What’s the deal with those pesky parabens?

If you’re like me you only buy paraben-free lotions, shampoos, deodorants and makeup. If you’re also like me you only kind of know what parabens are and why they are bad for you. So, here’s all you need to know about parabens to sound more educated at your next dinner party: 

parabenParabens are a class of (mostly synthetically produced) chemicals, used as preservatives in the cosmetics and pharma industries. Companies use them because they are cheap, help products last on store shelves, and because they prevent the growth of microbes.

Here’s the controversy: #1 absorption, #2 cancer, #3 hormones.

Well ok #1 isn’t up for debate, parabens can be absorbed through the skin, blood, and digestive system; fact. “If these substances are in your blood, they’re also in your liver and in every other place in your body,” explains Torkjel Sandanger, head researcher of a Norwegian study on parabens.

#2 Parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors; fact. In 2004 researchers in the UK detected parabens in the breast cancer tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied, and discovered that the parabens came from something applied to the skin such as an underarm deodorant or cream. The controversy kicks in because it was a small study and did not prove a causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer. Denmark has banned parabens, the EU flip flops on it every few years (currently allowed in up to 0.4% concentrations), and the FDA says they are no biggie because the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (an INDUSTRY-SPONSORED organization) says they’re no biggie. I’m siding with Denmark on this one.

#3 Parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen (which plays a role in breast cancer and is why your 9 year old has boobs); fact. Parabens bind to estrogen receptors on cells and disrupt hormone function (this effect is linked to increased risk of breast cancer/reproductive toxicity). On this one the FDA says it’s ‘aware that estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer. Although parabens can act similarly to estrogen, they have been shown to have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen.’ Well great, I’m glad that the chemicals we’re putting into our bodies are LESS estrogenic than what’s already going on.  Really though, I don’t want anything but my natural estrogen floating around in there.

As always make your own decision, but no seriously stop slathering chemicals on your body and for the love of God please get paraben-free, aluminum free deodorant!


I was at a networking event tonight (hosted by my fabulous old friends at Sustainable Brands) and was asked to wear a DOT, a blue button where I’d write my commitment to ‘Do One Thing’ for the world. At first I thought, holy shit are you copying my GGG website because that’s legit what I’m trying to get people to do, and then I realized the event was also hosted by Saatchi S who has been doing DOT since 2006 when they started it with WalMart. In 2006 I was still traipsing around Australia and had a belly button ring (truth).

Then I thought, ugh I already do a lot of things (biking to work, composting, reusing, going organic/local/fair trade/ethically-made), you want me to add another thing!? I told them I couldn’t do it, I was already the most sustainable person in the room (that may have been the wine talking..). I quickly realized I was full of crap and that we can all Do One (more) Thing. My buddy Mike had a really good one, to smile at 3 strangers a day. Spreading cosmic happiness human to human. Another gem came from my friend Jess (who side note is the most fun human I’ve ever met), who is going to buy clothing and things second-hand (craigslist, buffalo exchange, etc.).

I settled on ‘buy less packaged goods’. I’m going to make an effort to go to the amazing grocery stores out here that sell things in bulk (Rainbow, Berkeley Bowl, even isles in WFs) and bring my reusable bags, pouches, and tupperware to stock up. I’m also going to get my reusable salad bowl back out of storage. In truth I stopped bring it around SF because all takeaway containers here have to be compostable  vs. the styrofoam in NYC. I know however that producing and breaking down those compostable takeaway containers uses energy, water, and resources and I could just as easily bring my own bowl/container. I’m also going to continue to stalk the most incredible grocery store/idea of all times, In.gredients, based in Austin, to see if they’ll let me open one for them in SF. Ingredients is an entire grocery store that only sells things in bulk. Bring your own milk jug, juice container, jar for olive oil, granola bar bag, etc. Incredible, f’ing incredible. In.gredients, please come to SF, I will work for you for free.

That’s my DOT for now. What’s yours?

You can always message me if you need inspiration: gudergoesgreen@gmail.com!


Hide your kids, hide your wife.

While the above may be an exaggerated blog title, this is the headline I wake up to:

Major Retailers Sell Carcinogenic Shampoos, Lawsuit Claims

And I thought: no wonder everybody knows someone that has cancer, and about that gem of a news story from 2012. Maybe we should stop putting cancer in our F’ing SHAMPOO.

The culprit ingredient is cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA), used to make foam and bubbles, which was added last year as a known carcinogen to Cali’s Proposition 65 list (chemical disclosure law) based on the assessment by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organization and super legit).

