@GreenMoms Take On Cosmetics: Safe or Unsafe? And Should We Support the Safe Cosmetics Act?: It’s the Green Moms Carnival!

July 31st, 2010

We’ve got a wonderful round-up of posts from members of the Green Moms Carnival, women who have been following the debate about cosmetics ingredients for years, and have interesting stories to share.

Let’s start off with Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse. Diane blogs “evidence is emerging that the cumulative use of these products may be contributing to asthma, the onset of puberty in girls as young as three years old, and even the feminization of baby boys. Because cosmetics, soaps and shampoos are washed down the drain, they get into our water system, where they’re wreaking havoc on wildlife. And what about their relationship to breast cancer?”

But Diane doesn’t leave us hanging – she gives three common-sense ways we can reduce our exposure to the potential risks of cumulative exposure to low doses of chemicals.

Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish tells the story of why she tried to get away from a cute seat mate on a recent flight. “His Axe cologne, or whatever heinous product he was wearing, made my eyes water, nose itch, throat close up, and left me with a throbbing headache.”

That’s something I’ve experienced as well. Once you stop using synthetic fragrances, it’s hard to even be around them. A walk down a grocery store aisle – or a whiff of last year’s BlogHer room drops – can leave you feeling miserable.

Lisa from Condo Blues recounts an interesting discussion with a research scientist from a personal care company.

“One of the biggest secrets about what chemicals (or not) is in a product is what makes up the product’s fragrance,” she notes.  “Last summer, I had the chance to talk to a representative from a large personal care company. She claimed that even her company didn’t know what was in the fragrances of their products because they buy the fragrance from a special fragrance house that has a super secret formula and ironclad nondisclosure agreement that says the fragrance house won’t tell the company what’s in the signature scent of their brand of shampoo.”

Katy at Non-Toxic Kids makes a case for showing The Story of Cosmetics to friends who may be unfamiliar with the battle for safer cosmetics. As she puts it, “Why should you care?  There is a growing body of research showing links between many of the chemicals in our personal care products and serious diseases and conditions.  Chemicals like triclosan, phthalates, parabens are in most cosmetics.   Phthalates are often labeled as “fragrance”.  Triclosan is labeled as an “antibacterial.”

And no one is looking at their synergistic effect on our bodies, especially those who are developing and growing at rapid rates:  our children.   The companies who make these products are using many chemicals that have never been independently tested for safety.  That’s right, never.”

Linda from Citizen Green presents a well researched post that follows-up on Katy’s assertion. As Linda blogs, “Only 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients in personal care products have been assessed for safety by the cosmetics industry.”

And that’s the reason Deanna of Crunchy Chicken blogs “Make sure you start checking your product labels!” 

Karen of Best of Mother Earth pulls no punches when she asks, “How can cosmetic companies like Estee Lauder raise funds for cancer research and produce products with carcinogens in them? Shouldn’t they start in their own back yard and produce a safe cosmetic in the first place?”

I always especially enjoy the contributions of our Carnival members from outside the United States. In Amber’s post at Strocel.com, Story of Cosmetics:  Canadian Edition,  she blogs about the situation in Canada – how in some ways it parallels the situation in the US, and yet how there are subtle differences. For example, Canadian cosmetic makers are required to list ingredients – “but not all of them.” Huh? So what good does that do? But Amber’s main message is one that is universal:

“But we must recognize that the beauty industry is trying to sell us stuff, just like any other industry that markets consumer goods. They want us to believe that we are flawed and need their stuff. If we aren’t concerned about the state of our skin or the shininess of our hair, we’re not going to shell out for products to fix them. Even initiatives like the Dove Movement are marketing campaigns aimed to make us feel favourable towards a certain brand.

My daughter Hannah is 5 years old. I don’t want her to feel that she needs to coat herself with stuff to be OK, and I especially don’t want the stuff she coats herself with to contain toxins. That’s why I want to see change in the cosmetics industry.”

I always see  myself in Micaela’s (aka Mindful Momma’s) posts.  Maybe it’s because we have kids around the same age, and while we are passionately committed to living sustainably, too often our lives intersect with the real world of Toys R Us and Pokemon.

