Greenwashing – Who I used to trust

For years I had made switches in my consumer choices, looking to companies that were showing to be ethical, eco conscious and cruelty free. And for the most part I can say my choices were good ones and I felt a sense of pride that I was supporting those companies. My favourite shops that I used to favour for their products were places like The Body Shop and Lush. Combining my ethical choices with amazing quality and aesthetically pleasing products. Who doesn’t love a lush bath bomb or snow fairy shower gel, am I right?

However, when I started to hear about hidden toxic chemicals in products under the guise of umbrella terms like “perfum” or “fragrance”. I started to question my choices and look at the product labels from my purchases and uncover the truth. And that I did! It became very disheartening to see brands that I had trusted for YEARS, were actually telling me a lie. Or rather, getting away with it through clever marketing techniques.

Products that I use which I now know are greenwashing

More of that to come in a moment, but lets just unpack the frequently used terms to describe products. You have most likely seen words splashed on the bottles of your favourite beauty products like “vegan”, “cruelty free” and “organic”. But what does that actually mean. If something is vegan and cruelty free then that product has not been tested on animals or contains any animal products or byproducts. This always gets a huge thumbs up from me – but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t still toxic or “dirty” chemicals inside the product. This brings me onto the meaning of products being natural and organic. To be fully organic the product has to be natural and have no synthetic additives or preservatives.

My all natural, toxic free, local and sustainably packaged products

Green Washing, in a sense is misleading consumers to believe that their products are natural and organic by using these various terms. Even though it may be partially true in some cases, it might not be the full picture. There still could be hidden ingredients and toxic chemicals in your products. Not to mention that even if products are organic and natural, the packaging is a whole other ball game. This can bring forth issues with sustainable and eco friendly packaging practice.

Here is a following list of key ingredients that I started to look for when purchasing my beauty products as this is what will be applied directly to my skin – since our skin is the biggest organ in the body it is vital to protect it.

Toxic Ingredient List

  • Fragrance/Parfum
  • Parabens
  • SLS
  • Sulfates (i.e. SLS)
  • Talc
  • Metals (i.e. Lead, Aluminium)
  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Alcohols (i.e. Ethanol, ethyl alcohol)
  • Petrolatum (i.e. Paraffin wax)

This is not an exhaustive list, this is just some of the toxic ingredients I was made aware of and it can get very consuming and overwhelming. My method now is to find products that have few ingredients and are 100 percent natural. It is also a bonus if the packaging is plastic free and zero waste as possible. I understand this isn’t for everyone and there is a fantastic app that I have used to investigate and research brands and products on the market, including big name brands. This app is called “Think Dirty” and it gives you a rating for each product using a numbering and colour coded green, yellow and red system. This will show you how clean you products are and allow you to search and review other products to find out their rating based on their ingredients list. For me, it has given me such control and power to discern what is truly natural when it comes to skincare and my cleaning products. I think most people will agree they would appreciate honesty and transparency when it comes to marketing products and what the ingredients mean. Through proper education and sharing of knowledge we can understand and make informed choices on finding products that are not filled with ingredients that are hormone disruptors, allergens or worse carcinogens.

I believe brands have a personal responsibility to ensure their products are safe rather than attempting to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is. I.e

  • not using sustainable packaging
  • clever marketing terms
  • percentage of ingredients still toxic and only some organic ingredients included

Be wary of (MLM) multi level marketing companies as well since these are the companies that are literally “selling” the product for profit rather than making a real effort to be toxic free, natural and sustainable. It’s all clever marketing techniques to sell their product and attempt to target the now awakening world and new eco conscious consumers. Rather support local business that are transparent and clear on the packaging of the ingredients they use. In the process you might even meet some down to earth people like I did at my local refillery in Cape Town ‘The Green Tap’. Small business owners that are always eager to help and share their knowledge. Be part of the way forward in going zero waste, plastic free and being kind to your body and the planet.

My zero waste journey so far

I am so excited to be sharing my first post on this blog at the wee country mouse. It has been such a journey so far as I embark on my plastic free and zero waste living journey. I am feeling so motivated and empowered to share my experience so that I can take an active role in helping others to make a difference to our planet and its preservation. I have noticed that as I become more and more active in the online community just how much wealth of knowledge and support I have already been able to tap into. It is truly amazing.

