World Water Day with Pact

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

World Water Day is an annual day of observance by the UN which highlights the importance of fresh water. The lack of available fresh water has been apparent to me since birth, since I was born in a third world country that depends heavily on plastic bottled water as the main source of clean drinking water. Of course, not many people in the country had access to it at the time. This was in the late 1980’s, but even when I returned as a dental missionary in 2015, I found that the people still largely had limited access to clean water. In fact, soda and juice was cheaper to buy at restaurants and stores, which resulted in a high proportion of dental caries (cavities) in the anterior region (front teeth) -a location of tooth decay that is uncommon in other nations.

It might horrify you to learn that the cleanest water they hope to drink is fresh rainwater from the sky collected in buckets during rainy season. It might surprise you to hear that toilet paper is not used in public bathrooms, but rather, a murky tub of communal water is splashed onto dirty bottoms. Nearly 5 million people in my home country, The Philippines, rely on unsafe and un-sanitized water. Additionally, over 9 million people live in places of unimproved sanitation which increases the risk of water-borne illnesses and disease. The few that do have access to clean water are contributing to the massive pollution of the islands’ surrounding ocean with plastic bottles while also littering the land. So when Pact reached out to me to be an advocate for World Water Day, I decided to take on the challenge.

Pact produces clothing and home textiles using organic cotton. Organic cotton uses 91% less water than traditional cotton. Globally, only .93% of cotton grown is organic, and farms can save 58 billion liters of water in a single year from growing with these standards versus conventional cotton. Not only is water saved, but the water is then reusable and not polluted. Cotton farming consumes 16% of the world’s pesticides and only utilizes 2.5% of cultivated land. Lastly, the fashion industry currently uses 4% of all fresh water. Those are percentages that should make anyone stop in their tracts.

I have been an advocate for Pact for a long time and have talked about their undergarments as well as their towels on this blog and social media. My husband loves his Pact boxers and I absolutely love their sports bras. Additionally, Pact’s beautiful waffle towels are the only ones we use. I am excited to share that in 2020, Pact consumers saved 35+ million gallons of water by choosing to shop Pact over other companies that use traditional cotton. Pact believes whole-heartedly in water conservation. In fact, they share their company’s conservation efforts on product pages, at checkout, within brand content, and through emails. So next time you need to buy clothing, underwear, bedsheets, and towels, consider Pact.

In an effort to promote Pact, TheDebtist readers can use the following code at checkout to receive 25% OFF of any order from March 19 to 25: thedebtist20. Of course, the best solution and practice is to buy less and use more. But shall you choose to buy, choose wisely what companies you support. I am an advocate for mitigating environmental damage by creating the smallest carbon footprint in living a minimalist life.

In case you’d like to make a difference through action, here are a few easy ways to reduce water waste in general.

  1. Take shorter showers. When I was young, my mom grilled into our heads to take only five minute showers so as not to waste water and time. She also had us turn on the shower to get wet, then turn off the shower to shampoo our hair and soap our bodies. Then we turn on the water to rinse and that is it. Whenever we took too long in the shower, she would start timing it and come in to tell us when shower time was over.
  2. Turn off water whenever possible. My mom was also very adamant about turning off the water when we washed dishes. We would rinse dishes on one side of the sink, then turn off the water while we scrubbed and soaped the dishes in another part of the sink. Only after we’ve scrubbed and soaped ALL the dishes did we rinse them in one go. It was not only water efficient, it was efficient overall. This doesn’t only apply to washing dishes, however. We turned off water to brush our teeth as well. You can also do the same when washing your hands.
  3. Wear clothes more than once. My mom disliked it when we wore our clothes only once and then threw them in the hamper. She wanted us to wear shirts, pajamas, and pants multiple times. Of course, if we ever wore clothes to school or out, we would wash them. But clothes worn at home should be worn a full week. I know that seems dramatic, but she was obviously very water conscious.
  4. Use a dishwasher. Studies have shown that green dishwashers waste less water when they are filled with dirty dishes than handwashing does. I first learned this volunteering at a regenerative farm in South Orange County. Treehugger posted a very good post explaining what it would take to make hand-washing more efficient than dishwashing here. What you want to avoid is running a dishwasher that isn’t full of dirty dishes. In a two-three person household, this may mean not running the dishwasher every night. Of course, using less utensils overall will help as well.
  5. Consider xeriscaping. Xeriscaping is a way of landscaping your backyards and front yards with plants that require very little water. Green lawns are pretty to look at but they use a lot of water to maintain. Desert plants such as cacti are more water efficient and look good, too.

There you have it! Ways to celebrate World Water Day every day.

