Monday, January 10, 2011

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Green Light- Misha



An eco-sista who says "Knowledge is Power"



How long have you been eco-friendly? My lifestyle has been a long time in developing, and I still have much more to learn. I was raised in Northern California, in an area where a lot of hippie communes had been established during the 1960's. So, people with lifestyles that carefully considered the environment were everywhere, as our neighbors, teachers, parents of friends, and so forth. Also, one side of my family are war-torn immigrants, and the other has a working-class background, so I learned from both my parents to not take material goods for granted and that everything you really need you can make or do yourself. Things like making your own foods, clothes, furniture, house (yes, my parents built the house I grew up in) or whatever else you needed (or at least knowing how to do it should the need arise), fixing things yourself like your car or bike, walking instead of driving, and in general, using as few resources as possible.

Why did you choose to be eco-friendly? I've heard two sayings about knowledge that I always remember: "Knowledge is power" and "Knowledge can create problems, but it is not through ignorance that we can solve them."

On the one hand I love to learn, especially when it's information about things very second nature or common that you come to find you know not one bit about. For example, cosmetics, which are made for women, have ingredients that harm the reproductive system of the people they're made for- women! Or how buying cute cheap clothes made in a developing country is probably contributing to slave or child labor, or someone getting paid unfair wages-how else are they so cheap for me to buy? Or how the components of my mobile phone are likely made from materials obtained from countries practicing genocide on their own people-I do not need to replace my old, ugly, mobile phone just to be cute. Or else, it is things that I was just being lazy about and not really using my head and thinking about it, like chemically treating my hair and how bad it is for me, the stylist, my unborn children, and the environment. Duh! This is all interesting stuff that I can't help but act on-knowledge is power! My dollars and choices have power, and with that power I choose to protect the health and well being of myself and others (or at least not contribute negatively), which means so much more than having "things", or looking a certain way to others.

On the other hand, it can be difficult when you gain knowledge that the very lifestyle that the entire world around you is based on-to strive to consume everything way beyond your needs, throwing away everything from utensils and food wrap to homes and cars- is destroying the very habitat that keeps us alive. How can you truly be eco-friendly, or environmentally conscious, if you live in a city? Or live far away from work, and can't get there by public transport? Or can't afford to always buy organic produce, or clothes made by fair trade organizations? Or are just tired of doing things different from pretty much everyone else around you? Well, I have a guilty conscience. And, I have the blood of a grandfather that, once he had the knowledge, absolutely always did the right thing. So, while sometimes it feels like I am making my life very complicated with no immediate gain, I continue to choose to be mindful about my impact on the environment and do things differently because I have knowledge...I know that my choices now will have tremendous impact later. I can't ignore what I know, and I have enough intelligience and privilege of choice to be able to do the right thing, as often as possible.
   
What do you like about it? I haven't really thought about this before. I believe I like my lifestyle choice because it is something I can always be proud of or get private satisfaction out of it- I think hard and make informed choices before doing somethingthat could harm the environment, my health, or someone else.I can believe that other people are benefiting when I choose to walk instead of drive, or buy vegetables from the local farmer instead of a huge foreign company that sprays chemicals on its crops and doesn't care about the farmers or the people eating their produce. I don't have to share that satifaction with anybody else because I am the one making the choices about how to live my life, and I beleive that not only is it good for me, but it is good for everyone else living and for my kids and future generations. I can be proud of doing something good. So whenever I'm not doing so great at somthing else- communicating with my partner or a co-worker, contacting my family, and so many other things- I can always look to this.
Did you face any challenges? If so what was/is the biggest obstacle(s)? I learned early when I became a vegetarian at age 14 not to expect or want others to do the same as me. However, for some reason I always thought that my life partner would have the same ideals as me…I mean all of the same ideals! I have tons of friends who differ from me on everything from political tendencies to morals to environmental consciousness, but my partner? No, he (whomever he was!) was always going to have the same viewpoints as me. But I was younger and not as wise then. My partner and I share many values and ideals, about family and other very important things. But I often find my partner choosing to do whatever is easiest, which often means the thing that is easiest to get or do, or is cheapest, which usually translates to least sustainable. Boy, does this man love cheap clothes, and lots of them! Nevermind the unfair wages and poor children. And his cologne collection! Nevermind the phthalates that are collecting in my body and are bad for babies. And he insists that organic produce bought in a store is just a scam (he may be right one this one with all the greenwashing going on…). Sheesh! It can be very difficult to learn to accept that someone you’re sharing your life with will, and should be able to, make different choices about his life than you do yours. But despite this challenge, carving out a shared life is definitely worth it. I’m learning to evaluate what really matters in the moment, and to save the discussions on compromise for when it is a choice that will impact me or my kids, like new carpet in our apartment that has tons of chemicals that are bad for babies, and so forth.


