Filed under: Q&A
World Wildlife Fund Answers Honest Questions About Conservation

Both Honest and the World Wildlife Fund strive to make every day Earth Day and create a sustainable future, so today we’re sharing great tips from two WWF conservationists on the steps we can take to reduce our impact on the planet.

Try Biking to Work

1. A lot of people talk about conserving but it’s not always cost-effective. Where can we really save a lot of energy and money, while not lowering our quality of life?  What are the biggest win-win-wins? ~ Honest Justin

From WWF’s Keya Chatterjee, Senior Director for Renewable Energy and Footprint Outreach:

Three things matter the most when determining how to help the environment while saving money: (1) how you get around; (2) if/how you use energy to heat and cool your home; and (3) how you keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

First, how you get around can play a huge role in keeping the environment clean and also protecting your pockets from going empty. A win-win here is to start biking. Set a goal for yourself that you will bike to work at least once a month and up it from there! Many states are starting to build bike-friendly lanes, so the streets are much friendlier towards bikers than ever were before. Where you live can factor into this equation (in some cases, especially if you don’t live in an urban area, it might not be feasible or safe to ride a bike to the office). But if you’re able, biking is the way to go. Added benefit: money saved and a workout for your body.

Second, how much energy you use to heat and cool your home can play a role. Install a more efficient air handler and turn that handler up one degree in the summer and down one degree in the winter than you’re used to. Your body won’t notice the difference and you’ll save money in the meantime.

And a third and final tip is to use caulk, tapestries, and heavy drapes to keep your house more comfortable. Once you up or down that air handler in the summer/winter months, if you do find it difficult to adjust to the temperature, invest in heavier blankets to keep that warm air in. Also, open up those windows and let some air out in the summer.

2. Do the fuel savings in newer hybrid/plug-in cars offset the resources used in the research, development, and manufacturing? ~ Honest Brian

From WWF’s Keya Chatterjee, Senior Director for Renewable Energy and Footprint Outreach:

Not surprisingly, yes, efficient cars are much better for the environment. Hybrid cars save so much energy while on-the-go compared to other cars that they make up for the energy used to manufacture them. Efficiency makes a huge difference, and the most efficient cars are hybrids and electric vehicles. You can visit to find a list of the ten most efficient cars on the market today.

© / Steven Kazlowski / WWF-Canon

© / Steven Kazlowski / WWF-Canon

3. What is the biggest threat to animals — is it us destroying their habitats or us directly targeting them (i.e., killing sharks for food or using tusks, horns, etc. for whatever)? ~ Honest Tony

From WWF’s Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, Managing Director of Species Conservation:

There is no ‘one size fits all’ model for the biggest threats that animals face. Several factors play into the equation, and a lot depends on where the animals live. Climate change, habitat destruction, and illegal wildlife trade, among other threats, are all contributing to the decline of some populations of vital species.

Take the polar bear, for example. A warming climate is directly affecting the polar bears’ ability to hunt seals, rest and breed. The shorter sea ice season has decreased the amount of time bears can hunt for their prey, thus contributing to malnutrition and starvation.

Another direct threat is habitat destruction. For example, in 2012 the Sumatran elephant was changed from “Endangered” to “Critically Endangered” because half of its population has been lost in one generation – a decline that is largely due to habitat loss. Sumatra has experienced one of the highest rates of deforestation within the Asian elephant’s range, which has resulted in local extinctions of elephants in many areas.

Illegal trade in wildlife, caused by a demand coming from mostly Asian countries for products like elephant ivory and rhino horn, is causing an unprecedented poaching crisis around the world. Iconic species like elephants, rhinos, and tigers are directly affected by this threat. At the time of this post, already 249 rhinos have been poached in South Africa in 2013 – on pace to exceed 800 by year’s end if the poaching crisis continues. Go to WWF to read more about this serious issue and learn what you can do to help.

© Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

4.     What are the benefits of solar energy? ~ Honest David G.

From WWF’s Keya Chatterjee, Senior Director for Renewable Energy and Footprint Outreach:

There are many benefits that come from using solar energy. Primarily, it’s cost-effective – once you spend the money up front to purchase and install solar panels, solar energy is cost free and pollution free! There are about 40 million homes in the United States that would save money by installing solar power. Even better, in many states solar panels can also be leased with no money down. That means that you can have solar panels placed on your roof for free, and you can buy the energy from those panels at a lower rate than your current utility bills. You spend no money out of pocket, get solar energy on your roof, and pay cheaper bills. If you move, then the next owners can choose to break the lease, but why would they want their bills to go up? It ups the value to your home. There’s now good evidence that solar panels increase resale value of homes, which means buyers want them.

