Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Challenge:

After watching "No Impact Man" I became inspired- not by Colin Beavan, a man who under took the challenge to make no net environmental impact for an entire year, but by his long suffering shopaholic wife Michelle Conlin. Michelle went along for the ride on her husband's one year eco-adventure. Prior to their undertaking, Michelle was a Marc Jacobs addict and probably more of a shopaholic then me.

But it made me think, I DO spend too much of my take home pay on clothes. And regardless of whether the clothes I buy are organic or fair trade, I AM still contributing to a lot of industrial waste. And there really is NO point. I have enough clothes, I don't need more. Perhaps I've grown tired of my clothes. Or perhaps I just don't feel like being creative. Whatever the reason, it all leads back to the fact that IF I made a little bit more of an effort, I could make do with what I have.

So I'm undertaking a Challenge of my own. I will not buy ANY clothing, accessories, or makeup for the next three months. So this Challenge will last until June 13th.... I will not buy ANYTHING new at all... so if I do need something (a study guide for law school, highlighters, etc.) I will try to buy it second hand.
Furthermore, I will not buy any food for the next month- so until April 13th. This is to encourage me to use up my dry goods- rice, beans, canned foods. I am not going to buy ANY food at all until I am completely out of everything I have (this includes flour!).

After I run out of food- I might try out the "On a Dollar a Day" plan for a month- it might be fun, and it definitely will make me more mindful of how other Americans in poverty are getting by.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Art of the Shorter Shower..

Here's some quick tips- [there are plenty of online tutorials that help you figure out the logistics]
1.) Don't use a lot of soap- use enough to be effective but keep in mind that less soap = less rinsing
2.) Leave facial cleanser and shampoo on your face/hair for a few seconds (or minutes in the case of shampoo) before rinsing.
3.) Figure out if there are any ways you can do a "two-for"- example: condition your hair, don't rinse conditioner out right away, then use a little bit of conditioner on your legs to shave with. When you're done shaving, rinse conditioner out of your hair.
4.)See if there is anything your can do before hopping in. Get your washcloth or loofah good and soapy before hopping in. Maybe even put cleanser on before hopping in. Figure out what works for you.
5.) Envirosax makes cute inexpensive shower timers if you really lose track of time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Be a Responsible Shopaholic...

First and foremost- as always- the most eco-friendly thing you can do is USE WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE!!!!

Back before my days as a natural makeup addict- I was addicted to plain ol' shopping. I didn't think about the ethical or environmental impact of my purchases... it was just spend, spend, spend.  I told myself ..."just one last purchase, and then I'll be good. I won't buy anything for awhile..." But that never happened. I just kept spending and spending. There came a point when I had to make a conscious choice not to spend. And for me it's a daily thing- not getting caught up in the constant consumerism of our society- not "recreational shopping."

So... I encourage you to shop in your own closet... wear something you bought and LOVED but didn't have the guts to wear. As for that crazy top that doesn't go with anything, bite the bullet and just wear it with black pants or jeans... Learn to sew- it's really not hard. Once you do, you can sew buttons back on, fix teeny tiny holes, and even mend socks (I do this ALL the time for socks that I just wear around the house).  

If you absolutely can't make do with what you have, then just purchase a few basics and bright accessories to spice up your wardrobe. Basics are environmentally friendly because they can be worn more frequently and are less apt to go out of style in a season or two. For fun, colorful clothing items- check out your local Goodwill or a consignment store like Buffalo Exchange or Plato's Closet. Can't wrap your brain around buying used clothing? Find a "gem" of a thrift store in a wealthy area (aka not anywhere near where you live so that no one you know will see you, you silly fraidy-cat!) with loads of designer labels and gorgeous vintage finds. If it's really far from where you live- be conservative about how often you go there. The more impressive the merchandise, the easier it is to get into buying used clothing. (oh- and celebrity stylists do it all the time- so there!)

If you do decide to buy new clothing... here are a few ideas for spring...

Necklace from Ten Thousand Villages- $38 This necklace is fair trade- that means that the people who made the necklace were paid a decent wage (i.e. not sweatshop labor).

