May 1th 2018
I’m not a huge fan of new years resolutions, wrote a few words about it last January, then chose to re-start this tradition of resolutions anyways. My resolution for the year of 2018 was simple: waste less. This beautiful planet we get to call our home is already so full of stuff. Synthetic goods, man made, that harm the earth. Our waters, our grounds, our vapours, our skies, our fellow living creatures and our children. Partially shutting my eyes and ears to this, to protect me from the hurt of it all, was no longer working so I decided one drop will make the difference. All of the drops combined form a wave and waves form the ocean. We matter, our choices matter, our choices have impact. Ignorance is not bliss. Perhaps a phantom way to ensure, temporarily, our emotional survival. But a slow killer nonetheless.
So here I am, a little drop, making small changes, one step at a time. During the past few months I have investigated and started to change the way we -as a family- shop, use and waste. Over the next couple of months I will be sharing with you the things I have learned and will keep you posted about our life wasting less and, subsequently, allowing life to flourish more.
Because there’s so much to say about this subject I have chosen to bring you updates by theme. I will talk about how to waste less in 1.the bathroom, 2.the kitchen and 3.the home. I’ll start with the bathroom first and have penned down my (practical) insights below. Hope this will somehow make it easier for you to waste less, cherish more, and be that fellow drop so we may be waves together.
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NO WASTE, BATHROOM.
More than anything else these past months have been a habit shift. All of a sudden it wasn’t just about checking product labels for non-toxic, natural and organic ingredients. It was about investigating the whole development process and looking at the way the item was packaged and, yes, distributed. I was looking at my own shopping habits. All of the things I bought were indeed organic, hand-made and/or sustainable in essence but many of my buys were done online. I often received huge boxes filled to the brim with protective material made from plastic, even though the purchase itself was tiny. The habit shift towards more wastefree was taking me deeper than I’d gone before. I started thinking of ways to creatively surpass the packaging. Buying more local, picking up items instead of having them delivered, buying less and using more of the things I already had in the cupboard. For example when it came to DIY-ing natural products for personal care and hygiene. It is really easy to get a bit overly enthusiastic and buy every single one of the many specific ingredients mentioned in the recipe found online. If every item you make yourself (shampoo, lipbalm, diaper rash cream, belly oil, cleaning spray, etc etc) has at least 5-10 different kinds of ingredients you end up with a whole lot of stuff you actually don’t need. Going hardcore DIY becomes, at that point, a bit of a wasteful hobby. So I started to DIY only the things that actually became MORE wastefree by DIYing. My lipbalm has the exact same (wastefree!) ingredients as our babies diaper rash cream. All of the ingredients can be bought in my local organic grocery store. My personal face cleansing liquid has the exact same (wastefree!) ingredients as the spray we will use for our baby girls reusable bottom wipes. And yes, all of the ingredients can be bought in my local organic grocery store. I own a few ‘no fail’ high quality essential oils that I can use FOR EVERYTHING, both in the bathroom as well as in the kitchen, the home, when cleaning, as medicine and with the kids. They come ijn glass. Our coconut oil for cooking is the same coconut oil I put on my face as cream or on my belly as a (pregnancy) belly oil. Of course I have a different jar to store it in, but they are the exact same product nonetheless. The greatest thing about wastefree living is how it has the potential to simplify life. If it overcomplicates things, you’re basically missing the point. Below you’ll find the personal care and hygiene products I use in THE BATHROOM daily. I explain how I chose the most wastefree version and what to look for when choosing for yourself. There have been quite a few changes these past months. So here we go!
Reusable face wipes.
I cut up an old high quality organic sheet that we didn’t use any longer since it sported holes. The equal squares I cut are now stored in a glass jar and kept in the bathroom. In the evening I take one out, spray it with homemade face cleansing liquid, which I store in a reusable spray bottle. This I use to clean my face from make-up and the days grime. If you tend to use tissue paper, you may choose to create another jar of (larger) cloth squares and use them dry, as you would with tissues.
Recipe for face cleansing liquid:
1 tablespoon (almond) oil
1 tablespoon aloe vera gel * (optional)
8 drops rose (or calendula, or any other soothing choice) essential oil
1 cup boiled water, still lukewarm when combining
*Some organic stores sell unpackaged aloe vera leaves, straight from the plant! These are your best option as they do not come in plastic containers and are the purest and freshest form of Aloe around. You will be able to find plenty of youtube videos how to cut and ready the gel from the leaf for use. If you buy Aloe leafand don’t use all of it immediately, which is a good possibility, it can be easily frozen and used later.
