Greenwashing:  Being an Informed Consumer

greenwashing-cartoon1We all know that “going green” is trendy, and while I’m happy many companies are truly becoming eco-friendly, many more are jumping on the bandwagon and claiming to be “sustainable” without any proof to actually back up their claims.  Furthermore, these companies are charging you and I more money, since many of us will pay more to be (what we think is) eco-conscious.

Adding to the problem, greenwashing can be very difficult to spot.  We live in a time where it is necessary to research everything before we buy it, since companies are going out of their way to trick us with their labeling. Studies show that about half of consumers seek out food with “natural” labeling, and companies know this.  In reality, “natural” isn’t regulated by any agency and has no meaningful standards.  Foods with GMOs, hormones, pesticides, and artificial ingredients can all be labeled as “natural”.

The problem is exacerbated with non-food products, such as “pure and natural” diapers or “better for the environment” plastic bags.  Some companies use the color green, pictures of trees or natural landscapes, or words like “eco” or “enviro” to trick consumers into purchasing their product, even though nothing about the product is eco-friendly.  If something “eco” seems too good to be true (especially plastics, overly-processed foods, and single-use items), it probably is.

So, how can you find things that are truly good for the earth (and your body!)?  I’ve got a few solutions for you:

  • Shop Local. Go to farmer’s markets and talk to the people who grow and butcher your food.  Visit their farms and check it out for yourself.
  • Read labels. I personally don’t buy foods with ingredients I can’t pronounce.
  • Look for USDA Organic labeling for foods.

  • Look for Third Party Certification
    . These are recognized bodies that ensure a company is actually backing up its eco-friendly claims. Look for these popular labels (see full list here):American-Grassfed.png

    • American Grassfed
    • Animal Welfare Approvedcertified-humane-raised-and-handled
    • Certified Humane Raised and Handled
    • Certified Naturally Grownleaping-bunny
    • The Leaping Bunny (for cosmetics)
  • When in doubt, Google it. Seriously, it takes three minutes to look something up on your phone while standing in the store.  Look for reviews outside of the company website, which will give you a more accurate picture.

It is more important than ever to be a conscious, informed consumer.  Current (lack of) regulations allow companies to misguide consumers.  Luckily, we have the tools to make informed decisions.  It is well worth the few minutes out of our day to make sure we are buying items that are not only good for the environment, but also good for us!


Local Business Spotlight: Good Day Sunshine

It’s no secret that I love downtown Conway, SC.  Conway’s Downtown Alive is constantly hosting events to promote local businesses, such as the Conway Wine Around (my favorite event, obviously) where local businesses give out samples of wine, while patrons browse the stores and learn about the owners.  (This event happens twice a year; tickets are $20 and can be found online… but I digress.)

During the most recent Wine Around, I discovered my favorite new store in Conway: Good Day Sunshine.  I was especially thrilled with this discovery since I’ve been using the owner’s soaps for years, but recently have been unable to find them at the trusty Conway Farmer’s Market where I had previously been purchased them.  Emily, known as “the soap lady” to farmer’s market goers, recently opened Good Day Sunshine to provide residents with all-natural, handmade goods– from soaps to candles to perfumes and more!

I have yet to try something I don’t like from Good Day Sunshine, but my new favorite product is the laundry soap (I use the lavender vanilla blend), which leaves my clothes clean, soft, and smelling AMAZING. I have heard of and can pronounce all of the ingredients, including: saponified olive oil, coconut oil, and soybean oil, borax, baking soda, and essential oils.  (Out of curiosity, I just looked up Tide’s ingredients.  The six-page document included ingredients such as: disodium diaminostilbene disulfonate, Liquitint™ Blue, and diethylene glycol).  To go with her eco-friendly ingredients, Emily sells her laundry soap in mason jars and paper bags, which is far more sustainable than the plastic containers almost every other laundry detergent comes in.

Before I made my own body lotion, Emily’s  Nourish Body Lotion Bar was my go-to moisturizer.  As with all of her products, this lotion contains all-natural ingredients (like cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, and beeswax).  This also smells amazing, and leaves my skin feeling soft, smooth, and moisturized.   The beeswax ensures the lotion isn’t too “slick”, and I find it quickly soaks into my skin without any residue (think coconut oil).  I also love the container; using a deodorant tube allows  you to apply the exact amount of lotion you need efficiently and without the mess of other lotions.  Writing this makes me question my choice to make my own lotion in the first place…soap

I can’t talk about Good Day Sunshine without mentioning the soaps. These things are full
of (you guessed it) all-natural ingredients (including essential oils and herbs).  They smell amazing.  They leave your skin soft and clean.  They look beautiful and unique.  My only complaint is that they last too long, and I have to wait a long time before I purchase more wonderful options.

If you aren’t local, you can still enjoy all of these products by ordering online.  I can’t wait to try the soy candles, wax melts, roll-on perfumes, and anything else Emily comes up with!


Ya’ll, we can all agree that pizza is delicious, right?