In her post, “Maybe I Just Bought the Wrong Stuff,” Micaela blogs,  “In The Story of Cosmetics, Annie Leonard comes out and says what a lot of us might be thinking when it comes to buying cosmetics and personal care products:  “maybe it’s my fault…maybe I just bought the wrong thing”…meaning it’s our own damn fault for buying personal care products loaded with toxins and petroleum products…because we didn’t take the time to research the hell out of them before we went to the store.

I’m telling you – that is often how I feel.  And it’s very frustrating.”

Frustrating? Lisa from Retro Housewife Goes Green goes even farther when she blogs, “I don’t know about you but I’m pissed off at the amount of work I have to do to keep myself and my family safe from cancer causing chemicals. We need to change the whole system and work together to demand safer cosmetics.”

I’m with Lisa  – the whole system needs to change, and in my opinion, that includes regulation. But I’m not so sure the Safe Cosmetics Act is the answer. Check my post out here, where I blog about what I’ve learned in two years of following these issues – the things people inside the industry have told me – and my surprise and concern about the backlash opposition to the Safe Cosmetics Act that is being led by small, independent cosmetics makers.

Jennifer Taggert of The Smart Mama (and an attorney)  voices her concern that the Safe Cosmetics Act may mean for small businesses. Jennifer has a unique take on this, and her full post is worth a close read. Here’s an excerpt:

“I bring the CPSIA up after watching The Story of Cosmetics because well intentioned legislation can go badly wrong.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t urge you to understand what it is you are buying. To adopt the precautionary principle in your purchasing decisions.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t think we should advocate for sensible legislation and regulations.

But that’s it – the legislation and/or regulations must be sensible. And that is hard to do. The devil is in the details. Overbroad legislation has unintended consequences and collateral damage.

As said by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis:

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

What do you think?

Leave a comment and let us know!

And did you know you can get ALL of our posts pushed out to you via Twitter? Just follow us here:  http://www.twitter.com/GreenMoms

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania


NO, Of Course I Didn’t Buy That “Organic” Shampoo & Then Tell The New York Times About It!

July 14th, 2010

Well, it is true that I did tell a New York Times reporter that I was “furious” about a so-called “organic” shampoo that was anything but organic – or even natural. I even sent him the blog post I wrote about it, which you can read here.  In the post, I wrote about how I picked up the “organic” lice shampoo and then realized it was anything BUT organic.

usda-organic-label-lg

“But skeptic that I am, the first two things I do when I see anything labeled “natural” or “organic” is to check the ingredients list and to look for a USDA organic certification label. Despite the “organic” claims, I didn’t see a USDA label on the Fairy Tales bottles, but I did see a long list of non-organic ingredients including major no-nos like parabens and fragrance.

According to the Environmental Working Group, “parabens can disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system, and were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied.” And the EWG reports that fragrance should be avoided in children’s products because of allergens that may contain neurotoxic or hormone-disrupting chemicals. (You can learn more about fragrance through this informative EWG video clip).”

So yes, it’s kind of a thrill to see myself quoted in The New York Times. But honestly, anyone who reads my blog posts or tweets knows that I would NEVER buy an “organic” product that does not have the USDA Organic Seal or the new NSF/ANSI 305  seal. (My original post pre-dated the introduction of the NSF seal).

That’s also why I wrote, “So dear readers, please look for the USDA Organic seal and READ LABELS on personal care products, especially those marketed to children or used by women during childbearing years.”

NSF_logo

You may wonder why I was “furious” if I didn’t buy the product.  I’m still furious. I’m furious that companies greenwash and prey on mothers’ fears, urging them to buy products that are not what they are promoted to be – organic.  Mothers look for organic products because they (correctly) believe them to be purer and safer for their kids than products that are not organic. As I told the reporter, I’ve been saddened to see organics pioneers (many of them women) work long and hard to bring truly organic products to market – only to have  their USDA certified organic products shelved next to fakers – products with organic on the label but synthetic ingredients inside. Of course they’re cheaper! They’re easier to make!

I’m glad that Whole Foods is cracking down on this, but I’m not entirely optimistic that things will change without a major education campaign from the Organic Trade Association. Surveys have shown that consumers believe “natural” is better than organic – even though there are no standards governing the use of the word “natural.”

