Want to know more about organic cotton and natural fiber bras and which styles might work best for you? This second episode of our bra video series, discusses easy-wear, natural fiber “bralettes.” I forgot to mention in the video, but bralettes are generally sized S, M, L instead of 34B, 36C, etc. We do our best to convert the sizes so you have the numbered size equivalent in the product description. We measured Kayla last time as a 34B, which in most bralettes will be a medium.
For years I’ve been meaning to put together a video series on organic and natural fiber bras. Camera shyness, more than procrastination, has delayed it. The series was originally envisioned as showing some bras on hangers and going over the different types of bras, sizing, best fit, fabrics, features, etc. Well, thanks to Dr. Kayla Luhrs of Moon Cycle Medicine, this is finally happening! Kayla offered to act as a model for the series, and since I didn’t have to do it on my own, the camera seemed less intimidating.
We’ve mapped out a series of 10 different videos, which we will launch once per week both here and on our (as yet underutilized) YouTube channel. Each one will highlight one specific bra style and provide tips for things to look for when deciding on an organic or natural fiber bra purchase.
Our first episode covers No Wire Support Bras and our tip shows you how to measuring yourself to determine your approximate bra size. This was our first one, so hopefully they’ll get better over time. 🙂
Using a tape measure, measure directly under your bust around your ribcage (Kayla measured 30.5″)
Add 3″ – 4″ to get to an even number (We added 3.5″)
This number is your BAND size (So, Kayla is a 34″ band)
Now measure across the widest part of your bust (Kayla measured 35″)
Subtract your underbust measurement (30.5″) from your band measurement (35″) to get the difference (Kayla’s difference is 4.5″)
Now lookup that number on the list below to get your approximate CUP size. Since many manufacturers size their cups differently, this is only approximate, but should get you started near the right size. (In our example, Kayla measures a 34B.)
Ocean Blue an Oregon ocean nonprofit, is concerned about the impact of the textile industry on our natural water resources, specifically the clothes we all wear and wash everyday. They contacted Faerie’s Dance to discuss whether eco-fashion represents an improvement over conventional clothing. Adrienne Catone, Faerie’s Dance’s founder and CEO was happy to discuss what makes their threads the best option for the planet’s waterways.
Founder of Ocean Blue Project, Richard Arterbury, is concerned with the presence of chemicals and unnatural clothing fibers in our waterways. He explained how our clothing impacts our waterways, both the manufacturing and the maintenance that happens after we start wearing them.
When two environmentally friendly organization leaders join forces, or even just get together to chat about sustainability and clothing, the conversation can be quite revealing.
Richard: We really like that you offer people sustainable clothing that has the health of workers in mind as well as being environmentally friendly. Can you tell me a little bit about what makes your clothing environmentally friendly?
Adrienne: Well, there are four important pieces that we factor in when determining whether or not a piece of clothing is eco-friendly:
1. We source fabrics with no or minimal pesticide usage and minimal or closed-loop processing. For example, organically grown cotton instead of conventional cotton – which is the highest pesticide/insecticide sprayed crop on the planet.
2. We source clothing that has been at least low-impact dyed. Some items are undyed or clay-dyed, but we avoid items that have been conventionally dyed with harsh chemicals such as azo dyes. You can read about dyes in this post.
3. All of our clothing has no chemical finishing agents. Most conventional clothing is finished with a chemical soup to make them wrinkle less, stand up better to the dryer, resist fire, etc. While these chemicals do have some benefits for the clothing, we don’t believe the benefits are worth the environmental degradation or the potential health risks to both the wearer and the factory workers.
4. Finally, we are meticulous in our verification that no sweatshop or child labor is ever used in any of the items we carry. Most of them are Fair Trade Certified, though we do carry some brands that work with smaller factories that cannot afford the certifications. In those cases, the manufacturers physically go to the factories on a regular basis and verify the working conditions personally. While we buy most of our clothing from manufacturers that wholesale, we do also manufacture our own line of underwear. All of our underwear are designed, cut and sewn in Oregon from Global Organic Textile Certified (GOTS) fabric imported from a family-owned shop in India.
