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Follow our journey as we build Puristics, a new brand of anti-aging skin care without harsh chemicals. For us, the past 3 years have been filled with "aha" moments as we educate consumers about label literacy - knowing the ingredients in your beauty products, since harsh chemicals can end up on your skin. We welcome you to learn from our experiences both as businesswomen and busy moms, and please share your own stories, too!

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Friday
May072010

How many chemicals are in your cup?

Coffee, yum.  I’ve loved it since I was a teenager and never greet a day without my 2 cups.  I’ve sorted through the “good for you” studies and the “bad for you" studies and ultimately decided that, like so many other things, coffee in moderation is a net positive in my life (an on-going 22 year long Harvard School of Public Health study agrees, “the overall balance of risks and benefits [of coffee consumption] are on the side of benefits").

Moderate coffee drinking wasn’t always my style though. Through particularly high intensity periods, my consumption averaged 8-12 cups a day (with no milk or sugar to dilute the caffeine)!  When coffee consumption is measured in gallons rather than cups, cost/cup and quantity takes priority over quality.  Now that proper eating and regular exercise have helped me cut back to 2 cups a day, I can focus on quality and be more conscious about what I put in my cup.

It seems oxymoronic to worry about the chemicals I’m consuming in my morning coffee cup when I’m choosing to brew a cup of stimulants.  Oxymoron or not, if I can make a better choice without compromising my morning ritual, then why not do it? According to eartheasy.com coffee is sprayed with more chemicals than any other product consumed by humans aside from tobacco.

Why worry about what’s in name brand coffee?  Like all agricultural crops, yield is important with coffee, and because coffee is a consumption staple in wealthier countries and a critical export for poorer countries, the pressure to keep yields high is intense.  Pesticides and fertilizer are an important part of that equation.  Some would argue that the processing of coffee beans and subsequent brewing dilutes any pesticide and fertilizer residue to such a degree that it is rendered harmless.  Perhaps, but why not reduce my exposure to potentially harmful chemicals if I can.  Of even greater importance, in my view, is coffee’s impact on the wildlife, the environment and the people engaged in coffee production.  Originally, coffee was grown in the shade, enabling existing bird habitat to remain in tact, soil quality to be maintained and CO2 consuming trees to remain.  Production pressures have led, however, to coffee being grown in full sun in monoculture, both of which require artificial means of support. This has led to the destruction of important habitat and the need for additional pesticides and herbicides.  Shade grown coffee can be produced organically, without pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, and without destruction of rain forest and migratory bird habitat.  Shade grown coffee yields a smaller coffee berry which some believe creates a more concentrated flavor in the bean. 

So, armed with this knowledge and bolstered by the savings from reducing my daily consumption back down to 2 cups a day, I’ve made yet another small, manageable change in my life for the better - - quality over quantity.  I now drink organic, shade grown coffee and am able to start my day with fewer chemicals and the knowledge that I’m making a difference for the earth while still supporting coffee growing economies.  While it can be tough to find shade grown coffee in most grocery chains, a few good sources are available online.  I get my coffee from Grounds for Change (http://www.groundsforchange.com).  For additional information and other online sources for organic, shade grown coffee, visit Earthy Easy, (http://www.eartheasy.com).  Join me in rethinking your morning ritual, and as always, let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday
Apr282010

Let kids be kids, please

At what age should kids be allowed to watch PG-13 movies? R-rated movies? Stay at home alone? Be left at the mall on their own? Get piercings? Wear make-up?  Some of these questions are tough, some aren’t and some get the “it depends” answer.  For some, the ramifications of a yes or no answer seem to be fairly minor, at least at first. 

The press has focused quite a bit lately on the number of harmful chemicals in our daily living.  We’ve heard a lot about BPA in baby bottles and toys (and the Nalgenes I’d relied upon).  The Environmental Working Group focused our attention on chemicals in nail polishes and the potential harm they could do to our teenagers.  Now the New York Times has published a piece on the tweens and their early and potentially dangerous exposure to chemicals in cosmetics.  (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/29/fashion/29tween.html).

