Friday, July 24, 2009

Great and Not so Great "Green" Products

I get sent a lot of sample "green" products to try, so I thought I would share a couple of my favs and not so favs.

Green Products I Love: (Besides our Chartreuse Products of course)

Mythic Paint
I had to repaint my kid’s bedrooms and was looking for a low VOC option. I found something even better, an ultra low VOC, nontoxic option. As we all know, paints stink. But that smell is not just unpleasant, it’s dangerous. The off gassing which comes from VOCs in paints contributes to global warming, ozone depletion as well as serious health effects. Many major brands have come out with low VOC options but they are still toxic (the warning labels would scare any parent) and you still have to discard them in designated hazardous waste locations. Mythic Paint has no warning label because it doesn’t contain anything that you need to be afraid of. It is a water-based latex paint with no toxic solvents (and no toxic smell.) You can throw it away with your regular trash. It comes in over one thousand colors. I found a perfect match for my kid’s room. And it goes on just like premium paint. My contractor was truly impressed. Best of all two years later, it still looks great. Unfortunately, it is not as easy to find as major brands and it costs more. I am not sure I would do my whole exterior in it for example, but for my kid’s rooms it was perfect.

Magic Nail Buffers
I’ll admit that I am a girl who likes to be groomed. My house might be falling apart and my calendar might be exploding but if I have a clean set of polished nails somehow it feels as if I am still holding it together. But the knowledge that major nail polish manufacturers have only recently removed lead from their polish, and only after heaps of public exposure and pressure, leaves me wondering what else might be lurking in those pots of color. That’s why I was thrilled to find these new buffers. These buffers go by many names and are available at most salons, spas, and beauty supply stores. The one I have is from Onsen. The rectangular buffer has two white, one blue, and one gray side. You buff your nails in the order on the instructions and presto, nails which look as if they have a polished clear coat without the use of any chemicals. The buffed look lasts longer than polish as well. After years of paying someone else to do my nails (so that they didn’t look like a kindergartener painted them) I can now expertly do this particular grooming service at home saving me time and money. The only down-side is that I no longer get to read all the back issues of People I used to devour at the salon.

Organic Cotton Hanky Panky Thongs
The best thongs around (if you haven’t tried them you should) now come in organic cotton. I found them at Olive Boutique (who also happens to carry our products.) Made from 100% cotton organically grown in the U.S., the thong is available in both Original and Low Rise styles. It features a natural cotton color as no bleach or dyes were used. It is amazingly soft to the touch and feels smooth against your skin. And best of all it is the same price as their regular thongs. Of course you're not going to save the world from global warming with lingerie. But it just shows you don't have to be frumpy to be organic.

Not so Great “Green Products”

Magic Laundry Balls (Also called Greenwash balls)
These balls go by many names and have been around for a while but are becoming increasingly available in reputable green retailers. The sales pitch is extremely compelling to anyone looking for an environmentally-friendly laundry alternative. No detergent needed. The package explains that these simple, little balls will wash you laundry over 1,000 times without the use of detergent. The balls retail at around $40 bucks so if it worked, it would be a remarkably earth-friendly and economic alternative to laundry detergent. We were sent a sample to consider carrying as a product and I am sorry to report that the product did not work very well. It did remove all traces of odor but it washed the clothes about as effectively as washing without detergent. The soaking and agitation do eliminate some dirt but it did nothing for the hard to remove stains from my three active boys. So I would recommend giving these $40 miracles a miss. In my opinion Chartreuse Laundry Soap Nuts are much better.

Dryer Balls
Again a great concept, toss these plastic balls in your dryer and reduce drying time while leaving your clothes soft. I went to the website to read their independent testing report to check out the claim about reduced drying time. I could not make heads or tails of their report but it was not at all convincing. Their report also admitted that the softening effect, while present, was not substantial enough to be noticed by most participants. The balls are also made of PVC, not exactly the nontoxic product that the manufacturer claims. We don't claim that the Chartreuse Reusable Dryer Sheets will reduce drying time but it is a chemcial free way to remove static. And you don't need a softener if you are using the Chartreuse Laundry Soap Nuts.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My Husband Won't Use My Shopping Bags

My husband refuses to use my reusable shopping bags. Okay, I get that he won’t carry the Butterfly Bag which could be considered a bit feminine. But my compact bags are small and sleek and come with a lovely belt buckle clip. They could sit on his hip, right there next to his ultra-masculine BlackBerry.

“I’d look like a dork,” he tells me.

This from a man who walks around town with holes in his shirt because he is too lazy to buy new ones. Back when the children were born, I quit the job as his personal shopper. It was hard enough to keep my growing boys in proper clothing. I told him he was on his own for socks, underwear and t-shits. This was about ten years ago and I swear he has not added a stitch to his wardrobe. Last week, when we went to dinner, I noticed he was wearing a fairly dapper shirt. I almost complimented him on his purchase until I recognized the shirt as one I had bought him in college --twenty years ago.

So why is he self-conscious about a perfectly innocuous shopping bag? My husband is not a stubborn man. In fact, he is what you might call “a trooper.” When I first started Chartreuse, he spent his evenings and weekends helping me pump lemongrass lotion and meticulously place Chartreuse labels on each bottle. To this day, he is my late night document proofer and occasional IT support. Lately he has been taking on more and more of the domestic tasks around the house, including shopping and preparing our meals. He is a much better and more enthusiastic cook than me, so the whole family is grateful for the change. But I can’t help noticing the large number of plastic bags piling up in what was once an empty bag dispenser.

I remind him that I sell shopping bags for a living to many of the same neighbors who will see him bagging with plastic at the grocery store. These supportive neighbors are proudly carrying my bags. He tells me it is perfectly fine for them, but he doesn’t want to look like a dork.

My eight year old son gave me the same excuse the other day. I dashed to school between two conference calls to see his end of the year choral show. My boys are not performers and their enthusiasm for this annual ritual has gotten much worse since the school hired a choral instructor who insists the children add corny movements to the songs. I arrived late but easily spotted my son in the front row. He was the only child not wearing spring colors as instructed. (That would be my fault.) He was also the only kid not dancing. He stood in the front row, his hands in his pocket, mouthing the words with a painful grimace. When I asked him why he didn’t do any of the dances he said, “I didn’t want to look a dork.” True the moves seemed specifically designed to make the kids look as ridiculous as possible, but I explained to him that by being the only kid in the whole class not dancing, he looked even more like a dork.

Why do we worry so much about what people think? What makes my husband behave like an eight year old child, when he enters the grocery store? I could lecture him on the poor example he is setting for his children. I could inform him of the alarming facts around plastic bag usage. But we have been married for sixteen years, so my words will drift out his ears along with my reminder to pick up milk

On the other hand, his comfort with disheveled clothing is perhaps a bit more green than my insistence on unblemished clothing. And the bags filled with fresh produce may actually contain less plastic than the multitude of take out containers (always packaged in a Chartreuse bag) I used to bring home when I was solely responsible for dinner. So perhaps I will stop nagging him and wait for the day when so many people are bringing their own bags, he feels like a dork for not having one.