I’m so excited to make my sustainable swaps an annual tradition and share my Top 5 Earth Friendly Favorite Sustainable Swaps. It’s shocking that we’re in 2022 and still don’t protections in place on personal care products in the US. The laws haven’t been updated since 1938, when most of the chemicals used today didn’t even exist. Then again, my favorite local takeout just finally switched to earth-friendly compostable boxes, so maybe we are making progress in the world!
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I go into the why and more detail on each brand below. But, here are my top pics for 2022:
- SPF: Countersun and NEW Dew Skin for Safer Sunscreen that’s tested human and reef-safe.
- My best of the best eco-friendly (size inclusive) Slow Fashion picks.
- PaleoValley for collagen that’s tested safe of heavy metals from grass-fed cows.
- Henry Rose is not only an EWG-verified perfume but sustainable, too.
- Kencko Smoothies, a much more earth-friendly option than anything shipped frozen.
Why we care
I’d like the planet to be around and habitable for my great-great grandchildren. That means a focus on sustainability, what’s good for the Earth. But I also very much care about human health for all, which means items also need to be safer. Let’s recap some of the dangerous toxins we learned lurk in products we all use, exposed all just in the last year:
- PFAS in dental floss
- PFAS in Thinx
- Asbestos in makeup
- PFAS in makeup
- Benzene in many popular sunscreens
- Benzene in deodorant
- Heavy Metals in Collagen
You can see the FDA Alerts (because they can’t issue recalls) here. I’ve been working on swapping these items in our home for years and am sharing my Top 5 Earth Friendly Favorite Sustainable Swaps in honor of the upcoming Earth Day. Look under the description of each for why I recommend these specific brands – not only will it be better for the planet, but they’re better for you, too!
The EPA says per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) “can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects”. And yep, it’s in some of your most vulnerable and sensitive areas! From floss (see my 2021 list for info on that) to makeup.
I used to think makeup, mascara especially, was one of those things that didn’t really matter what was in it. I just wanted performance. But now I know better: it’s one of the likeliest to have high levels of toxins like PFAS. Where I once thought “oh it’s not touching my skin” I now realize, when product flakes into our eyes, when we inhale it, or when we consume it from wear on the mouth, absorption rates are higher.
In fact, a recent study found that 82% of waterproof mascaras (which are any marketed as long wear, water resistant, etc.) contained fluorine (PFAS), a known carcinogen with other potential harmful health impacts. And, the worst part? The majority of mascaras did not disclose ingredients which would contain fluorine – part of the “fragrance loophole.”
Checkout my blog post and podcast on PFAS here. And the article about why Swapping to Clean Mascara Matters here.
As benzene effects the blood, the study confirming that sunscreen chemicals absorb into our blood stream while also finding benzene in numerous tested sunscreens is definitely a concern. Because voluntary 3rd parties perform the testing, with no Government oversight, we have absolutely no idea how many personal care products contain unsafe levels.
- Benzene is a chemical that is a colorless or light yellow liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet odor and is highly flammable. Also, it evaporates into the air very quickly. Plus it will float on top of water.
- Outdoor air contains low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, gas stations, motor vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions.
- Benzene can be found at higher concentrations indoor from products that contain benzene such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents.
- People working in industries that make or use benzene may be exposed to the highest levels of it.
Why it Matters
First, in 2019 the FDA told us the chemicals in sunscreen were being absorbed into our bloodstream. At that time, they couldn’t mandate requirements, and only recommended mineral-based formulas (zinc and titanium-oxide specifically). They asked manufacturers to test their products for safety [read here]. Then, in 2020 Hawaii passed laws to protect its reef (and you) from chemical sunscreens [read here]. And now, in 2021 a 3rd party tested the ingredients found in hundreds of popular sunscreens and found a significant portion contained a known carcinogen, benzene [see report].
Benzene cause and effect:
- Causes cells not to work correctly. For example, it can cause bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. Also, it can damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and causing the loss of white blood cells.
