Monday 24 June 2013

a green dental fling

I'm about a month into (re)discovering sustainable living in America, and I couldn't be more grateful for Whole Foods.

Now I don't want to imply that everything in the store is eco-flawless, but it sure has been a source of comfort as I navigate this frequently over-consuming culture of my homeland. I have stocked up for my camping excursions with delicious organic and local food, been introduced to new sustainable clothing labels, and found an excellent source of natural, clean and safe body products. And wouldn't you know it, the first thing I needed to replace was my toothbrush (oh how exciting. . .).

Now, I have been using Monte Bianco toothbrushes for years, simply replacing the toothbrush heads instead of the entire brush every few months.

I was able to purchase these at the Manly Co-op, but for the life of me I can't track them down here in the States. (I can't locate a website for the manufacturer, but there are a number of websites that sell them if you're not continuously on the road!) When the bristles started falling out of my last replaceable head, I finally conceded and headed to Whole Foods to get a new brush.

Enter Preserve.

A toothbrush "made with love and recycled yogurt cups" - mine is fuchsia! It's made of recycled #5 products through Preserve's Gimme 5 program. When I'm done with the toothbrush, I can go to the website, enter the code on the back of my toothbrush package, and Preserve will email me a postage paid label to stick to this back and mail back my toothbrush. I can even get rewards like discounts on another toothbrush the more I recycle. The program also takes other #5 plastics, so if your local area doesn't take #5, go to the website to learn how to send in your plastics for recycling.

I also couldn't locate my usual Eurofresh Aloe toothpaste here in the States (yet!), so I've turned to an old pal, Tom's of Maine. Tom's has a long history of environmental sustainability, animal welfare and human rights, and I especially appreciate the high level of transparency in the way the company is managed as well as the ingredients in every product. I wish more companies could make it this easy!

And when I turned over the tube I was thrilled to see the lovely Terracycle logo, meaning I can take the used tube to a Terracycle collection point and it will be recycled. There's not too many toothpaste options that include clean teeth, fresh breath, and a recyclable packaging!

Terracycle was founded in 2001 by a college freshman, Tom Szaky, and today works with over 100 brands in 23 countries to upcycle items that would normally end up in landfull. I had the pleasure of hearing Tom speak at Sustainable Brands 2013, and his was definitely one of the more inspirational and non-greenwashing talks of the week. I found especially interesting the cigarette butt recycling program Terracycle has implemented since I know these little fellas are the most widely littered items on the planet.

Terracycle works with a number of schools and other groups to arrange collection locations - typically these collections earn money for the group, so have a look at how you can create a Terracycle Brigade if you're interested in participating in this exciting movement and earning money for your school or group.
Some of the items made by Terracycle.

Okay, I promise my next post will be about beauty or fashion, but sometimes it's the more practical items that need to be addressed first! I'm running low on face moisturiser, mascara and will need to get my hair done soon, so many lovely posts will be headed your way as I continue to navigate my way around the US as sustainably (and stylishly!) as possible.


Saturday 8 June 2013

a green sustainable brands fling


I just wrapped up four days at Sustainable Brands 2013 here in San Diego and my head is swimming. American culture shock mixed with immersing myself in the US sustainability and CSR (corporate social responsibility) market and being surrounded by lots of outgoing marketing types was a heady combination my first week back on the mainland. I am now happily sipping on an Aussie-style flat white (I found one in Bird Rock!) and reflecting on the past few days.

First, a huge shout out to the organizers of the event, Sustainable Brands. Having been involved with three Green Cities conferences I can totally appreciate all the work that goes into these events.  From an attendee perspective, it was flawless. I especially appreciated the commitment to sustainability including the goal to become zero waste, the availability of real coffee cups and glasses, and the amazing sustainable food options, most notably the vegetarian barbeque.

Well done!

My lunch one day - so many delish local vegetarian dishes!
I don't have such a positive opinion on all the content, however. As someone who is undoubtedly 'dark green' (to use marketing lingo), I had a hard time with some of the speakers. London-based sustainability communications agency Futerra led an ongoing debate as to whether brands are the problem or the solution to sustainability, and after this week I remain on the fence. I'd like to think they could be (they do have the dosh, after all!), but some of the companies at the conference do a whole lot of greenwashing and leave me skeptical of their intentions. Many keynote speakers highlighted the importance of transparency and authenticity, so I hope all the brands start taking notice.

I was particularly disappointed in the session on the Bangladesh disaster and other outsourced factory worker safety issues. Apart from one or two panelists (who did not represent brands) and the excellent moderator, the panelists seemed to largely pass the buck to consumers for demanding cheap goods and/or the broken auditing systems. Whilst I understand it is a complex situation on all sides, the blatant refusal to acknowledge brands' roles in the overall problems is unacceptable to this fashion purchaser and ethical goods advocate. Trust me, people will respect your company more if you are open, acknowledge that your company plays a part in the status quo, and commit to work on a solution - even if you don't know what your brand's specific solution is just yet. Enough is enough, and we consumers are demanding more and better of you.

But let's end on a light note, shall we? There were some amazing examples of projects made possible by corporate brands and the amazing bank accounts and connections they have at their disposal.

(Warning: you may want to have a hanky handy!)

Philips has created Community Light Centers in Africa. I had the privilege of spending two months on this amazing continent last year, and I know these centers will make a huge impact to the daily lives of individuals who could use some more smiling and hope for a brighter future.

Similarly, after visiting India and previously working for a non-profit working on health issues in rural India, I am impressed with the following handwashing campaign led by Unilever called Lifebuoy.

I hope both these organizations have long-term commitments to these important projects. I will definitely be keen to know the long-term impact. Exciting stuff.

Unilever is also behind the Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign. I suspect most of my female readers have seen it, but it's worth watching again and again, and reminding yourself how beautiful you are.

Finally, this hilarious clip by the Rainforest Alliance had most of us laughing - I can totally relate to this guy! Just as you don't have to give up your style to be sustainable, you don't have to change your entire life, either. Follow the frog instead.

Now after all that serious 'office work' I'm off to Yosemite!  I'm ready to immerse myself in nature for a few days ahead of reconnecting with my family in Utah. I'll keep you posted on the sustainable experiences I have along the way. And watch out for more specific blog posts on some smaller projects I came across at the conference over the coming weeks - there are quite a few things to get very excited about!