Also, when was the last time you heard about a huge solar energy spill? Workers getting hurt in a solar energy explosion? Kids getting asthma from solar energy? That stuff only happens with fossil fuels, and it’s all stuff our babies could live without.

Finally, we need solar energy to tackle climate change. And tackling climate change isn’t a pipe dream, it’s our job as parents. We owe it to our babies to act now to ensure they have a safe and vibrant planet for their future.

The Honest Dietitian Answers Your Nutrition Questions

You asked, and registered dietitian Nicole Meadow answered! Today, Nicole kicks off her Q&A series by sharing her insights about food, nutrition, and your family’s health…especially when it comes to feeding babies and toddlers! Check back soon for related posts and, of course, feel free to ask her more questions in the comments below. She’s here to help!

1. We are feeding a family on a tight budget and I prefer to get organic products whenever possible, but sometimes we have to make a choice. How do I prioritize?

I think you can get organic foods by shopping for seasonal produce at your local grocery store or farmers’ market, taking a little extra time to find stores that have sales on organic products, and eating meatless meals a couple times per week. You can save a lot of money! Ultimately, prioritize whatever your child eats the most. And, when you can’t afford to buy everything organic, choose foods with the least amount of pesticide residue. The EWG’s Dirty and Clean Dozen Lists and the What’s On My Food database are awesome resources to help – together they cover everything from produce to dairy to meats and poultry.

2. Store-bought organic infant food or homemade organic food, which is the healthiest for our infant?

In my honest opinion, it’s much better for babies to eat food from the family table. By the time they’re ready to eat, they’re ready to EAT! You can take almost any food that you make for your family and prepare it for your baby…bake sweet potatoes or chicken and mash them for your little one! Just adjust the texture of the food to his feeding skill. (Dr. Greene also offers great insight on teaching babies to enjoy healthy foods). Babies love flavor, too. Often jarred foods have no taste—have you tasted them recently? Save the packaged food for when you are on the go (we like Plum Organics). Because we want feeding to be fun, always make sure to consult your pediatrician about introducing highly allergenic foods (nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy, fish, dairy, wheat, shellfish) if you have a family history of allergies.

3.  Do toddlers really need milk? Are there alternatives to fill in the “nutritional gaps”?

This is a question that I’m asked a lot.  Toddlers (or children or adults) do not need milk, per se; they need the nutrients that milk contains—calcium, Vitamin D, protein, and fat.  Milk happens to provide a nice “package” housing all of these in once place. But think about kiddos who are allergic to milk, they need to find these nutrients from other sources! Not to mention, we’re the only species on the planet that drinks another species’ milk.

If your child can’t drink milk, or if you prefer not to offer milk, you need to ensure that your child gets enough calcium, Vitamin D, protein, fat, and enough overall calories.  (Young toddlers who transition to milk generally get about half of their daily calories from milk.  Remember, if you are breastfeeding, you can do so for as long as you and your baby desire. Offer kids a calcium and Vitamin D supplement and a healthy well balanced diet, your breastmilk has the rest!) For those whose kiddos are not drinking milk, ensure they are eating good sources of the following nutrients:

  • Protein: Chicken, fish, beans, tofu, cheese, nuts, and seeds.
  • Fat: Avocado, nuts, oil, and fish.
  • Calcium: Green leafy veggies (kale, spinach, broccoli, etc.), beans, almonds/almond butter, figs, tofu, fortified soy/almond/hemp/rice milk (please note that all have varying levels of protein, fat, and calories).  Click to download my chart on non-dairy calcium sources.
  • Vitamin D: A little bit of sunshine goes a long way; however, our necessary use of sunscreen can prevent us from obtaining the Vitamin D needed.  If you are concerned about your little one’s Vitamin D levels, talk to your pediatrician or pediatric dietitian about a supplement.

4.  I have issues getting my toddler to eat, especially if it’s healthy. Any ideas about what I can do? He’s not under weight, but it worries me when he doesn’t eat much.

