Things to do on Earth Day

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

For those looking to celebrate Earth Day, here are some fun, and simple suggestions.

  • Join a group for a beach clean up.

Or gather a group of friends and family and do it on your own. Also applicable to nearby parks, lakes, neighborhoods, and more. Make it a fun event so that more people will want to go. Here’s a local option in Orange County, if you are around.

  • Make a habit shift.

For example, when you do groceries this Sunday, try our No Plastic Challenge. We make an effort to never leave a grocery store with single-use plastic containers, even if they ARE recyclable. There are many habits worth shifting. If this challenge is too difficult, then start with something small, such as carrying a reusable water bottle.

  • Ride bikes everywhere you go.

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Every weekend, Mike and I make an effort to bike and walk everywhere. Last week, we biked to our coffee shop to refill our re-usable Cold Brew Howler. We walked to a restaurant when we wanted to dine out, and we bike to the library when we have to drop off books. Anything to try to limit car usage. In Mexico, I was very impressed to see that every Sunday, they close down the roads from 8 am to 4 pm so that people can bike and roller blade all day. It not only promotes physical activity and community, but also eco-friendly habits. Once we realized how close and accessible everything was on a bike, we started to use it more and more. Try it out for yourself!

  • Plant an herb garden.

While planting trees would be ideal, some such as ourselves do not have a backyard (or front yard for that matter). But I DO dream of planting an herb garden on our balcony one day. Why not start on Earth Day?

  • Simply get outside.

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Notice the sun warming your face, the sound of trees moving in the wind, the smell of an ocean breeze. We can’t learn to appreciate the Earth if we don’t take the time to acknowledge it’s worth.

How about you guys? Doing anything fun this Earth Day? Leave comments and suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Less Waste: Nix Paper Towels All Together

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

I have not bought paper towels in over a year. Mostly as a direct result of my steely drive to avoid all things disposable, as best I could. Partly, to save the planet, partly to save money. Which is all fine and good, since I’ve spent countless years throwing these sheets of paper like confetti on a new year’s eve, celebrating what, exactly, I’m not sure. Convenience?

I find paper towels to be extremely unnecessary. I tried to make a list of all the things I used paper towels for in the past, and I have found that I could always substitute a re-usable, washable, sturdier piece of cloth. For example, for wiping messy mouths and hands at the dinner table, substitute linen napkins. For wiping down newly washed dinnerware, substitute kitchen towel. For wiping down surfaces sprayed with chemically-laden cleaning supplies, substitute rags. For straining oil from deeply fried foods, leave it to a strainer. Or may I suggest, eliminate deeply fried foods? Except maybe for extremely moody days, when nothing will comfort you except freshly pipetted churros. Then, strainers it is.

Despite my history with paper towel use, I think there was always a part of me that was inclined against its extravagant use. I could thank my mother for this, as images of her tearing off corners of paper towel sheets, rather than the perforated lines that were meant to dictate how much could be used at a time, surface to my mind. As is the usual case, we turn into our parents whether we mean to or not. I remember when Mike and I started living together, and he noticed my funny paper towel use, something I was oblivious to. He asked one day, with a little exasperation in his voice, “Why do you tear them like that?” I look up, surprised at the jagged edges at the end of a paper towel roll hanging limply in the kitchen heat, not realizing what I had done. Reflexively, I answered, “So as not to waste it.”

When I decided to reduce waste, paper towels were one of the first things I let go. Nevermind that they were paper, which is a biodegradable material. They were unnecessary. That, and they seem to only come sold in plastic packaging. It seems that reducing waste and simplifying life came hand in hand in my story, so it was fairly easy to justify nixing the habit. What do we use instead?

Linen napkins, for every day dining.

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We got these for a wedding gift, and we use them all the time! Whether we are hosting for a party of twelve, or eating burgers by our lonesome selves, these are always at hand, you know, to stay proper and all. I love linen, mostly for the way it looks and feels. It softens up over time, and the grey color allows me to dig into barbeque sauces and dribble mustard without worrying about staining (as if I can help the dribbling!). Like all cloth alternatives, I simply toss these in the wash along with other towels and rags and call it a day.

Kitchen towels, from drying hands to drying dishes.

