11 Natural Baby Products for the Eco-Friendly Mom

Job opening: Full-time, 24/7 position that includes cleaning, heavy lifting, and middle of the night interruptions. No salary, and no time off. Sound like a drag? Here’s the shocking part–over 85 million women already have this position. And they lovingly call themselves “Mom”.

Moms are some of the toughest people we know, working like crazy to keep their little ones happy, healthy, and growing up strong. Whether you’re just becoming a new mama, or are already a certified pro at parenting, there’s always something exciting to learn as you help your kid navigate this crazy world. This Mother’s Day, we’re bringing you 11 natural + non-toxic products on EarthHero to help you and your baby thrive.

1. Earth Mama Body Butter

From sensitive new baby skin, to delicate pregnant bellies, organic and natural ingredients go above and beyond yucky conventional ingredients to keep you feeling healthy, inside and out. This deluxe Belly Butter by Earth Mama is made from certified organic hydrating shea butter and sunflower oil, without harsh parabens and phthalates, ideal for sensitive skin. Pair your pregnancy glow with well moisturized skin thanks to this luxurious lotion, made in the USA and packaged in recycled and recyclable plastic! Plus, if you keep up with the Kardashians, you might have heard that Khloe is a big fan of Earth Mama!

2. Bambu Bamboo Feeding Spoons – 6M+

A handle designed for parents–a spoon designed for baby-sized mouths. Made from USDA certified organic bamboo, bambu’s natural feeding spoons are the durable and lightweight alternative to toxic plastics. Did you know that chemicals commonly found in plastic can be absorbed by the body? Over 93% of Americans aged six years old or older test positive for BPA, a plastic chemical that can have some nasty health effects over time. These 100% organic and vegan bamboo spoons are phthalate-free and BPA-free, so you can keep mealtime chemical-free!

3. Cotton Swaddle Blanket

From the hospital to their first crawl, swaddling your little one is one of the best ways to ensure a quiet, and safe, night’s sleep. But harsh cloth fibers and itchy fabrics on sensitive baby skin can turn this time of peace into a nightmare if you’re not careful. Our Under the Nile swaddling blanket is made from GOTS and USDA Certified Organic Cotton, making it certified breathable, durable, and as soft as a baby’s bottom.

4. Great Panda Escape Environmental Children’s Book

Reading books at bedtime is more about just putting baby to sleep–this one-on-one activity gets them used to the sound of your voice, and supports healthy development around learning new words and phrases! Whether you’re reading to soothe baby, or teaching your kid to read all on their own, get ready to join the Green Kids, Victor and Maya, as they touch on valuable (but fun!) environmental lessons around key issues facing our planet today! Made in the USA with paper sourced from responsibly managed forests, Green Kids Club tracks their wood fiber from forest, to mill, to finished product so you can be sure every page has a positive impact.
P.S: All soft-back Green Kids Club books are just $5!


5. Natural Baby Sunscreen – SPF30

Sensitive baby skin is different than adult skin, and requires a different kind of sun protection to keep safe from the harsh summer rays. But natural baby-safe sunscreen isn’t just about blocking sunburns. Did you know almost 96% of sunscreens contain chemicals like oxybenzone and parabens, which are linked to hormone imbalances? Goddess Garden’s natural sunscreen uses only plant based ingredients and naturally occurring minerals in their cruelty free and vegan formulas, ensuring their sunscreens are reef-friendly, and baby-friendly.

6. Organic Cotton Muslin Bibs

 

Dreading messy mealtimes with bibs that barely work? Green Sprouts 100% organic cotton bibs are made with four thick layers that absorb drips and drools, with an organic cotton fabric base and snap closure that is lightweight and breathable for baby’s comfort. Colored with azo-free non-toxic dyes, the renewable organic cotton gets softer with every wash–letting you make mess after mess, guilt-free.

 

7. Stainless Steel Baby Bottle

Did you know that the first nursing bottle in 1841 was made entirely out of glass (not exactly ideal for baby bottles!) But as time passed, toxic plastic nursing bottles quickly became the norm, potentially leaching dangerous chemicals like BPA’s with every sip. Thankfully, with the help of companies like Klean Kanteen, baby bottles have come a long way. Our favorite baby bottle for new moms features a food grade stainless steel exterior and easy to read measurement marks for feeding time ease. Plus, the medical grade silicone nipple promotes natural-paced feeding, with a double-vented shape to reduce colic and encourage proper latching. Upgrade feeding time with the bottle of the future!

