• Ariel Green

Buying Black - Sustainable Beauty & Home with BLK+GRN Founder, Dr. Kristian Henderson

Updated: Oct 18, 2020


We are living in a time now in June 2020, where the idea of buying black has only become mainstream in the last month. However, today's sustainable brown girl has been doing the work to create an all-natural marketplace by all black artisans. BLK + GRN offers carefully curated and quality tested skincare, haircare, menstrual care, and home products that are all natural and made by black people. We are talking to Dr. Kristian Henderson, founder of BLK + GRN, about  about the importance of buying black, using natural products and we'll get some tips on how to transition our beauty routine to be healthier for our bodies and the planet.


Shop BLK + GRN: https://blkgrn.com/


Follow BLK + GRN on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blkandgrn/



LISTEN HERE: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Play

Transcription:


Ariel:

Hello, and welcome back to the Sustainable Brown Girl Podcast. This show exists to connect black, brown and indigenous women who are interested in sustainability. Our goal is to inspire, encourage and educate each other. From gardening, to thrifting, to minimalism, to veganism and everywhere in between. We're all on a journey to taking care of our bodies and our planet. I'm your host, Ariel Green.



We are living in a time now in June, 2020, where the idea of buying black has only become mainstream in the last month. However, today Sustainable Brown Girl has been doing the work to create an all-natural marketplace, by all black artisans for the past few years. BLK+GRN offers carefully curated and quality tested skincare, haircare, menstrual care and home products, just to name a few, that are all-natural and made by black people. I'm so excited to talk to Dr. Kristian Henderson about the importance of buying black and using natural products. We'll also get some tips on how to transition our beauty routine to be healthier for our bodies and the planet. Thanks so much for joining us today Dr. Kristian.


Dr. Kristian:

You're welcome.


Ariel:

Yes. So let's just jump right into it. I'm so interested in your story. Can you tell us about your wellness journey and what inspired you to create BLK+GRN?


Dr. Kristian:

Yeah, sure. I have a doctorate in public health and so I've always been really interested in public health and different things that people can do to sustain their health. I found out that the products marketed to black people were more toxic than products marketed to any other demographic. They were formulated with ingredients that were linked to cancer and hormone disruption, and reproductive damage and I just thought that was absurd. And so, I went into my own personal journey to try to find as many clean and natural brands for me to personally use as possible. Around that same process a couple of months later, I read the book Our Black Year. And Our Black Year, talks about the economic importance of black people buying from black home brands and how our dollar is more of an investment . You're more investor than consumer. I was like okay, perfect, I'm convinced. And so I decided that I wanted to buy natural products, but I also wanted them be black-owned. And so I have a long spreadsheet of all these different places. I can go here to buy your toothpaste, go here, to buy your deodorant, go here to buy your hair products and the list was so long. And then I had to test the products because sometimes they would say, "Oh, it does this." and I would try it out and it actually doesn't do that. And so, it took a lot of work and a lot of effort to live black and live green. And so one day, I was talking to my husband like, "Oh, this is so annoying. It takes so much work to do this, this really important to me." I said, "I just wish there was a marketplace where you can go buy things that were all natural and they were all green and they were all black owned." And then he said, "Hey, how about you just start it?" So, that's how BLK+GRN got started, with me trying to solve my own problem.


Ariel:

Wow! Can you tell us a little bit more about the book and for anyone who doesn't know, why is it important to buy black?


Dr. Kristian:

Yeah, so the short-term of it is, see your dollar as an investment, instead of being a consumer. When you are a consumer, you just buy things that you need. You don't really think about who created the product and who's behind the product and their feelings behind the product, you just think about, "Okay, I need toothpaste, I'm going to go to the store and buy toothpaste", that's it. When you start to think of yourself instead of as the investor, and that's what the book talks about; every dollar you spend is voting on which company gets to be successful. So you have that power and a lot of people don't understand the power of their dollar spent, but after I understood the power my dollar spent. It said, "When you want to go buy from a black brand and you buy their product, you're investing in that family, you're investing in the community". And you don't do that when you go buy it from a brand, you don't know who's behind it when you're buying from some big manufacturer. You aren't investing your dollar in the actual community. So once I started seeing my dollar as an investment, then I want to be more conscious about what and who I was investing in.


Ariel:

Right! Definitely! You mentioned just a minute ago about how a lot of the products that are marketed to black people are awful. Me growing up, I came from a family that didn't have a lot of disposable income. And so, a lot of the times we were buying the cheapest thing.


