Saturday, March 12, 2016

One has to approach the internet with blinders just to keep sane, working to disregard all of the click-bait, the filler content, the over-simplified claims. This is especially the case when it comes to eco-friendly living, where personally I find a lot of information on the internet to be a tad too holistic and sensationalized for me. 

That being said, I scour the internet a lot in search of helpful tips on how to switch over to environmentally-friendly alternatives, which means I’m left lost and confused amidst the contradicting information (I’m mostly baffled by baking soda – can it really serve as a healthy and medically sound alternative to shampoo and toothpaste? I’ll never know).

Through everything I’ve read, I have obtained some insightful tidbits, helping me to switch over to green alternatives for my household and personal needs. Personally, I made the switch because environmentally friendly alternatives are affordable and multi-purpose, allowing me to simplify, buy less, and save money. The added plus is that the products are hopefully healthier for our waterways, our health, and the health of the workers who manufacture the product.

Skin care – I do most of my moisturizing with a $6 bottle of coconut oil. Coconut oil doesn’t absorb as quickly as your run of the mill lotion so I only use a small amount for my face to avoid walking away feeling greasy. Recently, I’ve been mixing coconut oil with a few drops of tea tree oil in a small jar that I store in my medicine cabinet. It smells luxurious, and I like to think that the added tea tree oil helps with acne and general skincare due to its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, though I don’t really know. I still have some acne (most of which went away after using AcneFree and its wonderfully harsh chemicals) but I think I’m mostly happy with my slightly imperfect complexion for now.

Hair care – This has been the toughest switch for me. I have used commercial shampoos every day for my entire life so going with a natural alternative (whatever that means) left my hair greasy and unbearably itchy. This article on making the switch was helpful this last month, when I decided I would try to transition away from cheap-o drugstore shampoos again. It was nice to hear someone say that natural shampoos will not work for everyone and that's okay. Really.

So far I have tried two different shampoos (one I purchased previously from my co-op but then stored away when it didn't work, and another one I purchased new). I have tried washing my hair with apple cider vinegar. I have tried not washing my hair. In the end, I have used a lot of hair ties and was happy to make the transition in a month where it was acceptable to constantly wear a hat. At this point, I feel like it's been two months, and I haven't had a good hair day in a long time. The remains of the commercial shampoo sitting in my cupboard looks more and more appealing so we'll see how long this natural shampoo thing will last.

I am, however, a fan of apple cider vinegar. I store 1 part apple cider vinegar and 3 parts water in an old Dr. Bronner's bottle with a few drops of essential oils added in. Once a week, I work it into my scalp to get rid of dandruff. I find it incredibly effective - plus, it serves as a nice face toner as well.

For those who are looking to make the switch to a shampoo that is free of sulfate, parabens, and phosphate, I’ve heard great things about Acure and feel like it could be a good place to start. Right now, I'm not looking to buy any more shampoo so I'll just be working through what I've already purchased.

Soap – I’m a fan of Dr. Bronner’s because it’s biodegradable, available in bulk, and is incredibly multi-purpose. See the plethora of uses here.

Makeup/Deodorant – I’m mostly fine with my L’oreal products and Dove original scented deodorant. The thing is, I don’t know if I believe parabens are harmful enough to warrant spending $35 on mascara. Due to my income and also my general frugalness, I need things to be reasonably priced in order to make the switch. But in case you’re looking for alternatives, RMS Beauty has natural products that work well and come in recyclable packaging - though the makeup comes with a price tag. Rejuva and Pacifica seem more moderately priced and rank well on Skin Deep, the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetic database, if anyone is looking for a cheaper alternative. Also, this recipe for homemade deodorant intrigues me so I might give it a go in the future.

Feminine hygiene – I used applicator free tampons for a while but then switched to the Diva Cup last year. There’s a learning curve but I love it now (advice: Youtube tutorials are your friend!). I also bought a few reusable cloth pads on Etsy that I wear occasionally. They are not the most comfortable – I wouldn’t wear them if I was working or being active – but overnight, I think they work great. Bonus is that I haven’t spent money on tampons or pads in a year.

Water conservation – In addition to switching the products I use, I'm also concerned about water use when it comes to bathroom rituals. Some habit shifts to think about: installing a reminder to take shorter showers, switching to a low-flow showerhead, and adding a plastic bottle to the toilet tank to conserve water. Or just flush only when necessary.

Most of these products take some getting used to so like everything, if you’re motivated to make the switch, do it slowly and try to push through when you find the new habit hard or annoying. When you attempt anything new, know that most likely there comes a point where you will make mistakes and fail. That's okay. Really. Pretty soon, the habit starts to feel commonplace and you’ll forget the old way you were used to. 

In the end, this post is just to say that I think coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and Dr. Bronner’s work wonders, and pretty soon, you’ll find that you can use these things for a multitude of ailments, like getting rid of ants or fruit flies or cleaning your kitchen counters (Home remedies sound a little hokey but in general, I think they do the job. If not, proceed with buying something that will. My feeling is that it never hurts to try using what you have around the house first).

Next week, I’ll write more about tips for environmentally friendly cleaning products and kitchen habits. Also, perhaps some general thoughts on why I made these switches in the first place. Until then, feel free to read more thoughts on this subject here, here and here!

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