Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Part 4: Beyond the food switch

To wrap up this series about making major changes in the way we approach eating, I thought I’d share a bit about some of the ways I’ve gone beyond just our dietary changes to reduce our impact on animals and the environment.

It really all started with a trip to Europe. While in Paris in 2010, we meandered our way through the stacks and stacks of books in the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Of course, amongst a sea of beautiful French art and fashion books, I managed to find the one little non-fiction section about food and animal welfare and proceeded to zero in on one particular title called Animal Liberation. Thankfully, I had my wits about me enough to decide against making that my book of choice for the remainder of our trip, but finally cracked it a couple months later.
I didn’t finish it.

Well, let me rephrase that. I couldn’t finish it.

Written in 1975 by Peter Singer, Animal Liberation was one of the early books that made a case for animal welfare and brought light to animal suffering. In addition to being highly philosophical and political, which doesn’t really bother me, it is also extremely graphic, which I simply cannot stomach. But I forced myself to read enough of it, often through tears, to learn about animal welfare issues that go beyond our food, such as animal testing for cosmetics, health and beauty products and household cleaning supplies. What I learned was so unbelievably disturbing that it’s beyond what I’m comfortable repeating, but if you have the stomach for it I highly recommend reading just a couple chapters of the book to get the idea.

If you have a weak stomach like me, the general idea is that animals pay a huge price for our obsession with beauty and cleanliness, mostly in the form of inhumane living conditions and excruciating pain while alive and then, when no longer needed as lab subjects, euthanization.

So, I made it a new goal to start eliminating items in our home that had been tested on animals. Thankfully, it’s easy to determine if a product is tested on animals or not. Just look for the little symbol on the packaging or the statement “No animal testing.”

Basic grooming
I started with the easiest things for us: shampoo, conditioner, face wash and body wash. We kicked the Pantene Pro-V’s of the world to the curb and switched to Trader Joe’s, which offers all of these items for the same price you’d pay at a major retailer, but without animal testing and often without any animal products used in them. 

Next up was cosmetics. I know that for most women this is tough as we all have our favorite brands, but I hate to break it to you, Maybelline, Cover Girl, Clinique and all the rest are testing on animals. Again, unless the bottle, box or jar says “No animal testing,” you should assume animal testing. Thankfully, my mineral powder makeup from Youngblood passed the test, but I headed to The Body Shop to find the rest. If you’ve never shopped The Body Shop, I highly recommend it. They have fantastic sales, offer occasional Groupons, and none of their products are tested on animals. I get all of my makeup there, along with eye cream and moisturizers, and my skin (and soul) has never looked better.

Cleaning supplies
Once we got on a roll with cleaning up our beauty act, we started switching out the chemicals and cleaning supplies we were using in our home to more natural, environmentally-friendly products. Seventh Generation, Green Works and Method now dominate our cleaning cabinet, making the task of cleaning easier on our lungs, easier on our skin and, if this is even possible, a bit more pleasant.

It’s taken us about two years to switch most of these items, and we’re finding new products all the time that avoid animal testing and are better for the environment. Want to make a change for your family? Start small with things like hand soap, shampoo or lip gloss and continue switching over as you run out of your current products. And, be sure to check out this blog for tips on which brands to buy and which to avoid.

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  1. Good advice, though Singer is not a guy I would recommend following. He is quite radical and wouldn't mind having the human race wiped out for the sake of the planet. That said, as stewards of the earth, we ought to be more responsible and we can do that with our wallets. As far as cleaners go: The easiest and cheapest cleaners are vinegar and baking soda. Vinegar cleans just about anything! Do a Google search, and you will be amazed. Press on!

    1. I agree, his views can be pretty extreme. Though it definitely opened my eyes to some atrocities I really hadn't been previously aware of. I need to start making my own cleaning supplies! I know many people who do this and swear by it.