BY Jaime King
I am so happy to share this interview with the amazing mother, actress and brilliant entrepreneur Jessica Alba. Jessica is a dear friend and a woman that I admire greatly. She is sharing her high creativity and genuine love of making the planet a better place in a profound way that I am so excited about. I hope you enjoy this conversation on how and why she created The Honest Company and her simple steps to becoming a greener mommy.
Tell us about The Honest Company and what inspired you to create it?
There were definitely two A ha! moments that inspired me to create The Honest Company. At the time they happened, though, they felt more like a scary experience to a new mom. When pregnant with my first daughter Honor, I washed her clothes in THE “baby-safe” laundry detergent everyone recommended. After doing one load, I broke out in a rash. And if I had such a bad allergic reaction, I knew it couldn’t be good for a new baby. Then, when Honor was six months old, I went to get her after a nap only to find her eating her diaper! Seriously, her face, skin, and crib sheets were covered with absorbent gel beads that had exploded everywhere when the diaper became too full. Worried about the use of toxic chemicals — okay, more like freaked out! — I ran to find the diaper package and couldn’t believe it didn’t even list ingredients. I looked online and, again, nada—nothing.
So, I went into crazy research mode. I scoured the Internet and read the book, “Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home” by Christopher Gavigan, and learned about untested toxic chemicals in everyday products like baby shampoo, diapers, home furnishings and household cleaners. I then purchased the healthy alternatives, only to learn that the supposed natural products I just bought still had the ingredients in them I was trying to avoid or they simply just didn’t work.
Frustrated about the lack of healthy options that performed and were accessible, I saw a void that needed to be filled. And I also knew Christopher felt the same way— something needed to be done to transform the traditional product landscape into one where families everywhere could easily find healthy, safe products. So together, along with Brian Lee and Sean Kane, we created Honest.com because there needed to be a family brand that actually cares about the health of people and the planet over profit margins. Our focus is on creating high performance, beautifully designed products that are affordable and obviously don’t ever use toxic chemicals.
What are your top five suggestions for women who want to become a “greener mommy”?
1. Don’t stress! First and foremost, read labels and do a bit of research. You will find eco- friendly alternatives that make the most sense for your family. I know people feel like going “green” means an extreme lifestyle makeover is required. Not true. It’s really about educating yourself about options, doing what you can, and taking baby steps to get there. For some, eating organic is the priority. For others, improving air quality inside their home is what’s important. (FYI – The air quality inside most homes is more toxic than outside because of off-gassing and the use of toxic chemicals in everything from mattresses to wall paint.) Either way, it’s about making small choices that will have an impact on the health of you, your family, and the planet. And don’t stress about being perfect!
2. Switch to Non-Toxic Products. Through my work for The Honest Company and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, I’ve learned that the things we least suspect in our lives— mattresses, couches, paint, diapers, cleaning products—are filled with toxins that have been linked to allergies, asthma, and even cancer. So, make the switch to natural, non-toxic, and organic household items. With that said, “greening” your home takes time and definitely won’t happen over night. I promise it’s a gradual process—even a few years after remodeling my house, I’m still making the switch to eco-friendly fixtures. But one thing that’s easy to do, doesn’t require a huge investment, and has immediate benefits is swapping conventional cleaners for safer, non-toxic brands like those from Honest.com or you could even take a crack at making your own at home if you feel so inclined. Look for labels that say, “no solvents,” “no phosphates,” “no VOCs,” “chlorine, bleach, or ammonia free,” and “fragrance free.” You’ll breathe easier knowing your home doesn’t have these toxins in the air.
3. Eat Organic When Possible. Try to prepare mostly organic and fresh foods for your family to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals, pesticides, and hormones. This is especially important for kids whose bodies are more vulnerable to toxins. In my family, we make an effort to eat a balanced diet that focuses on veggies, lean protein, and whole grains. Because I’m all about convenience—like most busy moms—I have produce from a local farm delivered to our door through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, or I sometimes use frozen organic veggies in pastas and baby food. But I know organic and responsibly harvested options can cost more, so you can prioritize what to buy using the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list. For example, strawberries and apples are best bought organic but you don’t have to worry as much about asparagus or avocado. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bag!
4. Try Natural Beauty Products. We always hear the saying, “You are what you eat.” But no one reminds us that what we put on our skin also impacts our health. Most beauty and personal care products are filled with unhealthy ingredients and unwanted chemicals. And when you realize that up to 60% of these products are being absorbed through your skin directly to your bloodstream, it makes you think twice about the deodorant or makeup you’re using. Of course, there are some products I just can’t give up, but consider making healthier choices when it comes to lotions, shampoo, and the like. For me, this was very important when choosing what products to use on my girls and later creating Honest—I wanted effective family products that were safe for children, free of the nasty risky chemicals, and could be used on mom’s color treated hair as well.
5. Kick off Your Shoes. This may sound silly because it’s so simple, but wipe your feet on a mat and take your shoes off at the door. This keeps you from tracking toxins and other yucky street stuff into your home, plus keeps your floors cleaner (a bonus!). I realize some people may feel weird taking off their shoes at others’ homes, so I keep satin slippers in various sizes in our entryway for friends and family to slip on and get comfy.
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