The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

How to Grocery Shop the Green Way, and My New Fave Grocery Store July 24, 2010

Last Friday evening I had plans to go see a movie (or two) with Vicki, but she had come down with strep throat. As I rode the elevator down to the lobby at my work, I wondered what I would do with my night. I could call some friends, but instead I decided to have a low key night in, and cook for myself.

I hardly ever cook. I know that it’s a great thing to do, but when I get home at eight every night, and want to get up at 6 the next morning…well, I have my priorities. So I relished the thought of having an evening to practice my cooking skills and get a good night’s sleep. (Yes, this is old woman behavior. No, I am not ashamed.)

I had visited the Westerly Natural Market a few times before, but in a slap-dash, grab-and-go sort of way. Located at 54th and 7th Avenue, Westerly Natural Market is like a more authentic version of Whole Foods. Instead of well-dressed, gossipy girls, there was a pair of old woman trading witty banter as they perused the full four aisles of natural supplements. Instead of women dressed head to toe in Lululemon, there was a woman dressed in t-shirts and jeans, with a fair-trade looking purse slung over their shoulder. There was a guy wandering around with both a shopping bag and his bicycle helmet slung over his arm.

I enlisted my iPhone to help me with my mission to cook something easy and healthy. I’ve been saving recipes on Delicious, and now pulled them up using the Delicious App. I chose Lamp Chops with Pistachio Tapenade, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.

Westerly Natural Market has a basic produce aisle, four aisle of supplements and pills, and three or four aisles of both gourmet and beautifully packaged foods, and foods that looked like they had been lovingly cooked and packaged in someone’s apartment in Brooklyn. I wandered up and down, looking for my ingredients. (“Mmmm, homemade peanut butter granola! FOCUS Alden”.) When I couldn’t find the garlic, the manager cheerfully showed me to them, piled in a cardboard box on the floor, underneath the apples.

I picked up organic pork chops instead of the lamb, filled a reusable produce bag with bulk pistachios, grabbed a glass jar of green olives (instead of plastic, my dears), and a jar of capers. The recipe also called for fresh oregano and parsley, but seeing that those herbs were packaged in styrene and plastic, I decided to try it without.

And check this out! Westerly has a NUT BUTTER MAKER. Oh my gosh, it makes me so excited. I tried to make my own almond butter the other night at home, but I got bored with the process and didn’t want to subject Vicki to more than 15 minutes of the high-pitched food processor. So the result wasn’t awesome. So here was the solution: at the top, a whole bunch of nuts. You just press down the lever and out the bottom comes nut butter. I can’t wait to come back with an empty jar and fill it up with this stuff. (Little things get me excited, yall.)

I wasn’t even finished. I rounded a corner and saw a shelf of sun tan lotions. I’ve been meaning to get new sunscreen, since apparently skin cancer is on the rise partly because of tanning bed, and partly because sunscreen itself can give you cancer. Oh, but life has a sense of irony.

I whipped out my Good Guide iPhone app and started scanning. Nature’s Gate got a 1 for health out of 10. Really??? That’s worse than conventional make up and shampoo. I mean, this is supposed to be organic stuff! I picked up another “organic” brand and it also got a 1. I scanned another – Kiss My Face – and this one got a 3. At this point I was bored with the process, and figured, what the heck, a 3 is better than a 1. I tossed it in my basket.

(If you want to do better than I, check out Good Guide’s online guide to sunscreens. Hint: Coppertone sucks.)

Finally, I tossed some Burt’s Bees Radiance Day spf 15 in my basket (Good Guide score of 6.8 overall, 5 for health) and paid for my items. I was so freakin pleased with myself, what a green shopper I was!

In summary, for a great green shopping experience:

1. Use your iPhone’s helpful apps for identifying healthy and genuine products. The iPhone also has some fun price comparison apps.

2. Go organic, free range, cage free, and hormone free.

3. Come prepared with produce bags and reusable shopping bags. I keep my reusable Lululemon fold-up bag in my purse at all times, with a produce bag tucked in the outside pocket.

