Tuesday 9 July 2013

a green walmart fling

You read that correctly. Walmart.

You see, I'm currently in small-town USA. You know that song by John Cougar Mellencamp, "I was born in a small town"? Well, I'm in that exact small town (Seymour, Indiana), hanging out with my in-laws and enjoying the heartland. The only problem with the heartland is that the nearest Whole Foods is over an hour away, and I've just run out of shampoo and mascara.

I love Whole Foods - it's on the list of 'pros' for the continuing US vs Australia debate - but, like me this week, most Americans don't have access to this natural products wonderland. On the other hand, 90% of Americans live within 15 miles of a Walmart, so Walmart, here I come!

 For the record, if I was in Oz I'd quickly replace with my favourite Sukin Organics and Musq, respectively. I still love them both!

I still love you!
You too!

Typically I avoid the superstore at all costs because of its support of overconsumption and a number of other questionable social and economic factors (see this scathing article on the giant for details). And call me crazy, but I just don't think those stars-and-stripes ball caps marked down to $2 could have possibly been made ethically. But, considering the accessibility for nearly all Americans, and the aspirational (if vague) sustainability page on Walmart's website, I was willing to give it a go. I remain determined to show that it is easy to go green once you're armed with information!

I went to the hair care aisle first, and spent about 45 minutes looking at every brand that looked even remotely natural. I compared the ingredients to my 'Ingredients to Avoid' list, noted the greenwashers in the group (there were plenty!), and put Aveeno Active Naturals in my basket. It was sulfate-free* and paraben-free** and had a relatively short ingredients list. It wasn't as great as Sukin Organics, but was an acceptable replacement outside of a health food store.

Next I wandered over to the makeup department to look for any natural brands, and after walking down all 4 aisles of cosmetics came across an 8-foot wide eco-oasis called 'Natural Products' in the last aisle. This section was stocked with familiar natural brands including:

So, Aveeno Active Naturals went back on the shelf and I came home with Avalon Organics Nourishing Lavender shampoo, containing 70% certified organic content and vegetarian ingredients and not containing synthetic fragrances, sulfates, phthalates or parabens. As an added bonus the bottle is made of 100% recycled content.

I also found a mascara to replace my beloved Aussie Musq mascara - Organic Wear by Physicians Formula. It has EcoCert approval, the first ever US line to be recognised by this well-established European certification group, 100% natural ingredients, 47% organic ingredients, and all the 'expected' things excluded, not to mention a recyclable wand.

My one complaint is the overpackaging, both in terms of the large size of the tube and handle as well as the plastic shell inside the carboard box. Upon first swipe it seems good! Physicians Formula also makes a mineral powder that was very healthy - without Talc (found in most mineral makeup products but a synthetic, irritating, clog-poring nightmare!) and naturally SPF 30.

So, there you have it, successful eco-beauty shopping at Walmart!

Any other great drugstore brands available in the US that I should know about? I'd love to hear about them and try them for myself.


PS - I have a list of ingredients to avoid compiled from from Gorgeously Green and Musq, but this is a super-short list on Ecouterre that is easier to remember when you find yourself in a pinch.

* Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate are both known irritants and cause other problems when combined with other chemicals, but are very common in body products because they produce excellent bubbles.
** Parabens are known carcinogens, and I really don't know why these are still allowed in personal care products.

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