Monday, January 3, 2011

Black and White or Shades of Grey: Our decisions for our planet

Over the past two years, since my renewed sense of tree hugging and eco-yoga connection I've tried to make the best choices possible while being realistic.

As being green is becoming the new trend, every company and their oil spewing organizations are marketing their product as "environmentally friendly". Although it's great that how we spend our money can really send a clear message, choices are becoming less clear and more muddied. No black and white delineation here.

For example my struggle to find a fantastic, chemical free shampoo. Nothing I've tried that would meet my rigid "clean" standards (i.e. no synthetic, weird chemicals- recyclable container) have sucked. I mean, sucked bum. Seriously. And I've tried dozens. Do you know what happens to the disgustingly terrible shampoo? I try to use it as body wash, or shaving stuff... but it's SO wasteful. I got to the point after six months of really really bad hair that I was done. I need to look professional for my job, it's important. And I like having nice hair. Friends and co-workers actually commented on the difference when I changed back to icky shampoo. Including people who had no idea of my struggles.

I wondered if I should just go the middle road and buy some Aveda. They have wonderful environmental company type practices after all and have been at least trying to decrease chemicals from their shampoos.... But I really really really hate how smug and misleading they are. I really don't like being manipulated and misled. If I buy their shampoo I am sending the message that I support their "middle of the road". A purchase doesn't come with an explanation. (missed my rants on Aveda? Check out here and here for some fun!).

Is sorta eco better than not at all?

What about green initiatives that are funded by oil guzzling organizations? Like "Evergreen" a "..national charity that makes cities more livable" with a vision of: "... a sustainably society where individuals live in harmony with and contribute meaningfully to their local environment..."
According to their website, funding comes from various sources including:
  • Shell Canada (oil company)
  • Honda Canada
  • Walmart
  • Unilever (owners of a whole slew of chemical laden beauty products including Axe)
  • Toyota
It's great that these companies who are also responsible for creating and supporting products that harm our environment are taking the initiative to support something good for a change.... but does it justify?

I believe it's trying the best choices with what information we have. I truly don't believe that by making a less-chemical line (like Clorox did with GreenWorks) justifies continuing to crap on our planet. But I find I'm often faced with more and more conflicting decisions.

Like how I entered the Lush store prior to Yulemas in order to find a less offensive cologne for Andrew. I ended up purchasing their "guerilla perfume" product called... get this... "Breath of a God" (very clever marketing). It smells awesome, won't give Andrew a migraine and has *mostly* essential oils and alcohol. Ingredient list:

DRF Alcohol, Perfume, Cedarwood Oil (Cupressus funebris), Rose Oil (Rosa damascena), Ylang Ylang Oil (Cananga odorata), Vetivert Oil (Vetiveria zizanoides), Lemon Oil (Citrus limonum), Grapefruit Oil (Citrus paradisi), Neroli Oil (Citrus Aurantium amara), Black Pepper Oil (Piper nigrum), Sandalwood Oil (Santalum austro-caledonicum vieill), Cade Oil (Juniperus oxycedrus), *Benzyl Salicylate, *Citral, *Coumarin, *Eugenol, *Geraniol, *Citronellol, *Benzyl Benzoate, *Farnesol, *Limonene, *Linalool
*Occurs naturally in essential oils

Honestly, I don't like the "perfume" ingredient in there- usually that masks some pretty nasty stuff and the *occurs naturally in essential oils can also be pretty darn irritating.... but have you smelled the regular alternatives? Sigh. I made a decision and Andrew loves the result. What can I say?

What do you think? Should we really just go with a stick to our tree hugging staffs, no middle road... or do we find a balance encouraging awareness and knowledge?

article and photograph copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. I use "Nature Clean" shampoo-unscented .I buy it at superstore organic section.It is made in Canada and I really love it(and conditioner).
    Have you tried that one?I also really love their soap bar now out...

  2. @Anonymous: that's wonderful that it works for you :) I know my friend Jen has success with some "green" shampoos as well.
    My issue is that Nature Clean has some weird ingredients. like ALPHA BISABOLOL, BETA-GLUCAN, PHENOXYETHANOL, TROPOLONE

    Although better than regular shampoo, it's still not 100% clean.

