Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Throw Out Your Conditioner NOW!!


Find out here: The Good Guide. The Guide launched in September of this year and just recently added a feature that lets you receive product ratings on your mobile phone.

What is the GoodGuide?
(From the Good Guide's "About Us" Section:)

  • What chemicals are in your baby shampoo?
  • Was sweatshop labor used to make your t-shirt?
  • What products are the best, and what products should you avoid?

Increasingly, you want to know about the impacts of the products you buy. On your health. On the environment. On society. But unless you’ve got a Ph.D, it is almost impossible to find out the impacts of the products you buy. Until now...

GoodGuide provides the world's largest and most reliable source of information on the health, environmental, and social impacts of the products in your home. [Note: over 60,000 products evaluated.]

Hmmmmmm . . . Let's test it out, shall we?

Below is a sample of one of their ratings. I searched for the hair conditioner that I actually use - and have used for almost 20 years. I have always known that it is not the best in terms of what kinds of chemicals are in it (lots of parabens), but, unfortunately, it works really well on my hair: Nexxus Humectress Ultimate Moisturizing Conditioner. Here is how it rates according to the GoodGuide:

"Terrible" in Health Performance

"Poor" in Environmental Performance

"Poor" in Social Performance

According to the Guide, the low Health Performance score was based on what they term "General Health and Safety" which they define this way: "Gives this product an overall score based on the safety and toxicity of its ingredients, based on research by the Environmental Working Group. The EWG bases its score on data from more than 50 toxicity and regulatory databases and takes into account the product's potential cancer hazards, development and reproductive hazards, violations, restrictions, warnings, allergy and immunotoxicity concerns, and a range of other concerns such as neurotoxicity and hormone disruption. For sunscreens, this score also incorporates an assessment of how well the product works in blocking UVA and UVB rays."

But, yeah, that's pretty bad. The good part about the GoodGuide is that it actually provides a list of alternatives. Some of the suggested alternatives for my sad conditioner issue are:

Suave Conditioner Strawberry
Burt's Bees Super Shiny Grapefruit & Sugar Beet Conditioner
Nurture My Body Conditioner
Vaseline Hair Tonic and Scalp Conditioner

And I am able to buy them immediately from with one click! What a great co-branding effort!

Maybe I do, finally, need to bid adieu to my favorite Humectress . . .

Interestingly enough, the generic version of Humectress (Russ Kalvin's) rated significantly higher than the Nexxus Humectress, even though, when you drill down into the data, it shows that the Russ Kalvin version contains neurotoxins . . . Hmmmm . . . maybe these ratings need a little bit of work - and I am sure they will get it since the Guide is in its Beta testing stage. So, head on over, test out their Guide and send them a note about how to make it better.

You know I sure as hell will!!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Eco-fashion Stops by DC - Part Two: The Little Boutique that Could

Note: This post is WEEKS overdue, but, as someone very wise said a long time ago, better late than never!

Tucked into the first level of an 18th street Adams Morgan brownstone is a little store that is trying to change the world . . . one hemp/silk blend dress at a time. Hoopla arrived in Adams Morgan from its previous Barracks Row location about a year ago and has slowly emerged as the go-to place in Washington for eco-friendly, locally-made and fair trade gifts, décor and fashion. It has a variety of quirky, unique and beautiful items meant to soothe your spirit, while assuaging your conscience.

This past weekend [Note: it was actually on October 4, 2008], I attended a fashion show highlighting some of the new fashion lines (dressy and informal styles) that Hoopla has for the Fall/Winter season. I think this was a great idea, since many people still have a misconception about what "green" fabrics looks and feel like. Giving people a chance to see the outfits ON and to touch them, is a good marketing strategy. Personally, I think the hemp blends and the bamboo fabrics are amazing - soft and luxurious, with a drape that seems very unique to my untrained fashion eye!

The boutique is small, with a small carriage house in the back and I wondered how a runway fashion show was going to fit inside there, along with the merchandise and guests. But, the owners did a great job pulling it all together. The strutting models were all customers and friends, making the event feel like an intimate get-together (with pretty clothes, of course).

Although the attending crowd seemed small – with one of the owners even trying to pull in blasé Adams Morgan hipsters off the sidewalk with the promise of free mimosas (which were yummy, thanks!) – in the end, almost every seat was filled for the laid-back event. The first 20 people to arrive received gift bags of candles, lip balm and other little items. At the end of the show, there was a raffle and a lucky person won a gift certificate – with which she promptly headed to the coat rack. Here are some photos from the event (and please pardon my photos, I was sans my regular photographer this time around):

I am sure that the last year has been a great learning experience for Laurie Moran, the buyer for Hoopla. As eco-fashion becomes more accepted (even demanded), and there are consistently more designers to choose from, and the DC market shifts to a demographic of younger professionals, we wondered whether she had some thoughts on the last year of buying for the boutique. We asked her a few questions via email and below is her response (PS – she kindly answered our questions on her way out of town to be married. Congratulations Laurie!!)

