One Year without Shampoo: An Update

Watching the NFL playoffs last week, I suddenly remembered that division championship weekend marks my one-year anniversary of not using shampoo. It’s crazy to think about, but as I’ve already adoringly professed, it’s a change that has dramatically improved my life for the better.

Not long after I published my last post on this topic, I began noticing a higher rate of breakage from the ends of my hair. I had accepted (and actually enjoyed) a degree of dryness as part of the no-poo result, but this was starting to look like straight-up damage, and I worried that I would have to abandon my shampoo-free ways. However, before doing anything drastic like buying shampoo, I decided to try some adjustments to my hair-washing routine. I was incredibly pleased to discover that these minor changes resulted in my hair looking and feeling even better than before!

Bottle of vinegar, spray bottle, and baking soda

I still use the same trusty supplies, but in a different ratio. Still working through my first bottle of ACV from a year ago!

Here’s my updated routine, with the key changes noted:

  1. Fill a small travel shampoo bottle with one part baking soda and six parts water. This is a much lower concentration of baking soda than I was using previously, and I now only mix one wash’s worth of the solution at a time. I use all or almost all of this mixture for one wash.
  2. Combine 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup water in a small spray bottle. This is the same concentration I was using before, but now I spray my hair much more heavily each time. This quantity now lasts me about three washes instead of six. I theorize (with zero science knowledge to back me up) that the dryness and breakage I was experiencing was due to not using enough acid to balance out the effects of the baking soda.
  3. Wash wet hair and scalp with baking soda mixture. Do not wash ends of hair. Rinse well. Because I’m now using less baking soda, I spend a little more time scrubbing my scalp for extra manual cleaning action.
  4. Spray vinegar mixture onto hair until fully saturated, spraying the scalp thoroughly to balance out the baking soda and also spraying all the way to the ends of your hair. I let it sit for a minute or two to absorb. Rinse well.

With this new routine, my hair is now softer and shinier than before and breakage has decreased to a normal level. My hair is less voluminous because it’s less dry, but it still successfully holds a curl. For a while I had been back up to three washes per week, but with these changes I’m now back down to two.

There are several blog posts out there in which people describe their horror stories of going no-poo. I certainly can’t attest that this method works for all types of hair—I only know it works for mine. But if you give no-poo a try and start having a bad experience, I encourage you to experiment with your routine to find the method that works for you before giving up completely. Maybe your hair needs a lot of baking soda scrubbing action, or maybe your hair needs hardly any baking soda at all. If you feel like your hair is truly becoming damaged, definitely stop and assess the situation, but a few simple adjustments may be all you need to reset the balance.

Who is BlueIndy for?

BlueIndy carFor a couple of months I’ve been wanting to try the BlueIndy electric car sharing service in Indianapolis. There’s a station about half a mile from my apartment, and I was curious about the cars and what the overall user experience is like. I also wanted to address a lingering question I’ve had since the system appeared: Who is BlueIndy for?

As a car owner whose daily commute is outside the BlueIndy range, I figured I was not the primary target market. However, the BlueIndy website touts free, guaranteed parking as one of its benefits, so I wondered if would BlueIndy be convenient for occasional trips downtown. Every Indianapolis urbanite knows the frustration of arriving downtown to unexpectedly find the cheapest parking garages plastered with “$20 Event Parking” signs. Could BlueIndy be a way to avoid this unpleasant surprise?

With the warmer weather this past weekend, I thought Sunday would be a good day to try it out for a trip downtown for lunch, so I logged on to the BlueIndy website to start planning my excursion. My plan was to pick up a BlueIndy car from the SoBro station, drive downtown and deposit the car at one of the many downtown stations, eat lunch, then pick up another BlueIndy car and return to the SoBro station. I quickly learned that this plan would be inconvenient to the point of impossibility due to two major flaws in the BlueIndy system.

Two major flaws

According to the membership description pages on the BlueIndy website, all BlueIndy memberships (including one-day memberships) must begin at an Enrollment Kiosk.* This in itself seems reasonable, since you need to verify that you’re a licensed driver before using the cars. However, as of the date of this post, there are only three operational Enrollment Kiosks in the city out of dozens of stations, with only two more under construction. Standard BlueIndy stations run along the north-south corridor as far south as the University of Indianapolis and as far north as 63rd Street, with some popping out to the east and west near downtown. Despite this broad coverage area, two of the Enrollment Kiosks are located downtown within two blocks of each other, and the third is located at College & Broad Ripple Ave.