I’ve been moaning for years about how our children are growing up too quickly and being exposed to influences that are inappropriate for their years.  It seems that I should have added exposure to potentially harmful chemicals when I was worried about “influences”.  All four of my kids have had to tolerate my limiting of their movie and TV choices and guiding them on clothing selections.  I’m not a prison guard but I’ve definitely set limits, as all parents do - - limits that have both been spoken or understood.  The more I read, from the NY Times article or from the work published by the EWG and others, I’m glad that my girls (aged 14 and 12) don’t push to wear make-up (I rarely wear it myself), have their hair highlighted or get manicures.

We all have to pick our battles with our children.  I’ve always tried to let my kids make their own choices when the alternatives available were all safe.  More and more it seems we’re learning that our choices in nail polish and make-up might not be worth the trade-off.  Let’s try to let our girls look like children for a few years more and maybe they’ll get a few more years of good health at the other end as the pay-off.  Plus, as I tell my kids all the time, they have decades and decades to be adults but only 18 years to be kids.  We should all guard that time and age as precious.

Wednesday
Apr282010

Reduce chemical exposure; put your brain on autopilot!

At a business dinner last night, I was making small talk with my dinner companions, and I learned that one gentleman was a vegan.  While far from vegan myself, I was excited because I figured we’d have many similar viewpoints on food, our environment and potentially harmful chemicals in our daily lives.  As a card-carrying omnivore, I was a bit worried that he’d be judgmental because of my consumption of animals and animal by-products.  While I struggled ineloquently to express my preference for grass-fed beef and non-overfished fish, it became clear that he’d taken the “reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals” a few steps further than I had and had developed the habit of checking everything before he popped it into his mouth or put it on his skin.  This gave me pause. 

Coincidentally, I’d just read an article on using the “autopilot” function of your brain (http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2009/11/22/the-brain-advantage-train-your-autopilot-and-how-to-turn-it-off) and realized that I can work my way, day by day, to becoming more conscious of our exposure to potentially harmful chemicals in our world.  Avoiding excess and potentially harmful chemicals had become an autopilot function for my dinner companion and with a little work, I could achieve the same (even without going vegan).  This article on training your brain goes right at my mantra as well, little changes made bit by bit can result in meaningful long term change.  I’ve already made the switch on my skin care products and my feminine protection products (pre-marketing production samples of Puristics!).  Now, I need to tackle some of the tougher areas:  color cosmetics, hair products and food.  My make-up wearing occasions are infrequent and benign offerings in hair care are hard to come by, so I’ll focus on food first. 

This brings me to my next interesting blog lift.  The folks EcoSalon (great site.  Check it out) point out how the absence of artificial growth hormones has become a major selling point (http://www.ecosalon.com/no-artificial-growth-hormones-now-a-major-selling-point).  This is one of those double-edged swords we have to deal with in the current environment.  I definitely look for this call out on packaging just as I try to look for products without potentially harmful chemicals.  But I look forward to the day when we can feel more comfortable that artificial growth hormones are out of our food supply.  So, let’s keep showing retailers through our purchase decisions that we want the nasty stuff out of all of our products.  What changes have you made lately?  In the meantime, think about what thoughts you want to put on autopilot!

Thursday
Apr222010

Take Earth Day Back From the Trendy

I’ve been away from my blog for a few weeks . . . far longer than I’d intended.  I’ve had so many different topics that I wanted to cover and couldn’t settle on just one.    My procrastination has paid off because here I am, on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, writing.  My kids are focused today on Earth Day 2010, but I’m going to reflect back closer to the origins of Earth Day.   The 40th anniversary (and the fact that April has now become Earth Month) causes me to ponder the social, cultural and economic parallels between the 1970s and today and to remember my first experiences with the concept.  My grade school in the early ‘70s tried, somewhat weakly, to take note of Earth Day - - truthfully, Arbor Day celebrations were taken more seriously.  We even raised funds to erect a windmill which stands to this day. Efforts to reflect more on our impact on the Earth were just in their nascent stages then for most Americans, though I suspect the long gas lines did give a reason to think for a minute or two (as a backseat regular at the time, I know they made me wonder why).  As a nation, we were trying to try. Not surprisingly, when the economy turned around, eco-focused thinking fell out of favor.  In the mid-1980s, a couple of my friends in college were active in our university’s recycling club.  I was baffled as to why we bothered with such things or why my friends were a part of it.  Shame on me (and I get it now).  At least I was aware enough to scoff out loud when Ronald Reagan declared ketchup a vegetable for school lunch purposes!

