Making kind choices in your everyday life.

Palm Oil

The wonderful world of SOAP

Posted by on Aug 26, 2015 in Animal Testing, Cosmetics, Not tested on animals - cleaning etc, Palm Oil | 0 comments

Because the heart beats under a covering of hair, of fur, feathers, or wings, it is, for that reason, to be of no account? ~Jean Paul Richter

11896557_886681954754453_1659683089178917678_o

Me (third from left) proudly displaying my soap bounty with my lovely class mates !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have recently dipped my toe into the wonderfully intriguing world of soap making, having completed a day class with Remington & Emmett.  I cannot sing the praises of this course and the gorgeous, funny ladies who ran it, Nicki and Cheryl, highly enough. (They are so passionate about the palm oil issue that they even sponsor an orangutan and reminded us to download the new palm oil app so you can scan products at the supermarket to find out if they contain palm oil or not. My kind of people !!). They also do some other alluring courses which I am planning to get myself into.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body. Suffice to say that when you slather something on it, presumably on a daily basis, you want it to be something which is not only kind and beneficial to your body and pleasant to smell but also not harmful to our environment or animals.

Hence, when selecting said kind soap, there are a few issues which come to mind.

1. Does it contain palm oil ? Palm oil is in so many products these days, including soap, and you may have heard about the devastation it’s demand is reeking on the forests in Indonesia and Borneo, resulting in orangutans and other animals having nowhere to live. So, avoid products containing non sustainably sourced palm oil. Palm Oil Investigations is a wonderfully informative site to find out more about this issue. Remember that our woeful labelling system still enables palm oil to be referred to as “vegetable oil” (bring in the palm oil app I say).

2. Does it contain animal products ? The type of animal product often found in soap and it’s acceptability to you will vary. It can be anything from the very common (and gross sounding) ingredient of beef or pig fat (labelled as sodium tallowate)  to goats milk, lanolin and honey.

3. Has it been tested on animals ? Animal testing is still regularly carried out on many cosmetic and hygiene products such as soap which is so sad and unnecessary. Please don’t financially support companies who continue to do so. With so many companies out there taking a stand against animal testing, it does not make any sense to support the greedy, thoughtless ones who do.

The main stream supermarket soaps which most of us buy as they are convenient and cheap, don’t do well in these categories. The Shop Ethical Guide gives them a rating according to their stand on these (and other) issues. It’s interesting to see which of the big names fail so terribly (Nivea, coming in at last place, shame on you !). The Choose Cruelty Free list and PETA’s Great Cruelty Free Soap Bars are good places to hunt down an ethical soap.

My fella is a massive fuss pot and will only buy the likes of Coles Revitalising Citrus Fresh Soap (or anything else on special). I attribute this to him being a bloke with zero interest in soap – and wanting something cheap and convenient. It has an overwhelming citrusy smell (no doubt attributed to the Ethidronic Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, CI 21100 and CI 12120 found in the list of ingredients on the back !)- perhaps to disguise the rendered beef fat it contains – mmm, mmmm !! . So, I am on the hunt for an acceptable substitute, complete with a pre-requisite of rounded edges (!).

Soaps I covet ?

I hold Veronica Foale Essentials from Tasmania solely responsible for my recurring fantasy of sitting in my (as yet non existent) country cottage after fleeing my government job, whimsically making my living by selling my beautifully scented soaps, as all my rescue animals frolic about the undulating green hills outside. I love her warts n’ all writing style too which can be found on her blog (seriously, check it out, she is a great writer). A large number of her soaps are animal product free, all are palm oil free and the combination of scents are just delectable (Caramel Apple Cider anyone ??). She sells at markets around Hobart but they can be easily ordered on line too – it is a perfect time to order too with a 15 % discount available right now as her business celebrates it’s first birthday.

As for the larger companies, I am a fan of :

Biologika : Hand and body washes galore (we have the lemon myrtle one – t’is lovely) as well as some fab sounding soap bars. Very affordable, ethical, cruelty free Australian company.

Lush : – their range is massive and the cheese wheel like wedges of delights never fail to suck me in when I venture into their shops. The “Honey I washed the Kids” is my fave. What could one not like about being slathered in honeycomb and toffee ? Lush, in general, is such a good, kind business to buy from in all respects.