Photo by mrjn Photography on Unsplash

Tushy: The Cushy Way to Spray DooDoo Away

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

I am going off-grid from the PC charts here as I digress to talk about tushies and Tushys – as in human ones and bidets. I have been meaning to make the switch to bidets for a few years now. One of our closest friends has been raving about its usefulness and environmental friendliness at every opportune moment, but I never did like that big clonker that was sitting atop his toilet. So I have been putting it off for the sake of aesthetics, which we all know is an important part of my intentional life. However, as more and more of our friends made the switch, the urge to get one increased, and finally, my less-waste self came across the most minimalist, affordable, pretty bidet I could find: Tushy!

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Where It All Began

Tushy was founded by Miki Agrawal in 2015, the same co-founder of Thinx. It has since then revolutionized the way young people doo their business. Bidets have become a sort of fad, but it is nothing new. Many countries around the world use bidets, and my friend who I mentioned earlier got his after visiting Japan and using bidets in the public and personal restrooms. In a more primitive sense, I, myself, experienced butt-washing in my youth, having never used toilet paper until I was thirteen years old. In my country, we use buckets of water to rinse our bums or simply hop in the shower. In fact, I remember first immigrating to the United States and being told by my mom that “toilet paper does not do the job.” To her, a bum’s not clean until it has been washed with water. This, of course, wasn’t the reason I got on my hands and knees to add a bidet to my toilet. The motivation came from the environmental effects of making the switch. Below are a few statistics.

How Much Are You Saving with Tushy?

The average non-bidet user uses 57 sheets of toilet paper a day. This adds up to about $10 worth of toilet paper a month, or $120 of toilet paper a year. A tree produces about 100 pounds of toilet paper, and one person uses up about 50 pounds of toilet paper a year. For a family of four, this adds up to two trees per year. Because it takes 37 gallons of water to create one roll of toilet paper, 4884 gallons of water is wasted per person per year.

It takes no statistician to confirm that switching to a bidet results in saved money, trees and water. However you also save yourself time from having to buy toilet paper. You save yourself stress during no-TP emergencies. You save your bum from chafing and your significant other from skidmarks. You save yourself the embarrassment.

Tushy is juuuuuust right

Is this all feeling a bit too much? Well your wallet won’t think so since Tushy is quite the affordable bidet, costing only $109 (although my readers can receive 10% off of their Tushy purchase using any of my affiliate links within this post as long as they enter the code: THEDEBTIST at checkout).

Does that sound too little? Tushy is the perfect minimalist bidet, with a sleek white frame and simple adjustable knobs in neutral colors (ours is Bamboo!). We own the Tushy Classic and as baby bear says, it is juuuuuust right! For those who want a little more, the Tushy Spa has a water temperature control making those cold mornings more comfortable.

The Dirty Details

So I know some of you are hoping I spill a few dirty details. However, the only thing dirty might be your toilet seat cover when you remove it to place a Tushy underneath. No worries though! Seeing all that gunk is the most difficult part of this set up. And hey! What a great time to clean up!

Breezy Installation

Here are, however, a few things we came across during installation that you may appreciate. The manual says to turn off the water using the water shut-off valve behind the toilet. Some knobs, however, no longer function due to disuse. In which case, one would need to turn off the water to the entire house. Which is what we had to do.

Secondly, have plenty of towels around. You want to catch any water that comes out of the toilet, in case the shut-off valve doesn’t work. Also, wear gloves. When you get to the part that requires toilet seat removal, you want to make sure you won’t feel any surprises. Hopefully you clean your toilet regularly, but we won’t judge!

Lastly, adding the bidet underneath the toilet seat cover may make the screws that once clamped the toilet seat down too short. The added height of the bidet will require longer screws. No worries, I simply trekked to Home Depot and went down the bathroom and toilet aisle. There’s a section for toilet repair and you’ll need to buy two very long screws, which costs about $3.

Overall, I think the installation is super simple. I was able to do it by myself. If I didn’t have to run to Home Depot to get more screws and if my toilet’s water valve actually shut off, it would have probably taken me 15 to 20 minutes. Which means I would have been using Tushy within the hour. But instead, it took me a good hour due to the “complications” I came across. It’s taken me longer to build Ikea cabinets.

The Reviews

It has only been less than 24 hours but I absolutely love Tushy! I feel suuuper fresh and squeaky clean. Mike gave me a thumbs up as he exited the bathroom this morning. That’s a HUGE sign. In addition, I have had a lot of positive feedback from people in this space. I’ve had people reach out to me to tell me they received this for Christmas. I’ve heard stories about moms installing this in every bathroom in the house (including the trailer!). I have friends who just moved in together literally this weekend saying they are getting one for their new space. And that one friend that has been raving about bidets for ages? He said, “Welcome to the first day of your new life.”

