Less Waste: Wool Dryer Balls

Laundry day. Reserved for the weekends and days off. I remember when laundry used to mean pulling out a tub, filling it with water from a hose, squatting on hind legs and scrubbing whites and delicates, then wringing them out to hang dry on a line. It wasn’t too long ago that this is exactly how laundry day went. And when it rains, you run outside and snatch the fresh clothes off the wire, and wait until the rain stops to hang them all back up again. Gotta love that island life.

It’s 2020, you say, but leave it to me to find romance in clothespins and hand washing.  And while it may sound primitive to our American ears, it may not be so far from what the rest of the world still does. When we went to New Zealand, I was surprised to see that while most households toted a washer and dryer, locals preferred to dry clothes on a wire in their garden. Some have a spinning wheel that turns with the wind. Others had more modest lines. Everyone, though, hauled the laundry to the outdoors.

See also, parts of Australia, Europe, all of India, parts of Asia, certainly where I’m from.

And while this is hardly the way we do it at home, what with a washer and dryer available, this isn’t the first that I lament the loss of more romantic methods in exchange for modern convenience. I’ve been considering lately of hanging a clothesline on our newly renovated balcony to air dry sheets and towels. Is it second-rate to believe that they smell and feel better aired out? Also – more sanitary? Most minimalists in Japan immediately rinse towels and dry them outdoors to keep clean. Hotels hang up bathroom rugs on the side of the tub to dry right away. We hang our towels. The sun is supposed to be naturally anti-bacterial. Maybe there’s something to it?

Regardless, there was one thing that we took home from our second trip to New Zealand (well multiple eco-conscious things but, this in particular is related to laundry day) and that was dryer balls made out of sheep’s wool, which we toss into the tub right before a spin. If you’ve never been to N.Z., there are sheep everywhere. Alas, there were plenty of woolen items from slippers to sweaters to house products. Stores dedicated to wool stuffs ran amok especially on the south island, and we came across these dryer balls walking around Queenstown on a hot summer afternoon.

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These dryer balls in particular are wonderful since they are reusable and replace disposable dryer sheets. Additionally, they are unscented (which I love!), although those who prefer to smell like lavender or other can easily add a hint of essential oil to mimic your trademark scent. I, myself, have extremely sensitive skin so the less chemicals on my clothes, the better.

From an eco-conscious perspective, they reduce drying time by absorbing moisture and separating the laundry so that air circulates more freely. They are 100% natural (nothing more than wool), and can easily be dried on the sill. Lastly, they store quite nicely in a muslin bag, keeping them collected and ready for the next load.

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For those wishing to refute disposable dryer sheets, I would highly recommend this trick. In the U.S., you can get yourself some from Parachute, Coyuchi, or any grocery store that sells eco-friendly alternatives to household goods.

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Less Waste: All-Purpose Cleaner

Considering the current global health pandemic (is it bad that I’ve written enough posts about COVID-19 to warrant it’s own digi-folder?), I think it suffice to say that this is a time of utmost cleanliness. I don’t know about you guys, but we’ve found ourselves cleaning more frequently and I, in particular, have been under a spell of continuous organization that one could argue seems borderline unhealthy.

So I wonder … have the skin on your hands been rubbed raw yet? Dried out? Cracked under pressure, scorched by warm water, and dehydrated by suds and soap? For at-home workers, hasn’t this become the ultimate distraction, getting up every few minutes to clean after touching a pen?

Have you completed a bout of spring cleaning, or have you forgotten? One which resulted in a reorganization of the pantry, de-cluttering of closets, and tidying the messes?

With extra time to twiddle my thumbs, I’ve also kept up with wiping down surfaces, re-filling the humidifier and vacuuming the floors. Everything kept to their squeaky clean selves.

Which brings me to the matter that I had originally intended to write – All Purpose Cleaners.

More specifically, All Purpose Cleaners of the less toxic, zero-waste variety that is homemade AND pretty to look at. Not possible, you say. Well, I beg to differ.

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There will be some of you who protest against my barbaric suggestions of DIY All-Purpose cleaners, arguing that my versions are devoid of all the chemicals made for cleanliness. And while some of you may be non-believers in the efficiency of make-it-yourself products, especially during a time of  global pandemic, can I interest you in a little wariness over the hazards of these cleaners’ unknown ingredients on your overall health and of those you love?

The rows of cleaning products presented to us in stores are quite seizure-inducing. Labeled with bright colors and big text, it’s a wonder why I have a strong avoidance to the stuff. In the interest of simplifying our lives, the solution (see what I did there?) lies in choosing less ingredients rather than more. Sticking with household items that already belie our pantries and shelves, such as baking soda and vinegar, is more aligned with my minimalist tendencies. I’m not even touting long, complicated recipes that require a mixology degree, here. I’m referring to quick fix-it-yourself formulas that we can all have in our arsenals in order to come up with cleaning solutions faster than you can get-in-you-car-to-go-buy-them-in-store. Plus, it safely follows the stay-at-home mandate.

But the REAL reason why we’ve turned to fewer, simpler cleaning solutions in the first place was, of course, plastic-related. In an interest to rid our home of plastic products, we’ve switched to glass bottle carriers and bulk items whenever possible. We have been getting our bulk refills from The Ecology Center, but due to the Stay-at-home mandate, we’ve recently run out of said products and have no interest to traverse the twenty-something miles just to get refills.