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These are always hanging from the cabinets, and each one has a designated role. The one under the sink is for wet hands, the one underneath the stove is for dry hands. There is one for drying dishes, and one for wiping down the coffee machines. Sometimes, they are used to cover resting dough, to keep the draft away. Sometimes they are used to top bowls of fruit left on the counter. Their uses are never-ending, and they are as reliable as an old friend.

Old tees, turned into rags.

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Last week, we were hosting our usual boardgame night at our loft, when as chance would have it, a friend knocks over a glass of beer amidst a dramatic hand-gesture, and then catches it mid-air, but alas, with beer sloshing all over the floor. As laughter fills the room and apologies are brushed to the side, Mike gets up from the table and grabs a kitchen rag. Or, in our case, an old tee. My friend immediately picked up on the cloth, and credulously inquired, “Did you just grab a T Shirt?!” To which we had to explain that, in order to reduce waste, we had re-purposed T shirts into useful cleaning supplies. The roommate herself even pitched in on the “up-cycling” and donated her own used tees to our communal rag pile sitting underneath the sink. “I guess…”, the guest says dubiously. But when the beer spills for the second time that day, up the guest gets and grabs the tee and wipes down the mess. Which goes to show that habits can easily be shifted, perceptions easily changed, differences easily made. So what if it’s not glamorous, or matching, or new. It’s functional, and practical, and kind to the environment.

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An old tee, catching the drips from a bamboo drying rack.

How about you guys? Ways to rid of paper towel use? How many years abstinence have you got? Words of wisdom welcomed.

For the curious, we absolutely love our collapsible bamboo dish rack, easily stored when guests are over and brought out on a busy weeknight. We got ours from Mother’s Market, but a similar one can be found here. The grey linens are a wedding gift from Restoration Hardware, although similar and more ethically made ones can be found here.

Less Waste: For All Menstruating Persons, with Lunette

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

It undertook a lot of internal debating (a few months worth, actually!) before I had enough guts (read as wits?) to start writing this review about my beloved Lunette cup. The hesitation, off course, came from a silly, socially-instilled instinct to be wary of ever saying the word period outside the context of grammar class, literary works, and historical recitations. We’ve been taught that periods are something to be ashamed of, and not talked about. (Also taboo, sharing personal stories about monthly cycles, esp. for the entire world to read.) But while the topic of Mother Nature remains uninvited to dinner parties with the in-laws, I figure that my blog already teeters between the norm and the unspoken, so I might as well bridge that gap here and feel all the more relieved about it. In fact, I would consider it a social responsibility to alert all menstruating persons of the existence of Lunette period cups (ah, that felt much better, writing it aloud), and to speak about Mother Nature openly for the sake of Mother Earth. Why keep the silence when half of the population consists of menstruating persons?

Before Lunette cups….

I struggled about the monthly wasteful habits I was engaging in. Specifically, single-use tampons in plastic capsules and the occasional single-use pads.  TMI? Read on anyways. If you think about it, assuming each menstruating person uses an average of 4 tampons a day for seven days a week, twelve times out of a year, for thirty seven years, basic math tells me that each menstruating human uses 12,432 tampons over the course of time that Mother Nature chooses to visit. Multiply that number by all humans favoring tampons, and you’ve got a whole lot of tampon plastic applicators covering up that landfill. Now, not everyone prefers this method, so say they use pads instead. The math comes to something similar, and the visual of a piece of land covered with a mountain of pads is just as stark. So when I started to consider the planet’s needs and wants, I started to fret about my monthly decisions.

I considered many different alternatives.

First, I switched to recycled pads and tampons without plastic applicators. But still, knowing that I threw these away at the end of the day really bothered me. Then, I thought of the reusable rags that remind me of medieval times. A doable deed, but then I didn’t love the idea of walking around in soaked rags all day, and what of swimming? So then I looked into underwear that is made from materials that soak up the leaks. A fan of the new wave engineering, but then what of the smell? This post just gets worse and worse doesn’t it? And still, it didn’t solve my problem with the swimming. (Why the obsession with swimming you may ask. In high school, I was part of a swim class that required me to be in a pool every day, at a time when I was just starting recurring menstrual cycles. So yeah, the problem of periods and swimming still go hand in hand, and always will.) But as with everything that seems like it can’t get any worse, eventually, it gets better.

