Greenwashing and How to Avoid It

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With the increased focus worldwide on taking better care of our planet and preserving our natural resources, marketing campaigns have started to focus on sustainability as a selling point in many fields. This is an awesome move if the company really is an active advocate for preserving water, energy and the like; however, many times companies toss a green marketing claim to consumers based on little to no actual action. Customers who fall for these claims and purchase advertised products from companies who aren't actually green are doing little to help save our planet and, in reality, may be unwillingly doing more harm than good. We call this "greenwashing."

Fortunately, greenwashing is a villain that can be stopped relatively easily if consumers are careful and pay close attention to products they purchase. The most accurate way to avoid being greenwashed is to properly research "green" products before purchasing. If your favorite detergent company has just launched a green cleaner, take the time to check facts about what exactly makes this new detergent qualify as green.

On this same note, avoiding greenwashing is about more than just ensuring that you buy holistic products. The idea behind going green requires that we do everything in our power to reduce the carbon footprint each of us leaves on the world. In this way, we can directly save many of the non-renewable resources we're currently flying through. That said, even if a product really is "green" on the consumer side, if the company is required to use more energy and produce more waste in order to create the product, perhaps promoting its production isn't the best thing for our planet. Just like you research your products, research the companies who make them. Are they really following a green initiative or just trying to make a buck off the good efforts of others?

I'm very happy to see the overwhelming number of new environmentally friendly options on the market, but remember the reason for these products. If we aren't actually conserving the earth's resources, perhaps these campaigns are less "green" and more "greenwash."

by Anjie Cho


How (And Why) To Choose an Organic Pillow

A huge part of creating a sacred, holistic space is designing a place where you are happy and healthy. From the paint on your walls to the cleaning products you use, even down to the furniture and accessories you bring into your space, each addition has a chance to harm you or heal you. 

Since we spend spend many of our passive, yin hours in bed, it's especially important to make sure that we're resting in a healthy space, free of toxins and allergens. That's why I encourage you to choose organic bedding and linens, including pillows.

Most traditional pillows are filled with either conventionally grown cotton or polyester, neither of which are good for our health or the environment. Cotton contains herbicides and pesticides, many of which are carcinogenic to humans, and polyester filling includes the toxic chemical ethylene glycol (the deadly substance in anti-freeze) among others. Even most memory foam pillows give off harmful VOCs. These chemicals not only seep into your skin and lungs, they eventually, through washing and disposal, find their way to the atmosphere and even our water supply. Talk about unhealthy!

On top of all this, the production of these substances can put a heavy strain on our non-renewable resources, like water. One single shirt made from conventional cotton requires 2700 liters of water and 1/3 of a pound of chemicals. The chemicals used in cotton growth account for 25% of the world's insecticides, which often pollute our drinking water as well. As for polyester, it's made from non-renewable petroleum and its creation produces harmful gases that find their way both into the bodies of workers and the atmosphere.

With these statistics in mind, the case for organic pillows seems pretty cut and dry, but how do you find the perfect organic pillow for you? Before you even consider what material to opt for, it's important to consider your sleep style and other lifestyle choices. 

The type of pillow you need depends on your sleeping style. Typically, side sleepers need the most support, while back sleepers need a bit less, and stomach sleepers need the least. Spend a few moments determining how you sleep most often before you head out shopping. 

Other considerations are how you live the remainder of your life, as well as your personal preferences. Do you want firm or soft? Are you vegan? Are animal products an no-go? Are you allergic to any of the materials used in organic pillows? These are all important questions to answer if you're looking for optimal comfort (and aren't we all?). 

Once you've tackled those details, dive into choosing which organic material is best for your holistic space.

Natural Latex

Natural latex is harvested from natural rubber trees, a rapidly renewing resource, and boasts a variety of perks including being naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, flexible, long-lasting, moisture-absorbing, heat regulating and resistant to mold and mildew. These pillows are 100% natural latex, are best for side and stomach sleepers and will even eventually biodegrade!

