A Year of Green Living – Luscious Natural and Organic Body Care Products

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.

 

Facial Care
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.

 

Terressentials

The maker of my favorite deodorant is also one of my go-to brands for basic moisturizers and skin care.  They don’t have an eye cream in their line, so I add 100% Pure Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream to this regime.

A relatively new find for me, I’ve only tried a few of their products so far.  They have a gorgeous feel and beautiful, organic ingredients.

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.

 

Hair Care
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.

 

Soap

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.

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.

Body Care
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.

 

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A Year of Green Living – Natural Deodorants that Actually Works

Earlier this week, I announced the beginning of a new blog series: A Year of Green Living.  I’ll be sharing my personal research and testing of a wide variety of eco-friendly products. We won’t address organic and natural clothing in this series since that’s been the mainstay of the blog to date, and there are already over 100 posts on that topic. OK, let’s get started!

First up in the series is Natural Deodorant.  As an athlete who tends to sweat a lot, finding an all-natural deodorant that actually worked was more than frustrating.  I tried brand after brand only to find that half way through the day I had developed a noticeable aroma and/or that in the middle of my workout I didn’t want to lift my arms anymore.  For almost 6 months, I felt like I had a ripe stench nearly every day.  Eventually, I did find a deodorant that works, even for sweaty athletes.

Here are the criteria by which I judged the deodorants I tried:

  • It had to last all day and night.  If I put it on after my shower in the morning, I wanted to wake up the next morning without underarm odor.
  • If I was working out that day, the deodorant had to cover underarm odor throughout the full length of the workout (no matter how long that was.)
  • It had to be free of aluminum, parabens and phthalates.  (This article explains the worst chemical offenders in deodorants and why they’re bad.)
  • It had to smell nice using only essential oils or natural fragrances, no chemical perfumes.  (Most of the brands I tried offered a fragrance free option for those who may have sensitivities to any type of fragrance.)
The Winners
Pros: This is my go-to brand and I was so happy to finally find it.  I mostly use Zen Spice, which smells amazing, but occasionally also get Lavender Fresh just for a change of pace.  This deodorant got me through marathon training this summer.  While my whole body smelled of sweat after a 4-5 hour run in 80 degree temperatures, my underarm odor was completely diffused with this fantastic roll-on.
Cons: It does leave white lines on your clothing when it’s wet.  So if you get dressed right after putting it on, you have to be careful about not touching the outside of your shirt.  It has always washed out, though.  Also, this brand hasn’t really broken into the natural foods markets yet, so it has to be purchased online unless you live in Maryland.
Pros: For those who prefer a solid stick deodorant over a roll on, Schmidt’s is my second choice. I’ve only used the Lavender Sage, but the Bergamot Lime smells divine – a great choice for men, too.  It keeps odors at bay for a full 24 hours, and works almost as well at the gym as Terressentials.
Cons: I find it a little sticky going on, which is why I favor Terressentials, but otherwise it’s a close second.  I tried the deodorant jar and found the application absolutely ridiculous.  I still have 3/4 of a jar sitting in my cabinet, so I don’t recommend that variety 

