by Gia on March 19, 2014

LipstickWhen I was a little girl, my mom used to tell me not to write on my skin.  “The ink is like poison,” she would say, “and it goes directly into your blood stream.”  While I’m sure that my mother caused a lot of unnecessary anxiety for me in many other ways, in this case, she was right.  Our skin is our biggest organ, and yet we don’t seem to pay much attention to what we put on it every day. (Please note: I am not a dermatologist – in fact I have no medical credentials at all – but this is common sense).  With spring around the corner, many of us will be buying the latest style of clothing, new shades of makeup, and hair and skin care for the new season.   But it’s important to pay close attention to the ingredients and materials that make up our spring style.  Otherwise we could be exposing our skin (and therefore our bodies) to toxic and harmful chemicals.

Just as you may be mindful about the food they ingest, you should also be careful about the toxins that come in contact with their skin.  A good rule of thumb should be – if you don’t feel comfortable putting it in your mouth, then don’t put it on your skin!  Did you see the movie The Guilt Trip with Seth Rogan?  (Spoiler alert): I love hthat he proves how safe his cleaning product is by drinking it!  How many times have you put a lipstick or lip gloss right on your lips (which you lick!) without knowing if the ingredients are safe and non-toxic?  For whatever reason, this is not a priority right now for the average consumer.

Recently I participated in a twitter chat session about eco-fashion hosted by Triple Pundit.  While the panelists and participants brought up many important points about the labor conditions and environmental impact associated with clothing manufacturing, there was initially little discussion about the toxicity of clothing materials and health issues involved.  So I tweeted:

In addition the ecological/ethical issues – we should look at health & safety issues: #toxins in clothing #3pchat

I was very happy to get a discussion going around this topic and hear other points of view as well as gather new data to support this concern.  On Twitter, I shared a recent EcoPlum article about a GreenPeace report on toxins in brand name children’s clothing, while someone shared this fantastic article about how big retailers are lying about the toxins in their products.  One participant asked how to convince his friends and relatives to shop fair trade and organic without sounding condescending.  I replied: “Tell them about the personal health issues related to toxins in clothing,” which he though was a great idea.  Let’s keep this conversation going.  Let’s get people excited about all of the healthy and safe fashion alternatives out there.  While organic and non-toxic personal care products are becoming slightly more available in retail stores (i.e. Burt’s Bees, Alba Botanica, Jason) it seems to be much harder to find organic and non-toxic clothing options, especially for children.  We try to carry as many options as possible at EcoPlum and are adding new ones all the time.  Do you have a favorite safe cosmetic, clothing line, or skin/hair care line that you love?  Please let us know!



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Mindycara: An EcoFashionista’s Dream

by Gia on January 30, 2014

mindycara logoWhen my high schooler was a tiny two-year-old tot, he went wandering over to the next table at Starbucks to play with the cute girl sipping warm milk with her mom.  As I ran over to get him, I started a conversation with the girl’s mom.  Stephanie and I became fast friends and we often joked over the years about how we picked each other up at a Starbucks (or rather, how Noah picked Jenni up).  Thirteen years later, I couldn’t be more proud of Stephanie, co-founder of luxury consignment shop mindycara.com.

Stephanie Pietromonaco and her dear friend Bonnie Levine have known each other since they were in kindergarten. Friends for over 43 years, they bring their knowledge of business, marketing and fashion to clients and buyers worldwide. They decided to start a luxury consignment e-commerce business together when they realized they both knew so many women with incredible style and taste – women who needed a service that comes to their location and offers advice on what will sell online, a service that makes the entire consignment process very easy for them.  Stephanie and Bonnie believe that clothes are works of art and when a woman is ready to part with the luxury item, she’d be happy to know the item has found a new home and its story lives on.  Mindycara does exactly this.  And what a concept it is!  Are you saying I can finally get a pair of Manolo Blahnik slingback sandals AND a Narciso Rodriguez black silk cocktail dress without taking out a small mortgage?  And I also get to feel good about my purchase because I am participating in the most important of the three R’s: REUSING?   That’s cool!!