The Center for Environmental Health (kickass NGO focused on protecting people from toxic chemicals) bought products around the bay area and had them independently tested, as companies were supposed to remove it by June. Testing found 98 products contained the chemical and offenders included Colgate Palmolive, Paul Mitchell, Lush, and store-brand products purchased at Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Kmart and Babies R Us.

To see the full list of shampoos you, your kids, and your wife should definitely not be lathering on click here.

Seeing is believing: GHGs

My husband will tell you I’m a verbal processor. I need to say things out loud, or keep rambling, until I figure out what I mean. But that’s not important today. Today what’s important is that I’m also a visual learner. I love to climb cooling towers to see what those giant fans look like, see the reverse osmosis water filtration system in action at a paper plant, and see for myself where the compost goes in San Francisco.

One thing that’s tough to see: Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). Quick science lesson to make sure we all actually know what those are (because I guarantee you’ve said GHG but might still be a bit fuzzy). We’re talking gas in the atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation in the thermal infrared range. Basically these fuckers trap in the sun’s heat and greatly affect the temperature on Earth. They don’t however prevent the solar heat from coming IN.  Solar radiation comes towards the earth and: a small portion is reflected back to space by the clouds (~20%), a large portion portion is absorbed into the earth (~50%), and the remaining bit hits the earth and bounces back towards space. GHGs then capture this heat as it bounces back towards space. The good news is, without them, it’d be super cold so we need them.


You may be saying I already knew that, BUT did you know that water vapor (yes good ol H2O) was the most abundant? I know right! The ones we typically focus on (because they’re the ones that we put into the atmosphere in droves) are carbon dioxide and methane (cow farts!). Which brings me to the bad news. Since the Industrial Revolution burning of our beloved fossil fuels has contributed to a 40% increase in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere from 280 to 397 parts-per-million (ppm) today- and it’s the concentration that screws us because it means more molecules out there to trap more heat in. Check out 350.org to learn more about why the Earth should only be at 350ppm/why we’re screwed.

Just so we’re all on the same page – global warming isn’t up for debate (scientific fact). GHGs contributing to global warming isn’t up for debate (scientific fact). What is still debated (scientist consensus is ‘very likely’ but not fact) is whether humans are causing climate change (anthropogenic climate change if you want to be fancy). Decide for yourself. Here’s a graph from NASA (you’ve heard of them right?) that shows global temp going way way back. My feelings align with the scientific community: we’re definitely causing it and need to cut the shit.


So back to visual learning (told you, verbal processor). I came across this great visual that shows us what GHGs would look like if we could see them on the street. In 2010 New York City added 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent) into the atmosphere. The team at Carbon Visuals made a two minute video of what this would look like (1 ton of CO2 would fill a sphere 33 feet across). Click on the first image to watch the 2 minute film or check out these pics:

What the amount of GHG emissions produced in NYC in ONE DAY looks like:

1 days of NYC emissions

What the amount of GHG emissions produced in NYC in ONE YEAR looks like:

1 year GHG NYC emissions1 year of NYC emissions - 54mil metric tons

Of course we can see the effects of the GHGs we’re releasing (like woah) into the air – increased number and severeness of forest fires, hurricanes, tornados, tropical storms, floods; breathing anywhere in China/India; and the Maldives disappearing just to name a few…

Where have all the cowboys gone?

My last post about Naked Juice’s $9 mil settlement for false advertising (WTF #1) got me thinking about the brands truly pioneering sustainable products and how a lot of them are no more. These cowboys have mostly been purchased by larger (mostly terrible) companies that change the products, change the ingredients, and change the supply chains all under the guise of reaching the masses. I have no snobbery around my favorite eco-products being offered at Wal-Mart (I have snobbery around not stepping foot in a Wal-Mart but that’s for another day). I actually LOVE the idea of more people being able to buy the products I love and use. More people making conscious choices. Which in theory should add up to more trees saved, less GHGs put into the air, better labor conditions, right?! Unfortunately the reality isn’t quite that rosy.

Since I’m lactose-free soy is part of my diet. When Silk Soymilk was taken over by megatron Dean Foods, they began to use conventional soybeans instead of organic ones WITHOUT CHANGING THE PACKAGING. WTF #2. The same Dean Foods also bought Horizon (what was great organic milk) and now they are being sued by farmers and the Cornucopia Institute for selling fake organic milk, and investigated by the Justice Department. WTF #3.

