3) Green grooming
You've just stepped out of an eco-friendly 4.5-minute shower that used about 7.2 gallons of solar-heated water. Now what are you going to put on your body to retain that just-showered freshness and your commitment to sustainable health?
• Deodorant vs. antiperspirant: Choosing to use an antiperspirant with deodorant will keep your sweat production down, but may not be the healthiest thing to put on your body. All antiperspirants contain an aluminum-based compound that plugs up sweat glands and stops the flow of sweat to the skin's surface. Aluminum, particularly at high doses, can cause skin irritation and worse for those who are allergic. So although the "antiperspirant causes breast cancer" myth of the '90s has been dispelled by the Mayo Clinic and the American Cancer Society, many still opt out of using antiperspirant and will look for natural, deodorant-only products.
• Electric vs. manual: As you untangle the cord of your electric razor from your electric toothbrush stand and separate it from the blow dryer cord, which is wrapped around the nose-hair trimmer and curling iron, something in you starts to wonder if maybe you've gone too far. The good news is, there's hope — in the form of calculations that may have you ditching the 'tronics and going manual faster than you can say "unplug."
• Shavers vs. razors: Disposable razors may use less energy than electric, but if you're throwing them out daily, you need to start thinking landfills. Several manufacturers have produced solar-powered razors that sit on the windowsill and get their charge from the sun's light. These shavers can cost from $45-$63, most of which can be earned back in electricity savings after several years of use. If neither of these options is green enough for you, there's always the caveman/cavewoman look.
• Shaving cream: When you do shave, be it man or woman, face or legs, it's best to choose an all-natural, nontoxic product since toxins from chemical ingredients can be ingested by the skin and absorbed by your body. Keep in mind, too, that not all products labeled all-natural are good for you . Become a label reader — and research those Greek-to-me ingredients with unknown origins.
There's no need to break the bank when purchasing healthier products, and how much you spend on toiletries can remain a personal choice that works for your budget. Trader Joe's sells honey-mango shaving gel for men at $2.99, but if you're diametrically opposed to saving dough, or don't like fruity smells, there's always Nonie's of Beverly Hills, which sells for three times TJ's price at $8.75 a bottle. For women, Aubrey Organics offers 8-ounce bottles at $5.79, or you can go with the high-end Real Purity at $14.99 for a mere 4 ounces.
Several forward-thinking companies have begun using recycled materials to produce everyday toiletries, such as Preserves' toothbrushes and razor handles, made from recycled plastic yogurt cups, and By Nature's toiletry bag made of recycled seatbelts. This doesn't mean you should rush out and buy every creatively recycled product on the market, but if you happen to need that particular item, by all means, go for the green.
• Oral hygiene: Mouthwash containing alcohol can dry your mouth out and contribute to bad breath. Choose an alcohol-free brand, such as Crest ProHealth, Tom's of Maine or ACT. Be sure to floss, brush and gently scrape your tongue to remove bacteria in the morning. Your family, co-workers and anyone else you come in contact with will thank you — and you'll feel more comfortable getting up close and personal when you have to (or want to). Choose toothpaste without artificial dyes, SLS, silica and other harmful ingredients, or make your own using one of these two easy recipes. View consumer-rated favorite natural pastes here. And one last word about tooth brushing: Never, ever, ever leave the water running while you brush your teeth. It's like throwing nickels out the window — would you do that?
4) Green beauty
Your skin is the largest organ in your body — watch what you put on it as much as you watch what you put in it. Unless you're one of those Oreo and Coke guzzling types — in which case you'd better keep reading, and carefully. Since the FDA does not regulate premarket what goes into personal-care products, do your own research and watch out for "bad boy" ingredients. If you're super creative or just tired of supporting the big names in toiletries, know that most toiletries can be recreated at home and there are natural remedies for almost any facial fiasco — from dry skin to excess under-eye baggage. No, they're not charging you more for that. Not yet.
Years ago, someone gave me a T-shirt that read, "Without makeup I even scare myself." Once the joke and the insult were acknowledged, laughed over, and forgiven, I started thinking about how it's actually scarier to be dependent on makeup and hair products than to go without once in a while.
Natural beauty is not the final outcome of a model's head after she's been worked on by seven professionals with 35 different products. The magazines would like us to think that, as would the multibillion-dollar makeup and hair-care industries, but the naturalists and purists among us and within us would beg to differ.
• Reduce, reuse, recycle: Creating a healthy and sustainable beauty regimen is multifaceted. The first step is to take a close look at how many beauty products you have, and how many you actually use. Get rid of those that are sitting around gathering dust by recycling them. Sharing makeup carries the risk of transmitting bacteria, so it's best to ditch leftovers rather than pass them on. Unused hair products and body soaps can be donated to a local women's shelter. If you're a cotton ball, cotton swab, wedge and pad kind of makeup gal, try to minimize your waste by rinsing, reusing and recycling.
• Check the label: Take a close look at the ingredients of those products you use most often, and check their content against approved safe cosmetic lists. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics lists ingredients to avoid and maintains a list of companies committed to producing toxin-free products. When shopping for new products, do the research before you go so you can know exactly what you're looking for and the best place to get it.
To protect your skin, synthetic-haired makeup brushes should be cleaned regularly with dish soap, while softer animal-hair brushes can be cleaned with a mild shampoo. For normal skin, monthly brush washing is fine; oily or extra sensitive skin will benefit from weekly or even daily washing. Use only warm water, as hot water can loosen the glue holding the brush bristles in place, and then you'll have to dish out some more dough for a new brush — not a very eco-savvy move.
• Hair styling: Many women today would be lost without their hair irons — ranging in price from $14.99 to $200. Hair experts recommend an iron with a coated ceramic barrel to protect hair from heat and work quickly and efficiently. Lesser-quality barrel materials include chrome, gold, velvet and Teflon — and should only be used infrequently. Energy use varies greatly for different models of irons and blow dryers. The average curling iron costs 1.5 cents an hour in energy compared with 11.3 cents an hour for a blow dryer. The most energy-conscious and economical hair-styling tools are good ol' Velcro rollers — they're cheap to buy and free to use. Just don't forget to take them out before you go out — it's just not cool anymore to go shopping in rollers and slippers.
5) Unplug and save big
Using disposable razors instead of electric shavers and cleaning and drying them after each use can save energy and (big) bucks. Consumer guru Clark Howard uses a 17-cent razor for six months before ditching it for a new one. That's an unbeatable 32 cents a year on shaving costs.
While electric toothbrushes claim to clean more effectively and more thoroughly than manual ones, if you're interested in great biceps and triceps (OK, maybe not that great) and enjoy saving energy and money, try challenging that claim by brushing correctly — the old-fashioned way. That's a full two-minute workout, twice a day — no cheating, no shortcuts.
Even in the off position, appliances drain energy and cost the average household up to $200 a year in energy bills. Before you leave the bathroom, turn off all lights and unplug any electrical devices you couldn't resist using even after reading all of this valuable, eco-conscious advice.
How do you do it?
Are you a morning person who rises with the sun and goes through your routine with the environment on your mind? Or do you save energy by sleeping till noon with the lights out and the shades pulled low? Do you shower for hours and groom slowly, or rush through your routine with barely a swipe at your bed head? Wasteful consumer or treehugger, we want to hear your take on these and other morning rituals. Post your comments, thoughts, ideas and suggestions below to be a part of our green grooming guide.