8. Organic Cotton Baby Burp Cloths

Newborn on the way? Better get burp cloths before it’s too late! From feeding to burping and just everyday messes, you need maximum absorption in your burp cloth–without added chemicals and dyes. Under the Nile’s burp cloths aren’t just a glorified towel… they’re made of ultra-absorbent, ready-for-anything 100% GOTS and USDA Certified Organic Egyptian Cotton. And while we applaud all the Super-Moms making do with just the corner of their shirt as a burp cloth, we seriously recommend you treat yourself a spit-up free look.

9. Edible Non-Toxic Finger Paint

Enjoy all the joy of finger painting, with a twist for the modern mom. Never worry about your little Picasso ingesting chemical filled paints or craft supplies thanks to eco-kids edible finger paint. Handmade in the USA by a family-run business, these natural “paint” powders are made from organic fruit, plant, and vegetable extracts that are certified safe for kids, and good for the environment. You’ll become the envy of the cul de sac with these worry-free finger paints.

10. Kid’s Bamboo Utensil Set

As kids grow up, it’s your job as a mom to set them up with all the tools they need to succeed. So don’t set them up with a lifetime of single-use plastic… teach them the ways of reusables with To-Go Ware! 6 million tons of single-use plastics head to the landfill every year, but just one reusable utensil set can drastically reduce that number. These bamboo utensils, sized for smaller hands and mouths, are a lightweight and long-lasting alternative to toxic plastic forks that are stain resistant and dishwasher safe for years of messy meals on-the-go.

11. Ballerina Mouse Pacifier Buddy

Your baby’s favorite stuffed animal lovey meets their most used pacifier in Apple Park’s line of pacifier buddies. Simply loop the top velcro to your little one’s pacifier, and let the adorable mouse toy guide baby to hold onto their pacifier (that’s right, no more dirty binkies!) Made entirely from organic cotton and hypoallergenic corn filler fibers, this non-toxic stuffed toy is perfect for the newest member of your family! We all know babies put everything in their mouths, so make sure they’re teething on non-toxic toys.

Don’t Panic

Becoming a parent, whether it’s your first baby or you’re 19 and counting, is equal parts terrifying and exciting. Toxins like BPA’s and phthalates suddenly seem to lurk in every corner, and it can seem hard to find products that don’t come with a warning label. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you–curating companies that put the your little one’s wellbeing at the forefront. When you shop with EarthHero, you can feel good knowing we’d never let anything go near your little one that hasn’t been tried and testing by Mother Earth herself.

Overwhelmed with all the awesome natural baby options on EarthHero? Not sure how to tell your friends & family what natural goodies to get you? Deep breath. We teamed up with baby registry Babylist to put all of your favorite natural baby products in one easily shareable place.

At the end of the day, the whole point of sustainability is to leave our planet a better place then how we found it, so your child can enjoy this beautiful world too.

Zero Waste with Andrea Sanders

Over the month of March, we brought the world of zero waste to you–highlighting tips, tricks, and stories from inspirational zero wasters worldwide. From swapping single-use plastic for reusable alternatives, to taking on home composting, we saw our community buzz with excitement, sharing zero waste knowledge far and wide. But some questions came up again and again: how do I get started, can I still buy things, and does all of my trash need to fit in a mason jar? To tackle these questions head on, we brought the expert to you in our first ever EarthHero webinar with Andrea Sanders of BeZero.org (find her on Instagram @bezerowastegirl). We’ve transcribed our favorite bits below, or you can check out the entire hour interview here!

 

Ryan Lewis, founder + CEO of EarthHero: Welcome to our Webinar with Andrea Sanders from Be Zero, a zero waste legend. I’m founder and CEO of EarthHero, and today we’re just going to spend some time talking about zero waste.  So welcome, Andrea.

Andrea Sanders, founder of Be Zero: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited.

Ryan: So, before EarthHero was even started, I met with Andrea early on because we both live in Boulder, Colorado, and she was nice enough to have some coffee with me. From the very beginning it was so great to get Andrea’s perspective on this whole sustainability issue and how she’s approaching it. She has collected quite a following of people that she inspires around a zero waste lifestyle. So without further ado, I would love to start off by asking you, from your perspective, what does zero waste mean to you?

Andrea: Well,  people can define that a lot of different ways, but when I look at it, I think of that term and what it’s referring to. And it’s referring to a type of economic infrastructure where we design things, whether it’s a chair or a couch or a computer or roller skates, we design things so that waste is not built-in. In order for that to happen, we have to have a whole infrastructure in place, you know, regulations and laws and infrastructures, and everyone has to be on board.

So zero waste is actually referring to a type of economic structure otherwise called like a circular economy. That’s what that term really means, but so we don’t live in a circular zero waste economy, it’s linear. And so what we’re trying to do…

Ryan: And by linear you mean, a product is made used, and then buried.

