Tuesday 29 May 2012

a green maintenance fling

When was the last time you cleaned your makeup brushes?

I'm ashamed to admit I haven't done it at all with my current brush, which I've had for at least a year (gasp!).  I know I should keep my EcoTools in prime condition for flawless application (and skin), but there always seems something better to do with my time. And then just yesterday I found myself with 20 minutes to spare before I had to catch the ferry, and I knew just what to do.

I opened the laptop and Googled: "Crunchy Betty clean makeup brush"

You know we're well into the new millennium when you're writing a blog post about a blog post, but I don't come up with these things on my own! A massive thanks to Crunchy Betty for providing clear explanation and testing a number of natural beauty techniques. Using her technique, here are some pics of my experience cleaning my brush naturally.

A dash of olive oil (organic, of course) on a washcloth, and then blotting and patting out the excess makeup onto a washcloth. Who knew that oil would remove makeup?

Ewww! I had no idea so much old makeup, and probably dirt & oil, was
lurking in my makeup brush!

A drop of castile soap (or very light, natural liquid soap or baby shampoo) in a small bowl of warm water, and gently rub the brush with your fingers.

I was amazed at how much more came out even after the olive oil step.
This liquid was pretty opaque, and I was so glad I'd decided to clean my brush!

A couple tablespoons of white vinegar in a small bowl, squeezing the brush again to remove the soap and makeup.  I did this twice, but it turned out to be unnecessary, as the second time there was virtually nothing in the vinegar.

This was more translucent, but again demonstrated to me how much old
powder had been residing in my brush.

Rinse under warm water and let dry. And as Crunchy Betty says, try not to get any liquid too close to where the bristles meet the metal clamp, in case they loosen.

Now that my brush is dry, it's SO soft, just like when it was brand new - and the vinegar scent has disappeared overnight.

If it's been awhile since you've cleaned your brushes, go on and give this a try.  I'll definitely be making this brush-cleaning routine a more regular occurrence now that I know how easy it is.

Thanks again Crunchy Betty - you're a life (and skin) saver!

Tuesday 22 May 2012

a green (no) shampoo fling

If you've read my book, you'll know there is one eco-change I've been reluctant to make - giving up shampoo.

I've read the articles that tell me after a few weeks my scalp's natural oils will balance out and I'll be rewarded with a head full of luscious locks, and it would be great to be packaging-free in terms of my hair care, but I just can't bring myself to do it.  I think maybe I'm too vain to risk those few weeks of nasty hair.  (And I hate that it's referred to as the No 'Poo Method. C'mon, I'd already be in a fragile state if I was greasy-topped for a few weeks, you'd think they could come up with a pretty name, like the Healthy Gorgeous Hair Method.)

Luckily for my readers I have a great friend who has made the change, so I interviewed her for the blog. You can keep up with Briana on Twitter @Eco_Opps

Why did you decide to give up shampoo?
I've always had to be careful with my selection of beauty products as I have heightened sensitivity to synthetic products, especially fragrances, but the shampoo-free concept was only introduced to me whilst preparing for the birth of my daughter, Eadith. I participated in a natural parenting workshop at The Watershed where I learnt that if you never use shampoo/conditioner, you never need it! 

My daughter, now 2.5 years old has stunning hair with natural highlights and ringlets. There's only been two occasions where I've needed more than water to wash her hair and that was because she gave herself a yoghurt hair treatment (which ends up smelling like off milk). Instead of shampoo I used liquid castle soap. Her hair and scalp are clean and she smells and looks delightful!
The beautiful Eadie and her naturally gorgeous locks!
Briana also discovered that a popular 'no tears' brand of baby shampoo includes an
antihistamine to prevent teary eyes instead of being actually gentle enough not to cause
tears in the first place - shame on them, that's horrible.
What finally convinced me to try the same treatment was running out of shampoo whilst participating in Buy Nothing New Month in October 2011. 