Dr. Kristian:

Yep.


Ariel:

And so it's like, okay, our shampoo is a dollar, our soap is a dollar, like it's so cheap and obviously, when things are cheaper, they're made with lesser quality ingredients. Now my mom has cancer and it's hard to not think about, well, are these products that we used to use what caused it? And so, like I was saying, a lot of black and brown communities may not have a lot of disposable income.


Dr. Kristian:

Yep.


Ariel:

And a lot of these natural products are a little bit more expensive. So do you have any ideas on how people with limited budgets can make better choices when it comes to their health and beauty products?


Dr. Kristian:

I'm so happy you brought that up. My prayers to your mom, I know that's a fight that she's continuing to have. And so you're absolutely right. Natural products cost more. I have to explain why do natural product costs more. So let me break it a little bit down to you. The reason why natural products cost more is because a toxic product, you can put tons and tons of chemicals in it to make sure it can fit on the shelf for three or four years. So those toxins that are formulated in that product allow the product to last for four or five years. So that way the manufacturer of it doesn't have to keep throwing it out. So, if I know I can make a batch of toothpaste and it can sit on the shelf for four years, I don't have to throw it away. With natural products I might only have a shelf life of six months. So after six months has passed, you have to throw your next batch out. So that's the reason why natural products end up costing more, because the shelf life is going to be on the lower side because you won't have all the toxic chemicals to make it last forever and ever.


Ariel:

Okay.


Dr. Kristian:

The next question is, how do you convince people that are already tight on budget, how do you convince them that this is something to invest in? And I think it's more of a mindset thing, it's self-care, self-love thing. You spend money on something, no matter where you are on the income range, you spend money on something, We have to [inaudible 07:20] the conversation around, "Hey, this is something that's worth you investing in. It's worth you not getting the cheapest this and the cheapest that, and the cheapest lotion and the cheapest shampoo, because it's going to have results. It's going to impact your health and you are valuable, so you want to make sure that you invest your dollars in something that's valuable. Back when I was younger, people always like the thing that made them seem cool, or made them seem fly, so that was always on the top of their list. If we can change the conversation, that the thing that makes you seem cool is having a natural product, if we can change the way that people look at it, so it can be seen as like, "Hey, this is something I aspire to, this is something that I want. So when I get my next dollar, I can go buy a better lotion than buying the cheap $1 lotion that can get at the dollar store."


Ariel:

Yeah. I think over the past few years it's been normalized. A lot of people making soap and stuff like that. Making more handmade products. It does seem like a lot of people are becoming more aware of the importance of using a natural products so, that's great. And one of the things that I transitioned to first was natural deodorant, because there's the time where it was really big about the aluminium and regular deodorant causes like Alzheimer's and cancer and all that. So that was one of the first things that I transitioned to and I was talking to my sister about it and she was like, "There's no antiperspirant and natural deodorant. So it's like, I'm sweating. Maybe I don't smell but I'm just sweating all the time." So, do you know of any deodorants that have antiperspirant or is it just, that's what's the cancer causing awful thing in the deodorant so it's best just to leave it out?


Dr. Kristian:

Yeah. That's a really good question. I honestly haven't researched it specifically because I never had the requests. But now, I will go look and see if I can find an antiperspirant that's also natural. That's really interesting. I never have looked that up before.


Ariel:

Okay, cool. Awesome. So for someone who is looking to transition to natural products, where should they start?


Dr. Kristian:

Yeah, I get this question all the time. About where should we start? I'm new to this world, where should I start? The biggest thing that I always say is, try to figure out the things that are most toxic in your home and so you can hop online, you can Google the most toxic things and so some of the things that come up like, air fresheners are really something that's really toxic. So that's usually a good place to start, like using an air freshener now, go with a natural air freshener, although air fresheners [inaudible 10:11] are not very popular. And so that is something that I always think is a good place to start. Depending on how money is, I always tell people to start with the wool dryer balls. I know I used to use dryer sheets and I just throw them away, I'm creating waste and creating trash. And the good thing about the wool dryer balls, you buy them one time and you can use them forever. So it saves you money because you only have to buy the wool dryer balls one time. The only thing you really have to buy is more essential oils, because I put a couple of drops of essential oils on my dry balls before I throw them in the dryer. And so, I do have to keep buying the essential oil, but I don't have to keep buying dryer sheets. So that's something I always tell people to do. I always think that's really important.



