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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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How to Create Change In Your Community: Finding or Forming A Local Group

Members of Sustainable Capitol Hill Engaging With Neighbors At Park(ing) Day Plot

Living Locally & Creating Change

We have discussed living locally here before – essentially, living locally means you’re not only eating locally grown food, but you’re buying locally, and becoming an active member of your community. You are beginning to work on community building and strengthening.

When we live locally and strengthen our communities, we become stronger and better able to adapt to changes in the economy, climate, and energy availability. Each community is unique and has its own needs, whether it be public transportation, sustainable food resources, strengthening local businesses, reducing carbon emissions, increasing recycling and reducing waste, building community gardens and parks,… the list is varied and lengthy.

And we have discussed a bit here about what we can do. But we haven’t talked much about how to do it in detail. So… how do you create change in your community? And how do you form a group of people who can tackle these community needs?

originally uploaded by ClifBar&Co on Flickr

Finding A Local Group

First of all, before you think about creating a new group of people, I encourage you to make sure you’ve taken a good hard look at what’s out there. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to! If you can find an organization that is already working toward sustainability in some sort of way, it may be easier to try to create a project within their already established group, rather than start completely from scratch.

Slow Food Booth at Seattle Tilth Harvest Festival Last Month

The types of groups where you might find local people who are interested in creating community-wide change include: disaster preparedness groups, peak oil, climate change and environmental groups (those working in your local community), gardening outreach organizations, programs that help fight homelessness, food banks, community gardens/allotments, neighborhood associations, block watch programs, neighborhood, city and town councils, city and neighborhood sustainability boards, youth programs, PTA meetings, community center events, earth day and other “green” fairs, city or town Department of Neighborhoods, native planting/invasive species clearing groups, local animal welfare societies, university campus groups,… the list goes on, but these are some things that I’ve come across.

Garden Gathering Tent At Sustainable Ballard Festival This Weekend

Where Do You Find Them?

Subscribe to your local paper – either online or in paper form. Subscribe to your community paper or newsletter. Look through your local “goings on” paper, usually a weekly paper. Search online using Google, the phone book, The Relocalization Network, and Transition Towns.

Talk to people, ask around, call one organization and ask them if they know of an organization that is more what you’re looking for. Attend conferences, film screenings, fairs, and local meetings about things you’re interested in – and talk with people there. Ask local bloggers, follow links on websites, visit your city/town website for possibilities, and check out your local chamber of commerce.

Local Biodynamic Farm Tour At Harvest Celebration This Weekend

But… What If There Isn’t Anything Locally?!

Forming A Local Group

Starting an organization is not particularly easy, but you may find that there just aren’t any groups that are doing what you want to do – nor working on what your community needs most. So go for it. Get like-minded people together. Get people with disparate areas of expertise together. Find people who can complement your skills. You may not know how to do something, but someone else you know (or who you could meet and get to know) may be able to do it!

Network. Bring local bloggers together, introduce yourself to people at your farmer’s market, attend your chamber of commerce (or city council and neighborhood council) meetings and feel out people who would be interested, announce a sustainability meeting at your church and ask people to come, talk with organic gardeners, slow foodies, knitters, environmentalists, whoever you can find that might be interested.

build community sign uploaded by whizchickenonabun on flickr

Then Set Up A Meeting!

Once you have a group of people interested, set a time, date, and location and publicize it! Email and call everyone. Put an announcement in the local newsletter, the community paper, and post fliers in coffee shops and other gathering places.

Include when, where, directions and/or a map, beginning and ending time, briefly what the meeting is, and whether or not people need to bring anything. And make it sound fun, worthwhile, and interesting!

When setting a time and date, try to schedule around other local events, sports, and holidays, and make sure to schedule a meeting after work or on the weekend days. If you are holding the meeting in a space where having kids is appropriate, do tell people it’s ok to bring children. If people don’t have to leave their children at home and pay a sitter, they’re more likely to come.

And make it easy. Host something small at your house, the local church, the local community center, a nearby park or community garden. You can make it a potluck. Or if it’s after dinner, you can provide just a few snacks and coffee and tea. Or make it a dessert potluck.