Richard: It sounds like you have really done your research which makes me glad that you have dedicated your work to sharing this knowledge with the world. Which fabrics do you think leave the lightest footprint on our waterways?
Adrienne: Anything grown without pesticides that also has minimal processing waste would end up being the best option all around. We’ve done an assessment of eco-friendly fabrics, and essentially, the higher on the list you purchase, the better it will be for our waterways.
Richard: Pesticides wash into waterways that make their way to the ocean and that’s not good for wildlife or people that get our drinking water from those waterways. It is good to know how fabrics are being processed so we can make better choices for people and wildlife.
A solution from our perspective is most of our waterways have been impeded so greatly that native plants and native trees are no longer protecting our rivers. Today the world is making better choices, but pollutants are now present in sediments that got put there from many years ago. I would like to know more about other ways clothing is processed. How does closed-loop processing help the world’s ocean?
Adrienne: Most fabric production does have some waste products. A closed-loop processing system captures the production waste and recycles it for reuse in the next round of fabric production. Companies like Lenzing, who make both Tencel® and Modal® have achieved near 100% waste recycling. So there’s no waste or runoff at all into waterways or oceans. Closed-loop production is really the future of fashion.
Richard: Those are the kind of solutions we like to hear about. Clothing dyes also impact waterways and the ocean. So, can you tell me more about what you have found about those impacts?
Adrienne: As I mentioned before, conventional dyes can have really harsh, and in some cases, carcinogenic chemicals. Unfortunately, the dyeing process creates a lot of waste. The single biggest improvement of low-impact dyes over conventional dyes is the enormous reduction in waste output.
Richard: It is deeply concerning that fibers from plastic based clothing come off in the wash and end up making their way through water treatment plants, eventually flowing into waterways to the world’s ocean. These plastic fibers are also found in our drinking water. Would you say it’s better to have plastics go to a landfill than to be made into products that will end up in the ocean?
Adrienne: Actually, a huge portion of non-recycled plastic do end up in our oceans. So RePET fibers keep a lot of plastic out of the ocean rather than just out of landfill. So I guess the question would be is it better to have a lot of plastic in the ocean (a lot being defined as an entire garments worth) or a little plastic in our waterways (a little being defined as the small amount of the garment that leeches away during the wash)?
Richard: What’s worse? Is it a large piece that gets churned over time, or the piece that’s microscopic that we can’t see? The answers to these questions may be filled in over time by researchers, but until then we can keep cleaning it up and your company can keep making our footprint as light as possible like you have been doing. One thing that I really love about Faeries Dance is that you are offering solutions for a One World Ocean.
To learn more about the Ocean Blue Project, checkout their Mission Page.
Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard of wrapping your gifts with newspaper. But who wants all that ink on your fingers while you unwrap, and really, who still gets newspapers anyway? Save the newspapers to make paper bows. Eco-gift wrapping can be much more fun and creative than that.
Have some old road maps in the car? Use those to wrap gifts for the traveler in the family.
Wrap smaller gifts with magazine pages. They’re glossy, full-color and you can be creative about what images you show.
Is your fridge overrun with toddler art? Wrap grandparents gifts in art projects from the kid’s school. The wrapping itself will give them a little extra joy.
Wrap gifts with gifts. Are you giving someone tea towels or pillow cases? Use towels to wrap up other gifts, so both the wrapping and the wrapped item are gifts to themselves.
Giving someone a t-shirt with a print? Wrap another gift with the t-shirt print showing outward. Again, you’ve got a double-gift.
Instead of buying gift bags, pick up festive reusable shopping bags at the grocery or department store. Most stores have bright colored ones, and they can be used year-round saving plastic bags every time your recipient goes shopping.
Make your own gift basket by cutting up old magazines or even the colorful grocery fliers that come in the mail and using them as liner in the bottom of a basket, watering can, flower pot or large coffee mug. Put your gifts on top and add a festive bow. Just remember to skip the cellophane.
