My daughter is constantly asking me how many days it is to summer so I have a daily reminder that it just around the corner and to be honest I’m counting down the days too. I have more free time when the kids are in school and the house stays cleaner for way longer! But sometimes the academic year feels like a treadmill of actions and obligations; sign this form, get this item, negotiate this playground fracas. The first week of July is like one long exhalation in our house. We made it! We survived another academic year! No grubby uniforms, no half-eaten packed lunches, no unending homework. Just us, together with 8 long weeks of pyjama-wearing lolling about on our to-do list. Of course we’ll end up killing each other by week 3 but for now we’re ignoring that reality and remaining firmly fixated on our rose-tinted imaginaries of summertime.
I hope your summer will too be full of rose-tinted imaginaries – to make them more sustainable read on.
Last year I wrote up a post on sustainable ethical swimwear for women so check that out if you’re in need of a new cossie. I update it whenever I come across a new brand that’s available in Ireland.
If you’re bloke here’s a list of swimwear brands for you;
- Knowledge Cotton Apparel
- Picture Clothing
- Two Thirds
- Thinking Mu
I pick up flip-flops second-hand in charity shops but if that doesn’t float your boat and you want a new pair here are a few brands to consider.
Whaletreads aim to make long-lasting products that help people reduce their impact on the environment. This includes using factories that provide fair working conditions, using materials that are organic, recycled or re-used. – even the toggles on their organic cotton bags are manufactured from fallen, harvested twigs. Their dyes are Azo free; and the labels and display stands are made from recycled cardboard.
Ecoalf is a Spanish brand that makes flip-flops for men and women from recycled tyres and through it’s foundation Ecoalf are involved in a project to clean our oceans of waste called Upcycling the Oceans. You can also buy their shoes through FAAM, an online retail store.
Rider are a Brazilian brand that use some recycled material in the making of their flip-flops. I don’t normally include non-European brands in my posts but you can get this brand through online retailer the Natural Collection, Spirit of Nature, Frank and Faith and the Ethical Superstore.
As part of a mega-sized lifestyle brand in the USA, Reef make sandals with water-based glues that are free of PVC. You can buy some of their flip flops through Schuh, the Surfdome, the Great Outdoors in Ireland or though sustainable surfing brand The Green Wave in the UK.
It was during my research that I started lusting after a pair of wooden sunglasses, which I was thrilled to source locally from an Irish company. Recently I posted a review of some wooden sunglasses that I purchased from Kildare based Raw Roots. My discovery of Raw Roots was completely serendipitous as I did not find them during my internet trawl for suppliers.
At the same market that I discovered Raw Roots I discovered another Irish brand of wooden sunglasses called Dead Fresh! Zeitgeist or what. According to their website their bamboo and sandle-wood sunglasses are made from ethical sourced timber and they donate €1 for every pair sold to forest protection charity ITF (International Tree Foundation). Their lenses are polarised. You can buy from their website or at Bushy Park Market in Terenure, Dublin 6.
And recently I came across another Irish based wood sunglasses, amongst other things, company called Wood Life Store. They sell handcrafted sunglasses and watches from 100% organic, sustainably farmed wood and work with environmental charities to plant two trees for every item sold.
Just goes to show Google does not know everything! Here are a list of some other wooden sunglasses retailers based in Europe;
- Raw Roots (Ireland – see above)
- Dead Fresh (Ireland – see above)
- Wood Life Store (Ireland – see above)
- I am Bamboo (UK – funds planting of trees)
- Pala (UK – fund eyecare charities in Africa, make cases from recycled plastic, packaging is recycled and FSC certified)
- Plant Wear (Poland – plant approx 50 trees a month, glasses made from FSC certified wood)
- Rolf Spectacles (Austria – Available from Optica, D2. Made with prescription lenses)
- Kate Wood Originals/ (Holland and Shanghai – donates 10% of its profits to charity)
- Time for Wood (Holland – Plant a tree for every pair sold)
- Propwood (Lithuania)
- Aarni Wood (Finland- Use only sustainable timber, some from Finland)
- Lou di lo (Serbia – They plant a tree for every pair of glasses sold)
- Wood Stock Eye Wear (Slovenia)
An alternative to wooden sunglasses are those made by Spanish company Sea 2 See. They make frames from recycled plastic marine waste.