I feel it.

This post was in partnership with Tushy. They gifted me the Tushy Classic with a bamboo knob and I am straight-up IN LOVE. It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for your bum. To get 10% off your new Tushy bidet now, use this affiliate link made especially for TheDebtist readers, or enter THEDEBTIST at checkout! All thoughts, opinions, and content are my own.

Reducing Waste One Lunette Cup At a Time

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

I suppose it’s safe to say that this is a space wherein I talk about the topics people normally never talk about – like money, social status and the American nightmare. It’s no surprise, then, that I will talk about how menstruating persons can reduce waste, one Lunette cup at a time. So as not to disclude half of the population, I would like to open this topic up by saying that we all know someone who menstruates. So whether or not that’s you, I hope you still read on to see how we can work as a society to reduce waste in this absolutely common and normal thing.

It is now 2021 and the availability of menstrual products on the market are vast compared to what it was a decade ago. It can be difficult to choose the best solution and it depends on many factors, including cost, lifestyle, level of physical activity, fit, comfort, and consumption preferences. But before we go into why Lunette satisfies all of these factors for me, let’s first discuss what you need to know about menstrual cups in general.

What You Need to Know About Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are sustainable alternatives to disposable tampons and pads. There are many positive characteristics around menstrual cups, such as:

  • They are environmentally friendlier than disposable products.
  • They teach us a lot about our individual anatomies.
  • They are comfortable to use.
  • They are efficient at leak control, even during physical activity such as running or yoga classes.
  • They open our minds to normalizing menstruation cycles and open our hearts to sharing with other people the way sin which we mange them.

However, it isn’t all unicorns and rainbows right away. Some difficulties when transitioning to them include:

  • Like everything else, they require a bit of practice in terms of placement and removal, but once mastered, it’s as easy as using tampons.
  • It takes a while to learn what your body needs and to understand your flow schedule. No one else can teach that except you.
  • They are a bit more inconvenient for traveling in places where clean water is inaccessible or for emptying in public restrooms.

When I ask others whether they would be willing to transition, most of them naturally have fear around switching over. I will say, however, that it is no different from learning how to first deal with the monthly Mother Nature visits back in our wee teenage years. Remember how awkward that was? We survived once, we can survive again.

I try to put it this way. Think about how much money you spend a year buying disposable tampons and pads. Count how many products you send to the landfill each month. Research what exactly it is you are putting in your body. Recall the number of inconvenient times you’ve had to run to a pharmacy. For me, plenty.

Focus on your health, your lifestyle, and your impact, and use that to overcome anxiety and uncertainty. I find that when we fear something, it is usually because it is something we don’t understand. But it is important we try to elevate ourselves past that point, and if at the end of the day it still isn’t your thing, then at least you know WHY.

Why I Love Lunette Cup

So why Lunette, specifically? If I am being honest, Lunette was the first one I happened to try. Promoting Lunette isn’t discounting the other available menstrual cups on the market, but when I find something I like, I stick with it to avoid decision fatigue and overwhelm. Lunette, to me, was not only good enough at first go, it was bloody awesome on all counts. Both the company and the product are doing fabulous things, which I briefly outline below.

Environmental Impact

The vegan masterpiece from Scandinavia is a reusable and recyclable product. The company’s efforts to be as sustainable as possible is apparent in their zero-waste packaging and renewable energy. This is also one of the few companies that encourage remote work from their employees, a transition that I really wish to see in the near future.

Social Impact

Lunette understands that education is the key to empower menstruating persons. Destigmatizing periods is a form of activism that we all need to take a part in. They have printed and distributed over 150,000 education booklets around the world. Over 30,000 Lunette cups have been donated through various organizations, while over 500 education packs are delivered to health professionals every year. So far, their product has prevented over a billion period products from reaching the landfills and our ocean. On top of all this, they have increased awareness via their fun, informative, and beautiful blog.

A Frugal Choice

At $32 a cup, this and other menstrual cups, are a frugalist’s best friend. A small box of tampons that last me about one cycle costs $5-7. Multiplied by twelve cycles a year, that comes out to $60-84 per year. A Lunette cup lasted me three years, which would have been about $180-252 in tampons. Assuming the lower end range, buying a Lunette cup saved me $150 over the course of three years. It also kept away at least 432 tampons from the landfill and oceans.