When the meeting time nears, make sure to email and/or call people to remind them of the meeting. If you have a limited time, don’t be afraid to set up a phone tree with people you trust.

originally uploaded by run4unity on Flickr

What Do You Do When You Get People Together…

The First Meeting

First of all, if only a few people come to the meeting, don’t despair. That’s a few more people gathering about sustainability than have ever gathered in your community before. So make it worth everyone’s while, make people excited and motivated, find common grounds and enjoy one another’s company. And then get them to invest in the group, feel a part of it, and they will talk with other people who might be interested in coming next time.

Secondly, if all your first meetings do is get people together talking and feeling like they are not alone, that is great. That is more than most people accomplish.

Originally uploaded by fullcirclefund on Flickr

But do set out with at least a rough schedule and a list of things you want to accomplish – and let everyone know at the beginning of the meeting, so they know what to expect. A good ice breaker is to ask everyone to introduce themselves and tell a little about why they’ve come to the meeting (especially if it’s a small group). Name tags are also a good idea.

group discussion by brentcarpenter on flickr

Make sure someone is greeting guests as they walk in. That person should be saying hello and introducing themselves, making people feel comfortable, handing them a nametag, and asking them to sign in with their phone # and email address. Don’t forget to get contact information so that you can make sure everyone stays informed!! If people are hesitant to give the info, tell them it’s to email them the meeting notes and the details of the next meeting.

Group Discussion by carissamariposita on Flickr

Generally speaking, getting people sitting in a circle facilitates a more informal and discussion-oriented meeting. You want people to participate, and to become an active part of the discussion.

Originally uploaded by JOJO TRAN on Flickr

So, now you have people together and they have met one another. Next, it’s time to address some of the things you are interested in seeing in your community. Community gardens, educational seminars about sustainable living, motivating people to recycle, helping the impoverished in your community, fighting crime or graffiti, planting trees and creating more parks, overall community preparedness, helping local businesses become sustainable – whatever it is, bring it up and gauge people’s interest. Ask what others think are important, and what they would be interested in working on together. Make a list of priorities. (If there’s a chalkboard or whiteboard you can write these down, otherwise take notes.)

Group Discussion by Arkfamily on Flickr

Engage people, let them talk and make sure to listen to what they have to say, let ideas become better with discussion, and also keep the conversation moving and productive (you don’t want people to lose interest and feel like their time is being wasted).

Group Discussions by emmapersky on Flickr

Make sure someone besides you is taking notes so that you can all remember what you talked about, and disperse those notes later in the week (via email, most likely).

Make sure to leave enough time at the end of your meeting to establish the next meeting time and place. Find out if the same time next month is good. And then THANK EVERYONE FOR COMING, sum up the meeting at the end, let everyone know how exciting it is to have everyone together, discussing these issues that are so important to the community.

As people leave, shake their hand, tell them you look forward to seeing them next time, that you liked their idea about xx, that you’ll follow up with them about the question they asked….

What To Do After The Meeting

Sometime in the next few days, send everyone an email: compile the notes, follow up on anything else you were supposed to do, and thank everyone for coming. Make it fun. And then remind everyone about the next meeting.

A week before the next meeting, make sure you remind everyone about it, and tell them how much you’re looking forward to it!

Sustainable Capitol Hill Sign

What’s In A Name?

A name of a group or organization is very important. It must be unique to your own locale, and it must be a name that people will be fond of, or at least a name that they won’t mind being identified with. Nothing too controversial – you don’t want to turn off people (and businesses) to the group before they even meet you. But descriptive enough that it’s clear what the group is about.

Some groups here include: Sustainable Seattle, Sustainable Capitol Hill (our neighborhood group), Seattle Green Drinks, Washington Toxics Coalition, Environmental Coalition of South Seattle, Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, NW Energy Coalition, Farming and the Environment, Bicycle Alliance of Washington… just a few ideas to put into your head!

So you can think up a name for the organization before the first meeting. That way you’ll be able to put a title on your fliers and emails. Or, you can give it a temporary name and then let the group decide what the name should be (probably not during the first meeting, but several meetings in). You decide, you can gauge how people feel about the name and see how it goes!

