Intentional Living: Night-time Skin Care Rituals with True Botanicals

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

There are routines, and then there are rituals. One is a basic repetition of activity, the other carries a more sacred underpinning. There IS a difference. That old adage of “It’s not so much what you do, but how” applies here. I believe that the former helps facilitate fast-living, whereas the latter defines slow. And while my planner is chock full of routines to get me by, my heart lives for the tiny rituals that ease me into and out of my most trying times. I have a list of morning rituals that prepare me for a brand new day, and a set of winding-down evening rituals that release the stresses I’ve managed to corral under my skin.

One of my nightly rituals is skincare, a relatively new focus of healthcare for me. I began 2020 on a journey to find out why a year-long battle with a skin rash has been untreatable by my dermatologist. Tired of getting nowhere and purchasing a million chemical formulae stuffed into plastic tubes, I reached out to a wellness coach instead. Turns out, the best solution I’ve found is reducing stress. Also avoiding chemicals and eating fruits and veggies. I ditched those plastic tubes and switched to amber glass bottles.

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I am a big lover of natural concoctions packaged in glass. I know that the appearance of a product might prove vain but that’s the thing with rituals. Beauty matters because it helps to pull at the heart strings. Rituals are one of those things that require sentiment. I also feel happier knowing that my products do not contribute to plastic oceans.

Glass bottles, however, are more than just beautiful. They promote purposeful movement. I am more careful with breakable containers. I take my time setting them down, never rushing through my skincare regimen. As for the “natural” part of the equation, I am more at peace knowing that what I am absorbing through my pores is nothing more than certified non-toxic ingredients.

Mind you, I am not talking about Aesop.

A previous Aesop devotee, I am here to announce that there is a new amber glass bottle in town.

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True Botanicals has swept me away with their collection of skin products. Carrying conscious ingredients of the natural and organic variety, they’ve got your well-being in mind. They are equally as focused on spreading their skin intel via their blog “Rituals“, providing know-how to their avid subscribers, as they are sharing their products. I think talking about skin is just as important as treating it.

I have switched my night-time ritual to be 100% True Botanicals-based. I start with the RENEW Nourishing Cleanser, which has very gentle and milky on my extremely dry skin. I only use this cleanser in the evening because I find that cleansing twice a day leads to even drier skin. In the mornings, I simply wash my face with water so that I can keep a little natural oil on me. Oh and this thing smells amazing! Scents of grapefruit, lavender, jasmine, and vetiver put me right into that relaxing evening mood.

I follow up the nourishing cleanser with a gentle pat-dry. I take the Nutrient Mist and spritz, patting around my face and waiting a few moments for it to absorb. This Nutrient Mist has been my best friend all summer. It is a must-have at the beach as well as on the plane. I carry it around with me whenever I leave the house. It’s small size is perfect to carry.

Lastly, I use the RENEW Repair Serum after moisturizing. With a dose of free-radical fighting ingredients fighting for me in my corner, I have nothing to fear. This serum has been said to equate if not beat La Mer. I can personally feel plumper, tighter skin. More importantly, it feels hydrate without feeling grease-stained. They’re calling it a miracle in a bottle. I can get on board with that.

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Other rituals reserved for the evening:

  • Drinking matcha tea for a little detox.
  • Limiting phone use after 9 pm to reduce blue screen exposure.
  • Unwinding with a book before bed.
  • Lighting candles, sometimes.
  • Turning on the Humidifier with Vitruvi’s Sleep Essential Oil Blend.

Less Waste: Period.

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

I’ve already dedicated an entire post on less waste and periods when I first spoke of how I managed my visits from Mother Nature using a single cup. But I feel as if this requires a revisit, for the glaringly obvious reason that there are a few scenarios wherein Lunette failed to prove itself a friend. While the cup has been mostly sufficient for all my feminine care needs, I have found that when it comes to travel, a more dependable plan B needs to be in place.

Walking down the streets of Mexico City does not seem like a problem, until you realize that their bathrooms generally don’t have private loos that contain sinks in the same stall. Where to empty a cup? Even if sinks were available, could one trust the running water? The last thing I want to do is explain myself in Spanish why I have a bacterial infection while wallowing in pain from the ever-so-common downfall of all menstruating persons.

Likewise, traveling on a 15-hour flight to New Zealand and Australia isn’t much fun with Lunette. While the airplane does have a private sink, the tight quarters make the entire process tedious and, once again, I worry about running water. Always the water.

Still determined to find a way of managing my monthly miseries that’s good for the planet as well as good for me, I decided I needed a plan B.

So I thought of Thinx. It’s a purchase-with-purpose underwear that has a mission to provide reliable access to safe menstrual hygiene products for those in need. With partners like Girls Inc., Safe Horizon, and the Alliance of Border Collaboratives, Thinx plans to expand access to basic hygiene products and community services like reproductive healthcare and mentoring.

On top of that, it is a REALLY good product. I am a minimalist by nature, who does not subscribe to single use items. This means I do not buy pads or tampons, at all.  Thinx checks those boxes for me. It is a re-usable panty that is reliable in what it claims to do which allows me to continue living life scotch free of worry or discomfort.

Thinx has versatility, with multiple styles to fit your personality and preference. I own the boyshort in black which I wear under my running shorts, the sport in dusk which I wear under my leggings, and the super hiphugger for my everyday needs. Each style has a different level of protection, so that heavy flow days could be as carefree as lighter days.

And the upkeep is simple too. Hand-wash in cold running water and hang to dry. I have only three pairs but by hand-washing right after use and cycling between them, I can survive an entire cycle without missing a beat.

Lastly, it saves people money. If I assume that a box of tampons is purchased every month, with each box costing $7 (to be on the more conservative side), then there is a  savings potential of $84 a year. The Lunette cup lasts you 3 years, so that adds up to $252 in savings. I would wager Thinx can last longer than that. It may seem like chump change but let’s assume all females adopted Thinx over the course of their entire life. And for each Thinx purchased, let’s say it saves another female in financial need from buying tampons and pads. You create a whole chain of events that end up saving the world a lot of money, and the oceans a lot of waste. Not to mention saving young girls in low-income communities from missing school and other opportunities.

Just think.

What a world that would be.

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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: 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.