What is Reef-Safe Sunscreen?

You’ve probably heard of reef-safe sunscreens on the news, with articles like about the dangers of conventional sunscreens by the FDA making national headlines. But what really is reef-safe sunscreen, and why is it better for human health, and for the health of the planet? In this blog, you’ll learn…

What “reef-safe” and “oxybenzone-free” means in relation to sunscreen choices!
Why switching to reef-safe sunscreen is important for human + ecosystem health!
Learn the answers to common sunscreen questions about ingredients, broad spectrum, the sun’s rays, SPF, and more!

Conventional Sunscreens

Fact: all sunscreens must contain some sort of active ingredient – aka any ingredient that produces a chemical or biological impact – to protect against the sun’s rays effectively. But… not all active ingredients are the same.

Conventional sunscreens, or chemical sunscreens, rely on chemical filters as their active ingredient, and contain a combo of oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate or octinoxate to ‘protect’ your skin from the sun by absorbing UV rays through a chemical reaction.

But the truth is that these chemicals filters are actually able to absorb into our skin – and are beginning to be linked to major health concerns, most prominently hormone disruption. The most recent study by the FDA this May has raised major concerns about the lack of long-term testing for these ingredients that were originally approved in the 70s, and has begun to push for greater scientific research overall. But, even without these long-term studies, we already know a lot about these different chemical filters…

Let’s start with oxybenzone.

According to the EWG, oxybenzone is in nearly 65% of chemical sunscreens. Studies show it can cause allergic skin reactions, acts as a weak estrogen, and has strong anti-androgenic effects – an important hormone in the male reproductive system. Oxybenzone can also pass from expectant mothers to their children through their breast milk, and more research is being done to study the ongoing impacts of such exposure.

Beyond just the human health impacts, oxybenzone is one of the leading causes of coral bleaching, a problem which has wiped out a sizeable portion of our global coral reefs. They work by decreasing the natural ability of coral to defend themselves against bleaching, and damage their DNA and development. This damage pairs with other environmental stressors like ocean acidification, rising sea temperatures, and water pollution to limit the ability of coral to reproduce and survive as a whole.

We all play a role

Research shows that coral reefs in Hawaii are exposed to 6,000 TONS of sunscreen each year that runs off of our bodies, whether it be in the ocean, pool, or just down the shower drain. And a 2015 study shows that oxybenzone can be harmful at concentrations as low as 1 drop of water in 6.5 Olympic sized swimming pools. In Hawaii, some swimming beaches have been measured to have concentrations of over 10x that amount – which is severely damaging reefs and the wildlife that relies on the reefs to survive.

But oxybenzone isn’t the only problem.

Danish researchers conducted a study back in 2016 and found that 8 of 13 chemical filters allowed in US sunscreens can affect calcium signaling of male sperm cells, which can impact male fertility. Investigations by the National Institute of Health found a link between high concentrations of benzophenones and reduced fertility for males as well, and higher risk of endometriosis in women.

To put it simply: conventional sunscreens are not good. While we’re still working to strengthen FDA regulations on chemical sunscreens, and perform more long-term studies, all preliminary research shows the same thing – they’re negatively affecting our bodies, our families, and most importantly, our planet! The good news is that there is a better way with reef-safe sunscreens

Reef-Safe Sunscreens

Reef-safe sunscreens, aka mineral-based sunscreens, are quickly becoming popular as a non-toxic alternative to chemical sunscreens that still protect you from the sun’s rays. They rely on active ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, both of which provide ample UVA/UVB sun protection and are considered to be non-hazardous for both humans and coral reefs.

How Reef Safe Sunscreens work

Mineral-based sunscreens work by forming a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. You’ve probably seen zinc oxide slathered on the noses of lifeguards in movies, looking quite white and chalky as it forms that barrier. But zinc oxide has come a long way, and zinc oxide formulas have found ways to be tinted, clear, or easier to rub in – without compromising on quality.

Whether you choose zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for your active sunscreen ingredients, the most important facet of a truly ‘reef-safe’ sunscreen is that it is non-toxic & biodegradable. This means that all the ingredients in the sunscreen are able to naturally break down, without leaving chemical waste behind.

“Reef Safe” policies

Hawaii and Florida, two states greatly impacted by sunscreen pollution, have begun to take matters into their own hands by banning the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. Both states will have these laws go into 2021, which is a huge step in the right direction. Many other international tourist destinations are also beginning to require biodegradable sunscreen from anyone who wants to visit… and confiscating chemical sunscreens if you bring them anyways.

And it’s actually working! Previously bleached corals in the Pacific ocean are slowly beginning to bounce back after severe damage, with further studies emphasizing the historic resilience of coral reefs – giving us hope for places like the Great Barrier Reef. When the corals come back, so do different aquatic species that rely on corals to survive, supporting biodiversity as a whole.

Don’t live by the ocean?

Reef-safe sunscreens, whether you live next to the ocean or not, are important for everyone on the face of the Earth. Scientists, dermatologists, and experts all recommend you wear sunscreen every day, every single time you go outside, no matter how warm or cold it feels. This is because it protects your skin – helping defend against aging – as well as your long-term health – defending against skin cancer and other sun-related health problems.

And, when you shower at the end of each day, all that sunscreen will go down the drain, and as we learned from Finding Nemo… all drains lead to the ocean! By choosing a reef-safe sunscreen for your everyday face and body routine you can reduce the amount of chemicals you send down the drain, and reduce your footprint on our marine life.

Common Sunscreen Questions

What’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays? How do I protect myself from them?

In general, ultraviolet (UV) rays refer to electromagnetic light that can reach us from the sun, and are categorized by the length of the energy wavelength. This means UVA rays, aka ultraviolet A (long-wave) rays, are different from UVB rays, aka ultraviolet B (short-wave) rays.

While UVB rays are linked to sunburns, UVA rays are linked to aging skin… But both are linked to skin cancer due to their ability to damage cellular DNA and create genetic mutations. UVA rays account for 95% of the radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, but they are less intense than UVB rays. Despite being less intense, they penetrate the skin more deeply, which is why they’re linked to aging as well as skin cancer. It’s essential that you protect yourself from both, so look for the term “broad-spectrum.” This refers to sunscreens that can protect you from both!

What does a higher SPF mean?

SPF (sun protection factor) is a measure of how much UVB that a sunscreen can filter and protect against. Since there is currently no way to label the degree of protection from UVA, this is the typical way we look at the level of sun protection. It indicates how long it will take for the skin to redden as compared to how it would react without the sunscreen. For example, SPF 15 means that it will take 15x longer for someone who is wearing the sunscreen to have their skin redden than without.

Also, the higher the SPF the wider the range of UV rays coverage it offers, however this will start to plateau as you get higher–SPF 30 covers 97% of UV rays, and 50 SPF covers 98%, for example. We recommend always starting at 30SPF, and then going up from there depending on how long you plan on staying in the sun.

How do I properly use mineral-based sunscreens?

One of the most important steps for applying mineral sunscreens is making sure you apply a thorough layer that covers the entire area you’re looking to protect. Because it works by creating a physical barrier, start with a small amount and spread the product evenly on the skin before adding a second layer. One ounce of sunscreen for your entire lower half is generally recommended. Then, make sure you reapply every 80 minutes, or more quickly depending on if you’re swimming or sweating. A water-resistant sunscreen will always have the time span that it should last for under those conditions!

Do babies and kids need special sunscreens?

Babies and kids have naturally sensitive skin, and can sunburn extremely easily, so they absolutely need to be wearing sunscreen and other sun protection items when they go outside. They’re also more prone to allergic reactions and adverse reactions, so it’s important that they are wearing a mineral-based, non-toxic sunscreen. But – from the selection of EarthHero approved reef-safe sunscreen formulas – there is actually very little difference between sunscreens labeled for babies vs kids vs adults. Some children’s sunscreens will contain skin moisturizing additives like calendula to help nourish the skin while it protects, and of course they can feature different SPFs, but for the most part you should be safe applying any mineral-based sunscreen to your little one (of course avoiding ingestion, and the eyes, nose, and mouth!)

What are nanoparticles, and are they safe in sunscreen?

Nano particles are simply smaller versions of any particle. The tiny size of these particles make them easy to absorb by the skin and into the body. Whether or not they are harmful has more to do with what substance these particles are a part of as opposed to just their size.

Many chemical sunscreens rely on nano-particles to ensure a clear application. The risk of nano-sized particles used in mineral sunscreens–zinc oxide and titanium-dioxide–is still up for dispute, but to be safe we prefer to stick to non-nano when possible! To play it safe, look for non-nano zinc oxide, and non-nano titanium dioxide.

Want more information on the science behind natural sunscreens, and help finding one that’s perfect for your lifestyle? Check out our Natural Sunscreen Blog! Or – shop all our sunscreen + sun care products here!

Chemical-Free Cleaning Products

We all want a clean house…. But nowadays, a clean planet is even more important. Luckily for you, you can have both thanks to our conscious companies that are finding innovative, zero waste ways to package and produce their cleaning tools, formulas, and products. They get the job done with ease (whatever the job may be!) and leave fewer chemicals and pollution behind for our Earth to deal with. Win-win. Read on below to learn about the benefits of natural cleaning products, and some of our favorites for tackling messes in every corner of the house!

Benefits of Non-Toxic Cleaning Formulas

They’re safe for children and pets!

Tired of evacuating the bathroom for hours after you clean it with harsh chemicals so that little ones don’t get overwhelmed with chemical-laden fumes? Unlike conventional cleaners, which can contain health-disrupting toxins (check out some toxins to avoid here!), natural cleaning products can be safely used around children of all ages. In fact, they can even join in on the cleaning when you use non-toxic formulas and begin to create healthy habits around their chores. While we still recommend adult supervision and suggest keeping the cabinet where you keep your cleaning products guarded against pets and little ones, you can clean worry-free knowing your products won’t be creating long-term damage.

They promote healthier indoor, and outdoor, air quality!

Look at the back of your conventional chemical-based cleaning products and you’ll likely see a giant warning label urging you to not breathe in the fumes. Which… frankly… is pretty hard to do if you’re deep cleaning smaller spaces like your bathroom. According to the EPA, the air quality inside homes can be 2-5x more polluted than the air just outside the home – and cleaning products play a huge role in that!

They protect our natural resources!

Conventional cleaning products like laundry detergents and fragranced aerosol sprays are often petroleum-based, which is a non-renewable natural resource that is extremely intensive to extract and transform. When we use large quantities of these petroleum-based, toxic products near sources of water (think down the bathtub drain!) it becomes nearly impossible for wastewater treatment plants to treat a large volume of these chemicals before they go to our aquatic ecosystems. Over time, this can negatively impact all sorts of wildlife and habitats – similarly to how microplastics accumulate!

Now that you know why… let’s get into how!

