THE GREEN ROOM
You can be pretty and still help the planet, we swear.
When people visit your apartment they often ask, “May I use your bathroom?”
This story was published on July 21, 2008.
But when Hilary Jones from Lush, the global brand that has been green since before that word was even being used (1978), dropped by my Brooklyn one-bedroom, she wasn’t interested in using my bathroom, she wanted to examine it.
When Lush gingerly asked me if I would be willing to open up my toilette and have Jones, the brand’s ethical director—before she worked for Lush, she was a full-time activist, so to say she is knowledgeable on the topic of natural lifestyle is an understatement; she’s a mad genius—scrutinize every lotion and potion in an effort to determine how “green” everything was, I jumped at the chance.
I had a feeling I would be shamed, but for me, curiosity always trumps potential embarrassment. After close to two hours in my pocket-size bathroom with Jones—during which I discovered that the majority of
my products were pure evil—we came up with
a list of 12 tips that will help you, or at least your bathroom, go green.
1) BUY GLASS INSTEAD OF PLASTIC WHENEVER POSSIBLE
It seems like simple advice but few products are packaged in glass anymore since it is harder to transport and easily breakable. But if you can find products you love in glass, especially the non-colored variety, buy them. The planet will thank you.
2) IF IT IS PLASTIC, LOOK FOR RECYCLABILITY AND AVOID UNNECESSARY PACKAGING
Most cosmetic companies have not followed Lush’s lead and eliminated extraneous packaging. If you can avoid one type completely, make it pumps. “It always has a spring down the middle, so that’s metal down the middle of your plastic,” says Jones. “There’s no way that can be recycled, so it’s straight to the landfill.” When it comes to the rest of your plastic products look not just for the recycling logo, but for a number in or beside the loop. This number indicates how easily recyclable your product is—a 1 or 2 is good, a 7 is oh-so-very bad.
3) NOT ALL COTTON IS THE SAME
When buying cotton balls or pads make sure the bag says 100% cotton, otherwise you may be removing your eye makeup with something that has fiberglass in it.
4) HIT THE BAR
Almost everyone has a liquid hand soap perched on their sink, but according to Jones, it should be tossed. “A bar of soap naturally shrugs off germs,” she says. “When soap was first invented, disease just manifoldly disappeared. Everyone thinks that a pump soap is more hygienic, but it actually all has to be preserved because it turns into a liquid, so basically you’re washing your hands in preservatives.”
5) DON’T BAG IT
Before you line your wastebasket with that plastic grocery bag, Jones asks that you consider the dolphins. “These plastic bags are such a waste problem,” she says. “They go to landfills but because they’re thin and flimsy, they blow around and many of them end up in the sea choking wildlife.”
6) LOOK FOR AND READ THE INGREDIENT LIST
An ingredient list may be required by law, but many companies get away with putting it on the outside box, or hiding it beneath labels. Read and consider the list—many people are careful about what they put in their body, but not so cautious about what they rub all over it. The natural ingredients should be at the top of the list, and if you can avoid extracts, do, because as Jones points out, “would you cook with an extract of parsley, or would you use actual parsley?” What specific ingredient should you be wary of? “Mineral oil is something we at Lush absolutely hate,” she says. “It’s a cheap, nasty byproduct of the petrochemical industry.”
7) MAKE YOUR SHAVE SMOOTHER
Most shaving foams are full of surfactants which can dry out the skin and cause rashes. Try shaving instead with an oil, soap or cream, and tell your boyfriend to do the same.
8) BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU EXFOLIATE WITH
Many exfoliants use plastic polymer beads, not the best thing to be rubbing all over your face. Besides, as Jones points out, “nature does supply us with some quite nice exfoliating things to buff with.”
9) THROW OUT YOUR LOOFAH
Surprisingly, Jones prefers the plastic shower pouf over the loofah. “Despite the fact that I dislike plastic,” she says. “I’d rather see those because it’s not pulled out of the ocean on a mass scale like loofahs, and it does make your product, like a shower gel, go further, which is helping to reduce consumption.”
10) AVOID OVERSTOCKING
I was already a pack rat before I worked in beauty so I am very guilty of this green sin. “At Lush we offer fresh, handmade, very short shelf-life products,” says Jone. “We want people to buy little and often.” Buy just what you will use.
11) CHECK FOR EXPIRATION DATES
Just like the food in your fridge, the majority of the stuff in your bathroom has expiration dates so pay attention. Also, some products now have a tiny open jar symbol which indicates how long you have after opening the product before it should be tossed—6M means six months, 12M is 12, and so on.
12) SOLID IS GOLD
The most environmentally friendly product has no packaging at all. “At Lush we do a solid shampoo bar,” says Jones. “It’s a tiny little thing that weighs about 25 or 30 grams, and they last for about 60 washes. The equivalent would be about five bottles of shampoo.”