Ah sunscreen, white goop filled with unpronounceable ingredients slathered liberally over those of us with particularly pale skin. The debate over eco-friendly sunscreen still rages, with some respectable websites recommending to cover up rather than use any sunscreen at all. That’s all well and good, but wearing long pants, a long sleeve shirt and floppy hat to the beach can be a bit of a bummer. And have you tried playing beach volleyball while wearing a full getup? Yeah, not so much.
The Environmental Working Group, whose Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is a personal go-to of mine, has come up with a balanced approach to sunscreen. They note that it should be a last resort, but don’t dismiss it out of hand. If you’re going to be in the sun for a period of time and covering up is just not practical, sunscreen is still better than bare skin. (Especially if you’re pasty white like I am and tend to burn to a crisp within minutes with peeling and blistering following shortly thereafter.) My quest for the perfect sunscreen includes the following criteria:
The problem is, while EWG rates the ingredients, some brands are just unpleasant to use. Think Sport SPF 50 gets the lowest toxicity rating at just a 1 (on a scale of 1-10), and it is very effective. I used it all last summer while marathon training, and I must admit, I didn’t burn once. However, it is a pasty mess that would remain white long after I’d rubbed it in and would get in my eyes as I started to sweat. It had a very mild scent, though, so it might still be a good option for some folks.
I’ve also used Badger Sunscreen Cream, which comes in an unscented version for those that prefer no scent. Again, it has the lowest toxicity rating at just 1, and is very effective. It only has 5 ingredients, which is pretty impressive, but I’ve only seen it in SPF 30, which isn’t high enough for me most of the time.
Like my trial and error with Deodorants, sunscreen is one of those things that I’ve spent a lot of money on to get products that I haven’t really liked. So this summer, I was out and about and needed to pick up some sunscreen without having my trusty EWG database with me. I’ve used a number of products from Kiss My Face, so I figured that would be a good bet. I got both Kiss My Face Cool Sport SPF 50 air-powered spray and Face Factor 50. The Cool Sport SPF 50 is the most convenient thing I’ve ever used! It goes on super easy, no mess, no pasty white stuff. It has a strong, but pleasant coconut scent. It’s not really practical for the face, but the Face Factor turned out to be light and easily absorbed. I absolutely fell in love! I’d found my permanent sunscreen!
Unfortunately, once home, I learned that my newly beloved Sunscreens weren’t as safe and natural as I’d hoped. Sigh. The Cool Sport comes in at a whooping toxicity level 5, while the Face Factor rates a 3. Kiss My Face has an air-spray version, Bare Naked Air Powered Body Mist, that rates a 3 toxicity with an SPF of 30 (which I have since purchased and likely equally well as the Cool Sport for limited time outdoor stints).
With the summer almost over, I’m probably done experimenting for this year. How about you? Have you found a light-weight, non-pasty, high SPF, low toxicity sunscreen that you just love? Please share. I’ll put it on my shopping list for next summer.
Green cleaning products are fairly easy to find these days, and not just in specialty stores, but just about everywhere. The biggest complaint I hear is that green products are more expensive than their every day (often toxic) counterparts. So let’s start with some great, inexpensive, DIY cleaning options.
Vinegar is an amazing product. Not only does it clean and disinfect all around the house, but you can even use concentrated vinegar (which is not edible) as weed controller in your garden. Reader’s Digest came up with 95+ Household Uses for Vinegar. Again, never use vinegar, which is also acidic on granite, marble or natural stone. Also, as an odd fact, pearls can dissolve in vinegar! It takes a while, it’s not instant on contact. Still, it’s a good idea to take off your jewelry or wear gloves when cleaning with vinegar.
Most of the recipes listed combine several ingredients. In general, you can mix and match the above products with simple soap like Dr Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap for extra cleaning power and add essential oils for fragrance. Tea Tree Oil also has disinfecting properties.
There are several brands that sell steel wool pads filled with cleaning agents. Let’s face it, sometimes you need the strength of steel wool and elbow grease to clean burnt-on pans, ovens or other really tough stains. But you don’t need to buy pre-fab steel wool at the grocery store. Any hardware store will have medium grade steel wool that you can augment with your own cleaning agent.