#3: Crystal Deodorant Stick
Pros: I wasn’t really expecting the crystal deodorant to work.  It seemed more like a gimmick than a real solution.  But I was pretty shocked at how well it kept odors at bay.  It might also be a great choice for someone with chemical sensitivities.  The trick with this is that you have to add a little water to the top to loosen it up before using.  Then you really have to be sure to rub it on for a while, about 10 full seconds under each arm.  This is also the cheapest solution to natural deodorant that I found, because it seems to last forever.  It’s also easy to find at drug stores, grocery stores, online and even some department stores.
Cons: It has no smell at all, which might be great for some folks, but I personally prefer an essential oil scent.  While 10 seconds per arm is really no time at all, it’s a little more effort than the normal swipe and go of a roll on or stick.
Pros: This brand is similarly effective to Schmidt’s at #2.  The AL SOL scent is very refreshing.
Cons: I found it even more sticky going on than Schmidt’s so I don’t ever buy it myself.  However, everyone has different preferences and this brand does work.
The Losers
I did the big deodorant sampling many years ago, and I no longer have the complete list of brands I tried.  There were so many from my local natural foods store, it’s ridiculous.  Here are some of the ones that I remember and/or still have in my bathroom because I only used them once or twice and hated to throw away the whole thing.  Some of these would last most of the day, but have me getting up in the morning smelling like I hadn’t showered in 2 weeks.  Others were so bad that I was embarrassed before I’d even left work.  In some cases, I tried more than a few scents of the same brand.
Hugo Naturals Solid Deodorant
Tom’s of Maine Solid Deodorant
Aubrey Organics E Plus High C Roll on
Jason’s Natural Solid Deodorant
Via Nature Stick Deodorant
GeoDeo Detox Deodorant – this one was marginally effective and smelled nice, but had a lot of questionable ingredients for a “natural” deodorant.
I should mention that I like other products from some of these brands, so this is not meant to dis the whole brand, just their deodorant.  Also, I imagine that deodorant effectivity may depend on each person’s personal chemistry, but hopefully this will provide a good place to start.
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A Year of Green Living

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about sustainable products other than clothing.  I’ve been asked about organic bedding, natural cosmetics and body care, chemical free cleaning products and a host of other things.  The assumption is that someone who cares about the effect of clothing on our bodies, the environment and the people who make them, might also take the time to research other commonly used items.

As it turns out, as part of my turtle approach to greening my whole life, I spent years (literally) doing research and trying new products.  In a few cases, I wasted some money trying to find effective natural alternatives to commonly used items.  This year, I thought I would share some of that “off-topic” knowledge to my customers and followers.  Since my business is organic clothing, not blogging, I don’t have sponsors or get free items from vendors.  I am able to provide truly unbiased assessments of products currently on the market that I personally use or have tried.

New Year Snow – View from the Faerie’s Dance Office

That said, I’m starting a new blog series called “A Year of Green Living.”  I’ll provide everything from tips on natural deodorants to reviews of books and movies.  I hope you’ll follow along and let me know what you think and maybe offer up tips of your own along the way.  Let me know what topics you’d like to hear more about and we’ll add them in.

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Black Friday, Small Business Saturday… WTF Wednesday

As a conscious business owner, I get a little conflicted this time of year.  While we definitely want folks buying sustainable gifts, and organic clothing fits the bill nicely of course, it’s hard to condone or to ignore the commercialism that comes this time of year.  And yet, we count on the extra holiday sales to keep our books balanced.

 
On a completely unrelated topic, I’ve gotten a lot of eco-living questions lately unrelated to clothing.  Many people assume that since I know a lot about eco-fashion, that I might have done a little research on greening other parts of life.  So I was just pondering the idea of highlighting some of my favorite conscious businesses in the blog for next year. 
 
Then lo and behold, as a little holiday miracle, the following gem just landed in my personal inbox today from the awesome organic coffee company, Dean’s Beans.  Here it is in it’s entirety.

Black Friday,
Small Business Saturday…
WTF Wednesday


My first sit-down, face-to-face meeting with Dean was supposed to last 10 to 15 minutes. It was my intention to pitch him on my experience, explain away the inadequacies in my resume, and impress him with my innovative pseudo-millennial-tampered-with-an-old-soul approach to marketing. Within moments of meeting him, the resume was pushed to the side, my stress about finding the proper number of professional references was put to rest when he quickly called a former coworker of mine (whom he had known for 30 years), and told me that he didn’t doubt her judgement of my character. The conversation, very naturally, and very quickly, turned into a thorough examination of my soul.

Dean’s Beans, as I have come to know the company, carries itself like a man who has just seen his doctor and been given a few months left to live. There is a fundamental focus on the soul of the company, the legacy we are leaving behind, and the quality of the relationships that we are building. No one enters into an unmeaningful relationship in the final moments of their life. They don’t have the time, and every moment must be savored and spent with the people that are as excited about you as you are about them. Dean’s Beans as a company is alive and well, but as a company, they carry themselves as if every move is the defining moment of their legacy. It has to be ethical, it has to build meaningful relationships, and it has to feed the company’s soul.