- The seriousness of poisoning caused by benzene depends on the amount, route, and length of time of exposure, as well as the age and pre existing medical condition of the exposed person.
- Direct exposure of the eyes, skin, or lungs to benzene can cause tissue injury and irritation. (all info taken from CDC website, here)
People who breathe in high levels of benzene may develop the following signs and symptoms within minutes to several hours: drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, headaches, tremors, confusion, unconsciousness, and death (at very high levels). I now a lot of people who get headaches after using some of the sunscreens with benzene.
Long-term (a year or more) health effects of exposure to benzene
- The major effect of benzene from long-term exposure is on the blood. It causes harmful effects on the bone marrow, decrease red blood cells (leading to anemia), can cause excessive bleeding, and can affect the immune system.
- Some women who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries. It has unknown effects on developing fetus in pregnant women or fertility in men. Animal studies have shown low birth weights, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage when pregnant animals breathed benzene.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs.
The World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have classified benzene as a Group 1 compound thereby defining it as “carcinogenic to humans.” FDA currently recognizes the high danger of this compound and lists it as a “Class 1 solvent” that “should not be employed in the manufacture of drug substances, excipients, and drug products because of their unacceptable toxicity … However, if their use is unavoidable in order to produce a drug product with a significant therapeutic advance, then their levels should be restricted” and benzene is restricted under such guidance to 2 parts per million (“ppm”). [source]
And now, with all of that in consideration, without further ado…
The 2022 Favorite Sustainable Safer Swaps
Countersun and NEW Dew Skin are the only sunscreens I know of that hit all the marks I look for:
- Tested human safe (against 23 different human health endpoints and for contaminants (no benzene!) and heavy metals),
- non-nano zinc oxide,
- ingredients use: sustainable palm, fair trade vanilla and mica
- a mist formula that uses compressed air instead of aerosols,
- no irritating chemical sunscreen – doesn’t burn or smell strongly,
- FSA-eligible for pre-tax reimbursement, and
- it works! This is what my family has used for years and swear by!
I also love that the new Dew Skin formula includes upgrades of sustainable palm, fair trade vanilla, audited human-safe mica and the new packaging is fully recyclable using PCR materials.
Read more in my science-sourced article, How to Choose a Safer Sunscreen
My best of the best eco-friendly (size inclusive) Slow Fashion picks.
What Is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion describes clothing designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to take advantage of trends. It is associated with very high rates of pollution (from manufacturing processes), of waste (items not bought before trends change), and of exploitation of workers to make clothing less expensive.
What is Slow Fashion?
Slow Fashion is an approach to producing clothing which takes into consideration all aspects of the supply chain and in doing so, aims to respect people, the environment, and animals. It also means spending more time on the design process, ensuring that each piece of apparel is quality. For me, slow fashion also means timeless pieces I can mix and match to build a wardrobe that requires less buying and more versatility. The term often used for this is Capsule Wardrobe.
Yes, slow fashion is more expensive. Alternatively our family does a LOT of thrift shop buying of clothes. Kiddo purchased affordable fast fashion before, so when they would want to change looks seasonally we transitioned to buying 2nd hand. They now love the hunt, saving money, and knowing they contribute to something good for the Earth. It also encouraged them to want to donate and give back, so win-win! If you can’t find what you want 2nd hand, or are looking for quality slow fashion, here are my top recommendations:
In the photos above the white collared shirt, the long cardigan, white t-shirt, and black joggers are all from ABLE. You’re going to hear me talk about this new-to-me brand a LOT in the months and years to come. They say:
ABLE is Moving Fashion Forward. Feel good in and about quality pieces thoughtfully designed for your everyday life. Your purchase is an investment in your wardrobe and in the women around the world who have dignified jobs and create a better future for themselves and their families.
At ABLE, we are Moving Fashion Forward with the way we are taking responsibility for the impact we have on both people and the planet. Responsibility is a journey, and we committed to being purposeful in our approach to fashion. [read more here]
Why I obsess:
- They offer a LIFETIME GUARANTEE. “We design with quality and durability you can rely on.” Um, imagine building the perfect capsule wardrobe and never having to spend money on fashion again. Oh the places we’d go!