Dr Bronner’s Castile Soaps – I’ve been buying the big 950ml liquid soaps but they do the cakes of soap too (as well as other things such as toothpaste). Beautiful scents (cherry blossom and citrus orange are in my shower right now), affordably priced and oozing with virtuous credentials. They are Leaping Bunny accredited (ie no animal testing), vegan and give back financially to a whole array of wonderful causes such as Compassion In World Farming. Lovely rags to riches tale too which is always good when it’s happened to a nice person which Dr Bronner most certainly was.

Finally, to wrap up……

Does anybody else frugally take hotel soaps with them when they leave ? I tend to do so due to 1. a fore mentioned frugality and 2. not being able to reconcile with the fact that this almost full cake of soap is going to be thrown away after just a couple of lathers of my skin. Cringe-fully wasteful.  Luckily, to assist with this dilemma, in steps Soap Aid, who have identified this need by collecting barely used soaps from hotels around Australia, making them into fresh bars and shipping them off to be distributed in India and other disadvantaged countries where children die from hygiene related illnesses from not washing their hands. What a brilliant initiative.

Any thing soap related you want to share ? I love hearing from you !

 

Read More

Luscious Locks

Posted by on Apr 26, 2015 in Animal Testing, Cosmetics, Palm Oil, Shopping | 14 comments

“Consumers have not been told effectively enough that they have huge power and that purchasing and shopping involve a moral choice” – Anita Roddick

tumblr_mhe4rgym7b1r38hk2o1_1280My hair and hair care regime are fairly simple things. A wash every couple of days, a $25 chop every few months and a touch up of my old biddy grey (or, more accurately, white) roots once a month or so is about the extent of things hair related in my world.

What is not always so simple though is selecting a “kind” shampoo, conditioner and hair dye. Particularly when the majority of choices bombarding us on the supermarket shelves are anything but. A quick inventory / shower stalk at my work place revealed the usual suspects like Dove, Sunsilk, Pantene, Wella Balsam and L’Oreal which I think would accurately reflect the “norm” of shampoo selections out there in the general community. They all score a disappointing C to F with the Ethical Consumer Guide due to criticisms about everything from containing animal ingredients to being tested on animals to use of poorly sourced palm oil to containing micro beads. Not companies I would like to reward with my money !

In my ongoing quest to tread kindly with everything that I buy and do (and to reward the companies who do the right thing by animals and the environment with my patronage) I have been seeking out hair care products which do not contain animal ingredients, have minimal or recyclable packaging, do not contain palm oil or contain only sustain-ably sourced palm oil, are not tested on animals, don’t contaminate the environment (or my head !) with a cocktail of obscure chemicals (after all, it does go straight down the drain) and, ideally, are made in Australia. Luckily, there are quite a few products which tick these boxes (aside from the made in Australia part which is not a deal breaker for me) which I’ve either tried or come highly recommended.

LUSH I am about to set off on some travels and the Lush solid shampoos will fit the bill perfectly. They are compact and fit into a little reusable tin. They smell delightful, the choice is vast and I have tried and tested a few of them now with good results.

ALAFFIA HAIR CARE Their coconut scented shampoo and conditioner gigantic containers are in my shower right now. Their whopping 950ml containers mean that they last seemingly forever. I bought them from my local health food shop at a bargain-ish price of around $20 each. Profits fund poverty fighting community projects in West Africa as well as the planting of 10,000 trees a year to help combat climate change. They also fund maternal care and educational projects in this region. I am a complete sucker for a lovely philanthropic company.

ORGANIC CARE This is probably the most easily sourced and affordable pick from my choices. Their shampoos and conditioners are around the $3-$4 mark / 400 ml and can be found in all big supermarkets.

AESOP Lots of custom made products here (eg for volumising, itchy scalps etc). Gorgeous scents. On the pricey side but worth it for a special treat.

YAROK A US brand (but available in Australia) of hair products which sound divine and and are apparently the saviour to anyone poor soul cursed with limp, fine locks (that would be me !). Not cheap but 3 % of their profits go to protect the Amazon rain forest.

SUKIN This company gets a good rap and they have a nice range of very affordable options.

ECO STORE This lovely company make lots of “eco friendly” products such as cleaning products but also do a hair care range (including anti dandruff shampoo).

GROWN ALCHEMIST A shampoo which promises “damask rose, black pepper and sage” aromas sound almost too tempting for words. David Jones and Myer are stockists.

