Today @dbjelica712 tweeted me to ask me if there are safe brands for frugal shoppers. The answer is more challenging than it should be, and takes longer than a tweet. But the good news is, you can save money and buy safe products. It just takes some creative accounting and a willingness to look at the big picture.
I like to think of money as energy, and I want to put my energy into creating the kind of world I want to live in. So I try to buy all my personal care products from companies I trust – these tend to be small, independently owned companies, local if possible, that share my vision of a healthy world (the type of companies you won’t find in the pages of Vogue).
But I have to confess, sometimes I‘m a sucker for a cheap price tag. This was the case when I recently bought a 32-ounce bottle of Whole Foods’ 365 brand shampoo. I like the bigger bottle (three cheers for less plastic) and I knew the product was high quality because it was recently reformulated to meet the store’s Premium Body Care Standards (yay Whole Foods!) — never mind that whole thing about union busting and the CEO who tried to torpedo health care.
Sometimes it gets complicated. But in general, I’m for spending my money in ways that advance my values and offsetting the cost by taking money away from the things that don’t. In this way, I actually spend less money than I used to on products that are better for my health and the planet. Here’s how:
Less is more — Companies love to make us think we need a different lotion for every part of our bodies, a different cleaning product for every room in the house. Better to buy one high-quality, non-toxic product from a company you love. An advantage to getting to know your local manufacturers is that sometimes you can get a great discount! (Thanks Grateful Body!)
Bye Bye Hair Dye (and other expensive toxic stuff) — Hair dye, relaxers, perms: anything that changes the shape and color of hair tends to be quite toxic chemistry, not to mention messy and expensive. Giving up the hair dye saves hundreds of dollars a year, and this is where I saved the most money. Sometimes I miss the highlights but my theory is that most women actually look better with their natural hair color. (Check out my Bye Bye Hair Dye page on Facebook.)
Make your own — Coconut oil and sesame oil make great lotions, and baking soda and vinegar are excellent cleaning agents. Here are some cheap green cleaning recipes and ideas for making your own cosmetics. I also love these ideas from the Zero Waste Family lady.
Just say No – to gratuitous products that add unnecessary expense and chemical exposures to our lives: perfumes, body sprays, vaginal sprays, air fresheners, dryer sheets, bubble bath… It feels great to discover how much we actually don’t need! And after taking a break from all these synthetic fragrances, you start to notice how gross they actually smell.
Get political – We can’t just shop our way out of these problems, we also need to change the laws to require companies to stop using hazardous chemicals. Until then, green products will continue to be a niche market in expensive stores that only some people can afford. That’s why it’s crucial to support laws like the Safe Cosmetics Act that will shift whole industries to safer products.
Extra bonus: turn off the TV to save lots of cash! How much do people spend on cable these days? Most shows I like run for free on the internet without all the brainwashing ads that try to make me think it’s a good idea for the scent of laundry detergent to last for seven days! (persistent chemicals anyone?)