Laundry Room

Non-Toxic Cleaning Products | EarthHero | Soap Nuts

Soap Nuts

If single-use laundry pods are your thing, switch them out with soap nuts! Unlike Tide Pods and other laundry detergent pods, these soap nuts are 100% plastic-free, non-toxic, and chemical free – because they come from dried berries from trees in the Himalayas… not a factory. When the soap nuts are agitated in water they release saponin, which is a natural cleanser and fabric softener. Plus, they can be reused for several washes and then composted when you’re done with them. There’s also a liquid detergent made from soapberry extract, which is just as sustainable and comes inside an aluminum bottle instead of just being loose soap nuts.

Powdered Detergent

Want a cleaner & greener laundry detergent, but not ready to make the switch to soapberries? Powdered laundry detergent, packaged in refillable and reusable steel containers, is another great option! Made from concentrated ingredients like baking soda, washing powder, vegetable-based soap, and essential oils, powdered detergent can be used in both standard and HE style washing machines and easily removes stains and stink from all clothing types. No SLS, synthetic fragrances, dyes, plastic-packaging or optical brighteners needed. Plus, the canister can be refilled with more powdered detergent for a fraction of the cost of conventional detergents.

Non-Toxic Chemical-Free Cleaning Products on EarthHero

Cora Ball

While it’s important to ensure we aren’t sending toxic chemicals to our aquatic ecosystems through the washing machine, it’s also important to learn about the role of microplastics when washing our clothes. You can get the full scoop with the microplastic blog here, but to put it simply: when you wash clothes made from synthetic materials they release microscopic plastic threads that won’t biodegrade for hundreds of years. Plus, they get into the belly of animals and can cause a slew of health impacts for animals and people alike.

That’s where the Cora Ball comes in. Made from 100% recycled plastic, this scientist-tested ball captures and collects microplastics and microthreads that are released from your clothes so they don’t make it into our waterways. Just toss it in the washer drum with your laundry detergent of choice, and give it a few weeks to build up microparticles before you remove them manually and throw them in the trash where they belong.

Dryer Balls

Now that your clothes are clean, it’s time to dry them. Instead of tossing them in with single-use dryer sheets (which are full of chemicals and can actually damage your clothes), make the switch to reusable dryer balls. Made from ethically harvested & cruelty-free wool, they work by separating and lifting clothes to dry them faster and with less static. In fact, dryer balls are so effective that they can save you both energy and money. You can even drop some essential oils into the wool dryer balls for that “fresh-out-the-dryer” smell.

Non-Toxic Cleaning Products | Bestowed Essentials | EarthHero

Spot-Treatment Stain Stick

Last but not least on the laundry lineup: stain sticks. Messes happen.. And sometimes you need ultra-concentrated cleaning power to handle them. But lots of stain sticks out there contain tons of bleaches, optical whiteners, and other toxic chemicals that are overkill. Natural laundry stain sticks, made from concentrated vegetable soaps, are a natural way to pre-treat tough stains before washing clothes to ensure they get 100% clean. Simply wet the spot, rub the treatment on, and toss it in the wash. Here is one we love with added baking soda, and here is one we love without it.

Bathroom

Meliora Non-Toxic Cleaning Products EarthHero

All-Purpose Cleaning Spray

Every household on the planet needs a high-quality cleaning spray for spills, smudges, and general life messes. But… most conventional cleaning sprays contain toxic phthalates, which are beginning to be studied in connection with long-term health impacts, and are almost always packaged in plastic. Ditch the single-use spray bottles and switch to a formula that works hard – so you don’t have to. This all-purpose cleaning spray comes with a reusable glass spray bottle and a steel canister of “cleaning flakes” made from toxin-free vegetable soap that are cruelty-free, SLS-free, and safe to use in any part of your home. Plus, you’ll save money: 18 refills of cleaner is only $8… that’s 44 cents a full bottle of surface cleaner.

Soft Scrub

Some messes, like those in the grout between your bathroom tile, require a little more elbow grease. This soft scrub powder from Meliora gets the job done, allowing you to really get to work in your spring deep cleaning. This scrub is safe to use on stainless steel, ceramic/porcelain tile, and most stovetops. Here is an awesome soft scrub, and here is a similar ‘scouring powder’. Don’t let corporate marketing fool you into thinking you need ultra strength chemical cleaners to get those tough to clean spots. These soft scrubs get the job done, without industrial strength toxins!

Eco Nuts Non-Toxic Cleaning Products EarthHero

Floor Cleaner

Up next in your spring cleaning to-do list is the floors! For sparkling tile, wood, and vinyl floors try this USDA Certified Organic floor cleaner. Made with essential oils and botanical extracts, this citrus spray is packaged in a reusable, recyclable aluminum bottle–so you have less plastic, and fewer toxins in your home. To use, simply spray on the floor and run a sweeper style mop (think Swiffer-style!) around until your floor is sparkling clean!

Kitchen + Dishes

Castile Dish Soap

We all wish our dishwashers (if you have one!) could clean everything in our kitchen… but for now… we still need to use dish soap to clean those pots, pans, knives, and cutting boards. Say goodbye to those wasteful (non-recyclable!) plastic bottles from used dish soap and say hello to castile dish soap blocks. Castile soap, basically just meaning a ultra-concentrated vegetable-based soap, is plastic, paraben, sulfate, and cruelty-free. It uses french green clay, sea salt, and natural oils to lather and cleanse dishes with ease. Pair with a natural loofah or sisal washcloth for a 100% zero waste clean!

Eco Nuts Non-Toxic Cleaning Products Veggie Wash EarthHero

Veggie Wash

Did you know that seemingly ‘fresh’ produce can often be coated with pesticides, dirt, wax, and other byproducts from the production and harvesting process? And while cleaning with water is an important step, sometimes it’s not enough! This USDA Certified Organic veggie wash is a great way to clean any and all produce before you eat it to ensure you’re not consuming anything but truly clean fruits and veggies. To use, simply spray onto veggies, allow to sit for 30 seconds, then scrub under running water. For softer items like berries, dilute 1-2 oz of the veggie wash in a bowl with the produce, allow to soak for 30 seconds, then rinse.

Surface Cleaner & Glass Cleaner

Tired of feeling like you need a hazmat suit to spray down the surfaces in your kitchen? From smudged fridges, to dirty glass cabinets, it’s important to have a good cleaning spray that can be used every day – without posing a risk to your family’s health. This organic surface cleaner and glass cleaner are safe for daily use near food prep areas because they’re ammonia-free, phosphate-free, and alcohol-free, and leave behind a gentle scent from essential oils that isn’t overpowering for the kitchen.

Essential Cleaning Tools

Now that you know why, and how, to make the switch to non-toxic cleaning products, it’s time to take what you’ve learned and put it into action. Conventional cleaning tools can be extremely wasteful, but we’ve rounded up some of our favorites to help you not only keep your house clean, but the planet as well!

Non-Toxic Cleaning Products Earthhero

Natural Latex Cleaning Gloves

Even though at this point you have switched over to only toxin-free cleaning products that won’t irritate your skin, it’s still a great idea to keep a pair of cleaning gloves on hand to protect you from hot water when cleaning and potentially dry skin. We’ve got you covered (literally). These natural latex gloves are slip-resistant, and feature 100% cotton cuffs to keep water from dripping down your arms. The inside is ultra-soft and comfortable, and they’re BPA, phthalate, and PVC-free. The perfect partner for any cleaning task!

Bottle + Straw Brushes

Your reusable bottles and straws are a great way to keep extra plastic out of the landfill, but they can be notoriously hard to clean. By investing in a brush specifically made for this task, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort. When it comes to bottle brushes there are a few options, including some with replaceable heads like this one, and others with various shapes for different types of bottles like this one. Take an inventory of what kinds of items you’ll need to clean – and pick which one works best for you. For straw brushes, it’s a little more straightforward when it comes to choices. Some are extra long, some are colorful, and some are just classic like this one. Whatever you choose be sure you keep it sink-side so you can clean out your bottles + straws after each use!

Non-Toxic Cleaning Products EarthHero Full Circle

Scrubber Sponges and Dish Brushes

A high-quality sponge or dish brush is essential for any cleaning project – whether you’re scrubbing dishes, cleaning countertops, or tackling grit and grime. But… many conventionals options are made from virgin plastic (that comes from non-renewable petroleum!) and have a pretty short lifecycle before they head to the landfill. Instead of buying wasteful plastic-based sponges, you can switch to an exfoliating sponge made from cellulose and walnut shells like this one – it can be composted after hundreds of uses! The natural walnut shells won’t shed microplastic pieces down the drain, either. Or try our 100% zero-waste loofah scrubbers that are made from unprocessed, chemical free heirloom Mayan loofahs that can also be composted when you’re done using them. You can get a 6 pack of smaller loofah scrubbers, or one large 4 inch loofah here – so that you have a scrubber for every assignment.

If you’re not a fan of sponges and loofahs, and prefer a traditional dish brush, there’s a ton of ways to reduce the amount of plastic they are made from. This dish brush flaunts a natural bamboo handle, and a BPA-free recycled plastic head & bristles to help reduce the amount of virgin plastic used. Small but mighty, this handle-free dish brush also relies on natural bamboo and recycled plastic to get the job done. Looking for something with a replaceable head is also a great way to reduce the amount of waste you produce. Whether you choose a dish brush, or a sponge-alternative, make sure you look for ethical materials, responsible production methods, and features that you know you’ll need when cleaning.

Non-Toxic Cleaning Products

Reusable Dish Towels

Paper towels: they come from trees (one of our most important natural resources!), they’re single-use, and let’s face it – they kind of suck for cleaning up messes. A great way to reduce paper towel waste and save yourself some money is to switch to reusable dish towels made from sustainable materials. Organic cotton towels like these are easy to clean + dry with, ultra-absorbent, and even have embedded loops for additional scrubbing power. Or, for a more refined look, you can try stonewashed linen towels like these! Whatever material floats your boat, made sure it’s a natural material like cellulose, linen, or cotton – and not synthetic!

Ready to start cleaning up the planet? Check out all our cleaning formulas and products here, and take 10% off all cleaning products with code: cleaningblog!

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

Fact: 85% of the toxic chemicals used in personal care, food, packaging, and other everyday products have not been tested–which means we have no idea what impact they can have on our bodies, and our planet. As more and more research on common additives is done, we’re finding out they might be linked to a slew of health problems.

From cancer-causing chemicals, to hormone-disrupting toxins, you’d be shocked to learn what secrets are potentially hiding in your everyday products. While it may feel impossible to completely eliminate your exposure, it’s important to play it safe and be educated about what’s is inside the products you use. Read on to learn about 7 of our least favorite toxins below, and how you can avoid them in your life! 

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

1. Phthalates – The Everywhere Chemical

Phthalates (pronounced Tha-lates) are chemical compounds typically added to plastic products to make them more flexible, durable, and long lasting. These little buggers are in almost everything — plastic food containers, cosmetics, “fresh” produce, electronics, children’s toys and even medical equipment. Simply eating from containers or using skin care products that contain phthalates can expose you to the chemical, and once they are in your body, they are quickly converted into metabolites (tiny molecules) that won’t leave your body for in several days.