So I turned to a few resources and the ever-handy web, and have decided to make do with a DIY project of my own. I chose a traditional water-and-vinegar recipe using a 1:1 ratio with ten drops of lemon essential oil. That was the recipe, and if  you blinked, then you missed it. This All-Purpose cleaner works for cleaning different types of surfaces, including glass, stovetops, and fridge doors. I would be careful with wiping down granite or marble counter-tops (we don’t have such things), perhaps sticking to Castille Soap and Water for these types of surfaces.

We store the solution underneath the sink in a clear spray bottle, although as you can see here, I am particularly partial to amber vessels. Shall you choose to add fresh lemon juice, I suggest storing it in the fridge, instead. Our household uses washable dish cloths to wipe down surfaces, and we haven’t bought paper towels in YEARS. See also, wooden cleaning alternatives to compliment your less-waste solutions. For those who prefer to sweep and tidy rather than scrub, this here will do. Whatever draws at your neatnik heartstrings, may you please consider at-home cleaners.

After the house has gotten a good tidying session, I spritz a bit of Aesop’s Istros Room Spray, creating a positive feedback loop in the hopes of helping this habit stick post-COVID-19. I throw open the windows to let some fresh air in, sink into the couch with some blankets, and rejoice in a job well done.

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Less Waste: A Vision of an Eco-conscious Dental Office

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

The medical industry can hardly be excused for their participation in plastic waste production. Medical facilities are notorious for creating plastic waste on a daily basis, and in exorbitant amounts.

As a dentist, the role I play in creating waste does not escape me. It’s a fact that has never sat well with me, and I’ve found it an unsettling part of my profession that does not align with my personal values. If I am being honest, some of the waste that we produce is unnecessary. 

The need for disposable items for the sake of sanitation is a fallacy. It’s a shame that patients expect disposable and replaceable medical tools in order to feel safe. But where do you think plastic suctions and mirrors are made? Factories? Stored in plastic bags? Shipped in boxes on a truck? Placed into drawers? Pulled out for your visit.

Sanitary? Hardly.

But it is expected.

What if I told you that we can create a safe, sanitary dental office that is more sustainable by using re-usable instruments that are properly sterilized? What if the key to creating a cleaner tomorrow lies in changing patient perception?

Education lies in the hands of dentists and doctors dedicated to creating eco-conscious offices. We can show patients it is more sanitary to use an auto-clavable, heat-sterilized metal suction than pulling a plastic straw suction from a drawer. Likewise, the driving force for change lies in the patients asking for alternatives to plastic from their providers.

I have a vision.

I haven’t implemented it yet because between the zero-plastic bakery, helping with building an all-sustainable Hard Rock hotel on a zero-waste island in the Maldives, working six days of dentistry a week, dog-sitting for pets in need of a home, and writing here, I just don’t have the time.

But today, I’d like to share the vision that I have for a more sustainable practice, in hopes that other dentists would aspire to it, too.

Why?

Healthcare facilities in the United States generate 14,000 tons of waste per day. Up to 25% of this waste is composed of plastic products, including packaging of disposable items. In my office, we have the problem of an overflowing the trash bin and recycle bin with waste. We have been cited by the city multiple times, but with the patient pool that we are seeing, we are creating more waste than the current bins can hold. This cannot continue.

With environmental awareness rising, the issue of medical waste has never been more pertinent. We are a dump-and-cover society but we can’t stop from knowing that plastic never disappears. It can only break down into micro-plastics that end up in landfills and oceans and then enters our food chain which then affects not just the environment and other species, but us as well.

Can medical care exist without waste?

Maybe not completely, but we can definitely get closer.

We HAVE to get closer.

WHO?

We need to do this not for ourselves, but for the younger generations of tomorrow. Young people today are overwhelmed by the daunting task of cleaning up after past generation’s messes. We need to alleviate that pressure from them, and it needs to start now.

Practitioners can educate their patients on what cleanliness really means. Explain to them your efforts in going zero-waste. Millennials will support sustainable efforts. They will come to your office if you advertise yourself as doing more than taking care of their health. If they see that you care about the environment, it will show them your character, and if you care for the environment, how much better care will you be able to provide for your patient?

My friend recently opened a dental practice in Irvine called Blue Brush Dental and his new patient and recall patient goody bags are all organic cotton tote bags that a patient can re-use for their market needs. Imagine what that says to a new patient. The value of your practice is tied to the values that you portray. A practitioner making efforts to create a cleaner tomorrow speaks volumes. Younger generations will appreciate that you care about THEM.

Patients, on the other hand, need to demand zero waste practices. Say “NO” to those free plastic toothbrushes. Ask for alternatives. Opt for recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable toothbrush options such as Bogobrush, and don’t be afraid to start a conversation and ask the office to get them. Deny goodie bags made of plastic.

We need to work together. We are all responsible.

WHAT?

A sustainable dental practice begins with a physical office, and the best office is a LEED certified building. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design and it was implemented in 1993 to promote sustainable design in architecture. There are four levels of LEED certification, based on a points system wherein points are awarded for different categories.

LEED certified buildings:

  • reduce usage fees by 40% in energy and water bills
  • are good for the environment and occupants
  • have higher occupant rates and higher lease rates per square foot
  • have increased visibility in the community

LEED buildings implement a number of structural and architectural designs that decrease energy consumption. Skylights and wide windows in operatories allow for more natural light which then reduces the need to use electricity during the day. Some buildings use geothermoregulation via flooring systems. The use of LED lights also reduce energy consumption and is an easy change that offices can start implementing TODAY. Likewise, using tile carpeting makes it fairly cost-effective to switch out high traffic areas with a new tile rather than redoing the entire flooring all together.

