There's lots of beauty-industry talk about mineral sunscreens fending off UV rays more effectively and safely than reef-damaging, skin-sensitizing, endocrine-disrupting chemical sunscreens. And they're right. Still, not all mineral lotions are created equal. Make sure your face is protected with the right stuff.
AVÈNE MINERAL CREAM
Hyped at mainstream cosmetics counters as a cream-of-the-crop solar protector free of dodgy sunscreen chemicals (such as the octinoxate in Avène Emulsion). Too bad they're using controversial nano versions of the minerals (under 100 nanometres wide) - enviro and health impacts of these are still under-studied. Plus this one contains junky fillers like cyclomethicone, which Environment Canada pronounced to be a danger to the environment, but then recanted after the industry complained. Also in the mix, lots of petroleum-derived ingredients and preservatives like butyl and propyl parabens being banned from children's products in Europe. $30/50 ml
AVEENO MINERAL GUARD
Aveeno has all sorts of sunscreens it claims are "safe as water" and chock full of "active naturals," when they're loaded with dubious sunscreen chems like oxybenzone and octinoxate (both reef-damaging estrogen mimickers). Aveeno Mineral Guard, however, uses more effective zinc oxide and titanium dioxide minerals. It's just a shame that J&J (maker of Aveeno) uses teeny, tiny, nano-sized versions of the particles, which are contentiously under-studied, under-regulated and possibly harming coral reefs, too. The fillers here are far from natural. Still, this one's generally a better option than other drugstore sunscreens. $20/80 ml
CONSONANT MATTE, GRAYDON SUN CREAM
These two lovely locavores offer excellent unscented mineral protection without turning you goofy white like a 50s surfer (though it can take a minute for the initially white minerals to be absorbed by some skin types). Like MyChelle and True facial sunscreen, they're not organic, but they are natural/naturally derived without greasing you up. Consonant's Matte Finish aloe-based sunscreen dries the quickest and has either SPF 15 or tinted SPF 30 ($35/50 ml). Graydon, an SPF 30, is initially a little stickier but also cheaper($20/50 ml).
GREEN BEAVER FACE CREAM, GODDESS GARDEN SUNNY FACE
If you're looking for the most ecologically enlightened solar protection, opt for certified organic brands Green Beaver or Goddess Garden (although Green Beaver wins in Canadian books for being an Ontario native that folds in Canadian-grown, naturally UV-fending raspberry seed oil). Green Beaver's nano-free facial sunscreen (SPF 15) is non-whitening and less oily than its original formula but still sits a little heavier than some others, making it better for dry skin. Goddess Garden has a bit more of a white cast initially but is water-resistant and higher SPF (SPF 30). Both contain some lavender. $21.99/40 ml
DEVITA SOLAR PROTECTIVE MOISTURIZER
I try to like other brands as much as I dig Devita, but this U.S.-based skin care line still makes the most feather-light natural facial sunscreen in town. It's totally non-whitening on all skin tones, unscented, made with nano-free zinc oxide (SFP 30), in a base of certified organic aloe. Like Andalou, it's got a good tinted Beauty Balm with SPF, too. It's cheaper to buy Devita Body Block and apply it on your face, but Body Block is slightly richer, with a little lavender. Devita's not water-resistant, so reapply after serious sweating. Hard to find in Canada but available at the Big Carrot, essentialdayspa.com and hollyandivy.ca (which raises funds for women with breast cancer). $34/75 ml
LOOK WHO'S DISSING DIVESTMENT
In a ballroom at Toronto's Hyatt Regency Hotel in late May, a smartly dressed crowd of a few hundred investors has gathered at the Responsible Investment Association's annual conference.
This is no conventional investors' forum. On today's agenda, right after What Would Marx Do? Investors Respond To The Contradictions Of Capitalism, is a plenary on investing in a carbon-challenged world.
On the table: how long will oil be a staple of the Canadian economy? What will the implications be for responsible investors? And the nub of it all: is divesting from fossil fuels the "correct" approach?
Onstage, Cary Krosinsky, the man whose organization's groundbreaking carbon research fuelled a growing legion of university campaigns to pull institutional funds out of fossil fuels, isn't the divestment poster boy you'd expect.
On the contrary, Krosinsky pulls out pie chart after bar graph to demonstrate how the snowballing student divestment movement is, in his words, "causing trouble." Listen closely and you'll hear a giant record scratching to a halt.
After all, Krosinsky is the co-founder of Carbon Tracker Initiative, a non-profit run by financial specialists who've been waving big red flags to alert the investment community to the carbon bubble threatening the global economy.
The org's seminal 2011 report Unburnable Carbon flagged 200 oil, gas and coal companies that would have to leave 80 per cent of their assets in the ground to keep the world from cooking up a full-blown climate crisis. That's the very list of companies eco rock star Bill McKibben's 350.org is asking universities, churches and municipalities to divest from. And big-name cities and campuses have started listening.
Stanford made waves last month by announcing its divestment from 100 coal companies. Just this week, 59 Oxford academics threw their weight behind that school's campaign.
Yet here at the responsible investment conference, there's a surprising amount of disdain for divestment.
Krosinsky himself argues that oil use is too embedded throughout our economy to ask investors to flat-out divest. He dismisses college divestment as a politically motivated approach that will have a drop-in-the-bucket impact. Plus, he adds, students aren't considering investors' legal fiduciary duty to act in the interest of shareholders whose money they're managing.
"To just barge in with a divestment ask on a systemic issue doesn't really fly."
On day two of the conference, at a Climate Change Strategies workshop for conscious investors, the packed room hears about "stranded carbon assets," the ones financial risk-assessment heavyweights increasingly agree will have to be left in the ground. Krosinsky is back with NEI Investment's Bob Walker, both talking about favouring an engagement approach of leveraging investor cash to pressure corporations to green up.
Lawyer/shareholder rights advocate Dimitri Lascaras is the lone voice in favour of divestment.
The problem with engagement, he says, is that it's resulting in changes too slow and modest to meet the urgent need for climate action. He points to 60 proposals presented by shareholders to oil and gas companies on enviro issues, only one of which called for a reduction in CO2 emissions, at Suncor's tar sands operations. Since that 2007 proposal, Suncor has doubled its barrel output per day.
"What we should be doing is engaging in a strategy that isolates and delegitimizes the industry."
So, yes, Lascaras says campus divestment is indeed a political tool. Hopefully can help shift to shift public opinion and "force the government to stop facilitating the interests of the fossil fuel industry."
When moderator Heather Lang, director of institutional relations at Sustainalytics, asks the audience how many in the room have personally divested, only four or five out of 100 put up their hands.
Lang tells me more hands would have been raised south of the border. Here in Canada, where the TSX is heavily dominated by fossil fuel companies, there's a sense that there's not much to invest in if you opt out of oil and gas altogether.
Outside the workshop, Lascaras says he's actually surprised at how many raised their hands, not how few.
"Those investment professions are operating in perhaps the most difficult environment in the Western world at the moment, because we have a government that seems hell bent on promoting the interests of the fossil fuel industry and promoting the dependence of Canada's economy on this industry."
While Canada shrugs off U.S. calls to shrink our fossil fuel emissions, investment pros may still want to listen to the World Bank's Jim Yong Kim on this one. In January, he called on the investment community, corporations and governments to divest from oil, gas and coal asap. He challenged "so-called long-term investors" to reframe their fiduciary duty to include protecting the pocketbooks of future generations.
If the feds won't heed the divestment call, shouldn't our responsible investors consider leading the way?