Greenwashing, Marketing, and Being a Smart Consumer

I’m baaack.

So, today I got all fired up because I saw a number of people posting about how excited they were to get a butt load of Lush Cosmetics products for Christmas (mildly sorry to burst that bubble if you read this)/I’ve been meaning to blog about ingredients and being a smart consumer for MONTHS. And I’m sitting there like “welp, Lush does some really effective branding” because everyone seems to blindly accept their schemes of having natural products. But if you read the ingredients, (many of) their products are full of not-so-great chemicals and parabens.

Enter greenwashing. What is that?

Everyone’s heard the expression “whitewashing” — it’s defined as “a coordinated attempt to hide unpleasant facts, especially in a political context.”

“Greenwashing” is the same premise, but in an environmental context.

It’s greenwashing when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact
(Greenwashing Index)

And Lush isn’t the only company that does this. “Natural” is an unregulated word, meaning that there are no national standards and anyone can slap it on their product and deceive people who don’t read labels or don’t know how. Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert here by any means, especially because there are so many synthetic chemicals on the market and new ones everyday, and they’re all able to function under “safe until proven otherwise.” And even when something might not be safe, there’s a lot of money behind these cheap, easily manufactured chemicals, leading to a lot of contradictory information out there. It’s honestly tough to know whether that long name in your ingredient list might be harmful or is okay.

So let’s take a look at one of Lush’s products and some of the “safe synthetics” listed. Here is the ingredient list from their I Love Juicy Shampoo, which is pretty typical of their products (although this one doesn’t contain color dyes):

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)– this is the stuff that makes your soaps soapy
“Sulfates are known skin irritants and may even corrode the skin. The International Journal of Toxicology also provides a safety assessment of SLS and recommends concentration levels of no more than 1% in products with prolonged use. This is disturbing when you consider a number of cleaning products have levels of SLS as high as between 10-20% and in extreme cases over 30%.” There are debates about whether SLS is linked to cancer, but no scientific evidence yet. Also a potential hormone disruptor. Derived from petrolatum which is a non-renewable resource. SLS is found in toothpaste, mouthwash, makeup, body wash and shampoos.

Cocamide DEA
Usually things with capital letters at the end are bad news– especially if it’s an ingredient in your food (ingredients to avoid consuming coming soon). This ingredient, which is found in most of LUSH’s shampoo products, is listed as a 7 out of 10 on EWG’s toxicity scale. The basis of the chemical—coconut oil—seems innocent enough and Lush LOVES the “it came from a coconut, so it’s safe and natural” excuse. But scientists tinker with the ingredient, modifying it into an unnatural, toxic form– landing it on California’s list of known carcinogens.

Almost all of LUSH’s products and so so so many products list “fragrance” as an ingredient. Using “fragrance” on a label “represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.” According to EWG, fragrances are among the top five allergens in the world.

I set a product down when I see it contains parabens. And these are common– Bath and Body Works products are full of them, as well as the unsuspecting Cetaphil. Several of LUSH’s products include methyl-paraben and propyl-paraben. These ingredients are added to deodorants, toothpastes, shampoos, conditioners, body lotions and makeups, among other products, to stop the growth of fungus, bacteria and other potentially damaging microbes (i.e. used as a preservative even in some “natural” products).  “Of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity,” reports the non-profit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC). CSC cites a 2004 British study that detected traces of five parabens in the breast tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied. “This small study does not prove a causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer, but it is important because it detected the presence of intact parabens—unaltered by the body’s metabolism—which is an indication of the chemical’s ability to penetrate skin and remain in breast tissue.” Parabens have been found in drinking water and other water sources, leading it to end up in our foods. The EU banned parabens in 2012, as they’re associated with diminished fertility  (studies found that it led to decreased sperm counts in rats) and many other issues.

Frankly, “safe synthetics” my ass, Lush. And that’s just a look at a few chemicals of hundreds of thousands. Though, this product is far better than many you can buy at Target or a typical drug store.

Here are a few resources where you can learn more:
Environmental Working Group Consumer Guides: A number of different guides that outline their approved products, broken down into categories like sunscreen and cosmetics. You can also just google any chemical name and “ewg” and rankings for the products will come up, based on toxicity, cancer concerns, environmental effects, etc. As mentioned, nearly all of the data is incomplete or may contradict things you read elsewhere.

Good Guide: Search by category for the products you use and see how they’re ranked based on health, environment, and social impact. Again, this data is often incomplete, inconclusive, or contradictory.