Check out this pediatric dentist’s LEED certified practice, for inspiration.

HOW?

Having an eco-conscious practice is not only what building we work in but also how we do our work.

Digital technology has allowed for the removal of much of the materials that we used to use in dentistry.

  • Digital x-rays eliminates the need for film, and the chemicals needed to produce the film which sit in plastic cups and are purchased in plastic containers.
  • Digital scanners eliminate the need for impression material, plastic cartridges, plastic tips, impression trays, and packaging used to send models to and from the lab.
  • A Cerec Milling Machine eliminates the need for a second appointment (which would need another chair set up and more head rest covers, bibs, suctions, and syringes), as well as a model and a temporary crown.
  • Clinical notes on a computer eliminates the need for paper charts and filling forms out online prior to the appointment rids us of paperwork to be scanned.
  • Signature pads record consent directly on the computer.
  • Text appointment and recall reminders eliminate the need to mail postcards.
  • Social media eliminates the need for physical marketing strategies.
  • Digital reading material can replace paper magazines in the lobby.

On top of going digital, we can substitute alternatives that use less plastic overall. Sometimes, instead of looking to new gadgets, the trick lies in using old school stuff. Below is a list of examples, both old and new:

  • Sterilization Casettes and Enviropouches eliminate disposable sterilization pouches.

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  • Cloth head covers and bibs are alternatives to plastic head rest covers and water resistant bibs. Not even having head covers and simply using Cavicide between each patient is also an option.
  • Sterilizable metal suctions and water -syringe tips instead of disposable plastic ones are the dental equivalent of metal straws instead of plastic straws.

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  • White coats instead of disposable clinical gowns are an option, depending on the extent of your treatment.
  • Wood wedges instead of plastic wedges for composite restorations are the way to go. Some argue the contacts are better with the plastic versions, but they now make flared wooden wedges that fit fine, even with isolated matrices.

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  • Paper Dri-Angles instead of plastic ones can be used. Even though the plastic version can isolate for twice as long and requires less triangles, the plastic itself will NEVER disappear from this Earth. The paper versions will degrade, even if there are twice as many.

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  • Reusable prophy angles that can latch onto a slow-speed hand-piece can reduce plastic disposable versions from entering the landfill.

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  • Prophy paste in ten flavors individually wrapped in plastic tubes increase plastic waste. Why not buy prophy paste by the tub in a limited number of flavors, such as mint or cherry? These tubs will last a VERY long time.

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  • Installing a water distiller in the office for the water lines instead of having distilled water tubs delivered to the office every week is an option. It will not only save the Earth from plastic gallons, but also from emissions related to a water delivery service.
  • Disposable scented nitrous oxide gas masks are nice for kids, but why not try sterilizable gas masks with a touch of essential oil for the scent.
  • Reclaimed, Recycled or Up-cycled furniture for the lobby is preferred over brand new furniture. Try to choose sustainable materials such as wood instead of plastic chairs and tables.
  • Wooden toys for the kid’s toy box in the lobby are an aesthetic AND sustainable touch.
  • Avoid plastic goodie bags after hygiene appointments. Try paper bags! Better yet, recyclable market totes made from organic cotton like this one from BlueBrush Dental give goodie bags a lasting purpose.

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Other ways in which we can commit to reducing waste in our dental offices.

  • Walk or bike to work. Find a job close to home and nix the commute. Carpool, if you must, with your co-workers.
  • Bring your lunch in Tupperware rather than dining out. Bring a reusable water bottle or coffee mug from home.
  • Implement the use of a water fountain instead of a Sparklett’s water station.
  • Don’t allow for disposable utensils, plates and cups in the break room. Choose metal utensils and durable, washable tableware.
  • Instead of a Keurig machine that uses coffee pods, invest in an old school coffee machine with paper filters. Buy coffee beans in bulk and grind them yourself.
  • When you buy a dental practice, don’t gut the place entirely and renovate the whole thing. Use the existing cabinets and give them a paint job. Changing artwork? Use the existing frames and swap out the paper images. You get the drift. Don’t be in a rush to buy everything BRAND NEW.

These are just some basic ways in which we can create change. Most of these we can do immediately. Some of these may take months to get to. But it’d be great if we all start working towards it.

I’m not saying do ALL of these. But I ask you implement one or two new things every few months. Work towards a more eco-conscious practice. We won’t get to zero-waste, but if someone can try to create an All-Sustainable Hotel built on a Zero-Waste island, why can’t we get close with a dental office?

Want more? Here are 80 ways to make your dental practice go green!

Plant Paper, A New Toilet Paper Alternative for Body and Eco-Conscious Individuals

This post is in partnership with Plant Paper, a toilet paper company focused on creating an everyday product that is both body and eco-conscious. All thoughts and opinions are my own. If you wish to check out Plant Paper in person, they can be found at OtherWild General – a bulk and zero waste store located in Los Angeles, CA. 

