Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Irked by Greenwashing

While I'm thrilled to see more and more companies offer all-natural, no chemical alternatives, I'm increasingly irked by the number of corporations that just flat-out lie. I'm talking food, beauty products, cleaning commodities, and anything else that touts itself as all-natural or even just looks like it's all-natural, but is actually not. (image source)

This is called greenwashing. It's a popular trick where companies use marketing and packaging that makes the product look natural and eco-friendly and can even go as far as to say it's natural but upon closer examination, it's as chock full of chemicals as any other product. So at first glance, it looks like it's good for you, but that is the trick.

Don't believe me? Here's the description for greenwashing from Wikipedia:

Greenwashing (a compound word modelled on "whitewash"), or "green sheen",[1][2] is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's aims and policies are environmentally friendly. Whether it is to increase profits or gain political support, greenwashing may be used to manipulate popular opinion to support otherwise questionable aims.

Deceptive, eh? I'm sure that you, the average consumer, are not thrilled to be lied to. But there is hope. We can just opt to stay informed and make good choices. The less we buy greenwashed products, the less likely the corporations will continue making them. 

With just a quick glance down a Target aisle, I can name several examples of greenwashing. 

  • Suave Naturals: Sure it says natural and there's a big pretty picture of fruits or waterfalls on the front, but a look at the ingredients list on the back exposes the numerous harmful chemicals that makes up the line. This example is an oldie, but a... baddie? Herbal Essences. I think they use the term organic in their pitch, but nope. There is nothing organic here at all.
  • Clorox Green Works Cleaners: Yep, sorry to burst your bubble, but this is another classic example of greenwashing. Sure they claim to be 99% natural, and while the unpronounceable ingredients are, in a way, naturally derived, it's certainly not eco-friendly or chemical-free.
  • Huggies Pure & Natural Disposable Diapers: Can you say oxymoron? Anything disposable is by far not eco-friendly at all. They are not biodegradable like other serious eco-companies producing diapers nor is the claim for organic cotton reliable. As far as we know, there is organic cotton on the outside, but not on the inside; you know, where it actually touches the baby's skin.
  • Potato chips, granola bars, and other packaged foods: The word "natural" is not regulated in any way. Anyone can pretty much slap the word "natural" onto any product and still get off scot-free. Think about this, high fructose corn syrup is derived from corn- a natural product. Organic, on the other hand, must meet strict government regulations in order to use the "organic" label. The same goes for free trade. Natural? Nope, it's still a free for all. 

Those are just a few, but greenwashing lurks everywhere. It's frustrating. Even I consider just giving up sometimes, but once you find a few dependable products, the rest will be easy. So by hit-and-miss and extensive research, I came up with a few tips that help me avoid greenwashed products and find eco-friendly, chemical-free ones instead:
  • Favor tried-and-true companies: Seventh Generation, Method, Dr. Bronners, Mrs. Meyer's, Mineral Fusion, gDiapers, Tushies, Burt's Bees, Yes To, Tom's of Maine, and other well-known eco-friendly companies.
  • Search for the organic or fair trade label. While fair trade isn't necessarily organic, it is much more likely to be natural and chemical-free.
  • Shop at health food and supply stores: Whole Foods, Mustard Seed (if you're in Ohio,) Sprouts, Fresh Market, Earth Fare, even Trader Joe's. There are a couple of locally owned health food stores in the area for me, so I'm sure there are a few near you too.
  • Read up to learn about the products you use and the products you may not know about: 
    • Skin Deep by the EWG (Environmental Watch Group) has the lowdown on almost all beauty products and grades them by amount of harmful chemicals on a number scale. 
    • Treehugger is a comprehensive site that covers eco-friendly information in all areas of life
    • The Daily Green has everyday advice and information on living green and finding products free of harmful additives. It's a pretty accessible site.
    • Mother Nature Network is a news source for all things environmental. 
  • Last, educate yourself on the products that may not be the best choice. A good place to start is this top 25 list of greenwashed products.
  • And if you're really ambitious, you can make your own. A simple google search will come up with hundreds of homemade instructions for anything you need from laundry detergent to face wash to all-purpose cleaners. Not to mention, dinner made from scratch is the healthiest you can get.
Thanks to people like you and me who take the time to search out natural products and use them, more retailers are listening and stocking the products we want. Target hasn't failed me yet in their selection nor has drugstores like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreen. It's just a matter of keeping your wits about you when you shop. A little bit of research and a shopping list will go a long way in helping you make safe and eco-friendly choices. 

What sort of eco-friendly or natural product do you use and what are you doing to include more of those products in your daily life?

Monday, October 8, 2012

When Teeth Surgery Invokes Desire

Last Thursday I finally completed the rite-of-passage most people experience in their teens and 20's: wisdom teeth removal. It's a damn shame we haven't evolved out of having wisdom teeth because it's definitely something I rather do without. I needed to get them out for quite a few years but certain restrictions (cough:insurance:cough) and timing got in the way. 

When a lovely dentist (not really) pointed out that the unwelcome teeth were pushing my jaw sideways so much that my face was slightly asymmetrical... well, that's when I panicked. It's just like if the damage from cigarette smoking were superficial rather than hidden away inside our body, everyone would stop smoking immediately. 