Colgate-Palmolive bought my beloved Tom’s and surprise surprise they now have an antiperspirant for the first time that contains aluminum (the debated ingredient that may be linked to breast cancer or may just be a lot of chemical to roll up onto your delicate parts). Oh and their mouthwash contains a ‘natural’ ingredient derived from gas and oil, Poloxamer 335 & 407. WTF #4. But they are actually one of the companies doing it the best. While their recent switch to (non-recyclable) plastic toothpaste tubes sent hippies up in arms, they transparently listed customer feedback as the reason for the switch (the aluminum tubes cracked/split apparently) and put a band-aid on the recycling problem by letting you ship them to Maine, where they’ll ship them to Illinois to be made into other plastics. But will you do that? Will I? At least they ditched the cardboard tube box!

Other notable cowboy losses since 2000 include: Burt’s Bees now part of the Clorox manufacturing machine, L’Oreal owns my new favorite The Body Shop, Unilever owns Ben & Jerrys, Coke owns Odwalla and Honest Tea, Danone owns Stoneyfield Farm and Brown Cow, Kellogg owns Kashi, General Mills owns Cascadian Farm, Larabar, and Food Should Taste Good, and Schwepps owns Green & Black Organic Chocolate (this one I was surprised about!). Do you know of others?

Check out the infographic below to see Michigan State’s mapping of where our organic brands really come from and do you own research to see if the products have changed, as the packaging likely hasn’t.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping a desperate hold on to my few remaining favorites Amy’s, Arrowhead Mills, Nature’s Path, and Organic Valley.

Michigan State Organic Industry Structure

Michigan State Organic Industry Structure

Smoothies with a side of Toxin

naked juiceIf you haven’t yet heard (and you might not have since Pepsi is working very hard to keep this quiet), Naked Juice (which they own) was sued for falsely claiming to be “All Natural” and incorrectly marketing their juices and smoothies. This week Naked/Pepsi settled for $9 million and agreed to remove the “All Natural” labels from its products.

Let’s look at what actually is in these claimed-to-be “All Natural Products”:

  • Fibersol-2 – an engineered soluble corn fiber that acts as a low-calorie bulking agent
  • Fructooligosaccharides – an alternative sweetener which comes from fruits and veggies but then is processed to make a commercial mixture. It ‘seems to be safe when taken in less than 30 grams per day, can cause intestinal gas, intestinal noises, bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea’ but ‘these effects are usually mild if the dose is less than 10 grams per day’ Great.
  • Calcium pantothenate -a synthetically produced vitamin made by condensing isobutyraldehyde with formaldehyde. FORMALDEHYDE! Also found in skin/hair products..yum.
  • Genetically-modified soy – shocker that Pepsi contributed $2.5 million to defeat Cali’s GMO labeling Prop 37

There are more. These ingredients (obviously) do not exist in nature so Naked was called out for being the liar that they are. Way to go USA consumers – let’s hope this kicks off more thought, interest, and inquiry on accurate labeling.

‘Transparency is not a choice. It’s gonna happen, the only choice is does it happen to you or do you participate in it’..  Alex Bogusky

Bike Powered: Margaritas & Ice Cream!

In case you didn’t know, I’m really into bicycles. My husband is into riding long distances on bicycles, whereas I’m content in my place as an urban cyclist. It’s my transportation to work (the BEST start to a morning), my grocery store helper (thank you pannier bags), and you can find me in the city carrying all sorts of crazy shit home on my bike. The two craziest were probably a 6 foot tall picture frame that I put my body through so I could still pedal, and a bunch of huge storage bins from Office Depot that I had to tie to my helmet and shoot down my back (might be contributing to the back problems..).


What I also love is finding amazing examples of bicycle powered goods. At the Sustainable Brand’s Conference, Earth911 set up a super rad bike-powered blender that we drank delicious margaritas from (thanks to Dimitar for pedaling away!). There, I also discovered Peddler’s Creamery, an LA based creamery that churns all of its flavors by bike (also organic, fair trade, locally sourced). I had the vegan chocolate and it was incredible (please please open up in SF Peddler’s!). If you’re in LA you should definitely check them out.

In SF we have Bicycle Coffee where they personally select the beans from sustainable farms they’ve visited, roast them in SF, and then bicycle them around to stores and businesses, and I recently read about Portland’s new bicycle delivery service: B-Line that bikes any good (produce, baked goods, Office Depot orders) to businesses.

Biking in cities is definitely the future and I’m glad to see more of these leg-powered goods companies popping up. Some day I will quit my job and deliver something delicious to people using my legs….

Make-Your-Own Trail Mix in New Haven!


Greetings from the East Coast! As I head into the woods for a week of pure happiness at camp, I’m finding lots of GREEN back in my native CT. New Haven has always intrigued me as a city. Slightly ghetto, pretty small, but with a ton of local spirit, educated people, and even a startup scene. My Dad and I had the pleasure of feasting at Green Well where he commented ‘Woah, this is a hippie SF/Sarah restaurant’. Right he was!