Stephanie and Bonnie have created a true treasure at mindycara.com.  Not only can you find the most extensive selection of gorgeous designer clothing, shoes and accessories for women and men, but you also get personalized service from the owners themselves.  Stephanie and Bonnie take the time to answer all of their buyers’ questions in a timely manner and they ship promptly all over the world.  As for sourcing the beautiful designer goods, Bonnie and Stephanie work with friends, business acquaintances, stylists, models and celebrities with impeccable taste and style. Their items come in all shapes and sizes.  Designers even ask the pair to showcase their exclusive lines.  “It’s our way of recycling and saving the planet – one designer shoe/handbag/gown at a time!” says Bonnie.

I have to say, I feel like a kid in a candy store when I’m shopping on mindycara.com!  I only recently discovered the consignment store concept (yes, I’m late to the party – remember I was a throw-away consumer only a few years back and never considered buying second hand…ever).  I live right across the street from a consignment store that carries mid-end designer goods and have become a regular buyer and seller there recently.  But this store doesn’t carry the high-end luxury goods that are available at mindycara.com.  This is literally a dream come true.  I can now dress like a star, and feel good about it all at the same time!  So, as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis say: “This is f-ing awesome…,” with only $100 in my pocket!



Safe Cosmetics

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunshinecity/

I was so excited to see that the Environmental Working Group has come out with an iPhone (and Android) app for its Skin Deep database. For those of you who may not be familiar with Skin Deep, it is an amazing resource to determine the toxicity/hazard level of cosmetics, skin care, and other personal care products you may be using.  At EcoPlum, we use it as a screening tool for our product selection in our online boutique, and our beauty editor Chryso uses it as part of all her Eco Friendly Beauty Buys reviews in our EcoLiving Ideas online publication. First a little background:  did you know cosmetics are underregulated, and can be made of chemicals that have not been thoroughly tested?  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot require safety tests or recall harmful products.  This video from Annie Leonard gives a very good overview of the problem with cosmetics today.

A couple of weeks ago, I was a panelist at an event called Fashion Evolution: Consumer Power hosted by Ampleen.  The topic was sustainable fashion and how to empower consumers with the knowledge and information they need to make conscious choices about their fashion purchases.  We talked about the power of the consumer in driving clothing and beauty companies to source and manufacture their products sustainability.  I noted that we have not reached the tipping point with consumers when it comes to fashion/beauty.  While people are demanding more healthy and sustainable choices when it comes to food and dining, consumers have been slow to push the fashion and beauty companies towards sustainability.   Well this new app is a great tool to do just that!  Armed with my Skin Deep app, I took a walk to Duane Reade (New York’s Walgreens brand) and started scanning away.  I found out the following information about the Nature’s Gate shampoo, a brand we sometimes use, right there on the spot:

  • Hazard score is 4 out of 10 – which represents a Moderate hazard – not bad (although not great for a product that advertises itself as “Natural” and is sold at a premium at Whole Foods)
  • Ranks LOW for Cancer as a Health Concern – good!
  • Ranks LOW for Reprotoxicity as a Health Concern – good!
  • Ranks HIGH for Allergy concerns and tells me which ingredients may have use restrictions – thankfully not an issue for our family.

It also shows me which specific ingredients are ranked LOW, MEDIUM and HIGH hazard for the product so I know where the overall score of 4 came from.  If I click on the RED/High hazard filter, I see that “Fragrance” is an ingredient and contributes a whopping 8 to the overall score.  If I click on the YELLOW/Moderate hazard filter, I see two more ingredients in this category.  And when I click on the GREEN/Low hazard filter I see a list of 24 ingredients that are all considered safe and of low risk to my health.

