Being Girly AND Environmentally Responsible

The pagan Goddess-worshipping Womens Mysteries facilitator in me wants to shout in response to this title, “What are you talking about? Being female is all about being responsible, in all ways!”

Before you jump down my throat and think that I am equating being feminine and girly with somehow handing over one’s power or maturity to someone else (such as a man), let me explain what I mean.

I’m not a “girly girl” as many people understand the term. A lot of my clothing is flowing and feminine, very hippie-style, and although I wear jewellery, it basically consists of a lot of crystals and pentacles. But apart from that, I don’t wear any make-up, I don’t wear any high-end label fashion, I don’t usually defuzz any part of my body, and although I love a good massage and body wrap, I don’t spend any length of time at the beautician’s or the hair salon.

When I had dreadlocks, one of the things that I loved the most about them is that they are THE cheapest hairstyle around. Dreads can’t handle regular shampoo as the residue it leaves causes the dreads to untangle. So although you can use specially formulated dreadlocks shampoo, most dreadheads simply use bi-carb soda. By the way – I recommend people with un-dreadlocked hair use bi-carb soda also, it’s a brilliant cleanser, and combined with apple cider vinegar it leaves you with the silkiest tresses. (See below for more information on this).

Anyway, a small pack of bicarb soda can last six months to a year; compare this with the fact that the average woman spends $50,000 at the hair salon in her lifetime. (Yikes!) However, this kind of DIY approach may be a big jump for some ladies, who may love nothing more than going to the salon to get their nails done, getting their hair styled once a week, wearing large amounts of make-up and buying the latest styles from high-end brands.

Is there something wrong with being this kind of girly-girl? Is there something wrong with being “high maintenance” or maintaining a certain appearance? Not at all! But if you think about the amount of resources that go into being a girly girl, there’s probably a bit more of an environmentally friendly way to live.

Am I saying stop your current lifestyle? Not exactly. Yes, I do believe that there are some things we take for granted as part of a daily beauty routine may be things we must kiss goodbye to. But you may be more thrilled to know that there is an increasingly large amount of alternatives, such as environmentally friendly products and ethically made clothing.

Here are a few dot points.

Cosmetics and Skincare

In the 90s a big deal was made about animal testing. As a teenager I was a member of Choose Cruelty Free, which releases directories of products that do not test on animals, and these were so helpful. However I think a lot of people would be alarmed to know that even after all the air time that was given to the issue, a lot of products still do test on animals. Furthermore, the majority of products utilise chemicals that contain by-products which are bad for the environment, and for you.

But there is a growing number of small businesses making products which are just as good if not better than chemically derived ones. A quick Google search will find them easily, (I recommend body products made by a friend of mine at Chirinka Natural Therapies). Natural products might be less widely sold and may not keep for as long, but if you use them wisely that won’t matter. If brand names and prestige are important to you, why not be the first in your group to discover a new brand and talk it up? Tell people how good you’re being to the environment with your new choices; who cares if you’re only being environmentally friendly to be cool, the environment still benefits.

Hair

Henna hair dye has been around for a long time, and some people avoid it because it only gives the same color and can come off a bit weaker than chemical dyes. I’m not too much of an expert on this point, so I don’t know if this is one of those areas where we might need to just adjust and learn to love our natural colours. But there is a plethora of natural hair care products out there. As well as the bi-carb soda and apple cider vinegar tricks, there are natural shampoos, conditioners and styling products. As well as that, simple things like scalp massage can give you luscious locks, while enabling you to feel you’ve had a treat at the salon.

Clothing and Accessories

The problem with clothing is that we can know nothing about the person who made it for us. In my research, I found that many fashion designers have had their brands associated with sweatshop and child labour scandals. Many of these reports are from several years ago, but I would still have reservations about using them based on these reports. You might expect that a more expensive garment would be not be made in a sweat shop, as the label would be able to afford to pay a skilled worker a good wage to create it. But evidently not so. I’m not going to put every high-end fashion label in the same basket, but I will recommend highly that people do their research before they choose to purchase from a designer. Would you really feel good about yourself if there was a chance that the gorgeous shoes or dress you just got were made by an 8 year old child who was forced to work a 14 hour day for a measly pittance?

For those of us not able to buy labels, or who like the feel we’ve gotten a bargain by buying styles from department stores, we too must beware. The larger department stores, the kind that can be found at every mall or shopping centre, have a huge buying power in order to bring you the product at a lower price. They have a very large customer base, so need a lot of each garment in each size and colour. Fashions come in seasons, so they need to get it quickly enough and move it quickly enough because in a few months something new needs to come in. So often these places can be the worst offenders, with a large number of sweat shops where people churn the garments out in sub-standard working conditions.

Again, research is the word. Check out who you can and can’t trust. In my research I found  the SweatFree Shopping Guide, which is very helpful, and the 2010 Sweatshop Hall Of Shame (although I think this one is aimed mainly at Americans). If you know what stores are the offenders and what stores are the champions, you’ll be able to reward the right people with your business.

There are also plenty of people in your local community who design and sell their own clothing, which can take a little longer to create and ship but can be so worth it. True, shipping something from a long way can add carbon miles to the product, but you may be able to find some very close to you, or who regularly attend markets in your area. (Plus the stuff the big designer stores import has come from sweatshops in faraway countries anyway.)  I myself just received a lovely dress and top from HolyClothing just yesterday, and it feels so good to know that I have something rare and beautiful, which somebody lovingly created in a healthy environment. If their clothing isn’t your style, find somebody who makes clothing that is. Social networking can be great for this – most of these businesses have their own pages, so ask people on your friends list to clue you in.

So I guess these points are just the tip of the iceberg, really, but there you go. We can be girly girls, enjoy our beauty treatments and lovely clothes, but still do it in a way that does not hurt our fellow human beings or the planet. And now here’s that info about the bi-carb and vinegar.

RECIPE FOR BI-CARB SODA AND APPLE CIDER VINEGAR HAIR TREATMENTS:

Take a little bi-carb soda (also known as baking soda) and put a small amount in your palm. You’ll get used to how much you need based on your hair length but just a few clumps.

Add a few drops of water from the shower to make a paste. Use like regular shampoo.

You’ll notice it doesn’t lather like regular shampoo so you won’t need to rub more than a few times on any one patch of your head. Rinse.

Dilute a small amount of apple cider vinegar in a glass with water from the shower. (A ratio of about 1 part vinegar, 9 parts water is fine. Don’t use too much or it’ll weaken your hair).

Use as a rinse, pouring it over your hair. You’ll find the results are better than any conditioner.