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I found Lunette cup…

…right when I was about to give up. If I am being completely honest, what caught my attention at first was the fact that I could choose whatever color I wanted. This post is becoming all around shameless. For new users, what is a menstrual cup you may ask. For lack of a better image, think of a literal cup used to catch your flow. It’s reusable, safe, odorless, eco-friendly, and most importantly, comfortable. So comfortable I forget about Mother Nature all together, for up to twelve hours at a time! Which is such an upgrade from the typical 4-6 hours with other single-use tampons and pads.

The first question that I asked was, “How safe?” We’ve all been taught to care about the food that goes into our bodies, so why not the other things too? Lunette cups are made from medical-grade silicone that is FDA approved, hypoallergenic, toxin-free, durable, and isn’t harmful to human tissue. This Finnish company has thought of it all!

The next question obviously is how to use. The packaging comes with a very simple diagram with light verbage to walk every first user through the steps. After washing your hands (duh!), you simply fold the silicone cup and insert, allowing you to go about your day for up to twelve hours, worry free! Depending on one’s flow rate, you may have to remove and empty the cup more often than twelve hours. For convenience, there are two cup sizes, one larger than the other to accommodate heavier flows so that days are not bogged down with emptying cups. Once emptied, rinse, and repeat. The rinsing simply involves using cold water and then hot water. If you are concerned about needing to do this at a public restroom with only one common sink area, Lunette has got you covered with their Lunette CupWipes! But honestly, 12 hours is a long time, so as long as you remember to empty right before you leave the house and right after you get home, then there really is no need for the CupWipes. Then again, not everybody is a homebody. At the end of the cycle, I always boil my menstrual cup in a pot of water for 20 minutes. Lunette sends a small pouch with every purchase to store your cup in during non-menstruating days, which allows me to carry it around at all times, in case of surprise visits.

So now, the specifics…

…to the Lunette cup for me personally. TMI continues. And yes, I created questions for myself, then answered them. This is such a peculiar post…

  • Color: Pink! Erm, well, violet, technically.
  • Size: Lunette Size 1. This is the smaller size. I am 5’1″ and am barely over 100 pounds. I chose this one because to me, it seems it would be more comfortable for my petite frame.
  • How many times do you empty the cup? 4 times a day for the first few days, 2-3 times for the later days. I could probably empty it less frequently if I get the larger size.
  • How long have you been using the Lunette Cup? I have been using Lunette cup for the past four months. I can’t believe I have lived so many years without one!
  • Have you ever used their cleaning products? No, not yet. I find that boiling the cup upon first receiving it and after every cycle is sufficient.
  • Is there a time where you’ve found it inconvenient? Yes. Only once. When we traveled to Mexico City and I was not confident that faucet water was as bacteria free as I would like. I had to keep waiting for a time and place where I was able to take a bottled water into a private bathroom with me and use that to rinse the cup. This may have been the only time I would have bought the cleaning products, if I thought of it ahead of time.
  • Is it difficult to use? No! The learning curve is flat as a valley, it’s so easy! And it teaches you so much about your anatomy. I think we all need to start learning more about our bodies, in general, instead of always trying to hide away from it. I think everyone should give this a try.

For those interested in trying Lunette for the first time, use the code EarthDay18 to get 20% off of all Single Lunette Cups! Feeling charitable? Try the Charitable Buy One, Give One Menstrual Cup, benefitting girls and women in need around the world. 

Getting to Know: Lindsey McCoy and Alison Webster of Plaine Products

 

Refill, Reuse, Rejoice with Plaine Products

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

I’ve already said my piece here regarding reducing plastic waste in my daily hygiene routine, by switching to bars of shampoo and conditioner and soap. But what of lotion? What of wintry dry skin, flaking away at the shudder of a cold, harsh winter wind? We live in sunny Southern California, but nonetheless, sensitive, scaly skin prevails in this dry desertland. Surely, there is no lotion bar? At the very least, I have yet to discover it.

