As I leaf through Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth Friendly Life, I quickly understand how New York Times bestselling author, Sophie Uliano, developed her sensational career as an all-knowing green guru – her vibrant knowledge and personality shine through to the reader like a best friend divulging the latest and greatest to enhance the quality of your life over a cup of organic coffee from her reusable mug. She believes one change can make a difference, and shares just that in Gorgeously Green with simple yet meaningful ideas – like how to use cold-pressed organic sesame oil during pregnancy and where to buy eco-friendly gifts – that can be done by anyone, with any budget, anywhere. I got the chance to speak with Sophie live from Los Angeles.
The near-summer morning sun began flooding through the window as I sipped my Americano. The phone rang, and Sophie’s cheery English accent poured through the other end. We chatted about her philosophy, how to shop smart, decode the drugstore, and what to look forward to in her new book.
OJ: You are very inspiring for others to lead healthier lives, but what inspires you? How does the theme of your books intertwine with this?
SU: What inspires me to live a greener way of life really does blends with how I consume – we live in a society where we have a lot of choices, whether it be food, shoes, or personal products. I enjoy shopping, reviewing, and recommending, and I feel I have a duty to promote positively impacting products. We are so blessed in America to have great choices, so the ball is in our court as consumers to choose wisely. I’m inspired to live my values: health for me, my child, and everyone around me, as well as health for the environment, and I hope to inspire everyone else to live by their values.
OJ: You mentioned you walk the middle path. How do we as consumers find the balance?
SU: I walk the middle path because what is often offputting to consumers is the idea that a lifestyle switch means, “I’ve got to be really, really green, organic, 100% vegan, and not use products that I love,” but for me, this is not realistic. It’s just not how I live my life – I prefer things that are very doable and easy, so that I can shop at regular stores like everyone else and buy regular food that everyone else does. So my passion has been finding a lifestyle that’s normal, but delicious and fun, and invites me to enjoy everything while tweaking my indulgences to make them as healthy as possible. You don’t have to make an extreme lifestyle change, but simply be conscious of values and be informed when shopping. This wasn’t the case 10 years earlier when I wrote my first book. It was tough, but now it’s mainstream and so much easier. Everyone can do it.
OJ: Tell us about the survey that suggests shopping habits may be changing for the better when it comes to buying natural products.
SU: Oh, this was a fascinating survey! Out of 1,000 people, 40% of the respondents were more inspired to buy products if they were eco-friendly and healthy for their family. This may sounds obvious but this has been a huge change in the past decade! Now, the tide is turning to more educated and mindful shopping as opposed to personal recommendations and advertising.
OJ: Is there a fine line between green consumerism and just consumerism? Isn’t buying new stuff always unsustainable?
SU: Yes and no. There’s absolutely a way to be a green consumer – you just have to be an educated buyer! This means being an investigator. Find out if the products you’re eyeing are fully recyclable, as a non-earthy friendly disposal method is what makes consumerism unsustainable! This is what's really important to me; I don't want to just buy, buy and throw out, and not know where it's going, but reduce my carbon footprint and dispose responsibly.
OJ: Why is it so important to clean out our medicine cabinet and what are some healthy swaps we can make?
SU: You have to think of your bathroom in the same way you as your fridge and pantry ¬¬¬¬– it holds processed products that expire and are important to your health. The active ingredients of not only vitamins, but also serums and moisturizers become ineffective, and do more harm than good because they oxidize. They really need to be tossed out! Consumers should go for products like Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum instead of standard ones; this one is both effective and stable. Also, daily family use products, like floss, mouthwash, and toothpaste, should be swapped for those free of artificial color, flavoring, or dyes, and that aren’t tested on animals. Reach for Tom's! Also, shampoo should be free of parabens – try Shikai for a daily wash and condition. Other overlooked products are sunscreen and bug repellent; they don’t have a long shelf life! Pick up natural mineral sunscreens, like Badger Balm.
OJ: When is it appropriate to try DIY beauty products versus just buying them?
SU: Definitely DIY a product to save money, but certain ones like mascara, lipstick, or shampoo are difficult to make and often not as good of quality. Things like body scrubs are easy to make and customize, and you can pick up high quality ingredients that are better than the ready-made products, like Himalayan salt, organic olive oil, and with pure essential oils for scent.
OJ: What should we be looking out for on labels? How do we know if a brand is using it as a marketing trend or providing a quality product?
SU: We as consumers have to weary of ‘green washing.’ A lot of companies can say they are ‘natural,’ but this is not a regulated term. Don't just believe the front of the label; turn the product over to read the ingredient list, but also go to the company website and investigate for transparency. This is where the full ingredient list is! Also, find their answers to the right questions: does this company have the same values as I do? Are they ethical? How? What are they doing for the community? I really like to buy products that give back.
OJ: What are your favorite green places or local products in Los Angeles? Have you seen the eco-friendly surge in the city?
Los Angeles is an amazing place to be eco-friendly and green! I love Veggie Grill for a healthy vegan meal. Also, I always find brands that I like -- my Burt's Bees, Shikai, and Tom's are attainable thanks to a lot of green beauty stores popping up. Green Line Beauty and so many others are everywhere because of consumer demand.
OJ: What can we expect from your upcoming book? Will you continue the gorgeous theme?
SU: I’m following the gorgeous theme with my new book, Gorgeous for Good! It’s going to be a really fun 30-day program that transforms your beauty routine from the inside out. It will include makeup recommendations, but also ways to better your inner life, like meditation and nutrition. It's the full 9 yards!
OJ: Will you expand beyond books, like your own beauty line, household products, etc.?
SU: Yes! I have a few products in the works and that’s very exciting. I’ve got lots of plans up my sleeve.
OJ: One last question just for fun: if you could be any animal, what would you be?
[Laughs] I’d be a little lap dog, like a Maltese. I’d be very spoiled with daily organic treats and lots of rubdowns!
About the Author
Sophie Uliano is a leading natural beauty expert and influencer on how people take care of themselves and what they buy. Author of the NY Times best-selling books Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-Friendly Life, Do it Gorgeously, The Gorgeously Green Diet and the forthcoming Gorgeous for Good, she is a sustainable expert and healthy lifestyle guru whose appearances on many television shows, including Oprah, The View, Good Morning America, and The CBS Early Show have inspired people across America to live a healthier and more satisfying life. She has also taught many Hollywood celebrities how to embrace a clean, healthier lifestyle through awareness of natural & organic products, nutrition and exercise.