Sustainable on the Inside & Out

It is finally July, which means it’s time for Plastic Free July! Do you want to avoid landfill waste, reduce your eco-footprint, protect the ocean and reduce toxin exposure to the environment and yourself? I sure do! There are many tips for reducing the amount of plastic you use, and I hope that this post helps you as well! I purchase most of my lovely sustainable and safe cosmetics and personal care products from Green Tree Beauty! Most of the items I have pictured here are all made sustainably, packaged in safe alternatives and contain natural ingredients that are not toxic, all found at Green Tree Beauty.
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The present consumer lifestyle, fast paced and highly consumptive, seems to have finally caught up with us. Plastic, single-use items and packaging has found its way into every store, every home and now every part of the planet. Plastic is created by using non-renewable products, plasticizers, additives and chemicals. Many of the ingredients in plastic leach out into the product the plastic is containing, which leads to a dangerous toxic effect when we apply the product on to our bodies. Some of the toxins that are within plastic are endocrine disruptors, which negatively impact the health of animals and humans. Animals are prone to eating plastic litter, as it resembles their food. Each year, studies have shown that millions of animals die due to their direct or indirect consumption of plastic. Plastic does not only harm ecosystems and animals, it directly impacts humans as well. If we consume anything that was contained in plastic or apply anything on our skin that was contained in plastic, our risks of toxin absorption increase. Recycling plastic is not a solution to this problem, as most plastics cannot be or won’t be effectively recycled in the first place. The best route for success is to reduce the amount of plastic and unnecessary packaging we purchase and use and discontinue purchasing products that involve plastic. As consumers, we have the biggest impact on the earth. We have the power to change the world for the better, and that is an inspiring thought.

A current statistic is that people, more commonly women, put on an average of 515 synthetic chemicals on to their bodies every single day. These chemicals absorb into our skin, especially if there are additional chemicals in the product that increase the absorption rate. Scientific studies show that these synthetic ingredients found in every-day products can be linked to neurotoxicity, reproductive harm in both men and women and chronic diseases. The reason companies are allowed to create such products with devastating ingredients is because the ingredients are rarely tested or regulated before they are allowed to be sold to the public & the consumer drives the demand. Most of the general public is simply not aware or chooses not to care about this information. I hope that after reading this you are both enlightened and inspired to avoid unnecessary packaging and toxins when it comes to cosmetics and personal care items.
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First things First, the Packaging

What are most of your cosmetics and lotions packaged in? A popular answer is always plastic. Hard plastics, soft plastics, there are actually thousands of different plastics and each plastic has its own composition and characteristics. Plastics are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic as they serve to concentrate and transfer even more toxic chemicals, which end up in the marine food web and ultimately in the human diet (Engler 2012). Various household products including pesticides, cleaning agents, personal care products and plastic, are all listed as toxins in the home (Gilbert 2012). In fact, modern living has introduced more than 17,000 chemicals in the home (Gilbert 2012). Some of these items are acutely toxic and will have an immediate negative impact to your health, however constant contact with plastic results in chronic exposure, leading to chronic effects. Chronic exposures can occur through repeated use of a product. The reason plastic is toxic is because many of the chemicals that make up plastic are endocrine disruptors.

The endocrine system is the body’s communication system, using hormones to communicate instructions to the organs or muscles. Hormones are incredibly important as they regulate and influence almost all functions of life. Endocrine disruptors mimic estrogen, cause decreased fertility, cause changes in brain function and behavior and can impair immune systems. They can cause thyroid dysfunction, endometriosis and cancer. They negatively impact hormone levels, sexual characteristics, reproduction and development in humans and animals. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can interact with the endocrine system at very low levels of exposure (Gilbert 2012). The permanent changes that toxins from plastics are able to do to the body result in adverse health effects and persist continually, as these dioxins bioaccumulate. This means that the dioxins & toxins are able to accumulate in our bodies and be passed down onto the next generation. Over time, the amount of these toxins continually increases if exposure is continued.