Once my eyes were opened to the damaging effects we are making to this wonderful planet it has been impossible for me to forget and not do something about it. I have been inspired, like a light being lit inside of me, to make a positive change. I have always been someone who is conscious of recycling and choosing free range and organic meat and veg and dairy products as well as reviewing my beauty and household products to reduce toxins entering my body. But I think during lockdown, my eyes have been opened even more to just how much waste is still created.

The ways plastic in particular is produced and remains in our ecosystems is so destructive. It is harming wildlife and endangering species across the globe and contributes to filling our oceans and waterways. The overproduction and consumption of fast economy and fashionable trends is inevitably one of the biggest factors in climate change. We need to protect our oceans and forests by making changes to our habits and choices over what we consume and what we spend our hard earned money on. Buying what we need and what is enough for ourselves and our household. Reducing and reusing items where possible. A little mend and make do attitude can go a long way. Supporting local businesses and being part of a community. Taking the initiative and signing up to petitions and lobbying for better climate change laws and guidelines are bigger scale active roles.

I want to share with you some of the changes I have adopted for a zero waste lifestyle so far. The household cleaning part of my home was one of the first big areas I tackled. I shopped at a local refill store called the “Green Tap” here in Cape Town for some kitchen and bathroom cleaning products. I bought a couple of jars but also overtime as I finished the products I already had, I took those containers in to use as a refill instead of buying new. I was able to get some lavender hydrosol which has multiple cleaning purposes throughout the home including kitchen counters, floors and windows/glass. I also got a lovely citrus smelling all purpose cleaner as well as a lavender dish-wash liquid and grapefruit dishwasher salts. All natural, all non toxic and using essential oils. Laundry powder and softener was also a great one for me as I have sensitive skin so this is nice and gentle and good for the environment. All in all a big thumbs up from me. I also switched out plastic sponges for bamboo scrubbers and cotton cloths.

Next I tackled the bathroom and my cosmetic products. Forest friendly loo rolls, yup its a thing – good for the booty and good for the environment, a really good easy change. I switched to soap bars on everything from hand wash to shampoo, conditioner and shaving. This has been a big one since most of these items normally come in liquid form in plastic containers. I brush my teeth with a bamboo toothbrush and I use toothy tabs instead of toothpaste which are chewable and all natural as well. The biggest and scariest purchase was my metal safety razor which I got Swedish blades to use with. This took a while to get used to and luckily I haven’t cut myself yet, my advice is to take it slow at first as there is definitely a technique to it. Lastly, I have started using reusable menstrual pads which are so comfortable to wear and are easy to clean – not as icky as you may think it will be. You just have to rinse and soak and then put in your normal wash. It is a simple swap, whilst an initial investment, it will save you money in the long run and divert single use pads/tampons from landfill. If pads aren’t your bag then menstrual cups might be more your thang.

My most favourite swaps have to be my reusables for on the go, which include my coffee cup and now bamboo cutlery, copper straw and reusable water glass bottle which I just got this week. I am a HUGE coffee lover, bordering on obsession and I just love being able to pop these items in my bag and go out to get my fix and sometimes a nice sugary treat to go along with it and go somewhere outdoors. After all, I love being in nature and there is nothing better than taking a stroll along the beach with the ocean and mountain view sipping my cappuccino or hazelnut latte and digging into a cheeky doughnut.

This has only touched on some of the ways you can take up a zero waste and plastic free lifestyle. I have so much more to share with you on the ways I have been making change as well as what I still have to continue in my journey. The biggest take away from this today is SMALL differences make a BIG impact. So wherever you are on your journey I hope you can draw some inspiration from me as well as understanding that Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day so it is never too late. No act is never too small to start making a change and a difference to the world.

Before you go, if you have liked this post and some of these ideas then please share and spread the word to others. Drop me a message, let me know what you have been doing or what you are trying out. I would love to hear from you. Stay tuned for more on this topic as I go further down the rabbit hole and dive deeper into this zero waste living journey.