Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Best Green Laundry Detergents

The following laundry detergents mostly have unscented versions, which cuts back on allergies and irritation, and are at least 2 x concentrated, which cuts back on packaging and shipping fuel. They are also free of all or most of the “Lose It” ingredients listed on my home page at, and, and in my new book, Do One Green Thing . Other pluses, such as comparable pricing to conventional brands ($), having no residues of 1, 4 dioxane* in recent Organic Consumers Association tests,, ultra-concentrated formulas (more than 2x) or independent third-party eco seals, such as EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) and Leaping Bunny (cruelty-free) are noted.

Remember, for the sake of the planet and your budget, wash in cold water as much as you can! And hang dry. Thanks!

All Small & Mighty Free & Clear

Arm & Hammer Essentials , $, did have 5 ppm dioxane.

Biokleen 3 x, 64 oz., $

Charlie’s Soap,

Clorox Greenworks
,$, no dioxane

Earth Friendly Products (ECOs)
2-3x, dep on whether top or front loader, $, no dioxane


Greening the Cleaning,

Life Tree,, no dioxane

Martha Stewart Clean, DfE, Leaping Bunny.

Method free & clear, 8x, DfE 50% recycled packaging, certified by Cradle2Cradle (C2C);

Mountain Green 3x concentrated (1 oz. load) discloses all ingredients on website,

Mrs. Meyers; did have 1.5 ppm dioxane.

Planet Ultra,
Certified biodegradable by Scientific Certification Systems (did have 6 ppm dioxane)

Seventh Generation, Leaping Bunny Greenest packaging! Moving from 50% post-consumer-recycled (PCW) to 75% and ultimately 100%.

Sun & Earth, $, strong citrus scent.


Vermont Soapworks,

DfE: certified by EPA Design for the Environment as helping protect the environment and safer for families. For more information about EPA’s DfE seal.

Leaping Bunny: certified cruelty-free, not tested on animals

*Dioxane is categorized as a probable human carcinogen in California.

acc to EWG, mfgs can remove dioxane with a simple step, but its presence shows that most of them aren't doing so.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why avoid BPA?

Why avoid BPA? Last spring, the U.S. National Toxicology Program warned that BPA may pose a threat to human health. Studies have connected BPA with diabetes and heart disease in humans, and behavioral and reproductive problems in animals. In lab tests it has caused normal human cells to express genes linked to breast cancer. BPA is already present in 93% of Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s “body burden” studies of representative populations. BPA has been found to migrate more readily out of polycarbonate when the plastic is heated, washed in strong detergents, scratched or worn-out. All sports or baby bottles are subject to these conditions, but, happily, not all are made of PC. Nalgene has announced it will phase out its clear, colorful PC Lexan bottles, and Wal-mart has removed PC baby bottles from its Canada stores and pledged to stop selling them in the U.S.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Greenwashing "Alice in Wonderland" Shampoo

Although the title character in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland isn’t made a queen, Mia Wasikowski’s wild, abundant tresses provided the crowning glory for a natural beauty. Such hair may be possible for the rest of us, but not by tumbling down a rabbit hole. We know from women’s magazines that a natural look isn’t born, it is made. And, thanks to the green marketing gods, Disney has licensed the Alice in Wonderland brand to a tie-in beauty product in a pretty pink bottle: Organix Rejuvenating Cherry Blossom Ginseng Shampoo.

The tagline: Indulge your hair in nature’s wonderland.

The problem: Despite the implicit promise of the brand name and the company website,, Organix shampoos are not organic. And, they contain some hair-raising, man-made ingredients.

Why it matters: There are two good reasons.

1. We shouldn't be duped by misleading, greenwashing claims. Consumers are demonstrating a willingness to pay a premium for greener, healthier personal care products: Despite the recession, the market for organic personal care grew by 19% in 2008, according to the Organic Trade Association, and the “natural” cosmetics marketplace has been expanding at an annual 13% rate, compared with a 3% average annual increase for the conventional cosmetic sector.

USDA Certified Organic, a meaningful and regulated seal on food products, expanded to personal care products in 2005. Products bearing the USDA label have been vetted by an independent third party as meeting the National Organic Program’s standards. In order to be certified USDA organic, a shampoo or cream must contain 95 percent USDA certified organic ingredients.

The company website says that Organix Rejuvenating Cherry Blossom Ginseng Shampoo contains organic rice milk, but does not authenticate this ingredient as certified organic. And in any case, it’s only one ingredient out of 18.

Nor should consumers be taken in by the claim “natural,” which is meaningless, according to Consumers Union’s eco-labels project.

2. Organix shampoos and many other “natural” personal care products contain toxic, synthetic ingredients that can expose a very vulnerable target audience—preteen girls—to chemicals that have been linked to early onset of puberty, obesity, and some cancers, and others that can provoke allergic reactions and asthma attacks.