Or how about recycled denim sunglasses handmade in Cornwall.
I’m a huge fan of pre-loved but it’s hard to source second-hand sun-glasses that have been tested by an optician. Now you can buy recycled and refurbished retro and designer spectacle frames from UK based Retrospecced. They can also provide prescription lenses if needed and will donate 20% of the profits from all frames sold directly to Vision Aid Overseas on your behalf.
When buying glasses you ensure that the lenses that are UV400 or above. These will block 99.9% of UVA rays and UVB rays. If you wear dark glasses that don’t block UVA or UVB rays then you’ll be damaging your eyes more than if you weren’t sunglasses at all. This is because dark glasses cause your pupils to dilate, exposing them to more UVA and UVB rays unless the lenses block them. Additionally polarised lenses can decrease the amount of glare, which can dazzle and strain your vision.
Also make sure that the glasses fit you well and cover your eye sufficiently. Wrap around glasses give the greatest protection. If you think there is light seeping around your glasses then consider the added protection of a hat.
Sunscreen / Sunblocks
When it comes to sun protection there are two types of products; sunscreens and sun blocks. Sunscreens are usually made up of a mix of chemicals that reflect or scatter the light away from the skin and absorb the UV rays so that our skin doesn’t. Sunblocks use inorganic chemicals, including minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, to act as a physical sunblock. They reflect UV rays, similar to how white paint reflects light. In the past sunblock were very noticeable on the skin but now inorganic particles can be made much smaller and so aren’t as visible.
Another type of radiation, called UVA radiation, penetrates deeper into the skin and can cause premature wrinkling, age spots and can also heighten the risk for some skin cancers. Sunscreen lotions labelled as ‘broad-spectrum’ block against both UVA and UVB, but currently there is no standard for listing UVA blocking power. Inorganic chemicals that deflect sunlight will deflect both UVA and UVB rays.
It seems as if the whole area of suncream is problematic, both from a health and environmental point of view. Some of the chemicals in sunscreen have recently come under fire for possibly being carcinogenic (cancer-causing) or otherwise harmful, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy group based in Washington D.C. Scientists found that oxybenzone absorbs into the skin and is present in urine long after sunscreen is applied, so some researchers have suggested not using sunscreens containing this chemical on children. Also in a preliminary study last year, large quantities of nano-particles of titanium dioxide was shown to cause genetic damage in mice. See below for information on which brands clearly don’t use nano-particles.
Research carried out in 2008 found that organic ultraviolet filters in sunscreen lead to bleaching of corals in areas of high leisure activity and in 2015 a team reported that oxybenzone is toxic to the symbiotic algae that live within corals, which provides their color and performs other vital duties, and also stunts the growth of corals. Sunblock formulas with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide below 100 nanometers can be ingested by corals and are to be avoided. The HEL list is a list of chemicals that are known pollutants in many different environments (freshwater streams, river, beaches, and ocean systems) or wildlife (e.g., corals, fish, birds, marine mammals, sea turtles). All of them pose a threat to Ecosystem Health.
So how do you avoid unhealthy, coral bleaching sunscreen? Well until such time as there is a widespread certification for ‘coral friendly’ sunscreen you’re going to have to check the list of ingredients in your preferred product and check it against the HEL list referred to above. During my research I came across a coral reef safe facial suncream from the Beauty Kitchen, made from 100% derived natural ingredients and free from nano mineral particles. Alba sunscreen, available from Down to Earth in D2, also states that it is coral reef friendly.
Before I list the ‘greener’ brands of sunscreen it’s worth referring to the post ‘Why I’m Giving up Non-toxic Sunscreen‘ by Eco cult. In the post she argues that research into the harmful effects of oxybenzone indicated that you’d need to apply 200 years worth of sunscreen to reach the exposure levels required to possibly put yourself at risk of cancer. She argues that using non-toxic sunscreens that, in her experience don’t work, puts you at immediate risk of cancer, whereas normal exposure to oxybenzone may or may not. Personally I have used non-toxic sunscreen by Green People, Beauty Kitchen and Jason and found that they all worked very well as long as you apply them regularly, as is required with all sunscreens. I will qualify that remark by saying that I’ve only tested these products in Ireland and the UK and they may not stand up in countries closer to the Equator.