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There is, however, the introduction of a new company called Plaine Products. Focused on the idea of reusable containers, sisters Lindsey and Alison Delaplaine created a way to offer shampoo, conditioner, body wash, AND lotion in aluminum reusable bottles. The stuff itself is quite lovely and aromatic, with two scent options. A rosemary, mint, and vanilla combination for the fall and winter, and a citrus lavender for the spring and summer, or so I like to think. Associate with the scents whatever seasons tickle your fancy. I must admit that I was ready for an alternative that would allow me to switch back to liquid conditioners. Bar soap shampoos are fine in my book, but my hair was starting to hang a bit too heavy, giving it a sadder appearance than my cheery personality would like. Nothing Plaine Products couldn’t save. After one day of switching to liquid shampoo and conditioner, the flounce of the hair has been returned. And the lotion has got my skin feeling silky, without my conscience feeling plastic-guilt. It’s a thing, I swear!

The concept behind the refillability (not a word?) of the bottles is simple. It’s a wonder why it is not more widely implemented. A subscription can be shipped to your door in a box (made of 95% post-consumer waste and 5% post-industrial waste), which can act as the same vessel to return your already used and empty bottles back to the company. The bottles are then refilled, thus giving them a new life. You can opt to order the new bottle without the pump, if you already own a pump that’s easily reusable. The box is reused, the bottle is reused, and the plastic pump is reused. Multiply that to account for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion, and we’ve got ourselves quite an impact. Currently, face wash, hand wash, and face moisturizer products are in the works.

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In an effort to be all around environmentally friendly, the contents are well considered. The products avoid animal testing of any kind, is devoid of sulfates, parabens, and pthalates, and is designed to biodegrade more easily than typical, chemical products. The specifics of the contents can be found here, if microanalysis of such details are your thing, just as they are mine. Proudly vegan, the main component of their products are none other than Aloe Vera. The same extract that my mom would scrape from the plant leaves and weave into our hairs before a night’s rest. Less sticky, less messy, less fuss and crying and wails of discontent (sorry mom!).

I must admit, I do still have to deal with the internal struggle of whether the back-and-forth shipping of subscriptions really outweighs the long-term consequences of the plastic that never degrades. The elusiveness of the topic at large feeds the frustration I feel when well-intentioned actions are unclear in their effects. It’s as if a cloud is purposefully shifted above the whole matter, making it difficult to really measure the impact of hauling our goods versus increasing plastic waste, which alternatively blankets our ability to measure the opposite as well. While we could discuss this topic for a long time and perhaps stay stagnant in our search for an answer, I would like to say that for now, Plaine Products gives us plastic-avoiders a welcome alternative. As does nixing shampoo all-together, a step I admittedly am not ready to make.

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Care to give them a try? Order your first Plaine Products today! TheDebtist readers will receive 10% off of their purchase when the code thedebtist10 is entered at checkout. The shipping was quick, and hassle-free, with an option to subscribe to their products for regularly spaced deliveries, if simplicity is kind of your thing.

This post was sponsored by Plaine Products. All opinions are my own.

Less Waste: When Dining Out

Dining out is sparingly done in our household, for multiple reasons, but even more so, is thoroughly enjoyed. We treat dining out as a privilege, and not a day-to-day occurrence. This awareness makes us more appreciative whenever we step out to eat, not just of the service and of the food itself, but also of our lifestyle and our current situation. We do not want this privilege to be the source of something that dumps on the life that we love, which includes the planet that we live on. Because of this, we have adopted some habits and policies that we try to follow during our experiences.

First and foremost, we avoid take-out and fast food restaurants as much as we can. The benefits of this is multi-fold, with regards to the environment as well as to our health. The initial reasoning behind it, though, was entirely environmental. I try to hide a reflexive cringe whenever food is served to me in a single-use container, which most times occur due to a lack of foresight, on my part. As punishment: my loss of appetite and a barrage of internal reprimands. To avoid, the avoidance of any form of single use containers. Even if a slice of pizza was handed to me in a recyclable or compostable cardboard box, I still can’t help but think to myself, “I could do better”. Consequently, we find ourselves dining out in sit-down restaurants more frequently.

Sometimes, we will go to a sit-down place that serves the food in a re-usable dish, but the utensils are for single time use. Case in point, our beloved ramen or sushi. In such instances, I whip out my Ambatalia utensil holder from inside my Sseko bag, and pull out a pair of chopsticks. It also holds a spoon, fork, and a metal straw– for those situations when a straw facilitates the drinking process – aka malts and shakes at Ruby’s. However, most of the time, we let the waiter know that we are a no-straw table, and thank them when they bring our cups out sans straw. If you’d prefer a reusable bamboo set rather than carrying your own beloved silverware around town, I am a fan of this one, which is held stock at our local farmers market.