So – looking to go organic? Look for the USDA Organic label or the NSF/ANSI305 label.

Anything else? Well, it’s just Greenwashing at the Kiddie Hair Salon (not the supermarket, as quoted!)

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Why I Hope the EWG is Wrong

July 20th, 2009

No one makes a habit of displaying the inside of their medicine cabinet. But I’m doing it to make a point.

medicinecabinet-photo

The other night I took my skeptical husband to watch the filming of what’s being billed as “ ‘Inconvenient Truth’ for environmental health.” The Environmental Working Group’s  President,  Ken Cook, has presented “10 Americans” to countless groups across the country, and it’s even available on the web. But at this filming at DC’s Source Theatre, the EWG captured the reaction of a group of Washingtonians who gathered  to hear that:
•     82,000 chemicals were declared safe for use in household and personal care products with little or no data to support their safety;
•    the US has the highest cancer rate in the industrialized world;
•    industrial chemicals are showing up in the womb. In other words, embryos are being exposed to chemicals in the mother’s body before birth;
•     chemical exposures in people are increasingly associated with a range of serious diseases and conditions from childhood cancer, to autism, ADHD, learning deficits, infertility, and birth defects.

So why am I showing you my medicine cabinet? I’m like most Moms – my heart is “deep green,” but my buying patterns are a lighter shade of green.   The items I buy organic and green are those that my family consumes most often, particularly those items that are most often used by my children. But we still buy plenty of conventional  products (although we try to use them sparingly).

When I first learned about the linkages between probable human carcinogens and everyday personal care and household products,  I was shocked. That’s why I reached out to industry representatives to get some reassurances, as you can read here. And their reaction? While they spend hundreds of thousands to court Mom bloggers at  BlogHer and other conferences and launch fancy viral advertising campaigns, they still haven’t answered these three simple questions I posed here.

- What is your stance on the Kid Safe Chemical Act?
- What do you think about the adverse affects of long term exposure to the thousands of chemicals used in personal care products?
- Is this issue even being discussed at the industry level, through groups like the Personal Products Council?

In fact, as I blogged here, the Industry reps did everything they could to discredit the Moms asking these questions.

So now you know why I hope the EWG is wrong. Because like so many of you, I still use a lot of these products.

And as for my skeptical husband?

As he put it after watching Ken Cook in action,

DDT used to be called safe too.”

Watch the video yourself and tell me what you think.


@ Yahoo! Video

If you want to do something now that you’ve seen this video, visit the EWG’s Action Page.

And please leave a comment and let me know  your thoughts!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

The Aftermath of the Green Moms Carnival: Hysterical Mommy Bloggers?

April 10th, 2009

By now, I thought my mind would be on blogging about Tips for an Eco-Friendly Easter. But instead, I keep thinking about how the personal care products industry responded to the concerns raised by last week’s Green Moms Carnival. The Green Moms asked questions about the safety of the tens of thousands of untested, unregulated chemicals used in personal care products such as shampoos and household cleaners, and the presence of small amounts of probable carcinogens such as 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde in products such as baby wash.

The industry’s response was to:

1) ignore our questions – even when we telephoned;

2) send out form emails like this one that didn’t address our questions; and

3) engage this “crisis management” PR firm to leave comments on our blogs alleging that both the Green Mom bloggers and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group, the environmental groups behind the studies, were “irresponsible,” were causing “hysteria,” and suggesting that we needed to do more “critical thinking.”

Check out my friend Jennifer Taggert’s post, “Oh, don’t worry, you’re just a mommy blogger & just a little bit of a carcinogen is okay.” Read the comments.

Prior to the carnival, I was a bit skeptical of the need for the Kid Safe Chemicals Act. Because Ad Age recently reported on J&J‘s new social media campaign and their desire to “deepen engagement” with Mom bloggers, I expected they would welcome a call from a blogger asking for J&J’s perspective prior to publishing a blog post. Regrettably, that was not my experience with J&J, nor with the Personal Care Products Council.

I hoped that my efforts to reach out to industry before publishing my post for the Green Moms Carnival would lead to more confidence in the state of the industry and the existing regulatory system, not less confidence.