A Minimalist’s Best Friend

I am weird about storing multiple things for future use. In short, I hate doing it. We only have 1-2 toilet paper rolls available at a time. I only buy toothpaste or soap when it runs out. I don’t keep things for the “just because”. It’s the organized, controlling, clutter-free minimalist in me. So when it comes to period products, I don’t like keeping a box under the sink for just-in-case. I also dislike carrying four tampons or two pads in my purse wherever I go. No sirree, not for me. I keep a Lunette cup satchel in a tiny clutch, along with my wallet, cell phone and lip balm. That’s it. For the minimalist, they have this cute clear cup that I absolutely adore.

A Safe Product

The Lunette cup is made with medical silicone that is BPA free and chemical free. It is FDA approved and verified as vegan friendly. It also contains no latex for those who are allergic. Be aware of cheaper menstrual cups that are made with low quality materials that could include BPA, phthalates, latex and heavy metals. Also, look at where it is being made. Be cautious if they are coming from China. Learn what to avoid when buying a menstrual cup for the first time here.

Lifestyle First

What I chase is not money or accolades, but a lifestyle – and an atypical one at that. Lunette, however, fits that lifestyle. I like to purchase environmentally friendly products that make good social impact, which Lunette does. I like as few things as possible and as inexpensive as possible, without sacrificing quality. I like zero-fuss when it comes to my day-to-day. I like comfort, versatility, and ease of use. Simplicity is key. Lunette satisfies all of those requirements, too. I can depend on it during periods of physical activity such as running and yoga. I can depend on it at work, at home, and during sleep. It is easy to maintain and clean, especially with Lunette’s vegan cleanser solution – it only takes a drop. And it can hold twice as much as a tampon plus, so it reduces the amount of times I have to stop during my day to empty them. My period weeks are without a hitch! The only time Lunette has been a challenge for me was when I travelled to countries wherein I could not depend on the cleanliness of their tap water. In which case, I do switch my menstrual management over to Thinx, which I wrote about here! However, Lunette has stood by me for everything else. And with their release of 100% biodegradable cleansing wipes, it is possible that travelling post-COVID wouldn’t be so much of a challenge anymore. It’s a game changer for those who like to camp, road trip, or simply walk 20 hours around a new city.

If you wish to live a more sustainable lifestyle, a healthier one, a more frugal one, or even a simpler one, I would highly recommend making the switch and trying Lunette Cup. Perhaps 2021 is the year to make a commitment to the planet and yourself. If so, make use of their offer this month and purchase an animal-friendly Lunette. All Lunette Menstrual Cups are 20% OFF with the code veganuary at checkout, an ode to their public registration with the Vegan Society. You can use this or any of my affiliate links within this blog.

For those who are just starting on their menstrual cup journey, I highly recommend the Lunette Starter Kit. It comes with one cup, the cleanser, and cupwipes. I was gifted the two cup version, which allows flexibility depending on the flow. The size guide can help you decide which to buy if this is your first time. Or you can always get the starter kit with two cups to learn more about yourself. Both happen to be on sale.

Once again, I thank you for your open mind, your willingness to listen, your intention to understand, and your support of this blog space, including the companies that support me. This post was sponsored by Lunette, but all thoughts, opinions, and content are originally mine.

Body Love with Sugar Scrubs

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

In my home, I try to surround myself with objects that act as reminders of care. A candle sitting on the kitchen shelf, a blanket strewn on the couch, hand lotion in my clutch … all of these things add value to my day to day and are strategically placed so that I have a visual aide reminding me to slow down from my over-zealous lifestyle. I am innately bad at making time for myself, which is probably why I spend so much time talking about its importance. But I have found that the system that works for me requires adding small doses of magic in forgotten corners so that I come upon them in my living and am prompted to make use of said magic.

One of the tiny overindulgences that I’ve been obsessed about this holiday season is a jar of bathroom goodness – a new exfoliating sugar body scrub made by True Botanicals. They have outdone themselves with this one! It delivers all the necessary ingredients for everything nice. A blend of natural, nourishing elements – organic sugar, sandalwood, rich camellia, jojoba oils, and kaolin clay – come together in this masque for the limbs. I absolutely relish the stuff, especially after an especially trying yoga workout, or a long day at the bakery or dental office. It provides just the right amount of body love.

The sugar’s roughness sloughs away all that dry, winter skin cells, leaving behind a velvety smooth complexion. I take a handful of the stuff and massage it straight onto the skin in slow circles. The scrub is enriched with emollient essential fatty acids, which nourishes and supports the skin barrier function. Plus, my skin never feels stripped after a shower. When I rinse off with warm water, the scrub simply melts away as a warm and woodsy scent wafts upwards.

