I am an addict. I suffer from the same disease most Americans suffer from. Reckless Consumerism. Like many of you, I work hard to make more money to buy more things, some of which I don’t need. I also have spent good portion of my career helping clients sell products to consumers, some of which they didn’t need.
I have acquired a name over the years in NYC as a copywriter and creative director who can spin desire for all things beauty related and engage women’s emotions – a niche I found myself in after doing a few successful ad campaigns for large beauty brands. I know how to wrap up a claim up in a nice package inside of a big idea, so it moves products off shelves. I am skillful at skirting legal issues with well-crafted copy when it comes to efficacy or health risks associated with “product benefits”. I can get a woman’s attention with beautiful imagery and close the deal in 5 words or less. I’ve hired top fashion photographers and directors to photograph and film models with flawless skin and hair to sell women products full of neurotoxins. Some of these products were tested on animals. I’ve worked with post production houses to retouch models’ flawlessness to make them more flawless. Yes, I’ve done it all in the name of “Beauty”.
This is my Ugly Truth. I am part of an industry and a culture of consumers, sometimes unaware and oftentimes intentionally turning a blind eye to what we are putting in and on our bodies and on what we are perpetuating in society by making unconscious products, purchases and messages – a broken system called Capitalism. One that is consuming our natural resources faster than the earth can replenish them. One that is robbing us of our health. And our innate Beauty.
But in the end, try as I may to right my path, I am not 100%. And far from it. While I fight the urge to shop for things I don’t need on most days, I can, in an off moment, be sucked into a Sephora by the shiny, glimmering displays and a fabulous makeup artist who catches my eye, brandishing the latest shiny eyelash wand and dropping the casual offer for a quick “touch up”. Cut to me with a total makeover minus $327.00, walking out of the store, feeling pretty on the outside and ignoring that hankering on the inside – the one caused by knowing too much and that inevitable crash of a junkie.
Then there’s that tiny black bag – the contents of which seem to burn a hole in it until I get home and feverishly unpack it. I replace all the dusty, fingerprinted, partially unused items in my makeup bag with all the shiny, new powders, creams, shellacs, lengtheners, thickeners, plumpers, bronzers, outliners, highlighters, brighteners, primers, none of which I will finish, and all of which I sample immediately. I find clever ways to justify my purchases to myself (and to my significant other or accountant, if they bust me). One of my favorite justifications is “It’s research I need to do for my business”. While this has a grain of truth to it, most of the time I’m either just bored, curious or I need a quick fix of retail therapy because I’m having a bad week.
While I have a fairly keen internal toxicity radar which scans every label it can find for harmful chemicals, ingredients and toxins like dioxane, dieththyl phthalate, formaldehyde, alcohol, parabens, heavy metals, dyes, etc., I still throw caution to the wind at times, especially when it comes to cosmetics. Let’s face it, it’s nearly impossible to know what’s in most makeup or what can be considered “clean” or “organic” because the cosmetic industry is pretty much self-regulated. If you’re wise and interested, you can investigate products on the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep Cosmetic Database“, but boy does that take all the fun out of shopping when you find out the next new miracle cream is laced with toxic matter.
According to an article in Smart Money, Americans spent $33.9 billion on cosmetics alone in 2010. Things haven’t changed much since then. As well, the cosmetic industry has no problem spending a fraction of that every year lobbying to squelch bills like the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act so they don’t get passed. Why do you think the European Union has banned 1200 chemicals from use in their beauty products, and the US has only banned 10? Sound familiar? Look at Europe’s gun safety laws compared to ours. Washington is being bought on every level, from bullets to beauty. And all of it is killing us – whether it’s an instant taking of human life or a more drawn out death by small dosages of poison daily.
Lipstick Wearers, here’s a helpful tidbit. 400 lipsticks tested positive for lead, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. But unless you personally take your lipstick to a lab and have it tested, there’s no way to find out if you’re putting lead on your lips, and therefore into your body. Lead is a cheap way to make colors like bright red pop. It’s also a cheap way to give yourself a wide range of health issues.