What steps did you take to wean off shampoo?
I googled! After about 10 minutes of googling I stumbled across an article Not Ready For No 'Poo? Try Sorta 'Poo With Coconut Milk and Castille on a  fabulous blog called Crunchy Betty. After using this for a couple of weeks I switched to the following:

1 teaspoon of bicarb soda dissolved in a small jar of warm water (aka shampoo)
1/2 teaspoon  of apple cider vinegar diluted in a 600ml bottle of water (aka conditioner) 

Did you go through a 'nasty hair' phase?
Even though I had been using a very light, fragrance-free, sodium laurel sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, I definitely experienced an unpleasant funky hair stage between week 2 – 3. The key to success is to persist, persist, persist! As soon as I pushed through this stage I started to see an improvement in my hair and scalp condition. 

How long have you been shampoo free?
It's been 7 months since I gave up full-time, conventional shampoo and conditioner. I'm still having the occasional shampoo at the hairdresser (every 6-8 weeks) but I've found that I'm washing my hair less frequently (typically only every 4 days), my scalp isn't itchy and irritated and I've discovered that my hair has a lovely natural wave.

My final words of advice are to experiment with different shampoo/conditioner alternatives to find out works best for you and be aware that you may need to vary your routine depending on the season  (e.g. I loved the occasional coconut oil conditioning treatment in summer!).

Thanks so much Bri! I love that you were brave enough to tackle this confronting eco-change before I did so I can learn from your experience.  

Am I brave enough to give up my shampoo yet? 

I'll keep you posted...

Thursday 17 May 2012

a green expo fling

Last weekend I braved the blustery winds (made quite easy thanks to my military sweater I picked up at Vinnies the other week) and made my way to EcoXpo.

The first thing I noticed as I stepped through the doors were the fabulous feedback trees from Green Cities being reused!

Bonjour Baby, InterfaceFLOR and Paper Couture all sponsored the trees, and we were
invited to write our 'wishes for the planet' on the leaves - so beautiful!.

I enjoyed reminiscing as I read over some of the Green Cities comments, and one in particular struck a chord, because it's one I continue to come across when talking with folks about the environment:

I want to be 'green' but I don't have to have to think too hard about it . . . 

Luckily for all of us, the EcoXpo had plenty of solutions that make green living easy.  Here are my top picks from the EcoXpo that can help us all achieve sustainability simply, and even stylishly!
  • Rosnay Organic sparkling wine
    I was feeling under the weather but I still enjoyed a cheeky little wine tasting, and I'll be ordering some of Rosnay's Vintage Sparkling Chardonnay after I finish this blog - delish!
  • Lentilicious lentil meals
    We know how good lentils are for us - high in protein, folate, iron, Vitamin B and fibre, and low GI - and now there is a company zhooshing them up for us with tasty flavour combinations like Coconut Fusion, Mediterranean and Turmeric Magic.
  • Hemp Gallery home decor
    I will be the first to admit that 'hemp' and 'style' don't typically go hand in hand, but the Hemp Gallery stand at the expo was by far the most beautiful.  It was all I could do not to purchase all the pillow covers and baby toys on display.
  • Lunchbox Mania tiffins
    Adorable and functional stainless steel tiered tiffins, great for storing lunches and other food products safely and stylishly.
  • Bounty Burgers
    Finally, delicious soy burgers have made it Down Under!  I hate comparing, but I have really missed veggie burgers since moving to Oz, but thanks to Bounty Burgers I can be (almost) veggo and eat a yummy burger, too.
  • Jayride & GoGet
    There is nothing stylish about a monthly payment for a machine that sits unused most of it's life - that's why ride- and car-sharing is the future. Jayride is an innovative ride-sharing program, connecting riders and drivers all across the country. Heading to a music festival? Moving cross-country and want some company? Post your ad and share your ride. And GoGet, the most popular car share program in Australia, now has some electric cars powered by Origin Energy in their fleet - how much greener can you get?

While I was at the EcoXpo I also saw the Trashion Fashion show, a performance where the models wore trash couture, made entirely of litter found on beaches - beautiful and disgusting at the same time.