I think anything that comes in contact with your skin and your hair, seeps into your blood stream and so you want to be really careful about deodorants and lotions and body butters and things like that just sit on your skin. So that's also a really good place to just try to remove the toxins and see. Go look up the ingredients on your lotion that you use right now. Go to the environmental working group and just type all those ingredients in and see where they rank that product. And so you can know, "Hey, is this something really toxic that I'm using, for me to change or not?" So that's something I would really encourage because I know that oftentimes we don't know what those ingredients mean on the back of products. We really just don't know. And so for BLK+GRN, you have a toxic 20 lists. So that's a good place to start too. Go to the BLK+GRN website, print out that toxic 20 lists, if you have any products that have one of those ingredients in them, cut it out, that's a good place to start. If you want to [inaudible 11:51] that too, you can go to the environmental working group, you can type in the ingredients on your product and you can see how they rank. If it ranks too high, cut it out. So basically you got to go through your closet and figure out where you want to spend money and slowly do it one at the time. You're not going to make the change overnight so we don't want to make people feel like I have to change everything today because you probably can't afford to change everything today. So if you go through the environmental working group and you can slowly start figuring out, what's the most toxic things in my routine that I can start to change. And then a good place to start too is, if you don't have products you really attached to, so if you don't really love your hair products, then that's a good place to start because there was already a need that's not being met. If you don't really like your hair products, then start there. If you don't like your toothpaste then start there, if you don't really like your deodorant then start there, if you don't really like your skincare, then start there, you start wherever you feel like is not really meeting your needs.


Ariel:

Yeah, definitely. I totally agree that it's a process. It can be a year’s long process to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle for sure.


Dr. Kristian:

Exactly.


Ariel:

I want to transition a little bit. So I know last year you were in a really scary car crash that left you in a coma for a while.


Dr. Kristian:

Yeah.


Ariel:

Can you talk to us about that, but really what I'm interested in was how, if any way did it make you... let's see, how do I want to word this?


Dr. Kristian:

Ask your question, girl, don't be shy.


Ariel:

Okay. In any way, did it make you realize more that you should have a healthier lifestyle? Did it affect how you felt about the lifestyle that you were living?


Dr. Kristian:

Yeah, that's a really good question. I felt like I was blessed because I had a healthier lifestyle. I feel like my body was in a really good position to [inaudible 13:55] and I feel like if I did not have a healthy lifestyle, my body might not been in that same position and my outcome might not have been as pleasant as it was. And so I think it goes hand in hand, I think because I did all the things to ensure my health. I think that my body was more prepared to do the things they need to do to make sure I [inaudible 14:17]. I think it goes hand... There's a product I sell that helps with your memory and so, that was something I always drank. And so, after me being in the hospital, I think that I already had healthy habits that allowed me to fight better and that's the reason why I would encourage people to create those healthy habits now. You don't want to wait until you have a health catastrophe or a health issue to try to start eating clean and start using clean products. You don't want to wait until the health issue already happens. Go ahead and adopt that lifestyle now and try to ward off from happening.


Ariel:

Yeah, definitely. Okay. So last week, I was watching your live about...well, you just did an Instagram live and one thing that you mentioned was some ideas that you have for BLK+GRN going forward. Can you let us know, if you want, what are some, some of the next things that you have planned for BLK+GRN?


Dr. Kristian:

Yeah. First I'll tell you, what's my big vision for BLK+GRN. My big vision is for black women, black people to use natural products, for that to be normalized for black people to use natural products. My second vision was me to create a space for black entrepreneurs to thrive. They have a harder time getting into marketplaces and so I wanted to create a marketplace so they can thrive, they can build and someone's buying their stuff in bulk. I know that's really important to my artisans. That was something I really wanted to accomplish with BLK+GRN and then I want to just keep helping artisans thrive. Whether it's getting funding or whether it's finding [inaudible 16:10], whether it's getting a label design or whether it's doing formulation, whether it's moving to a fulfilment centre, there's all these steps that you need to make a successful business. I want to help businesses from the complete end . Right now, I'm only in doing the marketplace, but I want to help grow and help them do everything. When you're ready for fulfilment, I can help with that. When you want to do your packaging, you figure out where it comes up, we can help with that. When you're trying to do your label design, I want to be able to help with that. But my goal is to help black entrepreneurs be successful.


Ariel:

That's awesome. Yeah, we definitely need that support because you know, it's tough to find that, outside of our community. One of my last questions is what is one thing that anyone can do to be more sustainable?


