Why Chemical Safety Matters

I am just sick today about the number of cancer diagnosis just within my small group of friends and family lately. I am sick of having to police everything that comes into our house for carcinogens. You know that there is absolutely no requirement for chemical safety testing of what goes into personal care products or cleaning products in the US, right? None. Truly, any chemical can be included for you to rub on your skin or inhale via cleaning. Companies test only enough to make sure that most people don’t see an immediate reaction. They are not required to prove the safety. No long term chemical safety testing. No testing of the cumulative effects over the long term (when small dosages “seem fine”).

I am not dumb enough to believe that legislation will happen to fix this. TCSA reform has been diluted to the point that it will be nearly useless in it’s final form. The chemical companies’ lobby groups have boundless financial resources because they are making so much profit by selling cheap products with dangerous ingredients to all of us. We and our children are the ones who will suffer the effects. I am done with it.

"The only way to address the chemical safety issue is to vote with our dollars, as we have done with food."

 

The only way to address the chemical safety issue is to vote with our dollars like we have done with food. We are seeing huge shifts as Kraft, General Mills, Subway, and even McDonalds start to move toward removing artificial ingredients because the consumers starting buying differently, NOT because of legislation.

Guys, we have to start doing this with our personal care products and our cleaning products. Is it fair that we have to monitor the things we buy on our own? No, it isn’t. We deserve for personal care and cleaning product companies to make ALL products from safer ingredients, not cheaper ingredients. We *should* be able to go to Target and buy whatever is on the shelf and not worry. But the only way we can get the companies to change is to change our buying behavior, just like food. It is a long road, but every purchase counts!

It’s not about privilege, it’s about being responsible with the privilege we have, at whatever level we have it. Those of us who can afford to make purchasing changes need to do it on behalf of those who cannot afford it yet, because we want the trickle down effect to be that the inexpensive products eventually become safer too, so that EVERYONE is safer. Think big picture. Think long term. Because the corporations and legislators are not. (and btw, as far as cleaning products, white vinegar and Bon Ami are about the cheapest cleaners there are and also the safest, so those changes can be made very cheaply)

And again, it’s not about being sanctimonious. I hope you all know me well enough to know that I don’t judge what anyone else buys or the different levels of “crunchiness”. Some days I make good choices, myself, and other days I make not-so-great ones. But it’s a journey. It’s about slowly shifting the paradigm. Again, big picture. Not giving up. Keep trying to find replacements that support the change.

Join me?

More info on chemical safety

Sustainable, responsible & functional yoga clothing

NOTE: I worked with Fit Approach on their #pranaSpringStyle campaign on Instagram and received a free prAna top (as shown below) in compensation. I received the top after the challenge was over, and I wrote my original post about the prAna mat more than a year before this. All opinions regarding prAna are my own. Jump directly to my discount code.

As you begin to expand your yoga journey outside the physical poses (asana) of yoga and start to take your mindfulness off of the mat and into your daily life, you might find yourself more aware of what kinds of companies and business practices you are supporting with your purchases. I know that has been a part of my own journey. Not only do I try to invest my clothing dollars in products that are made sustainably, are toxin-free, and whose companies practice environmental responsibility, but the bonus has been that the quality is often higher than cheaper pieces.

I’m currently teaching four yoga classes per week, one Lagree fitness class, and I try to take at least one class from another instructor, so I spend a lot of time in my yoga clothing. I not only practice in it, but I often end up transitioning directly from a class to preschool or elementary school pickup, or to the grocery store. (If you do this a lot too, I do have a DIY tutorial for a coverup skirt you might check out!) But the point is: I am now choosing quality over quantity. I can save up longer and slowly replace my cheaper pieces with longer lasting versions.

One company that has never let me down is prAna. Not only do I recommend their non-toxic rubber yoga mat, but I have loved every single piece of clothing of theirs that I have owned. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a daily yoga challenge celebrating their Spring Style line of clothing and loved the sense of community it built. You can look back on the posts by searching Instagram for the #prAnaSpringStyle hashtag. Here are some of my favorite shots from the challenge:

Well, that final picture was actually taken after the challenge, when I had received my new grey Quinn Jacquard Top from prAna. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about it from the picture on the site but it fits wonderfully. It moves with me, doesn’t rub in irritating places, and has full frontal coverage without having to add a sports bra. LOVE. And, it is certified bluesign®, which indicates the highest standard in the textile industry for environmental health and safety and chemical management – it’s a third party certification that prAna pays for, to ensure it’s not just greenwashing.