Environmental change isn’t going to happen overnight placed in a consumer’s hands. At least, not enough of it. Sufficient change required to turn the tide will involve support from large organizations and changes at the macro-level by government bodies. But as a person who believes in the strength of the smallest of action, I also think we, as consumers, have some power. That power is strengthened when our product choices are intentional, especially when buying products required for daily activities whose redundancy magnifies the effect of our actions.

So here we are again, talking about toilet paper.

Toilet paper is a privilege, which I spoke about in my original post featuring Who Gives a Crap.  But for most people in the United States, toilet paper is a “necessity”. And when certain household products are viewed as such, it becomes more urgent to source these products mindfully. If we can curb the way we use, purchase, and choose toilet paper, then we can really make an impact.

So after a year of advocating WGAC, which is based in Australia, I was ever so excited to come across a California company also shedding light on creating eco-freindly toilet paper alternatives.

Introducing … PLANT PAPER!

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Plant Paper is a company imagined by Lee Reitelman and Joshua Solomon, two individuals who recognized that the ways in which we produce toilet paper does not align with neither our bodies nor our environment. The two then partnered with Scott Barry, creative director of LA’s all day breakfast joint, Sqirl, and on a December morning in 2019, I was able to hop onto a call with Rachel Eubanks, business and life partner of Scott.

The calling to create new toilet paper came after Reitelman and Solomon recognized the amount of energy, formaldehyde and chlorine it takes to convert wood to soft paper. We have a tree-based system of toilet paper-making that was not in effect until the Scott Brothers and Dupont Chemical got into the business. Prior to their invention of the toilet paper that we now see in our minds, toilet paper was made from hemp and sugarcane, both materials that take less chemicals and water to dissolve. The first person to ever invent toilet paper was actually Dr. Gayetty and his T.P. was of hemp!

Interestingly enough, when Gayetty first introduced toilet paper to the public, it did not take. Most consumers at the time could not fathom why one would pay for paper that you throw away. It wasn’t until after the 1880’s that toilet paper began to be seen as a product that signifies upper middle class status – and when you have a product that sells a lifestyle, well, it sells itself.

One thing’s for sure. With the growing attention on climate change, intentional living, and ethical consumer consumption, Reitelman and Solomon are right. “Tree paper should be, and will be, a thing of the past.”

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Great for the Environment, Swell for the Bum

The focus of Plant Paper is to create a toilet paper that is good for the body and the environment. The amount of chemicals used in the production of paper used to wipe butts is a long list – the most toxic ingredient included is chlorine which is used as chlorine bleach.

When you think of toilet paper, what color comes to mind? Usually, white. All white toilet paper require a bleaching process that turns the paper from a natural brown tree-color to a color that is deemed “sanitary”. Plant Paper wishes to change consumer perception of what toilet paper looks like. Plant Paper is BROWN, and avoids harsh chemicals such as bleaching agents and formaldehyde. If we can get people to embrace naturally colored toilet paper, then we can eliminate unnecessary chemicals that we are essentially wiping all over our bodies.

In fact, I would wager that not many Americans are aware of the fact that 37 gallons of water go into every roll of tree paper, plus a gallon of chemicals. Chemicals such as bleach and formaldehyde are known to cause UTI’s, hemorrhoids, and fissures in our bodies. But these are things we’ve grown accustomed to because we don’t stop to think that there is another way. 50 to 60% of women will get UTI’s in their lifetime and half of all people will get hemorrhoids by age 50. Something to think about.

Additionally, we must consider the environmental implications. Options on the market for eco-conscious toilet paper include recycled paper such as that of Seventh Generation, which is where most conversations stop. However, the resources required to recycle paper are often more than simply producing from new trees. In a world where resources in general are running scarce, we must consider more than the number of trees we save. We must consider the true cost. Recycled paper is no longer an option that is good enough.

Plant Paper looked at alternatives to both trees and recycled paper. They landed on the notion of using a type of grass to produce their toilet paper. Grasses grow incredibly faster than trees do. They first considered hemp as an option but eventually landed on bamboo, one of the fastest growing grasses in the world. Bamboo can grow up to 36 inches every 24 hours. Because of this choice, they had to turn make their production China-based, which means there is the logistic of still shipping their toilet paper half-way around the world.

When asked how they mitigate that choice, Rachel from Plant Paper explains that they try to reduce the impact by shipping in containers and sending in bulk. This reduces the shipping frequency, and all fulfillment of orders originate from centers in North Carolina. Currently, all orders may only be made via their online site, but the goal is to bring ethical toilet paper to locations near you.

Their dream is to eventually create a dispensary system where people are encouraged to bring their own bag and take as many rolls home as they need. Currently, they have their toilet paper stocked at OtherWild General in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. You can find Plant Paper in the Zero Waste/Bulk Section of the general store. Hopefully, these babies will start popping up at more folk shops and zero waste stores.

Beyond Environment and Health

To say that the environmental and health benefits are secondary to the real reason behind the creation of Plant Paper is true. This goes beyond current consumer trends and green washing and embracing the new status symbols of upper middle class. The true reason to buy a product like Plant Paper is simply because it is the best product out there.

We are a society trained to be content with unsatisfactory products and to accept that “it is what it is”, so much so that we even have a saying for it. We can no longer settle for mediocrity. We got to the point where we created recycled toilet paper with Seventh Generation, ticked off the box that said we were eco-conscious consumers, and stopped further conversation. But that’s not where it ends.