Dr. Kristian:

What is one thing that anyone can do to be more sustainable ? That's a really good question. First, I'm going to ask you a question as I try to think of my answer, what is your definition of sustainable?


Ariel:

My broad definition is making better choices for our planet in whatever way you can. If that for you means, switching your deodorant or like making better choices for our planet and your body. If it means switching your deodorant, if it means not using plastic wrap, healthier choices in general, I don't know, that's kind of broad.


Dr. Kristian:

I know because my thought was that sustainable is kind of broad too. So I wanted to see if you saw it the same way, and so I'm a big believer that mother earth gave us everything, everything you need, mother earth has. And so I really don't believe that we need chemicals and things like that to make things be. We don't need that stuff. And so there's a reason why we're introducing it. And so I really want people to be conscious about what they're doing and ask the question, "Can I do this with something else?" Something that we're doing on BLK+GRN is that I was getting tired of every time I went grocery shopping, I had to always throw my produce into these plastic bags [ inaudible 18:22] I'm home I just throw these bags away, this is a big waste for my environment. And so, we're making reusable produce bags that were selling on BLK+GRN. The same way that people have reusable grocery bags, ou can now throw your produce bags in those same grocery bags as you go and shop and buy tomatoes, you can throw them in a reusable bag, then buy oranges throw them in the reusable bag, buy cucumber, throw them in the reusable bag. You go home, take it out, thinking [inaudible 18:49] reusable bags again. So I think it's really important to try to find ways that you can be reusable and use things more than once. I think that's really, important and try not to...


Ariel:

Yeah.


Dr. Kristian:

Always use something like for the one time. I really try to get rid using paper. Like for instance, in my house, I don't have paper towels. We don't do paper towels, we have napkins that we wash and that's what we do instead of using paper towel. So we try to find ways or make habits where we aren't, constantly reusing things and throwing things away. I try not to throw things in the trash can as much as I can. And also thinking about what I eat. I think a part of being sustainable is eating sustainable food. So I try not to eat processed foods. I try to eat natural foods as much as possible. So I eat fruits and vegetables and I'm a pescatarian. I'm not vegan. I don't know if I will ever be vegan. I thought about it, but I'm not sure if I'm there yet. I'm a pescatarian which means i only eat fish and seafood and so, that is working for me.


Ariel:

Yeah. Like I said earlier, it's definitely a transition just trying to see where you can make changes, especially starting out like little changes, like, "Oh yeah. I can use these reusable produce bags rather than doing this". Like that's an easy change and it's pretty affordable too. So it's just little things here and there. Totally agree.


Dr. Kristian:

[inaudible 20:20] you think about it. I think what happens with me is like now always have like my sustainable goggles on. So whenever I'm doing something [inaudible 20:28] so not good for the planet, what can I do to make it better? So I always am thinking in that lens and I think that's the reason why the produce bags is the new product that we just created because I was so tired of going to the grocery store and wasting plastic.


Ariel:

Yeah, exactly. Speaking of produce bags. I've seen a lot on Amazon and with being sustainable, I want to make sure that everything is sourced sustainably. Did you say you're making them yourself?


Dr. Kristian:

Yeah. I went to a manufacturer and I had them create it for me because I couldn't find an artisan that was already creating them. So whenever I found a problem that an artisan is not already solving, I try to solve it myself. And so I have a manufacturer that has organic cotton and she made a produce bag for me.


Ariel:

That's awesome!


Dr. Kristian:

I can give you my anti-Amazon rant, but maybe I won't do that right now.


Ariel:

Yeah, I totally agree. It's definitely a lot of green washing going on over there. Are those bags already on your website?


Dr. Kristian:

They sure are!


Ariel:

Okay. Yeah. I'll definitely check that out. That's awesome. All right Dr. Kristen, thank you so much for joining us today. It was really great talking to you. Will you tell us where everyone can find you?


Dr. Kristian:

Sure! You can find us at www.blkgrn.com and we're on all the social media @blkandgrn.


Ariel:

Okay, perfect. Thanks so much Dr. Kristen. Everyone, make sure you go follow her and buy from her website, BLK+GRN.


Dr. Kristian:

Yep. Buy black and live green. That's our motto.


Ariel:

Thank you so much for listening to the Sustainable Brown Girl Podcast. Be sure to subscribe and share it. If you loved it and leave a review, you can find us on Instagram at @sustainablebrowngirl and check out our Facebook community, we would love to have you there. Until next time, let's continue to make healthy choices for the health of our planet and the health of our bodies. Thanks for listening.