I mentioned a few posts ago that The Omnivore's Dilemma arrived and that I was looking forward to exploring more of Michael Pollan's work - he's such a great writer, and what he says really resonates with me. I finished the book a couple weeks ago and have started reading another Pollan book (more on that another time).

[warning: this post is kind of long]
Pollan's books (The Omnivore's Dilemma in particular) have caused me to slow down and consider what exactly I have been eating and exposing myself to - making me question decisions I've made and have patted myself on the back for.

I was in the shower the other morning and thought I'd use some of the Burt's Bees Cranberry and Pomegranate Sugar Scrub I'd found on clearance a few weeks ago. I stepped under the water and looked over the label, noting the sugar scrub is "100% Natural". 

On the one hand, buying from Burt's Bees (and similar companies, like Alba, JASON and Tom's of Maine) is a good thing. Burt's Bees uses packaging made from post consumer recycled materials. They do not test their products or ingredients on animals (this is a big deal to me). They do not use sulfates, parabens, phthalates or petrochemicals in any of their products.

So yes, buying from companies like Burt's Bees is good, but not good enough. The sugar scrub has 22 ingredients - is this really "Natural"? A 5-second search on the internet turns up several sugar scrub recipes; sure, they aren't cranberry and pomegranate scented, but they all have 7 ingredients or less, most of which can already be found in my kitchen.

Still in the shower, I looked at my Nature's Gate shampoo and conditioner. I purchased this brand of hair care specifically because of their pledge to be environmentally friendly by selecting sustainable ingredients, as well as being cruelty-free and not using animal-derived ingredients.

The shampoo has 23 ingredients, including sodium laureth sulfate, a foaming agent that has been shown to cause skin and eye irritation. Some products containing sodium laureth sulfate have been found to contain low levels 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen. The conditioner has 24 ingredients; I looked up each one and didn't find anything overly concerning, though about a third of the ingredients are thickening agents.

The shampoo and conditioner from Nature's Gate are certainly better than using your routine Pantene, Herbal Essences, Head and Shoulders, etc, but again, not good enough.

So I'm rebelling - no more shampoo, no more conditioner!

Awhile back I stumbled upon a blog of a girl who seems to share many of the same convictions as I do (coincidentally, she is also in the Army, and also a photojournalist - weird!!). One of her posts details her journey into a chemical-free lifestyle, and includes information on making your own laundry detergent, hair products and deodorant. More information on homemade hair care can be found here.

And so today, I tried it - I mixed my own hair wash and rinse. I think it's still to early to judge the results (so far I can't tell the difference between today's hair vs traditionally shampooed hair), but I'll give it a week and update you on my findings.

Well, that's it for now. Eventually I'd like to look into making my own laundry "detergent", but probably not until later in the year. A lot going on these days, you know? :)


I should add: I am aware I have some extreme views regarding food, agriculture, diet and many everyday products. I accept that these views are my own and are not shared by 95% of the country (I made that figure up, but you know what I mean). I hope, in reading my posts, no one ever feels judged or belittled. I've had more conversations than I can count regarding my vegetarian diet that resulted in the other person becoming very defensive, even angry, though I always strive to answer any questions straightforwardly and without lecturing. I never criticize other people's food choices and don't even discuss my reasons for being a vegetarian unless I am asked. Many people dislike vegans/vegetarians because of our tendency to be preachy; I assure you, I try very, very hard to not to preach.

I don't know what it is about these topics that makes people so uncomfortable, but I promise my intent is never to make someone feel badly about their choices. I go out of my way to be nonjudgemental and in conversation try to use neutral terms so as not to offend. I know I sometimes get on my soapbox about one thing or another, but I try to jump back off of it as soon as I realize it. I try not to come off as a militant anti-agribusiness tree-hugging animal rights proponent, but honesty... I kind of am one.
1/30/2011 06:50:03 am

I have a receipe for laundry detergent but I haven't used it because I haven't found out if it's safe for HE washers yet.

Ive always been interested in homemade products but haven't made the jump yet. Im interested in how it goes for you.

1/30/2011 09:39:01 am

Yeah, I also have a HE washer, and that's why I have hesitated to try out a homemade detergent, too. The girl whose blog I linked to above (the girl in the Army) mentions that she has a HE washer and has successfully used soap nuts, but I'm still afraid to try it myself. It's a brand new washing machine... :(

I'll have to do some more research, I guess.

1/31/2011 09:29:46 am

Personally, I think they should test products on death row prisoners. Putting soap in a abbits eyes to test for irritation helps humans...how? Not, put that same soap in the eyes of a mass murderer or baby raper and whala - a much more accurate result. It would give their sorry ass wasted lives some sort of purpose, methinks.

I hold no ill will towards you for refusing to eat animals or their products...if it makes you feel better though, I DO refuse to eat veal because of the way the calves are treated.

2/1/2011 09:10:33 am

I feel bad for the rabbits, too. :(

And I'm not completely vegan - I will eat eggs if they are mixed in something, and dairy is just too hard for me to give up: I stopped drinking milk, but I love cheese too much. I avoid other animal products when I can but I'm not militant about it.

Baby cows everywhere thank you! :D


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