Using True Botanical’s sugar scrub is like having a spa day, in the comforts of my own home. I keep the glass jar on the tub sill of my bathroom. I’m not one to have many products in the shower, typically keeping only a bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap. However, the addition of this small simple amber reminder has made all the difference to the quality of my baths. I had originally meant to keep it there for special occasions but have found myself reaching for it daily. Honestly, prior this, my showers were quite rushed, just another task that I needed to check off on my to-do list. However, since placing the scrub in the tub, I have been taking longer baths, slower, and with more intention.

True Botanical’s Exfoliating Sugar Scrub sells for only $38, and it has been three weeks and I am about halfway done with the jar. It is vegan, cruelty free, certified non-toxic and sustainably made. It is packaged in a beautiful amber glass jar which can be reused as a container for cotton balls and the like once the scrub runs out, which I’ll pretend to be never.

This post was sponsored by True Botanicals, and any purchase you make using my links above could result in a commission for TheDebtist. Rest assured that all thoughts and opinions are my own. And once again, I thank you for supporting the companies that support this space.

How Californians Can Make Money Saving Electricity with OhmConnect

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

What if I told you that Californians can get paid to save electricity? I mean, we should all already be working hard to reduce our energy bills, but sometimes, during mid-summer night’s heat wave for example, the last thing you want to do is turn off the electricity. I get it.

Not to fret. This is not the blog of deprivation. This is the blog of wealth, in all aspects of the word. In order to get paid, all you have to do is participate in saving electricity one hour at a time during designated “OhmEvents” with OhmConnect. OhmEvents pre-determined time periods when energy usage is typically the highest.

How to participate? Easy. OhmConnect will send you a text (usually a day before) about an upcoming hour-long OhmEvent which you can choose to participate in. You can power down as many electrical appliances as you want, unplug your chargers, turn off your A/C, procrastinate a little longer on the laundry and the dishwasher (be real, you were already doing it), and take the kids or roomies out to the park to expel energy into the ecosystem in a completely different way. If you have a SmartPlug, you can turn off your electronics via an app even when you are away from home. You can also hook up your Nest or smart thermometer to Ohm and it can turn off your device during the hour, to help you save further. Depending on how much kWh you decrease your usage by, you will be awarded points which translates to cash.

How does OhmConnect have the ability to pay people money?

The government pays a stipend or perk to not have carbon-intensive power plants turned on. The way in which this is prevented is by not reaching a certain energy usage threshhold. Meaning, the more people participating in OhmEvents, the less energy is used, and the more likely that the government will pay the stipend, which then partially gets divvied up and dispersed to Ohm participants.

OhmConnect Promotes Slow Living

Aside from the benefit of having a positive environmental and financial impact, there is also the incentive to practice slow living. Participating in an OhmEvent means turning off the TV for an hour and perhaps picking up a book. If it’s hot indoors, it may mean taking the kids to the park or beach outdoors where you longingly feel for an oceanic  breeze. Maybe it’s your cue to commit to that weekly run you wrote in your list of resolutions months ago. Does the Ohm hour land in the evening time? Plan a candle-lit dinner to rekindle your relationship with a loved one. Or teach the kids how to make forts using blankets and read using flashlights.

The best thing about OhmConnect is that it improves your life three-fold – you are leveling up your bank account, your environmental impact, but also (most importantly), your relationships.

How to Earn Even More Money

Spread the word.

When you sign up using my referral link, you will automatically get $10 added to your account for your good intentions. Furthermore, you can help make a bigger difference by getting your friends and family to sign up using your own referral link. For the month of Plastic Free July, all referred friends that sign up for Ohm will result in $40 cash for you, $10 cash for them. They will not receive the $10 if they did not sign up using a referral link, which is why I provide mine here.

We have only been doing this one week, but to be honest with you, it’s very fun. I sent my referral link to my dad who already procrastinates dishes and laundry until after 9 p.m. in order to reduce the electricity bill, and he was stoked to save money and get paid doing it, too!

I think it’s kind of fun finding activities that revolve around zero-electricity usage. But hey, if you really want to, you can still use your laptop or iPhone unplugged.

After one week, I have earned $81 using OhmConnect! I love it, and I think many people would too.

Let me know how it goes 🙂

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.

Image result for wood wedges dentistry versus plastic VS Image result for wood wedges dentistry versus plastic

  • 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.

Image result for paper dri angles versus plastic VS Image result for plastic dry angles

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

Image result for dental polishing cup reusable prophyVS Image result for prophy cup

  • 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.

Image result for prophy paste bulk VS Image result for prophy paste bulk

  • 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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Image result for reusable dental eye protectors VS Image result for reusable dental eye protectors

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!