As Mary Hunt says here, “I find it amusing that if women are surveyed by a paid for research firm, their answers are sanctified and considered valid feedback. But if women give the same opinions freely on the web without “being asked,” then they are hysterical or overreacting. The only difference is that someone in the middle was paid to ask the question. Go figure.”

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, everyone. I’m going to try to go off and focus on dying eggs the natural way. I’ll try not to eat too much Fair Trade Easter chocolate. But this isn’t over. If anything, the industry’s response to our concerns has galvanized us to action.

Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

It May Be April Fool’s Day, But Toxins in Baby Bath are No Joke

April 1st, 2009

It sounds incredible: probable human carcinogens like formaldehyde in children’s bubble bath. Yes, today is April Fool’s Day, but this is no joke. This is the sad reality of the state of our personal care products industry.

How did we get to this point? It’s a function of our regulatory system (or lack thereof as some might say). According to the non-profit Environmental Working Group, “The nation’s toxic chemical regulatory law, the Toxic Substances Control Act, is in drastic need of reform. Passed in 1976 and never amended since, TSCA is widely regarded as the weakest of all major environmental laws on the books today. When passed, the Act declared safe some 62,000 chemicals already on the market, even though there were little or no data to support this policy. Since that time another 20,000 chemicals have been put into commerce in the United States, also with little or no data to support their safety.”

And if this is news to you, you may be asking why you’re learning about this only now. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics just last month released its “No More Toxic Tub” report, which included lab results showing that personal care products are commonly contaminated with formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane – and, in many cases, both. According to the report, “These two chemicals, linked to cancer and skin allergies, are anything but safe and gentle and are completely unregulated in children’s bath products.”

But you know what? This isn’t new news. It may be new to you because perhaps you’re a new parent who is just for the first time paying careful attention to what goes into the bath water with your baby. But the fact is, you can find reports like this one about 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde dating back to 2007 – and I imagine, even earlier. (Updated 4/3: Here’s a link reporting that in 1982, “the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel noted that the cosmetic industry was aware of the problem of 1,4-dioxane in cosmetics and was making an effort to reduce or remove the impurity.” )

The makers of these products claim they are completely safe and meet all government requirements. J&J’s products are bearing the bulk of the criticism from today’s Green Moms Carnival because of J&J’s ill-timed “Big Bubblin Stars” video campaign. But the fact is, J&J does meet all US requirements. Levels of formaldehyde in the J&J products are even below EU levels, which is significant because many American consumers try to follow EU standards for personal care products because they believe them to be safer than the US standards.

But the issue is not J&J’s products alone. Why? We are exposed to thousands of personal care products over our lifetimes. If each one of these products leaches trace amounts of potentially toxic chemicals into our bodies – as tests like the EWG’s “Body Burden” test have shown – then the effect is a cumulative one. And when you’re talking about infants, small children, and young people in their reproductive years, the potential effects are really unknown. We do know that chemicals have been linked to cancers. We do know that we’ve seen a marked decrease in fertility in this country and an increasing number of reproductive diseases. Are they connected to repeated chemical exposures from birth on? I agree with Dr. Philip P. Landrigan, Professor and Chair of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He says, “Children are not simply ‘little adults’. They are uniquely vulnerable to toxic exposures in the environment. Exposures in early life can affect human health over the entire life span. We need to find definitive answers about the relationship between toxic chemicals and health so we can protect our children now and in the future.”

In response to past criticism, J&J’s spokesperson Iris Grossman has said, “It’s important to stress that all our products are within the FDA limits.” But that’s just the problem. Are the FDA limits appropriate? Unfortunately, one of the legacies left us by the Bush Administration is the public’s fundamental distrust of our regulatory system. The public has just been burned too many times by lax oversight. Look at our financial markets. The SEC claims it wasn’t aware of the extensive use of derivatives in our secondary markets. Heck, I remember learning about derivatives way back in ’97 when I was at Georgetown’s Business School. No, I didn’t understand them, but I still remember scribbling this note: Derivatives: Stay Away!!! Then there’s the sad state of our food safety oversight. How many more people will have to die of salmonella before we get that under control? What about the lead in children’s toys? I shouldn’t have to cart my toys over to The Smart Mama for a thorough lead inspection.