Non-toxic Sunscreen Brands
Alba sunscreen is biodegradeable and coral reef safe, made from vegetarian ingredients and free of cruelty, synthetic fragrances, parabens, phylates, gluten, artificial colours, sulphates and nano-minerals. It is . They do cream and spray based products and offer mineral based sunscreen or ones without mineral ingredients. Their products are currently available from Down to Earth in Dublin 2.
Aloe Pura is a brand of sunscreens and suncare products that you see frequently in health food stores. I have really struggled to find a website for the company, which concerns me. The Holland and Barrett website states that Aloe Pura Aloe Vera Sun Lotion is produced from organic and certified Aloe Vera gel and that it is free from free from parabens, paraffin/petroleum, lanolin and salicylates. No independent certification for these claims could be found online.
Beauty Kitchen are based in Scotland and aim to make 100% effective, natural and affordable products that only contain 100% pure essential oils plus naturally derived ingredients. Their products are also cruelty free and some are labelled ‘vegan friendly’ even their seahorse plankton face cream! You can buy from their website or via Holland and Barrett stores.
Louth based Biofresh offer cruelty and paraben-free suncare products that contain certified natural and organic ingredients. You can buy through their website or in their salons in Drogheda, Co Louth and Swords, Co Dublin. There is no evidence of independent certification on their website.
UK Green People offer a range of natural and organic suncare products that are free from cruelty, SLS, parabens, lanolin, perfumes, propylene glycol, artificial synthetic fragrances, Colourants, petrochemicals, PABA-sunscreen, Urea, PEG’s, DEA and TEA. They say their products are suitable for all skin types, particularly sensitive skin and possibly those prone to eczema and psoriasis. Their product pages are very informative and list each of the certifications that apply to them. These certificates include ones from the Organic Soil Association, the Organic Food Federation, the Vegan Society, the Good Shopping Guide and EcoCert. The company also donates 10% of their net profit to ‘green’ health and environmental charities. Their Irish website states that their packaging is recyclable, are fully biodegradable and when burned release only Carbon Dioxide and water.
The company JASÖN® have been running since 1959 and offer both mineral and non-mineral sunscreens that are free of cruelty, mineral oils, lanolin, petrolatum and nanoparticles. Where palm oil or palm derived products are used in their products the company states that they are obtained from sources that support organic and/or sustainable palm practices. Their products do not contain meat or any products obtained from killing animals. They state that their skincare is classed as natural, although some individual products are 100% organic and certified as such by the USDA in the USA. The BUAV bunny is visible on the UK website.
Founded in 1987 and located in Germany Lavera make 100% certified natural suncare products with plant ingredients, using organic where possible. Their products are all free from cruelty, parabens, SLS, silicone, paraffin, GMO ingredients, synthetic preservatives, synthetic emulsifiers, synthetic fragrances, synthetic colours. Most of their products are gluten-free and vegan. Each product page helpfully lists all the ingredients contained in each product. The company is certified by NaTrue. Interestingly the American version of the Lavera website says it’s an ‘organic’ skincare company, while the German one simply states ‘natural’ skincare using organic ingredients. Their website states that since the enactment of the EU Regulation on Cosmetic Products in 2013, particles between 1 and 100 nm must be declared under the term ‘nano’ in the ingredient list of sun protection products, e.g. ‘titanium dioxide (nano)’. It goes on to state that ‘lavera sun protection products comply 100% with EU regulations and the Regulation on Cosmetic Products and meet their requirements regarding the use of nano-particles. Considering this and the fact that the list of ingredients in their sun cream only lists titanium dioxide I’m going to conclude that they don’t use nano particles.
Moogoo is a family owned Australian company making mineral-based suncare products from natural ingredients, which they list on each product. They claim to be one of the greenish skincare companies around and have a video showing what they do on their website! No evidence of certification was available on their website.
Set up in 1972 French brand Phyt’s offer 100% natural mineral-based sunscreens made with organic ingredients. You can buy their products online or from the beauty salon Virginia Claire in Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W. They list all of the ingredients on their website and the company are signed up to a quality charter by Cosmebio, a self-regulating Professional Association for Natural, Ecological and Organic cosmetics. Their organic ingredients are also certified by EcoCert and Agriculture Biologic. According to their website the Zinc Oxide and Titanium minerals in their sun care products are non-nano.