Store Bought Green Cleaners
If you don’t have time to make your own, or your looking for something specific, like the elusive granite and marble cleaner, here are a few really good options that I’ve personally used and love.Earth Friendly Products Creamy Cleanser – When you need to really scrub down that kitchen or bathroom this scrubs without scratching.
Zum Frankincense and Myrrh Granite and Counter Cleaner – This has an intoxicating scent that I absolutely love. But beyond the scent, it does an excellent job on my granite and quartz surfaces. It has no acids, so it’s completely safe. If this scent is too much for you in the kitchen, it also comes in several others.
Biokleen’s Bac-Out Bathroom Cleaner – This enzyme-based cleaner helps keep mold and mildew at bay. It’s an easy spray-on and wipe or rinse off. I tend to spray this in between deep cleanings for a quick clean. Leave it on for a few minutes before you wipe it, rinse it or flush it to allow the enzymes to work.
If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know about the harsh chemicals and detergents in mainstream cleaning products. Chlorine bleach and ammonia are the most well known, but the list is long and filled with toxins particularly hard on the lungs. Happily, there are a lot of resources already available to find eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaners. The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning is among the best. Additionally, a few eco-friendly brands have moved beyond the health food store and into the mainstream. Big grocery and department store chains are now carrying brands like Biokleen and Seventh Generation.
With all this information already out there, I thought I’d bring you some personal tips on cleaner effectiveness (it’s great that it’s eco, but does it actually work?), as well as a few tricks I’ve put together over the years.
This week we’ll tackle Laundry.
Biokleen Sport Liquid Laundry detergent is my personal favorite. While it’s designed to get sweat smells out of sport clothing, I end up using it for everything. It makes all my clothes smell great and cleans very well. It’s also reasonably priced compared to some other natural brands.
Eucalan No Rinse Delicate Wash, which we sell at FaeriesDance.com, is absolutely
amazing for hand or gentle machine washing delicates. The Jasmine scent is intoxicating. It smells so good, I’ve tried using it for the regular wash, but it just gets overwhelmed by the rinse cycle. Though I have added a capful to the fabric softener tray when I’m out of lavender bags.
Use lavender bags in the dryer instead of dryer sheets and fabric softener. This is a great tip that can be very cheap if you take a few minutes to put them together yourself.
Buy a bulk lot of small, cotton muslin drawstring bags. You can get them at craft stores or on eBay.
Buy a large bag of bulk lavender flowers, again on eBay or Amazon or at a craft store or apothecary.
Fill the muslin bag with lavender flowers until it’s stuffed.
Add a cotton ball at the top to avoid having any spill out.
Make a double knot at the top.
That’s it! Add one lavender bag to the dryer and your clothes will come out smelling awesome! Each bag lasts about 4-5 loads in the dryer, though the first one is always the strongest. I try to put a new one in with my sheets because I love the strong lavender scent on the sheets when I go to bed.
You can also untie your knot and reuse the muslin bag over and over again. Use the remnant lavender flowers in craft projects, your composter or sprinkle them directly on the lawn. There’s no reason to throw them away.
There are a number of products out today that use a hydrogen peroxide base bleaching agent to clean and brighten without the use of chlorine. I have personally tried Earth Friendly Products Oxo Bright and Biokleen Oxygen Bleach Plus. I have not noticed a significant difference between the two brands, and generally buy the cheapest.
Advantages of oxygen bleach:
Completely safe and non-toxic
Readily available in stores, and inexpensive
Disadvantages of oxygen bleach:
Doesn’t seem to work well in cold water washes
Requires a bit of effort as a stain remover
As a stain remover for white clothes, just putting oxygen bleach in the machine doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. For the best results, make a paste with your powdered oxygen bleach and hot water. Gently rub your paste directly onto your stain. Let it sit for a few minutes before putting the item in the wash to allow it to really soak in.