My boyfriend and I have completely different food tastes; he mostly eats fried chicken and pepperoni pizza, while my diet consists of quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, kale… you get the idea.  We oftentimes have trouble deciding on a place to eat, since he’s not interested in trying the newest Indian spot and my vegetarian lifestyle doesn’t allow me to eat at Chick-fil-a or Bojangles (seriously… he eats at these places like, 5 times a week).  Luckily, Mellow Mushroom is a place we can both agree on.

Yes, Mellow Mushroom is a chain restaurant (which I tend to avoid), but as far as chain restaurants go, it’s pretty sustainable.  Each restaurant sources it’s own local, fresh ingredients (including local breweries when possible!).  They also try to be sustainable in areas other restaurants could, but choose not to.  For example, their napkins, paper towels, and cups are made with 100% recycled paper, bleach-free, and printed with soy ink.  Each of these things can be recycled.  Even their take-home boxes are sustainable!  They boast having “the greenest pizza box in the country” which is not only made from 100% recycled materials, but also has a negative carbon footprint.

Now, let’s talk about the food.  As a (damn) Yankee, one of the few things I missed about the North was the amazing pizza at every corner.  A couple of years ago, someone suggested Mellow Mushroom, and I scoffed at the idea of a chain pizza place living up to my high standards (I’m a food snob, what can I say?).  I eventually caved in, and boy was I wrong.

Mellow mushroom has some of the best pizza I’ve ever had.  You can order a standard pizza (you know, with cheese and pepperoni), but they’re really known for their specialty pies.  My favorite, the Holy Shiitake Pie, includes an “Olive oil and garlic base, Shiitake, button and Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, mozzarella and MontAmoré cheeses”. It’s drizzled with garlic aioli and black truffle oil and garnished with fresh chives and shaved Parmesan.

Beyond pizzas, they have some of best and vegetarian-friendly sandwiches on the Grand Strand.  I don’t know anywhere else locally where you can get a Tempeh Hoagie, and their Tofu Hoagie is one of the best I’ve ever had.  I’ve also tried the Avocado Hoagie and Veggie Burger for you, and am happy to report they’re all delicious.  The only problem I have with Mellow Mushroom is I’m not used to so many amazing vegetarian options on one menu (I counted at least 20, many of which can be made vegan).  Oh, my God, I almost forgot about the Portobello Reuben.

Anyway, if you’re looking for fresh, local, delicious food that’s sure to please everyone (whether they care about the environment or not), you can’t go wrong with Mellow Mushroom.

Plastics: What’s so bad about them and what can we do?

Plastics have got to be one the worst substances for the environment, mostly because they take FOREVER to biodegrade (I’m talking thousands of years!) and have become so ubiquitous in our society.  Take a look around your local grocery store, and you’ll notice plastic everywhere; from packaging of those organic cranberries you can’t live without (is that just me?) to soda bottles to the bags you use to transport everything home.    And that’s just one store!  Plastic is EVERYWHERE.

Single-use plastics are the WORST.  A typical person uses between 350-700 plastic bags in one year.  Last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38.

Let’s talk about recycling. Unlike glass and metal, plastics can only be recycled so many times.  You may have noticed numbers on the bottom of your plastics; these indicate the type of plastic used.  Most municipalities only have the resources to recycle #1s and #2s, so be sure to check with your local recycling centers.  Each time plastic is recycled, it is “downgraded” and eventually ends up in the landfill (or worse, the ocean).

Speaking of the ocean, have you heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Did you know that there’s a garbage patch in each of our oceans? Ocean currents carry debris to gyres where they stay presumably forever.  Even when the plastic breaks down, it just becomes smaller bits of plastic, which is actually more harmful since many marine animals end up digesting it.  Additionally, many of these plastics attract toxins other toxins which stay in the animals’ bodies.  Because of, you know, the food chain, humans can eventually end up with these toxins in their own systems.

So, what can we do?  The most effective and simplest solution is to quit using single-use plastics.  It’s so easy and cost-effective (and trendy) to buy a reusable bottle (preferably glass or metal) and refill it.  Not only is this keeping plastic from the landfill, but it’s also saving oil, carbon dioxide, and water (it takes 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water) among other things.

Reusable bags are also just as easy to find and use.  I keep mine in my car, so I always have one when I need it.  Many stores are now selling these bags for like, a dollar, but you can also make your own using an old T-shirt.  Beyond being better for the environment, these things hold a TON of stuff.  What usually takes 5-6 plastic grocery bags to carry only takes one of my reusable bags.  (Also worth noting when it comes to plastic bags at grocery stores: Do you really need a produce bag for those two lemons you just bought?  The answer is probably no.)

My last simple solution to avoid plastics is to look at the packaging of the items you’re purchasing.  When possible, opt for items with less packaging, or in glass or paper packaging.  If you really want to get crazy, write to your favorite brands asking for more sustainable packing options.  The more people who write the better; supply and demand, folks.

As you can see, it isn’t terribly difficult to make a positive impact on the environment.  Small things can and do make a difference.  Our everyday choices WILL impact the environment; will your choices help or harm our beautiful planet?