I have noticed that some of your fashion choices have changed over the last year. You seem to be carrying more “fashion-forward” styles – perhaps targeting a younger demographic. Has this been a conscious decision? Can you talk a little about how you choose what fashion to carry at the boutique from the perspective of sustainability and why you prioritize certain things? How do you make sure that the companies you buy from are actually doing what they say they are? Can you talk about some of the clothing brands that you are carrying that you really like and why you like them? What items (not just fashion) seem to be most popular with shoppers?

Laurie's responses:

Yes, we have made a conscious decision to change our fashion lines. This was based on two primary factors. First, we were located on Capitol Hill for 5 years. Our move to Adams Morgan really changed the demographics of our marketplace. We now serve a much younger, trendier audience. Our customers on Capitol Hill were fashion-conscious, but had a different sense of style. Secondly, there are increasingly more green fashion options, as designers have become more eco-conscious. We used to go to shows and find just one or two lines that would work for us; now we have a great variety of choices.

We find most of our lines through the New York shows, but I also spend a lot of time in cyberspace looking for designers whose sensibilities I like. I try to stay away from the ones who seemed to jump on the green bandwagon as a marketing ploy, and choose those that are transparent about their choices. The lines I like best recognize the trade-offs of choosing "green." They consider their entire supply chain, not just the sustainability of their fabrics. And they care not just about the environment, but also about the people who make their livelihoods from creating fashion.

I carry a couple of quite popular and better known brands such as EcoSkin and Sworn Virgins. But my personal favorites are the very small new designers such as Kate Organics and Sublet. I like Kate because the line is fashion forward but classic, reminding me of a modern Katherine Hepburn. I like Sublet because the designs are simple, tailored but feminine, and can carry you from the office to an evening out. Of course, the showy evening dresses are always a hit, but when folks have a limited budget, I think you get more for your money by buying the classics. That being said, my one favorite item this Fall is the Whitney indigo bamboo denim coat by Kelly B. It is a very fashion-forward take on the denim coat, with enough style to dress up jeans or wear over a suit to the office. (In fact, I am wearing it to our day-time wedding ceremony.)

The most popular items have remained constant over the years -- jewelry and handbags. Women can never seem to get enough of them, and they make it possible to update your look without a major purchase. We do very well with the Ecoist line of candy wrapper bags, for example. They are colorful, different, and dress up any outfit.

We started the speaker series because Hoopla is not just about selling, it is about creating community. That was the same rationale behind our fashion show. People who care about green fashion also care deeply about a lot of related issues, and want the opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with others.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Our Eco-friendly Costume was a WINNER!

Like I have mentioned before, I just LOVE Halloween. This year, I had the opportunity to create not just one, but THREE great, eco-friendly, costumes. (You saw the first one, Queen of Hearts, in an earlier post). I ended up entering one of the costumes (a dead mermaid costume - the idea based on the costume I wrote about in my last post) in a contest sponsored by a green blog called Inhabitat and . . . I WON! (Honestly, there weren't that many entries, but still.)

Here is a little about how I created the costume:

The costume is titled "Death by Plastic". I loved the idea of communicating an environmental message (that oceanlife is being killed every day by plastic garbage and other pollution floating around our oceans), while still being able to have some Halloween fun with a gory/flirty costume. I thought it would be interesting to take some of the same things that are actually responsible for killing animals and reclaim them for my costume. Therefore, the fish scales are made from about 30 plastic bags that I collected from my neighborhood gutters and from neighbors (as we try to avoid plastic bags, we only had 2). I used this tutorial to fuse the bags. The texture that is created was just so perfect for fish scales. I then spray painted them gold. All of the plastic refuse used in the costume - and scattered around me in the photos - was collected last summer at Old Silver Beach on Cape Cod (I was going to do a blog on it because I was so astounded by how much plastic I found on this lovely little beach, but, um, never got around to it. I esp. like the doll leg that is glued to the front of my corset.) The corset was bought at a vintage clothing store in DC (at Meeps!!) and dyed. I had the shells (for the corset) and the material for the tail from previous projects. The tail is stuffed with more plastic bags. You can't tell from the pics, but I had a little string attached to my tail that allowed me to "flip" it around. (That was my one of my favorite parts! It was like having a tail puppet!).

Also, I carried little information pamphlets (any opportunity to talk about these issues!!) in my cleavage (hello, dead mermaids don't have pockets!) that said the following:

Beautiful Things Die in Our Oceans Every Day
Due to Plastic Garbage

What Can
· Use as little plastic as possible (no bottled water, use reusable bags, avoid excessive packaging)
· Pick up plastic trash off the street; participate in river clean ups
· Recycle everything you can and demand plastic recycling in your area if there isn’t any

I made a point not to force these on anyone (esp. when one guy refused to hear anything more about it), but most people were very curious about the issue and what my costume was trying to say. So it provided a great way to segue into my little (very limited) story.

For more info, go to

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