To make: Place ingredients in a spray bottle. Leave a bit of room for shaking. Place lid on and shake well. To use: spray your cloth with ample amounts of cleansing liquid and use. Throw in laundry, wash and reuse cloth.
Over the past years I’ve tried out many (natural or non-toxin) deodorant options. Recently I switched from using a liquid mineral salt deodorant spray that comes in a throw-away bottle to a deodorant cream that comes in a reusable glass jar. This jar can be reused or recycled, as prefered. The deodorant I am talking about is made locally, by DIY SOAP. Yes, that’s the name of the brand ; ) I did not actually DIY it myself : ) It contains a mere 5 (edible!) ingredients, does its job and smells incredible.
I ditched the throw-away plastic razors that I’ve used forever and bought an ‘old fashioned’ reusable RVS razor. All that needs replacing now are the razorblades, which can be bought packaged in a carton box. By doing this I stop adding about 52 plastic razors to our landfills per year! If you choose to use shaving cream, this can be bought in the shape of a packagefree soap bar, for example this one by Naked!
Shampoo and soap.
Soap bars are fantastic, packagefree and thus no waste, alternatives to shampoo, shaving cream and hand wash. I still have my yearly bulk amount of shampoo by Dr. Bronners to finish but as soon as I do I will try out a shampoo soap bar, as I am using soap bars for the other purposes mentioned above already. I love organic soap bars by local maker Werfzeep, who have their atelier 5 minutes from our home, which makes it super easy to pick up a packagefree bar!
There’s only one type of cream I use for both my body as well as my face and that’s biodynamic virgin coconut oil. One simple ingredient, easily bought in our local organic grocerystore. It comes in glass and can be customized as prefered. If you like a little something extra, just add a few drops of calendula or rose essential oil to the warmed coconut, stir, let cool and use daily. If coconut oil doesn’t work for you, perhaps organic almond or argan oil will? There will be plenty of (edible) options, siting right next to the above mentioned coconut oil, at your local organic grocery store shelf.
We have been using these 100% biodegradable toothbrushes by Ecobamboo for years and they are my ab.so.lute. favourite. Some bamboo brushes loose their hairs after a week or a month, which is nothing less than frustrating. This is not the case with Ecobamboo. One single brush lasts me up to 3 months. They have kids sizes too, so little Lou has been brushing her teeth with these since she started teething!
I chose to switch from this natural organic toothpaste by Urtekram to a more waste-free version. These dental tablets come in brown paper bag, which can be recycled. This amount will last one person 5 months! The denttabs can be taken along in your handluggage, because… no liquids! They are made in Germany under naturkosmetik regulations, BDIH certified and contain a few simple edible non-toxic glutenfree ingredients. The denttabs are best stored in a dry place, a glass container being ideal.
If you are an avid dental floss user you know most floss comes in a plastic, single use, container. Luckily wasting less doesn’t mean you have to ditch your flossing ritual: there are wastefree options available! This floss is made from silk and beeswax (I know, not vegan, but all natural, biodegradable and cruelty-free) and comes in a glass container with a top cutter. Finished your first stack? Buy the package free refills and reuse the initial glass container until the end of days. Pretty waste-free if you ask me.
To comb my hair I have started using a wooden haircomb by Tek. There are many different fully biodegradable wood and natural haired combs and hairbrushes out there and it is safe to say they are a great wastefree and plasticfree choice!
Over a year ago I made the switch from using these non-toxic organic throw-away tampons and pads to a menstrual cup and washable cloth pads. You can read about my experience here. A woman uses, on average, 11.000 tampons in her lifetime. That’s about 20 billion disposable menstrual products PER YEAR ending up in North American landfills only. Most of them contain harmful, synthetic and toxic substances and thus burden our planet greatly. Using a mooncup will reduce your waste to only three mini silicon cups IN TOTAL since the lifespan of a mooncup is around 12 years. They are made from 100% medical grade silicon and contain no harmful substances. The tampons and pads I used to use are by Dutch brand Yoni. Their sanitary products are -by themselves- 100% biodegradable and can even be composted! The packaging is made from cardboard and can be recycled. The individual wrappers around the tampons, and the ‘paper’ you take off the sticky ‘wing’ of the sanitary pad, are made from a non-biodegradable plastic. Yoni is working on changing this and I am sure they will find a solution, soon. There’s a similar brand available in America, called Organyc.