Now, what does any of this have to do with the mad dash of consumerism that takes place after Thanksgiving?

Having had my soul thoroughly examined by every member of Dean’s team at his beanery in Orange, I was hired and given the title of Chief Media Magnet. As the go-to guy for all things marketing, I immediately extended my brain to the opportunities that the holiday season provides. I even began composing tweets, email blasts, and other social media pieces about the importance of supporting this amazing company in the holiday season- especially during the feeding-frenzy of online shopping at the end of November and beginning of December.

Except that none of it felt right.

 Black Friday has reached an almost comical level of chaos in most stores, to the point where REI publicly announced that they aren’t participating this year… ironically the publicity has been a major boon for the company, and others like Nordstrom have followed suit and are making beaucoup bucks. Small Business Saturday is getting a ton of love this year from congress, the president, and small business owners world-wide. BUT IT WAS CREATED AND CONCEIVED BY AMERICAN EXPRESS IN 2010! There is a foul odor emanating from any “selfless” promotion propagated by a huge corporation like American Express.

Now all of this isn’t to say that that these days of shopping are intrinsically evil. Thousands of small, wonderful businesses really benefit from this time of year, and this increased exposure. Heck- we sure do! But to ally ourselves with them? It feels like that’s a dicey defining moment to our legacy, and I now judge all of my actions by that company standard.

Therefore- I propose that you celebrate WTF Wednesday with us this year. It’s a wonderful way for you to plant your tongue firmly in your cheek, all while supporting the stores that you want to support. We are able to engage in meaningful, direct development work all across the coffeelands, partly due to the sales we make this time of year. We are so incredibly grateful that our customers have given us the opportunity to operate in this way- and we know that as we seek out only truly meaningful relationships, you are all a huge part of that.

As the newest member of the Dean’s Beans family, I want to thank you for feeding my soul.

Drink Deep.

Robin Stewart DeMartino
(the new guy)

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Organic Clothing has a Reputation for Being Expensive. Is it really?

You’ve just made your first eco-fashion purchase.  You’re enamored with your $20 organic cotton
t-shirt and matching $40 shorts.  You’re
touting the benefits of your new eco-duds to one of your friends when she whips
out a t-shirt made from organic cotton that she just bought at Big Mart for $5.  Ouch!
What just happened?

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may be familiar
with my suggestions on what to look for when purchasing truly eco-friendly
clothing.
·
What is the source material the fabric is made
from?
·
How is it processed?
·
What dyes are used?
·
Was the final garment treated with toxic
chemical finishing agents?
·
Were the workers who made it treated equitably
in a safe working environment?
Cheap “organic” clothing is the new trend in
green-washing.  Big companies source a
small amount of organically grown cotton and then insert it into their current
production system.  This clean,
organically grown cotton is then dyed with conventional dyes, finished with a
chemical soup of toxins to make it softer, wrinkle free, and machine washable,
and then sewn in potentially unsafe factories by workers earning subsistence
wages.
Am I exaggerating?  Maybe.  It’s unlikely that all of these things would
be true of every Big Mart garment labeled organic.  And big box stores can weather smaller profit
margins because they’re selling greater quantities.   However, if you think about all the things
that need to go into making any t-shirt, and shipping it half way around the
world, you’ll realize it is very likely that some serious corners need to be cut
to offer that shirt for $5. For organics specifically, certifications such as
GOTS, OEKO-TEX 100, and Fair Trade are also expensive to get and maintain, and
those prices have to be factored in somewhere.
You may be thinking, if I only have five bucks, isn’t it better
to get the shirt that at least has some organic material in it than one that
doesn’t?  While that may be true if those
were your only choices, there are better options.  Instead of that cheap “organic” shirt, I
offer up the following alternatives:
1.
Buy better quality, gently used items at charity
shops, thrift or consignment stores or on eBay.
2.
Host a clothing swap with your friends and
family.  How many of us have clothing
that we don’t like or doesn’t fit that’s barely worn (or in some cases still
new with the tags on)?
3.
Save up to buy fewer, higher-quality,
lower-impact pieces.  They may be more
expensive but they’ll also last longer, be better for the environment, and make
a positive impact on the workers that create and sell them.
Watch the video below to see the issues with “fast fashion.”