Also from Ten Thousand Villages $12 Proof that fair trade products don't have to be expensive- this necklace is cheaper than some of the costume jewelry sold at Target. 

Adorable Striped Organic Cotton Tee- Stem $38 available at Nordstrom

Alternative Apparel Organic Cotton Flash Dance Tee $42 (it's even CUTER in purple)

NON-Suede Loafers made from recycled materials (and as far as I know- they're vegan)- Zoe & Zack for Payless $25


Sustainable Material Undies- Uranus SoyShorts $25

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Guide to Makeup Brushes...

Who doesn't love makeup brushes? They just feel so much more "official" and "professional" than just using your fingers to apply makeup. Plus, they are pretty indispensable when it comes to achieving that barely-there natural no-makeup look.

But, most makeup brushes are made from non-sustainable materials. The bristles on these brushes are usually made from heavily dyed animal hair. The handles are usually made from metal and wood or some other non-biodegradable material.

So here is a guide to finding some more eco-friendly options:

If you invested in an uber expensive set of brushes, say MAC for example, and they are still in good shape, keep them! Helping the environment isn't just about throwing away all of your old belongings and replacing them with "green" versions. NO! It is also important to take care what you already have so that it lasts a really long time- this help reduce waste too. Plus, getting rid of a not-so-environmentally-friendly item often means that it will end up in a landfill. No thanks! 


Invest in extremely high-quality synthetic (animal friendly!) brushes made by an ethically and environmentally responsible company that will ideally last your whole life time...

Aveda Flax Sticks Brushes $65 
Bristles are Synthetic, 
Handles made from natural materials and 
post-consumer recycled resin

Another option is to purchase synthetic bristle brushes that are simply made from recycled materials by a company that might not be so ethically and environmentally responsible as say... Aveda....
EcoTools 5 Piece Brush Set $12.50
These brushes are made from recycled materials,
but they are packaged in non-recycled materials
and they are made in China
(which might indicate unethical production- i.e. sweatshop labor)
And they are most likely made in a factory that is
probably not using green production technology.

A third option is to buy synthetic bristle brushes that are NOT made from recycled materials, but that are made by companies who use green technology and recyclable packaging...
The Body Shop and Origins both sell lines of synthetic bristle brushes.
Both of these companies use recyclable packaging (Body Shop even prints receipts on recycled paper) AND do not test on animals.

 If taken good care of, brushes can last many years. In my former life as an "unnatural" makeup addict, I used to use MAC brush cleaner to clean my makeup brushes. Looking back, it's kind scary to think that I was using something about as toxic as paint stripper to clean brushes that I used daily on my face! Now, I use an inexpensive organic children's shampoo to clean my brushes. 

  1. Use lukewarm water to clean your brushes. I like to fill up a glass and soak them so I don't waste as much water.
  2. Apply a drop of children's shampoo to the end of the brush bristles and work it through the dampened brush head, being careful not to go too high.  (The idea is to clean the part of the brush that is dirty- the higher up part of the bristles hardly ever touches makeup).
  3. Avoid getting too much soap on the part of the bristles nearest to the ferrule (aka the metal thingy that holds the bristles together) and also avoid using water that is too hot- this might melt the glue that is holding the bristles in place. 
  4. Refill the glass with fresh water and dip the brushes up and down until all of the soap is rinsed from the bristles. 
  5. You may need to refill the glass one more time if your brushes are really dirty. (Don't worry- you're still using less water by filling the glass three times than by just letting the water run down the drain).
  6. VERY gently squeeze excess water from the brush head. 
  7. Lay flat on a towel to dry overnight
Jason Naturals Extra Gentle Children's Shampoo
Wegman's $6

Monday, February 15, 2010

An Eco Shave...

Shaving can be an environmental nightmare. When I was 11 years old, I first started shaving my legs. My mother bought me a slim pink Gillette razor with replacement blades. How times have changed! Today's razors are extremely bulky and complicated- leading to more waste in producing them and making them harder to dispose of.