*In the more deeply-buried FAQ, the website says that monthly and yearly memberships can be purchased through the website or mobile app, but there was no clarification on whether the user would still need to visit an Enrollment Kiosk to obtain their membership card.

Map of BlueIndy vehicle stations

BlueIndy vehicle stations

Map of BlueIndy Enrollment Kiosks

BlueIndy Enrollment Kiosks

It would take me about an hour to walk to the Broad Ripple kiosk—technically doable, but hardly convenient. It would only take about 15 minutes to ride my bike there, though, which seems like a reasonable alternative except for the fact that there is no bike parking provided as part of any BlueIndy stations. There may be nearby bike parking or there may not; it is in no way guaranteed. This seems like a huge missed opportunity, as including bike parking as a fundamental part of each station would make the system accessible to a much broader geographic area.

Who is BlueIndy for?

Because of the Enrollment Kiosk requirement, it seems apparent that BlueIndy is not really intended for one-day use. The inconvenience of getting to an Enrollment Kiosk would far outweigh the guaranteed parking benefit in most cases.

BlueIndy banner promoting guaranteed parking

Guaranteed parking doesn’t outweigh the other inconveniences of a one-day membership.

The Enrollment Kiosk requirement also begs the question, is the system intended for people who don’t own cars? If it is, how are these users supposed to get to an Enrollment Kiosk to sign up? Yearly membership cards are sent out via snail mail according to the BlueIndy website, so once you have your card you could use any station for your first trip, but a yearly membership is a big commitment if you haven’t even had a chance to try out the system.

Despite these flaws (which I hope the city addresses soon), here are some groups that I think can actually benefit from BlueIndy as it exists today:

  • Partners or families who own only one car, particularly if one working adult can use BlueIndy for their commute
  • Non-car owners who have access to an Enrollment Kiosk
  • Tourists staying downtown could use one-day memberships to visit other “notable” neighborhoods like Irvington, Broad Ripple or Fountain Square
  • College students
  • Electric car owners can use BlueIndy stations to charge their own vehicles

Do I still think BlueIndy is a valid mode of green transportation? Yes. My favorite thing about BlueIndy, now that I realize I can’t practically use it myself, is the charging service it offers to electric car owners, as this could increase the adoption rate of all-electric vehicles in the city. Is it a perfect system? Far from it. Hopefully as the program matures it will find its niche and clarify its marketing to reach the people who can truly benefit.

New Project: Sustainability in Events

Remember when I announced I was working a new, secret, scary, exciting project? I’m pumped to finally eliminate “secret” from that list!

Screenshot of Julia Spangler's sustainable event consulting website

I’m thrilled to share with you guys that I am starting my own sustainable events consulting business. The impetus for this idea came from several sources—my own love of events, my event experience from my day job, and the overall cultural shift in my generation toward valuing experiences more than possessions. As sustainability continues to become a more urgent global issue, event attendees (especially millennials) will demand that experiences are planned responsibly. Some brands are already doing this fantastically, but other companies and organizations need help to turn those sustainable ideals into reality. That’s where I come in!

A lot of the advice I offer is inspired by topics I’ve written about here on Fair for All. One person’s lifestyle changes at home can make a difference, but the impact is awesomely magnified at an event attended by hundreds of people!

If you’re interested in learning more, check out my official bizness website at www.juliaspangler.com. And of course, I’ll be continuing to plan sustainable events for the blog, including our next style swap on Jan. 20. Posting may take a downtick in frequency as I shift focus to the business, but I also plan to share a lot of the new things I’m learning with you!

Thanks to everyone who knew about this endeavor for your support so far; you’ve been awesome. And if you’re in the process planning a festival, fundraiser, bingo night or bar mitzvah, drop me a line—I’d love to help make it more sustainable!

Upcoming Events in January: Trunk Show and Style Swap

January looms before us as a barren wasteland of post-holiday gloom. But fear not! I have two free events coming up that are sure to break up your winter doldrums.