Many will advocate for more regulation, such as the Kid Safe Chemical Act supported by the Environmental Working Group. But regulations don’t always work as intended. The CSPIA, enacted to prevent the sale of items containing lead, has inadvertently caused many small makers of children’s products to go out of business because they couldn’t afford to comply with the testing requirements imposed by the new law. Then there’s the response to the banking crisis. While the government was celebrating the passage of TARP, the bankers were celebrating the fact that the law didn’t require them to start lending again. How do I know that? I first learned about it at a Washington Christmas party, well before that scandal had finally hit the press. And now that spring is here? The credit markets still remain frozen.

So is The Kid Safe Chemical Act the answer? Will it cause more problems than it purports to solve? Will it inadvertently cause harm to the natural and organic purveyors, by causing them to comply with burdensome regulation, just like what happened when the USDA Organic regulation and the CSPIA was passed? I don’t know. I don’t claim to be a regulatory expert. But I do know something about marketing. And I know that the profit margins on personal care products – beauty products in particular – are incredibly high. It is a very lucrative business, and in most cases the biggest expense is not producing the product, it’s marketing. It’s paying for all the free samples and glossy magazine ads that personal care products companies routinely hand out.

Of course, it’s a different matter in the natural and organics market. There, the cost of all natural alternatives to synthetic chemical ingredients is high. And consequently, on a percentage basis, they spend less on marketing than companies like P&G or J&J.

As an MBA and a New Jersey native, I have very dear friends who have worked at leading personal care companies like J&J, Bristol Myers Squibb, and P&G. Of course they believe their products are safe and comply with US law. But that’s not the whole issue. Someone – either the personal care industry as a whole – or the US government – needs to take a closer look at the 82,000 chemicals used in our personal care products to assess the likelihood that they are contributing to our sky high cancer rates and the increasing incidence of reproductive abnormalities.

And as a former newspaper reporter, I know that there are two sides to every story. So I called J&J before publishing this blog post. I wanted to understand their stance on the Kid Safe Chemical Act and the possible adverse affects of long term exposure to the multitude of chemicals in our personal care products. Their spokesperson, Iris Grossman, could not respond to these questions, although she did offer to put me in touch with their “Mommy blogger” person. I pointed out to her that if she couldn’t answer my question, I didn’t think a “Mommy blogger” specialist could either. Then the shock set in. As a marketing and communications professional, I know that every company has a set of standard Q&As used to respond to the media. I asked her if this meant that NO ONE had ever asked these questions before:
- What is J&J’s stance on the Kid Safe Chemical Act?
- What does J&J think about the adverse affects of long term exposure to the thousands of chemicals used in personal care products?
- Is this issue even being discussed at the industry level, through groups like the Personal Products Council?

So what can you do? Here are a few choices:

1. Sign this petition in support of the Kid Safe Chemical Act.
2. Fill out this web form to contact J&J and tell them you want them to lead an industry-wide effort to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act. Or, leave a comment on the J&J blog.
3. Contact the Personal Care Products Council here and tell them you expect a better response to the EWG report than the one that their Chief Scientist gave US News & World Report. “These are issues that have been around for many, many years, so it’s not new news. The thing that impressed me was the low levels of dioxane that were found in these products, which indicates to me that the industry is doing its job in keeping this potential contaminant down to a low level.” (And yes, I’ve called the Personal Care Products Council and am just waiting for a call back).
4. Check the EWG’s Skin Deep data base to find safer alternatives to the products identified in the Campaign’s report.

5. Use fewer personal care products and try to find those with fewer, simpler ingredients.

6. Contact your Congressional representatives to let them know you support Kid Safe. Support is especially critical in Pennyslvania and California.  This press release from Senator Lautenberg’s office includes good background information on the bill.  If you or someone you know lives in PA, check out this link.

If you live in CA, check out this link.

What do you think? Please leave a comment and share. And if you want to talk about the issue, I’ll be on the radio today along with Jennifer Taggert, The Smart Mama, and Lisa Frack of the Environmental Working Group. You can listen to us here and call in with questions at (530) 265-9555.

