Two recent DIY finds

In the last few weeks I’ve made two DIY products that were very easy to make and have been working great, so I wanted to share.

First is an olive oil and sugar scrub. This winter my skin has been super dry, so I wanted to have something in the shower to exfoliate now and then. In the past I’ve bought these, which are wonderful – but I don’t always want to splurge on something I know I can make at home. So, following the ratio here, I whipped up a small batch to try, using 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup olive oil, with a few drops of peppermint essential oil. It’s worked great, but just be careful not to get too much water in the jar while you’re using it – the water will dissolve the sugar and then it is less scrubby. Note also that it will make your tub really slippery, so be careful if you don’t have a non-slip shower mat. In the future I’d like to try this with some lemon essential oil.

Next is a glass and mirror cleaner. The entire outside wall of my living room is glass, and the doors of my nice big bedroom closet are mirrors, and so the streaks from using a regular cleaning rag and all purpose cleaner were really driving me nuts. I knew I could use a vinegar and water solution for this, and after poking around online to find the ratio, I eventually made one with white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, cornstarch and water. Combined with a microfiber cloth I picked up, it did a great job on the balcony windows, removing both regular dust and dirt accumulation, plus sticky nephew handprints. Same on the mirrors. It does smell vinegary, but I found it wasn’t too strong and it dissipated quickly.

Green, Low-Maintenance Beauty

My attempts to start cutting chemicals out of my life this year have naturally spilled over from household cleaning products into my personal care products. Today I want to highlight a couple of changes I’ve made to my routine so far.

First off, one of the easiest things I did was stop using body wash and start using all-natural bar soap. This cuts down on plastic that needs to be recycled, and also on chemicals. At the moment I am using Pure & Natural soap. It’s free of a lot of chemicals, and uses mostly natural ingredients. And, the packaging for the soap so biodegradable that it includes seeds and tells you to stick it in some dirt and water it. This soap has been working out just fine for me. I picked it up at Target with a couple of coupons, and I think it was on sale that day, too. They have several different fragrances, but I barely notice the smell. (I think I have the cherry & almond at the moment).

Now, on to the slightly bigger steps. For as long as I can remember, I have washed my hair every day. This is not what hairdressers recommend, as it strips away the natural oils that keep your hair healthy and shiny. However, for those of us blessed with overactive oil production, things get a little gross. I used a lot of Herbal Essences, primarily because it frequently goes on sale and there are often coupons for those products. Imagine my surprise earlier this year when my hairdresser commented that my hair was dry and recommended some essential oils to condition it. What?!

I have also washed my face twice a day, every day, another supposedly drying practice. Mostly I have used Oil of Olay products, but at various times I’ve used products from the Body Shop and Kiehl’s. As someone with very bad skin as a teenager, this was something I did without a second thought. And for a long time, if I slept in makeup I could be guaranteed to break out at least a little bit. As I’ve gotten older, that has stopped to be the case (thank heaven), but I still stuck to the routine and only infrequently skipped washing my face.

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Greening Ally: Cleaning products

One of the things that initially got me thinking about living a more environmentally sustainable life were the cleaning products I use. After I moved down here last year I went on the trip to Target to replace all the stuff you don’t bother to move when you are moving far far away (or should I say, wicked fahway). One of the things on my list was Swiffer cloths.

I’d always felt a good dose of New England Liberal Elitist guilt about my Swiffer. It makes a quick cleanup so easy, but even with using both sides of the cleaning cloths they still create a lot of unnecessary waste. I hesitated, but at that point I didn’t want to search around and find a replacement, so I just bought a box. Over the course of the year I tried using my cleaning rags (mostly old washcloths) but they didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. Earlier this year when perusing the shelves at Whole Foods I found Twist Bamboo Cloths, which are fantastic. I think they were $4 or $5 for a pack of three large cloths, which are machine washable & dryable. They work like a charm, picking up hair (at least person hair, don’t know about pet hair) and dust just as well as the Swiffer cloths. I should note that after the first wash & dry, the thickness and texture change and they shrink a bit. They still work just as well, and the shrinkage was a good thing from my perspective — after they shrank, I could cut each of them into two almost perfectly-sized Swiffer cloths. I am super happy with them. Continue reading

Greening Ally: Back in the day

In the last few weeks I have found myself thinking, and starting to do, a lot of things to live my life more sustainably. (I wish “sustainable” wasn’t such a buzzword right now, then maybe I wouldn’t sound so precious saying that.) As I thought about sharing my experiments and experiences in this forum, I found the well-trained (semi-) journalist in me wondering why. Why have I been thinking so much about what I consume (edibles and non-edibles) and the waste that’s generated by consuming it? How much influence is the media having on me as I think about these issues and make these new choices? Why am I so much more focused on this now, nearly 5 years after leaving a job at what was, at its core, an environmental advocacy group*?  This couldn’t have come out of nowhere, so when were the seeds planted? What’s the context?

That brought me back to the beginning. So, travel in space and time with me to idyllic Douglas, Massachusetts, in the 80s and 90s. Check out the satellite and take a gander at how green it is. (Wait, Google street view has been to my tiny little hometown? What?) That’s where I grew up, in a house with a few acres encompassing a huge backyard, a front yard that could fit at least three Baltimore rowhomes, and a patch of woods leading back toward the Mumford River.

Looking back at it now, my family did a lot of things that would be considered “green” today. But the reasons why we did them were driven by frugality and a DIY ethos (one that my Dad and grandad would probably never in a million years refer to in that way). After all, it’s cheaper to fix and make things yourself, and to not buy a lot of expensive stuff when something cheaper will do the job just the same.

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