The only way to reduce our exposure to these toxins is to choose less-toxic products. Every single day, we are unavoidably exposed to a wide range of synthetic endocrine-disrupting chemicals – why expose ourselves to even more by using plastic-packaged cosmetics or products full of toxic ingredients? Most sustainable companies are aware of how devastating plastic is to both the environment and to animal and human health, so they have safer packaging options. These options usually include stainless steel, glass and paper products. These products are ideal because they can usually be reused, can be more efficiently recycled and ultimately if they are not recycled, they will not leach nearly as many or any toxins at all into the environment. There are also ways to skip packaging altogether. Replace your regular shampoo and conditioner with bar options and store them in a tin. Replace your hand wash, body wash and face wash with specifically formulated bars of soap as well. Most of these options (should) be package free or nearly package free!
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Within the Packaging

Ah yes, what you usually buy the item for in the first place, the actual product itself. The lotion, the cream, the eyeshadow, the foundation, the list of options goes on and on. The claims that the product promises to deliver may be enticing, but what are those ingredients actually doing to your skin? If you repeatedly expose your skin to synthetic chemicals, the toxins accumulate in your body and can lead to dermatitis, eczema, irritated skin, allergies, chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalances and/or infertility. I have switched to a mindset of “If I cannot eat it, it should not go on my skin.” My eyes were opened to how many toxins are in personal care products when I got the app Think Dirty. I highly recommend this app, it allows you to scan your products and it breaks down every single ingredient for you in an easy to read format. They rate your product from dirty to clean. My favourite part is that they also have an “our picks” section that they recommend similar products to which you have scanned and that are very safe to use.

We are faced with a very complex problem, however the message is clear. As consumers, we need to stop buying our products if they are packaged in plastic or in other single-use alternatives. As consumers, if we start to demand more sustainable and long-lived products, companies and industries will be forced to start providing what the consumer wants so that the companies remain successful. Also, investing in products with reusable packaging will help to save the consumer money in the long run as these (glass or steel) containers can be washed and reused without any toxic substances leaching out of them. These containers make great storage options for a multitude of things, even your own DIY cosmetics and personal care products that can be made from ingredients found in your kitchen! It is crucial that as a consumer we remain conscious about purchasing plastic items and our purchasing habits can result in a decrease in the amount of plastic and single-use packaging altogether.
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– Tiara


REFERENCES

Engler, Richard. 2012. The complex interaction between marine debris and toxic chemicals in the ocean. United States: Environmental Science and Technology.

Gilbert, Steven. 2012. A small dose of toxicology: the health effects of common chemicals. United States: Healthy World Press.

Sustainable Gift Guide

Christmas is right around the corner, which means you are probably in the process of purchasing gifts. Finding the right gift can be stressful, however supporting local businesses and purchasing sustainably-made products has never been easier. Since what you spend your money on is essentially the type of world that you support, let’s start supporting a healthier planet. It sounds difficult, however it is really simple! Some key points are to avoid plastic items, resist fads and fast fashion and invest in products that are high quality and will have a long lifespan. Remember to bring reusable bags and avoid plastic bags while shopping!

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Shopping sustainably can be done easily, even here in Saskatoon. There are multiple stores and local businesses that provide many opportunities to shop smart, buy local and minimize your negative impact on the environment. Buying for a beauty lover? Green Tree Beauty offers sustainably made and natural cosmetics! The Farmer’s Market is a gathering of many local businesses which can help you to invest your money back into the province, rather than into large corporations. Locally owned stores like Hazlewood Vintage, Better Off Duds or 33rd Street Vintage Market, for example, are stores that offer high-quality vintage items for sale. These vintage items are very well made and still have many more years of life left in them – not to mention they are uniquely crafted! Second hand does not mean poorer quality. Most vintage items are made from natural fibres, real wood, glass, or metal, meaning that they will all naturally decompose when thrown away or that they can be safely recycled. Also, by purchasing an item second hand, you are saving a perfectly good item from the landfill, and promoting less wasteful manufacturing of new products.