Even though phthalates don’t stay in your body long, the impact they can have on your health is significant. One type of phthalate, named Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is a known endocrine disruptor, and researchers are beginning to conduct long-term studies on how this chemical impacts human health. The biggest issue with phthalates, like many toxins, is that we truly don’t know what long-term continuous exposure from multiple sources (think food, skincare, packaging) can impact.

To learn more, the CDC measured 13 common types of phthalates in the urine of 2,636+ participants. What they found was that the general population has measurable levels of many types of phthalates in them–meaning that phthalate exposure is widespread amongst the US population. They also found that, on average,  adult women have higher levels of phthalate metabolites than men on average, specifically for the type of phthalates used in cosmetics and personal care products. They also found that, as with like most chemicals, children under the age of 3 are at greater risk when exposed to phthalates–due in part to their smaller body size, and from exposure to phthalates through items products they put in their mouths, like plastic toys, pacifiers, and more.

Phthalates are probably one of the most widely used chemicals in conventional products, and because there is currently minimal regulation when it comes to ingredients, with many companies choose choosing not to label their products as containing phthalates. This feels like seriously scary stuff, but there’s hope! To reduce your exposure, here there are a few things you can do: 

  • Look for skincare, cosmetics, and other personal care products  that is proudly to say “We are phthalate-free!”, and that also disclose their full ingredient lists.
  • Use phthalate-free food containers whenever possible (glass, stainless steel)–and never microwave food inside plastic containers that could contain phthalates, as the microwave process will leach those chemicals into your food.
  • Look at the ingredients list for these common phthalates: BBP (butyl benzyl phthalate), DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) *commonly found in nail polish, DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate) *often commonly added to PVC products to make them more flexible, DEP (diethyl phthalate) *added to personal care to enhance fragrance, and DiNP (di-isonoyll pthalate) *commonly added to toys and childcare products.

7 Toxic Chemicals To Avoid in Your Products

2. Parabens – The Preservative Chemical

These synthetic chemical preservatives are one of the most widely used preservatives in beauty and personal care products today, thanks to the fact that they keep bacteria and mold from growing in your products–extending their shelf life. While this sounds awesome, it actually negatively impacts human health…which is not so awesome.

You can be easily come into contact with parabens by applying them to your skin through makeup, moisturizers, hair care, and shaving cream, as well as by consuming them through preserved foods and food packaging (parabens are even in some pharmaceuticals. Yikes!) A study by the CDC on over 2,500+ participants found methylparaben and propylparaben, two of the most common types of parabens, in most of the people tested–indicating widespread exposure to parabens amongst the American population.

Other researchers have found parabens in breast tumors, linking the toxin to endocrine disruption and potential cumulative health impacts like cancer, as well as finding that butylparaben can severely impact the male reproductive system. Like phthalates, more long-term testing needs to be done to find a definitive relationship between health impacts and parabens, but we personally don’t want to wait to start limiting this chemical in our lives.

Currently, the FDA has no regulations against preservatives like parabens in cosmetics, which means that companies can include these toxins in their products without getting FDA approval–and without having to readily disclose that their products contain parabens. Which means, for now, that it’s up to the individual to protect themselves from such toxins! Here are some tips for doing so…

  • Look at the ingredients list for these common parabens: methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, and ethylparaben. More and more companies are proud to say their products are “paraben-free” – be sure to support those ones!
  • Avoid food grown with preservatives and opt for organic whenever possible!

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

3. Sulfates, SLS, & SLES – The Lathering Chemical

Like parabens, these synthetic chemicals are also commonly found in beauty products and traditional household cleaners. They’re known for their ability to create that satisfying lather that elicits the feeling of true (but false) cleanliness! While bubbles are fun and all, absorbing toxins into your body is not. Some of the most common types of sulfate-based chemicals are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), which are what allows your shampoo, soap, and bubble bath to suds up.

These compounds are produced from petroleum and ‘plant’ sources like palm oil, and are created through a chemical reaction with sulfuric acid and other chemicals. In short, they’re derived from not-so-great chemicals, and their production contributes to air pollution, increased greenhouse gases, and ultimately, climate change. But that’s not all…

Studies on sulfates, SLS, and SLES have found that SLS and SLES can irritate the eyes, skin, and lungs–especially with long-term exposure (which happens easily if these chemicals are present in your daily personal care products!). They also found that SLES may contain 1,4-dioxane, which is known to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

Beyond the environmental impacts of production and possible human health issues, simply using products that contain these chemicals can impact our animal biodiversity. The palm oil that is used to manufacture these sulfate-chemicals is a major contributor to tropical rainforest devastation, and then the final formulas are often washed down the drain (think of your shampoo!) where they end up in oceans, lakes, and waterways and can be toxic to different species of animals. All in all, we are not a fan of any version of synthetic sulfates. Check out some ways to avoid them in your life below:

  • SLS and SLES are usually found in: liquid soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, dish soap, toothpaste, bath bombs, and other “lathering” personal care items. Opt for solid and oil based soaps and shampoos rather than liquid versions–and keep an eye out for products that are proud to be “sulfate-free”!
  • Look at the ingredients list for: sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, laureth-8 carboxylic acid, lauryl ether sulfate, and other common synonyms!

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

4. Oxybenzone – The Sunscreen Chemical

Oxybenzone, aka benzonephenone-3, has been getting a lot of (negative) attention lately–with sunscreen numerous companies  saying “we’re proud to be oxybenzone free!” But even so, oxybenzone is still in nearly 80% of conventional sunscreens, with studies from the CDC estimating that oxybenzones are present in more than 96% of the US population. It was initially used because oxybenzone provides UV coverage, while staying colorless, which many sunscreen companies loved for “spray” sunscreens and other innovative products. It’s also used in nail polish, fragrances, hair spray, and some cosmetics.

Despite the fact that oxybenzones are supposed to absorb UV rays and protect us from the sun, studies have shown that oxybenzone is readily absorbed by the skin–where it then stays in our bodies for an unknown amount of time. The EWG has found that oxybenzone, when in our bodies, is highly toxic–and has begun to link the additive to hormone disruption, damaged cells that could lead to skin cancer, and reproductive issues. According to one researcher, Dr. Kurunthachalam Kannan, a professor of public health and environmental health services with the New York State Department of Health, oxybenzone is an even stronger estrogenic than BPA–which has been widely banned due to its toxicity. In fact, oxybenzone even won an award (a bad award…) for being “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society back in 2014.

Beyond that, coral reefs and other ocean ecosystems are highly impacted by the presence of this chemical in our sunscreens–as sunscreens are often rinsed off in the shower, pool, or ocean, where they can end up ingested by sea life, or absorbing into porous coral habitats. Despite all this research, oxybenzone is still FDA approved for use in our products, which means it’s up to us to reduce our exposure with tips and tricks like these…

  • Check the ingredients list for these common chemical filters: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, homosalate, and octinoxate. Instead, look for mineral-based sunscreens that use active ingredients like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
  • Allow your sunscreen to fully absorb into your skin before hopping in the pool or ocean to reduce the amount of run-off that occurs!
  • Accept the fact that you may have to rub in your white-based sunscreen a little bit more than your conventional clear sunscreen… or look for mineral-based sunscreens that are slightly tinted! Checkout our blog on natural sunscreens for more info here!

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

5. Synthetic Dyes – The Colorful Chemical

Fact: the food industry adds more than 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes into our food supply every year–putting them in everything from cereal to soda. They’ve become so prevalent that we often don’t even notice them, or know how to recognize them on the ingredients list. The same is true of synthetic colors in common cosmetics, personal care, and household products, with the FDA enforcing some regulations on what acceptive levels of synthetic colorants are, but not providing the consumer with information on how those additives can impact their health, or the health of the planet.

The truth is, coal, tar, and petroleum are the base for most of the artificial dyes that are used to color anything from clothing to personal care. These dyes contain heavy metals, plasticizers, fluorocarbons, and formaldehyde, and require a great deal of water and energy to produce them. Plus, most artificial colors aren’t readily biodegradable, and end up polluting our waterways and marine ecosystems. On top of that, although they are tested by the FDA, certain synthetic additives are linked to allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. For example, FD&C No. 5 can lead to itching, hives, and other skin reactions, despite the fact that they are considered safe. Some studies from the Center for Science in the Public Interest are even beginning to link these petroleum-based colorants to more serious health risks like cancer, hormone disruption, and hyperactivity (ADD and ADHD).

The good news is that you don’t need synthetic colorants in your products, because natural colorants exist! Things like beet juice powder, red radish powder, annatto powder, and water soluble carmine are all alternatives to synthetic red dyes–and are an awesome way to transform products to have the bold colors we’re so used to seeing.

How to avoid synthetic colors…

  • Check the ingredients list of your products for non-FDA-approved synthetic colors like tartrazine. Try not to confuse certified colors with their uncertified counterparts. For example, FD&C Yellow No. 5 is the certified form of tartrazine, and has been FDA certified, but tartrazine has not. You can find a list of FDA approved color additives here.
  • Switch from products that use synthetic additives (even if they are FDA approved!) to products that use only natural colorants from plant-based sources.

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

6. Synthetic Fragrance – The Smelly Chemical

Synthetic fragrances, aka the “new second hand smoke of 2019”, are one of the most prevalent chemical additives–and can be found in countless everyday products including scented candles, detergents, deodorants, air fresheners, shampoos, lotions, and more. Have you ever been around someone with just a little too much cologne on, or walked into a room that has been “Febreez-ed”? While it may seem innocuous, the chemicals that make up synthetic fragrances can be absorbed when we inhale them, and are linked to some serious impacts on our bodies and the planet.

About 95% of the chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum (crude oil)–which is a finite resource that is extremely unsustainable to harvest, process, and transform into these synthetic chemicals. Beyond their impact on the planet, synthetic scents greatly impact our lungs and respiratory system. One such study shows a decline in exhalation volume by 58% when exposed to synthetic colognes, and is linked to a worsening of asthma symptoms. Additionally, synthetic scents can include those hormone-disrupting phthalates we talked about before, and be linked to health issues like cancer, birth defects, and reproductive issues. These same chemicals

Although fragrances are highly prevalent in our consumer products, it is possible to avoid them in the products you purchase by opting for “fragrance-free”, “unscented” products, alongside certified organic products and those who use essential oils in lieu of synthetic fragrances.

  • Swap out synthetic fragrance filled products with those that use natural & organic essential oils to fragrance their products. Avoid ingredients like: benzenes, aldehydes, toluene, styrene, and more.
  • Don’t be confused by the word “fragrance”. Fragrance is a catch-all term that can apply to nearly 3,000 various chemicals, all with their own serious impacts!
  • Look for unscented or fragrance-free products – but still read the labels carefully to ensure a company is not using some other chemical to masks scents to create the “unscented” experience.