Working Together originally by rockinpaddy on Flickr

That’s it for now. Next time, I will probably discuss finding a good first project and making sure it works. Sound good?

Let Me Know What You Think!

Is this helpful to you? How could it be more helpful? What questions do you have?

Also please share your knowledge – how have you successfully formed groups? What advice do you have for others who are thinking about it?

Keep Your Head Up And Your Costs Down

NY Times Headline Today

Have you been following the news today? Our worldwide economy isn’t doing so well. The U.S. House didn’t pass the bank rescue bill. Our fourth largest bank tanked and was sold off. Several European banks had to be rescued. They’re calling this the Black Monday of 2008. Things are looking a bit grim today, aren’t they?

It’s difficult to keep from feeling down about the state of the world right now. Our economy, our climate, our numerous wars and world catastrophes….

But… we can’t do anything about it if we stay down. The world needs us, our families need us, and we have the power to change the state of the world. So don’t lose hope. Put your energy into a solution. Put everything you have into a solution. It’s important. You – we – are important.

Get Your Finances Together

Spend the day getting your finances in gear, working to cut your family’s costs and save money. Make sure you have your money in F.D.I.C.-insured accounts (they’re insured up to $100,000). Take care of your investments right now – make sure you’ve invested safely and conservatively.

Revise your family budget and look for ways to save more. Read Time To Tighten Our Belts for some ideas (there are some great ideas in the comments there as well). How To Keep From Becoming Overwhelmed might help right now, too. Make a list and stick to it.

Some books that might help: Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Your Money Or Your Life. And you also might check out the blogs Get Rich Slowly and Wise Bread. For budgeting itself, I have heard good things about and, both of which offer free online budgets. Also, your bank may have a budgeting software online through the online banking system. And Quicken is available online (with a 60-day free trial) or as a software program. (Please let me know if you have other resources we all should know about!)

Help Strengthen Others Around You

And once you have straightened out your own finances, help others in your community and work to strengthen your community. Your community is a buffer, an important element that you are suspended within, it keeps you afloat and you can help keep it afloat. The stronger our local economies are, the stronger our personal economies become.

Get involved in your community this week. Don’t delay. I’ll be writing more about how to create change in your community in the coming few days, so stay tuned for more.


And if you’re really feeling overwhelmed and down, get together with a friend or family member and work together to do something productive for your families and your communities.

We can’t afford to lose hope. Take positive steps today. Right now.

What Are You Going To Do Today?

Please share what you’re doing today – and in the coming days – to make a difference. This way we can all become more motivated and gain ideas from one another!

THE GROWING CHALLENGE: What Did You Learn Last Season?

The Growing Challenge

What Did You Learn Last Season?

The equinox has passed and our new seasons are upon us. In the southern hemisphere, the spring is warning the earth, I’ve noticed the first plantings are sprouting in your gardens. In the northern hemisphere, fall is upon us, we’re covering our tomatoes and other summer crops to get that last little bit of harvest before our gardens give way to winter crops.

So… I figured we might be able to learn one another: we northerners can share our information with the southerners just beginning their big growing season, and southerners can teach us what they’ve learned in the cooler months. Shall we?

Here Are 10 Things I Learned This Summer:

Tomatoes On Our Windowsill

1. Growing tomatoes in a cooler climate makes a huge difference: a ten-fold difference in harvest! So next year I have a lot to learn about warming up the tomatoes. I did, however, find some AMAZING new varieties. Every type we planted was new this year: Sub-Arctic Plenty, Tonadose Des Conores, Ignoli Gigante Liscio, Mama Leone, Dr. Wyche’s Yellow, Black Cherry, Japanese Black Triefele, Anana’s Noire, and Hillbilly Heirloom. And I liked all of them, but my favorites are the two black varieities: black cherry tomatoes and Japanese black triefle. Wow. Sweet, chocolaty goodness. Yum.

Black Cherry Tomatoes

Japanese Black Triefle Tomatoes

I also found that the Sub-Arctic and “Japanese” (which are really Russian) ripened faster and did much better overall in the cooler Seattle climate. I’ll be looking for more such types next year.