So, what should we do with this 40th anniversary of Earth Day?  I hear people talking about “green being the new black”, a very cynical view focused on the trend only. I choose to believe that the changes I’ve made have been made for the right motivations (my health and the health of future generations).  Are your changes going to stick?  Check out 2 great articles from the April issue of Natural Solutions magazine.  One discusses all of the potential toxins in our homes - - maybe a way to personalize Earth Day is to focus on the environment inside the 4 walls of your home (http://www.naturalsolutionsmag.com/articles-display/15613/Is-Your-Home-Toxic). The other gives guidance on choosing personal care items during pregnancy - - twice the number of organs and immune systems to consider (http://www.naturalsolutionsmag.com/articles-display/15610/keyword/beauty%20for%20two/Beauty-for-Two).  Both of them give tips on things you can do now and goals you might want to set for the future.  Maybe you’ll find a change you can make today, big or small, that will get some more potentially harmful chemicals out of your life - - a change you can make it stick for the next 40 years of Earth Days.   Green might be the new black, but I’ve never been terribly trendy.  Healthier living is a day by day proposition for me. 

Tuesday
Mar232010

Is your sunscreen safe for fish?

My family and I just spent a week in Mexico on a needed escape from the winter weather and daily stresses.  While the sun always feels great on my skin, I’m conscious of the fact that we’re 6 buckets of recessive genes walking around in this sunny paradise so I pile the sunscreen on everyone.  The good news is that the kids finally cooperate with the sun protection protocol because they’ve each lived through a vacation-spoiling sunburn or two.  Because all of us have fair skin, I often reach for the highest SPF available (despite what I’ve read about anything about 15 or 30 being wasteful) and was happy when my ginger-haired sister pulled the SPF 70 out of her bag.  Throwing aside what I know about the sunscreen products and SPF levels, I reached for the biggest gun available to get it done since the kids hate to swim in t-shirts, and I don’t love wearing my big, floppy sun hat. I didn’t give it another thought until we visited Xel-Ha.

Xel-Ha is billed as Mexico’s natural wonder and the largest natural aquarium in the world.  Posted on big signs throughout and enforced by the employees at the entrance gate, Xel-Ha prohibits the use of chemical sunscreens.  They’ve even set up a station at the entrance where they give you samples of biodegradable sunscreens containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide (physical sunscreens as opposed to chemical sunscreens) and will hold your chemical sunscreen for you during the day.  They’ve even posted lists of acceptable and unacceptable brands.  

What’s the big deal?  The reason for their strict prohibition on chemical, non-biodegradable sunscreens is that they harm the coral reefs and marine life in the park.  I’ve since discovered that this ban applies to other environmentally sensitive attractions in the area.  That was enough to convince me.  If the product I’m applying in abundance, directly on my skin and on the skin of my children isn’t safe for marine life, I don’t want it on my body.  Luckily, we did have one bottle of zinc oxide based sunscreen so we didn’t have to invest in new sunscreen or go to the back-up plan of snorkeling in t-shirts.  So, after a wonderful day exploring this truly beautiful park (and jumping off 14’ “cliffs”), I reminded myself AGAIN that I must read labels and find the best solution rather than just reverting to the easy and convenient.  We did succeed in protecting ourselves from both the sun and the chemicals and kept the fish happy at the same time.  Everybody wins when we just think a little bit.

Read more at: http://www.cozumel-tours.com/biodegradable-sunscreen.htm