Plant Paper pushes the envelope to do more. How can we replace trees with a more sustainable material? How can we deconstruct the expectation that toilet paper should be white and thereby get away from all the chemicals? How can we reduce the amount of toilet paper usage all together? Perhaps we raise awareness of the recentness of toilet paper, and tell the story of it’s initial rejection by society. Perhaps we shed light on the fact that it is a monopoly controlled by one company, and that is why change at the macro-level is so difficult to achieve. All of this was discussed in my one hour conversation with Rachel, and it has got me excited about this company.

As Reitelman and Solomon worded it in another interview, we’ve created a hybrid car but the end point is an all electric vehicle.

The Verdict:

So now, the question most of you wish to be answered: How is the quality of toilet paper?

Plant Paper is double-sided and 3-ply. One side is soft and silky, what the team jokingly say is for dabbing, whereas the opposite side is textured, you know… for grabbing. With a smile on my face and a giggle in the air, I can see that it is this kind of whimsical thinking and creativity that has the power to change the world.

The branding for Plant Paper is simple, at best. Unlike Who Gives A Crap’s enthusiastic and colorful branding, Plant Paper may appeal more to minimalists who wish not to inundate their bathroom with colorfully wrapped rolls. If I am being honest, I myself prefer a more calm loo environment that reminds me of a zen spa and am relieved to know that such an eco-conscious option exists. Additionally, I prefer the buy-as-you-need approach of Plant Paper over the bulk orders of Who Gives A Crap. I think that what separates Plant Paper from Who Gives A Crap is their vision to be a wellness product in addition to being an environmentally friendly product, but what sells it to me is their hope to change a social norm by getting consumers to question, “Why?”

If you wish to try Plant Paper for yourself, I highly do recommend. I do not receive a commission from Plant Paper for your purchase.

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Living Slow: Season of Becoming

This post is in partnership with East Fork Pottery,  a company slinging hand-thrown, timeless pottery in Oregon using regionally-sourced stoneware clay. Their beautiful food-safe glazes are made in house and lend their pieces character, but in an unfussy and classic manner. The collection is, truly, a treasure trove.

It’s been a bit quiet here for the past week, which should be indicative of the fact that I’ve been restless in real life, struggling with a personal decision that’s difficult to make. Usually that’s how it is. Cyber silence equates to a madness that requires its own space and time. But I wanted to put thought to digital paper for a moment, as an observance of this period of growth.

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Last week, I was presented with an alternative job opportunity that, when on paper, holds better weight than my current position. However, there are some non-practical reasons why I want to keep my current position. Ultimately, it came down to production limited by the number of days, or production limited by fees. I had to consider adding a 1.5 hr  round-trip daily commute to my currently non-existent one in exchange for much easier work. I had to decide whether having newer and better materials that made my job easier was more important than sweeter and easier patients who made my job easier. I was pulled between something new and something familiar. It was a week full of angst, emotion, and pressure to make a decision. I sat by the window sill staring into space, deep in thought, reflection, and sometimes just straight up brooding. Tears were involved.

If I took the easier job that is farther away which has more difficult patients but newer materials, I would only work 2.5-3 days a week, and still make the same amount of production at 4 days a week. But when you add the hours of commute and subtract the amount of money spent on gas, those 3 days really equate to 3.6 days, and is that difference worth it. The physical work will be easier due to newer materials, but demanding patients increase the mental and emotional energy required to work. The gratitude will be centered around the ease of work, rather than meaningful work. Both cups are half-full. Which would you choose?

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The paradox of choice is real. Both options are starkly different, but both are also good. My husband pointed out that I couldn’t go wrong either way. It’s a fantastic position to be in. But the fear of choosing wrong is what cripples. If the opportunity didn’t present itself, it wouldn’t be hard for me to continue what I was doing. There would be a distant nagging of the things I could improve if the practice were my own, but I wouldn’t be restless like I am now. When there is an alternative, it is much harder to ignore what could be.

Equally crippling is the feeling that a choice needs to be made. If I am going to leave  the first office, it would be best to tell them as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the office of opportunity is waiting on the sideline, seeing if I would take their job offer. I think it’s hard to be in-between. The pressure prevents any real growth.

In my life, I‘ve tried to reduce choice in order to increase bliss. In general, it has worked very well. While I don’t like choicelessness, I like having reduced options. But I know making choices is the hard part of growth. So choices need to be made.

I have an evasive tactic that I turn to when faced with difficult decisions. I just pick one -the one that intuitively seems most appealing – and then I move on with my life. I do that because I know I can always pivot. I do that because I know that there are worse things to choose from, and that outcomes in general are not bad  in the grand scheme of things. But I also know that I do it to alleviate the guilt, stress, and responsibility of that choice. I am only ever choosing one real thing – to run a way from my own discomfort.

This has led me to even deeper consideration for things beyond the job itself. The job, it’s just a stage in my life. In the end, neither choice is perfect, but neither is also wrong. Both are transient, not one being the end point. But I’ve thought about my tendency to run when things get difficult. My wish to reduce, in order to ease. My need to asphyxiate in hopes of control. My obsession with doing, instead of just being.

I can say I’ve been much better the past two years. Slow living has been a great mentor in that. But this is one of those moments where I need to tell myself, “Wait“. Instead of searching for clarity, wait for the fog of emotions to roll out and clear. Instead of wishing to tell people about it, wait for them to ask you of your thoughts. Instead of trying to get every answer imaginable, wait for that inner knowing to surface from within. Stay to see what happens, instead of going to see where the river runs.

