going to work."
Essentially: While most of us mean the best when we talk about "sustainability," we're at a point where we need to be doing more. This is where regenerative practices come into play. "This is the final arrow, in which we're going up," he says. "And that is in this case, symbolic of the health of a place or of a community—it's the act of the place coming back to life."
Want to know how we can do that? Well, you'll have to tune in to find out. Check out the episode below for more intel.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.