I try to buy cosmetics from small companies that I’ve read up on that are for the most part mineral and/or plant based, but I can sacrifice my standards when I must have things like the bright purple Chanel mascara. That said, I’m more discerning than most shoppers because I’m neurotic and constantly devour anti-establishment health articles, which keeps me in relative check. And yet, I STILL have an addiction to trying new things and a lack of patience when it comes to finishing my old things.
So what’s a junkie to do? Faced with this paradox of the beast within, and the business and lifestyle I’m out to promote, I hereby declare myself on an official BEAUTY FAST. As part of this fast, I’ll be using every beauty and personal care item in my cabinet before I buy another to replace it. Could be a couple of years before I go through it all, but that’s my commitment. The only caveat, if I discover one of these products contains ingredients I can’t abide by, I’ll find a way to properly dispose of the toxic waste rather than use it. Funny, there’s a guide for disposing of CFL lightbulbs and mercury thermometers, but no guide for disposing of carcinogenic makeup.
Stay tuned for future blog postings in this new series entitled: Confessions of a Beauty Junkie.
And please do share.
Photo sourced from: http://thestylepundit.wordpress.com/
What if there were more brave and visionary titans of transformation as inspired as Ray Anderson, Founder of Interface Carpet, who unfortunately passed in 2011, and Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia?
If even 5% of CEO’s of the Fortune 500 top companies followed in their footsteps, it may just cause a tidal wave of good will for our environment and society that has us reach the tipping point that so desperately needs to happen to sustain life on earth. The window is closing fast. Who will be our next Hero?
Both of these men felt a moral imperative to make their respective businesses work in ways that were most compatible with our natural environment, society and their employees. Both men were inspired to meet all the challenges of a whole and complete transformation of their companies from the inside out. Both men totally re-scaled and re-invented their companies, including the sourcing and production of their products, their manufacturing, their supply chain, the types of products they offered, their corporate culture, the delivery of their goods to the consumer and the communications strategy behind their consumer facing ad campaigns. Now that’s TRUE branding from the inside out. Both of these men have testified that while the choice to change everything took some risk, experimentation and investment in the short term, that it paid off in spades financially for their companies over the long term.
While Ray Anderson is no longer physically with us, he left behind a legacy and a company known as mavericks of sustainable business. In his 2009 book, “Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose–Doing Business by Respecting the Earth“, he says since 1994 Interface has:
• Cut greenhouse gas emissions by 82 percent
• Cut fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent
• Cut waste by 66 percent
• Cut water use by 75 percent
• Invented and patented new machines, materials, and manufacturing processes
• Increased sales by 66 percent, doubled earnings, and raised profit margins
Yvon Chouinard fortunately is still at the top of his game and keeps on pushing the envelope in the business world using Patagonia as the vehicle for positive change. His branding takes an anti-consumerism and anti-fashion approach, and embodies his philosophy. It’s not about buying more, it’s about buying smarter. So that’s what he tells consumers in the ad featured above: “Don’t buy this jacket.” If you really need to buy outdoor wear then gosh darn it, Patagonia will make sure it multitasks and is made to last. And if it breaks, we’ll fix it. And btw. we’ll recycle your used Patagonia jackets. (The fleece in it was made of recycled plastic bottles to start with.)
Patagonia has seen 25% growth annually throughout the recession, and one of Yvon’s struggles has been to keep scaling back and staying small enough to be able to control the output and environmental impact of his business. But as he imparted in a recent interview at a greenbiz.com forum, he can take this kind of risk. It’s his company. He doesn’t have to answer to stakeholders who are pushing for growth at the expense of our planet’s natural resources and the well being of life on earth. Yvon only has to answer to his own conscience.
If you are a visionary entrepreneur and/or CEO and you have a moment between meetings and tweets to check out these men and what inspired them, including reading Paul Hawken’s book, “The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability“, which Ray Anderson sites as his inspiration (and which I also read and which inspired me to start my company) please check out these links below and spend a few minutes to experience firsthand what conviction combined with courage can create.
On Friday, March 8, Whole Foods Market became the first retailer in the US to require labeling of all genetically modified foods.
They are no longer just about being a destination where consumers can purchase a wide variety of WHOLE foods but they are about ensuring consumers have access to the WHOLE story about what’s in the foods they buy.
