True Beauty with Melanie from No New Plastic

I recently “met” this wonderful lady in Cyberland. Melanie Parker is a prolific blogger (with THREE blogs – I can barely handle two!), a green activist, and a ray of sunshine. She has one of the happiest dispositions I have ever encountered, and it’s always a joy to chat with her. She recently embarked on a “no new plastic” challenge with her fiance, Mark. On her NNP blog, the two discuss their challenges and successes and it’s always a good read.

One of my favorite subjects is their progress in potty training their cat. Yes, you read that right! It’s so adorable – like Jack and his kitty, Jinx, in Meet the Parents! I always love the updates on the cat!

Here’s a recent chat I had with Miss Melanie:

Tell me a little about your project, No New Plastic. What inspired you to begin it, and what have you learned from your experience so far?

My fiancé, Mark, and I have always been interested in eco-friendly living.  We took our cloth bags to the grocery store, used florescent light bulbs, recycled, and thought that was pretty darn good.  Then we saw the documentary, No Impact Man.  It was a real eye-opener.  Suddenly, we both wanted to do more to lessen our impact on the environment.  We wanted to do something BIG.  I had also just recently learned about Charity:Water, a charitable organization that raises money to provide safe drinking water to people in impoverished countries.  Scott Harrison started Charity:Water in 2004 with an idea to help people all over the world get clean drinking water.  In 3 1/2 years, they raised $19 million dollars and funded over 2000 water projects.  I was really inspired by Scott’s story, and I knew I wanted to do something that I was passionate about that would make a positive impact in the world at the same time.  Mark and I knew it had to be something with the environment, because we’re both so passionate about eco-friendly living.  After learning about and watching the videos about the Pacific Garbage Patch (about all the plastic in the ocean), I told Mark I didn’t want to buy anymore plastic, and he agreed.  We came up with the idea of a No New Plastic website that would document our month without buying any plastic.  Wanting to make it even bigger (because who wants to read about a month, right?), I suggested No New Plastic Year, and that’s how we came up with our website.  We created it to get the word out about plastic and its effects on our environment, as well as to document how we get around using plastic in our daily lives.

I just made a hilarious discovery.  I was just thinking, “How many months have we been doing this?”  I thought at least 3 or 4.  It’s been a month and a half.  I guess that says a lot about what I’ve learned so far — there have been some major adjustments in our lives!  Ha!  The biggest realization for me is that plastic is everywhere and almost in or around everything.  I didn’t realize the extent to which it has become part of everyday life before I tried to go without it.  Mark and I decided before we began that we wanted everything to improve our quality of life.  A lot of times, being eco-friendly is thought of as living a grungy lifestyle and not enjoying modern conveniences.  We believe in modern conveniences as long as they are enjoyed in a sustainable way that doesn’t harm the environment.  We have billions of people on the earth who have incredible creative and intelligent minds.  There is no reason why we can’t invent healthy alternative solutions to practices that harm the environment.  Mark and I have found that our alternatives actually increase our quality of life.

What are some of your greatest successes in the green beauty department?

One of my greatest successes was becoming comfortable not wearing makeup.  Part of the no plastic journey has been reawakening my appreciation and understanding of myself and my body.  I began to question what I’d thought was the way to live.  I have never worn a lot of makeup – usually just eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, and gloss – but going totally without day after day and meeting people was a bit uncomfortable at first.  I decided that before I allowed myself to wear makeup again (which I do occasionally), I wanted to feel comfortable and beautiful just as I am.  I stood in front of the mirror and thought loving thoughts about my face and my beautiful features.  Now I make the choice to wear some makeup occasionally, but I feel just as beautiful without it.

What’s the craziest/silliest you’ve ever done for the sake of green beauty?

I think several of the changes I’ve made so far might be considered crazy by some people, like using baking soda for deodorant, cloths instead of toilet paper, and the Diva Cup instead of tampons.  However, my most recent experiment is not using shampoo.  I researched for a long time about alternatives to buying shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles.  I learned that many people use baking soda and vinegar or shampoo bars.  Then, I stumbled upon a few blogs written by people who weren’t using anything on their hair.  I decided that if going without shampoo works, I’ll go with that.  I’m currently on week 3 of no shampoo, and I’ve had great success.  When I take a shower, I rinse my hair with water and massage my scalp.  That’s it!  While it feels different when I first get out of the shower, after I dry my hair it feels great and super thick!  When I was younger, my mom used to say my hair was “flat as a pancake.”  Before this experiment, I used volumizing mousse and a gooey wax to make it look a little funky and edgy.  Now, I don’t need any products.  I blow dry my hair and it looks amazing!  I went to my grandmother’s just last night, and she is really into current fashions and high style.  She gushed about how great my hair looks.  I laughed so hard!  Finally, I confessed my new haircare routine.  I have heard that other people have to go through a transition phase before their hair looks good without using shampoo, and I’m sure results also depend on hair length and type, but my hair looks the best it ever has and is so easy to fix.

Overall, what are your thoughts on greening your beauty routine?

I think the biggest thing we can do to green our beauty routines is avoid any advertisements and people who say we’re not perfect the way we are.  Most of the products sold are to fix our “problems”.  When we recognize our innate beauty and perfection, we will stop buying wrinkle creams, age-defying products, and trying to cover up all our skin with makeup.  Makeup should be used to enhance our natural beauty, in my opinion, not to cover up our faces.  Also, what we put on our skin and in our bodies should be natural and nurturing to ourselves and our planet.  There are so many great, eco-friendly products available, and it feels good to use them.

What does true beauty mean to you?

True beauty means loving yourself and appreciating yourself just the way you are.  When we see the beauty in ourselves, we can see the beauty in other people and the world around us.  When we treat ourselves well, we treat other people well.  Spreading love and peace within and without is truly beautiful to me.

If you take away all the traditional beauty props (i.e. makeup), what makes you feel the most beautiful?

My spiritual connection.  I have a deep spiritual connection to myself and the Universal Loving Energy that I believe is in everything.  Whenever I loose track of who I really am and start feeling fearful or judgmental, I can meditate and connect with that loving source.  In my meditation, I am reminded that I am a spiritual being, and I feel such incredible love from the Universe.  I feel connected and grounded, beautiful, and appreciated for the amazing being that I am.

Thanks so much, Melanie – it was a pleasure, as always!

Be sure to check out Mark and Melanie’s progress at No New Plastic. You might also be interested in her inspiring blog, My Magical Journey, and her sewing blog (The Laughing Princess Sewing Diary), where she’s documenting her journey on making her own wedding dress – from an old duvet cover she found at Goodwill! (Cool, huh?! And it’s a gorgeous dress. Seriously.) You can also find Melanie on Facebook and Twitter.

Photos used with permission.

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