It’s all a learning experience and you do have power as a consumer to choose not to support companies or select products that use ingredients that you don’t want in or on your body, but it’s tough and requires constant vigilance (aka reading every label). Many of these “everyday” chemicals end up in our water ways, which make our drinking water a slurry of pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Lessen your impact on the environment, your health, and everyone’s health by shopping smart.

Some products I use/trust and 5 Things You No Longer Need to Buy found here

So, friends, take a look at the guides I mentioned above to see how your products rank, read up on the chemicals you should always avoid so you’re armed with that knowledge, and always always read your ingredients. Even if it says it’s “natural”, you could slide out of the store with some nasty stuff if you’re not shopping smart.



Vegan “Pulled Pork” with Homemade Barbecue Sauce

This recipe has been on my list of things to make for months and its time has finally come. Oyster mushrooms are used instead of pulled pork to make the same stringy-like texture. It’s obviously not exactly the same texture as real meat, but goood enough. Oyster mushrooms are a little hard to find, but gaining popularity. I got mine at Wegman’s and they cost me maybe $2-3 dollars, which could serve two people (the recipe calls for 1 pound and I bought about half a pound). I decided to make this tonight and last minute tried to invite someone to join me and taste test, but all my friends were busy. To be honest though, GOOD because I ate all of it. It was the first actually chilly fall day and this recipe has a bunch of good immunity boosting, sinus clearing ingredients like a garlic, ginger, onions, and apple cider vinegar. AND likely most of the ingredients are things you already have in the pantry, so you’ve got yourself a really cheap meal.

Alright, so I know when I go to blogs to look at a recipe, I’m like “I. Don’t. Care. About what you have to say just show me the recipe,” yet here I am rambling. Just gotta put in my two cents on sustainability. An article came out this week about the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) latest report that says a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, and reduce fossil fuel consumption and the worst impacts of climate change. Learning about environmental impacts of meat consumption was my biggest driver to becoming vegetarian (disclaimer: I eat meat like twice a year, so I am technically flexitarian/pescatarian cause ya girl is from Maryland and loves crab cakes.) ANYWAY, one day I’ll get around to doing a post outlining what these impacts are, but for now, here are a few graphics from the documentary Cowspiracy, which is a fantastic, well-rounded documentary that I highly recommend despite its propaganda-y name.

That’s one meal a week. Add that up over a population and multiple times a week and we are in business (the business of saving water).

Booooo, greenhouse gases.

Now onto what you came here for:

I found the recipe from the video below, which is a bit long, so the typed out recipe is below that. I did not get the ingredients for the coleslaw in the video when I was at the store, so I cannot speak to that but it looks killer and would be a fantastic crunchy complement to your sandwich:

– buns
– 1 pound oyster mushrooms
– 1/2 an onion, sliced
– olive oil
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 piece of candied ginger (< 1 tbs)
– 3/4 cup ketchup
– 1/4 cup maple syrup
– 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (I thought this was wayyy too much vinegar, so I would modify to about 2 tablespoons)
– 1 tsp soy sauce
– 1 tbsp agave nectar (I used honey, but would recommend brown sugar for a more balanced flavor)
– 1 tsp paprika
– 1 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1 tsp mesquite seasoning (didn’t have this, left it out)
(you can also buy barbecue sauce if you’re pressed for time, thought total prep and cooking is probably 30 minutes)

  1. Use a fork to fray your mushrooms
  2. Set those aside and get started on your sauce, first browning the minced garlic and candied ginger (that adds a really unique flavor, but regualar ginger or no ginger will probably be fine) together in oil
  3. Add the ketchup and maple syrup and stir up to a simmer
  4. Add the apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, agave/honey/brown sugar, and spices. Continue to simmer
  5. Meanwhile, add your sliced onions to some oil. I added a bit of the sauce to my onions to caramelize them in barbecue sauce
  6. Once the onions are sufficiently cooked, add in the shredded mushrooms and let that cook down for about 10 minutes
  7. Add your sauce to your mushroom pan, stir, and then load up your bun.

IMG_0780Tell me that doesn’t look like pulled pork.

Pesto with Zucchini Noodles

I’ve had one of those veggie spiralizers for awhile now and am disappointed in myself for not having taken very much advantage of it yet. Zucchini noodles are all the rage it seems lately, and to be honest, rightfully so.

I was at my professor’s house the other day for a group gathering and she has an incredible garden that was overflowing with basil, so I got inspired to make some pesto. I paired it with zucchini noodles and it was an incredibly refreshing meal. It’s coming to the end of zucchini season, so hit up your local farmers market and get on it.