Thanks for reading this far! This was a longer than usual post, but I felt I needed the space to make these arguments.

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Great Deals on Recycled Toilet Paper & Why TP Shouldn’t Be at the Bottom of Your Green List

March 2nd, 2009

Perhaps you saw the news a few days ago: reports from Greenpeace, publicized in The New York Times, Fast Company, and the UK newspaper The Guardian, which emphasized the importance of choosing recycled toilet paper over “squeezably soft” brands, which get that softness from wood pulp found only in virgin forests.

Going green involves huge changes in buying behaviors: everything from food to clothing to houses, cars, and even toilet paper gets looked at with increased awareness of its ecological impact.

And for many of us — well, swapping out our favorite toilet paper brand is at the bottom of the list. I’ll admit it: I didn’t give much thought to recycled toilet paper, figuring that I’d just wait until the prices came down and the quality came up. Memories of scratchy paper from overseas didn’t do anything to encourage me to check out recycled toilet paper, and frankly, I didn’t realize the extent to which premium toilet paper is taken from old growth forests. (Read more of this disturbing news here).

So I took a fresh look at recycled toilet paper versus conventional, and found big changes in the marketplace. Did you realize you can buy recycled paper for less money than conventional toilet paper?

CVS recently introduced CVS Earth Essentials, recycled content napkins, toilet paper, and paper towels. I decided that at .89 cents a roll, I could spring for one, and put it to the test versus Scott bathroom tissues, available on the same drugstore shelf for $1.29 per roll, and Seventh Generation, available at Whole Foods for $1.39 per roll.

The verdict? Recycled toilet paper has come a long way. Yes, from the perspective of “The Princess and the Pea,” you do notice a bit of a difference, but it is very slight and not nearly enough to merit being called “scratchy.” The quality is equivalent to the type of toilet paper you find in most public buildings. It’s fine.

And it’s really cheap in bulk. After the successful home test, I returned to CVS to stock up. They’re running a sale on four packs of Earth Essentials, now $3.49, on sale from $4.69 through April 30th. That’s a $1.20 savings per 4-pack. But the savings really add up when you buy a 12-pack for $8.99. That’s less than 75 cents per roll. And if you have a CVS “ExtraCare card,” you may reap even more savings. My initial .89 cent purchase yielded a $5 off any $15 purchase, so when I returned to pick up the 12-pack, I added a few other things in my cart and saved even more.

The CVS Earth Essentials toilet paper rated a “Green Tree” stamp of approval from Greenpeace. (Unfortunately the other Earth Essentials products didn’t rank quite as highly as their toilet paper). Check out the Greenpeace guide here. Other good bets for best buys include the Trader Joe’s house brand and Whole Foods 365 brand. And don’t forget, you can often get 10% off a case of goods such as toilet paper at your local market – just ask! My Organic Market offers this discount plus a “best price” guarantee. Other good sources include CSAs, which often stock paper goods too.

So what are you waiting for? Take the switch to recycled toilet paper off the bottom of your list today!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Green and Organic Savings Friday: CVS “Organic” Make-up, Late Night Specials at Whole Foods, Organic Baby Food and More!

May 16th, 2008

Last night OrganicMania discovered an advantage to waiting until the absolute last minute to pick up groceries. Never before had I heard the voice booming across Whole Foods announcing, “Two-for-one Special! Buy One, Get One Free!” Buy what? Where the heck was I? For a second, I thought I was back in Germany, where at Kaufhalle a flashing blue siren goes off before a voice announces “Sonderangebot!”

But no, it was the gorgeous sandwiches in the prepared food section that were on sale. Every night at about 9:55 p.m. you can pick up two sandwiches for the price of one. OrganicMania nabbed two gorgeous eggplant sandwiches for $3.15 each! Can’t beat that…

Well, maybe….we just tried the eggplant sandwich and sad to say, it is a bit past its prime, despite the prepared food manager’s assurances that it would taste just fine. My DH deemed it better suited to a midnight snack, and suggested we keep experimenting “in the name of research” to see if any of their sale sandwiches hold up better than the eggplant. More on that subject another week!

physicians-formula.jpg

Isn’t it great to see all these sale signs on organic make-up? Now’s the time to try Physician’s Formula Organic Make-up with the 2 for one sale at CVS. Not only is the make-up 2 for the price of 1, but CVS offers incredible coupon savings through their CVS card program. So savvy CVS shoppers may be able to get their make-up for nothing or next to nothing!