7 Toxins to Avoid | BPA

7. BPA – The Water Bottle Chemical

Whether or not you’ve been paying attention to the toxins in your products, BPA has been making major headlines recently for two main reasons: almost everyone has detectable levels of BPA in their bodies, and they can create serious health impacts for fetuses and newborns. But what is BPA? Short for Bisphenonol A, BPA is an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate–a hard, clear plastic that was used in plastic water bottles, food and product packaging, and as a protective lining in some metal-based items since the 1960s.

According to a study by the CDC back in 2003 on 2,500+ individuals aged 6 years and older, there were detectable levels of BPA in 93% of urine samples–which does not take into account the levels of BPA that may be present in children under the age of 6, the most at-risk demographic. Other studies pursued by the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research have continued to analyze the relationship between expectant mothers and BPA, with initial results suggesting long-term health impacts. Beyond that, it is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and endocrine disorders.

In July of 2012, the FDA amended its food additive regulations to ban the use of BPA is baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging–but not other places where BPA were readily used. Despite this new regulation, many plastic products still contain BPA–leaving it up to the consumer to avoid it in their lives. But, because of the attention it has gotten, BPA is actually one of the easier toxins to avoid! Checkout some tips and trips to live BPA free below.

  • Avoid foods that could be packaged with BPA–like non-organic canned soups, preservative-packed produce, etc.
  • Choose cardboard and glass containers over canned goods! Highly acidic foods, like canned tomato sauce, are more likely to leach BPA from the can lining. Opt instead for cardboard and glass containers, instead of cans with plastic linings.
  • Do not microwave food from polycarbonate plastic! At high temperatures, these plastics can leach BPA into your food and become easily ingested. Although companies are not required to say if a product has BPA in it, polycarbonate plastics are usually marked with a number #7 recycling code on the bottom.
  • Look for baby bottles, toys, and other children’s products that are made by companies who proudly state they are “BPA free!” Because this is the demographic most impacted by the chemical, go the extra mile to research products that are truly BPA free.

 

7 Toxins to Avoid

BUT DON’T PANIC!

We know…. This is a lot of pretty scary information. And it can feel overwhelming. Toxins seem like they are everywhere–and can seem nearly impossible to avoid. The good news? Companies across the globe are taking matters into their own hands, and banning the toxic chemicals that are linked to negative health impacts… even if the FDA hasn’t.

By embracing the power of natural ingredients on a larger scale, brands are making it easier for their communities to shop products that are chemical-free. On EarthHero, we ensure that no brand or product on our site contains these toxins. Instead, we turn to essential oils, plant-based dyes, and other natural ingredients that work hard–without all the extra gunk added. Checkout our sustainability logos here that we use to label our products that are toxin-free, or look at the “Made Without” Sustainability Feature facet found on each product page! 

How do you live a toxin-free lifestyle?

 

Interview with ECOlunchbox

An interview with the founder of ECOlunchbox & Blue Water Bento, Sandra Ann Harris

We’re delighted to share with you an interview we did recently with Sandra Ann Harris, the founder and CEO of ECOlunchbox and Blue Water Bento! Her company, which is based in Lafayette, Calif., is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, so we wanted to learn more about this mission-based company that has sold hundreds of thousands of plastic-free lunchboxes worldwide! Their community is averting the use and disposal of 10’s of millions of pieces of plastic trash annually, according to ECOlunchbox’s recent environmental impact study. Read on to take a sneak peek into the mind of this eco-preneur!

EarthHero | ECOlunchbox

What inspired you to start ECOlunchbox?

We protect what we love, right? For me, the impetus to start ECOlunchbox stemmed from my love of my kids and our oceans. It really struck me when my kids were in pre-school and I was packing lunches regularly for the first time in a long time, how much plastic waste was being generated at lunchtime. It was really shocking to see the garbage cans at the pre-school where my kids were going in the early 2000s literally overflowing with pre-packaged waste from cheese sticks, yogurt squeezes, juice sacks and boxes, etc. At that time Klean Kanteen stainless water bottles were on the market, but there were not plastic-free food containers available for purchase. I looked high and low. I didn’t intend to start a company myself. I was a former journalist and humanitarian aid worker. Consumer products weren’t my thing, but when I realized there was  such a huge hole in the marketplace I decided to fill it by starting ECOlunchbox as a first-to-market-brand specializing in plastic-free food containers that are healthy for people and the planet.

What’s your favorite item in the ECOlunchbox collection?

Oh my gosh, that’s like asking me to pick between my kids. (Laughing!) This is a tough question. I love each and every of my ECOlunchboxes and especially our Seal Cup Trio, which is part of our Blue Water Bento line we launched on Kickstarter back in 2015. I love our Seal Cup Trio and rely on it every single day because it’s leakproof and the three containers can pack compactly with me where ever I go, nesting inside each other. The Seal Cup Large features an orange lid with a sea urchin design. The Seal Cup Medium has a blue lid embossed with a pattern reminiscent of ocean waves on a beach. And the little Seal Cup Small is teal with a nubby shell design. We also have a Mini, XL and Jumbo size that coordinate to make a set of six nesting containers. The Jumbo, which holds 6 cups food, is amazingly useful for veggie grain bowls, which I totally love. I feel so happy every time I use these containers and think about how much I love our oceans and how I’m reducing my dependence on plastic every time I use one of our Blue Water Bento containers.

You put a lot of work into having truly sustainable product and shipping materials. Tell us a little about the materials you’ve chosen for your non-toxic lunchboxes!

Thank you so much for acknowledging us. The heartbeat of what we’re up to is showing the world that it is possible to make choices to reduce dependence on plastics. When I started the business 10 years ago, people, even family members and friends, thought my concerns about plastics when it comes to threatening human and planetary health, were a bit far fetched. But as a former investigative journalist, my research showed that while there may be medical uses and other specific instances when plastic is still the best material available for the job, that’s not true when it comes to food containers.

I see absolutely no reason why people would choose to continue to use plastic food containers, which are known to cause issues with human health due to the prevalence of BPA in all plastics, including BPA-free plastics, when ECOlunchboxes exist. Seriously, in my opinion, we offer a no compromises product that is non-toxic, unbreakable, leak-proof, and dishwasher safe, including the silicone lids, which are safe to be washed even in commercial dishwasher as high heat.

For me the whole point of ECOlunchbox is to innovate and bring to market food containers that check all the boxes. Are we perfect, no, but we are mindful of our choices. As you mentioned, we have also continued to eliminate plastic from any of our packaging and stick to a minimalist approach when it comes to the paper bands and stickers we use on our products for shelf displays. From the beginning, we’ve said no to plastic. Our commitment to remain plastic-free gives us such joy and we love sharing about why we feel so strongly about keeping plastics out of our products. Thank you for this opportunity to tell our story!

What do you think the biggest barrier facing sustainability is today?

Evolving the collective mindset is the biggest challenge facing sustainability. People are usually resistant to change. They’ve gotten used to the throw-away, single-use culture and they can’t envision changing their ways. Last year my husband, who is from Vietnam, and I took our kids to visit villages in northern Vietnam where the Hmong live. We trekked with a local guide, staying with her family in a thatched hut with a mud floor, through communities that were littered with plastic bottles, candy wrappers and other non-biodegradable debris. The young woman guiding us was 32-years-old and she could remember as a child a time when plastic bottles didn’t exist in her community. When she worked in the rice fields she made herself a bottle using a hatchet out of a bamboo stalk. She even made a bamboo bottle with us so we could have this retro experience with her. She could remember a time without plastic in her own lifetime and she was committed to raising awareness in her village that it was time to turn back the clock on modernity and re-embrace the traditions of her parents, grandparents and ancestors. I found our visit very inspiring and it stirred up memories of visiting my grandparents in Palo Alto, California in the 1970s and noticing their refrigerator was filled with glass containers with glass lids for food storage and they were re-using, re-purposing and up-cycling everything possible. No matter whether our roots lie in the East or the West, we can benefit from the wisdom of the pre-plastic generations.

What is silicone, and why did you choose to use it in many of the ECOlunchbox products? How is silicone different from plastic?

This is a great question. I think a lot of people are on a steep learning curve when it comes to silicone, especially since it looks similar to plastic. It took me about three years to research silicone and decide to move forward with our no-leak Blue Water Bento containers. For starters, plastic is a petroleum-based material. Our high-quality, food-grade silicone is made from silica found in sand.

When it comes to offering a highly durable and reusable food container that doesn’t leak and doesn’t contain the estrogen-mimicking chemicals commonly found in plastics, we believe that silicone is currently the best answer. It would be awesome if it were biodegradable, but sadly, like plastic, silicone must be recycled at end of life. This isn’t ideal, but for now it’s the safest, most non-toxic material we have found for our lids.

When it comes to the environment, silicone is highly durable and more ocean friendly than plastic. If one of our silicone lids were to get lost in the ocean, for example, it’s not going to break down into little particles and get ingested by marine life. It resists degradation in sun and sea. We have a lot more info about this question on our website for those who are keenly interested in learning more about silicone.

EarthHero | ECOlunchbox

What’s one thing someone might not know about your products?

I take so much inspiration from Tomales Bay in the Pt. Reyes Peninsula. See if you can guess what the embossed pattern is on our 3-in-1 Splash Box and Mini Splash Pod, which we introduced in 2018. Every time I use this fabulous powerhouse of a lunchbox, I smile recollecting so many good times kayaking, hiking and camping on Tomales Bay, which is filled with eel grass and seaweed.

The eel grass, which is a critical food for marine life at the bottom of the food pyramid in Tomales Bay’s ecosystem, is featured in the embossed celadon green lid of the upstair level of the 3-in-1 Splash Box modular container. The seaweed is celebrated in the dark green motif on the Mini Splash Pod tucked inside the upstairs of this two-level container. Sailors, kayakers, surfers and other ocean lovers notice these details about our products and smile for the love of Big Blue! Jacques Cousteau once said, “We only protect what we love, we only love what we understand, and we only understand what we are taught.” What do you love?

**Want to get your own plastic-free products? Take 15% off ALL ECOlunchbox products with code: ECOlunchbox!**

 

 

Silicone: The Plastic Alternative

Imagine this: you’re making breakfast on Sunday morning, flipping pancakes and scrambling eggs, when you notice tiny pieces of something swirling with the chocolate chips. You take a closer look and–yuck!–it’s pieces of your old plastic spatula chipping away into brunch. So what do you do? You know you shouldn’t buy another plastic spatula, just to have to toss it in another 6 months! Enter silicone, a non-plastic alternative that can take the heat.

What is silicone made out of? An earth element called silica that is found in sand. Is it durable, heat and cold resistant, and easy to cook with? Yep. Is it a better alternative to plastic? Duh. Is there a lot more info about silicone in the blog below? Of course there is. Get the facts on silicone below!

