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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

My Favorite Things - Everyday Items Edition

In my second “My Favorite Things” blog post, I’m focusing on items I have with me every day when I leave the house, and I’m out-and-about running errands, traveling, or just existing.  Most of these items come from smaller companies, who are focused on sustainability, reducing or eliminating waste, or just doing things in a better way.  We’ll start from the top of my head, down to the tips of my toes for this one!

About two years ago, when it was time to get a new case for my phone, I didn’t really want what was available at the Apple store.  It all seemed overpriced for what you got, and it was essentially just a slab of plastic, which wasn’t appealing to me.  I had just started to see ads for this new company based out of Canada, called Pela.  They made cases out of flax seed and natural polymers, and they were compostable!  I decided to give them a shot, and I haven’t been disappointed yet!  I’ve dropped my phone numerous times, and it’s never had a problem.  I’ve since gotten cases from Pela for my husband and my mom.  They often have sales, and you can get even more discounts if you buy more than one case at a time.  Many of their different styles support various kinds of sea life charities.  They are a great small company with wonderful customer service, and ship without unnecessary packaging or any plastic.

Junk mail drives me crazy.  And because we live in a few places, it really gets out of control when things need to be forwarded, mail needs to be held, or we need friends or family to check mail for us periodically.  I started using the Paper Karma app a few years ago, back when it was free.  They eventually moved to an annual subscription plan, but I find it to be totally worth it.  It’s the only app I’m willing to pay for, when I think about it!  For any junk mail you receive, such as letters, mailers, or catalogs, you just take a picture that shows who the mail piece is from, put in the name and address of the person it was sent to, and you can opt out of receiving future mailings.  It has worked really well.  I even use it to opt out of mail for people previously at our addresses.  It’s worked especially well for our FL address, where we were receiving junk mail for at least six previous occupants who lived in our condo before we bought it from their landlord.  It takes just seconds, but it saves so much wasted paper and annoyance every day!  Paper Karma was even featured in a New York Times article last year about how to reduce your junk mail.

Because I love my Pela phone case so much, I was excited to see they came out with sunglasses, too!  As with the phone cases, the glasses are also compostable and made out of biodegradable acetate and flax.  I just got two pairs of the Rachel style in the brown and clear, and I’m going to have my eye doctor put prescription lenses in them (I checked with Pela first, and their very friendly customer service person told me they were compatible with prescription lenses, and she had just had it done herself!)  Once I’m done with the sunglasses, I can ship them back to Pela for recycling.  How cool is that?!

I don’t leave home without shopping bags.  I always have a ton stashed in the trunks of all our vehicles.  But sometimes, I’m out somewhere where I don’t expect to need a bag, or I’m going somewhere in a friend’s car, or we are traveling without a car, and I love to have a RuMe bag with me. It folds up really small, weighs next-to-nothing, easily fits in a pocket, and can hold up to 50 pounds.  I am always amazed at how much I can fit into this bag, and always relieved to have it with me and not need another plastic bag!  I got my first RuMe bag at a marketing conference several years ago, and it has traveled with me everywhere!

Produce Bags
While shopping in Whole Foods a few days ago, I stopped and looked around the produce section, and all the little plastic bags people were using for their produce.  Each shopping cart had at least 6-10 of these bags.  It made me feel sick.  All of those bags being used, every day, and for maybe a half hour, before they are all thrown away.  And then it repeats again the next week.  I’ve always stayed away from produce bags, unless absolutely necessary for something that I couldn’t easily place in my shopping cart without a container, such as loose mushrooms, brussels sprouts, or green beans.  Two years ago, I got my first set of reusable produce bags from Mighty Nest, and I love them.  I also got a free set from Public Goods as a member perk, but you can easily find sets on Amazon for a cheap price.  I keep my produce bags in a larger reusable bag in my car, so they don’t get lost and stay together.

Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Vacuum Bottle SilverI personally don’t own a real S’well bottle.  I bought one as a gift once at the Biltmore, and it was really nice!  However, all the ones I have are knock-offs, but they seem to work just as well, and are about 1/3 the price.  You can score a vacuum insulated bottle for $10-12 at a TJ Maxx or Marshall’s, or for under $8 at Public Goods.  They work great at keeping water cold all day long, even if you leave your bottle in a hot car in the sun in Florida!  And if you want to keep tea, coffee or soup hot in cold weather, they also work perfectly for that as well.  Really, there’s no excuse to be walking around with a plastic water bottle.  Plastic bottles often don’t get recycled, and you’re drinking microplastics!!  Yuck!  Just fill up your reusable bottle each day, put it by the door with your keys, and grab it when you’re walking out for the day.

Over the years, I’ve realized wool doesn’t have to be itchy.  In fact, it can be soft and very comfortable.  It’s moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating, and generally something that’s of good, long-lasting quality.  My best friend got me hooked on Darn Tough socks, which are made up in Vermont.  As the name tells you, these socks are made to last.  You’re not going to be busting your big toe through these babies!  They come in so many fun prints, and I look forward to it getting colder, so I can wear their socks again.  I don’t recommend putting them in the dryer, as they will wear out faster, and possibly shrink a bit, since they are all wool.  I like being able to support a small company and one that’s based in my home state of Vermont!

If you’ve seen me at all in the last two years, you’ve likely seen me wearing Allbirds.  It’s generally all I wear anymore.  And unless my husband needs to be dressed up, all he wears is Allbirds.  And we’ve gotten several friends hooked on Allbirds as well.  They are the most comfortable shoes we’ve ever worn.  Anything else just doesn’t feel right!  Not only do they make your feet feel good, but you can also feel good about the materials used to make them.  They are made from merino wool or eucalyptus for the uppers, wool for the insole, castor bean oil for the sole, and recycled plastic water bottles for the laces.  Allbirds use 60% less energy to manufacture than a traditional shoe.  The shoes are washable, you can wear them without socks without your feet stinking, and they are just so comfy.  I tend to wear the eucalyptus ones more in FL or in PA in the summer, and the wool ones in PA in the fall and winter, or when I’m flying, since my feet get so cold.  I have a bunch of the Wool Runners and Eucalyptus runners, but my new favorites are their Tree Breezers, which are like ballet flats.  My husband loves their Tree Loungers, which are slip-ons.  Once you try on a pair, you’ll be an Allbirds convert as well!  They don’t have too many physical stores, so you’ll likely have to order them online, but they do have a 30-day trial guarantee.  And take their sizing recommendations on the styles.  I’m a 10 in a few styles and a 9 in others, and all their size recommendations were spot-on.  I did have the opportunity to visit one of their flagship stores in NYC a few months ago, and that was amazing!

I hope this list helps you to find some new things you like as well, while being comfortable, prepared and reducing plastic waste along your path.  I'll have to start working on some new editions for cleaning, kitchen items, bathroom items, laundry, and some favorite homemade cleaning hacks I use all the time.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

My Favorite Things - Personal Care Edition

Friends and family often ask me for recommendations on everything from personal care items to kitchenware, cleaning supplies to shoes.  I haven't blogged in almost four years, and I kept making lists in my head of things people frequently asked about in conversations.

I decided to dust off my blog and compile a list of my favorite things in several categories and explain why I like each.  In general, I look for things that have a very clean and safe ingredient list, are free from gluten, corn and soy, have glass packaging, eliminate single usage or plastic, and are very effective.  I’m going to do several editions of my favorite things for each grouping of products I use on a day-to-day basis.  Hopefully this will be helpful to you and serve as a reference in the future.

For the first edition of my favorite things, I'm going to start with personal care items, which is a big list!  In general, my favorite personal care products come from Public Goods, Carina Organics, Acure, Pacifica and Red Apple Lipstick.  Any and all of their products are well-made, free from chemical junk and perform effectively.  Vitacost, Thrive Market and Public Goods are where I tend to buy most of the items below.  Both Thrive Market (get 25% off your first order with this link) and Public Goods (get $20 off your first order with this link) require an annual membership, but I have found them to be well worth the cost.  I tried to link to as many items on Vitacost or Amazon below as I could, as they don't require a membership.  Some of their prices are a little higher than Thrive Market or Public Goods, as they don't have discounts from a membership format.