First, know that this is probably normal.  Many toddlers go through this and, if you stay calm and ride it out, you’ll both get through it.  It sounds like he is growing normally, which is a good sign.  If you have serious concerns about his ability to eat (chewing problems or he is limited to 4-5 foods, speak to your pediatrician and ask for a referral to a pediatric occupational therapist or pediatric dietitian).  My approach with feeding children, especially toddlers, is to follow “division of responsibility” with feeding, a term coined by Ellyn Satter.  The parents’ responsibility is the “what, where, and when” of feeding and the child’s responsibility is the “if and how much.” When we, as parents, cross the line and try to get our kids to eat “just one more bite” or “eat your dinner to get dessert,” we’re not teaching our kids to like foods for them, but rather for us—it usually backfires.

Try to have family meals as often as possible, put 1-2 familiar foods along with 1 new “challenge food” so that when he comes to the table he isn’t overwhelmed by being hungry and feeling like there is nothing he can be successful at eating. Have a relaxed dinnertime and talk about fun things based on the ages of everyone at the table—what do the foods feel, smell, and look like?  All of these exposures will help get him closer to eating them. And finally patience.  Keep cool, and he’ll pass through this stage soon.

5. What are the “NATURAL FLAVORS” that they put in food and drinks, and should we eat and drink them?

The definition of natural flavor under the Code of Federal Regulations is: “The essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional” (21 CFR §101.22).

Wow! That’s quite a mouthful, and I’m sure that TOTALLY clears it up for you.  The bottom line is that we need to be aware of what ingredients are in our food, and demand that the government sticks to its responsibility to regulate these ingredients.  We also need to make sure that we as consumers read labels carefully. Again, What’s On My Food can help make sense of this. Finally, try to buy less processed food and you won’t run into the natural flavors as often.

~ Nicole Meadow, MPN, RD 

This post is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR MEDICAL ADVICE. Before undertaking any course of treatment, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.

You Asked, We Have Answers!

We love hearing from our customers, getting to know you, and learning more about what you’re hoping for from The Honest Company.  It was fun and insightful to discover how excited you are to see the new diaper designs, what new uses you’ve found for our products, and that you have innovative ideas for improving packaging (some of which we’re already working on!). Thanks for sharing with us. Now it’s our turn to answer your questions…


The Honest Company Answers Customers' Questions!

Q. Do the cleaning products kill bacteria, germs, and viruses?

A. Our Honest cleaning products do an effective job at eliminating bacteria, germs, and viruses; however, they don’t contain antibacterial chemicals, and we don’t make any % claims that are regulated by the FDA. Antibacterial soaps and cleaners got their start in hospitals, where sterile environments must be maintained. It wasn’t until more recent years when they were marketed to consumers. And while the promise of killing a high percentage of bacteria, germs, and viruses is appealing—especially for families who want to avoid the notorious cold and flu season—these antibacterial cleaners may do more harm that good.  Studies have found that living in too sterile of an environment has been linked to increased infection and allergies in kids (to learn more about the use of antibacterial products and their influence on our immune systems, read Christopher Gavigan’s discussion about the “hygiene hypothesis”).

Germ fighting in the home comes from thoroughly cleaning—even if it’s just with soap and water—not necessarily with antibacterial chemicals. It’s best to clean using non-petroleum based cleaning products, like those from Honest, or the old fashioned way with alcohol, lemon, and white vinegar. We avoid using harsh and toxic antibacterial chemicals like triclosan or benzalkonium chloride that are found in many antibacterial products, and opt to use ethyl alcohol derived from fermented corn sugars instead. Our Multi-Surface Cleaner is great for safely and effectively cleaning high chairs, bathrooms, and kitchen countertops because the ingredients work as natural disinfectants. And our Fruit & Veggie Wash works too!

Q. What are you future product plans…are you considering an antibacterial spray for the kitchen or the bathroom?

A.   Since the beginning, we’ve dreamed of building a family brand that creates trusted, safe, and non-toxic products that are useful in all areas of your life. We launched by offering what busy individuals and families need most—everyday basics for the household. But thanks to the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve received from you, we are exploring everything from an expanded personal care line to baby gear and layette to home goods. And everyday we continue to work on developing new home cleaning products, like a bathroom cleaner. However, as mentioned above and consistent with our mission of making items that are safe for your health, any new cleaning products will be made without harsh chemicals and will use natural ingredients that effectively wipe out dirt, grime, bacteria, and other germs.