ETHIKOOL – sell only “palm oil free, cruelty free, chemical free, vegan” products. They sell shampoos Kuush and iRaw which are as close to “natural” as you can get. Not cheap but their ethics are hard to beat. This lovely Australian company raises money to protect the Orangutans and the forests in Indonesia, hence their strong no palm oil stance.

DE LORENZO – score a resounding “A” on the Ethical Consumer Guide. This company would be the pick of the bunch for the “higher end” of the market and are used by many hairdressers. Not just shampoos / conditioners but all the other hair related paraphernalia as well.

AUSTRALIAN BIOLOGIKA – Highly recommended, sits up near the top on the Ethical Consumer Guide and, when my current shampoo runs out, I’m going to give them and their highly affordable, bulk containers (1kg) of alluring scents such as coconut and bush lemon myrtle a try. Zero palm oil content too.

And, one for the fellas, D + T CHAMPION OF MEN

My man………………..

IMG_0537

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

is blessed with many dashing qualities but a full and lustrous head of hair is not one of them. If he did, I would be buying him some Man Shampoo. For all the men out there with bountiful locks check it out – (also a great range for bearded men). Organic beard oil and balm – who would have known the existence of such substances !

As for do it yourself hair dyes to touch up pesky old roots, I have been using Herbatint for years and pick it up from any health food shop. Not only is it a cruelty free product but you can just use what you need as you go so there is no wastage which was always an issue when I used other hair dyes in the past. Tints of Nature is supposedly good too. And Lush have an interesting array of Henna Hair dyes.

After a hairdresser who does the right thing and uses only cruelty free products in their salon ? Seek out those who use De Lorenzo products via their website. Otherwise, in Sydney, I have spied Organic Hair Culture in Ashbury, nice and close to me who use only vegan / non animal tested hair products so will be paying them a visit next time I need a hair chop. For my Victorian friends, Veg Out Hair in Sommerville looks just perfect.

Or, indubitably, the kindest (and cheapest) option of all would have to be hopping on the”poo free” (often coupled with the bicarb soda and Apple Cider Vinegar rinse regime) wagon. If I was in a position to hide from the world for a couple of weeks, I would give it a go. The results from just letting your natural hair oils just do their thing are meant to be quite transformative. However, my hair resembles an oil slick disaster after a couple of days of non washing so this is one experiment I am just not brave enough to try.

Don’t forget these go to guides to help you choose, not just your perfect, kind shampoo, but all manner of things  :

Ethical Consumer Guide

Choose Cruelty Free

How does your shampoo / conditioner stack up in the kindness stakes ? Any more good ones to recommend ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read More

Chocolate

Posted by on Apr 20, 2014 in Chocolate, Palm Oil | 0 comments

“Every time you spend money you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want” – Anne Lappe

heart

I have missed the boat with my intended post about sourcing kind Easter eggs but as chocolate is something that I indulge in EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE, I thought a topic on this essential ingredient in life would not be amiss and would fit in with the Easter theme nicely.

Who would have thought that the seemingly innocuous, delicious taste sensation called chocolate would have such a troubled and sinister background.  Until recently, I had not given much thought to where my chocolate had come from. Hence, I have unwittingly supported child exploitation, unfair pay to cocoa farmers, land clearing and deaths of threatened species such as orangutans and gibbons, ridiculous food miles, land fill bound packaging and premature deaths of calves. Sigh.

I want to continue my daily chocolate consumption but only on the proviso that I am no longer financially supporting such dreadful consequences by asking myself………

  Is it Fair Trade Certified ?

free trade

Most of the world’s cocoa is harvested in West Africa where child labour, exploitation and unsafe working conditions are rife.  Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certification ensure that the cocoa is sourced from farmer’s who receive a fair wage and work in good conditions. Appropriate environmental, social and economic standards must also be maintained.

Haighs, Alter Eco, Pana Chocolate, Loving Earth, Rawsome, Daintree Chocolate, Monsieur Truffle,  Cocoa Rhapsody, Bonvita, Cocolo, Spencer Cocoa and Nestle are some of the brands which rate highly in this category but an extensive list of the good, the in between and the bad, can be found here.

Click here to check out World Vision’s very clear synopsis of the big named brands and how they are faring.

World Vision’s “Chocolate’s Bitter Taste” is an interesting read about this topic.

 Is It Dairy Free ?