Andrea: Yeah, take, make and waste. That’s the real simple way to think of it. So, when we design things, we’re not designing it in order for it to circle back into our infrastructure,  like how nature would work. Right? Since the zero waste lifestyle movement has become kind of popular, it’s sort of been redefined into more of an individual process, what can we do on an individual level to reduce our waste? When you look at it that way, I think of it as really as this navigation. When I hear ‘zero waste’, I think of the economic infrastructure that we want to move towards.

Ryan: …I think that really what you’re saying is there’s an infrastructure that we need to move towards that doesn’t quite exist yet, so there’s a gap in where we want to be and where we are.

So before we kind of dive into that, I’m curious, there’s a lot of concern and a sort of anxious curiosity around this whole situation we’re in with the current status of our planet and what’s happening day to day… even for people that aren’t designing their lives around this stuff, we’re hearing it almost daily now. So, what inspired you to start BeZero.org? What inspired you to dedicate your day to day life into promoting this message.

Andrea: So my background is Environmental Education. I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida and I started volunteering at a local marine research center when I was 14 and I pretty much did that up until I moved out of the house. I spent my early life teaching environmental education conservation, whether that was in the marine field or the zoological field. I also have a background in meditation, and I still do that, but I spent 10 years doing that.

One of the things I’ve learned when I was teaching, talking to the public about conservation, or trying to get people to build relationships with the environment is that there’s just not a lot of information… and we’re very disconnected. And so I saw this disconnection. It’s between ourselves and the world, the natural world, like the biosphere. It’s like we’re here and nature’s over there. It was this idea of trying to build relationships with the world around us.

I was teaching at a wildlife facility, teaching people about plastic bags and wildlife being entangled in them.  I went home that night and did some research and found this blog called Zero Waste Home. Bea Johnson is kind of the founder of the zero waste lifestyle movement. She started this blog back in 2007, and it was basically her documenting her family’s journey in making less waste. All of their trash, for their two boys, her husband and herself, would fit in a mason jar for the whole year.

I saw this and I was like, whoa. This light switch went off for me. Everything that I was doing in environmental education already, and all the things I was trying to do personally, like thinking of myself as an environmentalist…I was like, wow. I never connected the things that I did personally, like my trash, or what I bought, or what I ate, to what I was doing every day. Teaching the public about saving the whales, or sea-grass beds, or whatever it was. So it was kind of like this “aha” moment for me and I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is all about really putting value back into the things that we use again.” Whether it’s stuff or people or resources… that’s what’s been missing.

I had never thought about it until I stumbled on her blog, and that started the evolution of Be Zero. It kind of meshed my two backgrounds together–meditation and environmental education.

Ryan: That’s fascinating, because really what you’re saying is living zero waste and living more sustainably in general is directly correlated to be more mindful in general. What are some of your bigger challenges living this way?

Andrea: I think it’s just about having an infrastructure that doesn’t really support the dreamy ideal that we all want to have. Maybe this is a weird analogy, but the people who were living in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century that could see the onset of new technologies, but everyone was still using candle light and things like that. I still sometimes feel like I’m in that realm.

I’m bound by an infrastructure and different circumstances that don’t let me live exactly how I would think we should all be living. I’m not weaving my own clothes, or churning my own butter, or anything like that. I still utilize the platform that we all really have. I find it’s just trying to navigate [the current culture] I think that’s always the biggest thing. I see the potential like, “Ooh, I know we can do this, and this would make so much more sense, and it would offer so much more to people and the planet!” That’s probably my biggest thing, just being bound to this linear infrastructure for right now.

Ryan: So, sort of the gap between where you would want the world to be at this point, but compared to where it actually is. What are some of the things that you hear about that other people are having a hard time with?

Andrea: Yeah, I think it’s access. We’re kind of lucky [in Boulder, CO] because in the zero waste community a lot of people talk about bulk shopping or going to the farmers markets, but it almost seems like these things have become exclusive. When I started all of this I was living in Florida, and I had a Walmart and Publix. I didn’t have access to stuff and this was back in the early 2000’s when zero waste wasn’t really a thing.

The most concerning thing with the people I talk to is “I don’t have these things near me.” You can go online to EarthHero and places like that to get access to stuff too, but I think in general, it’s just that our cities and our towns aren’t situated for less [waste] here in America. Another thing that people say is “my family or friends won’t get it.” It seems like a big hurdle to try and get people to understand, and not to think “I’m weird because I asked for no straw.

I think it’s because our culture doesn’t think about waste. We don’t think about it as a problem, and so it can seem kind of odd. Some people think: “Why even bother? Why was I ever concerned? Why does it even matter?” So I think those are the kind of bigger hurdles: access and not having support around you, whether it’s family, friends or even your community.