If you happen to be looking for some high quality, high performance, sustainably & ethically produced activewear you can get 15% off any prAna purchase right now using my code: PSSS16LC

And be sure to keep following myself and prAna on Instagram for challenges, inspiration, and the day-to-day active journey!

My Favorite Yoga Jewelry

NOTE: I mention products in this post but I bought all this jewelry myself and the companies have no idea who I am. I’m not even using affiliate links, so take that, FCC.

It’s more than halfway through the year and I haven’t done an update on my 2015 to do list. A few of the items are going to fall off completely, due to last weeks post. Also due to last weeks post, I’m going to go back to blogging more along the format of my thinking.

One of my favorite to dos so far has been the jewelry. I actually thought this was going to be the worst, and in January I was really grumpy quite about it. But then I discovered a couple of things that have made it a little bit easier and more fun.

I admit that I am taking my jewelry inspiration from Instagram yogis, because that’s the look I’m most comfortable with. I think it’s a pretty good idea to find a style that resonates, follow people who wear the style well, and find similar pieces for yourself.

Tattoo Jewelry | Living Consciously Blog

I started out with tattoo jewelry. I love it because you don’t have to put it on in the morning, or take it off when you wash your hands or take a shower. There are tons of different brands nowadays, and I can’t really recommend one over another because I haven’t had that much experience. I found mine in the clearance aisle at Target for $2! A few popular brands include, Flash Tattoos and Hot Jewels. It’s a little pricey to buy online off those sites — I would actually recommend you go to a department store and look in the jewelry aisle or even the tween girls aisle for the best deals. If you are brave enough to go into Claire’s in a mall (I’m not), they have quite the selection as well. Warning: not all the brands lasted through a sweaty yoga practice. I got some nice, sparkly gold glitter on my rubber yoga mat at one point!

Another favorite yogi jewelry investment: malas. Malas are beaded necklaces and sometimes bracelets made of stones or seeds with specific healing or spiritual properties. A mala necklace always has 108 beans, while shorter necklaces or bracelets can have beads in other increments of 9 or 12, as those are sacred numbers in many traditions. A mala is used for meditation. You run each bead through your finger each time you say a mantra during meditation. That is why the number of beads is important, the mantras are supposed to be said a certain number of times. Malas have been used in many religious traditions, including Christian. They are related in a way to the Catholic rosary. There is actually nothing magical about a mala, but I like the way it is a piece of jewelry that is also useful. A mala is also said to carry the energy of your yoga practice and when it breaks that is the sign of an intentional being fulfilled and seen as a good thing. This is convenient since I’m super hard on jewelry and very likely to break mine. The cord is knotted between each bead so that when it breaks, the beads won’t scatter.

Malas, however, are not exactly cheap. They have to be handmade (knotting between the beads) and the intention set by the person who knots the mala is also important. The stones or seeds that they are made of are significant to different intentions in meditation. Because that was all too overwhelming for me, I signed up for a subscription to Yogi Surprise Jewelry box (referral link). They did not pay me to say this, and I don’t even have an account anymore because I couldn’t finanically sustain my subscription for more than 4 months. But let me say that their quality is very good and I enjoyed every piece I received from them! They send one mala-style necklace and one bracelet along with a  vegan, sustainable, fair-trade and whole-food chocolate treat each month. I seriously have to say that I loved nearly everything they sent. There was one chocolate that was too bitter for me, but that wasn’t their fault. If you are as overwhelmed by yoga jewelry options as I am, I highly recommend this box. Disclaimer: The link above is my referral link, if 3 of you sign up from it I will get a free box.