Wherever we go, I do carry around a reusable water bottle as well, in case I get thirsty and don’t have a nearby non-plastic alternative to replenishing parched lips. Without any boundaries, I have also been seen whipping out my own Tupperware which I bring from home and carry in my purse when I remember that we are going out to eat. Any leftovers that I have are stored safely in that instead of asking for a to-go box. Embarrassing for the faint of heart, but not so for those with a steely drive to make a difference for the sake of Mother Earth.

The two exceptions we have to sit-down restaurants are our coffee runs and ice cream dates. Coffee is easily purchased on the go with our KeepCup , which we always have on hand in our car. The ice cream dates were initially made easier with ordering a cone to hold our ice cream in. Alas, not all ice cream places have cones. So we do also have this pint-size insulated Miir canister that keeps a pint of ice cream cold for multiple hours. We bring it to our local ice cream shop, which we can bike to in order to further reduce car emissions, re-fill the pint with the most delicious ice cream, and store in the fridge for a couple days indulgence.

How do you implement less waste when dining out?

Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Before we get the nay-sayers out there screaming that this is a fake holiday, let me just say that yes, maybe it is.  It doesn’t mean I like celebrating it any less, all the same. Despite the commercialization of this (and every other) holiday, I believe there are ways for us to celebrate, mindfully. And while this may seem like my excuse to be a romantic, if only for a day, I’d like to plead my case and convince you otherwise, that this is in the interest of getting away from the commercialization and coming a step closer to the actual deal, which is to celebrate love. In other words, hopeless romantic on the loose.

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While the advertising companies are spending billions of dollars trying to convince the world of the different ways one needs to show love, I’m over here singing a song of a different tune. I view Valentine’s Day as another opportunity to celebrate without getting carried away with the spending and the accumulating. And while some may bitterly feel a bit left out this holiday, why don’t we just gravitate a little further away from the traditional Couple’s-Only Club, since we’re already uprooting conventional observances of Cupid’s holiday anyway? Here are my ways to spend Valentine’s Day, frugally, and with less waste.

Frugally  – To Do List for the 5 Love Languages

Quality Time – Avoid the crowds and stay in. We all know the cliche of spending “quality time” with your loved ones by going out for a lovely candlelit dinner at a fancy restaurant, or getting some concert tickets to your favorite band, or watching a movie at the theatres, thanks to movies toting these very things. But might I say that all of these require spending? It may be the inner introvert in me, finding every excuse to avoid large congregations of people, but it’s also the super frugal Fran inside of me, dreading dropping hard-earned pay for something so trivial. So instead of dashing out the front door to spending time driving and waiting in long lines, why not just spend real quality time with each other, by substituting with a home-made dinner for two (left-overs abound!), the playing of your favorite records, or Netflix and chill. Likewise, if you must go out, get outdoors and play.

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Acts of Service – Skip the buying of gifts, substitute acts of service. So I know this isn’t for everyone. There are five love languages, gifting being one of them. Some people just really appreciate gifts. This one just happens to be easy for Mike and I, because we both fall under acts of service. Because of that, we have an easier time letting go of the gifts. Last Christmas, in an effort to disconnect from gifting and everything it brings, I substituted some the present of actions rather than things. I went to the local library and borrowed books on coffee so we may learn about it together. I YouTubed a way to pickle red onions, Mike’s favorite condiment for tacos. I stitched new Velcro onto Mike’s 3 years old motorcycle gloves, so that the latches stick again. A $5 cost instead of a $200 cost. My hands were sore from sewing through stiff leather with an easily bendable needle, but he was pretty stoked. For this Valentine’s Day, I asked for a particular gift from Mike. That is, to remove the rust from the bottom of our cast iron pans, simply because I’ve been too lazy to do it myself. If this style of loving just isn’t for you, then read on ahead for the gift list, below.