Ryan: So, what do you say to people that have their personal values articulated really well? They want to take the [zero waste] values that they believe in and they know how to do, but yet are challenged by family, friends and where most of the world is around that stuff today. What do you say to that?

Andrea: I think what people should think about is that a lot of this idea of producing less waste, or putting more value into things, or taking ownership of things isn’t really new. It’s stuff that we did just a few generations ago. And so, if we’re talking especially to older generations, they lived in a world where there weren’t disposable things. A world where you bought stuff that lasted, and you took care of it. A lot of what I’m talking about isn’t so much about trash that you’re making, but about how much we’ve devalued things.

So, if you have a family member that doesn’t consider themselves green, or sustainable, then I usually come at it from a completely different angle and go right into that value. Don’t we want to value the things we own and take pride and ownership of where things come from? Really all of this is about resourcefulness and thriftiness and community.

That’s the kind of angle I encourage people to talk to others about if they’re misunderstanding things or don’t understand. In essence: why don’t we all want to value things more? Don’t we all want to value our communities more? Don’t we want to value the food we eat, the things we wear, and what we make, more? That usually helps people communicate these things a little bit better.

Ryan:  It’s funny, I’ve noticed that once you learn this stuff and you start thinking this way, you can’t unlearn it. And once you learn these things, your actions change, and others start to take notice.

Andrea: I call it quiet activism. Those moments where you’re asking for no straw or you go to a party and just bring your own cup but you don’t say anything–you just kinda do it, right? And that’s the quiet activism, where it’s not like you’re slapping disposable cups out of people’s hands at a party or something, you’re just doing it and then people ask you about what you’re doing. Then once they ask you, you have this platform.

Curiosity leads to knowledge and inspiration, and it just ripples from there. I always think that’s such a great way to advocate for what you’re doing. Just do it confidently and be knowledgeable about it in the best way you can and people will start to be interested like, “oh, why are you doing that? I want to do it too”.

Ryan: So how do you buy stuff and live zero waste at the same time?

Andrea: We don’t live in a zero waste infrastructure, so trash is going to happen. There’s going to be things like, “oh, it has packaging” or “it has a little plastic tag.”  When you’re trying to reduce or make less trash, it’s important to realize what the term ‘zero waste’ means and why you’re doing it in order to navigate through the culture.

As you’re navigating through a disposable culture, you have to remember that we have a linear infrastructure and just be OK with it. It’s not a perfect system. You’re going to have trash come into your life that has to go to a landfill because it can’t be recycled, and that’s OK. The idea behind it is that we’re just putting that value back. So if I’m shopping for things, my shopping is a lot different than it was like 10 years ago.

Ryan: What are some of those differences? Living in a modern culture, how do you approach this idea of needing a gift, whether it’s a necessity or a want? How is your approach different than someone that’s not living a zero waste lifestyle?

Andrea: What I do is think of the materials. If I’m buying clothes for example, I personally like linens and natural fibers, so I’ll look for materials before I buy something.  Then look at how it’s packaged. I’m fine with things being packaged in some way if I can’t avoid it. If it’s a good product and I think that I’ll get use out of it; if it’s durable, reusable, or multifunctional, then I feel OK about buying it. Those are the things that I look for in a product.

It doesn’t have to have all of those things. I’m not so stringent and restrictive that if a product doesn’t meet all my requirements I won’t buy it, I just pay more attention. The next question to determine whether or not I buy something is, “do I need it?” If there’s something that brings me joy, I like it. Think about, “does it inspire me and make me happy?” You have to really think about that for yourself. Get out of the clutches of the “over-consumer” impulse and just be thoughtful about how you’re buying, keeping those qualities in mind.

Ryan: Do you find yourself spending less money? Because one the common misconceptions out there is that living sustainably, in general, is more expensive than not living sustainably. So how do you feel about that?

Andrea: I definitely spend a lot less. I’m not impulse buying like I used to. Now I feel like I spend less because there’s that pause before I buy, and when I do buy something, it’s something that I know I’m really trying to get the most use out of. I’m not saying that everything I buy I’m going to use for the rest of my life–I might use it for a year or two and then maybe sell it or something like that. For the most part, I consume far less than I used to, and that’s because I try to think about those things first.

Sometimes better things do cost a little bit more money, and so that’s the kind of thing where it’s not always going to be accessible to people. I also try to think about what happens when I let go of all the frivolous things that I was buying. For example, when it came to clothes, I would buy all kinds of fast fashion type stuff, like $3 shirts, $5 jeans, whatever. I realized that, if I totaled all my spending for that month on cheap clothing, I could have just bought one nice, adaptable, durable, lasting thing. We have to kind of rework our relationship to consumerism, and that honestly looks different for everybody.