    So- do I purchase something that is kinda mostly "green" or do I go for Aveda, also mostly green and that I know works? Or......?

    (ps- Bar soap ROCKS :) )

  3. I feel you. I nearly had a meltdown trying to exchange Body Shop stuff last week (Christmas gift). They don't have a list of vegan products and my eyes were crossing from reading ingredient labels and trying to figure out what I could swap them out for...I ended up with essential oil and my husband picked a deodorant. *sigh* For me, buying vegan products is my top priority, so I don't have the same concerns about Lush that you do (I love that they label their vegan items!). But I think we're pretty much in the same boat!

    It can be really difficult trying to find that magic balance between being eco-friendly, supporting a company whose policies you agree with, saving money, and finding a product that actually WORKS. I've gone through so much crappy lotion etc., feeling obligated to use it all because I bought it.

    So, I wish you peace and pretty hair, whatever your decision. :) Mama Earth loves you.

  4. i'm going to use a 'work phrase' now: continuous improvement. as long as you continue to make upgrades to your 'greenliness', you're on the right path. educating others (whether they take your advice or not) is HUGE. i have learned so much from other bloggers and know i've been able to share a lot.

    i always shout 'AMEN!' when you point out companies who talk green but don't walk green. the more we can get involved with companies, the greener we can make planets, as they have such a massive footprint (ever read Ecology of Commerce? one of the Great Books)

    re: shampoo, i've never tried the powder stuff, have you? i get my organic shampoo from the bulk aisle at my store, so i keep refilling the same container. it's plastic so my next Upgrade is to find a pretty glass bottle to use instead.

    now, can we get Yancy at Five Seed to make us shampoo as well???

  5. If shampoo is one area where you just can't find a "greener" one that works for you, then so what. You can also do things like using smaller amounts of shampoo and seeing if you can wash your hair less often. But what I really think you can try is looking at other areas in your life where you can make substantial changes that are ones you (and your husband can live with). Using reusable menstrual products has a huge impact for example:)

  6. oh yes, this is my constant struggle. i thought i found an amazing shampoo (albeit in a plastic bottle) but turns out it has sulphates. wondering if i should also give up for middle-road lush bar shampoo with SLS, so at least it's less packaging. Although I'm using an Aubrey organics one at home (plastic bottle, again) that seems decent... i can't remember if there are hidden baddies in there?

    I think middle of the road is all we can do sometimes. We need to be able to enjoy life as well without constantly beating ourselves up over every single imperfect choice.

  7. Sisters (and brothers) in the struggle...

    I just happened upon this blog, very nice:) I have been trying for years to find a good, green, non-toxic shampoo, and I just happened upon a fabulous company.

    For my hair, I use Dancing Dingo products, via mail order. Particularly, I use the normal-type shampoo and conditioner. The company really strives to create green, non-toxic, fabulous products.

    My hair has never looked better - I have pretty nice hair to start with, but most products weigh it down and make it look oily and over-wrought. This doesn't, and only uses essential oils to create wonderful smelling stuff. You can even get sample sizes, to try out different scents or products, and they are very friendly.

    In general, I highly recommend looking up things on the Skin Deep cosmetics database (google it, you'll find it). As far as I've been able to deduce, they are fairly independent, and they really list the exact chemicals and why/in what manner they are bad/good. Dancing Dingo, I believe, is usually a 0 or 1, at most.

    You'd be SO surprised as to the products that say they are organic, yet score high on their bad list, and those that are in the middle or even on the lower end (Suave can sometimes beat Nature's Gate and Burt's Bees, weird). A real find.

  8. My daughter used the no-poo method of washing with baking soda and likes it quite well. I had mixed results. I like Aubrey shampoos or Avalon brand.

  9. My mom likes Arbonne shampoo, but I think it's expensive.
    If you can't find something good enough for you in stores, did you try to order shampoo that isn't readily available in stores, such as online. Many companies are out there.

