A case for going natural.

Recently, we got a good look at what we were bringing into our homes and putting onto our, and our family’s, bodies. Turns out, A LOT of plastic, which is a petroleum product. And chemicals, most that we can’t even pronounce the names of, let alone identify the benefits or risks of.

It all made us pause to think about our footprint on this planet and our health. Overwhelming? Yes. But, since our mission is to break decluttering down into small steps that add up to big change, we thought we would try to figure out how to take on this issue in the same spirit.

Understanding ingredients.

We found out that as of 2009, the EU has banned 1328 chemicals from being put into their cosmetics. In contrast, as of 2018, the US has banned only 30. But, currently, the FDA does not have the power it needs to regulate toxic chemicals in cosmetics. In May 2017, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced a bill, The Personal Care Products Safety Act, to address this challenge. As yet, the bill has not passed, and even if it did, the FDA has a lot of catching up to do (remember, 30 banned chemicals in the U.S. versus 1328 in the EU!).

We then looked for lists of chemicals to avoid. This led us down quite the rabbit hole and pretty much freaked us out (case in point: this post on Refinery 29). Here’s where we landed: instead of looking at ingredient lists on products and trying to figure out which chemicals were bad for us, it makes more sense to buy brands that are “natural” or made in the EU. We found this website that has a list of natural beauty products from Europe to help us figure out which brands are “safe”.

But, one problem with going “natural” in the past is the brands and products that are “good” for us have been costly and/or ineffective. But, with a little trial and error, we’ve found that there are many great products out there that work and aren’t prohibitively expensive. And, the good news is that more and more mainstream brands and coming out with “natural” products (although, because it’s mostly an unregulated industry, beware of marketing and labeling gimmicks).

Reducing our footprint.

Once we got our heads around ingredients, we moved onto how to reduce our footprint.

Ultimately, it all came down to buying products with the least amount of packaging possible, bringing less into our homes and recycling whatever we can. So, how to do this with personal care necessities?

Soap: Try switching from liquid bathroom soap to bar soap. Do this for your shower (and kitchen) soap as well. Take it a step further by purchasing bar soap without packaging (easily available at Whole Foods and Lush Beauty and also, surprisingly, at supermarkets like King Soopers with a naturals section in their pharmacy). The cool thing is that there are lots of amazing scents to choose from. Or, buy liquid hand soap and shower gel in bulk.

Hair products: It’s possible to buy great shampoos and conditioners (that are good for you and the planet) in bulk. If doesn’t work for you, try to buy the largest size of the product you can (only once you have determined you like it and will use it all).

Toothbrush: Try a toothbrush made from recycled plastic or bamboo. And if you’re going to use a “regular” toothbrush (Cindy uses an electric one from OralB on orders from her dentist), then make the effort to recycle it. Terracycle is the bomb and a great resource for recycling pretty much EVERYTHING.

Razors: Most disposable plastic razors aren’t of great quality and don’t last very long. Try switching to a razor with replaceable heads. While razor blades/heads are not recyclable, there are things you can do to make blades last longer and to recycle the handles. For ideas, check out this post on Recycle Nation. Or, try a rechargeable razor—not just for men anymore!

Contact lenses and packaging: Bausch + Lomb has partnered with TerraCycle to create a recycling program for used lenses and packaging.

Hotel and travel-sized products: When you check into a hotel, immediately take the little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, etc. off the counter. If you can, move them into a drawer or onto a shelf to make it clear to the hotel cleaning staff that you didn’t use them (so they won’t just toss them after your stay). As for travel-sized products, try to refill containers (or buy refillable containers that you can fill with your favorite everyday products…more on that in our upcoming “What we love.” blog post).

It’s not easy to “go natural’, but ultimately, we know our planet and our bodies will thank us for our efforts.

As always, we want to hear from you—please share your thoughts with us on our Neat & Tidy Facebook page!

—Cindy

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