Organic Cotton

This popular option has the same supportive and comfort qualities as traditional cotton but is grown in a much more sustainable, eco-friendly and safe way, without perfumes, formaldehyde or dyes. It's 100% natural and is hypoallergenic, resistant to mold and breathes well during warmer weather (so no sleep sweat!). This option is best if you're a stomach sleeper, since it's not quite as firm as latex. 

Organic Wool

Organic wool is another very popular option for pillows. This material is great for regulating temperatures, keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter and has a natural moisture-wicking ability, just in case those few sweat drops do get loose. Like most other organic options, organic wool is naturally mold, mildew, fire and water resistant and hypoallergenic. Wool is best for side sleepers, and if you can, opt for alpaca wool, as it is lighter and warmer. 

Buckwheat or Millet

If you're willing to try something new, a buckwheat or millet pillow is a great organic option. These pillows are filled with buckwheat or millet hulls and have many perks including excellent air circulation, adjustability and potential to eliminate neck, back or shoulder pain as well as snoring. They're also naturally pesticide-free, hypoallergenic and water resistant. These pillows aren't super fluffy, and it's important to note that they can be a bit noisy, so opt for one with a wool outer layer to muffle the sound. Millet pillows are a bit quieter on this front. These pillows are great for all sleep types, but if you're a side or stomach sleeper, be sure to check out millet!

Kapok

Before you mourn the loss of your down pillow, let's talk about kapok. This material is a silky fiber from ceiba trees that feels much like down, but it's hypoallergenic! It's also eight times lighter than cotton and very fluffy, in addition to being naturally pest-free, water and mold resistant and quick-drying. This option is vegetable-based and great for back sleepers, or anyone who's a fan of down pillows!

There are many, many options for going organic with your pillow selection, and I encourage you to research your choices before making this investment. No matter what you choose, rest easier (and more organically) knowing that by getting rid of traditional pillows, you've taken a great step in creating a truly holistic space!

by Anjie Cho


Your Guide to Choosing an Organic Rug

Taking steps to free your home of harmful chemicals and toxins doesn't have to mean you have a barren, minimalist home. With the increasing focus on organic materials and eco-friendly products, it's possible to design a beautiful, sacred space that enhances your health instead of hurting it. One easy way to reduce some of the VOCs in your home is to choose an organic option when adding rugs to your space, and thanks to Stephanie Holmes and Matt Budenholzer, of Organic Looms, we've got tips on how and why to go about it!

Why Go Organic?

Perhaps the most important reason to go the organic route with rugs is indoor air quality. We spend most of our time indoors, yet our internal environments are actually much more polluted than the outdoor atmosphere, due to off-gassing, VOCs and more. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average person experiences 72% of his total chemical exposure in his own home!

How does this relate to rugs? Rugs and carpeting are two of the most common culprits of off-gassing, due to chemically produced material and backing. Since many traditional and machine-made rugs are actually composed of several loose pieces of yarn, they include chemical backing for cohesion, which can off-gas harmful VOCs over time. Many popular rug materials, like nylon and polyester, will eventually produce these gasses as well. With a truly organic rug, there will be no off-gassing. Organic rugs are made of more environmentally (and health) friendly materials like wool, silk and various plant fibers. These rugs are also longer lasting, generally of higher quality and have a low carbon footprint

How to Go Organic

So where do you start if you're on the search for an organic rug? Research! Go old school and call local rug companies, or head to Google and search "organic rugs" to get a good idea of what's available for your budget and needs. Be diligent and careful not to fall into a greenwashing trap, though, as the term "organic" has become a bit diluted over time and there are no regulations on what businesses can label with that term. 

Take care to ask about materials used in the construction of your rug, not just the primary material, as well as the process itself, including dyes used and construction method. This will help you determine whether each rug option is truly organic. 