Words of Affirmation – Memorize a poem, nix the card. I like words, there’s no doubt about that. My clinical notes in the office are jokingly referred to as essays, and birthday cards just never have enough space. But I have a confliction with buying cards in general. It is undoubtedly much more aesthetic to add a store-bought card to any occasion, and I do have an achilles heel for all things presentable. However, the cost of the fancier stuff run north of $5, sometimes even going so far as to cost more than $10! Additionally, layers of paper that pop up from these gorgeous cards are drool-worthy, but also a bit gut wrenching. Drama aside, I’ve tried to avoid buying cards lately, and have substituted either a small handwritten note, or just a verbal  expression of emotions. For the Whitmans out there, why not memorize a poem? For those who just can’t do without a card, try the card alternative below.

Physical touch – Let your imagination run wild. Not much needs to be said with this one. Probably the most frugal of the five, good old fashioned loving is all it takes. Skip the expensive spa dates and learn massage techniques together. Find ways to get in touch throughout the day, by phone, via text, in a game of tag. Its quite obvious which love language I speak the least. Ending all awkwardness here and now. You just be creative.

Receiving Gifts – Welp! This one can’t be helped. If acts of service did not make the cut, then may I suggest a few thoughtful gift ideas, that won’t break the proverbial piggy bank, and would be loving to the planet at the same time?

Less Waste – The Gift List

This is what my Valentine’s Day wishlist would look like if ever I had one. Unfortunately, I used my wish on the de-rusting of an aforementioned Lodge pan. That was enough for me, but if you are in need of other gift ideas, have at it.

A haircut. I actually asked for this for Christmas last year. I hardly get haircuts. As in, once every 2 years, or once every year and a half. I would love to get them more frequently, but honestly, it gets to be too much for me. Hair is one of those things I used to obsess about as a tween, but it’s all been-there, done-that. I chop it off shoulder length, then just let it grow to the small of my back. On repeat, since college. I also attend one of those generic Fantastic Sam’s places where I pay $20 to chop off most of my hair. Although I did find a location in San Diego once that had happy hour, where the haircut only cost $8 between 5 and 6pm. Score!

A tree instead of flowers. In the U.S.A., about $2 billion worth of cut flowers are bought each Valentine’s Day. While flowers are a compostable gift, and not entirely bad for the environment, what if we try gifting plants itself. A plant can stay alive for a really long time, care-taker depending. These can range drastically, from a $5 succulent from Home Depot, to a $200 tree. Pick what works for your price range. For me, I’ve got my beautiful fiddle leaf, pretty as can be.

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A plantable cardSooooo, after my long spiel about my issue with cards, I did come across these plantable versions. You read right. These cards are made from seed paper, which is 100% compostable. Alternatively, when planted in the ground, these cards claim to grow wildflowers (!!). Which conveniently goes in line with my thinking above.

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Self-Care Products. As I grow older, I embrace this concept of self-care a lot more. There are plenty of self-care products out there that are paving the way by being environmentally friendly, cruelty free, and all natural. Ranging from luscious bars of soap, to shampoo, to beard balm, you name it. These are products that we would use on the daily anyway, so why not gift them something they need?

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A collection of Recipes. Better yet, your recipe collection, attached to a tin can of home-made cookies (or bread, what have you).

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Valentine Celebrations with Everyone

Galentines Day –  popularized by single ladies all over the world, this is now being celebrated by besties everywhere, regardless of the relationship status. Ways to celebrate? Do activities together, such as a yoga class in someone’s living room, or a cooking session in one’s kitchen. Just make sure not to fight over who gets clean up duties.

Dudes’ Hangout – pretty standard kick back, commonplace among Mike and his friends. Pizza and video games? Or have everyone bring a six pack of different brews, and do a beer tasting at home. Coffee cupping sesh also an alternative.

Hosting for Friends and Family – I love to host. Gathering twelve people around our table just makes my heart sing. Why not invite the entire family or crew over and use this holiday as an excuse to eat, drink. and be merry? Cheers!

A Little Bit of Self Love

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  • Early morning meditation.
  • A cup of coffee, made the slow way.
  • Find the time to relax in the middle of the work day.
  • Skip work all together, and spend time at home with family.
  • A decluttering session, mid-February.
  • A candle lit bubble bath for one, music optional.
  • Cuddling up with a book and a blanket.
  • Go to bed at an early hour.

Honestly, the self-love category is my favorite list.

Happy heart week!

 

Minimalism: In the shower

Before you even begin to think that this post is going to be a bit too TMI for your taste, it’s not, I promise. Just hear me out.