What you’ll learn:

  • The difference between silicone & plastic
  • What silicone is made from, and how
  • Plus, tons of ways silicone can be used to help you live more sustainably!

 

Silicone – The New PlasticEarthHero - ezpz Silicone Mini Mat - 6

Since the invention of plastic in 1907, it’s no surprise that the versatile material has become so widely used. It’s flexible, durable, washable, and can be shaped into just about anything!

In recent years, however, consumers opened their eyes to the harmful effects of plastics. With studies around BPA, BPS, phthalates, and microplastics (just to name a few), plastic is showing its true colors as both bad for the planet, and bad for our health.

That’s why silicone has caught our eye–flaunting the convenient features of plastic without any of the toxic side effects. But what really is silicone, and how is it different from plastic?

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-2What is silicone?

Think about sand. Almost every kind of sand contains silica, which is a form of silicon–the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust! The form of silicon we’re talking about today, silicone (with an “e”), is a man-made polymer created from silicon, oxygen, and other elements (usually carbon and hydrogen). This polymer has been found to have a wide variety of properties. It can be a liquid, gel, hard, soft, or even rubber-like.

Unlike plastics, silicone has a high resistance to temperature, low reactivity with chemicals, doesn’t support microbiological growth, repels water, and is resistant to ultraviolet (UV light). All of this makes silicone easy to clean, perfect for cooking (microwaves too!), great for hospitals, and a strong overall alternative to plastics.

Silicone vs plastic

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-3How it’s made

Plastics are most often made from crude oil that’s extracted from the Earth and transformed into plastic by altering the oil’s carbon compounds. Crude oil, like coal, is a non-renewable resource, meaning that when it’s gone, there will be no oil left to create new raw plastics. On the other hand, silicon, as we mentioned earlier, is found readily in sand–which is more abundant (although not “unlimited”).

However, to turn this silica into silicone, the silicon must be extracted and processed. First the silica is heated with carbon in an industrial furnace to extract the silicon, which is then passed through hydrocarbons to create a new polymer with an inorganic silicon-oxygen backbone and carbon-based side groups. Simply put: this means that while the silicon in silicone comes from a plentiful resource like sand, the hydrocarbons in silicone come from non-renewable resources like oil and natural gas. This makes silicone a hybrid material, meaning that it’s better than plastic in terms of resource extraction, but still not as naturally renewable, and is not biodegradable.

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-4Toxins?

In 1979, the US Food and Drug Administration determined that silicon dioxide, the raw material that goes into silicone products, was safe for food-grade applications. Health Canada also states: “There are no known health hazards associated with use of silicone cookware. Silicone rubber does not react with food or beverages, or produce any hazardous fumes.”

This is based off the concept that silicone’s base material, silica, does not contain the same types of chemicals that are found in petroleum placed plastics. Although we welcome additional research into potentially overlooked chemicals in silicone, what we do know is that hormone disrupting chemicals found in plastics, like BPA and BPS, aren’t found in silicone, and we’ll take that as a win.

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-5Durability

Compared to plastic, a silicone product will last a good deal longer before it’s unusable. Consider a plastic spatula. It may be in good shape for a few years, but eventually that plastic will look scratched, the edge might be slightly melted, and it can break under too much pressure. A silicone spatula, however, can withstand large amounts of pressure, heat (and cold), and will resist cracking. Not only does this durability mean that you’ll cut down on replacing (and landfilling) your plastic products by switching to silicone, you can feel confident knowing that silicone won’t break down and leach chemicals into your food like its plastic counterpart.

Recycling

Silicone, like plastic, can be recycled multiple times. However, silicone usually has to be sent to a specialized recycling company to be properly recycled. Because of this, many users will simply throw away silicone at the end of its life (where it will sit without breaking down for centuries.) When properly recycled, or sent to a company’s take-back program, silicone can be downcycled into an oil that can be used as industrial lubricant, playground mulch, or another lesser product.

In the landfill (and in our waterways)

Because silicone is so durable, it doesn’t easily biodegrade or decompose. While normal plastics break down into dangerous microplastic pieces that can ingested by wildlife and ocean life, silicone doesn’t break down much at all (it’s that good!). While this may sound worse, plastic activists say it’s actually better for the environment, as large silicone pieces are less likely to get caught in fish bellies, which can cause a multitude of health problems in marine life as well as in humans that consume them down the line.

Silicone benefits

Heat it up (and freeze it too!)

Silicone can endure extreme fluctuations in temperature. It won’t melt under normal cooking scenarios, though once you reach over 400 degrees it may begin to harden over time. Silicone can also be used for freezer storage, and will resist cracking or other deterioration that can result from using plastic containers.

Another benefit of silicone: It’s dishwasher-safe! Because silicone can withstand extreme temperatures, you don’t have to worry about it melting in the wash. Some silicone products, like ezpz mats, can even be stacked for an easier set up, clean up, and meal!

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-6Microwave it

Because silicone is more resistant to heat, and doesn’t contain the harmful toxins that plastic is known to have, it’s considered safe to microwave!

Stasher Bags, for example, are very popular for freezing, cooking, and microwaving food. They’re freezer-safe, and can be placed in the microwave without contaminating your food with BPA or BPS. Into sous vide cooking? Stasher bags can be used for that as well!

Cooking for a whole family? Try ezpz’s unique silicone placemat+ plates! All you have to do is put the food in the portion controlled areas, toss it in the microwave and then serve warm, toasty food–without any plastic chemicals.

ezpz silicone placemats

Seal it

Plastic is a popular choice to use as lids for glass or stainless steel containers due to its ability to create a watertight seal. Well, (you guessed it) silicone can do the same thing! Companies like ECOlunchbox are turning to silicone for the lids to their stainless steel containers. Not only do they work as well as plastic ones, but they’ll last you much longer! Other companies, like ezpz are using the powers of silicone to make an all-in-one placement/plate combo that suctions to the dinner table so tiny hands can’t tip anything over.

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-7Overall, silicone seals in moisture to keep food fresher for longer! Check out Stasher Bags or Food Huggers to seal up your leftovers. They’ll retain more moisture than plastic wrap or plastic bags, and you’ll be able to reuse them for years!

Choosing your silicone products

Like any item, there are low-quality and high-quality versions of silicone products out there. We recommend you always look for silicone thats “medical grade” or at least “food grade”. The higher the quality of silicone, the less likely it is to contain chemicals or toxins that could leach out of the silicone.

Low quality silicone can contain chemical “fillers”, which disrupt silicone’s uniform heat resistance, and can even give usually odorless silicone a synthetic odor. You can test your silicone products for chemical fillers by pinching and/or twisting a part of the silicone. The general rule is that pure silicone does not change color at all, so if any white shows through, there may be fillers in your product.

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-8The final verdict?

We love silicone for its ability to withstand temperatures, seal up food, and last longer than plastic. From a health perspective, it doesn’t contain the same harmful toxins as plastic, (but there’s still research to be done!)

However, silicone is rarely recycled properly and can end up in landfills, where it’s less harmful than plastic yet still won’t biodegrade. Plus, it’s not infinitely recyclable, and will need to be downcycled (used to make a lesser product like playground mulch).

We recommend glass and stainless steel for food storage when possible, and silicone as an alternative for items that you would otherwise use plastic for. It’s great when used as lids and food storage bags and even children’s mealtime mats!

So, how do you use silicone? Are there benefits that we didn’t mention? Share in the comments!

What are Parabens?

The American Chemical Society estimates that parabens are in 85% of personal care products–meaning that you’ve probably applied parabens to your skin, hair, or teeth at some point today without even knowing it. But what are parabens, and should you avoid them? Read on to learn why you might be seeing “paraben-free” more and more often.

parabens-in-beauty-and-careWhat are parabens?

For decades, parabens have been a key ingredient in the beauty industry for their use as a low-cost preservative–preventing bacteria and fungi from growing in your products and giving them a longer shelf life. They’re also widely used in pharmaceuticals, food additives, and even food packaging…all in the name of keeping things “fresh”. And while they’re known for hiding in cosmetics and skincare, researchers have found that around 90% of grocery store items also contain measurable amounts of parabens.

Simply put, a paraben is any group of synthetic compounds that are used as a preservative in cosmetics or pharmaceuticals containing water. According to the FDA, the most widely used parabens include methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben (there’s also isobutylparaben and ethylparaben). These chemicals can be inhaled, ingested, and even absorbed through the skin.

Why are they a problem?

Here’s where it gets tricky–the FDA and American Cancer Society say that there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that parabens cause health risks or cancer in low doses (like what’s found in skin care or food preservatives). Now, we don’t know about you, but we’d rather exercise caution and play by the “dangerous until proven safe” rules, not the other way around. We’ll tell you why.

Parabens are able to artificially mimic estrogen, a female hormone, in your body. This disrupts natural hormone systems, and the excess estrogen is known to cause both normal and cancerous breast cells to grow and divide at a higher rate. This could lead to extra fat storage and male breast growth, alongside hormone-related neurological, hormonal, developmental, and metabolic disorders.

Ladies, listen up. Because parabens are highly prevalent in products targeted towards women (think tampons, makeup, or skin cream), we suggest being a little careful. In 2004, a British scientist named Philippa Darbre Ph.D. found parabens present in malignant breast tumors. This doesn’t prove that parabens=breast tumors, but the study led to experts worldwide recommending legal limits on parabens in cosmetic products. Despite this, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider parabens safe at low levels. While the FDA allows limited paraben concentration in products, some scientists still worry that parabens can be stored in the body or interact with other chemicals, which could mean that they can accumulate over time and create even greater, cumulative health risks.

Our final verdict? Seek out paraben-free products. It can’t hurt you, and the worst case scenario is that now you’re using awesome certified non-toxic and organic products instead of preservative-packed synthetic ones. Researchers still have a long way to go on paraben research, but while they’re figuring all that out, we’ll be off enjoying our chemical-free personal care and natural skincare.

paraben-free-beauty-and-careHow can I avoid them?

At the end of the day, avoiding parabens comes down to one thing: reading the ingredients. Whether it’s a snack bar at the grocery store or your shampoo, you deserve to know exactly what is in a product. If you see any hard-to-read word that ends in –paraben, then don’t buy it. If the ingredients can’t be found on the product packaging, try going online for a full ingredient list, or opt to not purchase products from brands that aren’t forthcoming. A good tip when reading ingredient labels is that the ingredients will always be in the order of their prevalence, meaning that the first ingredient is highly concentrated in the product, while the last few ingredients are present in smaller concentrations.

