Monday, August 16, 2010

Navigating the Cosmetics and Feminine Hygiene Product Minefield: Say NO to disposable plastic

Realistically, I don’t think it’s possible to create an exhaustive list on what to / what not to purchase from your local drug or cosmetics store. I’ve compiled a list of some essentials and a few tips that may help you save some cash and be kinder to our earth.
  • Say NO to disposable plastic in the form of liquid handsoap bottles – Method’s refill package boasts a savings of 83% on plastic, water and energy over purchasing the same quantity of soap in their plastic pump bottles (which are recyclable). One thing that tripped me up in the beginning was that the refill packages (bags with a nozzle) are themselves not labelled as recyclable. Then I watched the fantastic CBC documentary called “Forever Plastic” (will discuss this further in a future posting) and was disillusioned with Canadian recycling practices altogether. Saving plastic and resources such as water and energy up front is always the better way to go. Shopper’s carries the refill packages, but I could only find my particular choice of fragrances at Superstore.
Say NO to plastic tampon applicators and plasticized wrapping and save $$$, too
  • Say NO to disposable plastic in the form of tampon applicators – Some people just don’t like using tampons, and that’s alright with me. Of all things that can be considered ‘personal choice’, this is one of the most personal! But I’m not a fan of pads, even the reusable ones. Disposable pads are basically plastic-based diapers, and just about everyone is aware of the environmental impact used nappies have. (Incidentally, I feel the time is ripe for a diaper company to unveil a product line made from degradable, plant-based plastic in place of the usual stuff – someone get on that! There’s a market for it!). Tampons, on the other hand, are little more than cotton (or cotton/polyester) and an applicator. The cardboard applicator is biodegradable, which is more than what I could say for the plastic ones. (Don’t flush tampon applicators – they fit nicely back into the outer, preferably paper, wrapper and are just as easily disposed of in the garbage!). The generic brands, in my experience, are every bit as reliable as the giants of the industry. Unfortunately, even my cardboard applicator box is suggesting I switch to the new, contoured and pretty plastic applicators, just like all of the annoying television commercials. Let’s just be frank here for a moment (and hopefully not too crass): my relationship with that applicator, albeit intimate, will be as brief as possible and last a second or two at the most. The idea that said applicator is now going to spend the better portion of a thousand years becoming brittle and breaking into increasingly smaller pieces in a sprawling landfill site does not give me comfort. Speaking of comfort, I suppose the argument for the rounded plastic tip is one of comfort and ease. Again, without being too rude, let’s just say that all plastic applicators have an uncomfortable edge somewhere, and there’s pinch potential in the star-shaped opening (I know whereof I speak). If you find cardboard applicators woefully uncomfortable, Glaxal base (a non-scented, non-coloured, non-anything moisturizer used by dermatologists and in compounding pharmacies as a base for making steroidal creams) or Vaseline can alleviate the issue and make it less of a drag (pun intended).
  • Say NO to disposable plastic in the form of razors – Does the plastic handle of your shaver really need replacing? That sucker will last forever (and ever and ever), but of course the blades won’t. As irritatingly expensive as they are, Gillette’s Venus/Venus Embrace razors with replacement cartridges make some sense. I still have my original handle from when the line first came out - they haven't changed the attachment mechanism yet, lucky for me! The brand name may have worn away from the bottom of the handle, but otherwise it's perfectly good (in fact, I almost prefer the 'generic' version). Buying the refill cartridges saves money over buying the disposable variety, but they are obscenely over-priced. Keep an eye out for sales on these and stock up. The great thing about evil marketing schemes is that they’ll change the colours often to keep their products ‘new’ – and it might benefit you as they purge the old stock. How can one possibly care what colour their razor cartridge is, save those with legitimate psychological conditions? I care about what size of dent they put into my monthly budget, and whether or not they work. That’s about it.