As it turns out, you don’t need a fancy tool to make zucchini noodles– just a veggie peeler will do the trick. I added a little bit of carrot noodles to this too.

Making this meal takes about 5 minutes. You just whip up the pesto and grate your noodles and eat it! You can cook the zucchini noodles if you’re wanting something more hearty, but for these last warm days, the cold crispy noodles are really good.


IMG_0728 (the recipe makes a lot more pesto than pictured, I took the photos halfway through eating when  I was like “wow, this is good enough to blog about”)

Lemony Cashew-Basil Pesto recipe:
(makes ~4 servings)
3–3½ tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (~1 lemon juiced)
1 large clove garlic
¾ tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (optional, for oil-free version add 1-2 tbsp extra water)
1 cup raw cashews (or whatever nut you have/like– walnuts, almonds would work. Honestly, who has pine nuts on hand?)
2½–2¾ cups (packed) fresh basil leaves and tender stems
2 zucchini made into noodles with spiralizer or veggie peeler

Combine all ingredients in food processor/Magic Bullet. I had to add quite a bit more water and oil to get it to the right consistency. I added a few pinches of a nice herb blend to it for extra flavor, so feel free to add spices. I also added 1 tbs+ of nutritional yeast, which is used in many vegan cheese replacements and has a nice nutty, parmesan-like flavor. It’s a nice thing to have on hand, but adjust the salt accordingly because I did not and it was a little too salty.


Chickpea “Tuna” Salad

I think at this point most people are aware of the supposed dangers of mercury levels in tuna. That’s one reason to eat less of it, in addition to problems with overfishing, bycatch, and destruction of aquatic ecosystems. The info graphic below has some stats on that

SO, if you’re a tuna fan and still wanna have a tasty, sustainable, protein packed lunch, enter chickpeas. I had a sample of this a few months back at a food festival and was so impressed with it. It’s pretty much the same as a regular tuna salad with whatever you like to put in that, just replaced with mashed chickpeas!


Ingredients (makes 2-4 servings):
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup mayonnaise (or vegan alternative….Just Mayo Sriracha and Chipotle Vegenaise are goood)
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup chopped celery, from about one rib
2 tablespoons sliced scallions, from about about two scallions
Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 4 slices whole grain or artisan-style bread
2 to 4 lettuce leaves, washed and dried well

Combine everything in a food processor and pulse a few times until mixed, or just use a fork to mash up the chickpeas a bit. Serve it up on a sandwich with pickles, tomoatoes, avocado, lettuce, whatever.
Original recipe here

5 Things You No Longer Need To Buy

  1. Dish soap (see #3)
  2. Hand soap (see #3)
  3. Shampoo. Alright, so pause. Don’t buy shampoo? Yup, I stopped using traditional shampoo in January and I’ve never looked back. I use the same product now for shampoo, dish soap, and hand soap. And that wonderful product is DR. BRONNER’S liquid castille soap. The bottle of this says it’s 18-in-1 and I seriously don’t doubt it. You can buy this stuff in big bottles from Target, CVS, health food stores, online. If you’re feeling ambitious you can even buy a jug. Or you can start out with smaller bottles and see how you like it (hint: you will) and then save those little bottles for future use of transferring bulk soap into manageable bottles in the kitchen and bathroom.
    This product does not foam as well as regular dish detergent– largely because it does not contain chemical foaming agents– but that means you don’t have to rinse something out 17 times to get all the suds out, which is great. It seems to foam perfectly well for hair though. I started using this when I still had long hair and it gave me wonderful volume, so I would highly recommend.
    Save money, save yourself from questionable chemicals (post on that coming up soon), save plastic. Plus, this stuff smells fantastic. Lavender is my personal favorite, but they also have peppermint, tea tree, orange, and several other scents.
  4. Lotion. This stuff is FILLED with nasty chemicals and preservatives. Again, I’ll be doing a post soon about ingredients to avoid. But if you own anything from Bath and Body Works, their formulas are terrible. Full of parabens. Actually, surprisingly, Cetaphil is a huge offender of parabens too– you can read about those nasty suckers here.
    But anyway, coconut oil is a fantastic moisturizer. And you’ll smell like a macaroon depending on what brand you buy. I see nothing wrong with that. You probably already own coconut oil (olive oil is a good moisturizer as well, or pretty much any oil), so there’s no need to waste money on chemically laden lotions. (Side note: for face moisturizer at night and in the winter, shea butter is a miracle worker.)
  5. Chemical cleaning supplies. Sprays and all purpose cleaners you get at the store have a whole slew of chemicals in them– and they probably aren’t even listed on the bottle. Since you are using these in a confined indoor space, it can be especially harmful to be inhaling them. A simple, greener, cheaper option requires just three ingredients: water, distilled white vinegar, essential oils (to mask the vinegar smell). Just get a spray bottle (or save one of your old ones and give it a good rinse) and mix one part water and one part vinegar (i.e. 1 cup of each) and 20-40 drops of essential oil. Tea tree and/or lemon are great options because they are both natural disinfectants.
    Additionally, buying cleaning supplies like Swiffer floor wipes is pretty wasteful. You can save ratty old t-shirts and cut them up to fit on your Swiffer handle and then use your vinegar solution to clean, wash and re-use!