Aside from rice milk and bamboo extract, the contents of the “Alice” shampoo are not disclosed, and the product is so new I couldn’t find it in stores. But a sister product, Organix Nourishing Coco Milk Shampoo, contains several ingredients deemed hazardous by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, including the following:

* DMDM Hydantoin, an allergen and irritant that can be contaminated with formaldehyde, classified as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

*Fragrance, a catch-all term that allows manufacturers to conceal perfuming components, which are protected as “trade secrets.” These commonly include phthalates, chemicals that have been linked to genital deformities in human infants, asthma in children and obesity in adults.

*Cocamide DEA and Cocamidopropyl Betaine, sudsing agents linked to allergies and immunotoxicity

Organix Nourishing Coco Milk Shampoo also contains Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, one of the class of ethoxylated compounds that have recently given rise to concern because they can be contaminated with 1, 4 dioxane, a carcinogen. In 2007, EWG found 1,4 dioxane in 28% of the 27,000 personal care products they tested. In 2008, tests by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) found 1, 4 dioxane in 40% of products labeled “natural.”

In conclusion, let me emphasize that Organix is only one of many companies making implied greenwashing and other spurious health claims; see the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and OCA’s “Coming Clean” reports for many more examples. But these and other products aimed at young teens should be carefully vetted, as discussed in EWG’s recent study of adolescent girls’ exposures to hormone-disrupting chemicals in cosmetics. Greenwashing is not only a rip-off if you pay more for the product based on green claims, but it can be dangerous by misleading people into using precisely the kinds of ingredients they are seeking to avoid.

For more information on green cosmetic labels, see my related blog entry . For regular monthly product and lifestyle updates, please subscribe to my free monthly e-newsletter on the home page at . Share in the dialog by becoming a fan on's Facebook page and following us at

Thank you!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Green allergen- and moisture-barrier mattress & bedding encasements

For health and comfort in bed, natural materials are the top green "Choose It" choice; plastic mattress covers and moth-, stain- and water-proofed fabrics are big time "Lost Its." PVC vinyl, a common cheap mattress pad component, will block dust mites and moisture, but will also release toxic phthalates into the air. Fabric treatments may emit formaldehyde and other toxic Volatile organic compounds (VOCs).If you're prone to sneezes and wheezes, and/or need reasonably waterproof but nontoxic bedding, for a child, a simple and affordable option is a tightly woven organic barrier cloth encasement or wool, which is naturally water-, fire- and odor-resistant.

A barrier cloth blocks allergenic dust mite droppings, pet danders and pollens that collect in bedding. They're also made into pillow and comforter covers. The main criteria is that it be:

*very tightly woven to keep microscopic particles from slipping through
*washable in hot water, which kills dust mites
*free of permanent press or stain- and water-repellant finishes, which can release toxic formaldehyde fumes or are made with Teflon- or Scotchgard- type perfluorochemicals (PFCs) that tests have connected to developmental and behavior problems in young animals.
*made of breathable natural material, preferable organic
* NOT made of PVC vinyl, which offgases toxic chemicals known as phthalates, which have been found to cause respiratory problems in children, and have also been linked in human studies to abnormal reproductive organ development in human infants and obesity in adults.

These days, it's easy to find affordable green encasements, such as the following.

* Allergy Buyers Club has certified organic cotton dust mite covers for mattresses, pillows, comforters, the works, at the most affordable prices I've seen. They're very tightly woven of unbleached, undyed, 100% organic cotton, with "pore" sizes smaller than 4 microns (10 microns is a benchmark for microparticles).

*Heart of Vermont makes sumptuous organic cotton fitted barrier sheets (easy on, zipper-free) with the same tight weave

*Gaiam has practical organic cotton, dustmite-proof comforter covers and fitted sheets. They're backed with polyurethane plastic, though, so not breathable (or natural).

*Allergy Solutions makes all-cotton very tightly woven (1.5 microns) mattress and pillow encasements, or 50/50 cotton poly backed with

Moisture resistant/waterproof mattress covers

My top pick is a mattress topper made of undyed wool, which is very comfortable, naturally hypoallergenic, moisture-absorbing, fire-retardant and provides a nice thick barrier to mites!

Natures Bedroom has mattress toppers made of wool, as well as natural latex (if you aren't allergic to it) and organic cotton.

Allergy Buyers Club sells affordable wool and wool-blend mattress pads, including
Our Home Comfort

Luna Mattress protectors bond cotton terrycloth with a permeated polyurethane membrane that the company says is waterproof and breathable. One of the most affordable options. For regular green consumer news and product updates, subscribe to our free monthly e-newsletter at

For more information about nontoxic, green household products and actions you can take to reduce pollution and energy waste, see Mindy's book,">Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices (St Martin's Press, 2010).

Join our One Green Thing a Day conversations on and follow us at Thanks!