I haven’t tried this make-up yet, but one thing I love about it is the sustainable packaging. The powder is packaged in recyclable paper instead of petroleum-based plastic. That’s one trend we should all hope that the other cosmetics makers adopt.

On the flip side, this make-up is marketed as “organic” when it has many chemical ingredients and is not certified USDA organic. The marketing of this “organic make-up” falls into that “gray area” OrganicMania discussed here with Diane MacEachern, noted environmentalist and author of the eco best seller “Big Green Purse.”

But as with so many other cosmetics lines, you need to be careful about the specific products you purchase. Check out this overview of Physicians Formula ingredients by the Environmental Working Group, and you’ll see that the safety rankings are all over the map. Best bets?

The powder and foundation are both ranked 3, or “moderate hazard” by the EWG, which is actually very good compared to most cosmetics.

OrganicMania considers the eye make-up remover pads and sunscreen “best buys” with EWG rankings of 2, or low hazard. It’s unlikely you’ll find a better choice for your money .

Now that you’re all beautified, what does that lead to? Romance! Love! Babies! Baby food! How’s that for a segue?

organic-baby-food.jpg

Safeway once again has its housebrand O Organics Baby Food 4.5 ounce baby food jars on sale, 10 jars for $7.00 or 17.5 cents per ounce, saving you 90 cents on ten. Unfortunately, that’s a whole dollar more per ten than this organic baby food sale Safeway ran about six months ago, when organic baby food was priced at a just a penny more than conventional baby food! But 10 jars for $7.00 is still a good deal with today’s rising food prices. Are you planning to keep buying organic for your baby? Leave a comment and share!

Did you find any good deals this week? Please share your tips! And check out these other savings tips here. (Warning: some green, some not so green!)

Happy shopping!

Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Don’t Throw Out That Baby Shampoo!

February 29th, 2008

Since this month’s publication in the medical journal Pediatrics of a study linking infant exposure to shampoos, powders and lotions with increased urinary concentrations of phthalates, many parents have been replacing their favorite baby brands with organic alternatives. There’s cause for concern, since phthalates have been linked to changes in male reproductive development.

But there’s a difference between replacing and throwing out. In their zeal to get rid of questionable baby products, some parents are throwing out bottles of shampoo. Talk about an eco-mistake!

Instead of throwing the packages out, why not donate them? Of course, you won’t want to donate them to children’s organizations, but there are some great options that will enable the products to be re-used by populations that won’t be at risk for reproductive damage by phthalates – and where the health benefits of a shower or bath would far outweigh any other potential risk! (And of course, you can always use them yourself. In fact, many people dismiss this study. Here’s a counterpoint.)

If you do decide to donate the products, here are some options for re-use. Consider the following:

• Check out freecycle.org You can post a message offering the products and cautioning people to use them only for adults.
• Many charitable organizations offer showers to the homeless, and are constantly in search of toiletries. A great example of this is the “Water Ministry” run by Saint Columba’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. But organizations like this exist nationwide. Contact your local homeless agency to see where you can donate shampoos, soaps and lotions.

For a comprehensive list of natural baby products, check out the EWG’s research here.

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

When Green Means Chic

February 22nd, 2008

There was a time when the Greens conjured up images of anything but fashion. The original “Greens” were a political movement that rejected fashion and other bourgeois values. But today’s “Greens,” at least in the US, are primarily female and, as the New York Times pointed out, increasingly bourgeois. So of course they’re interested in fashion. Perhaps that’s why twice in the past few hours I’ve stumbled upon green fashion launches – Organic Style, a new online “green style” magazine, and today’s launch of Mimi and Motherhood Maternity’s new lines of organic cotton clothing and “eco-accessories.”