Downsizing Your Closet

A big part of sustainability is the clothes you buy. There is actually a fantastic documentary on Netflix called The True Cost, based on a book called Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. I read part of the book years ago and its been on my agenda to finish for years, but the documentary serves just as well.

That $5 shirt at H&M or Forever 21?  Awesome for your wallet, but someone paid for it. Likely someone in a sweatshop in a developing country who is earning USD$2 a day and bearing the brunt of pollution and health effects. And the environmental impacts of water and pesticide intensive cotton and textiles are quite high. That $5 shirt will probably last only a few washes before it’s ripped or pilling (those annoying little clumps of fabric that ruin clothes). However, just because a sweater is $85 doesn’t mean it’s good quality (ahem, Urban Outfitters with their ridiculously profit-steep Chinese made clothing). The amount of clothing bought in the U.S. has increased 400% over the past 20 years because of this shift in globalization, and much of this clothing ends up in landfills (according to The True Cost documentary) because the items we buy en masse are cheaply made.

One of my goals for the rest of 2015 is not to buy any new clothing– I can thrift, which is kind of a cop out that allows me to keep buying clothes that I don’t need under the guise of being sustainable. But if I do buy new clothing, it will be nicer items that I invest in and will get a lot of use out.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a ridiculous amount of clothing, which I am ashamed of after seeing The True Cost film. Seriously problematic. I watched some YouTube videos on paring down and found a wonderful Reddit feed that posed some good questions to ask yourself and pare down without regrets. A few days later, I was in a store and saw a book that’s apparently been on the New York Times Bestseller list called The Life changing Magic of Tidying Up. I was flipping through it and the woman working said it had some useful info in it, so what the heck, I bought it spur of the moment. And I don’t regret it because I was in the process of moving and it was a perfect opportunity to just do it and get rid of some clothes. I think I about halved my wardrobe using this method (and I still have a full walk in closet of clothes, BUT I can hang all of my summer and winter clothes at the same time, so I’ll say it’s a good success for the time being).

It feels great to look in my closet and not be overwhelmed by so many things that I just don’t like anymore or don’t properly fit me. I want to wear everything that is in there and it makes choosing at outfit much easier.

So, if you’re wanting to do a big cleanse, I would say the book mentioned above my Marie Kondo is a good read. Some of it is common sense, some of her language and tone is a bit arrogant, some of it I just found odd (like celebrating all of your items and thanking them every day for their hard work), but it has helped me a good deal.

My distilled tips from the book:
– Gather ALL of your clothes in a pile. Don’t leave anything out. Once you see them all together, the magnitude really makes you understand how much you can get rid of and still have things to wear. And you already know what you wear and what you just don’t.

– First and foremost with every item, ask yourself “does it bring me joy?” If it’s something old that you’re holding on to because it might fit again one day and every time it just stresses you out about your body in its current form, get rid of it.

– Is it comfortable? There’s a reason you don’t wear it. I had to get rid of a few dresses that I LOVE, but they just don’t fit me properly in the chest area and there’s no way around those near wardrobe malfunctions. RIP. Thanks for the memories. And just remind yourself that someone else will find this item in a thrift store and feel it was meant to be for them.

– Does it go with multiple things? I used to own almost exclusively patterns and florals (still lots of florals), but these can be difficult to work into matching with multiple things and it, therefore, being a useful item that will get a lot of wear. Not saying you should own all basics/solids and get rid of all patterns, but assess which patterns you do wear a lot.

– Shoes: are they comfortable? Why don’t you wear them? I know I have only 2-3 pairs of shoes per season that I actually wear (until the soles fall off).
Heels- keep one black pair and maybe 2 others that can match with many things you own– how often do you wear them anyway?