Slow Fashion Trunk Show promo poster

Slow Fashion Trunk Show

Thursday, Jan. 7 from 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Outpost (Circle Centre Mall, 2nd floor, across from H&M)

Elizabeth Roney from Liz Alig, Sara Baldwin-Schatz from Lux & Ivy, and I are teaming up for an evening of fair trade fashion, secondhand style, and sustainable strategies. Elizabeth and Sara will offer great slow fashion items from their brands, and I’ll speak on the differences between slow fashion and fast fashion, with time for Q&A from all three of us. It’s also a great chance to see the Outpost pop-up shop before it closes!

Women browsing clothes at FairSwap15

WinterSwap16 Women’s Style Swap

Wednesday, Jan. 20 from 6–8 p.m.
New Day Craft

FairSwap15 was such a big hit last September that we’re bringing it back in January! Collect any wearable holiday gifts that weren’t quite your style, plus any other unwanted clothing, shoes and accessories you have, and bring them to WinterSwap16. This swap will be bigger and better than the last with more items allowed per person. Plus, New Day’s famous Mead & Knead will be going on at the same time! Sign up and get the full details. Spots are limited!

Check out photos and details from past events on the Events page. Happy holidays and I’ll see you in January!

How to Give a Charitable Donation as a Meaningful Holiday Gift

The article below was originally published by Alden Wicker on EcoCult, a guide to sustainable and eco-friendly living in NYC and beyond. I’m in the process of cobbling together my year-end giving plan, so I was stoked to come across Alden’s excellent tips for charity selection. Whether you’re looking for a charity that speaks to your own values or a donation to give as a gift, Alden’s tips from #GivingTuesday will help you cultivate a generous spirit throughout the season and the year. Enjoy! —Julia

Red glittery gift with gold bow

I started putting together a Christmas wish list gift guide for myself, and then I realized: nobody is going to buy me any of it.

My step-dad donates to charity on my behalf, which I enjoy. My mom gets her Christmas shopping done long before Black Friday – it’s a point of pride for her – so I’m too late for that. My sister always handcrafts something really special for me. My aunt does her shopping at cool museum gift shops in Arizona. The other part of my family who usually relies on my gift guide I don’t think we will see this year. And I will have a long discussion with my fiancé about how we want to thoughtfully gift each other this year. Maybe a nice dinner? So, the gift guide will be completely ignored. Which is just fine.

I decided to take this opportunity on #GivingTuesday to talk about donating to charity instead.

Donating to charity on someone’s behalf is awesome on so many levels. First, you are not giving your money to a large corporation, which in turn gives money to overprivileged CEOs and hedge funds managers. Your money is going to people and organizations who will put it to work not buying third homes, but fixing the food system, restoring wetlands, feeding hungry people, teaching work skills to the underprivileged, etc.

Second, giving to charity is inherently sustainable, even if it’s not a environmentally-focused charity, because it doesn’t involve resources to produce, package, and ship a gift. It just requires an infinitesimal bit of energy to digitally wire some money over. And then, it won’t end up in the landfill when the recipient tires of it.

Third, donating to charity can be one of the most thoughtful gifts out there … if you do it right. (Do not be like that one distant aunt who donated on my behalf to her fundamentalist church. That is weird and so self-serving.) By donating to the right charity on someone’s behalf, you’re saying, “I think your values are amazing and important, and I want to support you in that.” It demonstrates that you have taken the time to find out what they love, do, or believe in.

My biggest tip, and one that I’ve used successfully in the past, is to search on Charity Navigator. Not only does this website allow you to find organizations by keyword, title, or location (the advanced search is awesome) it tells you how efficiently and transparently each organization is using donations, helping you avoid exploitative or even fake charities.