Know ahead of time what the perks are for each option. For instance, wool is the most durable organic option and is easy to clean, making it great for high-traffic areas, whereas silk is a strong, beautiful material, but is more difficult to clean. If you're vegan, opt for plant choices like hemp, nettle and other animal-friendly materials! Check out these tips for finding the right material for your space. 

There are many organizations dedicated to producing high quality, eco-friendly rugs, like one of our favorites and our gracious all-things-organic-rugs educators, Organic Looms. Ultimately, it's about finding the right company and right rug for your space!

by Anjie Cho


The Perks of Organic Bed Linens

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I've noted a few times on the blog, we spend a lot of time in our beds. This is why it's so important that they're comfortable, holistic and have ample room for positive qi to move freely about. Aside from the command position and minimal storage beneath our beds, another important consideration is what we put on top of our beds. 

If you're aiming to live a green, holistic lifestyle, chances are you've already made the change to organic in many places, from deodorant to detergent to conditioner, fruits and vegetables, and even paint. While you're at it, look into going organic with your bed linens as well!

The most obvious perk to making this switch is that going organic with sheets, etc. eliminates a number of chemicals added to ordinary bed linens for a variety of reasons. Whether to maintain the bright color of your bedding, keep your sheets wrinkle-free, provide a cooling sensation, or any number of other "benefits," chemicals added to your sheets and other linens are just as dangerous as other household chemicals. In fact, due to the amount of time you spend in your bed, they may even be more dangerous! 

Along the same lines, switching to organic linens will significantly decrease the likelihood of allergic reactions to your bedding. Many sheets and comforters contain dyes and other chemicals that may contain allergens. Who wants to sleep in a bed they're literally allergic to? Organic bedding is much less likely to cause skin reactions or aggravate other allergies. 

Organic sheets, like bamboo, tencel and organic cotton, are also much more durable and easy to wash. Each of these materials provides a smooth, almost silky feeling, and because they are plant-based and used to standing the test of time and environmental factors, they tend to be much more sturdy, allowing them to be washed over and over without special instructions. 

Finally, like most organic products, bedding produced without extra chemicals helps to push toward a more sustainable, naturally farmed planet. With so many factors contributing to the destruction of our natural resources and Earth overall, it's important that we do what we can to help in any way, and switching to organic bedding is one easy, beneficial way to help rebuild our environment. 

by Anjie Cho


Jacq's Organics, All Natural Beauty

This week, I interviewed Barbara Jacques, founder of Jacq's Organics, an all-natural apothecary created with families in mind. It was so much fun to hear her take on why natural beauty products are the way to go.

Be sure to check in TUESDAY on the Holistic Spaces Facebook for a special giveaway from Holistic Spaces + Jacq's Organics!


AC: Tell me about your story starting Jacq's Organics.

BJ: In 2011, I was inspired to begin my research on all-natural bath and skincare after my husband and I learned I had an ovarian tumor during my pregnancy. I became obsessed with learning about my tumor, baby bath products, preservatives and ingredients.

At the time, the majority of the products available on the market contained the toxic ingredients I was trying to avoid, especially in baby care products. Frustrated, disappointed and irritated with what was available, I started researching; formulating and creating my own bath products for my family.

After the birth of my daughter, we launched Jacq’s Organics in the spring of 2012. 

What are 3 ingredients to watch out for in our beauty products?

3 ingredients...there are a minimum of 12, but to be honest, our skin is the largest organ. What we put on our skin has a systematic effect on your overall health. There's a list of the dirty dozen, the 12 most common ingredients used in products that are harmful. You can find the list on www.ewg.org, The Environmental Working Group site, but the 3 ingredients I'd say to avoid are:

Mineral oil - it's a byproduct from crude oil/petroleum - it clog pores, coats skin like a plastic bag and interferes with skin’s ability to eliminate toxins.

DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) & TEA  (triethanolamine):  You can find these in many beauty products. Studies show that these ingredients, used as a preservative, cause irritation, and headaches. They're hormone-disrupting chemicals and linked to liver and kidney cancer.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): This preservative is used in many cleansing products including dishwashing detergents, degreasers, bath, hair and beauty products. It's been linked to breaking down your skin's immune system and more.