4. Avoid plastic packaging where possible. Embrace the shabby chic aesthetic of jars on your shelves.

5. Read the ingredient label. A long list of scientific gibberish is NOT a good sign. Also, avoid high fructose corn syrup like the plague. In fact, if the food does not come with an ingredient list at all(“peanuts.” “grapes.” “wild rice.”) that’s the best. (Trust me, this is good for your long-term health AND your waistline.)

6. Unless you are in a lovely health foods store, stick to the edges of the grocery store like it’s the shopping district and and the center is a dangerous food ghetto. That’s where they stick on the deceptively delicious and highly-processed crap that you are better without.

7. If you don’t see a healthy and conscious brand, ask for it. They might take a hint and start carrying Burt’s Bees and Method like so many conventional convenience and grocery stores.

Anyway, I am happy to report that my pistachio tapenade pork chops turned out beautifully, even without fresh parsley, and Vicki scarfed hers down even with the strep throat. Really, if you have any brains you’ll try this simple recipe. Unless you are like Vicki, who apparently is afraid of anything involving heat. In that case, pass the recipe along to your roommate and have her cook it for you.


A Non-Toxic Manicure and Thrift Shopping July 23, 2010

Ugh, so sorry I’ve been MIA for the past week. But I’m back, and this will be the first of several backlogged posts.

Saturday was catch-up-on errands day. You see, I had to finally get rid of some old clothes. I cleaned out my closet months ago with the help of a stylist, and even after one trip, there was still an impressive pile on the floor of cast-offs. I poured it all in a couple of reusable bags to take with me.

The whole city was hot, muggy, and inhospitable. My air conditioner labored to keep my room comfortable, and we had all the lights switched off so we didn’t blow a fuse in our old apartment. As I got my stuff together to run out the door, I decided at the last minute to switch bags. “It’s too hot to carry a leather purse,” I complained to Vicki. The idea of having black leather touching my skin, even if it was a thin strap, was gross. I poured everything in a cotton shopping tote, picked up my stuff, and took off for Brooklyn.

I was drenched in sweat by the time I made it to the cool air conditioning of the subway, and drenched again when I emerged into the hot sun and walked two blocks to my destination: Beacon’s Closet. I gratefully pushed open the glass door to the air conditioning.

Beacon’s closet is great, because it’s such an easy process to consign your clothes.

1. Dump your bags full of clothing and accessories with the girls in the back.

2. Either leave and go home, or go shopping on 5th Ave for an hour while they go through your stuff.

3. Pick up your voucher for store credit or cash.

If you decide to just go home, they’ll donate everything they don’t take to charity and you can come back another day for the voucher. If you decide to come back, you can take back all the clothes they don’t want. So easy!

So I left my unwanted stuff with a hipster girl with a brassy blond pixie cut and went to get my nails done. I found a place only a block away and popped in.

Now, a word about getting your nails done: It is not good for you. I mean, it’s great if you want to stop biting your nails (that may or may not be a problem for me) but in reality, a nail salon is a viciously toxic place, with toxins that have been linked to birth deformities, cancer, and liver damage. About this time last year, I made the trek down to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to get my nails done at a green salon, but lets be honest – it’s just too much to ask me to be on the train for an extra hour for a manicure. (There are other salons who use organic nail polish, but none of them are anywhere near the Upper West Side or even Mid-town.) So I came up with a solution: bring my own stuff!

Priti is a great line of nail polishes and nail polish that…well, I’ll let them explain:

Priti Polishes have been formulated without Toluene, DBP and Formaldehyde, all known carcinogens and does not contain any petroleum ingredients. They are fast drying, chip resistant, and super glossy.

As much as I like O.P.I. and Essie nail polish, I like my health more, and these Priti polishes really do the trick. Oh, and you can find them on Amazon, among other places. I had come prepared with pink nail polish, a top coat, and nail polish remover in my bag, and as I slid into a seat at the table, I took them out and put them on the table. “Can I use my own?” I asked the nail technician. She nodded as she took out her various sterilized tools. Then she took a cotton swap and began to soak it with blue liquid. I slid my nail polish remover forward and indicated it. She paused, quizzically, and with an expression of curiosity unscrewed it and soaked a new cotton swab, then set to work.

