Turning Your Bathroom Green
There are a lot of reasons for wanting to switch up all of your hygiene/beauty products for something a little bit greener, including wanting to have a little less of an environmental impact, and trying to be a bit healthier. What do body products have to do with environmentalism? Well, it goes beyond the environment, but there is currently a movement towards supporting companies with sustainable business and manufacturing practices. Being “sustainable” means that a business can meet their own needs and produce something that benefits their consumer without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and includes natural resources, social resources, as well as economic resources.
When it comes to health, we need to consider all of the different ways that harmful substances can enter our body. Clearly we can ingest harmful things and breathe in harmful things, but I’m not sure that everyone considers that we can also absorb harmful things through our skin. The skin is actually our largest organ tasked with protecting the rest of our body from our external environment. Of course not all things are equally absorbed through your skin but it is a consideration when many products in your bathroom use ingredients that are carcinogens and/or endocrine (hormone) disrupters. Some of these products even cross the placenta and can be transferred to the bloodstream of your unborn baby so it’s especially important to be aware of what you are putting into and on your body during/before pregnancy as well as on your baby and young child.
Unfortunately, it can be so overwhelming to clean up your whole bathroom as well as expensive to replace everything all at once. This is a long game, so to speak, so I usually recommend starting small and replace one or two products at a time after you finish up what you are currently using. Where to start? An easy transition is switching out your body wash to a natural bar soap (less packaging) or bring a jar to fill at Drift + Sonder with one of their options. If you don’t want to buy something in bulk, try out a bottle of something and then recycle the bottle. As a general rule of thumb, however, avoiding single use plastic is best and recycling single use plastic is the second best option.
Try to stick to Canadian companies or better yet, local to Fernie companies like Soco Soaps (who also do refills on their liquid soaps and shampoos). Most of these smaller businesses are struggling right now and you are promoting sustainability of these cleaner options by supporting the businesses in your own community.
Once you’ve found a body wash you like, you can move onto other products like shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, makeup, facial products, nail polish and remover, sunscreen and laundry detergent. It can take time to find a product that works for you so don’t give up if you don’t like the first option you try. This is particularly true for deodorant.
What is it that you should avoid? Generally ingredients that you can’t pronounce, “fragrance” as it can be a catch all for over 3000 potential compounds, many of which have evidence linking them to cancers, reproductive toxicity, allergies, and sensitivities, artificial colour, parabens, phthalates, preservatives, and talc, to name a few. A couple of great resources are the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) which is a non-profit dedicated to providing evidence-based recommendations for products that will support health. They also put out the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists every year to help you identify the produce items that are most and least important to eat organic. I also find gimmethegoodstuff.org to be a useful place to get information about which products and ingredients are both safe and effective both for me and my baby. Neither of these sites will give you specific information about products local to Fernie or BC in general, but they will provide you with specific information about what you might want to avoid in particular types of products, and why.
The decision to clean up your bathroom products is a big one that can have a lasting impact on you and your family, especially if you are planning a pregnancy and/or have children in your house. Like any purchasing decision that we as consumers make, we should be mindful about what we purchase to put on our body, not just for our own health but for the health of our planet. Our purchasing decisions have impact and though it may feel small to spend $20 on a smaller local company instead of one of the big companies, it’s not. Every single purchase that we mindfully make adds up to eventually make a difference. Hopefully, more and more of these cleaner products will take over the market and it won’t be so difficult to find and afford cleaner options.