First aired on Homestretch (23/4/12)
When it comes to products labelled "natural" "eco-friendly" or "organic," Adria Vasil says they should really say "buyer beware."
In an economy where green products aren't regulated — that is, anyone can use one organic ingredient and slap an "earth-friendly" sticker on their product — it's up to consumers to educate themselves about what products to avoid and what products live up to the labelling. "Anyone can use the word natural or organic today. It's completely unregulated and a total wild west," Vasil said to Homestretch host Doug Dirks in a recent interview. "Don't believe the hype. Flip the product over, look for ingredient lists."
Adria Vasil is known as the "Ecoholic." The NOW magazine columnist's first two books (Ecoholic and Ecoholic Home) outlined how to go green in your everyday life and how to green up your home. With her latest effort, Ecoholic Body: Your Ultimate Earth-Friendly Guide to Living Healthy and Looking Good, Vasil looks at the bath and beauty industry and how consumers can make the decisions that are best for their personal health and for the environment.
In Ecoholic Body, Vasil outlines the "Mean 15," 15 chemicals that people should "shelve for good" and need to keep an eye out for when checking ingredient lists. The "Mean 15" includes BHA and BHT, which can disrupt the endocrine system; DEA/MEA/TEA, which generate carcinogenic byproducts; and triclosan, a chemical that is not only toxic but also leads to "super germs," because bacteria can develop a resistance to it, an evolution that the Canadian Medical Association is keen to avoid.
Vasil has plenty of simple tips for consumers who want to reduce their environmental impact. Avoiding artificially scented products means you'll avoid phthalates, a chemical banned in all consumer products in Denmark, but only in baby toys in Canada. When out shopping, look for third-party-certified stickers from reputable organizations like Eco-Cert, USDA and the Natural Products Association. "At least you know that somebody else is monitoring these claims to make sure they are legit."
However, Vasil's favourite way to avoid chemicals when it comes to bath and beauty is DIY. Ecoholic Body includes "a lengthy list of do-it-yourself recipes," and Vasil promises even the most reluctant DIY-er can follow along because the recipes are so simple. High-quality cooking oil can replace body lotion and shaving cream. Eggs and honey can replace expensive hair masks. "My favourite stuff is stuff that is one ingredient or two ingredients from my kitchen that don't really require anything other than a quick whisk with my fork, then walk back to the bathroom," Vasil said. This method has another advantage for consumers too. "It costs you pennies."
Vasil knows that big lifestyle changes take time, but also recognizes that so much depends on our ability to go green. But she says the important thing is to not get overwhelmed. Instead, take it one step and one product at a time and focus on what we can change "by picking products that use natural organic and homemade products as much as possible." Decisions we make today about the products we use can affect our health and the health of generations to come.
"We live in a global village when it comes to pollution," Vasil pointed out. "What goes around comes around."
Download Adria Vasil's Mean 15 brochure for consumers here.