Ryan: So the average American creates four and a half pounds of trash every day, which is fascinating to me. My guess is you’re creating a lot less than four and a half pounds of trash every day. Ts that really what a lot of this is about? What would you say the end goal is, actually?  

Andrea: Honestly, there’s almost no end goal for me. It’s always a continuation. There’s always going to be evolution and things that are continuing. So for me, it’s like, I recognize I wasn’t putting value in the things I used, and now I’m putting more value into things I use, which naturally decreases the amount of waste that I make.

We don’t have a trash can in our whole home, we just have a jar that’s underneath our kitchen sink and then when that fills up we put it in a paper bag in our main city bin and we take out that once a year. It’s drastically a lot less waste, but that waste shows the limitations of a linear economy that we live in. I can’t get around that unless I completely give up, like, so much stuff.

I tell people that if we all made that little waste, that’s a big signal to [companies] about how things are made and how things move in our economy. We’re always going to buy things, we’re always going to use things. That part is just a design problem; waste is just a design problem. We are going to make waste, that’s just what’s going to happen. It just goes back to that same conversation of value and ownership and understanding materials better, but knowing that you’re never going to make absolutely zero.

Ryan: You brought up a good point, which is when you buy stuff that is designed well you’re actually sending a signal to the companies that are doing it the right way to make more of that. It’s the old “voting with your dollar” cliché. To me, that’s sort of the economics behind this whole thing. Over time, with more people, that will create changes around the physical making of products and product design.

One of the questions I ask people, just because I like to geek out on this stuff, is if they feel like they live a sustainable lifestyle and why. And the number one response to that is, “well yeah, I recycle.” So, how does recycling fit into this and the circular economy?

Andrea: Yeah, so [recycling] was such a big part of my childhood. When I think about it was always “reduce, reuse, recycle.” And then, for a long time too, my idea of recycling (like most people’s), is that you put your recyclables in the bin, and they get taken away and turned into something else. Right? That’s kind of how we think of recycling, but it’s not quite really what’s happening.

Recycling is good, and I’m not saying everyone should just halt recycling, but we have to understand what exactly is happening, and understand that it is a business too. Especially in the U.S., recycling is complex. It’s resource intensive and it takes a lot [of energy] to take something and turn it into something else. It also requires new materials to be added to a lot to old materials.

We also don’t have a whole lot of products accessible to us that are made from recycled products. So, if we’re not buying recycled products, then there is almost no point in recycling. We produce so many materials that recycling doesn’t even make a dent because we’re producing so much. It comes back to the idea that, sure, something might be recyclable, but wouldn’t it be better to have something I can use over and over and over again? In the end, recycling is something that is nice, but we can’t rely on it like that’s going to save us or something.

Ryan: There’s some confusion around this, because the words themselves are so similar–but buying recycled products made from recycled content that’s also recyclable is a step towards that circular economy. At the end of life, we’re making that previously recycled item into new products.

We have a question from Michelle: have you had to change your diet in order to produce less packaging waste?

Andrea: So, for me, I definitely simplified what I eat. I try to make a lot of my things, but I’m not spending a ton of time in the kitchen. Any more than 30 minutes in the kitchen and I’m out of there. I try to find things that I have access to–like our farmers markets, local grocery stores and shopping in bulk.

When I started this [zero waste lifestyle] I didn’t have access to that. So, I thought a lot about materials. If I was going to buy something in a container or something, I would think, OK, is this paper?, Glass is probably a little bit better, but often can be more expensive.

It can be very tricky, but my suggestion is for people to rethink what they’re eating. I eat a plant based diet primarily. I know not everyone wants to do that, but that makes it kind of a little easier. Oranges and apples, for example, come in their own natural packaging most of the time. They’re not pre-packaged.

Then I use things like a pressure cooker and cast-iron skillets to make meals that are quick and easy and use very basic ingredients. But yeah, changing your diet is very helpful! So, we have to understand that again, it’s an infrastructure that is just off-balance and so we have to maneuver the best we can. We’re all part of the same infrastructure, and even when I’m buying my dairy-free cheese in plastic, that plastic has a huge footprint as well and it’s going to continue long after because there’s nothing I can do with that. So, we have to be aware that we have an infrastructure that is not going to support all of our wishes and dreams and be realistic–but also navigate that wisely, without being restrictive.

Ryan: So where do you think the whole zero waste movement go from here, and how do we accelerate it?

Andrea: I think what’s key, and what I see a lot in just watching this movement grow from the very beginning, is that we really need to just understand how things are. We have to understand what that term [zero waste] is referring to and not redefine it too much, where it becomes something different. We have to understand to be flexible and not hold people to these levels of like “you’re not following it all–you’re banished.” I’m telling people this because I’ve spent so much time in the education field. People want it to be black and white, but it’s just not.