  10. thanks for all the suggestions everyone. :)
    However, the post really wasn't about my issues with shampoo.

    It was about how the decisions to support 'green' initiatives, organizations and products has becoming increasingly more difficult with toxic oil guzzling companies jumping on the 'green' bandwagon.

    Shampoo was more of an example of the middle ground.

  11. @Vegan B: oh I can completely relate re: melting down at someplace like the body shop! I am so glad i'm not the only one who has gone through crappy 'eco' stuff!

    @EcoGrrl: I LOVE your workphrase! that one rocks. Yes- Yancy definitely needs to make a shampoo even though I know she does a 'no poo'..... :)

    @Susanna Eve: thank you for the support. I also adore my Diva Cup- it was the BEST invention ever! So would you avoid a product that was uber green because it was owned by a company like Clorox?

    @Callah: I agree, I try not to beat myself up about it. But... when making the choices I really wonder if we should avoid those company's greenification attempts, purchase and write a letter deploring their other practices, or just buy the product hoping the green will rub off on their other practices?

  12. Seriously you have to try to go NO POO, my hair just gets better and better and shinier and shiner. Check out my post if you are not sure how!


  13. That's a hard one to answer. I think this tree hugging, eco-friendly generation is going to have to take changes in strides. There are going to be some things we can switch over directly. Like where we buy our food, what cleaning products we use, etc. But that is only because there are real options out there. That isn't going to happen with everything out there though. I think by supporting the companies that are eco-responsible (such a thing?) we are sending messages to other companies as well. If you have to get a shampoo with chemicley stuff in it, why not find one with the least amount possible (while still doing the job) from a company that is *trying* to be environmentally friendly. Some changes happen over night, some changes don't. And that's ok I think. Have you tried any shampoos from Etsy sellers?

  14. I often feel the same way about food...but I think I'll make myself go crazy if I become too rigid in my rules. Moderation in all things. I try to buy sustainable-raised meat, whenever I can, but, dang it gets expensive. Or hard to find in a pinch.

    However, having sampled from the free-range egg basket, those are something I can not longer compromise on.

    Your dedication is inspirational and, even if you have to compromise a bit on the shampoo, think how many of your readers you helped make greener choices...

  15. There is absolutely no need to go to Aveda. Maybe I'm missing something on the labels, but I see plenty of organic shampoos around. As with many things, it seems you have to pay a bit more to get a quality product. Currently I alternate between a shampoo bar (I'm at work now and can't remember the name, but can come back with it if you are truly interested). I use it only a couple of times a week because it is TRULY cleansing. I use the "dry/damaged" formula. When I use shampp, I use John Masters. I hope you don't mind that I post their "guidelines" here, and you can find more info on their web site.

    1. No sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, DEAs, MEAs, or TEAs
    2. No GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism)
    3. No petro-chemicals
    4. No animal testing
    5. No artificial colors, fragrances or fillers
    6. Ingredients must be as organic as possible
    7. All plant extracts and essential oils must be certified organic whenever possible
    8. All essential oils used must be steam-distilled and not extracted with propylene glycol - which kills the effect of the oils
    9. All plant oils must be cold pressed, not heat distilled - which kills the therapeutic properties of plant oils
    10. All ingredients must be proven to be beneficial to the hair or skin
    11. All ingredients must be harvested in an environmentally-friendly manner (wild-crafted)
    12. All ingredients must be bio-degradable as possible

    I use that brand now mainly because their detangler really works great on my long, wavy, wild hair. But there are other brands. For Exampley, Aubrey Organic. Ingredients: INGREDIENTS INCI: Aqua, aloe barbadensis (aloe) leaf juice*, decyl glucoside, sodium cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein, glucose, xanthan gum, oryza sativa (rice) syrup*, mentha piperita (peppermint) oil*, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil*, milk protein, butyrospermum parkii (shea butter)*, citric acid, oenothera biennis (evening primrose) oil*, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil*, glycerin, citrus grandis (grapefruit) seed extract, lactoperoxidase, glucose oxidase, alcohol denat. (38b, lavender*), tocopheryl acetate, hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) water, ascorbic acid, glycine soja (soybean) oil, daucus carota sativa (carrot) root extract, beta-carotene.