Not only cruelty free ( re-visit my post on the sad truth behind dairy if you need a reminder) but also the healthiest option – the darker the chocolate, the healthier it is (including lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow,  reducing cholesterol,  being high in antioxidants and improving mood). The more cocoa solids your chocolate contains, the darker it will appear (70% + cocoa content is best). Most mass produced chocolates are made with milk (labelled as milk fat, lactose, whey and other milk derivatives) which makes it creamy and palatable but it inhibits the absorption of the healthy components from cocoa. Here are some wonderful dairy free chocolate options to try ….

Sweet William,  Dark Whittakers,  Lindt Dark Chocolate,  Rawsome,  Daintree Chocolate (using Australian grown cocoa !),  Monsieur Truffle,  Cocoa Rhapsody,  Tropical Source,  Bonvita,  Noble Choice,  Pana Chocolate,  Constant Craving,  Cocolo and  Loving Earth.

Does it contain Palm Oil ?   

orangutanhands

Having travelled to Borneo about 8 years ago and seeing the devastation caused by the world’s greedy desire for palm oil (found in approximately 50% of products on the supermarkets shelves – with chocolate being a significant contributor) first hand, this issue is a big one for me. What used to be beautiful forests and homes to exquisite animals are now just depressing palm plantations as far as the eye can see.  Orangutans have diminshed by 50% in the past 10 years as palm oil plantations destroy their habitat. So tragic and sad.

Palm oil free chocolate includes Haigh’s Chocolate, Whittaker’s, Lindt Excellence and Lindt Creation blocks, Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate blocks – Dairy Milk, Old Gold & Dream, Cradbury Green & Black’s chocolate blocks (except Butterscotch and Raisin & Hazlenut), Choceur, Just Organics and Moser-Roth from Aldi.  Smaller companies  like Pana Chocolates  and Cocolo also need commending for their non palm oil usage.

Menz chocolates and Nestle use Sustainable Palm Oil. My first thought would have been just to boycott any product containing palm oil but, as this enlightening article explains, boycotting is not always the best answer and can sometimes be counter-productive.

I am on a massive learning curve regarding palm oil and which products to avoid as a result of its presence. I have found the following websites / facebook pages to be teeming with information and I am looking forward to the palm oil app (by Palm Oil Investigations) to make my shopping experience that little bit easier. Our government needs to get with the program and ensure “truth in labelling” which is lacking at the moment. Many products containing palm oil use the deceptive description of “vegetable oil”  instead on their ingredient’s list. Until such laws are passed, it is up to us all to do our homework so we can make our own informed decisions.

Palm Oil : Products on Australian Shelves that Contain Palm Oil

Shopping Guide to buying responsibly

Say No to Palm Oil

Having weighed up the plethora of information out there…… The Chocolate Winners…….. who have won my ample future patronage are :

Haigh’s :  If I was more organised / informed this year, I would have bought some dark Easter eggs from here. Palm oil free, Australian, recycled and recyclable packaging, sponsors of the bilby and  UTZ certified and dairy free options available.

Pana Chocolate : Vegan, recycled & biodegradable packaging, Australian made, uses fair trade & organic ingredients and palm oil free. Unfortunately, it will be reserved for the odd treat in my life..I am happy and expect to pay more for an ethical product but at $6.50 for 45 grams there will be no Pana Chocolate binges for me. Tantalising flavours such as Cinnamon and Fig & Wild Orange (get out !) are available. The  Ethical Consumer Guide lists them as an “outstanding product”. 

Cocolo  : Another Ethical Consumer guide “outstanding product”. We have been devouring the mint chip flavour with a vengeance in our house. At around $5-ish for 100g, it will not break the bank but it will have me questioning a 3rd square (for which my hips and thighs will thank me for). Only downside that I can find is the food miles that it clocks up as it is made in Switzerland.

Alter Eco : Vegan options, fair trade and organic certified, use coconut oil rather than palm, not crazy expensive (around $5-ish for 100g) and tried and tested to be delicious (especially the Dark Quinoa – reminds me of “Crunch” chocolate). Again, it has the downside of food miles as it is produced in Switzerland.

Funky Chocolat : This is an Australian company which ticks every single box (ie vegan, palm oil free, Australian made, environmentally friendly packaging) with the added bonus of the fact that the profits go to animal, women and child related charities world wide. It is also, however, in my case anyway, prohibitively expensive but for those who can afford it, this would have to be one of  the most eco friendly chocolate companies around.

Or…….you can always make your own ! I like the look of this one….Vegan Chocolate Vanilla Cream Easter Egg.

 

 

Read More