Here’s some questions to ask to find just the right charity:

  • What organizations support their favorite pastime? For example, if they enjoy classical music, you could donate to the local symphony. If they like to garden, you could donate to Seed Savers Exchange. If they enjoy art, donate to a local museum. If they listen to the radio, donate to NPR. Or donate to the local library if they enjoy reading.
  • What organization has supported them in the past or supports them now? My grandmother is part of a wonderful church that is about so much more than Sunday service. The ministers are non-judgmental and welcoming of all races and sexual-orientation. When a member is going through a challenging time, they assign him or her a buddy, who will talk to and check up on him or her. She’s met many of her best friends through the church, one of whom moved in with her for a time when they were both widowed within a year of each other. Everyone knows my grandmother’s name. It’s her community. So donating to her church is a way for me to almost gift her directly, by ensuring they can continue their programs and support for members like her. This isn’t just religious – you could also donate to a research or clinical organization if your recipient is struggling with a health problem, for example.
  • Where do they volunteer? If they volunteer at an organization, not only does it make it an obvious choice where you should donate, they’ll see your money at work firsthand, making it all the more special.
  • What is their career? Some careers will afford obvious choices. If they are a teacher, Donors Choose, a charity that lets teachers ask for money to purchase certain items, is a great choice. If they work in fashion, Dress for Success might be meaningful. If they work in medicine, Doctors Without Borders does the trick. For me, I use the Environmental Working Group‘s research and Skin Deep database constantly for EcoCult, so I would appreciate someone donating to them for sure!

Continue reading on EcoCult >>

The Perils of Palm Oil

Misty green jungle landscapeI’ve danced around educating myself about palm oil for several months. I know it presents a great threat to the rainforest, but as I’m not primarily a wildlife or biodiversity advocate, I thought I might be able to file it away as someone else’s problem. Sometimes you just don’t want to take on one more cause.

However, as several articles rolled out recently calling into question the validity of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), I was drawn to learn more. Seeking an expert, I interviewed fellow Ethical Writers Coalition member Magdalena Antuña, editor and founder of Selva Beat magazine. An avid advocate for changes in the palm-oil industry, Magdalena publishes content focused on ethical and palm-oil-free living.

Through the interview, I learned several shocking facts. First of all, palm oil is not a threat to the rainforest alone: Through the destruction of peatlands, palm oil agriculture emits thousands of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making it a significant climate change offender. Second, palm plantations have been identified as sites of human trafficking, and plantations often grab land from vulnerable populations in order to expand. Third, palm oil can legally go by over 200 names on product packaging, making it difficult to avoid.

I’m now convinced that consumers (myself included) can no longer ignore the abuses of the palm oil industry, and we have the responsibility and power to demand better environmental and social practices. Read on for my full interview with Magdalena to learn more about the perils of palm oil as well as how you can help.

Fair for All: Where does palm oil come from?

Magdalena Antuña: Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil, extracted from the fruit which grows on African oil palm trees. As the name denotes, these trees are native to Africa but are primarily grown in Indonesia and Malaysia. In fact, oil palm trees can only be grown ten degrees North or South of the equator, a band of Earth that scientists have deemed incredibly bio-rich, rife with endemic and/or endangered species. So, though SE Asia is the primary market for the production of palm-oil, we see similar issues emerging in Africa and South America where this industry is beginning to pick up considerable momentum.

How is palm oil related to deforestation? Are there other issues with palm oil in addition to deforestation?

Palm oil is directly tied to deforestation because, like most vegetable oils, it must be farmed in order to be extracted for use. The global demand for this oil is so incredibly high that millions of hectares of land—which, in this region happens to be primarily rainforest—must be cleared and/or primed for monoculture plantations.

But not all of this land is free of human life. Another issue we see with palm-oil is land grabs, which rob indigenous peoples of their only homes. Though palm-oil creates many jobs, the labor standards—much like those in sweat shops—on plantations can be frighteningly low. Our rapid consumption stresses the system, in turn asking more and more of plantation workers. It’s also important to remember that while this booming industry means big money, this wealth is not necessarily well distributed. Previously, we’ve seen many cases where in laborers are lured from other cities and countries, promised good work, and fooled into what is essentially indentured servitude—practically starved and barred from communication with their loved ones.

Orangutan looking calmly to the side

Orangutan habitat is threatened by the expansion of palm oil plantations.

Deforestation gets a lot of attention for two reasons: endangered wildlife and global warming. Many areas where oil palm plantations can be found—in Africa and South America, too—were originally suitable habitat for some of the world’s most beloved animals: endangered orangutans, tigers, pangolins, sun bears, chimpanzees, the list goes on. Today, we watch the Leuser Ecosytem dwindle away, primarily at the hands of conflict palm.

