When do you use up products you already have, and when do you either try to return them or just opt to throw them away?
I got that question today. Here it is in full, along with my answer:
"I would like your opinion. Before I heard you on Martha Stewart on Sirius, I was purchasing my normal stuff. I would do recyclable as much as possible, didn't know much about free trade or organic or all that. Then I bought your book. Now, I've read your book and would like to do what I can to protect myself and the environment. What would you suggest I do with several unopened cosmetics, or the rest of already opened cosmetics? I've got half bottles of shampoo and conditioner that I would gladly replace with organic. I've got unopened bars of Neutrogena soap and unopened bottles of Neutrogena acne wash. I've got unopened Neutrogena cosmetics (powder, under eye concealer). Should I use up what I have already opened? Dumping it and just recycling the bottles doesn't sound right. If you would share your opinion, I'd appreciate it."
Here's how I responded:
"Is there any chance of returning the unopened products? The easiest would be to take them back to the store where you bought them. I called the Neutrogena customer service line ( https://www.neutrogena.com/contactus.asp?mainVal=as ) and they said that as long as the products are unopened, the store should take them back, even if you don't have a receipt.
"Re: the opened and half used shampoo, conditioner and soap, I would go ahead and use them up, since if you throw them away you have probably a worse effect because you're dumping more concentrated materials down the drain or in the dump than diluting them somewhat with water. Also, these are products that don't usually penetrate your skin. There is the least health risk in using soaps that only stay on your body for minutes, as opposed to products like make-up and deodorant that are designed to penetrate the skin over time.
"With the opened cosmetics, honestly, I have an old cosmetics bag that I've unwanted dumped lipstick, blush and mascara into. I no longer want to put these products on my body, but I don't want to throw them away either. Someday, I'll include them in my city's hazardous waste pick-up. They don't really qualify as hazardous material, but that just seems better than tossing them in the trash (though, if you didn't want to bother with that, you could double bag them and throw them away. Most things don't degrade in a landfill, so they'd probably remain intact, especially since they're also in a case)."
Anyone have any other ideas?