Q. How many people work at The Honest Company?

A.   Because we’re a new start-up company, our office continues to grow as the business expands. In fact, we’re constantly rearranging office furniture as new talented employees join the team (it keeps things exciting!). Today, we have a little more than 60 employees — that includes our own Management Team, Customer Service Team, and Fulfillment Team.

Q. Do you use clean energy and renewable resources to power the company?

A. As a dedicated B Corporation, we strive to make healthy, sustainable, and eco-friendly business decisions and continually improve our practices.  As stated in our Health & Sustainability Standards, which not only sets forth our commitment to reducing the presence of toxic chemicals in our work environment, minimizing waste, and maximizing (re)use materials, we are always seeking new innovative ways to minimize our carbon footprint through our manufacturing and management practices.

Here are a few specific examples:

  • Ensuring all the electricity used in our headquarters and warehousing is from 100% renewable sources – we purchase 100% renewable California Solar (by purchasing REC from 3 Degrees) – reducing dependency on conventional fossil fuel energy (coal & petroleum) sources.
  • Making efforts to continually reduce our carbon footprint by the way we run our business, and purchasing the necessary carbon offsets for operating our business operations, manufacturing, product shipping, and corporate travel at year end.
  • Utilizing electronic and fully automated management systems to dramatically reduce paper, printing, and copying usage and supplies
  • Employing warehousing facilities that use natural daylight, energy-efficient lighting, electric forklifts, and full recycling programs for all corrugated shipping boxes.
  • Seeking partners who abide by our Supplier’s Code of Conduct that addresses three major areas: human rights, environment, and documentation.

Supplier’s Code of Conduct: The supplier must comply with applicable environmental laws of their country, have a written environmental policy, and implement a system to minimize or eliminate negative impacts on the environment. Partners must: 1) Publicly disclose environmental impacts and activities through regular reporting; 2) Eliminate toxic and hazardous substances from products and operations; 3) Increase efficiency and thereby minimize pollution and waste; 4) Reduce use of natural resources including raw materials, energy and water; 5) Take responsibility for proper waste management and any environmental problems associated with disposal of wastes.

  • Ensuring all built and renovated offices spaces utilize low-impact, non-toxic, and sustainable materials – from furnishings and water filtration, to interior lighting, no-VOC paints, and beyond.
  • Incentivizing eco-friendly transportation like biking, ride-sharing, public transportation, and alternative fuel/hybrid vehicles.
  • Seeking the most-credible suppliers and raw materials manufacturers who are geographically located as close to our operational headquarters as possible (micro is the new macro!).
  • Shipping efficiently by shipping as infrequently and as short of a distance as possible and by encouraging our customers to bulk order and avoid expedited shipping.
  • Choosing ground shipping whenever possible, as expedited air freight generally uses six times more energy than ground shipping (we offer air shipping, despite its high environmental impact, as we understand the need for customer satisfaction and convenience as one of our important business promises).

We’d love to keep the conversation going…Comment below, Tweet your questions and ides using #HonestQA, or post on our Facebook page.

Making Sense of Methylisothiazolinone (Simple Translation: A Preservative)

Q.        You put a preservative in your dish soap called methylisothiazolinone, which has been shown to be toxic to developing neurons. We have been using this dish soap to clean our newborn’s pacifiers! Articles are easy to find and have been published in peer-reviewed journals (the study cited by the commenter is available here). Even though the studies are in vitro rat brain cells, why would you put a chemical like this in a [product] which is supposed to be so safe?

Natural and Non-Toxic Dish Soap

A.        First, it’s really important to try to understand chemistry in context. It’s very easy these days to find a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or independent study online, but it’s much more difficult to translate it to real life exposures.

As an example, what would you think of an ingredient with an MSDS that says:

Harmful, dangerous for the environment. Irritating to skin and eyes. May cause sensitization by skin contact. Very toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.
 Rated 2 out of 4 for flammability and 3 out of 4 for negative health impacts.

Sounds a bit scary, right?

That’s on the MSDS for Lavender Oil.

Still, it’s just the oil extracted from a flower. But, at full strength, it can pose risks, and it’s as natural as it gets. And, in people with certain genetic dispositions, it can cause negative reactions. And, out of context, it can sound scary.

The key is in understanding things like exposure routes and concentrations. And, in product formulations, it’s also about alternatives assessment and overall risk assessment.

