Feeling the burn (Day 114)…

June 22, 2007


So I just bought all that fancy, mineral-based suntan lotion, and what do I do? Promptly go out in the sun, neglect to apply any of it and scald my back. The worst part was, I was just sitting there thinking, “My back is probably burning right now,” and did nothing other than half-heartedly rotate, so I was more asking for skin cancer than begging for it.

The product junkie in me insisted I march straight to Shopper’s Drug Mart and buy some after-sun lotion, plus maybe some of that cooling gel meant for arthritis — that stuff rocks.

But then I stopped and reconsidered. For one thing, those lotions have never really seemed very effective, and for another, if something like aloe vera is supposed to be good for sunburns, it would surely make a lot more sense to get an actual leaf of aloe, which doesn’t come in all that plastic and paper packaging. I also have this homemade beeswax stuff that could be worth a try, although the chances that anything other than time will turn this red blotchiness into an even tan are slim to none.

That’s OK, though. I figure, I’ve contributed to global warming, so if I’m stupid enough not to protect myself from it, I might as well pay the price and feel the burn.

Image courtesy from these guys.

No more band-aid solutions (Day 106)…

June 14, 2007


While ripping open some mail yesterday, I accidentally sliced my finger on a staple (I have no idea why anyone would staple an envelope, but there you go). Anyway, because my brain is now wired to be in constant eco-mode, I was sitting there at my desk, oozing blood, and the first thing I think is, “Ooh — I wonder if there’s some way I can green my first-aid?”

Unfortunately, band-aids come wrapped in unrecyclable wax paper, are attached to disposable peel-off stickies, and are made from mostly plastic, adhesive glue and just a tiny square of bleached cotton.

So I wandered around the maze of cubicles until I found a first-aid kit, which contained a roll of gauze. The only packaging it had was some plain paper on the outside, and while it probably wasn’t organic cotton or anything, it seemed a bit more eco-friendly than the band-aids. I snipped off a segment, twirled it around my finger and just held it there with my thumb until the bleeding stopped.

If it was a major gash, this solution may not have been applicable, but I’m convinced there are other, greener ways to deal with cuts like this — perhaps that liquid you spray on to make them clot right away? Or is that really toxic? I’d use my hankie but I’m worried it’s not sterile enough.

Either way, I’m going to try and avoid band-aids whenever possible. If it’s the only solution available I’ll have to make an exception, but in the mean time, I’m going to have a little pep talk with my platelets.

Image courtesy of these peeps

Voluntary simplicity, beginning with the end of my face wash (Day 100)…

June 8, 2007


In the ninth episode of Greentime, Amy speaks about the idea of voluntary simplicity: The idea that having the freedom to do whatever we want in the end actually makes us less happy, so we have to shift our thought processes from wanting to needing: Do I need multiple SUVs? Do I need to sleep in these pyjamas? Do I need this glass of wine from Australia? (Well, yes, actually I do need that last thing).

Now if there’s anyone who knows from happy, it’s a Buddhist — seriously, have you ever seen a statue of a disgruntled Buddha? I didn’t think so. To these guys, happiness is wearing only a robe and sandals, eating a bowl of rice, sitting on top of a mountain and thinking about nothing.

I’m not going to lie, no matter how aligned my chakras or what stage of enlightenment I’m at, my definition of happiness is going to go way beyond rice and sandals. But the further along I get in this green challenge, the greater appreciation I have for minimalism.

I look at Meghan, who doesn’t have a closet, TV, microwave, dishwasher, bath or air conditioning, and she’s perfectly happy. My friend Craig has been known to throw out cell phones and even couches on a whim — yes, he might also need a check-up from the neck-up, but he seems content.

But enough rambling: all this is just long-winded way of saying that I’m done with face wash; I’m using my bar soap instead.

My sister might think this is ironic, as I’ve always reprimanded her for doing exactly this.

“How can you use the same soap on your body that you use on your face?” I’d ask in disbelief. I think I’d heard this same question being posed just as derisively on a television commercial once, and it always seemed to make sense, until I stopped to think about it. In reality, it’s not as though confining oneself to a single soap is akin to washing your face with your armpit residue. Soap’s soap, and skin’s skin.

So when I bought this Kiss My Face pure olive oil bar soap, I thought I’d do as the label told me and kiss my face with it. After rinsing clean and looking up, part of me was shocked that it hadn’t left my pores in ruins and stripped half my freckles away — but no, it was the same as any other product I’ve been washing my face with until now. And it gets all my makeup off too, so no need for separate makeup remover.

One bar of soap, three purposes, two less products needed.

P.S. I can’t believe I’ve made it to 100 days! Woo-hoo!

Francey pants sun protection (Day 97)…

June 5, 2007


Despite what the T-shirt says, pale is not the new tan. But I’m pretty sure, last time I checked, skin cancer wasn’t the new tan, either. The compromise, then, for a freckle-susceptible white girl like me is to get my sun in small doses and wear an SPF-15 lotion, maybe a little eco-bronzer for good measure.