Finally, the very best thing you can do to green your laundry is to do it less. Laundry uses a lot of water and energy. Here are a few guidelines.
While you should wash undergarments after every wash, jeans and sweatshirts can often be worn a few times before washing.
Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. (I wash almost everything in cold except whites and workout/running clothes.)
Do laundry at night and on weekends when power usage tends to be lower.
Hang dry clothes if you can.
If you live in a rainy area or just don’t have the time to hang dry, set your dryer to a low heat setting to save energy and make sure the lint screen is cleaned after each dry, as that can also effect drying time.
If you’re in the market for a new washer, check the energy star rating and choose one that is both energy and water efficient. Most front-load washers use much less water than top-load varieties.
On Wednesday, I received a $362 check (woohoo!) from the Energy Trust of Oregon. This isn’t the first check I’ve received, but it’s been the biggest so far. And why did they grace me with this new found money? For insulating my attic. The 1957 home I purchased in 2012 still had its original, now much compacted, insulation and was leaking heat. This October, I finally upgraded to R38 insulation before another winter set in.
The surprising part of completing this project is how the living room “cold zone” almost instantly became the same temperature as the rest of the house. Even better, my heating bills are down 25% this winter over last! I hadn’t honestly believed it would make that much of a difference. And while it’s unseasonable warm right now, we had a good snow and freeze early in January that I’ve already seen the bill for.
While conscious consumerism is an essential part of green living, we have to look well beyond shopping to make our largest impacts. So to answer my own question; Yes, getting a Home Energy Audit is well worth the time and money. Here’s a good intro video, though each state handles them a little differently.
In my case, I didn’t have the full-blown audit like the one shown, but I did have an inspector point out areas of concern. Since I was already doing some renovations, I had my contractor make suggestions and then compared the two to determine which areas would have the most impact. In addition to the attic insulation refund, I was able to take advantage of a rebate on an Energy Star refrigerator and a tax credit for upgrading to an energy efficient water heater.
If you’re not quite ready to have someone do something as extensive as in the video, you can also try Energy Star’s self-assessment test. If it looks like you can make some improvements, whether from windows, appliances, heating and air-condition, insulation or elsewhere, there’s a good chance you can get some financial help for it. Here’s a list of incentive programs by state.
This is a great green step that not only has environmental impacts, but can also be a good financial investment for the long haul.
As a side note, we steered away from compact florescent light bulbs in favor of the more expensive, longer lasting, and much greener LED bulbs. This Light Bulb Showdown has LEDs winning on price alone, with other benefits like no heavy metals in LEDs, being icing on the cake.
I was at first reluctant to do a post on makeup, because when it comes to my face, I’m usually au naturel. Like most women, I definitely look better with makeup. So it dawned on me at a young age that if I wore make-up everyday, I’d look “bad” on relaxed, no makeup days. Alternatively, if people were used to seeing my “normal” face, then when I got dressed up, the make-up would really add a punch of glamour. Now at 50 my glamour days are fewer and farther in between. The occasional wedding, holiday or upscale play will bring out the makeup a few times a year.
Two things made me decide to post this short roundup. First, most makeup has been shown to contain toxic heavy metals as well as a host of other toxins and carcinogens. I find that a little crazy. Even if you discount the tiny amounts absorbed through your skin, most of us eat a little lipstick. Second, and the one that tipped the scales for me, I recently read in Veg News Magazine about an organic, plant-based, edible makeup line by Gwyneth Paltrow! Full disclosure, I haven’t tried this brand new line, Juice Beauty, but it’s now on my list and I was really excited to share it. Please leave a comment if you’ve tried it yourself.
No Miss Nail Polish – I started on this brand quite a while ago and particularly like their Almost Natural Polish Remover. Several companies have come out with even cleaner polish formulations (like Honeybee Gardens above), but I paint my nails so rarely that I haven’t needed new polish in forever.
W3ll People – A comprehensive organic makeup line that can be a one-stop shop for everything you need. I personally like their powder foundations and blushes.