 

So is organic clothing expensive? Really?  Like many other things, you most often get
what you pay for.
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Greening Your Whole Life: The Turtle Approach

Happy 2014!  You’ve made it through another year and you may already be tackling a list of resolutions.  I’m here to tell you to toss out that list.  Instead, I’d like you to consider this ridiculously slow (and permanent) way to go green and healthy forever.

I used to make loads of New Years Resolutions and, like most other folks, I’d be down to working on just one or two (if any) by February.  It’s hard to change everything overnight.  Especially if the night before was a drunken debacle – or at least a late night with a few too many glasses of wine.  

Long before I became a vegan, before I owned an organic clothing shop, before I washed my hair with mud, I was an everyday woman who wanted to green up my life a little and get healthier.  Pretty simple.  Each year I’d make my list and then end up giving most of it up.

That is until one year, I decided to address just one thing

That first year, I took on household cleaners.  That’s it.  I dedicated the entire year to greening up my household cleaners.  There was no big rush on January 1st and nothing overwhelming.  It was just this: as I ran out of each cleaner, I would take the time to checkout what’s in it, what shouldn’t be in it and what I could get to replace it. 

Over the course of 12 months, I switched my laundry detergent, stopped using dryer sheets, got rid of everything with bleach or ammonia in it and effectively changed the look of my cleaning closet.  Of course, it got easier with each cleaner.  I got to know brands I liked and could trust and automatically went to those first when the next cleaner ran out.  The beauty of that concept, was that nothing was wasted.  I didn’t throw a bunch of stuff out on January 1.  I simply switched when I would need to replace anyway.

The next year, I decided to switch out my beauty products.  I found new soaps, lotions, deodorants (that was the hardest one) and hair care.  I purchased my first wood-bristle brush.

The year after that was make-up, which I rarely use anyway.  But I looked into natural mascara, non-toxic lipstick (you shouldn’t have to poison yourself just to look good), and natural mineral powder blush and foundation.

You get the idea.  Just one thing.  Each year.  Consistently.  Food, clothing, cleaners, cosmetics, car, kids toys, you name it.  Even food changes weren’t overwhelming. 

One year, I committed to just consciously looking at the ingredients in every packaged item I purchased.  That’s it.  I could still buy whatever I wanted, but read the ingredients to learn.

The next year I committed to stop eating anything with high fructose corn syrup. 

The thing is, if you have the entire year to make just one commitment, it works.  Living a healthy, green life is great, but you don’t have to (nor would you really want to) change everything all at once. 

I know there’s a lot of change-your-life advice that comes out every January.  I recommend not changing your life.  Just pick one small thing and work it in to what you’re already doing.  By the end of the year, it will be so ingrained you won’t have to think about it any more.  And then you’ll be ready for the next thing.

That’s it.  One small step, taken slowly, will help you be a better you each year than you were the year before. 

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Modal is touted as the new eco-fabric; does it live up to the hype?

I’ve been seeing a lot of eco-fashions made from the new fabric, Modal, recently.  Some of the designs are super cute, but I wanted a little more information before jumping in.  I bet you do, too.  Modal is yet another play on Rayon.  It’s got that fabulous rayon drape and soft, silky feel, but is it sustainable?

I was pleased to learn that Modal was developed by the Austrian company Lenzing, developer of the eco-fabric Tencel. Like Tencel, Modal has earned the European Union EcoLabel for having a reduced environmental impact throughout its life cycle.

Modal comes from Beechwood trees. Beechwoods are self-propagating which means no artificial irrigation or planting is required. More than half of the wood used by Lenzing comes locally from Austria and the remainder is from neighboring countries. All of the beechwood used for Modal comes from forests that follow sustainable harvesting methods.