I’ve been hearing some bad things in the organic grapevine about suntan lotion — like how synthetic UV filters don’t properly absorb the rays, not to mention all the lovely parabens that usually appear in the ingredients list — which sucks, because I get totally high on the smell of Hawaiian Tropic.

But I can’t just not wear any protection and lurk in the shadows all day. So I went poking around. And where better to poke, really, than Paris? I know, it’s not exactly local, but this Mary Cohr Pur Environnement brand sounds so great, and not just because the label is written en français (but I won’t lie, terms like bronzage lissant make me feel pretty special).

All their products are GMO-free, derived only from renewable plant species and of course not tested on animals, and the suntan lotions are entirely mineral-based, naturally protecting against the full UVA/UVB spectrum.

I got mine at this holistic spa/yoga studio/naturopath clinic/eco-boutique in Toronto, 889 Yonge, while under the influence of an Ayurvedic head massage. It wasn’t cheap, but I’ll mostly be using it on my face and décolletage, if you will. I might, however, invest in another cheaper natural brand like Lavera for when my pale ass is in the Middle East in the middle of July and I’m reapplying every seven minutes.

My greener dry cleaner (Day 90)…

May 29, 2007


Taking clothes to the dry cleaners can be an eco-nightmare. It’s usually one of the errands people run with a car because no one wants to walk or bike with an armful of dirty clothes; the dry cleaning process itself uses tons of chemicals; then it gets handed back on useless wire hangers with paper sleeves and all that plastic wrap over top.

A lot of clothing items with a “dry clean only” label on them can actually be handwashed, but I’ve also lost more than a few ridiculously expensive cashmere sweaters that way, too, so I prefer to just do what the label tells me. But I’ve officially switched to New Way Cleaners, a company by my parents’ house that’s been around since 1936 and perc-free for a couple years now.

Perc, short for perchloroethylene, is most often the main solvent used in dry cleaning. It has also been declared toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and been shown to cause cancer in animals when exposed to amounts only just above the legal workplace limit.

So when they found out about these carcinogenic effects, the company stayed true to its name and searched for a new way to dry clean. It invested in all-new machines and non-toxic detergent, which is fully biodegradable and overall gentler both on clothes and skin.

Fortunately, I don’t own many things that need dry cleaning anyway (the shrunken cashmere sweaters pretty much scarred me for life). And I think when I head back next time I’m going to ask if they can put my clothes on the side so I’m not stuck with all the stupid hangers and saran wrap.

A greener shade of bronze (Day 68)…

May 7, 2007

Spring has finally sprung, which in Canada means it’s time to dig out that crumpled pair of shorts and musty T-shirt, forgo ironing in favour of a good shake or two, and, if you’re as white as I am, proceed to blind innocent passersby with the paleness of your arms and legs.

Splurging on bronzer is therefore entirely justified in my books as a necessary means of preventing damaged retinas and loss of vision. However, most bronzers are full of those chemicals, dyes and other potential toxins listed as tongue-twisting ingredients on the back of the bottle (sodium lauryl sulfate, dihydroxyactone, parabens) but euphemistic promises on the front (long-lasting, streak-free, glowing).

So because I’m a sucker for euphemisms, especially when it comes to skincare products, I found myself in the drug store, scanning the rows of lotions and potions in various shades of brown, picking a few up, checking my wallet and letting my vanity beat my sanity to a bloody pulp with visions of shiny J.Lo skin. But just as I was about to cave in, my birthday arrived, and my sister came to the rescue with an all-natural bronzing powder from Ecco Bella.

As the company says, it comes in a recyclable paperback compact (no refills, but I’m not going to be picky) and is made with “aloe, vitamin E, green tea and our exclusive flower wax coated pigments” — all words I understand (though I’m not entirely sure what flower wax is). I’ll mostly just use it for my face because it’s a powder, but I’m officially making the switch from synthetic fake tanning to natural fake tanning.

Does that even make sense?

Not bound to cotton rounds (Day 66)…

May 5, 2007

Sometimes I think the female species is more responsible for overflowing landfills and excess waste than their male counterparts — at least when it comes to females like myself, ie. recovering product junkies who have an 18-step bedtime regimen involving brushing, flossing, sometimes mouthwashing, one moisturizer for hands, feet and elbows, another for arms and legs, lip balm, a few hair brushes, etc. When it comes to my face, I’ve always used those little cotton rounds to remove my makeup, then used a face wash, toner, night cream, and if I have any zits then some ointment for that, too.

High maintenance? Maybe. But I’m cutting down on at least one step by not buying any more cotton rounds. Instead, I’ll use a facecloth. This will require a bit of extra water, but not much, and considering the little pads are made with bleach and come wrapped in plastic — even the organic ones come in some sort of disposable packaging — I think it’s the more environmentally sound thing to do.