Oh yeah, and I learned how to hand-pollinate tomatoes (and peppers)!

Garlic in Geyserville Hail

Garlic in Seattle

2 of several garlic heads harvested

2. Garlic is extremely forgiving. We planted in Geyserville in late winter – far too late. But it came up just fine – every single one of them! Then when we moved, I put some of them in a garbage bag inside a box, where they sat through the move and long after (weeks!), before we put them back in the ground. Once in the ground, they kept growing and flowered, and then… made garlic!! Tasty, spicy, scrumptious garlic. I’ll be doing that again!

Baby Huckleberries (left of center), Tomatoes and Peppers

Huckleberries on 6-18

Mom in same spot on 9-14

3. Huckleberries. Thrived in Seattle. The tiny little seedlings made it through the move, past weeks of neglect, into the garden, and then they grew taller than I am very quickly. Problem: they went in too late and most of them are still green. But there are thousands and thousands of them!! Another problem: I’m not sure I like huckleberries.

So my thought is that maybe instead of huckleberries next year, we can do tomatillos and ground cherries, which are related. Audrey found them to be prolific here, so I’m thinking that might be better for us. That is, assuming the huckleberries don’t make it through the winter. Anyone know if they survive frosts?

Tomatoes and Peppers Covered in Cold, Hard Rain

4. Peperoncinis and Italian peperoncinis aren’t the same thing. Heh. Just learned that, as ours are skinny and turning red. Apparently what we wanted for pickling were banana peppers. Is that right? Anyone know?


5. Squashes do terribly in a cold, wet summer. So terribly that I wonder if we should bother growing them next year, considering the space they take up. At the NW picnic, we all comiserated about this, so we were not alone. I believe more than anything, it was the bees that never came out because it was so cold. And the powdery mildew and stem rotting. And the fact that the female and male flowers never got in sync because the sun didn’t come out. Sigh.

I’ll be looking into varieties that do better in cooler climates next year, and we can do a better job of building high beds for better drainage. We can also do some hand pollination. But most likely we’ll put in just a couple of plants next year, and reserve the rest of the space for something else.


Potato Flowers

Potato Berries

6. Potatoes! Hooray for potatoes! Easiest plant to grow, beautiful plants and flowers, and it’s lots of fun harvesting them. And I had no idea they produced potato berries – so strange!

First of 4 Potato Harvests

Blue Fingerling

The variety that did best for us were yellow finns and yellow fingerlings. YUM.

Grapes, Tomatoes, Raspberries, Passion Flower in July

7. Grapes, currants, and raspberries are doing very well. I was worried that the grapes in particular wouldn’t do so well in the cold and wet, but that is not turning out to be the case. They don’t produce fruit the first year, but I have high hopes for them. Very happy. We’re going to visit an organic vineyard on Saturday, as a part of Farm Day, so hopefully I’ll learn a little more about grape growing in the northwest.

Heirloom Cauliflower From The Market

8. I wish we’d grown cauliflower, as both Matt and I have found a love of roasted heirloom cauliflower. Particularly varities with a bit of purple in them. YUM. Broccoli I like, but it only did ok this year (though last year it did really well, so it could be that we used starts this year instead of growing them from seed ourselves).

Broccoli & Brussels Sprouts Seedlings

9. There are two different kinds of brussels sprouts. Did you know this? The early and the late. The early, which is apparently what we grew last year, produces sprouts quickly: as the plant grows, the sprouts grow. The late don’t grow sprouts right away. The plants grow first, and then many weeks later, as the weather cools, the sprouts start.

This has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your situation. I’m hoping the aphids will have died off for the season before they do much to our sprouts. They’re more of an annoyance than anything, but they were QUITE annoying last year! (They didn’t actually do any real damage other than make me waste water. I had to wash our sprouts extremely well to make sure we didn’t eat any extra aphid protein with our vegetables.)

