From a very young age, I talked the green talk. I grew up going to pow-wows and taking cross-country trips to the Badlands—my father was a professor at UCLA whose specialty is Native American literature. My nickname in college was, embarrassingly, Flower. But like many, my eco-focus stopped at water conservation and recycling. I bought conventional cleaning products because that’s what my family had always used—even though I saw the “natural” cleaners on the same shelf, I wrote their claims off as marketing rather than turning over the bottles and comparing ingredients.
I didn’t really make the connection between the environmental impact of how I lived until 2006, when I met Christopher Gavigan at Healthy Child, Healthy World (he went on to found The Honest Company with Jessica Alba). I was nine months pregnant with my third child, and we met to talk about my helping with publicity and marketing efforts for the organization once the baby was born.
Women are responsible for 85% of the buying decisions in a household. What we spend our money on matters. We sat in Christopher’s no-VOC painted office filled with oxygen-emitting plants and as he explained his mission I basically had a panic attack. Then I went home and got rid of my toxic chemical cleaning products. But there was a missing link in our conversation: Basically the problem was that Christopher isn’t a girl. He didn’t wonder about the health implications of hair dye and nail polish; he didn’t covet the latest It Bag.
So I started doing my own research. And I quickly realized how much of an impact what I bought for myself and my family could have on the environment—and the marketplace. Women are responsible for 85% of the buying decisions in a household. What we spend our money on matters.
As I learned more, I started applying this knowledge to my life. I wrote about eco-beauty for women’s magazines—and found it increasingly more difficult to write about conventional alternatives. I was asked to create a marketing campaign for a major denim label—and turned it down when I learned that takes an astounding one-third of a pound of toxic fertilizer to make one cotton t-shirt (keep that visual in mind the next time you go shopping).
How could I promote this stuff, with what I knew? That’s when I started The Big List of Things That Suck.
Don’t be a sustainabully. Get The Big List of Things That Suck at AMAZON or SMASHWORDS for less than a latte. Thank you! First, it was just a short list of conventional fashion, beauty and lifestyle factoids for me to use when I was writing. It was only after I started slipping in my own suckies—i.e.“sustainabully,” a person who makes others feel guilty for perceived eco-sins—that The Big List of Things That Suck was born.
In 2007, this encyclopedia of essential eco-information got so gigantic that I built a website around it: EcoStiletto, which became Mommy Greenest in 2013. Also this year, The Big List of Things That Suck achieved its ultimate goal of becoming an actual book. Yes, it’s starting out as an eBook. But that counts, right?
Why does this stuff matter? Let’s take the cotton connection, for example. Say one manufacturer makes the decision to buy conventional cotton, and a second manufacturer decides to make a similar t-shirt in organic cotton. They make the shirts, and put them side-by-side in a store.
Now if everyone in that store knew about the toxic chemicals that go into producing regular cotton, and made the decision to not buy conventional cotton t-shirts but to buy organic cotton instead, that regular cotton t-shirt would go unsold and the organic would sell out.
Talking the talk is one thing. Saving money and saving the world? Priceless. The next time the manufacturer makes shirts, a good businessperson would choose organic cotton because it sold so much better. The organic cotton farmer would have more business. There would be more competition in organic cotton and the price goes down. And so on.
Obviously, this is bare bones, but the analogy can be applied to food, makeup, furniture, clothing, cars—you name it. Once I started thinking about it, I was astounded at how simple and easy it was for me to think outside of the conventional box when it came to shopping.
Just putting a fresh perspective on it also helped me look closer at whether I truly needed something, or just wanted it. When it came to non-essentials, I looked at labels and started putting back on the shelf what in the past I might have purchased. Because talking the talk is one thing. Saving money and saving the world? Priceless.
So please, share The Big List of Things That Suck. Keep the daisy chain going! Together, our small choices have added up to big change. I can’t wait to see what the future holds as this journey continues. Thank you for being a part of it!