Green Well’s mission is to bring happiness, energy and fulfillment to others through lifestyle and consumption habits (side note: I think this also might be my mission!). There the organic, responsibly sourced food and drink is the norm, and it’s not more expensive (Dad was into the prices and he listens to Rush Limbaugh).

All sandwiches are served on freshly baked/homemade vegan bread, and sandwiches come with kale chips. I’m still dreaming of our breakfast sandwiches, and the glorious trail mix and cereal bar where I tried my first goji berry (16 varieties of dried fruit, veggies, nuts and granola!).

Coming home is going to be much more fun with great places like this popping up. Way to go CT!

Turns out The Body Shop is pretty awesome.

warming-mineral-mask_lI get asked a lot about what moisturizers and creams I use (since cosmetics are not regulated and there are all sorts of horrible chemicals in most of the things you can buy at CVS).

Turns out The Body Shop is a great option. It’s similar to a Patagonia because it was started to improve society &  the planet. I associated it as a bit old school, but really it’s kind of a secret gem. They’ve been 100% anti animal testing from their first day in business (!), every product is certified Cruelty-Free, and they’re also one of the first big brands to be as Fair Trade as they possibly can be. Fair Trade as a seal is just getting into cosmetics and Body Shop is helping them expand. They currently source FT Shea (which is a hugely controversial ingredient – there is conflict Shea butter, I know, wild), Tea Tree, Honey, Hemp, and Aloe. They do a ton with employee volunteerism, have their own foundation, encourage female self esteem (not with makeup, with health), focus on domestic violence, work with a lot of local community groups, are replacing store lighting with LEDs, installed solar on their HQ and other buildings, and have a huge focus on ethical suppliers (which is totally awesome, a lot of companies stop at their own operations and then say they have no control over what suppliers do).

I use the warming mineral mask (because who can afford regular facials) and I really like it. It definitely pulls out the gunk and I break out for about a day after using it (similar to with a facial) but then my skin feels so clean, smooth, and even tighter. Worth a try if you’re into that.

My other favorite brand is Yes To (Carrots, Blueberries, Cucumbers). It’s strong environmentally and health-wise they don’t put any chemical crap in their products. Good Guide rates them as a 6/10 mostly because their social programs aren’t super transparent. I really like how the Carrots Repairing Night Cream feels on my face, and you can get it at Target which helps. I didn’t love the cucumber moisturizer (smelled really fragrant and went on sticky), and the blueberry I like only in the eye cream.

I also use the derma E day cream (with SPF) and I really like it- not greasy and perfect for every day. They sell it at Whole Foods (it’s expensive I think $25 for a little tub), and Good Guide rates it a 7.4.

To healthy faces, healthy society, and a healthy planet!

Another Leg-Powered Vacation: Our Patagonian Honeymoon

We did it again. Except this time we hiked (there were some bicycles-through a vineyard and tandem style through Santiago). After a few days touring Santiago, we hiked through the Lake District in the northern part of Patagonia in Chile, for a week. It was so. freaking. amazing.

We were in the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park and we went with a guide through One Seed Expeditions. One Seed was simply the best. They employ all local guides, we stayed with local people, and their basic goal is to eradicate poverty by employing people through tourism. It was also a no-waste trip (the food was made by our local hosts and they make it or killed it themselves). One house had built their own hydro-electric dam, and no one anywhere near us had a car. They had legs, and horses. We ate a lamb a few hours after it was killed (yes I ate a lamb – talk about sustainable meat though!), and they handmade everything (the butter, the honey, the bread). It was some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten…oh take me back. People + Environment, this was my kind of vacation! 

I think the pictures tell the best story but I’ll give you some highlights: dinner in the German inspired village of Puerto Varas before the hike; a motorized row-boat ride across the Emerald Lake (after a 2 hour van ride, this hour boat ride, and 6 hours of hiking we finally reached the first house!); hiking to the top of a mountain up to a volcano – I felt like we were in National Geographic/only humans in the world; our honeymoon suite tent (I almost cried from exhaustion in it one night but took a nap instead); all the unbelievably gorgeous lakes!; the honey, the butter, the bread, the cake; the warm Chilean people; digging our own holes in natural hot springs next to the lake; and a relaxing adventure to Valpariso when we returned!

Luckily Simon and I find intimacy/happiness when we’re supporting each other through things. This may have not been the most relaxing honeymoon (if I did it again I’d add two days at the end to just sit on a beach!), it was the absolute perfect one for us to celebrate the first week of our marriage.

Thank you Chile, and thank you One Seed for the best honeymoon we could have imagined!

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