So, let’s dig in to the preservative – methylisothiazolinone:

1. This ingredient is used as a preservative to kill harmful bacteria—it’s not a superfluous addition to a product. It serves a singular purpose of increasing safety. And, weighing among the different preservatives available, this one is really no cause for alarm.

2. The studies regarding neurotoxicity involve combining nerve cells in a petri dish with a solution of methylisothiazolinone. These types of studies are imperative for us to have a greater understanding of chemicals, but they are not at all reflective of real life exposures. If I put nerve cells in a petri dish with salt, they wouldn’t fare so well either.

3. Many studies and MSDS recommendations are based on full-strength or high-exposure levels. In real life, exposures are quite small. In this situation, methylisothiazolinone is used at very low levels—parts per million (one part per million = one drop in a 55 gallon drum).

To give you an even deeper understanding of our use of this preservative, you should know that in 2004, the European Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-Food Products Intended for Consumers (SCCNFP) suggested that companies limit the maximum concentration to 0.01% (100 ppm). The concentration in our dish soap is well below these standards at .00003%.

Now, I’m not trying to write-off your concerns about this ingredient—honestly, it’s not perfect, but there are not many preservatives that are. Even alcohol can be harsh and has its limitations.

Whole Foods spent years developing an Eco-Scale for cleaning products with ratings of red, orange, yellow, and green. This specific ingredient does indeed fall into the yellow zone and we’re aware of that. We’re also aware that a few other natural products companies similarly use it, but that it’s been associated with allergic reactions. So, in the spirit of the company, our commitment, and you, we are always are trying to do better, and we are actively seeking alternatives.

We certainly stand behind the safety of our products, but we know there’s always room for improvement and we take all of our customers’ feedback and concerns to heart. Please do let us know if you have any other questions about our products. We will listen.

And, let it be known that I wash my newborn daughter’s bottles and nipples in Honest Dish Soap, too!

~ Christopher Gavigan

Introducing Our New & Improved Wipes

Q: Why did you redesign your wipes?

A:  Since we started Honest, it’s always been very important to us to have a real conversation with customers, listen to you as parents, and deliver what you need. We love the feedback we get on Facebook, Twitter, and the phone and use that information to create products you want. It’s really our hope to be nimble and move, change, and work with YOU to make things better and easier for families.

So, we took what you said about the Honest Wipes to heart (and we agree that the original design regretfully didn’t come out as intended). With this guidance, we went back to the drawing board and reformulated them to be better than ever.

Our upgraded wipes are incredibly thick, if not the thickest baby wipe ever available.  This photograph says it all, right?  Made from medical-grade 60 grams per square inch cloth, our wipes are more plush and meet higher hygienic standards than conventional brands, most of which are made with garment-grade materials. With these, even the most sensitive cheeks will be soothed.  Our manufacturer says you can even wash them they’re so thick (we can’t wait to hear about the first Honest family that does this!).

If you are like our families, wipes also need to be versatile, durable, and clean up messes in no time flat. We have you covered here. The redesigned wipe is much bigger than before—at 7.1 inches x 8 inches, it protects dad’s big hands and lets you de-gunk more surface area at once. And if you find yourself scrubbing a sticky countertop, our wipe’s crazy strong material can hold up against stretching in both directions. Technically, such flexibility means they possess dual tensile strength (and most conventional wipes only hold up one way, and easily tear the other way).

Of course, our Honest Wipes remain plant-based, sustainably harvested, fragrance-free, biodegradable, and Honestly Free of the nasty, questionable chemicals you can find elsewhere.  But we’ve also upgraded to a new innovative, natural preservative system made from water-soluble silver salt of citric acid.  This is important because there are conventional and eco brands out there that use preservatives (and ingredients) with synthetic fragrances, artificial colors, and endocrine-disrupting petroleum-based chemicals, such as iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, methylisothiazolinone, parabens, and even DMDM hydantoin (a preservative that has trace amounts of formaldehyde).

And, although what’s inside counts most, we couldn’t help but give our package a little makeover by enlarging the dispensing opening for easy access. We are also going a step further by clarifying all ingredients — like where it comes from and what it does.  You can expect this improvement on all products going forward.

Check out the new and improved Honest Wipes and let us know what you think! We hope you love them as much as our kids (and Honest Melissa and Honest Janine) do.