Malas And Yoga Jewelry |Living Consciously Blog

I found through my encounter with the surprise jewelry box that I really enjoy bracelets. I like the pretty music they make when I use my hands! It is like having beautiful hands. I actually am starting to see the gentle clicking as a reminder to be gentle and beautiful in my actions. Yes, that is kind of a woo-woo yogi thing to say, but why not? I am hoping at some point to invest in some MantraBands and Pura Vida bracelets to deepen those intentions.

I’d love to see your yoga (or otherwise) jewelry! Tag me in your photos on Instagram!

Green For The Mainstream: I’m speaking at ShiftCon 2015!

Remember ShiftCon social media conference last year?! It was like a huge party of all the people who feel the same way I do about health, wellness, food purity, and low-toxin living. And I have mentioned before that I’ll be going again this year. In fact, I still have ticket discount codes, so if you are considering going, please contact me.

Another reason to attend: I’ll be speaking this year!

I am so excited to be co-hosting a panel with my friend Anne Brock from Flour Sack Mama and #CleanCouponing and Chef Dennis of Ask Chef Dennis and Good Morning Google+ fame! Our panel is called Green For The Mainstream and is based on our collective experience working with everyday people who are just starting out on this journey toward cleaner living — in food, beauty products, health, wellness, or cleaning products.

Below is the official summary from the ShiftCon web site, but first I have a question for you: what would YOU, as a consumer, want sustainable brands and companies to know about your journey? How could they help you and what do they do to alienate you that should be changed? Please feel free to tweet me your answer, leave a comment below, or message me on my Facebook page!

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Green For The Mainstream ShiftCon 2015 - I'm Speaking! | Living Consciously Blog

Mainstream America is at a crossroads, with chronic disease on the rise and an urgency to protect the planet like never before. Yet, the mainstream consumer is not necessarily ready to change old habits, even if health and home depend on it.

How do we make green truly work for the mainstream and get beyond trendy ideas to what works in the typical American household?

  • Where could you start on your own journey to live a greener lifestyle?
  • How do you, as a thought leader, respond when your audience is intimidated by change?
  • What resources could help you share?
  • How do you talk to your friends and neighbors about this sometimes touchy topic?
  • How could you bring the conversation to your social media spaces?

The Green for the Mainstream workshop will explore how social media outreach can gently transform old habits into new ones while respecting cultural traditions and limited household budgets. We will speak to the influential role of food in our everyday lives. This session will also cover strategies for reaching local communities with relevant messaging about better products and healthier lifestyles while avoiding elitism.

We will tackle the sometimes controversial topic of big brands entering the green/sustainable/organic market space and how that affects the mainstream consumer. Since many organic brands have been consumed by multinational brands, should you be concerned? We’ll cover some key details to look for when discerning quality products.

Whether you consider yourself light green and want to learn more about the ShiftCon movement without feeling overwhelmed, or whether you consider yourself a strong influencer who is looking for creative ways to reach the mainstream, this workshop is for you.

{excerpt from the ShiftCon web site, read entire description here}

When your eco-friendly yoga mat is toxic

When your eco-friendly yoga mat is toxic - deciphering marketing speak to find a safe yoga mat | Living Consciously Blog

Over the past month, I have been on the search for a new yoga mat to take with me on retreat to complete my 225 yoga teacher training. For the past year, I’ve been using the prAna Indigena natural rubber mat (affiliate link), which I love! Barely any slipping. But, because it is all rubber, it is 7 lbs. Not ideal for squeezing into a carryon in a plane. And we’ll be sitting on the mat during our classroom times, instead of a chair. The prAna is 3-4mm thick, which is fine for my regular practice (I don’t need cushioning), but I wanted to move up to a 5mm thickness for the retreat.

Unfortunately, I’ve found the process of buying a toxin-free yoga mat fraught with difficulties, primarily in the form of deceptive marketing language. Sure, if you search Amazon or Google for “eco-friendly yoga mat”, you’ll come up with plenty of options. Or what companies present as viable options. But how do you really know if your yoga mat is toxic or not?