Thanks EcoXpo! I hope there are a few more eco-fashion labels on display next year, maybe that would have attracted some of the hundreds of fashionistas lining up outside the other expo hall for Fashion Weekend, but overall a great display of the many eco-products and services already on the market.

Did you go to the EcoXpo? What were your favourite booths?

Friday 11 May 2012

a green beauty tool fling

Today I thought I'd share with you a product I use everyday but haven't properly shared on the blog before - my set of EcoTools makeup brushes.

This little beauties help me look my most fabulous, and they are fabulously eco themselves!  Here are a few highlights:
  • Member of 1% for the Planet, meaning 1% of annual revenue goes to environmental projects
  • Brush handles are made of bamboo and recycled aluminium
  • Brushes are cruelty-free (synthetic, no animals used here!)
  • The bag shown above is a cotton-hemp blend
  • Packaging is post-consumer recycled plastic and recyclable
Eco-celeb Alicia Silverstone has also put her seal of approval on these brushes and even designed some of the makeup bags herself.

Thanks Mom for sending me this lovely gift last year!  It's the perfect set, and the side pouch of this bag is the perfect size to hold my powder, mascara, eyeliner and shimmer. 

EcoTools are widely available in the US, and I've started to see them popping up Down Under, too, most recently at Dr Earth in Newtown. So next time you're in the brush market, why not give these (eco) brushes a try?

Do you have any favourite eco-beauty products that I need to try? Drop me a line!

Friday 4 May 2012

a green optimism fling

I have had a busy week! 

For many Aussie fashionistas this week has meant dashing between The Tent, The Box and The Theatre of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week whilst maintaining a perfect off-the-runway look - for me it's meant bouncing from sustainability event to sustainability event (whilst maintaining my eco-fashion look).

Wednesday I had the privilege of speaking to undergraduate students at the University of Sydney about my career, my book and leading a sustainable life in our consumption-driven society.  At the end of my talk a student asked if I felt optimistic about the future, because it seems to him that mainstream culture might never get over its addiction to stuff. My answer?


I have wavered from time to time, as I suspect many environmentalists have, but these days I'm more optimistic than ever that we'll get the changes we need. When you see all I’ve been up to this week you may understand why I’m feeling so hopeful.

Sunday afternoon - Environmental and Behaviour Change Book Club
What’s mine is yours – the rise of collaborative consumption
I wore: Aussie designed and manufactured Zoologie cropped pants paired with vintage lace top from Emporium (Wellington, NZ)

I’ve long been a fan of Collaborative Consumption (and even met the lovely, intelligent Rachel Botsman at Green Cities this year) and was happy to discuss the book with some people I hadn’t met before.  It’s a model that will help us transition into a lifestyle which consumes less new materials as we move to a culture of sharing, bartering and swapping, with the side benefit of connecting with other individuals.  The book club members all agreed that the concept is fabulous and offers the potential for real cultural change. Even better, we can all visualise the real-world applications and immense opportunity for new businesses, all with the nice side-effect of being environmentally sustainable.   

Monday night – City of Sydney City Talk, Poverty Amid Plenty
I wore: Vintage raspberry dress from Hunter Gatherer, vintage jumper from C's Flashback, organic cotton cable knit tights by Ambra

This event included a lot of discussion on sustainability, despite the title, and included a keynote by Paul Gilding, former Greenpeace CEO and author of The Great Disruption. I had the pleasure of hearing Gilding speak last year at a 1 Million Women event, and even got my book signed by him – eco-groupie! He discussed how our current economic model based on growth will end because we will reach a crisis point where there will be no other way than to adapt.  He argues that we’ve missed something so basic in our current economic system, and we’re ignoring it right now because it’s too scary to look at (ain’t that the truth?) – infinite growth on a finite planet is illogical. We’re already using 1.5 planets’ worth of materials and resources, and things will only get worse as population continues to rise and developing nations strive for higher standards of living on par with developed nations and our spending habits.  Gilding did offer his own optimism, however, explaining that humans are inherently ‘good’, and when we look at history we know that humans are excellent in crises; so when the reality finally does hit, we’ll all act swiftly and effectively.