What are 3 simple tips for readers who want to go organic with their beauty products?

My first tip for readers looking to go organic with their beauty products is to start with your food. The best way to go green with beauty is from the inside out. I strongly believe that beauty radiates from the inside out, and what you eat is just as important as what you put on your skin. The rest will follow.

My second tip for readers looking to go organic with their beauty products is to Keep it Simple. On our blog, we published an article discussing the stages of going organic with your beauty products called What Shade of Green Are You? We elaborate in detail on the simple steps you can take when switching beauty products. We talk about the different stages, including light green for beginners, medium green for intermediate and dark green for individuals that are well versed on ingredients, beauty products and more. As a beginner, shop products that you are able to read the ingredients, and experiment with D.I.Y. facials and scrubs using ingredients from your pantry

My third tip is to arm yourself with tools and resources. My two favorite books for beginners include Eat Pretty Nutrition for Beauty, Inside and Out by Jolene Hart and Holistic Beauty from Inside Out by Julie Gabriel. Both books are jammed pack with information on food, nutrition, skin care, ingredients and even recipes. 

There are so many resources available online, like the Environmental Working Group, www.ewg.org, that work to keep consumers in the know about food, household and beauty products and more. They send out articles on ingredients, laws, environmental changes and more. It's an amazing resource. There's also a cosmetic database compiled with a list of hundreds, if not thousands, of products ranks from 0 to 10 based on their ingredients, so consumers are aware of which ones to stay away from. 

What's your favorite product from Jacq's Organics? 

My favorite Jacq's Organics has to be our Carrot con Leche Cleansing Bar. It was created when a family member really needed a product to help combat breakouts. It's made with fresh, organic carrot that we grate and mash, and organic rice milk that we make in our studio. It's the only cleanser I use on my face and just love the soap bubbles and natural scent.

How have you created Holistic Spaces in your life? 

At home, I try to create a space that feels cozy, warm and inviting, which is extremely important with a toddler running and jumping around. I have throw sheets on every couch with soft pillows for jumping and throwing. Stackable wicker boxes as side tables for her toys and organization. We also have a couple of great abstract art pieces on our wall created by our little one. I really enjoy sitting on the floor with my little one. Makes for a perfect location for crafts, reading or cuddling. Come to think of it, our home is a combination of warm earth tones with pops of green, blue and yellow.

My entire family suffers from allergies, so our home is filled with plants that help purify the air. The plants, for me, are relaxing but they also give me an opportunity to teach my daughter about plants. She loves watering the plants and asking questions about the different plants and herbs we have. I also use aromatherapy in our home. In the morning, I like to light our Le Soliel Candle. The citrus scent is refreshing and a great way to start the day. I also like to light palo santo and hand-made incense from Japan to help clear the air, and the scents are soothing and calming. If I've had a long day, I like to end the night with our La Lune candle.

I've always been into Feng Shui, even more so during my college days. However, between home, work and juggling a family, trying to find a balance can sometimes feel unattainable. One way for me to create a holistic space is by avoiding clutter. This helps so much. When it comes to our home, I try to create an open, clean space that will allow room for more chi so the kiddo can run around and I can breathe and find balance.

by Anjie Cho


Barbara Jacques is a yogi, recovering beauty product junkie, Founder and Formulator at Jacq's Organics. With an uncanny drive to help and aide those in need, she has worked in the not-for-profit sector in Development at a well known national social and community based organizations. After years of juggling a full-time job and running Jacq’s Organics, an all-natural apothecary line created for a growing family, Barbara decided to take on the beauty industry full-time. The company’s mission is to be socially responsible and seek to promote and encourage healthy alternatives that everyone in your family can love and enjoy. She speaks on beauty, holistic health and enjoys all things beauty, volunteering, cooking, running, yoga, traveling and entertaining family and friends.