I think going forward people need to read, read, read, read. We have a recommended reading list on our website to all those books that are really helpful to help you understand the infrastructure, the history of sustainability, the history of how we got to these things. I think people need to become educated and then be tolerant. Not everyone is going to just be into it.

Ryan: Quiet activism.

Andrea: Quiet, quiet activism, and keep doing it. Realize that we’re kind of pioneers in a lot of ways. Even though we lived in a culture just a few decades ago that didn’t have plastic disposables and stuff, we have it now, and we’re going to disengage from that as much as possible.

If I could advise people moving forward, it would be to not create this kind of “you’re this and I’m better than you” kind of thing. I feel like there’s a lot of that in [zero waste] and so that, I think, holds the movement back. I just want to see the conversation keep happening. I want more people to get inspired. For them to make changes and just be OK with the fact they’re not gonna be able to do it all. Just continuing on that, because that’s how anything ever is changed. It’s just these little movements and ripples that continue on. It’s hard because I see kind of the commotion that can happen when we feel like we can’t do it all.

Ryan: Well, for those that are listening and want to get involved, but don’t really know where to start, what suggestion would you have for people that are like “I want to start today”? What’s the one thing, or few things, to just opt in into this movement, try it on, and see how it feels, without making any big compromise?

Andrea: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of low hanging fruit, starting with the little things like disengaging from single-use things as much as we can, and building habits of awareness around that. Whether it’s bringing our own cup, or saying no to a plastic straw, or bringing your own cloth bags and produce bags to the grocery store.

Start with those little things and then sit down with yourself for a little bit and think about like, what are my true wants and needs, what’s meaningful to me? How can I put value into the things I use, whether it’s what I already own, or if it’s something I’m going to bring into my life. Try to keep those things in mind. This way it’s not so complex.

We’re all environmentalists in a way because we’re all breathing the air, drinking the water, and using the land, so those are the things that are valuable. How can we slowly bring [mindfulness] into our world and develop better relationships with those things? If we keep that in mind, that will open up our own path to create less waste, to think about how collectively we use the planet. It kind of seems simple…it’s more of a mindset that we have to slowly weave into our world, and our day, in order to see things how they are. Then we also have to see what we can do to make things better.

Ryan: Whether it’s a water bottle or a coffee mug or food wrapper, when you think about anything you use one time and throw away, there’s a great place to evaluate. Especially if that’s stuff that you’re doing every day. That’s another opportunity to save money on a regular basis because you’re reusing one product versus buying and using something every day.

Andrea: I’m always thinking about the materials. So, for example, pick stainless steel or glass over plastic. I will look for the durability of something: can I use it over and over again, does it have a lot of pieces that I would tend to lose? I kinda think of how it will fit into my life. I also realized that it’s really hard for everyone to trace down where things always come from an exactly, because again, a linear infrastructure is not always conducive to knowing exactly how something was made…I’m not saying not to be concerned, but realize that there’s only so much that businesses and companies can do. You know, people are like, “well, a lot of things are made in China”, most of everything is, so we kind of have to just be OK with us being a part of a global infrastructure…Give yourself space for that and just try find something that will be durable and lasting.

Ryan: You pretty much covered it, but I would just add that, specifically at EarthHero we spend a lot of time around material makeup and finding more sustainable alternatives to traditional materials. With clothing you can get very detailed around sustainability: it can be organic, renewable, meaning like hemp or something that’s very fast growing, recycled content, recycled poly, etc. It’s amazing you can buy clothes now made from water bottles…I think with a lot of non-clothing lines, looking for products that are made with recycled content [is important] because not only are you diverting waste from the landfill, but you’re also keeping natural resources where they need to be. Plus, you’re supporting recycling, which creates more demand for recycled content. It all ties together to create what you’ve been talking about, which is a circular economy and more of an infrastructure that’s gonna support zero waste versus seemingly seemingly having to battle it….

Definitely follow her (@bezerowastegirl on Instagram)… she’s always on the forefront of all of this stuff.  Any parting shots you want to leave with people that are looking to take these next steps to zero waste?

Andrea: Just remember that it’s all about how we can put value into things again and be kind, be compassionate, be flexible, be tolerant and know that there is no perfect one way right now and just keep going forward with that good intention, and things will happen and be OK with that.

Why Choose Natural Sunscreen?

This summer, keeping your family safe for the sun is priority number 1..… but you wonder… does it have to be at the cost of the ecosystem? You’ve heard the horror stories of conventional sunscreens, aka chemical sunscreens, that can hurt both your family’s health and cause damage to our coral reef ecosystems. So how can you protect your skin, and the coral reefs, without staying inside all year? The answer is natural sunscreens!