Organic Style is a brand extension of Organic Bouquet, and an adaptation of a print magazine published for several years by the venerable Rodale Press, the leading health and wellness publishing firm. Organic Style is quite highbrow, promoting items such as cruelty-free footware “custom made to your specifications” for $450 to $800 per pair, luxurious eco-friendly resorts with suites costing $1500 per night, and “the world’s tallest roses,” starting at $249.95. It’s like Town&Country for the eco-set.

At the other end of the spectrum is Motherhood Maternity, offering organic cotton maternity tops for just $17.  The selection is quite small, with just fifteen items encompassing organic t-shirts, Burt’s Bees potions, and organic pregnancy and baby books. Mimi’s selection is more upscale than Motherhood’s, so you’ll pay a higher price for an organic cotton top – about $30 more than at Motherhood.

What I really want to know is – where can I find regular (non-maternity) stylish organic cotton tops for around $17?

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Greenwashing at the Kiddie Hair Salon

January 30th, 2008

Today was a milestone day – I finally got Baby Boo his first real haircut, since far too many people were calling him “her.” So by rights, I should be thinking about that happy milestone. But instead, I left the salon steaming mad about one of the most egregious examples of greenwashing I’ve come across – an “all natural, organic hair care for children” line of lice treatment products called Fairy Tales Hair Care for Children.

I happen to really be in the market for an organic lice treatment – in fact I even included it in a post called “Humor Me Not: The Top 10 Organic and Eco-Friendly Products Moms Really Need.”

But skeptic that I am, the first two things I do when I see anything labeled “natural” or “organic” is to check the ingredients list and to look for a USDA organic certification label. Despite the “organic” claims, I didn’t see a USDA label on the Fairy Tales bottles, but I did see a long list of non-organic ingredients including major no-nos like parabens and fragrance.

According to the Environmental Working Group, “parabens can disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system, and were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied.” And the EWG reports that fragrance should be avoided in children’s products because of allergens that may contain neurotoxic or hormone-disrupting chemicals. (You can learn more about fragrance through this informative EWG video clip).

Although the FDA allows low levels of many chemicals in personal care products, there is increasing concern about the impact of low doses of chemicals on our bodies. You can read an excellent EWG commentary on this here. And even conservative business publications like The Wall Street Journal – hardly a tool of the environmental lobby – have published research questioning the safety of personal care chemicals. In fact, it was the Wall Street Journal’s multi-part series about this issue that inspired me to reduce my family’s use of household cleaning and personal care products with unnecessary chemical ingredients.

The ten chemicals listed in the Fairy Tale Rosemary Repel® shampoo ingredients make these “organic” marketing claims seem audacious. I checked the ingredient list against the Environmental Working Group’s SkinDeep database of personal care products and discovered that six of these chemicals are considered moderate risks to health by the EWG. Just click on the links to read the EWG’s reports on cocamidopropyl betaine, lauramide DEA, methylparaben, propylparaben, polyquaternium-10 and quaternium-15, all ingredients in this so-called “organic shampoo.”

In fact, the label doesn’t list any actual organic ingredients. Yes, it’s true the shampoo contains natural ingredients like jojoba seed oil, rosemary leaf oil, anise oil, tea tree oil, and anise oil, but as the Executive Director of the Organic Consumers Association says on the OCA website, “Organic consumers expect their organic personal care to be free of synthetic foaming agents and preservatives, and companies should not just add token organic ingredients on top of such synthetics to make organic product claims. Consumers should look for the “USDA Organic” seal on products if they want to be certain they are truly organic.”

Moreover, the National Institutes of Health announced a year ago that consumers should exercise caution when using personal care products with tea tree oil (and lavender) because they may cause breast growth in boys.

So dear readers, please look for the USDA Organic seal and READ LABELS on personal care products, especially those marketed to children or used by women during childbearing years. Of course, it’s hard to attentively read a label when you have kids in tow at the kiddie hair salon – which is yet another reason I find this particular case of kiddie greenwashing so annoying.

My advice? Take the money you might have spent on this ill-conceived product and donate it instead to the non-profit Environmental Working Group, so they can keep on producing and publicizing this important health research. Click here to donate. And if you’re a Facebook member, go here to donate $10, which will enable the EWG to add another product to the Skindeep database.

– Lynn

Copyright 2008, OrganicMania