Once you’ve switched over to paraben-free products, just remember, there’s a reason that parabens became so popular. Truly natural products will expire! Yes, just like food, organic skin care products have an expiration date because they don’t have the added preservatives to keep them fresh. Some organic skincare will even come in dark or clouded pump-containers to reduce the contact with light and air; two things that can degrade a product faster. If you’re like us and absolutely love natural products, try putting them in the fridge: it’ll help them stay fresh longer, and give you a refreshing boost during your skincare routine.

parabens-deodorant

What are paraben-free alternatives?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) performed a study that states the average adult uses 9 personal care products daily. Your skin comes in contact with personal care products a lot throughout the day, even if it’s just the essentials like hand soap and toothpaste. The good news is that natural and organic cosmetic companies have found effective alternatives for pretty much every single paraben-product out there. Natural preservatives include oregano, thyme, rosemary, goldenseal root, grapefruit seed extract, and even lavender oil! These natural preservatives also have their own health and beauty benefits–which is just another added plus to switching to paraben-free products. Not to mention, they smell great too!

When it comes to parabens, you might assume that ingesting it or putting it on your face would be the worst thing you can do. However, the one of the biggest concerns with parabens is actually… deodorant! Dr. Phillipa Darbre, a senior lecturer in oncology, notes that a disproportionate amount of all breast cancer tumors occur in the upper outer portion of the breast–the section closed to, you guessed it, our armpits. Nothing is proven, but we do know parabens are estrogen-imposters, and we also know that estrogen exposure is linked to breast cancer development. So, you do the math. Want to play it safe? Check out our favorite natural deodorants, here!

parabens-free-natural-beauty-and-care

The Final Verdict

While there seems to be scientific uncertainty on if parabens are a complete no-go, we like to err on the side of caution when it comes to potentially dangerous chemicals. That’s why we’re hopping on the paraben-free (and phthalate-free) bus, and swapping our personal care products to natural alternatives! But, as we learned, parabens can be found in food packaging, food products, and other consumer goods too. Until more research comes out, we recommend reading the ingredients, shopping with companies who pledge against parabens, and choosing natural whenever possible.

Check out 4 beauty brands breaking free from plastic packaging next!

What are you wearing? Hemp vs. Organic Cotton vs. rPET

Let me guess, you read the title and jumped to questions like: “How can clothing be organic? I thought that was just for produce…” and “Hemp, that’s some kind of hippy thing, right?” and “Oh gosh, please tell me that rPET is an an acronym for something and you aren’t talking about actual pets…”

We get it–there’s a lot of fabrics and materials out there that go into ethical clothing, and it can get confusing to know what is best for your lifestyle. Let’s make it simple: cotton is a natural fiber, and can be certified organic while it’s being grown! Hemp is also a natural fiber which happens to be super versatile, so it can be used for anything from concrete, to durable textiles. And don’t worry, rPET stands for recycled polyethylene terephthalate, which is synthetic fibers made from recycled plastics! Want to learn more? Check out the blog below where we break down 3 of our favorite eco-friendly textiles.

What you’ll learn:

  • Understand the benefits and drawbacks of each of 3 sustainable fabrics; organic cotton, hemp, and rPET!

  • Learn about organic fibers vs synthetic fibers

Hemp vs Organic Cotton vs rPET

Looking to upgrade your wardrobe without taking it out on the environment? At EarthHero, we work hard to select natural or recycled fibers for the materials in our clothing, without compromising quality or style. As you browse our clothing selection, you’ll come across three types of sustainable fabric that we often turn to, each with their own benefits (and downsides). Read about each of our favorite materials below, and let us know which one you prefer in the comments below!

Hemp

Hemp

Step up to the plate, hemp! This high-yield crop grows quickly and doesn’t rely on harsh pesticides and fertilizers, making it one of our favorite renewable resources. This plant actually adds nutrients to the soil instead of depleting them! Hemp is strong, breathable, and moisture wicking, and it requires minimal dye during fabric production due to its high absorbency qualities. You may call it magic–we just call it mother nature.

Benefits of hemp

Durable

Hemp is up to three times stronger than cotton! This makes it a great sustainable fabric for outdoor wear. Plus, with every wash, your durable hemp tee will continue to get softer–without wearing down as quickly as other materials.

Biodegradable

Polyester and other synthetic materials contain microfibers, or microplastics, that can enter our waterways every time you wash the material. These microfibers are then consumed by fish, move up the food chain, and can cause a whole slew of environmental issues.

As a natural fiber, you don’t have to worry about microfibers when you wash hemp. Plus, once the durable material does run its course, you can toss it in the compost!

Plays nice with others

Hemp blends easily with other materials. This allows it to create soft, yet strong, fabrics! We’re a big fan when hemp and organic cotton come together, as hemp lends its durability while cotton still provides the soft feel you know and love.

Renewable

Not only does hemp grow in a variety of climates and soil types, it also grows incredibly densely. This means that less land is needed to produce more material–hemp can produce 250% more fiber than conventional cotton within the same amount of land! Plus, hemp grows super quickly, resulting in more yields per acre. It can take as little as 3 months to be ready to harvest.

Perfect for summer

Hemp breathes well, absorbs moisture, and has UV resistant qualities. What more could you ask for from your sustainable summer wardrobe?

Thrives without chemicals

Since hemp grows so densely, it crowds out weeds on its own. This means that it doesn’t need herbicides to grow strong! Hemp is also naturally resistant to pests, so it doesn’t require pesticides either. This means chemical-free fibers for you, and a healthy environment for the workers who make it!

Naturally hypoallergenic and antibacterial

Not enough time to do a load of laundry? No worries! Hemps natural antibacterial qualities mean less odor, so you can go an extra day without anyone noticing. Plus, hemp is great for people who have allergies or sensitivities–it’s naturally hypoallergenic. Think it ends there? This magical fiber is also mold resistant–say goodbye to mildew!

Downsides of hemp

Can get wrinkly

Without the same wrinkle-controlling chemicals that treat conventional fabrics, hemp can crease or bunch up. Sometimes, this may also cause the material to be scratchy, so look for hemp/cotton blends for a softer feel!

Not colorfast

Looking for vibrant clothes to match your vibrant personality? Unfortunately, hemp doesn’t hold colors as well as other fabrics, so the colors are often not as rich.

How is hemp different from marijuana? Why was hemp outlawed in 1937?  Join us as we break hemp down even more here!

Organic Cotton

Organic Cotton

Another sustainable fabric you’ll find on EarthHero is organic cotton! We look for cotton produced with organic over conventional methods, as organic production uses zero chemical pesticides and fertilizers, promoting a healthier use of land and decreasing harmful agricultural runoff.

Choosing organic cotton eliminates the use of insecticides and other harmful chemicals, promotes efficient resource use, and results in a safer products and a cleaner planet! Check out some of the benefits of organic cotton below!

Benefits of organic cotton

Chemical free farming

Synthetic chemicals aren’t just bad for land and water, they expose people to harmful effects too! When pesticides and fertilizers are used, they endanger the health of those working to grow the crops. Because organic farming does not allow the use of these harmful synthetic chemicals, they can avoid these destructive side effects.

Biodegradable

Like hemp, we’re big fans of biodegradable fabrics. Cotton can be composted, unlike the polyester or synthetic fabrics that remain for centuries after you’re done wearing them.

Less water than conventional cotton

Farming methods for organic cotton have been shown to use up to 20% less water than nonorganic production methods.

Super soft

It’s no secret that cotton can be incredibly soft, and becomes softer the more you wash it. This can be both a pro and a con, however, as cotton will break down relatively quickly. Like hemp, however, cotton is a great contender for sustainable fabric blends, so look for a hemp/cotton blend for a more durable option!

Downsides to organic cotton

Resource intensive

The biggest issue with cotton is its water-intensive requirements. Cotton farming is the largest consumer of water in the apparel industry, and though organic does use up to 20% less water than nonorganic, it still requires a significant amount. When we compare hemp to cotton, land becomes a big factor–cannabis plants can produce 200%–250% more fibre in the same amount of land compared to cotton.

Can shrink

It’s recommended to wash cotton in cold water, as warm or hot water may cause your clothing to shrink, unlike with polyester. To keep your natural fiber clothes in the best condition, hang them to dry as well!

Learn more about why organic clothing is better, here!

Recycled PET Fabric

Recycled PET

And bachelor #3… rePETe! You’ll see this type of material called anything from rPET, rePET, to rePETE. No matter the name, this term describes material made using recycled PET plastic. This material takes this recycled plastic, melts it down, and spins it into yarn to create recycled PET fabric, or recycled polyester. By providing a use for recycled plastics, companies that create recycled PET products encourage recycling programs worldwide, while adding new value to discarded items.

Currently, over half of virgin PET production goes towards making new polyester. By utilizing recycled PET, companies are both diverting waste while taking the place of raw materials. This helps to reduce the demand for the extraction of oil, as well as energy used to produce new synthetic fibers.

rPET EarthHeroBenefits of Recycled PET

Resource and energy efficient

This one’s simple: recycled PET utilizes resources that have already been used, and gives them a second life! Not only is it making use of materials already created, but a shirt from recycled PET uses much less energy than its virgin polyester counterpart.

Fewer wrinkles

Since its development in the 1940’s, polyester has been recognized for its wrinkle-resistant qualities. Recycled PET maintains the same wrinkle-free benefits of virgin polyester!

Flexible and fast-drying

Sustainable activewear companies typically turn to recycled PET for their clothing. The material is stretchier than natural fibers, allowing for the flexibility needed in most sports.

Downsides to Recycled PET

Microfibers

Synthetic materials, including recycled polyester, release tiny plastic particles into the ocean every time they get washed. These particles can cause issues in the marine life that ingest them, as well as in the humans that may consume those fish later on. Plus, no form of polyester is biodegradable–once plastic is created, it will exist for at least 500 years.

Chemicals used in production

Although creating a product from recycled plastic requires far less energy than creating first-time plastic, it still has its own challenges. Melting down recycled plastics releases volatile organic compounds that are harmful to the environment and wildlife surrounding the production site.

Recycled PET isn’t a perfect solution, and it doesn’t solve the fact that once plastic is made, it’s here to stay for a very long time. Finding a new life for these already-made products, however, is definitely a step in the right direction. You can read more about rPET here!

It doesn’t stop there!

While these three materials are big players in the eco-friendly fashion movement, there are plenty of other awesome sustainable fabric options out there. Are you a fan of linen, sustainably harvested wool, or Tencel? We like those too! You can find tons of information on every product, including the material makeup of an item, by checking out its sustainability features!

EarthHero Methodology: How we Choose our Products

We all know being an informed consumer means lots of reading, research, and a whole lotta’ time. From lack-of-transparency, to lack-of-information, some companies like to make it almost impossible to tell if their products are truly sustainable.

But hold up–don’t get out your deerstalker, tweed jacket, and magnifying glass just yet, Sherlock. Here at EarthHero, we do all of the sleuthing for you. For every brand and product on our site, we run them through a rigorous five step evaluation to make sure you have the highest-quality, eco-friendly options to choose from.

Read on to learn how EarthHero’s methodology makes sustainable shopping elementary, my dear Watson.