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Dr Hauschka Cosmetics. When I was initially doing research on cosmetics, this brand came up again and again as high quality with good ingredients. Alas, my minimalist cosmetics approach never lead me to try it. If you have, please share your thoughts in the comments section.
Hopefully this will provide a good starting point if you’re just looking into eco-friendly, non-toxic cosmetics.
When I first started to look for more sustainable options in body care, I wandered down the aisles of several natural foods stores, and was surprised to find a number of brands touted as “natural” or “organic” that still had some pretty nasty ingredients in them. There are several good resources online to help guide you on what to look for to keep toxins out of our water supplies and off our body. Treehugger.com has a well-rounded list. Terressentials has a comprehensive list that, imho, goes a little too far in some cases, but it’s a good read for purists. Hopefully you can save a little time yourself by taking advantage of my research. Here are some of my personal favorite products and brands.
I’ve been fortunate to try a lot of brands of facial care products both from personal purchases and as samples from the national wholesale show Natural Products Expo West. In the end, I’ve narrowed down to a few favorites that have very clean ingredient lists and feel fantastic on my skin.
This affordable, luxury skin care brand has lotions and potions for every skin type. Their eye cream works so well it actually got a rid of an eye rash I had that prescription eye cream couldn’t help. Sign up for their e-mail to get regular discounts.
This professional spa line is truly delicious (and pricey). They have links to local spas that use their line if you’re looking for a treat. You can find most of their line for sale on Amazon. I keep this on my wish list, but don’t buy it often due to the price point.
Skin Care Tip: No matter how good a facial care system is, they each have a limited number of good-for-your-skin ingredients. One way to maximize the benefit from your skin care, is to use two completely different lines with varying ingredient mixes. Alternate them either every couple of weeks or use one regime in the morning and one the evening.
In an interview with Green America, I was asked what product, that I don’t carry, could I not live without. My answer was Terressentials Pure Earth Hair Wash. It’s an odd product that doesn’t invoke confidence at first glance. It’s a brown, muddy color and it doesn’t lather at all, so you really have to work it through your hair with your fingers.
I have always had dry, brittle, thin hair. Initially this product made it feel greasy and odd. Terressentials talks about a hair “detox period” when using this, and it’s true. You’ll likely not be impressed with your first “wash.” However, after a couple of weeks my hair completely changed from using this. It went from dry and brittle to soft and silky. I used to shampoo and condition my hair every other day. Now, I only use my “mud” once every 3-5 days (depending on my workout level that week) with no need for conditioner at all. My hair has never looked better, and the scents are delicious.
If you’re not quite ready to take on a whole new hair washing experience, my favorite brand of traditional shampoo before I switched was Aubrey Organics. They have a fairly clean ingredients list and enough variety for nearly any hair type. Also checkout the links in Facial and Body care, as many of them offer shampoos. While I haven’t tried any of them, I feel comfortable recommending these brands.
I have to admit that despite all the wonderful body washes out there, I still love a good soap. Soap is the “saponification” of an oil with a base, usually lye. Modern soaps that you purchase at a grocery store generally use either petroleum as their base oil or slaughterhouse tallow because both are very inexpensive. In addition to the environmental and animal issues, both of these oils are very drying to your skin. Almost any cold processed, vegetable oil soap scented with essential oils rather than synthetic perfumes is an infinitely better option. Jojoba and Almond Oil soaps are my favorites, though they tend to cost a tad more.
Soap Goddess is hands-down my favorite soap store. Buy 11 bars, get free shipping.
100% Pure has a good collection of scents both online and in stores.
Dr.Bronner’s makes a nice pure castile soap that’s easily found in stores.
Soap making has become a handmade cottage industry. Check your local farmers market or craft fair for cold-processed soap. This is my favorite way to buy since you can sniff them all to get a scent that speaks to you. It also supports small business and local communities.
Almost all of the brands I’ve linked above have body washes and lotions as well. I also like Nubian Heritage, particularly for their philosophy and work in underdeveloped areas. Click and explore…
Note: I have not received or been offered free products, gifts or compensation for any of the items or brands listed herein. My reviews are completely unbiased.