Salad of Lettuce & Herbs From The Garden

10. Lettuce does not do well in pots. At least shallow pots. They continuously went to seed for us. It was very frustrating! The seedlings never got more than a few inches tall before going to seed. So my only guess is that as soon as the roots hit the bottom of the pot, they panicked and went to seed. Next time we’ll try deep, deep pots (eg, wine barrels) and see if that helps because we love greens so much, it will save us a lot of money if we can figure this out.

Melinda In The Garden (That's Me! Next To The Huckleberries.)

So there you have it. Those are the big things I learned.

What’s The Growing Challenge?

There are currently 169 people who are a part of this challenge. Head on over to The Growing Challenge Page and check out what it’s all about.

Your Turn!

Please share with your fellow gardeners what you learned! And again, as always, feel free to link to your gardening posts here.

So… what did you learn last season? What would you do differently? Did you try any experiments, and if you did, were they successful? Have you found any new favorite crops or types that you can’t wait to plant again?

Help! We Need Your Advice About Skin Care!


Yesterday I received a comment and email from Stephanie. She has been following what we write about here, is participating in the Green Your Insides Challenge, and is simplifying her lifestyle in many other ways. Did I mention she’s 19 and in college?!

College is a perfect time to make changes, but it’s also a stressful time to make changes. I think many of us can identify with that!

So please take a look at her plea below and see if you can help. (The original comment is here and is reproduced with permission.)

So, I stopped using my chemical-laden acne wash and products that bleach every fabric my face touches (pillowcases, towels) in order to try a less-drying BAR SOAP… though admittedly one said to be for made for acne, and not a homemade one either.

And while it worked for the first few days in the transition, where my face was nice and soft and NOT DRY for once… currently I want to run screaming back to the aesthetician for more of the CHEMICALS. My face hurts. The pimples and redness have been spreading like a rash, and it is driving me absolutely crazy–to the point that I can hardly concentrate on my work for an hour and a half because my face hurts and I just want it all to stop.

The sad thing is I wasn’t this worried about it when I went to the aesthetician to rid my acne. I guess I got used to having a clear-of-acne forehead over the last year and a half.

Maybe my skin is sensitive, period? There *is* aluminum laurel sulfate in my shampoo, so if I stopped using that, I wonder if it would help my face? Should I just switch to a Dr. Bronner’s soap or another homemade plain soap? Or a plain oatmeal soap like what you tried first? (Rhetorical questions!) And yet I hate the idea of dropping these things; I have half a bottle left of my shampoo still. It feels too wasteful to just drop everything because my face no longer looks clear of acne, and I can live with it if I have to… and yet it’s painful and I’m used to not having it and I don’t feel CLEAN with a face like this. And spreading like a rash.

I’m sorry — I just really needed to vent all this. I know there’s no “quick fix” to anything but… I’m new to all these green changes and I’m new to paying attention to my body’s reaction to what I do to it and it’s frightening how much self-hatred I’m going through all of a sudden. And I don’t know what to DO! I wish there were a way to search a bunch of blogs AND ONLY THESE BLOGS on Google so I could find what people are saying about different soaps and ways to wash hair and etc.

If you have experience with this – or just moral support – I’m sure Stephanie could use it!!

90% Reduction Achieved

My new favorite type of tomato: The Japanese Black Trifele


I don’t write about the Riot For Austerity very much here. Maybe it’s because I cringe every time I write out the name (it’s a little strange), maybe it’s because I know that some of you might think I’m insane for taking on such a project, or maybe it’s because I’m largely focused on Community Building of late. I will admit that I am not as active member of the group as I was, but I still think it’s a noble ambition and we do continue to reduce our household emissions.


What’s This Riot?

If this group is new to you, here’s the gist of it. George Monbiot writes:

If we’re to have a high chance of preventing global temperatures from rising by 2C (3.6F) above preindustrial levels, we need, in the rich nations, a 90% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030.

We have seen the maps of CO2 emissions, we know who we are: the US, Canada, Norway, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kazakhstan, Finland, Russia, Japan, Libya, UK, Germany, South Africa, Korea… these are the world’s highest CO2 producers per capita.

Monbiot continues:

Climate change is not just a moral question: it is the moral question of the 21st century. There is one position even more morally culpable than denial. That is to accept that it’s happening and that its results will be catastrophic, but to fail to take the measures needed to prevent it.