What you’ll learn:

  • What sustainability values we look at when sourcing our brands & products
  • How to detect greenwashing, and shop smarter in today’s marketplace
  • Gain a greater understanding of the complexities that make a product “sustainable”

The EarthHero Methodology

It’s the number one question that we receive here at EarthHero. As more and more people make the switch to shopping sustainably, there’s one question that needs to be answered: what makes a product, sustainable?

What types of materials can be touted as eco, and why?
Which ingredients are best for your body and the planet?
Does it help you live a more sustainable lifestyle?
What kind of packaging is better than others?

The list goes on and on.

With all of this confusion around sustainability, it’s harder than ever to avoid greenwashing. Brands are popping up left and right promising “green”, “natural”, and “eco-friendly”–but have little to no information to back them up. We think: if they were truly sustainable, wouldn’t they want to tell us about all the amazing things they’re doing for the planet?

That’s why we do business differently, thoroughly vetting each brand in the growing EarthHero family using our 5 stage selection process. We then highlight everything that we’ve learned with you, our community. In the spirit of growing the movement towards more sustainable production, we’re sharing that methodology with you, right here, right now. Because voting with your dollar should be as simple as, well, shopping.

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1. Materials & Ingredients

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Nau uses 10 intentional fabrics for their clothing, including organic cotton, recycled polyester, hemp, and wool.

One of the first things we look at before we source any product is: what is it made of? We begin our search by looking for products made from the most sustainable, or “best-in-class” materials or ingredients in each particular product category. For example, the materials that we seek for our clothing is going to be very different than home supplies or shampoo!

In many cases, this means avoiding certain materials and ingredients as well. Think: virgin synthetic polyester, nylon, or other man-made materials that use toxins, pesticides, and petroleum to produce.

For clothing and other fabrics, we look for natural materials made from fast growing plants like hemp, or repurposed materials like recycled polyester. For traditionally chemical heavy textile crops (we’re talking about you, cotton!) we opt for organic varieties. We’ve learned that some materials are great in one form but not in others (Interested? Read our blog about why bamboo isn’t always a go-to eco material).

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Alchemy Goods uses upcycled bike tubes for their super durable, modern bags and backpacks!

For many of our backpacks and sporting equipment, we turn to recycled or upcycled materials, because we firmly believe you aren’t truly recycling unless you’re also buying products made from recycled content (closing the loop!).

When it comes to beauty products, we seek out products that use local, vegan, and organic ingredients, and that avoid chemicals and microbeads.

We also look for materials and ingredients that are what they say they are. If a brand claims to make organic skin care, is it USDA Certified Organic, or does it meet the NSF/ANSI 305 Guidelines for products made with organic ingredients? Are the wooden frames on those sunglasses made from sustainably harvested, FSC Certified wood? Third party certifications are our best friend–and we’re always on the search for products that can be certified organic, cruelty free, BPA free, and more.

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Look for the USDA Organic logo to identify products made with at least 95% Organic Content, like this toothpaste from Radius!

It’s important to us that the materials and ingredients that our brands use preserve the planet for future generations. Raw, non-renewable resources are increasingly scarce, and the processing and refinement it takes to make them into most conventional products can be seriously toxic. But, lucky for us (and you!) there’s no shortage of brands who are making products using better, safer materials.

By making this the first step of our 5 stage methodology, we can promise you that the products you buy on EarthHero are made from better ‘stuff.’ Because we know that when you buy good stuff, more of the good stuff–and less of the bad–gets made. It’s simple economics!

And, just to make sure you’re getting the most out of your Earthhero experience, we provide resources so that you can see for yourself why the materials are absolutely awesome! Did you know bamboo is naturally water-resistant, anti-microbial, pest-resistant, stronger than steel, and the fastest growing plant on the planet? This makes it great for almost anything. We’re loving it as a replacement for single-use plastic utensils! Curious about why a certain material made the cut? Simply check the Sustainability Logos or Sustainability Features located on each product page, read the EarthHero Blog, or reach out to us!

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2. Company Responsibility

Looking at materials is just the first step. In addition to the foundation of each product, we want to look at the foundation of each company. What are their company values? How do they show responsibility in the production of their products, the treatment of their workers, and corners that they refuse to cut?

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Plan Toys (soon to be available on EarthHero!), uses the surplus wood from their manufacturing to create electricity to power their factory and the surrounding village!

Conventional manufacturing and production can be extremely bad for the planet, using immense amounts of energy, water, and resources–while creating a ton of waste, pollution, and emissions. We look for brands that are shaking it up. From the use of renewable energy like solar and wind power in their factories, to using water and energy efficient printing practices, to utilizing low-impact inks, we look for brands that take steps to make their manufacturing more sustainable.

Osom Brand, for example, has created an ‘awesome’ waterless, dye-free, and chemical-free manufacturing system. By using recycled fabric, they don’t turn to water to grow new materials, and they’re able to create fun patterns and colors without harming the ecosystems and waterways around them.

While we love supporting local and American-made brands, we also support companies that make their products responsibly abroad. We look for fair wages and labor conditions, direct and transparent deals, and Fair Trade Certifications, if applicable. Some of our brands are so local they drop their products off at our doorstep (looking at you, Khala Cloths!), while some are responsibly sourced and manufactured in China (what’s up, Bambu)!

We believe that location of production does not, on its own, determine the sustainability of the product (it makes sense to produce bamboo products in countries where bamboo grows as a native plant, right?), and try to weigh all of the benefits of each product and company together when making decisions about what to sell on EarthHero. At the end of the day, the decision is yours–we label all of our American made products with “Made in the USA!” so you can easily find products that match your values!

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Sound a little confusing? Well, one great way that we determine if companies meet the mark is by looking for certified B Corp companies. Based off of the idea that government and nonprofits alone cannot change the world, Certified B Corporations are businesses that focus on the triple bottom line, people, planet, and profit. Through the certification process, they are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. Each Certified B Corp is tested to meet stringent standards for social and environmental responsibility, transparency, and accountability.

3. Give-Back

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United By Blue cleans up one pound of trash for every purchase, keeping plastic away from our waterways!

In addition to searching for brands that put their values first, we find brands that build responsibility into their brand in another way–through give back programs. EarthHero celebrates brands that make giving resources, time, and service to various environmental or social organizations a part of their everyday duties. From removing plastic pollution from the ocean, to planting trees for every purchase, many of our brands are actively involved in protecting our planet for future generations.

For example, tentree plants ten trackable trees for every item sold, while Bureo founded Net Positiva, a recycling program that collects and recycles used commercial fishing nets in small coastal towns in Chile–did you know fishing nets make up more than 10% of plastic pollution?

how-earthhero-chooses-products-one-percent-for-the-planetAnother great way that we pick out purpose driven companies is by looking for certified 1% for the Planet members. As a part of 1% for the Planet, businesses commit to giving 1% of their annual sales to environmental nonprofits. This allows brands to form great connections with organizations that are making changes that they’re passionate about.

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But, the giving doesn’t stop with our brands! Every single purchase on EarthHero gives back even more. We’re proud to donate 1% of our sales towards supporting environmental non-profits through our own partnership with 1% for the Planet. In addition, we offset all our shipping emissions with Carbonfund.org, so your purchase can reach your door in a way you can feel great about! So, no matter what you shop on EarthHero, you support a brighter future with every purchase.

4. Packaging

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Bestowed Essentials uses completely zero-waste packaging for their products, including glass, recycled cardboard, and bio-based, compostable bags.

Now… we’re guessing you don’t want tons of foam packing peanuts (why would anyone?) in a box headed to your house. Packaging is so often overlooked by other companies, which is exactly why we made it one of our key focus points.

We start by looking for products that have zero waste, plastic-free packaging whenever possible. From the hangtags on your new shirt to the bottle containing your vegan, organic shampoo, we want to know–is it packaged in glass, aluminum, or another easily recyclable material? Does the packaging contain recycled content? Does it have compostable or biodegradable packaging, or no packaging at all? Does it use bio-based plastic, or recyclable plastic? Can the packaging be reused, refilled, repurposed, or otherwise reinvented?

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Plaine Products refillable bottle

Sometimes, we find awesome products, usually personal care products, that are packaged in hard-to-recycle plastics. Although that’s something we hope to change, today’s infrastructure makes it difficult for manufacturers to break free of plastic completely. That’s why we’re closing the loop by offering a take-back program through TerraCycle for any plastic personal care products sold on EarthHero. Just ship it to us, and we’ll work with TerraCycle to make sure it’s recycled properly!

 

 

5. Sustainable Lifestyle

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These produce bags from ChicoBag are made from recycled water bottles, AND they help reduce your grocery store plastic!

Our last key focus for product choices is simple–does it help you live a more sustainable lifestyle? Does it help you cut down your use of single use plastic? Does it encourage you to commute via bike?

A great example of this is Love Bottle: the glass bottle is made with recycled glass and ships in zero waste packaging, but it also helps you reduce the use of plastic water bottles, encouraging a sustainable lifestyle for years to come. From reusable food wraps to stainless steel straws, we’re finding ways to break the single-use cycle. In this way, EarthHero is truly a lifestyle, as our products encourage a better way of living. So, go ahead, shop–and live–better. We’re here for you!

The Breakdown

Real talk–now that we’ve shared our methodology with you, it’s important to go over one final thing: there is no perfect product. We search to find brands that check as many of our boxes as possible, and hope to provide our customers with “best in class” products that are made in ways that are significantly better than the average. We can assure you that for every product on our site, we’ve put in the time and effort to make sure it’s a sustainable option, pioneering the movement towards even better methods and materials.

However, we know that some of you may have a specific value set that makes some of our products more appealing than others. That’s why we offer the option to sort by values, like recycled content, cruelty free, organic, made in the USA, and more.

We also provide sustainability logos to help you identify and understand the eco-features of each item. Found on every product page, these logos make it super easy to see why each product made the cut. From BPI Certified Compostable, to Vegan, to 100% Organic Content, you need only look at the logos to shop with your values.

Made in the USA B Corp USDA Certified Organic Vegan

Have questions about our methodology? We’d love to answer your questions–just comment below!

Recycled Products that Change the Way You Look at Trash

Does recycling really make a difference? The (annoyingly vague) answer: Yes…and no. Recycling in and of itself doesn’t save the planet from tons and tons of waste–the real difference comes from creating new products from those recycled materials. From children’s toys made of milk jugs, to wallets made of sail cloth, there are amazing companies that don’t just reduce their impact, they actively prevent trash from entering our landfills and oceans, closing the loop to a circular economy. These super cool upcycled and recycled treasures might just change the way you look at trash!

Recycled Products Minnow Skateboard

Minnow Cruiser Skateboard 

We’ve all heard the horror stories about the gyres of plastic trash (just look at what happens to plastic straws) in the oceans, or sea turtles getting tied up in plastic 6-pack rings. But how can all this ocean trash be transformed? Bureo is tackling part of the problem with their recycling program Net Positiva, working with locals in Chile to collect discarded fishing nets and turn them into something totally new. The result? Durable, eco-friendly skateboard decks, each made from 50 square feet of recycled fishing nets. It’ll arrive at your door in recycled and recyclable packaging, and when it reaches the end of its life, you can send it back to Bureo to be recycled again!