Because of global warming, we also have to monitor peatland destruction. Peatlands hold far more carbon than your average rainforest (up to 28x more) and when you cut down just a hectare, thousands of tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. The recent fires that devastated Indonesia, caused largely by irresponsible paper and palm oil companies illegally clearing land, created more greenhouse emissions in just three weeks than all of Germany does in one whole year.

The oil itself is not evil, but our gluttonous consumption and reliance on it has, no doubt, made palm-oil one of the largest environmental and human rights issues the world has ever seen.

What everyday products contain palm oil?

Our rule of thumb is that if it’s packaged, there’s a strong possibility that product contains palm-oil.

Anything from the cereal you eat to the almond milk you drink to the shampoo with which you wash your hair. Toothpaste, easy spread butter, foundation and vegan products, too. Palm-oil is extremely versatile, so it can be the basis for a lot of other ingredients like glycerin, sodium lauryl sulfate, cetearyl alcohol, etc.

Here’s a full list of the 200+ names palm-oil can legally go by in stores.

Full frame of breakfast cereal O's

Packaged products from breakfast cereal to snack food to toiletries often contain palm oil.

You’ve written before about your disapproval of the RSPO and the responsible palm oil certification process. Are there ways a consumer can know for sure that the palm oil in a certain product is truly responsible?

In light of several recent ‘bombshell’ articles regarding the RSPO’s credibility, I can’t say with confidence that there’s one fool-proof way for consumers to identify ethical palm-oil. This article is a great primer on how the supply chains work, as well as, how to speak with companies about their usage.

Put very simply, the word sustainability means little to nothing. Grill companies on their ability to trace their palm-oil from plantation to shelf. If a company says they use certified sustainable palm-oil, dig a little further. Traceability is key. No deforestation and peatland protection agreements score high, as well.

The world does need a governing body, like the RSPO or POIG, but it is similarly important that we remain critical of that body’s ability to police these practices effectively.

What are a few of your favorite palm oil-free products?

That’s actually kind of tough! I have a lot to choose from but perhaps my top three right now would be:

  • Earthpaste Toothpaste in Peppermint
  • Meow Meow Tweet’s Beer Shampoo Bar
  • Axiology lipstick in Elusive – perfect for fall!

What can the average person do to help the palm oil situation?

I believe passionately that consumers can make a difference regarding the palm-oil problem. It is genuinely ridiculous that the entire world should rely on the forests of only a handful of countries. Our view is that all palm-oil should be traceable, conflict-free, and ethically produced. But, that doesn’t mean that we should still have to eat and use it in everything.

We absolutely can, as a society, lessen our reliance on palm-oil. Begin by mitigating your consumption of packaged and processed foods. Fall in love with whole foods, local and organic produce. Rally with your community against irresponsible brands, urging them to fulfill their basic obligation to the planet. Start a Palm-Oil Action Team in your hometown via the Rainforest Action Network. Get into the habit of writing just one e-mail a night before you go to sleep.

It seems daunting, I know. But there will always be someone telling you that your contribution isn’t big enough to make a difference and you must remember that they will also say that to the next person, the person after that, and so on. There are hundreds of thousands of people out there that share your passion, you just have to find them.

___________________

Thanks to Magdalena for sharing her knowledge and passion! For more information about palm oil advocacy and palm-oil-free living, check out Selva Beat.

Waste Not, Want Not: Vegetable Stock from Kitchen Scraps

After reading Faye’s excellent post about making vegetable stock on her blog Sustaining Life, I was inspired to attempt it myself. And just in time too: I’ve made soup a couple of times this fall already and using plain water definitely leaves something to be desired.

I’ve never been a fan of purchasing stock from the store because it seems like a lot of packaging, either an unrecyclable carton or multiple cans. A couple of people have recommended bouillon cubes, and I agree those would probably be a good option. However, I like the idea of using the scraps of all the produce I’ve already bought. It’s like making something out of nothing!

As Faye advised, I stored my scraps in a plastic bag in the freezer. It took me about a month to collect enough to fill the bag. Here’s the collection I ended up with:

Vegetable scraps frozen in plastic bag

I reuse tortilla bags for everything.