I came across this quote  from @trustandtravel’s Instagram, and it spoke.

“Do not fast-forward into something you are not ready for, or allow  yourself to shrink back into what’s comfortable. Growth lives in the uneasiness. The in-between. The unfinished sentence. You are a season of becoming.”

-Danielle Doby

Becoming is a hard thing. But it’s also necessary. So much of the time, we do, and therefore we are. But we never just “be”. How do we ever expect to become?

The espresso cups in soapstone are perfect for tiny hands, mid-afternoon espresso shots, as well as after dinner green tea. For the bold, sake shots and other libations fit well within this tiny vessel. We are very much in love with this cups and can only speak highly of the quality and the beauty of these products. They are not placed in cabinets with the other dinnerware but are on display on open shelving. Today only, East Fork will be having a Seconds Sale. A discount of 30% will be applied to a handful of clay goods that did not quite make the cut. Although with slight blemishes, these pieces are still functional and beautiful. I urge people who have been hankering for dinnerware to consider salvaging these pieces and including them in your home. I appreciate East Fork for their zero waste attempt. Seconds sale begins at 12pm EST, and pieces will go fast (or so I hope). This post contains affiliate links and TheDebtist may receive a commission if  you so choose to purchase.

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Less Waste: The ZERO-PLASTIC Diet

Welp, so I’ve thought it up. A new diet that promises weight-loss for those who are on the heavier side struggling to lose weight. A diet that I think will really work wonders for most of America. And the premise of the diet does not rely on ingredients or organic produce or additives in the form of powders and things. In fact, the diet does not even tell you what you should and should not eat. Revolutionary, I know. The diet only has one requirement, and it is this: No food that you purchase may come in plastic packaging.

That’s it.

The true secret to how Mike and I stay skinnier than a pair of ski poles.

I get what you’re probably thinking. Another promised cure-all solution, with a side of a rolling of the eyes. No. Not a cure-all. It’s not going to make skinny people more skinny. It’s not going to cure diabetes. It’s not going to make scrawny men buff, or short children grow tall. But, it is going to be a healthy lifestyle shift that may help those who are considered overweight and are having difficulty losing a few pounds.

How does the zero plastic diet work?

Committing to eating only foods sans plastic requires you to eliminate a lot of the unhealthy substances that many Americans consume.

For example,

  • Frozen foods and all their preservatives
  • Chips, snacks, cookies, candies, candy bars and other junk foods that are store bought and laden with even more hidden unhealthy ingredients, most of which are non-naturally occurring
  • Jams, Condiments, pre-concocted sauces filled with sugars and preservatives
  • Fruit juices and sodas, full of added sugars
  • Meats that have been pre-frozen and thawed
  • Cereals, pre-made pastas, and white bread, none of which are actually healthy
  • Low fat yogurts, ice creams, et cetera
  • Most fast food restaurants or quick dine-in options
  • Processed foods such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables, roasted nuts
  • Pre-made soups and stock, usually swimming in sodium

These are just a few of the worst foods to eat, and all are packaged in plastic. The zero plastic diet works because if you want to eat cereal, you have to buy granola in the bulk section of the store. If you want to eat bread, it’s better to buy grain and make it fresh yourself. If you want to drink juice, you squeeze fresh oranges. If you want to eat meat, you’d have to opt for fresher cuts rather than the pre-packaged (likely pre-frozen) ones. If you want to eat fruit and veggie, you’ll need to grab fresher produce from a Farmer’s market (you know, the kind that goes bad in a few days?) rather than plastic packaged ones at Trader Joe’s that mysteriously last forever. If you want pizza, you’ll have to use the fresh produce and bread dough that you just made instead of heating up frozen pies. You learn to make chili from fresh beans and spices, and hummus is healthier made from chickpea, olive oil, lemon and garlic (ONLY!). And although there are non-plastic to-go places that we STILL go to, that one extra step makes fast food less accessible, which also translates to less frequently eaten.

This diet works because it cuts out all the hidden chemicals and preservatives and sugars and sodium and god-knows-what-else that we don’t even know exist in the food that others pre-package and pre-prepare for us.

This diet works because we are in control of what we eat.

This diet works because maybe we have to forego the cheese occasionally when we can’t find a way to get it without plastic packaging. Sometimes we have to forgo dairy, or meat. Sometimes, the only plastic free option until the next Farmer’s market or trip to the butcher is, well, veggie.

So this diet requires one to eat healthy. Why is it better than other diets?

Well, in my mind, the reason why other diets don’t work, is because it promises new solutions to weight loss. Innovative ones that we are putting our bodies through, albeit haphazardly, in a game of trial-and-error. Keto, paleo, organic, sugar-free… and the food industry plays on all of these new diets and creates NEW products that promise alternatives to all the things we are trying to cut out. The problem is, all of these new alternatives have been un-tested by any length of time. But what the zero plastic diet gives you is a diet that forces you back to the olden ways, of yore. The foods that our species have had plenty of time to adapt to. The one our bodies actually embrace. See also: Perhaps Gluten Isn’t to Blame. Our bodies, they don’t evolve overnight. They don’t even evolve over a few decades. We are not THAT adaptable. And we are introducing new alternatives at a fast clip ever since the Industrial Era, which frankly, wasn’t too long ago. Our bodies will not cannot change as fast. In fact, they will become intolerable to the changes.

