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Jennifer Schwab Headshot

The Black and White on Going Green

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Needless to say, I try lots of green products. Since we are still in the second inning of America going green, new products are just now entering the marketplace in slightly increasing numbers. I do my quarterly big box runs to examine just how close we are getting to green alternatives of everyday products. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have had the opportunity to test drive many new products and quite frankly the results are mixed.

I worry about this because when curious but non-green citizens are ready to try a green product, it had better live up to its billing. Otherwise, those folks won't try going green again for many years, if ever.

While admittedly lots of the things I try are personal care products, here is an overview of what has worked well -- and what hasn't.

I tried Organic makeup, the Foundation product is just super, easy to apply, feels nice, right consistency. Other Organic makeup products, however, fell short. Especially the pressed powder packaging. While environmentally friendly, the paper containers virtually ripped apart after only two weeks, thus rendering the products useless. Cost is about on par with an average brand like L'oreal but longevity of the product and packaging did not match up.

EcoVer laundry detergent is a "must" as is their all-purpose cleaner. It is one of the few cleaning solvents that is comparable in results to Clorox Greenworks. Simple Green, I'd take a pass. It left an oily residue on my counters.

As for green shampoo and conditioner, the Burt's Bees items I bought seem better suited for my dog (who will use them as I sure won't) than a long haired woman. They left my hair frizzy and dry. Burt's Bees lip balm, hand cream and other products are really good on balance, it should be mentioned.

Time to dry your hair? Don't bother with an Eco hair dryer. Painfully slow due to reduced power wattage, it takes twice as long, thereby negating the power savings. Next. I tried sustainable cork sandals; they looked reasonably stylish, but the fit and comfort left a lot to be desired. So much so that cork shoes are off my list. And while I buy my clothes at second hand boutiques, I don't really want to wear somebody else's shoes...

We tried to decorate our living room with sustainable furniture. Overall, even from a high quality store like Cisco on the West Coast, we found it to be 30-40 percent more expensive, and the designs were, well, homely. Sorry but this category has a long way to go. On the other hand, we picked up some FSC wood outdoor patio furniture that is great looking, very affordable and seems to be weather resistant. Ours came from Target and other large retailers also carry FSC outdoor lines. Buy these -- a great way to test out some sustainable products that you will be happy with!

We also had to replace our wood deck due to termite damage. We told our contractor it had to be made of FSC wood, period, no options. After an exhaustive search, he finally located a suitable batch of FSC wood, which had to be sanded and sealed. The texture was quite rough. This added cost but otherwise, the raw wood cost was the same as normal pre-treated wood. This took a little extra work and expense but not too much, and the results are fabulous. I highly recommend that if you are building decks, fences, water bridges, and so on, insist on FSC wood.

A not so great home improvement experience came when using AFM Safecoat wood sealant. Our home is made of spruce, so, it needs to be sealed every two to three years. We had to do quite a bit of research but identified a San Diego-based firm that makes fully sustainable sealant which is water not oil based. We purchased it at a slight premium price, and upon first application it looked great -- we were thrilled. Then, it rained. And rained some more (we LOVE this in Southern California, the more rain the better!). Lo and behold, the sealant literally rinsed off the wood, which felt dry and looked "naked" after the rain. We had to re-seal the entire structure at great expense, Ouch! Another case of a sustainable product that cannot compete with its non-sustainable brethren. Too bad.

The list goes on but you get the idea. When it comes to green products you can use at home, there is some risk involved. Like most new technologies, there is still a lot to learn and overall quality will improve. Hopefully, these personal anecdotes will help steer you in the right direction. Comment back to us and we will advise you on which green products to try -- and which ones to avoid.

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