The phrase “eco-friendly” in the description of a yoga mat does NOT mean it is free of toxins

Here is a list of things that I have found companies to claim as eco-friendly in yoga mats:

  • uses PVC, but was manufactured within EPA standards for emissions at the plant
  • part or all of the mat will biodegrade (eventually)
  • eco-friendly manufacturing processes
  • doesn’t use 6 of the highest-toxin phthalates banned by the EU (which are NOT banned in the US)
  • marketing copy attaches the word “natural” to materials such as “polyurethane”
  • uses the phrase “eco-friendly” but does not disclose the materials of which the mat is composed AT ALL

Can you see what is wrong with each of these?? It’s possible that none of these mats are actually toxin-free!  It’s all marketing speak that means nothing. I will outline the problems with each of these bullet points.

Eco-friendly manufacturing processes. A phrase that could mean anything. It could mean that they recycle the trash in their break room. It could mean that they use low-flow toilets at the manufacturing plant. Or that they have an LEED-certified building. It could ideally mean that the plant producing the mats disposes of waste properly. That would be nice. However, “proper” disposal of chemicals does not equal ethical or environmentally friendly — remember that it is often perfectly legal to dump your toxic sludge into ponds and lakes as long as you have the proper permits. There is a huge amount of leeway in the claim of eco-friendly manufacturing, so much that it literally means nothing to me when making the decision to purchase the mat or not.

Biodegradable mat. There’s also a lot of wiggle room here because the most common phrase is “biodegradable components”. Meaning that only a percentage of the components used in the mat might be biodegradable. It might be 10%, 20% or even 50%. And perhaps it’s 100% — great! But I still want to know what chemicals the surface contains, regardless of whether they biodegrade.

Of course I want to buy a mat that is environmentally responsible in both manufacturing process and when it comes to the end-of-life of the mat (i.e., I want it to be fully biodegradable without leeching toxins in the breakdown process). But equally or more important is avoiding toxic chemicals coming off the mat when I’m using it.

PVC free. Definitely something I look for, but unless the company discloses what the mat IS made of, it’s not enough. The most common alternatives to PVC in a yoga mat are polyurethane (a highly off-gassing plastic, see the paragraph about phthalates, below), or Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPEs). TPE is a blanket term for any number of materials.  Here is a breakdown of all the materials that fall under the name TPE, including some forms of PVC! So just because the mat claims to be PVC-free doesn’t actually mean that it is. Even if the TPE’s used are PVC-free, they are wide open to contain plastics with phthalates.

Free of the Big 6 phthalates. Phthalates are a big deal to me because they are hormone disrupting chemicals. They are most often inhaled through the off-gassing of plastics, because most plastic contains chemical phthalates for softness and flexibility. Throughout the lifetime of a plastic, the surface constantly releases these chemicals as the material slowly breaks down. Plastics are not stable chemical products — you may have noticed that plastic becomes more brittle as it ages, due to the phthalates leaching out as the chemicals return to their original states. The phthalates released from plastics are not only inhaled, but also absorbed by the skin. The feet have the most pores in the body, and our feet are in constant contact with a yoga mat. So avoiding phthalates in your yoga mat is VERY IMPORTANT!

There are hundreds of chemicals in the phthalate family. The EU has identified 6 phthalates that pose such a severe risk that they have been banned in EU countries. They have not been banned in the US. While it’s definitely a positive step for a company to make a mat without the top 6 most toxic phthalates, it doesn’t mean they didn’t use the hundreds of other phthalates available. So the marketing tactic of avoiding the Big 6 is really not enough to protect our health on the mat.

In the end, I have come back to the conclusion that I came to when I bought my current mat several years ago: the only truly non-toxic mat is one that is made of pure natural rubber. The prAna Indigena mat is one option, but the other mats prAna makes, including the E.C.O. mat, are not rubber. The not-so-E.C.O. is made of TPE’s and the prAna site contains no information regarding what components the company chose to use, whether PVC or phthalates or synthetic rubber.

I have finally settled on a Manduka eKo Lite mat, which I have experienced at the studio where I practice. It is all rubber but a tad lighter (~ 1-2 lbs lighter) than my current mat. It is, unfortunately, about the same thickness. I will definitely be bringing my grippy yoga towel (affiliate link) to sit on, and looking for another one at local stores.

What yoga mat to do you use and why? Do you know what your mat is made of?