I had a house guest once who stayed a few days at our place, and obviously, at some point, she did have to shower. I walked her upstairs to our bathroom and gave her a tour, to show her where everything is. The first thing she said was, “You have absolutely nothing here!” She was literally quite astounded. At first, I did not understand. I had everything anyone would ever need in a shower. Confused, I asked her what she meant. She said that in her own shower, and in other people’s showers where she’s visited, there would be a whole collection of products strewn across the sills and the floor. In my head, I thought to myself, what products? I guess there is more to showering than just soap, shampoo, and conditioner. When I asked her how many, she said ten to twenty! And here I was thinking I was going overboard by having conditioner around. No joke, I thought about nixing it. So the next time I went to my parent’s house, I looked in their shower, and sure enough, there were about ten items there. A bar of soap, but also, a bottle of Bath and Body Works Body wash. There was a second bottle of body wash for men, likely my dad’s effort to not smell like Cinnamon Apples. A plastic loofah. There were separate shampoo and conditioner bottles, one of each specifically catering to men and to women. There was a facial scrub, as well as an exfoliating scrub, which I’m assuming is for the rest of the limbs. Thus, my count added up to a total of ten products, just as she said! So I guess her shock was accounted for.

I wonder what happens if she ever stays over again, for our bathroom has gotten a tiny bit sparser than before. She may be even more baffled that all three of our products (soap, shampoo, and conditioner) now come in bar form at our house, and stay in one tidy little corner of the bathing area, tucked neatly away in a row. This is a pretty recent development in the household, but one that I won’t turn away from any time soon. In an effort to seriously reduce my plastic waste moving forward, I reconsidered many household items that came in plastic but had alternatives, shampoo and conditioner being two of those. Mike and I were already using soap bars, and have been for years, but bars for the hair was a revelation to us. There are people who say they can never get used to the feeling of using a bar for their hair. Fair enough. For me, it reminds me of younger years in the Philippines where we would just use the same bar for our bodies and for our hair. It wasn’t a big deal then, so to me, it’s not a big deal now. The shampoo bars create really great suds actually, and my hair feels much cleaner, and less oily, than when I use the liquid alternatives. Then again, a different (likely drier) hair type may consider it too dry. To each their own. Lucky for me, these work.

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To further reduce plastic waste, our bars are purchased without packaging. Now, these bars could get a bit pricey, I must admit. We have found some go-to brands at places like Whole Foods, Mother’s Market, as well as other local stores for around $2/bar. It’s still more than your Dove bars of soap (unfortunately packaged in either a box, or a set of boxes, wrapped in plastic), but the extra cost is worth it to me. The shampoo bars can be even pricier, with Lush Cosmetics selling them at about $12/bar. However, they do last 80 washes, which is about a month and a half for us two. And the conditioner bars at Lush are equally as expensive, but since I consider hair conditioner as a luxury, I don’t use it on the daily, and if we run out, I just go without for a while.

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So frugal me, how do I cope? We make do by asking for them as Christmas and birthday presents. We specifically ask for no plastic packaging of any kind. Most give us our gifts without packaging at all, which is perfect! Sometimes, soaps wrapped in paper get thrown in, but we recycle that right away, so I can still sleep soundly at night. It’s a consumable gift that brings me a lot of joy (knowing that it came package free) and that brings me a very pleasant experience (if you’ve ever used a Lush shampoo bar, you would understand). This past Christmas, we asked for bars of soap, shampoo and conditioner from a lot of our loved ones, and I think we received enough to get us through March or April. Which is convenient because our birthdays come around in June and July. So we can replenish our stocks once again, in due time.

I’m not saying every one needs to switch to bar form, right this moment. I’m just saying, if our house guest was correct in saying that everyone does have ten to twenty products in the shower, then as long as every household cuts that number in half, what a difference that would make in plastic waste! You don’t even have to get rid of the bottles if you really don’t want to. If men and women could share the same product and not buy into the advertising, then they can purchase in bulk, larger bottles, and produce less waste overall. Perhaps Mike is lucky in the sense that I have absolutely no interest in smelling like a walking flower. Good scents to me include cotton, charcoal, sage, and lemon verbena. Maybe I’m the lucky one, since Mike actually likes scents of Lavender and Vanilla, too. Whatever the case may be, there must be a mutual ground somewhere. Why not choose a scent or product that can work for both? Or why not just forget all the hype about scents and go with a good ole bar of non-smelling soap. Gasp!