I just found out all of that by scanning the bar code while I shopped.  Pretty powerful information.  I was thrilled to find out that the Old Spice body wash my teenage son uses was not as toxic as I thought, with a score of 4, but disappointed to see that his Axe Shampoo and Conditioner, while holding a decent overall score of 5, contained something called DMDM Hydantoin (Formaldehyde Releaser) with an individual hazard score of 8.  (I’ve had a hard time convincing him to use the products I use – go figure).  I continued to scan products randomly just to test out the app.  A few products did not register through the bar code scan but I was able to type in the name of the product and still get all the Skin Deep database information on it.  Not surprisingly, none of the products I scanned/entered had a score below 4 (this was your everyday drugstore and not a health foods store), and the highest overall score I received was 7 (on Revlon Eterna Moisture Cream and Gold Bond Medicated Body Lotion).

I strongly urge you all to get this free app that is so useful in helping you make smart choices while you shop.  Another great app I have used is called Buycott. It uses the similar scanning technology to look up products in their database of companies.  In this case, it gives you information about the Corporate Social Responsibility track record of the company.  You select the “campaigns” that are important to you, for example The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh or Avoiding Sweatshop and Child Labor.  Then when you scan the product/ bar code or enter the name, it tells you whether you should support or avoid the company based on their track record in this particular area.  So, for Sweatshop and Child Labor Issues, I’m told to avoid the Gap, Nike and Walmart, but to support American Apparel and New Balance.  Of course there are so many other great resources to research companies and products, like CSRHUB, Climate Counts, GoodGuide, and good ol’ Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices, so please, USE THIS INFORMATION BEFORE YOU BUY!

The more we know, the more we can steer clear of products that contain harmful toxins, and eventually the companies making this stuff will get the message.  If we don’t buy clothing from companies that use sweatshop and child labor, the companies will have to change their ways.  We HAVE the POWER and need to USE IT.  If we continue to send the message that we don’t care, and will buy whatever garbage is cheapest and most convenient and best advertised, then we only have ourselves to blame.


An Inconvenient Truth about our Shopping Habits

October 16, 2013

If you have ever watched Seinfeld or any other comedy based on Jewish humor, you know that we Jews are not generally the most optimistic people.  Remember the Nanny’s mother and her constant criticism of her daughter, or Don Rickles’ insulting humor?  I recently saw a video parody of a Mad Men ad campaign, where [...]

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Being a Conscious Consumer Need Not Consume You

September 25, 2013

By now you probably know that I was not always a conscious consumer.  To be precise, in the days Before EcoPlum (B.E.), I was quite an unconscious consumer.  I used to shop for anything, anytime, with little to no regard for the environmental, personal health, or social impact of my purchases.  I did not think [...]

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Fast Fashion has to Slow Down

July 11, 2013

A few years ago, those checking labels for chemical ingredients in their food, buying organic produce, or looking at the sustainability ratings of seafood were in the vast minority. Organic and natural foods were only available in “health food” and specialty stores and organic restaurants were practically unheard of. People were also buying their clothing [...]

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A Trip to the Farmer’s Market with Smelly Scraps in Tow

May 15, 2013

Three years ago (oh my how time flies!!) as I approached my 46th birthday I wrote all about how I was going to get a composter and start composting at home.  Well as it turned out, I never got that composter.  Not sure if it was the price or space needed in my kitchen or [...]

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EcoPlum Salutes Green Moms

May 1, 2013

It’s almost Mother’s Day!  Yay!  One of my favorite days of the year!  I recently attended an event about food waste, moderated by Ron Gonen, the Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Sanitation and co-founder of Recyclebank.  Ron mentioned that the composting pilot, started by a few of my close friends in [...]

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Gift Giving Returns with the Spring – Make it Eco Friendly!

March 20, 2013

Just when you think you are out of the woods with gift giving, the spring season returns with all kinds of consumer driven holidays: Easter, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Graduations, and all those spring birthdays! For us treehuggers, it would be nice if we could just give the gift of love or a hug and [...]

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Gia’s Tips on Safe Cosmetics

February 1, 2013

I like this vlogging thing. It’s much easier than writing. I’ll continue to use the excuse that I have a broken finger as long as I can to make these videos instead of writing a post. This month I touch upon the subject of hazardous chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products and give a [...]

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