While she was  pushing up my cuticles and soaking my fingertips, I was able to study the ingredient list on the “fancy” lotions displayed next to me, so when she reached for a bottle I was prepared to turn down the offer of a hand massage. I can’t say for sure there were toxins in there, but if I need a chemistry teacher to identify it, then I don’t use it. It’s a rule that has served me well.

I could just imagine what the technician was saying to her neighbor as she giggled in Korean. “What is this silly white girl doing? Man, do we get some crazy hippies in Brooklyn.” No matter, the woman getting a pedicure next to me and I had a great discussion of the merits of bringing our own polish, and, God help me, Birkenstocks.

When she was done applying the last layer of polish, she picked up my stuff and settled me in the cancer causing UV nail dryer. When she walked away I subtly turned off the light switch and settled for a blow dry.

All prettied up, I stopped by a smoothie shop. I quizzed the girl behind the counter to establish that no extra sugar is added or syrup, and then ordered a pina colada.

It came in a styrene cup.

ARG! I just can’t win! It was too hot to get mad though, so I stopped outside the door to pet a cute pooch and headed back to Beacon’s Closet. I still had time to kill when I got back in, so against my better judgment I started to peruse.

I actually didn’t think I would find anything. Beacon’s has weird criteria for what clothing they pick. They usually turn down 75% of what I bring them, but they do keep some fairly ugtastic items. I guess I’m just not hipster enough to understand what is “fashionable”.

Despite this, I found several cute items:

One very fashionable (a la Refinery 29) Dooney & Burke long-handled leather purse in perfect condition, $25

One gorgeous maxi dress in bright tropical colors with neckline embelishments, $19

One adorable vintage bow tie for Mike to wear to the Jazz Age Festival on Sunday (post coming!), $9

Even minus the clothing I ended up buying, I netted $14. New clothes, AND money. I should clean out my closet more often!


Overhauling My Beauty Routine July 11, 2010

This post is about cancer sticks.

No, not cigarettes. Yup, there’s a different type of cancer stick, and you just don’t know it yet. It’s your mascara, your lipstick, your chapstick….. From EcoSalon:

To date, the EU has banned 1,100 chemicals in cosmetics; the Food and Drug Administration in America has banned only ten. In fact, Cover Girl waterproof mascara contains the same ingredient (petroleum distillates, an oil by-product) as Dr. Scholl’s Wart Remover—both of which are illegal in Europe…. When I realized that many of the chemicals banned in the EU—but found in FDA-approved beauty products—cause cancer, birth defects, genetic mutation, and organ damage, I wondered: why is our regulation system so different from (and, dare I say, less effectual than) that of our European neighbors?

(Read more here)

More and more people are ascribing to the beauty mantra, “I only put on my skin what I can eat.” After all, you’re not a barbie doll. Your skin absorbs whatever you put on it. So when you smooth lipstick with mercury on your lips or put hair products with formaldehyde in your hair, that’s going to end up in your system. With how absorbent ourAztec Secret Mud, Almond Oil, Pangea Organic face products, pure aloe gel, coconut oil, burts bees chapstick, skin is, why even put petroleum products (Vaseline) or other crazy ingredients on it. Would you eat Vaseline? No. (Unless you’re a beauty queen who smears it on her teeth. If so, you are beyond help sister.)

Scary stuff right? I know I run the risk of sounding a little paranoid, but don’t worry, you can still look beautiful without setting yourself up for some serious medical bills later on. As an advertising person myself, I can tell you most commercials with pretty molecules spinning around on the screen are a really far stretch of the imagination. Has your hair every REALLY looked less frizzy after using that super fancy Pantene Pro-V? Thought so.

Start at the Natural Homemade Beauty blog. It might seem a little bizarre that you can get the same effects from simple stuff like coconut oil, lemon, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, almond oil, and other things you seem more commonly in the kitchen, but it’s totally true! I can attest from personal experience that the tips on her blog has reduced my breakouts and made my skin silky and smooth. And there’s scientific evidence to prove it. Here’s what I’ve overhauled in the past year in my beauty routine:

  • Replaced my foamy pink shave lotion with olive oil. Smoothest. Legs. Ever. Plus it’s cheap and creates less waste.
  • Threw out my Proactiv and bought Pangea Organics. I augment that with weekly facial masks of Aztec Secret mud masks. I’m broken out at the moment, but I attribute that to too much sugar, as usual, and missing my weekly mud mask.
  • Got rid of my fancy lotion and started using coconut oil. I smell really good.
  • Replaced my mascara and eyeliners with brands from Whole Foods.
  • Stopped shelling out for fancy Trish McEvoy makeup and got Bare Minerals instead.
  • Got normal, everyday organic shampoo and conditioner. I tried the no ‘poo method here but it didn’t work because I have insanely thick hair. But even though I don’t have a shampoo that is specially formulated for thick, brown-with-highlights, sorta wavy, 20-something hair, my hair is still silky and shiny.
  • Stopped using gooey $1 lip gloss and started using tinted Burt’s Bees lip stuff .
  • Replaced my deodorant with Avalon Organics spray and Tom’s of Maine Crystal Deodorant. I switch off between the two, but so far both work great.

In summary? I smell delicious, I look at least as good as I did a year ago if not better, I’m creating less waste, spending less money, and taking proactive steps to limit my exposure to carcinogens and other nasty stuff. That’s a win.


What promotes beautiful skin? March 31, 2010

Filed under: Beauty,Products,Tips — Alden @ 7:33 pm
Tags: , , ,

My skin is gorgeous today. Flawless. Beautiful. This is a rare occurrence for me, so I would like to figure out what I’m doing right and keep doing it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of variables that come into play:

The Clean Program: You may know that I am doing a cleanse, and have been doing it for three weeks. Members of the program report clearer skin, so I’m tempted to think all those supplements and shakes have successfully cleared out my system of toxins. After all, what we put in our bodies shows up on our skin all the time, either in pimples from stuffing ourselves with carbohydrates, alcohol, and sugar, or in glowing skin from nourishing ourselves with nutritious, whole foods.

My sister once told me about a home visit she made during Social Work school to a young woman with a mental disability and her mother. “She has the most beautiful, glowing skin I’ve ever seen.” Colby told me. She suspects it was a result of a lifetime of eating nothing but pure baby foods. That’s right, baby foods. No carbs, no refined sugars, no junk food or fast food. Just pureed fruits and veggies.

There’s only one problem with this theory: I haven’t been sticking to the cleanse very well. I had a pint of beer last night with chorizo for dinner with my friend Lindsay, and this weekend I drank a ton of Blue Moon at the bar, topping it off with a decadent dessert from my corner grocery store. I shouldn’t be having any of that! So either the cleanse is still working even though I’m being terrible about it, or it’s something else. Perhaps it’s that…

I go easy on cleaning my face: I used to be almost religious about cleaning my face morning and night, morning and night. Hot water, harsh facial cleanser that I would grind into my pores, lotions and astringents. I declared war on my face. ProActive helped somewhat, but it didn’t clear up my blemishes completely.

There are people out there who claim soap is the reason for all of our skin’s ills in the first place. While I’m not going to stop washing my hair anytime soon, it’s a compelling argument. Why would our skin evolve away from the ability to regulate itself? It’s only when we scrub away all the oil, that it kicks into overtime to produce more oil. The whole system gets thrown off balance and you are left with either dry skin, blemished skin, or oily skin, instead of skin the way it is supposed to be.

So I stopped washing my face twice a day. I take a shower every morning, but don’t use any products on my face. When I get home at night I wash with Pangea organic facewash to get all that New York city grit and grime off.

So is it this winning method? I can’t say. I’ve been doing this for more than a couple months now, and I didn’t really notice a difference up until today. It wasn’t worse or better. So maybe not. But perhaps it’s because…

I use rosehip seed oil instead of a fancy moisturizer. I scraped the last of my fancy moisturizer out of the pot a few days ago, and decided to break out the rosehip seed oil. It comes in a roll-on glass tube which I roll on my hands and then massage into my skin. You would think it would leave my face feeling…well, oily. But in fact my skin just feels lovely. I think the simpler your ingredients in your products, the better it is for your skin, health, and peace of mind. You don’t have to google every ingredient and see things like “Has been linked to cancer,” or “estrogen disruptor.” It’s just one, simple, delicious-smelling ingredient.