 

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Another great idea is to purchase your friends or family natural products that will replace every day items that are usually made of plastic. This will not only be healthier for them, but for the planet as well.

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Some Christmas gifts do not need to be expensive at all! You can hand make your gifts! If you have some glass jars or little tin containers lying around (and if you don’t, Value Village is a great place to look) and simple ingredients found from the kitchen, DIY body scrubs, lip scrubs, lotions and other natural products are easy to make and give – Pinterest is full of recipes! Another great idea is to sew or knit something! Below, I have a picture of the reusable cotton makeup remover pads that I sewed! A handmade gift shows that the giver put some thoughtful effort into making the gift for the recipient. A promise of spending time with a friend or making special treats for someone is another way to make the season happy and memorable.

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Another important aspect about Christmas is the gift packaging. Most wrapping paper and gift bags cannot be recycled. This ends up with an unnecessarily large input going into the landfill. This can be easily avoided by switching to these following methods. Have extra pillowcases, sheets, scarves or tablecloths lying around your home? Wrap your gifts using the “furoshiki” practice. You can knot the fabric, or secure it with a broach! Fabric can be continually reused to wrap presents over and over! Another way to wrap gifts is with newspapers, paper bags, or old road maps – just insure that they are recycled afterward!

Need a stocking stuffer idea? I keep my hands looking holiday ready using natural lotions from Dad’s Organic Market and the Seche Vive Topcoat from Nail Polish Canada! I apply this topcoat initially and then 2-3 days after as well and it is the only top coat I’ve found that keeps the polish on for a week (and on my hands, that is saying something… usually I chip my nail polish in 2 days). This top coat also keeps my nails very shiny and strong! This polish offers a gel nail look without the need of a lamp. Nail Polish Canada also offers nail polishes that are toxin free, found here!

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I hope that this article helps you to make this Christmas season more sustainable and inspires you to bring that level of sustainability into all the other aspects of your life. After all, we only have one planet.

– Tiara

Natural Body Skincare Products

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Natural products are more beneficial for our personal use and for the environment – so why not make the switch? I’ve been using natural products for almost a year now and it has been the best decision I’ve ever made. My main focus is purchasing products that are made locally, are not packaged in plastic and are composed of natural ingredients.

Remember that REUSE (from reduce, reuse & recycle) is listed before recycle because reusing is more important and crucial in being more environmentally-friendly! Purchase products that either have no packaging, or that have packaging that can be safely reused for years to come. (Hint: Plastic is not something you want to be reusing – this is why I stress that we need to reduce our purchases of plastic altogether).
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In the Shower:

Lush Solid Shampoo & Conditioner

  • Purchased from LUSH
  • 1 shampoo bar can last up to 80 washes
  • NO plastic! You can also purchase reusable tins!

These bars do not have any packaging and smell so wonderful! I know they are not 100% natural, however I have not had success with any completely natural shampoos and conditioners – I am still experimenting – but the shampoo & conditioner bar pros outweigh their cons. Just make sure to let them completely air-dry before you close the tin lid! There are tons of different options to choose from as well, at a very reasonable price.

Uncle Mike’s Body Scrub

  • Purchased from Uncle Mike’s
  • Made in Saskatoon
  • Comes in a reusable tin container!

This body scrub is completely natural & smells so good! This product slowly dissolves while exfoliating and leaves the skin moisturized.

Assorted Bar Soaps

  • Look for bar soap that has natural ingredients that are sustainably sourced and that does not have any packaging – I personally hate when natural bar soap has plastic packaging all around it – as it is not needed!
  • Ensure that the bar soap you’re purchasing is not made from sneaky chemical ingredients
  • Comparable products, like liquid body washes, contain petroleum-based detergents and added chemicals which are hormone disruptors and also pollute water systems – natural-ingredient bar soaps are safer!

I rub my bar soap into a loofa and wash my body – providing some extra exfoliation. Also, bar soap lasts so much longer than liquid body soap – which is better for the environment and also saves you some cash!