- Try Now program allows you to try up to 8 pieces at home for 7 days. Then, pay for what you want; return what you don’t. I did this and loved everything. This is so wonderful for trying different styles or sizes without feeling like you’re “stuck” with something you don’t love.
- Size Swap. Yup. If your sizes changes over the course of a year, you can swap sizes (on select applicable styles). WHAT in the what? That’s one I’ve never heard before and LOVE how supportive and inclusive that is!
- Over 60% of their current Spring 2022 apparel collection is available in sizes XXS-3X. By Spring 2023 100% will be, including denim and pants up to a 24W (with varying inseam lengths).
Commitment to the Planet & People:
- They upcycle all their leather from discarded animal hides.
- Use a 100% recycled, closed-loop water system.
- They make the majority of their jewelry with recycled materials which uses natural solutions (like citric acid, instead of sodium bisulfate) for cleaning newly soldered jewelry.
- Sourced denim is from nearby partners to reduce our carbon footprint. We select fabrics from mills that are developing different sustainable denims and use eco-friendly finishing. All denim scraps are given to the government for use on housing insulation.
- 100% recyclable materials and tags.
- Women-run company with an intentional culture of empowerment.
- Every woman who works at ABLE earns a living wage and has: ownership in the company, option for 100% paid healthcare, full maternity coverage, infertility and adoption assistance, a flexible work schedule.
- The wages and DE&I are fully disclosed. [read more here]
Shop ABLE Clothing (I’m working on getting you an exclusive discount code, I’ll update here and share in social).
I LOVE my Cariuma Catiba Pros and plan to buy several more Cariumas. They’re the “I’m not like a *regular* mom, I’m a *cool* mom” sneakers of my dreams. I’m not going to lie: 99% of my desire to wear them is how cool they are. Made popular by the young crowd, influenced by Olympic athletes, these sneakers come in both canvas and leather styles. I showed he natural rubber sole with canvas and suede here, and I have to say I am not disappointed with the vintage vibe. I love that they came tied loosely for me, so that I can simply slide my foot in. With no-show socks these will be perfect with summer dresses to elevate the style, or simply running errands. Every major publication featured them for their eco-friendly ethics (including completely sustainable materials and Reforestation program).
I also love that Cariuma is a certified B Corp with amazing sustainability practices. Not only do they use sustainable, eco-friendly materials, they also have a Reforestation Program that plants a diversity of trees to the founder’s homeland rainforest in Brazil. You can read more in my Sustainable Sneaker Showdown here.
You can get $30 off (and plant 30 trees) using a referral code – but it’s unique to your email. So, if you want one, comment below, or on social, or email Stacy@RealEverything.com and I’ll get you a referral link.
Tencel & Repreve Denim and General Apparel
I’ve noticed that some of my go-to brands (like Good American, Levi’s, Lane Bryant) are starting to switch to more sustainable materials, including Tencel and Repreve. Renewable wood fibers make Tencel and Repreve creates polyester fibers from recycled bottles. Both Denim pieces pictured are Repreve. I also have several clothing items made with Tencel, and can tell you they all wear very well!
Whenever I’m shopping, I like to visit the brand’s About pages. As I am able, shopping with brands whose values align with mine has become very important. I look for their sustainability information. When I read they make certain items with sustainable materials, I look to shop those. It tells the brand it’s a worthwhile effort and to keep improving!
3. Grass-Fed Tested Collagen
I really struggled with choosing this item because I have so many more sustainable items I love. But, it’s important to understand two things:
- Supplements, like personal care products, are not regulated by the FDA, and
- there are ENORMOUS misconceptions about the sustainability of beef.
Which is why I wanted to include PaleoValley for their ethical, sustainable, grass-fed products. I personally take their organic Bone Broth Powder (collagen) and Organ Meat supplements every day.