At the end of all this raving, I guess I’m not hear to say that this is for everybody. I am only here recording what has worked for us. In an effort to reduce plastic, I’ve discovered that we’ve lost the extra weight that has been following us around since our beer-filled college nights, and then maintained a consistent number on the scale for the past year and a half. We don’t exercise although we really should as I’m sure our muscles are wasting away. We eat a good amount of food and don’t count calories or ration out portions. We aren’t gluttonous by any means, but we never leave the table hungry. The only thing we’ve done is to eliminate plastic packaging. So maybe it’s worth a try for those who are sick of substituting sugars, cutting out starches, calculating calories and rationing out portions. It’s a very simple approach to dieting, and one that your body (and the planet) will thank you for.

Less Waste: Facial Skin Care with Aesop

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I’d be the first to admit that in an effort to rid our house entirely of plastic waste, I’ve been neglecting many aspects of skin care, and after a year and a half of doing so, it has started to show. In all honesty, walking down aisles of grocery stores in search of self-care products can be a bit nauseating for the environmental enthusiast. Almost every bottle promises some magical cure packaged in plastic capsules, listing a number of chemical compounds that stray far from being natural. Not a big fan of beauty products anyway, I decided it would be easier to rid my life of this added complexity by just ousting the need to buy. And while that has worked well with some aspects such as make-up routines, and substituting bars of soap and refillable aluminum bottles for daily necessities such as shampoos, conditioners, and lotions, I’ve found that when it comes to facial skin care, my skin has suffered and has started to rebel.

Admittedly, this past winter in California was the driest that we’ve had in a while. I woke up some nights with an itchy throat that needed clearing, and made a habit of having a glass of water by my bedside easily within reach. I recognized the dryness when our adopted toothless cat started to have asthma attacks in the evenings, waking us up and worrying us to death. And I couldn’t deny it any more when my facial skin started to itch, form a rash, and flake, when it has never reacted like that before.

Part of the irritation lies in the fact that I wear a dental mask every day, and the itchiness is localized around where my mask touches my skin. A visit to a dermatologist told me that it’s nothing that a good skin care routine couldn’t fix. She prescribed me a routine that required buying moisturizers, facial cleansers, sunscreens and ointments in plastic bottles, and at first I resisted. The resistance only lasted so long until my body signaled with fervor that it’s in need of some attention. Eventually, I did get her prescribed regimen, and I saw some improvement right away. My skin seemed satisfied, but I was not. I could not, in good conscience, bear to buy another round of plastic bottles filled with chemicals.

Then I remembered that when we went to Melbourne in January, we stayed at an apartment that was furnished with only amber glass bottles. I quickly started researching Aesop and was quite pleased with what I found. Packaged in those amber bottles were little doses of formulations created with meticulous attention to detail for one’s body needs. Their focus was to source plant-based ingredients mixed with lab-made ingredients that have proven record of both safety and efficacy. Headquartered in Melbourne, I was glad to learn that they had a store here in Southern California.

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Searching for something to soothe sensitive, dry skin, the knowledgable staff at the store was able to guide me towards a selection of bottles lined up on their walls, but only after offering me tea and refreshments. They then helped me sample the products and the experience was akin to being at a spa and being waited on hand and foot. They massage the oils into your hands while talking you through the best treatment methods and tips. They detail the differences in ingredients and explain why each one has a purpose. Every item smelled heavenly, and best of all, they were packaged in glass! The only plastic to be seen are the caps and lids, which is much better than the alternative options. Plus, when you take them home, they are sent home in beautiful linen bags that can be re-purposed for such things as jewelry bags and stationary tool kits.

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Off course, the price point is a little bit higher, but to be honest, not much different from the prescribed routine by my dermatologist. And you may call it a misperception due to my obvious affinity towards the brand, but I do believe it worked wonders much better then the Western medicine that was prescribed. Either way, I received these as gifts and took them home with care. Using them in my own bathroom elicited the same type of spa-quality that I experienced in store due to the fresh aroma and high tactile quality of the products. Lighted candle use, optional.

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So here’s to new facial skin care routines. Mine specifically:

This Gentle Facial Cleansing Milk  – panthenol, grape seed, sandalwood. $35 for 3.5 fl. oz.

This Parsley Seed Toner – parsley seed, lavender stem, blue chamomile. $43 for 3.4 fl. oz.

This Primrose Moisturizer – sage leaf, rosemary leaf, lavender stem. $49 for 2.1 fl. oz.

Mr. Debtist also walked away with this hand balm, for hard-working hands.

 

Less Waste: Compost Bins

It’s been a while since I’ve touched on the topic of less waste, but there’s nary a day when I don’t think about our environmental impact nor is there a day that I haven’t spent every fiber of my being to reduce my own carbon footprint. We’ve cut our plastic purchases drastically since starting this intentional life, refusing to buy groceries in plastic packaging, avoiding takeout, and carrying our own reusable cups, utensils, and to-go containers. But still, I wanted something next level. What many people view as waste is actually a source of nutrients. The only real waste is the by-product of non-organic and non-biodegradable stuff, which we’ve tried to cut out of our life. Now that we’ve limited non-organic materials in our household, it’s time I turned my eyes, and this blog’s attention, towards composting.