I’m betting it’s the roseship seed oil, but it could also be that…

Once a week I slather on a mud mask: Looks boring doesn’t it? Not like the beautiful products you see carefully arrayed in your local department store. Well, it may not cost $300 like La Mer, but I suspect it works just as well.

I first read about Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay here, and read some more reviews on Amazon. There were nothing but happy customers.

Every time I slather it on, I swear my face is much clearer for a few days afterward. It’s a completely natural and wonderful treatment that goes back thousands of years. Mud has lots of minerals and good stuff in it. Just as long as that comes from far, far away, not from the toxic pits around NYC!

So there you have it, all my theories about why my face is so freakin’ awesome today. Hopefully it stays that way!


Alternative to toxic beauty products February 28, 2010

You gotta watch this video. It’s a succinct explanation of why you need to be careful about what you buy in the beauty aisle. From the guest:

“It’s so potent, it’s used by auto mechanics to clean oil off the garage floor… and we are putting it on our faces.”

Healthy Alternatives to Your Favorite Personal Care on ABC-15 from Conscious Living TV on Vimeo.


The Gio Salon February 5, 2010

Filed under: Beauty,Places to go,Tips — Alden @ 7:13 pm
Tags: , , ,

As I wandered the Union Square farmers market, looking for food and then Christmas presents oh so long ago, a girl in her twenties approached me. “Excuse me,” she said. “Who does your hair?”

I raised my hand self-consciously to my not-so-great bob. She actually liked my hair?

“Well, this salon in SoHo, but I don’t really like how they did it.”

“Oh that’s perfect,” she said. “Because I have this special offer…”

I considered running away, but I’m too nice to do that. (I guess I’m not a “real” New Yorker yet) I ended up buying a $60 offer from Gio Salon that gave me rights to a haircut, highlights, conditioning treatment, blow dry and finish, and neck and shoulder massage. (That last “service” is BS, but whatever.) That’s $20 less than what I was paying for just a haircut at my salon.

I was pretty skeptical. After all, if the salon felt the need to practically give away their product, it couldn’t be that good, right??

Well, I was pleasantly surprised.

Gio Salon is in a tiny little hole-in-the-wall at 21st and 8th Avenue. It couldn’t be much bigger than my bedroom. When I walked in it was abuzz with several hairdressers fluttering around their clients, and more girls sitting on a couch and reading with foils in their hair.

They quickly set me up with a shampoo and rinse, and gave me to a hairdresser that looked like he spends more time in the gym pumping iron that snipping women’s hair. But he was a sweetheart, and listened carefully to what I wanted, and soon I was flipping through a magazine while he snipped away.

Two seats down I watched a stylist do some final primping on a dark-haired girl with dark, silky, long hair and straight bangs. Love! And then another gorgeous girl walked past, her rich brown hair done in those perfect it-almost-could-be-natural curls of a lingerie model.

The end result of my haircut? Adorable! I’ve been through two haircuts in pursuit of the perfect bob, but here — this was it. I thanked him warmly, tipped him accordingly, and decided that I would refer anyone there who needs a haircut.

AND I still have this coupon that I can give to anyone who wants free highlights! None of my friends or coworkers highlight their hair… so who wants it?


A nice, healthy, hippy glow August 25, 2009

Filed under: Beauty,Cool sites,Products — Alden @ 7:53 pm

24038So I’m a little obsessed with this Lavera Sunless tanner. It’s organic, and super, super effective. When I was using it last year, I got compliments on my glow. “Wow, you look so tan! How did you do that?” (It was February, mind you.)

I just ordered a new bottle, which I’m going to save for when I’m not hitting the beach every weekend.

Skin Deep gives it a 6. That’s…ok. It’s better than Neutrogena, Banana Boat, Almay, and Elizabeth Arden, but the healthiest self-tanner got a 4. Of course, I’ve never heard of that tanner before.

The Good Guide App gives Lavera a 6.8 out of 10 for being involved in the community and adhering to high safety standards. (Confusing, I know. They rank they’re stuff oppositely. So higher is better for Good Guide, and lower is better for Skin Deep.) Compare that to 6.8 for Neutrogena and a scary 4.9 for Banana Boat!

Anyway, it’s not perfect, but it’s comforting to know that it’s so much better than a lot of other big brands. And that I look hot using it. 🙂