Notably, Modal is the first fabric considered carbon neutral in its production process.  This is possible due to the generation of excess energy during fabric production and the recovery of component parts of the wood.  Even the pulp production is self-sufficient in terms of energy and is an important supplier of energy for the entire operation. Lenzing also boasts that up to 95% of the production materials are recovered and reused, which sounds very much like a closed-loop production system.

The key part of the production cycle is Lenzing’s Edelweiss technology: oxygen-based chemistry that eliminates the need for harsh and/or toxic production chemicals.

In summary, Modal passes the environmental criteria we set out to meet: sustainable input materials, very low waste production and no harsh or toxic chemicals.  Of course, we also source clothing from manufacturers who use low-impact dyes on the fabric and do not add harsh finishing agents.  With that in mind, our first Modal-based garments are now in and this batch has the bonus of all being designed and sewn in the USA.  Like Tencel, we still plan on using the fabric sparingly in our offerings; but a few awesome pieces are sure to add a bit of variety to your wardrobe.

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Bras, Bras, Bras! Episode 3 – Tips to Making Your New Eco-Bra Last

So you’ve picked up a beautiful new eco-bra and you want to make sure it looks good for some time.  Most of the harsh chemicals put on clothing today do have a purpose.  Some help clothing stand up to machine washing better, while others keep clothing from wrinkling or losing their shape.  While your organic bra doesn’t have all that gunk, it does have some special needs.  Here are a few quick tips to help keep your bras lasting as long as possible.

Tip 1:  Remove any removable pads or cups before washing.  If the bra comes with removable pads, remove them before washing the bra so they don’t lose their shape.  Ideally you should wash the pads by hand separately, but if you must wash them in the machine, be sure to follow Tip 2.

Tip 2:  Wash ALL bras in a lingerie bag. The most important tip is to wash all bras (and also any panties that have lace on them) in cold water inside a lingerie bag. Even bras that claim to be machine washable can easily have their straps stretched and lace torn in a conventional machine. Snags from zippers or buttons of other clothing are also common. A simple lingerie bag will provide a layer of protection to avoid those common issues.

Tip 3:  Don’t put your
new bra in the dryer.
  The dryer is a
fairly harsh environment and even if it doesn’t do any immediate damage to your
bra, they will likely fray and wear faster if they are machine dried.  So laying them flat to dry will add life to
them. 

Tip 4:  Always buy
your bra so it fits on the loosest hook.
  Most bras will stretch out over time, so buy them so they fit on the loosest hook initially.  As they lose shape and become looser, you can
gradually wear them on tighter and tighter hooks to keep them fitting
comfortably.

Tip 5: Use the dryer after your old bra has stretched.  If you have an older bra that has stretched
to the point where you can’t wear it again and you have been diligent about laying
it flat to dry, you may be able to use the dryer to extend the life of the
bra.  Most natural materials will shrink a tad in
the dryer.  If you haven’t dried your
bra before, drying it for the first time after it has stretched too far can
sometimes shrink it just enough to extend the wear a little longer.


Tip 6: Don’t invert padded bras.  Many women will store their padded bras by
inverting one cup into the other. This can lead to lumps and dimples in the padding,
especially with bras made out of natural cotton padding instead of molded
polyester.  If you don’t have the room to
lay them flat in your drawer, twist the center as shown so that both cups fit into each
other without inverting one of them.  It
will help keep their shape longer.


Follow these few tips to get the longest wear out of your
natural fiber bras and lingerie.
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Need the Support of a Performance Bra in a Natural Fabric? Double Up.

One of the concerns I hear most often is that women need more supportive sports bras in natural fabrics.  While FaeriesDance.com has sports bras in organic cotton and bamboo, thus far they haven’t rivaled their synthetic counterparts for really good support in high-impact sports.  Last year I ran my first 1/2 marathon wearing the Bamboo Sports Bra, and while it was “good enough,” I have to agree with my fellow sports enthusiasts that it could have been better.  I also happen to be on the small side, falling between an A and a B cup.  The C and D cups out there are really struggling to find something natural, breathable, eco-friendly and supportive.

