October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but you probably know that already. You’ve seen the pink ribbons on products and on apparel. If you watch NFL football, you’ve even seen players wearing pink shoes, gloves, and caps. Hoorah for pink! I will cheer from the sidelines with pink pom-poms at efforts to raise awareness and research funds for a dreadful disease that affects far too many.
But here’s where I draw the line. So many of cosmetics being sold to women with pink ribbons stamped on the packaging contain toxic ingredients on the inside — and some of them are carcinogens. I want to applaud Avon, Revlon, Estee Lauder and other companies for what they are doing to raise awareness — and millions of dollars for research to find a cure for this disease — but not nearly as much as I want to sit their executives down in a room and ask, “What the f#$%?” Or, maybe I would hold it together and take a more calm approach: “Why are you selling products with harmful toxins, including carcinogens, when you know you can make safer products — when, in fact, so many other cosmetic companies are already making high-quality products without the toxins?”
That’s right. The good news in this rant is that there are companies making personal care products and cosmetics with safer ingredients. I use them. I don’t miss the makeup I previously used, before finding out about the dangers hidden in those tubes, bottles, jars, and compacts. I don’t feel like I’m compromising by using the better-for-you choices. You can also look up individual products to see how they rank for safety at the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.
And the practice of the other companies fooling consumers into thinking a product with a pink ribbon stamped on it is a good one? It’s know as “pink-washing” and it’s disheartening (more on that here, from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics). But we all make choices with our wallets. Here is one: Would rather buy a lip gloss from a company that knowingly uses harmful ingredients (including known or suspected carcinogens) to make its products or from a company making lip gloss with safer ingredients? I always like to support the good guys (and girls).
Added: Support the Safe Cosmetics Act.
Recycled skateboard truck and wheels used for an under-the-bar bag holder at Venice Beach Ale House.
In my quest to eliminate unnecessary products and waste, I have tried to cut down on shampooing. I’ve actually tried to stop shampooing altogether (google “no poo” and you’ll find tons of testimonials from those who have successfully stopped shampooing; there’s even a “no poo” Wikipedia entry), but I lost patience during the dirty, greasy hair phase. So now I try to shampoo once or twice a week and get through the in-between days with corn starch. There are plenty of dry shampoos on the market and I tried a few from the beauty closet when I worked for a fashion magazine, but most of these products contain artificial fragrances and other ingredients I won’t use. I read that straight-from-the pantry corn starch could be used and I’ve found it works just as well. I keep it in the bathroom and dip my fingers in the jar to apply to roots on non-shampoo days. Hair maintains its natural shine from healthy hair oils, while roots get a quick de-greasing. Until I try quitting shampoo again….
In her later years, when her own cooking days were behind her, my grandmother would say, “That looks good enough to eat!” just as dinner was served. Oddly, I now hear those words (in her charming voice) when I think of beauty products. Since learning about the toxins in so many of the beauty and personal care products on the market, I have switched over to brands made with safer ingredients—in my perfect world, makeup really should be good enough to eat. And when it comes to lip products, well, let’s be honest here—you ARE eating what you put on your lips. A new study released yesterday by Environmental Defence Canada reveals that popular cosmetics tested contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, nickel, and arsenic. Gulp.
But now for the (non-toxic) silver lining: There are terrific alternatives to the toxic products you want to avoid. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website tests products and ranks them for safety. Lip products that just might be good enough to eat? Right here. And you can take action by asking your representative to support safe cosmetic legislation here as well.
I’ve been in two wedding parties; Cori chose a navy crepe sheath for the bridesmaids, while Kristen chose a silky lavender halter dress. I was lucky to like both dresses; we’ve all seen horribly poofy and pastel bridesmaid dresses in movies (and it’s likely you’ve seen one or two monsters in real life, too). As a regular thrift shopper, I’ve also seen discarded dresses on the racks—if these dresses were living and breathing, I’d say they hang hopelessly. Which is why I liked reading today about a new site that recycles old bridesmaid dresses, Newlymaid.com. Now, if you’ve got a bridesmaid dress taking up space at the back of your closet, you can ship it to Newlymaid, where they’ll use the material to make upcycled creations or donate the dress to Clothes4Souls. Then you receive a discount on one of the site’s little black cocktail dresses made from recycled fabric. Voila: More closet space and less for the landfill… . Oh, and I cannot wait to see “Bridesmaids.”
At the start of 2010, I made a resolution that felt big for me. It started with my desire to make a stronger commitment to green living—making more choices that were better for the environment. But I am a collector. I have a lot of stuff. And I really like my stuff. I have a closet filled with clothing and accessories I love (yes, love) and my house is full of treasured possessions. Still, I felt the need to simplify. I felt overwhelmed by the drive to acquire. Stuff! More stuff! So I decided to give up shopping for new stuff for the year.
I would refrain from buying new things I wanted. For things I needed, such as food and toilet paper and soap, I would stick to my resolve of buying the eco-friendly choices. New jeans, a new handbag, or new silverware? No. For any non-necessities, I would buy only pre-owned items—after carefully considering whether the purchase was necessary. I would shop at thrift stores, consignment and vintage shops, yard sales, on eBay and Etsy. I would be spending money on items already produced and in circulation (and withdrawing my consumer support for new products), which would help to reduce my carbon footprint.
I expected this to be a challenge and ended up being surprised with how easy it was. (And fun—thrift shopping is like treasure-hunting.) I thought I would write about my temptations and possible slips, but exceptions I made were few and far between (new underwear, practical running shoes…) and felt permissible. Then there was the upside: saving money. When the year ended, I decided to keep going and it’s become my new normal. Just like that. And while I’m shy about suggesting how others should live their lives, I like to share my example and offer it as a challenge to anyone who might like to try. For today or a week or a month or a year….
After crafting a recycled Christmas tree using pages from “Vogue” magazine, I decided to make a paper wreath for the front door. I used pages from an old paperback that was falling apart (“Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh), and simply taped the cut leaves to a cardboard base. The idea for this was borrowed (and I cannot locate the blog I landed on that showed a wreath like this); my own personal detail was to add a bow made from an old T-shirt. Voila.