A rabbit is haunting me.

I’m standing in the soaps and lotions aisle of a natural foods grocery store, staring glassy-eyed at shelves of body wash. The bottles blur into a grainy newsreel that runs on a loop in my memory: a Dr. Frankenstein laboratory. A rabbit pinned down by a white-coated chemist, while his evil henchman shoves an eyedropper into the rabbit’s eye and pushes the plunger. The rabbit screams. A grim voice-over informs me they’re testing make-up to ensure beautiful women like me don’t go blind. Bunny goes blind.

Not entirely true. The scream was mine.

Witnessed in my early thirties, the documentary sucked the fun out of make-up. A once-simple impulse buy has become a research project, in which I cross-reference information gathered from environmental websites, product labels, and Facebook rumors.

I briefly thought the pleasure had returned, when I discovered a stunning drop-dead (no offense, Bunny.) red lipstick, organic, not tested on animals. But the lipstick brand carried eyeshadow colors that made me look like Morticia. Stunning eyeshadow was manufactured by a different cruelty-free brand. Sadly, the bunny-friendly eyeshadow company was bought by unprincipled pharmaceutical overlords.

The scourge of conscience spread from cosmetics to personal care items. Bunny has chased me across the decades and across the country, landing me dazed and confused in the soaps and lotions aisle of this natural foods grocery store.

I pick up Brand A body wash. The plastic bottle is powdery smooth to the touch, translucent, the color of sun-kissed sand. Printed in trustworthy block letters, the label proclaims, made with plant extracts and pure coconut oil. A familiar logo assures me no critters were tortured to keep my skin silky. Promising, but what about the plastic bottle? On the back, in microscopic type, Please recycle. Sounds like advertising double-speak to me, a far cry from stating the plastic bottle will recycle. You can stick Please recycle on an old ice box, and it’s still ending up in the landfill. I gotta shrink the landfills, so Bunny has open space to hop around in.

Heaving a defeated sigh, I return Brand A to the shelf. Dozens of shelves, hundreds of bottles, all that fine print.

Forget about body wash; let’s see what bar soap has to offer.

I like the skimpy packaging on this bar, just a narrow strip of paper. I pick it up for a closer look. Swirling colors remind me of melted crayons. I sniff. Ahh, lavender. Smells as pretty as it looks. I visualize a bespectacled gramma, hair in a bun, leaning over a vat of melted goodness, stirring with a wooden paddle. I turn the bar over. $6.00. For a bar of soap? That’s half my social security check.

I deposit the bar on its pile and zoom in on a different brand. Oh my, this one has no packaging at all. You put the soap into a paper sack. Buy several, and put them all into one little bag. I like it. Only $1.50 a bar. I like it even more. Sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients. Terrific, I’d like for my skin to be ethical as well as clean. But the company’s located in Nebraska. Bunny’s going to choke on the exhaust from the eighteen-wheeler hauling this soap from Nebraska to Missouri.

I give up. Today there’s no hope of reconciling healthy body and healthy bunny. I wander over to cleaning supplies, stealing a couple of grapes as I pass the fruit bins.

A familiar name stands out. Dr. Bronner. My anti-chemical pro-nature hair stylist shampoos with Dr. Bronner’s. What’s he doing in the cleaning aisle? What appears to be a squiggly design on the label is actually lettering. Apparently Dr. Bronner has printed the entire text of War and Peace on his label. I dig my readers out of my purse, to no avail. Dig further for a 10x magnifying glass I carry for emergencies. I can decipher only a few words: Pure Castile Soap. Certified Fair Trade. Organic. And here’s the leaping bunny logo. What about the plastic bottle? 100% Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic Bottle! shouts the label, exclamation point included, as though Dr. Bronner knew what I was thinking.

Okay, it’s good stuff, but what is it good for?

Again, the label answers. Shave, shampoo, shower, launder, mop, degrease …. The list continues, but I’m getting lightheaded from Information overload. Can somebody make this simple? I’m about to take off my readers when a sentence at the bottom comes into focus: The very best soap for body, home, and spaceship earth.

A light beam turns the display golden. Is somebody playing a harp? The ceiling opens. A host of bunnies floats down from Heaven, angel wings spread, halos bobbing, voices in cherubic harmony. “Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Allay-ay-lu-yah.”

I toss a dozen Dr. Bronners into my cart. If only he made eye shadow.

 The Resilient Activist: For in-depth info on the Leaping Bunny label and others that Dawn refers to, read our EnviroTip #5: Choose who you give your money to

Dawn Downey

Dawn Downey writes to incite compassion. Whether she’s challenged by Mother Nature or the nature of her wild mind, she hopes readers will recognize themselves in her stories—and then lovingly accept their own wild minds. Downey is the author of Blindsided: Essays from the Only Black Woman in the Room; Searching for My Heart: Essays about Love; From Dawn to Daylight: Essays; and Stumbling Toward the Buddha: Stories about Tripping over My Principles on the Road to Transformation. Learn more at DawnDowneyBlog.com.