But I have this thing about shaving: I like it. My goal, my creedo, is this: you can still be kind to the environment without embracing the "dirty hippie" stereotype. My goal is to look like an average citizen (No Lilith Fair Paula Cole arm-pit beard for me!) but still reduce my carbon footprint.

There are environmental options.

Preserve is a brand that makes two styles of razors fashioned from recycled stonyfield yogurt cups. When you are done with their products, you can print a pre-paid mailer from their website and mail the items back to them to be recycled (or as I like to say "twice-cycled")

Double Razors (available on Preserve Website Only)- $7.25 for a Four Pack and $5.25 for five replacement blades.

Triple Razor (available at and Whole Foods)- $7.49 for one and $7.49 for four replacement blades.

Another option is the Hok2 Wally- as I write this's website is down, and I'm not 100% certain if they sell it on their site or not. It retails about $6.99.
Also available at Vitamin Warehouse

Tips for Helping Your Razor Blades Last Longer:
  1. Save an old toothbrush to use to gently scrub the blades if they are clogged
  2. Use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball to disinfect the blades (also helps prevent razor burn)
  3. Throughly dry razor blades (wipe with towel with the blades and NOT against them-so as not to cut your towel or yourself)
  4. Store your razor in a dry place and NOT in your shower when razor is not in use to prevent rusting and bacteria growth

Take care of your razor and it will last AT LEAST twice as long...

Kiss My Face makes a really moisturizing shaving cream that I like. It is simple (no fancy globs of sparkly gel like some women's shave products) and comes in shareable unisex scents.

Kiss My Face Key Lime Moisture Shave- $7.95 for 11 oz and $4.95 for 4oz
available at, Whole Foods, and Kiss My
also comes in Fragrance Free, Lavender & Shea, Cool Mint, Peaceful Patchouli, Peaches & Creme, and Vanilla Earth

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In Honor of Valentine's Day...

I've never been able to whole-heartedly embrace an all-natural perfume. Desperately wishing to avoid the "dirty hippie" smell of patchouli, I just haven't been able to buy into the natural perfume concept. Yet another problem that I've encountered is that far too many natural perfumes seem to come only in oil or solid form... can you say greasy?

So of course I'm smitten with the Body Shop's Perfume: LOVE, ETC. In the fragrance industry, there are individuals called "noses" who are the artists that create fragrances. One such "nose" is Dominique Ropion. Monsieur Ropion is the man behind Lancome Tresor Eau de Printemps Sheer, Burberry The Beat, Calvin Klein Euphoria, and some of the J. Lo fragrances. Basically, he's a GENIUS.

Ropion is behind the Body Shop's Fragrance: Love, Etc.
So here's the basics:

Top notes: pear, neroli, bergamot
Middle notes: jasmine, heliotrope, lily of the valley
Base notes: vanilla, sandalwood, musk cream

1.69 FL Oz Eau de Parfum $29.50
1.69 FL Oz Eau de Toilette $25

Body Wash- $15

I purchased both the Body Wash and Eau de Parfum because Body Shop was having BOGO on all of their fragrances. This fragrance smells very pretty, but it isn't exactly what one might call unique? That's actually what I love about it- it's a natural, environmentally friendly product that hasn't been tested on animals and it smells just like a mainstream perfume. In a world of ethically responsible patchouli scents, this one will stand out.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Drugstore Classic

You've probably walked by Queen Helene products in the drugstore many times and never thought anything of them. BUT did you know that Queen Helene Products are all natural, not tested on animals AND many of their products are free of animal ingredients (vegan)? Showing a concern for the environment, their company makes sure that all packing is recyclable. Also, several products in the Queen Helene line are fair trade or organic.

My favorite product is the Mint Julep Mask. It is free of animal ingredients. It contains sulfur, which is a great acne fighting alternative to salicylic acid and benzyol peroxide (both of which seem to dominate the acne skin care market). I try to use it once a week on my entire face. Leave it on until it dries, then wipe off with a warm washcloth.