Talk about busy! The acclaimed actress is also an eco-entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author, environmental and social justice activist, and mother of two adorable little girls. Alba had two new films release in October and is now shooting a third, with Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek. She sat down to talk with OSM about why she is so committed to an eco-lifestyle, and to share her top five tips for going green for the holidays.
What was your “aha” moment? What made you decide to transition into a greener lifestyle?
While I’ve always done my best to live a green lifestyle (I was introduced to eco-friendly living and the idea of conservation as a child growing up in drought-impacted Southern California), it wasn’t until I had children that I actively educated myself on what we should and shouldn’t consume, bring into our home, and put in and on our bodies. It all came into focus when I was pregnant with my first daughter Honor.
I broke out in rashes after using THE “baby-safe” detergent to wash her layette. If I had such a terrible allergic reaction, I knew it couldn’t be good for my baby—or any children. From that moment on, I started reading labels, avoided everyday products made with toxic chemicals, and implemented manageable changes that made sense for our family, like using natural products, eating mostly organic foods, and decorating our home with vintage furniture.
What are your priorities, i.e. food, personal care?
The health and well-being of my family is my number one priority. Personally, I don’t think toxins have any place in the basics we use every single day (think: shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, soap, etc.). Unfortunately, however, the U.S. chemical industry is essentially unregulated and there are many untested ingredients in these items—the last major law passed was the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1976. Since then, more than 80,000 chemicals have been produced and used in the United States.
Over the last 37 years, the EPA has only required testing on 200 of the 62,000 chemicals that were “grandfathered” under the TSCA. Only five of those chemicals have been restricted. For example, asbestos isn’t banned in the United States and we all know how toxic that is! So, I’ve lobbied for the passage of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg’s Safe Chemicals Act to put common-sense limits on the use of chemicals in consumer goods.
What are your top five tips for going green for the holidays?
1. Enjoy a “crafternoon” with your family or girlfriends, using it as an opportunity to connect and create holiday cards, wrapping, and presents using sustainable and natural materials. For presents, I love to make pampering gifts. It’s really easy to whip up a luxurious bath and body scrub using one part Honest Body Oil and two parts sugar (I like to use raw cane sugar, but brown sugar and sea salt are great options too). Then consider personalizing it with a few drops of essential oil. And think outside of the box when it comes to making festive packaging—you can use magazines, mason jars, scarves, or reusable totes to pull it all together.
2. Send eco-friendly party invites from sites like Paperless Post that offer a great selection of themed and designer electronic invitations, saving postage, paper, and trees.
3. When you host a party, skip paper disposables to reduce waste. Instead, dish up food on reusable plates and serving pieces. Use plates that you already own or purchase inexpensive vintage china at a thrift store. This maximizes reuse and is high on style—mixing and matching your tableware will create an eclectic look that will delight guests. If reusable dishes aren’t practical, opt for bio-compostable plates, cups, and utensils that can be found at natural grocery stores.
4. Avoid using artificial food colors and sweeteners, which have a disproportionately greater health impact on children, when baking holiday treats.
5. Encourage guests to get cozy by providing them with slippers when they visit—by taking off street shoes at the door, you’ll avoid tracking in dirt, chemicals, bacteria, feces, lead dust, pesticides, allergenic dust, animal dander, and other pollutants. Plus, it’s a good icebreaker.
Do you have any special holiday traditions?
My family and I (even my parents!) wear matching holiday pajamas on Christmas Eve, so we wake up in the holiday spirit.
Why did you create The Honest Company? What is the mission?
I created The Honest Company with Christopher Gavigan, Brian Lee, and Sean Kane, because we wanted to redefine the family brand and make healthy, natural products available for everyone. Ultimately, it is our mission to create a healthy and sustainable future for our children. I found it really difficult to find safe, non-toxic everyday items from one trusted source and at reasonable prices. To me, it was such a social injustice that the average family couldn’t easily purchase eco-friendly basics. Nobody, especially vulnerable populations like children, should have to be exposed to untested chemicals in things like diapers, shampoo, and even mattresses.