German brand Weleda is one of the oldest skincare companies, having begun in 1921. Their products are non-toxic, paraben-free, synthetic fragrance-free, SLS-free and GMO-free and are certified as natural by NaTrue. They state that approximately three-quarters of their plant ingredients come from organic or biodynamic farming and from certified wild collection. They are also engaged in fair trade farming agreements with their suppliers and have a network of them across Europe. They clearly state that the titanium oxide in their sunscreen lotion is non-nano.
Lush do a solid cocoa butter-based 30spf sunblock that you’re meant to apply in the shower, although some people just apply it like regular sunblock. The block comes in three sections and each section is said to cover on body entirely. As with all Lush products it contains natural ingredients and what Lush call ‘safe synthetics’. I’ve heard it’s greasy when first applied but socks in to leave a barrier. It costs €11.95 for 100g and comes in a sealed plastic bag.
Shade cream is 25spf product I heard about in the Zero Waste FB group. It is made of 4 100% natural ingredients; shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, and non-nano zinc oxide. It is free from Parabens, Alcohol, Methylchlorolsothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Retinyl palmitrate, Oxybenzone, Phthalates, Artificial perfumes, Petrochemicals and colourants. It is said to be suitable for sensitive skins and isn’t tested on animals. It is a UK brand and although there aren’t currently any stockists in Ireland but quite a few e-tailers seem to stock it and you can buy it via Amazon.co.uk or directly from their website. I thought this blog post by the maker in response to a bad review on Amazon was very information and worth reading before your purchase. Love companies as transparent as this!
You’ll find a lot of recipes online for homemade sunscreen if you’re interested. I’ve done a little digging on the purported spf ratings of natural oils and it seems that the evidence is very sketchy. I can’t find any research that definitively states that sunblocking performance of natural oils and unless something is independently tested I don’t trust its efficacy. If I do trial something myself I’ll post a review but for now I’m not comfortable share something that could put someone at risk of cancer.
Alternatives to Suncream
Using sunscreen is imperfect. You can miss spots, you can fail to reapply frequently enough. They can be sticky, and messy, and smelly and cause irritation on sensitive skins. And then there’s the permanent damage they cause to car paint work! Yikes.
For this and other reasons some people are moving away from sunscreen towards a more holistic approach to sun protection, choosing instead to avoid exposure in the first place. This may mean not sitting in direct sunlight or dressing in long-sleeved tops, trousers and hats instead of lathering on sunscreen with shorts and singlets.
We can already buy swimwear with spf rating in Irish department stores, particularly for kids, and I’d imagine it’s only time before we start to follow the lead of American and Australia with spf rated clothing but for now covering up in normal clothes is the easiest way to move towards a more sustainable form of sun protection.
Self Tanning Products
If you’ve done a very successful job of protecting your skin from the sun you may want to artificially add a tint of tan. Tan Organic are an Irish company that uses natural and organic ingredients to make their self tanning products. They are also the only eco-certified self- tanning brand in the world and were recently listed as 9th best ethical cosmetic brand by the very well-respected Good Shopping Guide. Their website states that they source ingredients from ethically run producers, that they never test on animals and that their products are cruelty free. Their products are certified by EcoCert, The Ethical Company Organisation & PETA. They use glass packaging and a biodegradable PLA made from extracts of corn and they state that they recycle, reuse, and reduce their waste wherever and whenever they can. They also give back to the community through their charity support program.
I’ve just learned about studies that show that lemon eucalyptus oil is as good as if not better than Deet. I generally like to reference original studies and not environmental websites that I’m unfamiliar with. This is because I prefer to read the research papers myself if at all possible to avoid misinterpretation. You’d be surprised just how often people misrepresent facts to say that they want! This time the link i’m using it to a website that support environmental journalism but only because they link to the two original research papers cited in the article. I also heard this information collaborated in a podcast interview with the very well respected entomologist Dr. Dina Fonseca, professor of entomology in the school of public health at Rutgers University.
PS – This time in previous years I posted on