Living in an Environmentally Friendly Way

Photo of Adria Vasil | Credit: Dustin Rabin

My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to find a brown banana. What a strange way for me to start this installment of The Way We Green Speakers Series.

In partnership with the University of Alberta’s Office of Sustainability, the City’s Office of Environment hosted Adria Vasil, author of the Ecoholic book series and blog, at our Speakers Series in early March.

A self-described green version of Dear Abby, Adria started her talk with telling us how she grew up, not with granola, “hippy-dippy” parents, but in a pretty regular home. It wasn’t until the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 that she had an “environmental awakening”. And she started to take a closer look at the products she used.

She points out that this movement towards greener products is coming from consumers, as they stand in the shower, for example, examining the ingredients list of their shampoo and wondering, “Do I really needed all these unpronounceable things?” In other words, change starts at OUR level.

But there’s a growing concern of greenwashing as companies proclaim their products as environmentally friendly and all natural. In reality, many companies are just changing names of ingredients or replacing them with other potentially toxic things (some of which are under consideration for being banned in Canada). These greenwashed brands are making the legitimate brands look bad.

So don’t believe the hype – take the time to look for specifics on the ingredient list, and look for what ingredients to avoid. (Ecoholic has a list called “Mean 15”.) And look for third-party certification.

Something interesting that Adria noted was that up to 350 trace chemicals can be found in a newborn baby! That’s a lot of chemicals for a baby to start its life with. In fact, we’re told what “normal levels” of various chemicals we have in our body, but when did we decide that these chemicals are “normal”?

So now that we’re already loaded with chemicals, what can we do? We control the things that we can – what we buy and use, every day.

It’s best to go directly to natural whenever possible. And this is where my search for a brown banana comes in. An overripe banana is great for baking, but with its great moisturizing properties, it can also be used for facials and dry skin.

Using produce as body care products minimizes/eliminates food waste. Of course, you should reduce the amount purchased rather than let things go rotten. But if the produce is about to go bad, then it’s better to find another use for it than to throw it away.

For products that we do purchase, we need to speak up or nothing will change. Start by changing your corner of the world, sharing what you learn with loved ones and purchasing true green products for your family.

Personally, although I’ve often thought about what I put INTO my body (trying to eat healthy), I’ve never thought much about what I put ONTO my body. But both are as close and personal as pollution can get. Increased awareness of my personal care products? Mission accomplished!


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About the Author
Karen Yeung
Karen Yeung is the marketing coordinator for the City�s Office of Environment. She is part of the community and employee engagement team which focuses on helping Edmontonians make our city more sustainable.
  1. Paul Cashman
    6 years ago

    Exxon Valdex oil spill was 1989, not 2004.


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