Mineral sunscreens are made without toxins, are effective against both types of sun rays, and biodegrade in water – making them safe for sea critters and people alike! Read on to learn everything you need to know about mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, and why to make the switch! 

What You’ll Learn:

  • What makes mineral based, reef-safe sunscreen the better option for you and the environment
  • How to choose your natural sunscreen 
  • What chemicals are found in conventional sunscreen, and what ingredients to watch out for

Not All Sunscreens are Created Equal

Spring has sprung! The weather is warmer, summer is right around the corner, and everyone wants to be outside soaking up the sun. After a long winter, a hefty dose of vitamin D is just what the doctor ordered. However, as many of you know, the intense UV rays of the sun can cause sunburns, premature wrinkles, age spots, and freckles. Most importantly, when sunlight meets unprotected skin, it can cause cellular damage and form cancer-causing free radicals. It’s estimated that 20% of people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, with sun exposure playing a huge role. That’s where the hero of this story comes in: sunscreen.

Sunscreen is essential to preventing sun damage, and keeping your skin looking young, healthy, and beautiful. So, what’s the problem? Not all sunscreens are created equal.

While it’s important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, there’s an abundance of toxic chemicals living in traditional sunscreens that can cause all sorts of problems. What you put on your skin gets absorbed into your skin, so show some self love and don’t give your body anything less than what it deserves. Not only can some of the ingredients in your average sunscreen cause an array of health problems for you, but they negatively impact marine ecosystems as well. Like our coral reefs, your body is also irreplaceable, so nurture it with good-for-you ingredients! 

Conventional Chemical Sunscreens

There are a few different types of sunscreens, and chemical based protection owns a good portion of the market. You’ve seen the typical tubes and spray bottles at convenience stores and supermarkets. Most traditional sunscreens contain a chemical combo of at least two ingredients from the following list: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. Now try saying that five times fast (but once is hard enough)!

Some of these chemicals, such as oxybenzone, have been reported to mimic the effects of naturally occurring hormones in your body. It acts like estrogen, significantly lowering testosterone levels in men and increasing the likelihood of unbalanced hormones in women. Other chemicals in conventional sunscreens have been known to cause skin irritation, rashes, redness, itching, burning, and blisters. Nothing says Spring Break like an inflamed rash… NOT!

On top of being bad for your personal health, chemical-laden sunscreens also pose risks to coral reefs and entire marine ecosystems. Corals are composed of a calcium carbonate skeleton that houses microscopic algae. In short, the algae acts as a food source for the coral, and that’s what creates coral’s bright colors.

Drastic changes in ocean conditions can cause the coral to reject this essential algae, bleaching the coral in the process. Without their symbiotic algae buddies, coral can’t survive long term, and the basis for thriving marine ecosystems is threatened. The cause of some of this coral bleaching? You guessed it–chemical sunscreens.

natural-sunscreen-coral-reef-bleaching earthhero

Oxybenzones, a common ingredient in conventional sunscreens, have been linked to causing coral endocrine disruption, DNA damage, and death. Each year, around 14,000 tons of this toxic ingredient enters our coral reefs. This is a huge deal, as it only takes a teeny bit to cause massive damage–the equivalent of one drop of this chemical in an Olympic sized pool of water can be harmful.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear sunscreen! Instead, the next time you’re heading out to soak up your vitamin-sea, make sure to choose a mineral-based sunscreen. Mineral-based, natural sunscreens are different because they contain the active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which ward off harmful rays without any links to damaging our coral reefs.

Mineral Based Sunscreen

Zinc Oxide

Mineral sunscreens work differently than chemical-based ones. Sometimes known as physical sunscreens, they use a super-white mineral called zinc oxide as the active ingredient. Instead of absorbing into your skin, zinc oxide works differently. This powerful mineral physically shields your skin, reflecting dangerous UV rays back into the atmosphere instead of letting them pass through to your skin. Studies show that zinc oxide is actually the more effective than its chemical competitors in deflecting both UVA and UVB rays!

Titanium Dioxide

Some natural sunscreens add an extra level of protection with another mineral called titanium dioxide. While zinc oxide typically does the heavy lifting when it comes to blocking UVA and UVB rays, titanium dioxide can boost the UVB protection. These two minerals are the only FDA approved active ingredients in natural sunscreen, so you’ll be able to spot natural vs. chemical just by checking the back of the bottle.

natural-sunscreen-all-goodIf you’re new to mineral-based sunscreens, don’t be alarmed when it doesn’t totally rub in to your skin. These white spots are a good thing, as it’s actually the sunscreen doing its job–acting as a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. Natural sunscreen doesn’t break down as easily in the sun as chemical sunscreen does, which means your skin will have a more reliable source of protection, for a longer period of time. 