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It isn’t something recent. I have been in search of composting options in Orange County for almost a year. Tales of composting services in grander metropolitan cities had me enamored. I was imagining a life of compost bins in freezers with weekly (or monthly, I’m not picky) pick-up services. I was drooling over the idea of a local drop-off site that I could walk to. Alternatively, dreams of connecting with local farmers as I help create fertilizer for their fields materialized.

Unfortunately, those thoughts were immediately dashed upon the realization that there are no public composting options in Orange County, AT ALL. I had called the Department of Waste Management, admittedly on multiple occasions, only to be told that there is no current existing composting service and neither will there be one in the near future. I asked the HOA if we could create a composting program in our community. I reached out to local farms, and despite having their own composting activity at their site, they could not welcome more composting from the public due to limited facilities. I read, called, spoke, to no avail. It was time to take matters into my own hands.

We currently live in a two-story loft with no land of our own. Research regarding composting generally led to the reminder that we are lacking garden space (see also: fruit and vegetable garden patch dreams). And while I’ve come across posts on how to compost in a plastic bin numerous times, I had my doubts. Yet, here I am. Desperate times, I suppose. Or rather, it’s about time I stopped wallowing and started doing.

As with any first-time experimental venture, I did “extensive research”, which really only entailed googling the words “at-home-compost” (or something to that effect) and reading the first few websites. Thankfully, a sweet girl that I had met at a local farm tour dedicated some time to walk me through the entire process and patiently answer my questions. She began the conversation with, “For many people, it is very difficult to get composting to work in an apartment space.” Challenge accepted.

I purchased a lidded plastic bin (the irony doesn’t escape me), with drill holes in the bottom of it that remains open to another tub that catches, who knows what. Dirt perhaps? Runaway worms?

Oh yeah. That’s the part I forgot avoided to mention. It’s a worm bin. I took some dirt from the aforesaid farm’s existing composting site at the lovely girl’s suggestion, in the hopes that I’d also gather some hidden worms in the process. To my dismay, they weren’t so hidden. To my other dismay, they also weren’t quite enough, which then required me to purchase worms from a farm supply store in Orange County. I picked up 300 Red Wiggler Worms, and the name itself gives me the goosebumps. I’m not the girliest of girls, but snakes and eels are my biggest fears, and worms and other legless things are close contenders. But they are enthusiastic eaters, eating their weight in waste per day, so I knew they had to be the ones. I walked away from the farm supply store holding a bucket of worms at arm’s length. That’s how determined I was, yet not so determined that I didn’t wait for my husband and roommate to get home before having THEM do the transferring of worms from one bucket to the other.


Before detailing how to fill the bin, may we dissociate from what can and cannot count as compostable materials? Two types of waste can enter the bin: green waste and brown waste. Green waste includes things like coffee grinds (aplenty at our residence), egg shells (a common by-product of a baker), and vegetable and fruit peels and scraps. It is imperative to point out that not all food waste can go into a composting bin. Meats, dairy products and oils are foods that one must avoid putting in the bin. Brown waste, on the other hand, involves things such as egg cartons, cardboard, paper, and dead leaves fallen from indoor and outdoor houseplants. It should go without saying that anything with a plastic film cannot be de-composted.

Setting up the bin is theroretically easy. It involves a layering process. The formula that I followed was a layer of brown waste at the bottom, followed by a layer of dirt from the farm. I then placed a layer of green waste, followed by Red Wiggler worms. After the worms, I added a layer of moist brown waste that covered the bin entirely and was at least 2-3 inches thick.

Subsequent additions to the compost bin require a layer of green waste, topped by 2-3 inches of brown waste. Since our bin has limited space for a household of three people, we maximize our layers by placing a bowl in the freezer to collect green waste over the course of a week. The freezer keeps the green waste from rotting until we add it to the bin. Junk mail and egg cartons as well as cardboard have been sufficient in providing the necessary brown waste, which we collect in an old shoe box in the garage.

Aforementioned research indicates that frequent turning of the soil will improve the de-composting process. We plan to turn the soil at least once a week, just before adding more green waste, using a trowel. For the brave, bare hands or a stick will do.

Airflow is equally important. By using brown waste that are a bit bulky (shredded newspapers and weirdly shaped egg cartons), we allow air flow to occur. We never mash down the brown waste when we add it. I have also read that too much of one thing will prevent a successful compost bin. You don’t want a bin dedicated entirely to coffee grinds. It’s helpful to add a variety of green waste, to provide a large array of nutrients to the soil.

So now the question to address is where to keep such a bin in a tiny home? Suggestions included underneath the sink, but the thought of flies and bugs and worms in the kitchen will prevent me from peaceful sleep. Another suggestion was outdoors, but since we only have a tiny balcony, we decided against it. Plus, I think outdoor bins may attract more bugs and flies than indoor bins. Eventually, we settled on the garage, in the hopes that people were honest in saying that composting does not result in flies or stray worms. Only time will tell.

Overall, the process to set up was easy. I think the hard part comes next. Just as learning to understand plant growth takes time and experience, so too will composting have a learning curve. Some cons include limited space in our bin, which may run out more quickly than in other households considering how we cook everything from scratch. Another downside is the need to spend money in order to get this set up. It isn’t expensive by any means, but it isn’t free either. Lastly, the need to purchase a bin of some sort irks me. Plastic seems to be the best material, but I haven’t calculated whether the composting process would offset this initial ‘investment’, if successful.

Updates coming your way soon.

For those in OC wondering where we got our bin, visit the ecology center in SJC.