I choose this particular brand because it tested safe of heavy metals from grass-fed cows. In addition to the sustainability issue, it has also come to light that collagen (as well as other protein powders and supplements) are contaminated. From heavy metals to pesticides and BPA, what we think is helping our health may be doing more harm than good. Take a look at the extensive list below, is a brand you use on it?
Vital Proteins, which many use, has measurable Arsenic (not to mention being in hot waters with the BBB). In fact, the Organic Consumers Association and Clean Label Project tested 28 of the top-selling brands of collagen supplements on Amazon.com. Here’s what they found:
- 64% tested positive for measurable levels of arsenic
- 37% tested positive for measurable levels of lead
- 34% tested positive for trace levels of mercury
- 17% tested positive for measurable levels of cadmium [source]
Why should consumers be concerned about these findings?
Heavy metals, even at low levels, are known to cause organ damage, and some are classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer as known or probable carcinogens.
Why is Grass-Fed Beef better for the Earth?
A new report found evidence to support the environmental benefits of traditional grass-based beef production and finishing. The National Trust, a conservation non-profit in the United Kingdom, determined that grass-based beef production actually reduced greenhouse gas emissions once they considered the carbon sequestration and storage of grassland pasture. Furthermore, as grass-fed pastures are often not suitable to intensive crop production, grass farmers make use of marginal land to actually increase food security.
These findings contribute to the list of other established benefits of grass-fed beef production, including the increased biodiversity of pasture ecosystems and improved quality of runoff water from well-managed pastures. The report also touts the scientific evidence of the health benefits of grass-finished beef. Studies have found that meat from grass-finished cattle has up to a third less saturated fats than grain-fed beef and is higher in beneficial fatty acids, such as omega-3. [source]
4. EWG-verified Sustainable Perfume
Henry Rose is not only an EWG-verified perfume but sustainable, too. The bottles are made from 90% recycled glass and are 100% recyclable (bottle, lid, and box).
I often talk about how ‘fragrance’ is a loophole for the personal care industry (if not, join my newsletters below!). Fine fragrances companies shroud themselves in secrets. Proprietary formulas sound romantic and intriguing, but the truth is – you have no idea what you’re putting on your skin. Not to mention, when inhaled we absorb at a higher rate in the lungs! The truth is that the term “fragrance” stands as a catch-all for thousands of under-regulated ingredients.
Somehow the perfumers created distinct-feeling scents, each meant to evoke a personal memory, person, place or feeling. These aren’t just the first fine fragrances to be both EWG Verified™ and Cradle to Cradle Certified™, they’ve also been spritzed, whiffed, and refined from Hollywood starlights to my own closest friends and family. They are:
- No parabens
- No phthalates
- No known or suspected carcinogens
- No known or suspected endocrine disruptors
If you’re going to try Henry Rose, I suggest the Sample boxes. That way you can try out all the scents to see which you like, and they’ll give you a coupon for a full size bottle.
5. Sustainable Smoothies
When I quit coffee to improve my cortisol (more on that here), Kencko smoothies was what I transitioned to. When I found them I wondered how I hadn’t known about them before. I loved that they were SO simple to make. But also, they are whole foods simply dehydrated, so you get fiber and everything you want. Plus, studies show that produce that is frozen (freeze dried) retains more nutrients than any other form. [source]
With many flavor options in biodegradable packaging they’re so much more earth-friendly than many other smoothie delivery brands shipped frozen.
What sets them apart:
- no refined sugars
- no artificial additives
- USDA organic
- carbon-neutral shipping
- compostable packaging
- certified B Corp
I love adding these packets to all kinds of things in our kitchen. Adding them to oatmeal, to a blended beverage, or just shaking with mylk adds 2.5 cups of organic fruits and veggies per packet.
Don’t miss my other related lists:
- Sustainable Sneaker Showdown
- Natural or Not: Target Clean Product Guide
- 2021 Top 6 Sustainable Safer Swaps
- 2021 Sustainable Gift Guide
You can keep up each week on Instagram and our newsletters.
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