Members of the Riot for Austerity have decided to take those measures into our own hands. We are changing our lifestyles and reducing our CO2 emissions by 90% of the American average. With our successful actions we hope to motivate others to do the same, and we hope to show our governments that we can and will make these drastic changes voluntarily. And happily.


Our Family’s Changes

Last year Matt and I considerably reduced our usage of water, electricity, heating and cooking fuel, garbage, and consumer goods. We have been changing our lifestyles for many years, so our starting point last year was at about 40% less than the average American household. But by the time we left Geyserville, we were close to 90% reduction in every arena excepting transportation.

Gasoline. Car driving. That was over the American average. By a lot.

So when we were looking for a new home town earlier this year, we looked for a place where we could reduce our driving. We found a dense, walkable urban neighborhood in the heart of Seattle. And when we were looking for jobs, we looked near our home. I am lucky to be able to work from home most of the time. Matt walks less than a mile to work. We walk to our doctors, dentists, grocery stores, library, gym, pet store, farmer’s market, neighborhood sustainability meetings, and nearly everything we need. I walk on average 2 miles per day!

Plus we live right on a bus line that takes me to our family allotment and many other areas of town.


Did Our Latest Changes Make A Difference?

Well, after four months of living here, I have been able to tally our CO2 emissions using this handy dandy Riot For Austerity calculator. The drum roll please…

The Riot For Austerity divides our usage into 7 categories. Here are our results for each category:

1. Electricity. 90% reduction.

2. Heating & Cooking Fuel. 100% reduction (we don’t use either).

3. Garbage. 94% reduction.

4. Water. 90% reduction.

5. Consumer Goods. 97% reduction (we haven’t bought anything new in a while!).

6. Food. 90-95% reduction. (The Riot calculates this differently, but we are on target).

7. Transportation. 88% reduction.

Yeehaw! Ok, 88% isn’t 90%, but considering that we’re 100% in other areas, I think it’s pretty darn fine.

So there you have it, folks. Since we left Los Angeles a little over a year ago, we have dropped our CO2 emissions by about 50%. You can do it, too!

I know it sounds difficult to some of you, but just remember to do the best you can and keep working at it. It is important. We are changing the world, whether we like it or not. So let’s change it in a positive direction. We can make a difference with our actions. One step at a time!!

What’s The Matter With SLS?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium Laureth Sulfate


What Is SLS?

SLS stands for sodium lauryl sulfate. It is a cheap foaming agent used in most shampoos, toothpaste, detergents, floor and car soaps, shaving creams, bubble bath suds, mouthwashes, moisturizers, dissolvable aspirins, and pesticides.


Sodium lauryl sulfate has a cousin, seen in many of the same products: sodium laureth sulfate (aka SLES). Petroleum is converted to ethylene, then oxygen is added to form ethylene oxide. When combined with SLS, the solution becomes SLES. SLES is also a cheap foaming agent (a surfactant), thought by some to be gentler than SLS.

And sometimes in “SLS-free” products, you will see ammonium lauryl sulfate (aka ALS) instead. ALS is also a cheap foaming agent (a surfactant), thought by some to be gentler than SLS or SLES.


SLS Controversy

You may not have heard of SLS at all, or you may have sort of heard it’s not great but don’t really know why. The latter was me, not long ago. But recently I looked it up as a part of the Green Your Insides Challenge….

And I was horrified! “Carcinogenic,” “highly damaging to the liver,” “highly irritating and dangerous” were phrases that jumped out at me. Yikes! So today I sat down to research further and share that research with you all, thinking many of you may not have had time to research it on your own.

Much to my surprise, I found Snopes calling this a “Shampoo Scam,” and the American Cancer Society refuting the carcinogenic statements. Even Treehugger debunks the “eco-myth” that SLS causes cancer.