Any tips/advice for someone looking to be more eco-friendly? Advice? Always be willing to challenge the status quo or norm, and to learn more on your own. There isn’t much in the world that we can’t live without even though everyone may have or use it—just because everyone does/has it, doesn’t make it the best choice. For example, slavery and smoking used to be the status quo and people argued vehemently about the benefits or how we couldn’t live without it, but nowadays we know better. And some of my city friends used to marvel at how sold my car and continued to have an active career, social and community life without one. (It’s all about walking, public transport, and bikes—and beter health.) And once you’ve learned more and acted on it, take satisfaction in knowing that you empowered yourself, and made an educated and good choice (but, no bragging—keep it to yourself, k? J ).
Going green can be complex. This discourages a lot of people. There’s really no “right” way it’s basically trying to do something than nothing at all. I sometimes feel like a green hypocrite. Do you feel that way sometimes? Absolutely. There are so many things I can and would do differently in my life, but it’s hard to be truly different in this big world. I’d love to live in a rural area, “off the grid”, growing my own vegetables, and making my own clothes. But I have a student loan to pay off, and must make choices with my partner now, not just for myself. And, while it’s great to strive for excellence, it is the mistakes and bad choices that make us human and make us learn. I’m human! Sometimes I drive a car and buy things I don’t need. The best I can do at any given moment is do the best I can right then, as often or as much as I can, and when I make a bad choice, not to dwell on it but always look for the next opportunity to improve.
You know I gotta ask, How long have you been natural and how do you keep it so FLY? Haha! Well, I don’t know about fly, but I’m cool with who I am, and that’s what matters, right? The most beautiful people I know do whatever makes them feel good, so as long as you’re doing “you”, it’s all good, right?
I’m still transitioning, and it has been almost 17 months. I’ve been using natural hair products and braid-outs for years, but since transitioning, I’ve been loving monthly hendigo treatments (I’ll drop the indigo once all my chemical/sun-burned ends are snipped off), and coconut and castor oils. Those three additions have brought so many benefits, and the coconut oil used from head to toe has kept me feeling like a goddess every day.
Is there anything you like to add? As if I haven’t gone on long enough! Ok, so there are a couple of things.

Positivity, not Toxic Attitude. I’d like to encourage all my sisters out there, but especially women of color, to continue to look out for yourselves and to show support to each other. We are so good at looking out for ourselves and our immediate circles, but I want to encourage all of us to take it a step further – what we put into and onto our bodies matters, what we buy and consume matters not just for our personal health but for the lives of the people that must produce those things, and what we put out there in attitude and words about others matters. Yes, look out for yourself, but get your good feeling from that, not from looking down on women who make different choices. Be positive and supportive with other women of color making their own choices, especially choices different from your own. Individually we have our own history, issues, and choices to deal with, but as women we have enough battles to fight without having to combat the negativity of each other.

Reduce Your Toxic Load. On sort of the same note, there is a lot of info out there about healthy hair products for women of color, but not for cosmetics. So, I’m going to share some info on (1) a way to find out how bad your favorite cosmetics might be for your body, and (2) my favorite cosmetics that are free of chemicals that are better for women than all the mainstream ones out there. I like to keep in mind that while my grandmother in her late 80s has used some products with bad chemicals all her life like Aqua Net and Vaseline, the rest of her lifestyle is super clean and toxin free—eats organic veggies from her own garden, doesn’t ever drink soda and rarely eats packaged snacks and sweets, doesn’t drive but walks everywhere, gets low exposure to radiation with no mobile phone or computer, and so forth. So, it’s all about balance. For me, using natural hair products and cosmetics all of the time (in addition to eating organic foods and not using toxic household chemicals as much as possible) balances out using a computer everyday, and having an Almond Joy every now and again J

(1) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database – rates toxicity of products against others, lists things like cancer-causing ingredients, etc. for everything from toothpaste to mascara and hair products. It may not have all the products you use, but submit it as a suggestion for testing and research. Open your eyes to what your “favorite” product could be doing for your health in addition to your looks – for example, Sheer Cover Mineral Makeup has not allowed testing…makes you wonder what they’re hiding. http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/

(2) Some of my “guilt-free” make-up choices are:
Zuzu Luxe line by Gabriel Cosmetics (Tobacco eyeliner is a staple): http://www.gabrielcosmeticsinc.com/index.cfm?category=3
Ecco Bella Cosmetics (Flower Color mascara is awesome): http://www.eccobella.com/cosmetics/cosmetics
Inika Cosmetics (I mix two different colors throughout the year as my color deepens if I’m in Australia, and it covers my hyperpigmentation!): http://www.inikacosmetics.com/

I’ve also heard very good things about:
Valana Minerals (formulated for people of color!): http://valanaminerals.com/
Elegant Minerals (30 shades so you can mix and get a true match): http://www.elegantminerals.com/Foundations.html

And lastly, thank you so much for asking me all these questions. Your blog seems to be a great forum for sharing. These aren’t things I’ve thought much about before, so I’ve learned something about myself—self-examination and introspection outside my head is actually a really good idea. At the very least it has been interesting for me!

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