Why I like it:  It’s fluoride-free, xylitol-free, whitening and tastes good.  I do wish I could find an alternative toothpaste tab in a glass jar, but I have yet to find one that doesn’t have xylitol in it, to which I am extremely allergic!  If and when I find one without xylitol, I will update this item!  If you are switching from a conventional toothpaste, such as Crest or Colgate, a natural toothpaste will take some adjustment.  It's not going to taste as sweet or strong, but that's because you're used to the artificial flavors and sweeteners.  It won't take long until you get used to the new toothpaste and enjoy the real mint flavor!

If you are currently using Colgate Total, please do me a favor.  Go to your bathroom, pick up the tube, and put it in your trash can.  It has triclosan in it, which is classified as a pesticide.  Triclosan used to be an ingredient in anti-bacterial hand soaps and gels but was banned by the FDA a few years ago and pulled out of all anti-bacterial hand products, due to causing antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Yet, for some reason, Colgate Total still has that awful chemical in it.  You do not want to be putting that in your mouth, ever! 


Why I like them: They are cheap, not made of plastic, and can be composted once you’re ready for a new one.  Just pull out the bristles with some pliers before you put the bamboo handle in the compost.  If you have trouble keeping track of who’s toothbrush is who’s, make some marks with dots or other designs on the handle with a colored marker.

I also do use a Sonicare electric toothbrush.  I love how clean my teeth feel from their toothbrushes.  I don’t like having to throw the brush heads away, but I don’t see much of an alternative at this time.

Tongue Scraper
The Dirt copper tongue scraper.  You can also get these on Amazon.  There are cheaper brands available, but The Dirt ones are the nicest I’ve tried.

Why I like it: Brushing your tongue with your toothbrush only goes so far.  Scraping it with a copper scraper makes a huge difference.  You will be amazed and disgusted at the same time by what you can scrape out every day!  It makes your mouth feel so much cleaner, I swear!


Why I like it:  It comes in a refillable glass container.  I used to hate having to throw out the plastic floss container every other month.  This floss container is refillable, and it just looks cool.  And there is no corn, gluten, soy or chemicals in it.  The silk floss can also be composted.  By the way, did you know Glide floss has Teflon in it?  That’s why it glides across your teeth.  Don’t be putting that in your mouth!


Why I like it:  It’s reef safe, non-nano, no chemical sunscreen, gluten-free, soy-free, for sensitive skin, hypoallergenic, and doesn’t make you look too white or make you feel too sticky.  The only negative on this is that it’s too big for bringing in your carry-on luggage in your bag of liquids.  When I need sunscreen in my carry-on, I just bring the Mineral Fusion below and use it on my body as well.

Mineral Fusion Mineral SPF 40 Facial MoisturizerIf you are currently using a sunscreen with avobenzone, oxybenzone or any other chemical sunscreen (typically found in Neutrogena, Banana Boat, Coppertone, etc.), please stop.  It’s killing our coral reefs, and it’s killing you!  The chemical has to be absorbed into your bloodstream to work.  This is especially bad for anyone who is pregnant.  Look for sun blocks with a physical SPF, which would be zinc and/or titanium dioxide.  If you want to learn more about why chemical sunscreens are so bad, check out this article by Mamavation

Why I like it: The ingredient list is very clean, it’s a mineral sunblock, it’s hypoallergenic, it doesn’t bother my face, and the zinc whiteness disappears after a few minutes once applied.  You can find this at some Whole Foods as well.


Why I like it:  It’s a natural deodorant that smells wonderful, but also eliminates the waste from single-use plastic containers.  You just order a new cardboard insert for your reusable deodorant dispenser as needed, or sign up for their auto-ship program.  It comes in eucalyptus scented and unscented.