Yet, I went to the Skin Deep website, a well-respected site created by the Environmental Working Group, and the page for SLS notes: “in vitro tests on mammalian cells show positive mutation results” for cancer, “animal studies show brain and nervous system effects at moderate doses” for neurotoxicity, “animal studies show sense organ effects at low doses” for organ system toxicity, and strong evidence for it being a “human irritant.” Despite these scary claims, on a scale from 1 to 10, Skin Deep rates SLS a “2: low hazard.”


Skin Deep rates SLES a “3-4: moderate hazard”. While SLES is does not have a history of studies pointing toward carcinogenic possibilities, it cites concerns that SLES is contaminated by these carcinogenic chemicals:


1. Ethylene Oxide (that’s the “E” in SLES). When I clicked on “ethylene oxide” at Skin Deep, I came up with a “10: high hazard.” (Take a moment to click on that ethylene oxide link and look on the right at all of the products that contain it – yikes.)


2. 1,4-Dioxane, which is a solvent. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), this is a known eye and respiratory tract irritant. It is suspected of causing damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. Skin Deep also rates it a “10: high hazard.” (And again, do take a look at all the products that contain it.)


Skin Deep rates ALS a “1: low hazard”, for organ system toxicity and skin irritation at low doses.


They Do All Agree On Some Things

So what do you do with that conflicting information? You can do your own research and look into the published articles on the subject at the National Library of Medicine. There are 800 of them.


You can also look at what all the studies have in common: SLS, SLES, and ALS are most definitely skin and eye irritants. Nobody disputes this, lots of studies have shown this. They do strip your hair of oils and proteins (so that many of us have to put them back with conditioners). When in toothpaste, SLS has been linked to canker sores. Swallowing SLS will most likely cause nausea and diarrhea.


Why Bother?

In my search, I also found other ingredients commonly found in many of these household products: DEA (aka cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA, TEA-Lauryl Sulfate, Triethanolamine, etc, etc.) is another ingredient often added as a foaming agent – even the USDA believes it is a carcinogen. Skin Deep lists cocamide DEA a “6: moderate hazard,” as an irritant, toxicant, and carcinogen. Parabens are a family of preservatives found in most of these products. Paraben is “7: high hazard,” sodium methylparaben is “8: high hazard.” DMDM Hydantoin is an antimicrobial formaldehyde releaser found in many shampoos, conditioners, and skin care products: “7-9: high hazard.”


And I’m sure some of you have come across other potentially harmful ingredients as well (please feel free to share). So even if SLS and SLES are “only” skin and eye irritants, there are lots of other things in those products that can make you sick.


Rethink The Whole Thing.


We go to the store and purchase a product that some marketer has packaged and called shampoo. We’re supposed to buy it so that our hair can look good. We’re supposed to buy that other product so that our floors can look good (funny, they have many of the same ingredients). And that other product so that our car, our table, our everything else will look good.


Stop and look at what you really need to make your hair, body, and home beautiful. Don’t risk your health because someone said a certain product is the only thing that works. Don’t buy into their marketing. Redefine normal on your own terms.


And this doesn’t mean that you have to risk your pocketbook for a $10 shampoo that doesn’t have all the bad things in it. See if you can find something else that works, something simple.


You can clean your entire house and yourself with only vinegar, baking soda, water, soap, hydrogen peroxide (or tea tree oil), and washing soda. So try it. No need to buy an expensive bottle of something that has 10-15 ingredients in it, trucked from all around the world, packaged, and trucked again to you. Eliminate the excess, for your planet, your pocketbook, for your family’s health.


What Is The Green Your Insides Challenge?

To start greening your own home.

First, start paying attention to what you put on your body, in your body, and around your body. Right now.

And then over the next few months, put it all into practice: take solid steps to green your indoor environment.

If you don’t know where to start, follow my articles as I talk about what we’ve done over the next several weeks!

Find out more here.


I'm Green Inside

What Do You Think?

Will you try to give up these unnecessary products?


Or if you have already, what do you use instead?


Have you researched SLS? What have your experiences been with it – is it an irritant?

Recipe: Scrumptious Melt-In-Your-Mouth Low Fat Yogurt Pancakes

Yogurt Pancakes

Continue reading Recipe: Scrumptious Melt-In-Your-Mouth Low Fat Yogurt Pancakes