Dyeing to make a difference
It’s World Environment Day, and here at Shape of Things to Come HQ we’re trying hard to keep our cynicism in check. Y’see, doing your bit for the planet isn’t exactly a once-per-year event and I tend to get a little frustrated with the types of tokenistic actions these sorts of ‘awareness’ days generate. World Environment Day it remains though, and as I lay in bed this morning, procrastinating over leaving my warm bed to confront the cold, grey morning, I thought about what I could do to mark the day.
It strikes me that today is a good day to initiate change; to think about and alter your lifestyle just a little to shrink your environmental impact. It’s a good day for beginnings, or in my case an ending: I’m stopping dyeing my hair.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a few months now, after giving my hair a break from regular chemical baths. I know the ingredients in your average supermarket bottle of hair dye aren’t exactly great for the environment, then there’s the plastic packaging, the money spent and the extra water and electricity used (for the long shower to wash the excess colour out). On top of that there’s some scientific suggestion that the chemicals I’ve been dumping on my head aren’t particularly good for me either, though it’s worth noting that to date there’s no solid evidence of harmful effects of hair dye on human health.
What’s in permanent hair dye that might not be so great?
- Hydrogen peroxide, an oxidative bleaching agent that’s not so bad in small quantities.
- Ammonia, an alkaline that splits the hair cuticle that’s highly toxic to aquatic animals.
- Diaminotoluenes & diaminobenzenes, blue colourants that have known toxic effects and may be contact allergens.
- Phenols & naphthols, red colourants that may act as endocrine disruptors (things that can mess with your hormones).
- Resorcinol, benzodioxoles & chlororesorcinols, yellow-green colourants that vary in toxicity and environmental harm (I couldn’t find much information on these).
So giving up on dyeing my hair seems like a better deal for both the planet and my poor scalp, as well as for my wallet. It seems like such a simple thing I can do to make my life a little more sustainable, but I’ve got to admit I’m still a little worried about it.
It’s not just vanity, although I do have a surprising amount of grey coming through these days and I’m really not keen on rocking the two-tone look as the lightened dyed hair grows out. This is the first sustainability decision I’ve made that will affect the way other people perceive me. I’m changing the way I look, showing my greys in a youth-obsessed world and not conforming to societal expectations. Is it ok to rock the greys when you’re single or will I scare potential suitors away with my hippy ways and signs of ageing?
Most of all though I’m going to miss colouring my hair purple-black in the winter. I love the splash of colour against my washed-out winter complexion and just looking a little bit different. Perhaps I’ll give dyeing my hair with henna and indigo a go.
How are you marking World Environment Day this year? Are you embracing the tide of re-usable plastic coffee cups and plant-a-tree give-aways or are you as under-whelmed and cynical as I’ve become?
Please share your stories of the little ways you’ve lightened your impact a little more permanently.