Toilet Paper

Why I like it:  It's made from bamboo and not paper.  Bamboo is much more renewable than trees, and grows much faster.  This paper is also very strong and thick, so you don't need as much.  There is no plastic packaging with any of the Who Gives a Crap brand items, which is great.  Everything is wrapped in paper, which is recyclable.  Also, because it's made from 100% bamboo, there is no recycled paper content in it.  While I love that paper gets recycled and reused, all recycled paper has BPA in it, which is a hormone disrupter.  BPA gets into recycled paper from thermal receipt paper that people put in with their other paper recycling, which then ends up in the toilet paper.  I don't want to be wiping my butt with BPA, thank you very much!

Hand Soap

Why I like it:  It ranks very well on the EWG Skin Deep site.  The lavender is the best-rated out of the scents.  There is no corn, soy or gluten.  Many of the ingredients are coconut-derived.  I always get the refill-sized bottles and refill my dispensers at home.

Public Goods also has a nice hand soap that comes in a refill pouch.
Shea Terra Organics Facial Soap Rose Hips & Pink Clay

Bar Facial Soap

Why I like it: Very clean ingredient list of things you can pronounce and no plastic packaging!  Rose and pink clay are supposed to be calming and draw out impurities from your skin.  This is very gentle and lasts forever!  I actually cut the bar in half and have half in my shower and half in my travel kit and/or other bathroom, so it's very economical.

Hair Care and Body Care
Carina Organics for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, leave-in conditioner, body lotion, face lotion, hair gel, hair spray

Carina Organics North AmericaWhy I like it: Hands down, they make the safest hair and body care products you can find.  They consistently rank as the safest in the Mamavation product testing, and they are free of any chemicals, gluten, soy, corn or artificial fragrances or colors.  I have been using their products for about 5 years now, and I love them.  My skin and hair love them as well.  They are a Canadian company and they have wonderful customer service.  I do wish I could get refills somehow, without having to get things in plastic, but that isn’t an option.  I’ve been ordering their products in large jugs, and just refilling the smaller bottles to keep in my shower and bathroom vanity.

Runners up:
Acure & Public Goods – these are the brands I get for my husband for his shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and soap.  You can find Acure at Whole Foods.

Shower Scrubbers

Ayate WashclothWhy I like it: It’s a natural material and not made out of plastic like most shower puffs.  And it’s easy to periodically disinfect with vinegar and then compost when you’re done with it.

Why I like it: This seems like a pretty basic item, but it’s not.  It exfoliates so well, it’s amazing.  I had no idea I would like this thing so much!  It makes my skin so much smoother.  It’s almost like dry brushing, but you’re doing it while you’re in the shower and washing up!  I also like that it’s made from just agave fibers and nothing plastic.

Clarisonic Mia Face Brush

I've been using one of these face brushes for close to a decade.  They make a huge difference.  If I travel and I don't bring my face brush with me, I can feel and see a difference in my skin.  This little brush is gentle enough to use daily, and it gets all the dead, flakey skin off your face.  I swear by it!

Lip Balm

Why I like it: The flavors are tasty, the ingredients are very clean, and I like to support small companies. I’ve tried a lot of lip balms, and this is the best.  If you want one that you put on at night when you go to bed and wake up in the morning and still have some on your lips, this is the one to get.  My dad even loves this lip balm.  I get him several tubes to put in his stocking every Christmas, and he is always excited to get more, as he uses them all up.  My favorites are the peppermint and cocoa, raspberry and pomegranate.  I wish these came in cardboard tubes, but I have to pick my battles.

Argan Oil
Facial Oils
Argan Oil from Acure and Public Goods

Why I like it: It’s simple, it works well, and you can use it for just about anything.  On your face, dry hair, dry cuticles, remove makeup, dry elbows and knees, and I’m sure there’s plenty of other uses.  I also like the fact that you can get it in a glass bottle, which is recyclable.  It’s a single-ingredient product, so there is nothing to hide!