I know to some q-tips are a big no no, because their initial purpose -cleaning the outer ear- should be avoided for all sorts of ear health reasons. That said I tend to use them here and there, for various different reasons. I use them to clean our daughters auricle, to clean between my laptop keys and to get rid of excess (natural and non-toxic) nailpolish when I accidentally ‘color outside the lines’ (which basically happens every single time ; ) although I rarely take the time to paint my nails : ) The q-tips I use are by Hydrophil, made from bamboo and cotton, 100% biodegradable and ready to be composted after use.
Another way to reduce your waste is to consider the toiletpaper used. We switched from using a brand of toiletpaper made from recycled unbleached paper mainly, packaged per 8 rolls in a plastic wrapper to ‘the worlds greenest toiletpaper’ by Cascades, made from and packaged in 100% recycled paper. It has the lowest environmental footprint of all toiletpaper sold out there. What this means? No trees were cut to make this paper. It has been made from 100% recovered material and a minimum of 60% post-consumer material. The water used in the process of turning this old paper into ‘new’ toiletpaper gets recycled and re-used as much as possible. At the end of the process there’s no water wastage what so ever. In fact, Cascades uses 85% less water in its processes than the average paper industry. The energy needed to turn this old (post-consumer) paper into toiletpaper comes from renewable sources, such as windenergy, only. The paper is 100% biodegradable and safe for septic tanks. The list goes on and on and on : ) We buy Cascades ‘Perform’ unbleached toiletpaper in bulk. The amount of 80 rolls arrives in one single cartboard box, each roll wrapped in a 100% recycled paper cover. There’s no plastic involved whatsoever. Each roll has 400 sheets of paper, which is about 150 sheets more than other (both eco-friendly and standard) toiletpapers. This means a Cascades roll lasts way longer than your average roll. We buy our bulk amount of toiletpaper, which should last us up to 6 months, online through 100%eco. As for consumer comfort: the paper is surprisingly soft, and sturdy at the same time.
When it comes to the sun, and exposure to its rays, I use common sense and my Caribbean roots to guide me. In summertime or hot places I stay in the shade at least from 11am until 3pm. That said, I make sure I expose my (unsunscreened!) skin to sun, everyday for 20-30 minutes or so. In the Northern winter that would be around midday, in the northern summer that would be midmorning or late afternoon. Vitamin D comes from sunlight people, and we need it, and preferably not from supplements. There are circumstances though when I know I will be exposed to the sun for longer or during the midst of a summers day. I then wear a hat, loose linen clothing and protect my body with the best sunscreen I know, RAW ELEMENTS, which comes in a reusable recyclable tin. No plastic involved! This sunscreen uses non nano zinc oxide to protect and a few other, totally edible, ingredients to accompany. We, as a family, have been using this sunscreen exclusively for a few years now and are big fans! Tip: to make sure the sunscreen spreads well and doesn’t make you look like a pale skinned geisha girl, apply a basic layer of coconut oil on your skin first.
-Buy as much as you can in a real store. Most webshops fill their boxes to the brim with protective material. That’s a lot of waste.
-If you do choose to buy something online, buy in bulk and ahead. A whole years supply of toothbrushes comes in the same size cartboard box as one toothbrush by itself. You will waste less by planning smart.
-DIY-ing everything doesn’t necessarily mean wasting less. A lot of the ingredients to make, let’s say a deodorant or soap, come in single use packagings. Buying deodorant ready-made in glass, or buying soap unpackaged, from a local maker conscious about waste and using bulk amounts to create their product and supply a whole lot of people, would than be the smartest, most waste-free, option.
-Use and reuse what you already have, and potentially want to throw out. Remember that bed sheet I talked about? Instead of buying brand new organic make-up removal pads I used the sheet I had, and wanted to throw out, to make them myself. Think of creative ways to transform a piece of ‘waste’ into something you actually need. This means there’s less to throw out and less to spend money on. Win-Win!
-When packaging really can’t be avoided choose products in (recycled) paper, cartboard box, cloth, glass and biodegradable and compostable foil.
None of the products in this post are sponsored. Opinions are, as always, 100% my own.
All images, except those featuring Kyra, by Kyra. at Kyra’s Kitchen. Copyright. Photos of Kyra by Eveline Vroonland at Stof en Ruis.