Vanity always wins out.

Needless to say, I dumped that fear-mongering dentist and hightailed it to another one and decided that avoiding the problem was not going to solve it. Four less teeth later, I can certainly tell you that being able to chew food is a blessing one takes for granted.

I also found out I was allergic to acetaminophen which is in Tylenol and, surprise, my Vicodin.

Anyway, the other, lesser-known, downside to wisdom teeth removal aside from the pain and potential for dry socket and eating liquidy food that you're going to throw back up because you haven't figured out you're allergic to the painkiller? Plenty of time to sit and go online window-shopping. I now want everything from Zara and Free People. I've been mentally putting together beautiful fall outfits which I cannot wear because the weather seems to have skewed more towards winter rather than breezy, sunny autumnal 60 degree weather. 

Why is it a downside? Do you realize how hard it is to want something and you can't have it? Insert temper tantrum. I'm sure you've all been there and you know what, there is no shame in it. No shame.

Well, even though I can't physically possess these items, a girl can certainly dream, but this is what I desire for that perfect fall season that, well, we're never going to get in a million years until some genius can clock the three days where it's really, truly fall and put it on the calendar. 

Dressy Casual Fall Outfit

A grey silk button-up blouse tucked loosely into a burgundy high waisted mini-skirt. Pair with opaque black tights, knee-high boots, and, of course, a sparkly set of earrings. After all, why not? Polyvore is proving to be a bit addictive. Whoops. 
What's would be your fantasy Fall outfit? If you're on Polyvore, create a set and link to it in the comments below. Happy window shopping!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Moving is Stressful

Happy Vegetarian Awareness Month! Of course, I'd be all over this month. October 1st was World Vegetarian Day so pretend it's Monday and I'm wishing you that very sentiment.

Unfortunately, I don't have any new recipes or new natural beauty find to give you today but I have a good reason. I can attest that moving is, indeed, one of the top three stressful events in a person's life, following divorce and death of a loved one. If you moved in the last six months, I beseech you, don't do it again. But there are two sides to every coin and all the stress and crankiness that came with this second move was tempered by a brand new location in a gorgeous great big house with a giant kitchen and hardwood floors that have not overzealously polished within an inch of its life. 

Here are the things in our new place that we missed that people wouldn't really consider in every day life:

  1. Garage: You would not believe the usefulness of a garage. Not just to keep your car shielded from the weather be it blazingly hot sun or mountains of snow, but the sheer simplicity of pulling into a garage, getting out, and walking into your home under a roof as the door rumbles its way closed behind you. You can keep whatever you like in your car because, you know, it's 9:54 at night and you're much too tired to ever think of grabbing that bag from Target and there's a hot cup of tea waiting for you right now. Not to mention, your own parking space, all the time, every time.
  2. Dishwasher: I know this is high on a lot of people's list, but people underestimate just how much joy it brings to one's life. In the sweet little townhouse, the dishwasher was named Beatrice and she had to do the dishes every day, after every meal, after every single spoon was used. The lengths she went to avoid dirtying up a dish suddenly became very reasonable. I can tell you right now, it's no way to live; mentally tallying up every dirtied dish and fork and knife every single day.
  3. Deck: We had no outdoor space at the townhouse. Granted, we did have a little "stoop" and rather than birds and pretty black squirrels, we had recipients of the local drug dealer meandering their way into our courtyard in their Landrovers and Escalades and other equally obnoxious cars that clearly scream "I sell cocaine and pimp girls out for a living." Unless there was a blonde soccer mom, then clearly it screams "I have juice boxes, bandaids, and a death wish every time I haul my son and all his friends to their games." We did not get the latter, though it would be fun to watch those ladies self-implode. Drugs are equal opportunity after all.
  4. Two bathrooms: Something happens when a guy and a girl falls in love for years and years and finally move into together. They need space, lots of it, and most importantly, their own. Matches are not enough, trust me.
Leaving our townhouse was a bit bittersweet for me. It was, after all, our very first place together, but we know we'll lead much happier lives in a bigger space. We didn't really move far away or anything, but it's just far enough that if we forgot to close a window, it's not a tragedy because we're no longer in drunken-hipster-bar-town.

Clearly, that's a major contributing cause of my silence on this blog and Facebook. Instead of packing everything up into boxes and getting a U-Haul and doing it all in one day- which we promised we would this time- we ended up moving everything little by little over a month. This resulted in having no internet for a while, a major shut-down on my part (due to being extremely overwhelmed,) and well, not having a laptop. 

The laptop part had nothing to do with the move. It's just bad timing. I sold my Macbook Pro in order to get a Macbook Air. With the changes going in my life and transitioning into being more of a writer, I didn't really need such a powerful computer like a Macbook Pro. 

Anyway, yadda yadda yadda, it took me a month to finally get my Air. Don't ask me why. Just know I am an extremely patient girl who was slowly getting eaten away inside because I could not update the blog. Seriously, that's how much this blog and you mean to me. When I finally sat down to start writing this post, I felt like I had come home at last. How perfect, huh?

Thank you for your patience and stay tuned, new stuff will be coming your way. I'm also getting ready to post some beautiful 50's and 60's winter coats (mink collars and everything) and sweaters and other cold-weather wear for sale so stay tuned!