Then a few weeks ago in a rather jumpy power-sculpting class, the light bulb finally turned on.  We’ve got great natural fiber camis and tanks with built-in shelf bras and we’ve got decent sports bras.  What if I combined them?  So I have.  2 classes and 2 runs later and I’m hooked for life on an ultra-supportive combo concept.  In my case, I started with the Bamboo Sports Bra and then layered the organic cotton E Tank over top of it.  Since I fall between sizes, I wore the bra in small and the tank in medium.  If you find your almost always one size, I would suggest both pieces in the same size.

The sports bra provided the basic support.  I personally like the bamboo because it seems to control odor a lot and wicks a little, too.  However, I believe the lighter weight Organic Cotton Sports Bra or even the Jen’s Bra should work equally well as the bottom layer.  The internal shelf bra in the layering tank fits a tad tighter than usual since it’s now sitting on another garment instead of directly on the skin.  That tightness helped hold the sports bra in place and provided a full second layer of anti-bounce protection.  Almost any tank or cami with an internal shelf bra should work equally well, and as a side bonus, the layered look was quite attractive.  I should warn that my cami got a little stretched, and while its still perfect for the sports layering, extended wear this way might make it less usable on its own.

Of course, we’re still trying to find other options in technical sports wear.  I’ve found some companies that have the right idea.  One company is making technical sports bras out of traditional polyester, but using recycled fibers.  At the moment, they’re recycled content is only 35%, which doesn’t quite meet our eco standards, but it’s a good start, and we’ll keep following them to see if they can pull off a great design with more recycled materials.  But in the meantime if you need more support right now, just double up.

Stay active,

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“Organic” versus “Eco-Friendly” – Is there a difference?

There seems to be some confusion about the difference between clothing that is “organic” versus clothing that is “eco-friendly”.  So I’d like to provide a little clarification of these terms.

First off the term “organic” is a short-cut term for an agricultural crop that has been organically grown, that is grown without harmful chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.  For a crop to be labelled as organically grown, it must be certified by a government agriculture agency either here or abroad.  In the USA the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) is the primary certifying agency for organic crops.  Up until recently, companies could be certified by local government authorities such as the Organic Tilth Standards or the Texas Department of Agriculture.  Now those programs are incorporated into the overall NOP by acting as agencies accredited by the NOP to certify organic crops.  In addition to the USA, the NOP program accredits 42 foreign agencies (as of 12/2010) to certify crops as organically grown in other countries.

In general we can say that most organic fabrics are eco-friendly.  However a fabric could possibly be organic and still be dyed using conventional chemical dyes, finished with toxic chemicals or sewn using child or sweatshop labor.  Additional certifications such as the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), Oeko-Tex® for Confidence in Textiles or Fair Trade Federation standards govern those extra details.

Eco-Friendly clothing can be environmentally beneficial while not being organically grown.  For example, FaeriesDance.com’s Lingerie Wash Bag is made from recycled PET from plastic bottles that might otherwise wind up in landfills.  Plastic is a petroleum product and in its initial form would definitely not be considered eco-friendly.  Since it’s not an agricultural product, the term organic doesn’t even apply.  But reusing waste products is better for the planet than tossing them out.  No new chemicals are introduced during the recycling and restyling process, so the bags are definitely eco-friendly.

Soy fibre clothing is another good example.  The clothing is made from the discarded outer casing of the soy bean, which otherwise goes into landfills.  (The casings can be composted, but they seldom are at the manufacturing level.)  While the original soy beans can be certified organically grown as an agricultural product, both organic and non-organic soy bean casings are used in creating soy fibre clothing.  This is because the emphasis is on the environmental benefits of reclaiming the waste product rather than on ensuring organic production.

In summary, growing crops organically is better for the environment and our health, but a final piece of clothing made from organic fabric may or may not be completely eco-friendly depending on how it was dyed and finished.  Reclaimed, reused and recycled fabrics make great eco-friendly options even if the base material wasn’t originally organically grown.  So the terms “organic” and “eco-friendly” while often used together, are not actually synonymous.

Happy New Year,

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