I followed Faye’s recipe, first seasoning and roasting the scraps in the oven, them simmering them in water for a little over an hour.

Frozen vegetable scraps in a Pyrex baking pan

Some scraps I included were a pumpkin rind, a few apple cores, red and green pepper stems and membranes, onion ends, and rutabaga peelings.

Vegetable scraps in pot with water

Vegetables in pot after having been simmered

I could tell it was working because my apartment started to smell like delicious soup. After letting the stock cool, I removed the big vegetable chunks with tongs and then poured the remainder through a strainer.

The finished stock is a lovely golden brown and has an oh-so-slightly sweet flavor, probably due to the apple cores. My only puzzlement with the process is that I put in 8 or 9 cups of water and ended up with only 5 cups of stock. One culprit may be the fact that the lid to my stock pot has steam-release holes in it. The stock also came out a little more oily than I expected, which I’ll take as a lesson to lighten up on the olive oil during the roasting step. (I eyeballed it instead of measuring—a classic blunder. Come to think of it, I eyeballed the water amount too…)

Homemade vegetable stock in plastic container

The whole process was very easy and didn’t make a mess. Now I have tasty stock to use for making soup, rice, or anything else that could use a flavor boost instead of plain water, and I didn’t use anything other than scraps I would have thrown away. I definitely plan to continue collecting scraps for my next batch!

If you want to try it yourself, be sure to check out Faye’s post for the specific recipe and a helpful list of what veggies not to include in stock.

Have you ever made your own vegetable stock? How cool is it to make food out of [clean, edible] garbage??

The Journey Behind the “World’s Greatest Beanie”

Krochet Kids Intl. is a brand that’s truly dedicated to connecting consumers with the people behind their products. I’m excited to share their latest project with you, via the following post written and originally published by Abby Calhoun on her blog A Conscious Consumer.

Abby founded A Conscious Consumer as a way to document her journey towards practicing more mindful fashion consumption. Through her site she hopes to inspire others to evaluate their needs vs. wants in relation to fashion, and to look for alternative ways to satisfy both without compromising people or the environment.

Gray beanie on work table

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as far as transparent and socially conscious brands go, Krochet Kids intl. is a leader of the pack. Since their inception in 2007, KK intl. has emerged as pioneers in the #knowwhomadeit movement, drawing consumer attention to the people at every step of the production process. Now they’re taking their innovative approach to social enterprise to the next level.

With the launch of their new Kickstarter campaign, KK intl. is asking for support in making the “World’s Greatest Beanie,” a project named for its revolutionary look at their supply chain and its emphasis on environmental sustainability. The “World’s Greatest Beanie” is made from the finest materials available without the use of chemicals or dyes, and in true KK intl. fashion, introduces supporters to every person along the production chain.

We took extra considerations into understanding every detail that goes into creating this product. Generations of craftsmanship stand behind the process and we are so excited to introduce a new generation of customers to the importance of these stories, both from a quality and social impact standpoint.

– Kohl Crecelius, CEO & Co­founder

The beanie starts at an alpaca farm in the Andes Mountains of Peru, and moves from farmer, to shearer, to fiber selector, to yarn maker, to craftswomen, and finally to consumer, all with complete transparency:

Alpacas grazing
Alpacas on a hillside in Peru
Worker selecting alpaca fibers
Close-up of alpaca yarn
Woman wearing gray beanie
Photos and signatures of workers

*all images courtesy of KK intl.

In line with KK intl. tradition, every beanie is hand ­signed by the woman who made it, connecting consumer with producer. KK intl. is dedicated to repairing these broken links that are inherent in the fashion industry as we know it today, and is demonstrating how one purchase can make a huge impact. Their model is based on empowerment and challenges consumers to transform the global fashion industry with their purchase.

We believe products have worth because people do. Our world would be a drastically different place if we all considered the impact our clothing had on the people who created it. This is the conversation that we want to bring to the forefront of the global dialogue.

Please consider standing up with KK intl. to let the world know there’s a new way that our products can be valued. By supporting their Kickstarter campaign, you can be part of a movement that says people matter.