 

RADIUS Source Toothbrush | Upcycled & Recycled Products | EarthHero.com

Upcycled Money Toothbrush

Every year, the U.S. Federal Reserve removes and destroys about 5,000 tons of money, costing millions of dollars (and tons of trees!). RADIUS saw this huge waste of resources, and found a way to use this recycled money in the handles of their classic Source toothbrush. Made in Pennsylvania on low-energy machines in a women-run solar powered factory, this crafty toothbrush is certified cruelty-free by PETA and Leaping Bunny, vegan, and BPA-free. Plus, the bristles are made from vegetable-based nylon, and can be replaced, so you can keep your money handle for years and years.

 

House of Marley Chant Bluetooth Speaker | Upcycled & Recycled Products | EarthHero.com

Chant Mini Bamboo Bluetooth Speaker

This tiny speaker has a huge positive environmental impact. House of Marley’s upcycled tech and music gear not only uses recycled and upcycled materials like hemp, aluminum, plastic bottles, and cotton–they also plant a tree for every item purchased, with over 25,000 trees planted to-date! Standing at 3.3 inches tall, this little powerhouse has 6 hours of playtime, a clip to hang from your bag, and a splash resistant exterior. Superior sound, sustainably crafted.

 

Flowfold Sailcloth Wallet | Upcycled & Recycled Products | EarthHero.com

Minimalist Sailcloth Slim Wallet

Founded and crafted in Maine, Flowfold is addressing the problem of sailcloth waste with their upcycled and vegan wallets made from reclaimed racing sailcloth, originally constructed from a blend of mylar, polyester, and aramid fabrics. These sailcloths are particularly damaging to the environment due to their complex material makeup, as well as their tendency to unfurl in landfills, which can cover and “lock in” other waste. Flowfold takes this durable, lightweight material and instead creates hardy, low-impact wallets (shipped in recycled mailers!) that will last you for years.

 

Green Guru Bag | Upcycled & Recycled Products | EarthHero.com

Brooklyn Backpack

Alchemy Goods has created value out of the seemingly invaluable with their upcycled bike inner tube bags. Handmade locally in Seattle, they’ve set up programs that collect reclaimed bicycle inner tubes from bike shops across the country to use in their unique, durable bags and wallets. So far, they’ve upcycled over 500,000 tubes! With a padded laptop sleeve, padded straps, and colorful zippers–you’ll love the classic functionality paired with a bold upcycled style.

 

 

Haiku Jaunt Crossbody | Upcycled & Recycled Products | EarthHero.com

Jaunt Crossbody

Discover a bag so cute, you’d never know it’s made from 12 plastic water bottles! Haiku constructs all their vegan pieces from CyclePET, a durable recycled polyester fabric that’s water resistant, inside and out! Lift up the stylish front flap of this crossbody to reveal a RFID-blocking ID holder that protects all your vital info from theft. These bags were created by women, for women (and the planet!)

 

 

Recover Tee | Upcycled & Recycled Products | EarthHero.com

Classic Henley

The awesome power of recycling trash into treasure isn’t just for accessories–there’s some seriously amazing clothing out there that helps to combats the thousands of tons of textiles that end up in our landfills every day! This eco-tee from Bighorn, shipped in a recycled mailer, uses 65% recycled polyester and 35% recycled cotton, making it 100% a go-to closet essential. 

 

 

Green Toys Kid's Toys | Upcycled & Recycled Products | EarthHero.com

Recycling Truck Toy

What better way to teach your little one about recycling than with a recycling truck, made from recycled milk jugs? Green Toys makes all their BPA-free, phthalate-free, PVC-free toys from 100% recycled content, with no added metal axles. Manufactured locally in the USA, every pound of recycled milk jugs that goes into their fun kids toys saves enough energy to power 3,000 AAA batteries, or a laptop computer for a month!

Reclaimed Sailcloth Dog Leash | Upcycled & Recycled Products | EarthHero.comReclaimed Climbing Rope Dog Leash

The problem: rock climbing gear, especially climbing rope, is not the place to let frays and breakage slide. Lives literally depend on it! That’s why, when climbing company Sterling Rope gives their ropes a quality check, some just don’t make the cut.

The solution: Turn these still barely imperfect climbing ropes into colorful dog leashes that are strong enough to wrangle any pup. Made in America, FlowFold’s 6ft leashes keep climbing ropes out of the landfill, and your dog within reach!

 

Osom Socks | Upcycled & Recycled Products | EarthHero.comUpcycled Hiking Socks

Thanks to fast fashion, the average American will throw away 81 pounds of clothing textiles each year–which adds up to 26 billion pounds of clothing annually! Osom Brand keeps these textiles out of the trash by turning them into innovative socks made from 95% upcycled textiles. Plus, their upcycling process requires no dyes or water, and they ship their awesome socks in envelopes made from 100% recycled polyester!

rPETe Bottle Sling ChicoBag | Upcycled & Recycled Products | EarthHero.comrPETe Bottle Sling

Plastic water bottles are out–and reusables are in! But the key to making the switch is all about preparedness, and that means bringing your bottle with you wherever you wander. This neat bottle sling features an exterior made from recycled PET, a strap liner from recycled polypropylene, and a 78% recycled aluminum carabiner. You can even send this bottle sling back to ChicoBag at the end of its life to be recycled into a totally new item! That’s recycling, on recycling, on recycling.

 

Product Breakdown: Plaine Products

The Zero Waste Way to Wash

The plastic-free packaging revolution is here, and it’s starting with your bathroom. With just 4 simple steps, these vegan, cruelty free, and refillable products from Plaine Products will change the way you think, and feel, about your bathroom. Let’s break it down.

Plaine Products | Zero Waste Vegan Personal Care | EarthHero

Step 1: Order your non-toxic, natural, and totally awesome shampoo, conditioner, hand wash, body wash, or moisturizer–either in travel size, or 16oz. It will arrive in an aluminum bottle, and you can replace the aluminum lid with the provided pump. Recycle the shipping box and aluminum lid.

Step 2: When you’re getting low (usually 4-6 months in) order a refill bottle from us at EarthHero!

Step 3: When your original bottle is empty, give it a good rinse to get the extra product out, and then switch your original pump to the refill bottle.

Step 4: Put the new refill’s lid on your empty bottle and place it in the refill box. Stick the enclosed return label over the existing shipping label (making sure it’s totally covered), and send it to your postal carrier like any other letter. The best part? It’s totally free to ship it back!

Plaine Products doesn’t just offer an alternative to single-use plastic bathroom bottles, they also offer plastic-free shipping for a 100% zero waste experience. Their boxes are from EcoEnclose (a proud partner of EarthHero as well) and are made from a mix of 95% post-consumer waste and 5% post-industrial waste. While absolutely no new materials were used to manufacture their cartons, they did work with EcoEnclose to ensure their boxes can stand up to the aluminum bottles being refilled (aka no broken boxes!)

To label all their boxes they use plastic-free, water activated tape from paper, not synthetics. And inside these boxes? Just product–no plastic, packing peanuts, or styrofoam. From the moment it arrives at your house, to the day you send it back, Plaine Products goes the extra mile to ensure a zero waste, minimal plastic experience.

Plaine Products | Zero Waste Vegan Personal Care | EarthHero

Refill, Reuse, Rejoice!

Look at your old shampoo and conditioner. Now look at the first ingredient. Can you pronounce it–out loud? Or is it just water? Unlike the other guys, Plaine Product’s first ingredient in their shampoo and conditioner (well, all of their products) is natural aloe vera. Their formulas are vegan, color safe, and totally natural–bringing your hair back to life and adding sheen and softness. What they don’t have? The harmful chemicals usually found in hair care–like silicone, parabens, sulfates or isopropyl alcohol. Every ingredient is run through the Environmental Working Group’s database to ensure it’s safe for you and the planet. 

Silicone is a mineral that can make your hair seem smooth and soft, but can build up over time and seriously dull out your locks. Silicone is basically like rubber or plastic, and can be used as a sealant against water or air (so just imagine what it would do to your hair!). The good news? Silicone isn’t directly linked to any health issues. The bad news? You probably already have it in your shampoo. Just look for ingredients with “-cone” at the end, like cyclomethicone or dimethiconol.

Plaine Product’s also ditched parabens in their plastic free products, and for a pretty good reason. Basically a chemical preservative, parabens are used for antibacterial and antifungal reasons–which seriously aren’t needed unless you want your shampoo and conditioner to last you for decades. Best case scenario, they just irritate your skin or dry out your hair, but we recommend you stay clear of parabens all together, as studies have started looking at health impacts that may be linked to the chemical.

But there is a better way to wash. Plaine only uses natural, chemical-free, biodegradable ingredients in their hair care, perfect for any type of hair–from curly to fine and even color treated hair! The main ingredient, aloe, contains over 75 nutrients, including minerals and essential amino acids that nourish and revitalize the hair and scalp. The hardest part will be choosing between the volumizing Rosemary, Vanilla & Mint scent, or the Citrus and Lavender!

Plaine Products | Vegan Zero Waste Hair Care | EarthHero

Simply Soap

Plaine Product’s natural hand soap isn’t antibacterial… but that’s a good thing. According to the pros over at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there isn’t enough science to prove that antibacterial soaps can actually prevent illness any better than a good ole’ rinse with plain soap and water. Believe it or not, to this day, the benefits of antibacterial hand soap have never been proven. What the FDA does say though… is that using antibacterial soap, which contains the toxic chemicals triclosan and triclocarban, can potentially have negative health impacts if used widely, and over a long time.

Studies on animals have shown that triclosan can alter the way some hormones work in the body, raising questions about the impact on humans. While much more research is needed to prove that antibacterial soaps are safe, we prefer sticking to what we know is good for our skin–organic, vegan ingredients from nature, not a mad scientist lab.

Made without harsh chemical detergents, triclosans, or triclocarbans, Plaine Product’s hand wash (like all their awesome products) is vegan, hypoallergenic, baby safe, cruelty-free, with no animal testing, or toxic additives like PEGs, PGs, parabens, sulfates, dyes, synthetic fragrances, or petrochemicals (that’s a mouthful!). With natural aloe as the main ingredient, and essential oils from citrus and lavender, this hand soap gently washes away germs and bacteria on even the most sensitive skin.

Plaine Products | Zero Waste Vegan Hair Care | EarthHero

Your New Sustainable Shower

If we didn’t already blow your mind with everything Plaine Products has thought of when crafting their personal care–there’s more. Their products are Leaping Bunny Certified to be cruelty free, and their entire business is a member of 1% for the Planet as well as B Corp, joining 150+ businesses who hold themselves to rigorous third-party environmental and social standards. Plaine Products simply does business better, and we’re thrilled to welcome them to our conscious community of companies making an impact.