I project this will go down in history as one of the most successful and important brand initiatives of 2013, and perhaps of this century. Whole Food’s choice to zig against the zag of its very own industry, putting an internal policy in place to help protect consumers, will not only cement the trust and loyalty of its customer base but will win over a lion’s share of new customers hungry to stand alongside them in this fight for consumer protection and public health (even if they have to pay more to do so). This will inevitably cause a ripple effect that will impact all grocers and the entire food industry, and will surely trickle up to Washington policy makers. And we’ll get to watch this delicious scene play out over these next few years as Whole Foods puts their stand in force.
Whole Foods has given food companies 5 years to get their act together, or to be evicted from their hard won shelf space. Even in the face of consumer criticism about one of their own private label products. Whole Food’s 365 cereal came under scrutiny as it contained genetically modified corn (as do most cereals). But before the press had a field day with this, they quickly re-formulated this cereal to remove the GMO corn. Ok, so no company is perfect. But how quickly the consumer is willing to forgive and forget when they see a company that has the big picture in mind. Big Food, Big Pharma and not even Big Government will be able to hold on to their justification much longer that it’s really ok to feed Americans genetically modified ingredients without them knowing about it.
88% of corn and 94% of soy crops were genetically modified in the US in 2011. Soy and soy derivatives are in most breads, crackers, chips, cookies, candy, canned tuna fish, processed sauces, salad dressings, condiments, and this is only the tip of the soyberg. Many restaurants use soybean oil to cook with because it’s inexpensive. Soy lecithin is used in many vitamins and supplements, and it’s even in most chocolate. Holy Godiva! If you look on the back of many Trader Joe labels (and labels across the board), you’ll often see a note that says “Made in a facility that processes Soy, etc.”. So there’s almost no escape from soy. Or the negative health effects soy produces on the human physiology, apart from the genetically modified variety. Of course, we all know how pervasive high fructose corn syrup is in our food and beverage supply, especially with all the negative press it’s gotten in recent years that it’s one of the leading contributors to diabetes and obesity in America. Thanks for your help on this one Mayor Bloomberg and others who have waged effective campaigns to get the word out on this issue. But have we yet grappled with the concept that nearly all this corn syrup is coming from GMO corn?
No wonder PepsiCo and Coca-Cola spent millions last year lobbying against the hard fought GMO food labeling ballot in California. What’s scarier is that they won (with the financial help of the biotech industry). They actually succeeded at convincing voters that mandatory labeling of GMO foods would spread unfounded fear among Americans, would raise food prices and would have a negative impact on farmers. To help seal the deal on this argument and put this ballot to rest (at least until now), our own Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association piped in and told Americans that genetically modified foods aren’t proven to have a negative effect, when in fact there is plenty of evidence that points to the opposite perhaps being true. But the real truth is, the amount of research done in the area of GMO food testing on human beings (or even lab rats) is insufficient to make any argument for GMO labeling stick in the face of multimillion dollar smear campaigns conducted by giant corporations. So even though we don’t have the research or the voters or the policies to force change at this time, we’ve now got a rebel game changer in Whole Foods.
So kudos Whole Foods for living up to your brand name in a WHOLE new and powerful way that makes a difference for the WHOLE of America.
Source for photo:
I heard a woman being interviewed on the news one night shortly after the Newtown shooting. She raised an interesting question. Why is it that she had to go through federal and state background checks to adopt her children, but a criminal can buy a gun in America without a background check?
Later that week I saw articles that Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, announced it will NOT be pulling the type of weapon used in the Newtown school massacre off its shelves. Now there’s some effective branding, if your target audience is Ted Nugent. Btw, I just now pulled a screen grab of Walmart’s site, the one you see above.