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Body Lotions & Oils:

Northlore Lowlands Body Oil

  • Purchased from Green Tree Beauty (ps: every time you purchase something from Green Tree Beauty – they plant a tree)!
  • Packaged in reusable glass container
  • Made in Saskatchewan

This body oil has a wonderful smell, it has a light citrus scent which is musky at the same time – so both men and women can happily use it. I apply this all over my body and let it absorb before I put on clothes. I need to reapply this oil daily.

Lush Massage Bars/Body Butters

  • Purchased from LUSH
  • No packaging!
  • Finished product is not tested on animals

I love these lotion bars because there is no packaging which eliminates all the resources and energy that would usually go into creating packaging and there is no garbage! Also there is no waste with these bars, as you can use every last bit of them and not be concerned that any product is going to waste, like when you get lotion in a plastic bottle and you know theres still half a cup lurking in the bottom that you cannot get to!

Avocado Oil/Grape-seed Oil

  • Easy to buy in bulk
  • Easy to find in grocery stores
  • Cheap but great for your skin

Ensure that the container you are purchasing the oil in is not a plastic container! I pour the desired oil into a little glass container and use it in place of a lotion after dry-brushing and after a shower.

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Facial Masks:

Redmond Clay

I mix this clay with water, honey, coconut milk or coconut water and apply it as a face mask. This clay draws-out toxins from the skin and it is safe to use on eczema patches! I am searching for some that I can purchase in a glass container – in the mean time I will make sure to recycle this container.

Northlore Plains Mud 

I mix this mask with either honey, coconut milk, or green tea. This powder mask smells amazing and is really good to use once every 2-3 weeks to help to maintain clear skin!

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Scents:

Uncle Mike’s Natural Deodorant

  • Purchased from Uncle Mike’s
  • This product is 100% natural
  • Made in Saskatoon

On my (long and smelly) journey in finding a natural deodorant that actually works, I always come back to this product. This is the best natural deodorant I’ve used and the smell is great for men and women. 1-2 swipes of this product last the entire day, and any slight oil stain left behind on clothing will easily wash out.

Wood’s Body Goods – Peppermint Breeze Natural Deodorant

  • Purchased from Green Tree Beauty 
  • Made in Canada
  • Cruelty-free, gluten-free, chemical-free
  • Uses simple ingredients from Canadian suppliers

This deodorant smells incredible and works well against body odours. However, I have to be careful to only use one swipe of this product, as it tends to leave a yellow oil stain on my shirts.

Saje Essential Oils & Perfumes

  • Purchased from Saje
  • 100% all natural ingredients
  • Pure essential oils
  • Saje uses ingredients that are derived from safe and renewable resources, and their packaging is reusable or recyclable.

I am obsessed with Saje products, I could spend my entire paycheque in that store. I love their products and I love how their products not only help me to smell great but also help to boost my mood, help with mental illness and my overall health. The chemicals that make up perfume are incredibly toxic to your health – this is why I made the switch to essential oils. You can customize your own personal scent by mixing essential oils as well – the possibilities are endless!

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Everything Else: 

Dr. Dronner’s Pure Castile Soap

  • Purchased from Dad’s Organic Market, and is also easily ordered online!
  • 100% natural ingredients, certified organic, fair trade and vegan
  • Is every concentrated – a little goes a long way!
  • Can replace every toxic cleaner in the household
  • Can be used for dozens of uses

These soaps come in rose, eucalyptus, tea tree, almond, citrus, lavender, peppermint, and baby mild scents. This soap can be used for shaving, shampoo, dental hygiene, body wash, bathing, hand soap, laundry wash, pet wash, fruit and vegetable cleaner, plant pest spray, household cleaner, and so much more! Yes, this stuff is packaged in pesky plastic – but now I buy it in bulk and it lasts me for almost a year, and the container is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, however I’m still waiting for a better alternative!

I hope this helps you to make the switch over to natural products!

    – Tiara