– In terms of off season clothes, ask yourself “do I want to see this next season?”
Alternatively, ask “would I wear this right now if the season suddenly changed?”

– Remember that the space in which you live is for the person you are becoming, not who you were in the past. If you’ve got old relics that you’re holding onto, really assess why. Our physical environment is so important to our well being, so make it a space that you want to be in.

– Designate a spot for everything. And put things back in their spot– that’s the crucial piece.

– Empty your bag/pockets every day. I’m still bad at this because I alternate between 2 different purses and my backpack, but your life will be much easier if you can just reach for your keys and wallet in a little decorative bowl or something, rather than rooting through 3 different bags. Plus, this way you won’t get a build up in your bags of random papers and receipts and trash.

These are tips from the book, which is typically referred to as the KonMari method. Check out the book if you’re interested, or just poke around online.

Remember to try to donate the items that you no longer want or need (although apparently it will still probably end up in Haiti, according to The True Cost documentary). Since I did a major cleanse, I’ve been selling my clothes to secondhand stores like Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet, and other local stores that give you cash or store credit for your clothes (I’ve been being good, too, and have been taking the cash instead of substantially more store credit so I don’t end up with more stuff)! Check around your area for places like these. Even if some of the items are no longer wearable, there may be a textile recycling place in your area. You can also use old t-shirts and other clothes items as reusable/washable cleaning cloths.

Happy cleansing!

Homemade Almond Milk (No Waste: Extra Recipe)

I used to see photos online of people making their own almond milk and I thought it was a hugely elaborate process. Until I actually investigated. And it’s so incredibly easy and the freshness is so delicious (I don’t typically just drink milk), I will never be going back. Not to mention, it’s cheaper and you’ll save a lot of trash by not buying those coated plastic cartons each week. It takes less time than it would take you to decide in the store whether to buy vanilla, or coconut almond blend, or compare prices on which option is the cheapest this week.

So, what do you need?
Almonds and water.
Essentially that’s it. Obviously you’ll also need a blender. And you’ll need some sort of straining device. I acquired this nut milk bag a few weeks back and I highly recommend the $10 investment, because you can also make awesome things like carrot juice for this delicious smoothie.

The recipe I used is from a blog called Lee from America and that link is right here. Her food blog is definitely worth perusing.

The recipe is as follows and I am taking it directly from her site:

  • 3 dates or 1 tsp honey

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • 1 cup raw and organic almonds

  • 3 cups filtered water

Start by soaking your raw almonds for 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator in filtered water. In the morning, rinse them well as they release toxins as they soak.

Place your 1 cup of almonds and 3 cups of fresh filtered water into the vitamix. Blend on high for 2-3 minutes.

Get a large bowl to place underneath the cheese cloth. Pour the mixture into a cheese cloth and squeeze the milk into the large bowl. Be gentle as cheese clothes are very delicate. It’s very similar to milking a cow, not that  many of you would know how to do that.

Once all of the liquid has been squeezed into the bowl, pour the milk back into the blender, add salt and dates. Blend for 1 minute. Pour into mason jar and enjoy.

Note: this keeps for 3 days maximum. No additives means it must be used immediately. Small batches work best. The milk will separate, just shake it before using.

IMAG0730IMAG0731Make sure you use a wide mouth bowl/container for squeezing the almond milk because it does get messy.

I have since looked at a few other recipes and it seems that you can add 4 cups of water to make this even more economical than it already is– a 16 oz bag of almonds will cost you about $7 and you’ll be able to make 3-4 batches of almond milk. Remember, raw unsalted almonds.

PLUS, I found a delicious way to use the almond meal that is leftover when you squeeze out all the milk. I was skeptical that this would work or taste good and was so shocked. It’s basically two ingredients– your leftover almonds (no waste cooking! and basically free hummus, what up) and zuccini.

I found the recipe here on a blog called Choosing Raw. She also includes a few other ways to reuse your almond meal, like macaroons! I’ll give those a try with my next batch of almond milk.

But the recipe is:
1 large zucchini, chopped
1 1/2 – 2 cups almond pulp (use up what you have)
1-2 tbsp lemon juice (to taste)
1 small clove garlic
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp sea salt

Blend it all up and dip away. It’s similar to a pesto, especially the Edamame Pesto recipe I posted earlier. You could add this to a pasta dish and it would be really good.


So there you have it– zero waste almond milk! With so many delicious options beyond the almond milk itself, it seems silly not to make it yourself.