Facial Mist/Toner
Why I like it: To tie into the argan oil, I always mist my face first with rosewater, and then put one squirt of argan oil on my face.  The rosewater helps your face to absorb the argan oil, so it doesn’t leave your face greasy.  A lot of people are afraid to use oils on their face, because they think it will leave them greasy.  The rosewater makes all the difference.  I’ve purchased several different brands of rosewater off of Etsy.  I try to find it in a glass bottle if I can.  The selection always seems to change every time I go to buy some!  I've also found the Heritage brand of rosewater at Marshalls and TJ Maxx for a cheap price as well!

Vitamin C Serum

Why I like it: My skin is very sensitive, and this vitamin C serum does not bother me.  It tingles a little bit upon initial application, but my face isn’t a red, raw mess from it the next day like I’ve experienced from others.  It’s also very clean and doesn’t have any junky chemicals in it and is free from gluten, soy and corn.  It also comes in a glass bottle, which is recyclable.  Vitamin C is great for clearing up uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation.

Red Apple LipstickRed Apple Lipstick for lipstick, eyeshadow, mascara and blush

Why I like it:  This company is amazing.  They make wonderful-quality cosmetics that are free from gluten, dairy, soy, corn, harsh chemicals and other junk that ruins your skin and your health.  It’s a small company in TX run by a husband and wife, and they truly care about making safe cosmetic products.  I haven’t used anything but their cosmetic products for the last 5 years.

Tinted Moisturizer

Why I like it:  My skin likes it a lot, it’s very light coverage (I can’t deal with heaviness of regular foundation), has SFP 17, and just works well.  Without a lot of junk in it like other CC creams I’ve found.  I use the light color, and it blends in well.

Pacifica Natural Beauty Ginger Root 10-in-1 Hair VolumizerHair Volumizer and Protector

Why I like it:  As the name implies, this stuff does a lot.  It’s one of those things when you don’t use it, you can tell the difference.  If I’m rushing and I skip using it, my hair seems to be either frizzier, flatter, or both!  It's a very clean product as well, without chemical junk in it and rated with 0 bad ingredients in the recent Mamavation hair styling product investigation


Why I like it: This was one of the safest mousses in the recent Mamavation hair styling products investigation I mentioned above, and I’ve been using their mousse for several years and really like it.  It’s a natural product that’s effective, and gives my hair a lot of volume without feeling sticky or coated.

Pacifica Perfume Roll On Island VanillaPerfume

Why I like them: They are nice little glass bottles with a roll-on applicator that are great for travel or to pop in a handbag.  They don’t have phthalates in them or other junk like other perfumes.  The Island Vanilla and Indian Coconut Nectar are my favorite scents.  You can find these at Whole Food and Target as well, if you want to sniff all the scents in person!

Hair Color

Why I like it: This was the last chemical item I cut from my life almost three years ago.  It was a hard switch, but my hair is so much healthier for it.  It fades out slightly after about 4 weeks.  This won't work to bleach hair, and only deposits color.  I mix a few colors together (red and medium brown) to get a custom color.  It is a bit of a messy process to apply, and you will smell a bit like wet hay for a day or two and need to use an old towel to dry your hair for the first few washings, but it’s worth it to eliminate the chemicals and keep my hair healthy and shiny.  I usually buy this at Whole Foods.

Nail Polish

Why I like it: This is the safest nail polish I’ve found so far.  It’s free of 13 different chemicals found in most nail polishes.  It’s also water and air permeable, so both water and air can get to your nails, keeping them much healthier.  The polish has a base and top cost all-in-one, dries quickly and can last for close to a week if you’re not doing anything too crazy with your nails.  I usually buy this at Target or CVS.

Feminine Products

Why I like it:  it’s just made from organic cotton, and nothing else.  Most other brands have plastic, fragrances and other chemicals in them.  The wrappers are paper and the applicators are cardboard, so they are completely plastic-free!

That's it for now for personal care items!  I will update this list from time to time, as I find new products that pass my tests.  Hope this list was helpful to you.  Let me know if I missed anything.