  • Say NO to disposable plastic in the form of packagingLUSH, a favourite company of mine for many reasons, has zero to minimal packaging on all of their products (all handmade – soaps, solid shampoos and conditioners, bath bombs and bubble bars, etc.). For the wet stuff, LUSH has 100% recycled black plastic pots of lovely fresh potions and creams. They even take back the empties for in-house recycling (probably saves them a mint by melting down and reforming their previously purchased recycled plastic. Smart!). In the meantime, they make cute seedling pots once they're emptied. One item I strongly recommend is their famous “Charity Pot” . They donate 100% of the price to charity (except the tax, because that would be illegal). Yes, that’s right – not 100% of the profit, 100% of the retail price. They absorb the manufacturing, shipping and advertising and any other costs there might be and give the money to charities (ever changing) that are advertised on the lid of the container. (This is how I discovered Sea Shepherd). Currently, Charity Pot sales support many charities the world over (click here for a cool interactive globe to see what and where!) like the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz county, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Bicycles for Humanity (donating used bikes to Africa), Ecova Mali (teaching sustainable and ecological agricultural practices for some of the poorest people in the world), UNICEF – specifically children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, the aforementioned Sea Shepherd (aggressive defence of dolphins, whales and other marine life from poachers/Japanese and Norwegian whaling fleets), and many others including one I have a personal connection to, the near and dear to my heart Camp Goodtimes  (Canadian Cancer Society camp in Maple Ridge, BC for children living with cancer directly or the cancer of a sibling). When you use Charity Pot cream, you can feel good about using fresh (fair trade ingredients, mostly organic), handmade, cruelty-free, vegan, sustainable and locally made moisturizer that had recycled and recyclable packaging where all of the $20.95 (plus taxes) went to supporting very worthy causes. Green and ethical in every way. Butter up!
Other tips, tricks and recommendations:
  • Vaseline – petroleum jelly is NOT a green choice for reasons which the name suggests. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find an alternative to pure petroleum jelly (Vaseline), though they probably do exist (let me know if you find one!). But then again, a single pot of Vaseline can last longer than you’d care to imagine, and has so many uses. As mentioned before, Vaseline works as a personal lubricant (***recall high school sex education – latex and Vaseline DON’T mix!***) in the case of tampons and other non-condom uses. It is also a great way to get more bang for your buck from your make-up: turn a lip liner into a lipstick shade by mixing a light layer of liner with a thin layer of Vaseline. Same goes for transformation of a matte lipstick to a gloss. Vaseline can also act as a base-coat to help keep powders like eye shadow on your skin, though remember to use it very sparingly – you don’t want to end up with sparkly ribbons of colour in the creases only! Vaseline on your eyelashes can substitute for mascara which is waterproof and won’t give you raccoon eyes. It can also be used to remove eyeliner (or, in small quantities, help it glide on and stay put), and is still, as the label suggests, the ‘ultimate moisturizer’. I remember using it on my poor old dog’s dried out soles, knowing that he’d lick 90% of it off and not get sick. It gets rid of the dreaded dead-of-winter cracked dry hands and elbow syndrome, too! Cheap, but it isn’t environmentally friendly, so by the time I finish my little pot (say, in the next decade or so), I’ll be on the lookout for a green alternative to Vaseline.
  • Recycled paper toilet paper – BioLife (Shopper’s Drug Mart brand) makes great toilet paper with minimal environmental impact. At the risk of being offensive, I implore you to stop wiping your arse with virgin paper made from old-growth or unmanaged forest tree pulp. Think of what you’re using this for – does it need to be taken from a tree that housed countless animal and insect species, provided shade for plants and animals along the forest floor, and removed countless tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air? You can bet your ___ it doesn’t. BioLife toilet paper is affordable and often goes on sale – another item to put on your sale watch-list.
Have a green item from the drug store that I didn’t list? Please post a comment below (no Google account required).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you to Rani for letting me know about the biodegradable diaper options!
    Here's a few I've found online: (Canadian, and awesome name!!!) (Canadian, too!)
    (Note that they ship to Canada, but it's $$$!)