    As for Lush, I cannot even stand to walk by one, let alone go in, but I hate strong fragrances. I don't see the need for cologne, period, but that's just me and I know I'm in a weird minority.

  16. Sorta eco is definitely the way to go--if for no other reason that all or nothing almost almost ends up pointing to nothing. What would it really mean to live a life that doesn't increase environmental destruction at all? Living in a cave and eating grubs? Maybe, but, since our species is so badly overpopulated that pretty much ALL resources, including caves and grubs are either strained or could become strained easily (not to mention that 99.999% of us would decide pretty quickly that we're not really willing to sacrifice THAT much). So, if it's either than or living a life of unthinking conspicuous consumption...shades of grey are what we're left with. It's important not to make the perfect the enemy of the good (I think Socrates said that), do what seems practical and try to gradually improve while also taking political action and working to raise awareness.

  17. i know what you mean about big mega corporations jumping on the green bandwagon. The only company that I will always boycott forever is Nestle. After that it is an individual decision each and every painstaking purchase:( I currently have very short hair (for several reasons) and that means that shampoo in particular is a non issue for me but believe me there are many others that I struggle with. I don't know if I would buy a "green" product from clorox. I am buying fair trade chocolate from Cadbury partly to support the company's initiative.
    Thanks for the great discussion topic.

  18. Interesting discussion. It seems to me it is "grey" or nothing, not all or nothing. Unless you are truly off the grid, growing your own food and making your own energy and never driving or flying, and buying exclusively organic natural-fiber clothing and only when yours are truly worn out as to be unwearable, and not having a computer (think eco effects of making all the components)... then "all" is just not attainable. But that doesn't mean throw in the towel. We got to this situation gradually and we are going to have to get out of it the same way. So, I buy organic, local food, and use organic cosmetics, and try to buy organic clothing but if that's not available (e.g. bras), I'll go for the next best thing- known fair trade. I would buy a "green" product from a company like Clorox, to encourage them to continue in that direction.I know we can all do more, but not everything.

  19. Make big changes first, and don't sweat the small stuff.

    From The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices by Michael Brower and Warren Leon. (notes are mine, not theirs), the Top 11 Priority Actions for American Consumers are:
    1. Choose a place to live that reduces the need to drive
    2. Think twice before purchasing another car, and Choose a fuel-efficient, low-polluting car
    3. Set concrete goals for reducing your travel
    4. Whenever practical, walk, bicycle, or take public transport
    5. Eat less meat
    6. Buy certified organic produce
    7. Choose your home carefully
    8. Reduce the environmental costs of heating and hot water
    9. Install efficient lighting and appliances
    10. Choose an electricity supplier offering renewable energy.

    High impact activities (to be avoided/reduced):
    *pesticides and fertilizers
    *gasoline-powered yard equipment
    *fireplaces and wood stoves
    *recreational off-road driving
    *hazardous cleaners and paints
    *Products made from endangered or threatened species

  20. [cont'd comment]

    Seven rules for responsible consumption:
    1. Give special attention to major purchases
    2. Become a weight watcher Explanation: roughly speaking, environmental impact is proportional to weight, so worry more about heavier things
    3. Analyse your consumption quantitatively This one is key - look at the data and numbers, not just at impressions and urban legends ...
    4. Don't worry or feel guilty about unimportant decisions
    5. Look for opportunities to be a leader
    6. Buy more of those things that help the environment E.g. buy a microwave, buy recycled products, buy a water-saving faucet/toilet/showerhead, and buy any equipment you need to telecommute
    7. Think about nonenvironmental reasons for reducing consumption.

    Don't see anything about shampoo there!

    I think we greenies spend way too much time worrying about stupid small things like which shampoo to buy, while so many of us live in drafty old homes that chew up huge amounts of energy. We need to be smart and sensible if we're going to be truly sustainable.

  21. I have a natural shampoo that I absolutely hate!
    This one:
    I'm going to look for another but I'm definitely never going back to synthetics.


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