Gilding was following by a panel of varied experts all proposing/working on  innovative, sustainable solutions to the problem of our current economic model, including:
The panelists all approached the problem from different perspectives, and didn’t always agree with one another, but isn’t this how we’ll solve the complex problems of sustainability and poverty?  We can’t work in isolation and expect to make a difference. (Or be happy, as multiple panelists were keen to point out, connection is a key indicator of human happiness – more so than money!). I left feeling incredibly positive about the future because the panel was just a snapshot of the many brilliant and passionate minds attacking our problems from multiple directions – the tide is definitely turning.

Tuesday morning – Conscious Capitalism breakfast
Co-hosted by Human creative agency
I wore: Top from lastweek’s Vinnie’s sale layered over a long sleeve top from American Apparel and lyocell/modal skirt from Anthropologie

Co-founder of the Conscious Capitalism (CC) movement, and author of Firms of Endearment, Raj Sisodia, spoke to a packed house of business leaders about running successful businesses that put a focus on people and society.  The four basic tenets of the CC movement are:
  • Higher purpose - profit is a by-product of having a clear and meaningful purpose.
  • Stakeholder relationship model - making sure the needs of all stakeholders are met including staff, unions, suppliers, investors, community and the environment. It aims to create a win-win situation for all its stakeholders and puts humans back into business.
  • Conscious leadership - where leaders care for and inspire their staff.
  • Conscious culture - where the company's culture is based on: trust, authenticity, transparency, integrity, learning and empowerment.
Organisations leading this movement include Whole Foods (its founder John Mackey is another co-founder of CC), New Balance, Southwest Airlines, Toms, Craiglist (also an example of the other CC, Collaborative Consumption), Chipotle Mexican Grill, Starbucks, Patagonia, Zappos, Costco and Panera Bread.

Okay, these are not all environmentally sustainable organisations, but it’s still reassuring to see massive companies that actually care about employees, stakeholders and the community and not just the financial bottom line.

I was fascinated to learn that companies that operate as CC businesses financially outperform not only the average company on the S&P index, but also the organisations highlighted in Good to Great, the extremely popular management book that outlined how companies can make the leap from good to (financially) great.  (Of course, this was written in 2001, so this comparison may no longer be relevant.)

Sisodia’s vision is bold, and at times the messages bordered New Age, but the numbers don’t lie, and I’m all for this inspiring business model that encourages big businesses to operate with purpose and awareness.

Tuesday evening – GreenUps, monthly green networking drinks
I wore: Vintage dress from Hunter Gatherer and Gorman jacket

Every time I go to GreenUps I feel rejuvenated and inspired, and this time was no exception! I had a ballet date, so I couldn’t stay long, but still connected with amazing individuals at the sustainably-minded Beauchamp on Oxford Street while enjoying a glass of organic wine. 

Wednesday morning – University of Sydney, Consuming Cultures, Environmental Futures
I wore: Good Society organic cotton denim, my favourite vintage poncho, and bangles that were a mix of thrift, my mother’s and from travels in Mexico.

I was thrilled to join the conversation in this class filled with lessons on consumption, multiculturalism, slow food, the history of products, mining and more.  Most of the students are already sold on the sustainability message, and I can’t wait to see what they do with this knowledge as they move forward in their own careers.

All this and the week was only halfway complete! 

And now the weekend brings the excitement of the Garage Sale Trail across Sydney, as well as the start of Fairtrade Fortnight

There is so much momentum right now, I can’t feel anything but optimistic that we’ll solve our environmental and economic problems. It's not going to be simple, but there are passionate people attacking this from all angles, with different expertise and different ideas, and I feel confident we will get the change we need.  Even more exciting, there are so many opportunities for sustainable entrepreneurs, so we can all take part in the world-changing times ahead.

Have a great weekend, and let me know if you partake in any CC, Collaborative Consumption, Garage Sale Trail, Fairtrade Fortnight or other sustainable activities - there's a lot to choose from right now!