I brought my adopted daughter Betelhem to New York from Ethiopia in October of 2011. The process took about 2.5 years. And yes, much of this time I spent applying and waiting for federal and state background checks to clear, while I had to procure several other types of “clearances”. I visited the USCIS to get fingerprinted, the NYC Police Department to get a letter of good standing, had two visits from a social worker to get a home study, got a notarized letter from my then employer verifying my salary, from my Dr. verifying my medical condition, from my accountant verifying my financial standing, from the Department of Health in Galveston, Texas verifying my birth certificate, 3 character reference letters, a list of every address I’d ever lived at dating back 28 years. All this and more went into a “dossier”. Once completed, it was taken by special courier in DC, and by “special” I mean I paid a man in DC to hand deliver my dossier to the desk of the Secretary of State for her signature and get the signed original dossier back to me. Yes, Hillary Rodham Clinton actually sat down and signed the cover of my dossier in front of a notary, before I shipped it off to the adoption agency which then shipped it off to the government of Ethiopia to consider whether I was fit to parent one of their 6 million orphans. This all, of course, preceded my two trips to Ethiopia to meet my beautiful daughter for the first time and to appear in court there. Twice.
So ALL this is required simply to LOVE one child, yet NO mandatory background check is required to buy any number of guns or ammo in the U.S. How difficult we make it to give an orphan a life, yet how easy we make it for a criminal or someone mentally ill to take a child’s life away. Or multiple children’s lives away, in a matter of seconds.
It’s mind boggling how many orphans there are worldwide compared to how few are adopted annually. And how many guns there are in the world compared to the percentage of those that are owned by private citizens of our great country.
It is estimated there are between 143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide (a recent UNICEF report.) Yet, approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually. http://www.orphanhopeintl.org/facts-statistics/
Of the world’s 875 million firearms, the U.S. buys about 275 million. And roughly 75% of those go to private citizens. In the U.S. there are about 90 handguns per 100 people. That’s three times what you find in Germany, France or Sweden. And 2.5 times what you find in Iraq. http://www.fastcodesign.com/1662850/infographic-of-the-day-does-the-us-really-have-that-many-guns”
Bottom line, the government makes potential adoptive parents jump through hoops for years before they allow them to give an orphan a home, a family, an education, a support system and opportunities they would never have otherwise, yet if you’re a potential child killer and you want to purchase a semi-automatic assault style weapon to spray a classroom, it’s as easy as strolling into your neighborhood Walmart and buying a can of peas.
A few things you can do:
• Sign open letters to Congress, vote in the primaries and support any politician brave enough to take a stand on gun control.
• Join forces with organizations like http://www.momsrising.org/
• Start or join a youth commission like this one in your town to engage youth and get their perspective, http://www.phila.gov/youthcommission/
• Don’t shop at Walmart or any retailer that sells military style assault weapons.
• Help my friend Misha meet his goal of raising $1,000,000 for the Worldwide Orphans Foundation at http://www.mishalyuve.com/music-areweready-game
• Listen to your child, talk to them about this issue (if it’s age appropriate), and watch what they watch on TV, at movies and on the internet.
• Contact us with ideas and resources to help shift public policy.
• Share this.
Here’s some bright news this Earth Day.
There’s a maverick technology being developed in Northern California (surprise) called nuclear fusion. Not to be confused with nuclear fission. In nuclear fusion, hydrogen nuclei are fused together to form helium nuclei, emitting the kind of massive energy the stars make, including our good old Sun. This is super good news for our future. And not too distant future it appears, thanks to the hard work and dedicated commitment of a bunch of mad scientists that took Albert Einstein’s E=MC2 seriously. They’re based at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the National Ignition Facility (which btw. is a program of the The Department of Energy. The Gov has apparently seen the light on this issue.)
So let’s talk practicality. When will it be here and how much is it going to cost? Good news it seems on both fronts. Because so much massive energy is created from just fusing together a few hydrogen nuclei, the energy is probably going to be dirt cheap, or nothing compared to oil today. And this technology fuses nuclei together as opposed to splitting nuclei, otherwise known as nuclear fission. The latter is the kind of energy made at nuclear power plants. We’ve seen how stable that is (poor Japan, poor fish, poor oceans, poor contaminated global food supply). Fusion energy is much safer. It’s also totally sustainable, and runs clean, unlike coal or oil. As to when will it be a reality, looks like it well may be in our lifetime, maybe even before we run out of oil, which some project at 40 years from now.
So as far as good energy is concerned, looks like sunny days ahead. Happy Earth Day.