Choosing a Natural Sunscreen

Double check “organic”

Now, sunscreen marketers have gotten a little tricky with the word “organic,” so don’t be fooled if you usually stick to certified organic products. Mineral based sunscreens technically can’t be labeled as 100% “organic,” since zinc oxide and titanium dioxide don’t actually contain carbon (making them, literally, “inorganic”). Other sunscreens can claim the label, however, because the active ingredients do contain carbon. It may seem odd, but in the case of sunscreens, don’t chose your products solely based off of the word organic, and instead look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in the “Active Ingredients” section. If you’d still like to use sunscreen that contains organic ingredients aside from the mineral components, you can look out for products labeled as “made with organic ingredients”, or that meet NSF/ANSI 305 standards (meaning they contain at least 70% organic ingredients).

Nano Nonsense

When purchasing mineral-based sunscreen, try to look for “non-nano” on the ingredients label when it comes to zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Nano-particles are added to make the sunscreen more sheer when applied, just like a conventional chemical based sunscreen. These nano-particles might help your natural sunscreen smooth on a little easier, but it has the potential to harm marine organisms by “clogging” their cavities used for nutrient acquisition. Plus, there hasn’t been sufficient testing on the effects that absorbing these nano-particles into your skin can have, so some people choose to avoid it for their health.

Mineral Based Suncreens | EWG Guide | Goddess GardenCheck the ingredients list

Just because a sunscreen is labeled “natural,” doesn’t mean that it has all natural ingredients. Always check the ingredients to see what else you’re rubbing on your skin. At EarthHero, we break down the ingredients for you, so you don’t have to worry!

As an added bonus, many of our favorite mineral based sunscreens contain added organic ingredients to further boost your complexion! This could be anything from organic green tea, to olive leaf essential oil for a total moisture surge. A good organic sunscreen won’t just protect you from UVA and UVB rays, it will nourish sensitive skin too. Same goes for your after-sun care–make sure it has a healthy dose of moisture in it! 

A Better Alternative

We just threw a ton of information at you, and we know that choosing a natural sunscreen can seem a little complicated. Don’t fret! There are plenty of amazing brands making sunscreen that’s skin and coral reef safe. Not all sunscreens will meet all of the requirements we listed above, but by taking what you’ve learned, you’ll be able to steer away from yucky chemical-heavy, synthetic sunblocks.

natural-sunscreen-goddess-garden

Looking for a new sunscreen this summer? Here are some our favorite mineral-based brands!

Goddess Garden is all about allowing everyone safe access to the sun, regardless of their allergies or skin sensitivities. They have NSF certified organic plant and mineral based sunscreens that are biodegradable and safe for both your skin, and the reef. It’s a win-win!

All Good is another company committed to presenting people with a great sunscreen choice for the health of our rivers, lakes, and oceans. All waterways lead to the ocean, so it’s important to be conscious of what we’re putting into them, whether it’s a pristine mountain stream or a secluded watering hole. By keeping most of their products at ten ingredients or less and using non-nano zinc oxide based formulas, you can know that everything in their products is, well, All Good.

natural-sunscreen-stream-to-seaFounded by an award winning female chemist and avid scuba diver, Stream2Sea isn’t a stranger to the world of eco-conscious, planet-approved ingredients. In the face of climate change and changing ocean conditions, coral reefs already have enough to worry about as it is. That’s why Stream2Sea offers biodegradable, vegan, mineral-based sunscreen composed of conscious ingredients for complete sun protection without any of the traditional toxicity concern. Plus, all their products are packaged in either sugarcane resin tubes, or 97% post-consumer recycled plastic, so you can reduce the amount of plastic in your life!

Lastly, Badger has got you covered this summer with their hydrating, nourishing, and sensitive-skin-approved line of natural sunscreen. Crafted with organic sunflower oil, beeswax, and vitamin E, this NSF certified, non-GMO and water-resistant lotion is perfect for any outdoor activity. On top of that, it’s reef friendly and biodegradable, so you know you won’t be harming the planet.

Wrap It Up

It’s that time of year again when skin protection jumps to the top of the priority list. Preventing skin damage should be a concern for everyone, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of putting toxic chemicals on your body or into our waterways. When shopping for a sunscreen, try to avoid traditional chemical sunscreens all together and opt for a mineral-based lotion, and look for products with non-nano particles. We’ve shared with you our favorite brands for the health of both ourselves and our planet. What’s your go-to way to stay protected from the sun’s powerful rays?