Either way, I am pretty happy about my minimalist shower. I don’t even consider it minimalist at all, really. Sure, I may get push back after posting this post. Maybe some people will tell me I just don’t understand their skin type or their hair type. How they have needs to prevent flaky skin or flat hair. How they easily get split ends, or oily foreheads. I almost didn’t want to post this after writing it. But then I think back to when I used to join kids and shower in the middle of the street when it rained. Where a bath meant taking a bucket from a pot of hot water and carefully making sure to rinse as much of myself off as I could, so as not to waste it. I think of families who don’t even have a means to heat up their water, of kids who have to walk to a river. I think of people swimming in plastic waste in small islands such as the Philippines and Tuvalu, because of the prevalence of single use containers. How This Documentary Shows Us What Our Plastic Trash is Doing to Animals and the Environment

And I thought to myself, yeah, I’ll post it. These bars of soap are indulgences. They don’t come cheaply, and their value (and ethics) is worth way more to me than choosing a brand name, or smelling a particular way. All I ask is for you to consider it. Please.

Other things I consider when purchasing GOOD soap: 

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Palm oil free: I first learned about palm oil when we went to New Zealand, last year. We were at the zoo, listening to the talk about orangutans when the topic came up. At the time, both New Zealand and Australia’s governments were trying to pass a law requiring the labeling of all products with palm oil, so that Kiwis could decide which products not to buy. A country very invested in issues surrounding sustainability and conservation of species and habitat, they were very aware of the illegal deforestation resulting from the growth of palm oil for product use. The deforestation is affecting many species, orangutans included, by depleting them of their habitats. I try to look for soaps that are palm oil free, but unfortunately, most aren’t labeled appropriately, so you just never know. I am particularly fond of GOOD soap, which can be found at Whole Foods, and which uses only Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.

Ethically made and sustainability: A majority of the soaps I purchase advocate Fair Trade principles in order to get the ingredients for the soap. Additionally, I tend to prefer brands with sustainability in mind. All of this takes extra work and care to produce. This is part of the reason why the prices of these products are higher. Since we always revert back to buying GOOD soap when we run out of holiday gifted soaps, here is a list of ingredients used to make their soap.

Primary, Active Ingredients:
Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter (Certified Fair Trade)
Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil (Certified Fair Trade)
Sodium Palmate (Certified Sustainable Palm Oil)
Sodium Palm Kernelate (Certified Sustainable Palm
Kernel Oil)
Water (Aqua)
Glycerin (Vegetable Source)
Goat Milk Powder
Minor Ingredients (less than 0.5% by weight)
Lavandula Hybrida Grosso (Lavender) Oil (Lavender Only)
Sodium Citrate (helps with lather in hard water)
Titanium Dioxide (natural color)
Chlorophyllin-Copper Complex (Fresh Mint only, natural color)
Iron Oxides (natural color)
Natural Fragrance (non-synthetic scent from plant oils and extracts, added in Sunshine, Prairie
Rose, Fresh Mint and Coconut bars)

– Societal Impact: There are an increasing number of products being released that have efforts to give back to less privileged communities. Good Soap sales fund Alaffia community empowerment projects in West Africa. Alaffia aims to empower individuals and their communities through long-term, effective projects with the end goal of
poverty alleviation, gender equality and human rights for all. Alaffia’s community projects include:

  • Alaffia Bicycles for Education: Since 2006, Alaffia has distributed over 6,300 bicycles to rural, poor students in Togo. With emphasis on girls, the goal is to reduce the high dropout rate (91%) by providing a means of transportation to and from school.
  • Alaffia Maternal Health: In sub-Saharan Africa, 400 women die each day due to pregnancy or childbirth related causes. Alaffia provides pre-natal and delivery care to 1,000 disadvantaged women each year in rural Togo, saving mothers and babies for strong families and sustainable futures for our communities.
  • Alaffia Reforestation: Alaffia has planted over 42,600 trees in an effort to help our Togolese communities better withstand effects of climate change, to slow  desertification and to increase food security for families.