I've got all of my daily products in this photo. I feel like it's a lot to use everyday, but I bet if you collected all of the things you use on your skin everyday, it would be as much or even more.
You'll notice a theme: Beautycounter! 😻 More on that in a bit.
I'll start with the deodorant I've been using for the last 1 1/2 years or so, Mystic Water Soap. I have tried MANY deodorants in my quest to find something "natural". I gave up on antiperspirant many years ago (I didn't like the idea of suppressing sweating, plus the ingredients, like aluminum, who's job it is to do that are questionable). I tend to sweat a lot, so I developed all sorts of strategies to minimize body odor (since my deodorant du jour didn't really work), like showering BEFORE going to the gym, loading up on extra deodorant, and resigning myself to a not-so-fresh feeling by the end of the day. None of that is happening anymore. Once I got past the concept of having to apply the paste with my fingers (actually, before that), I realized this is the deodorant for me, and I'm not going back.👍🏼
I recently discovered Beautycounter, and I'm so glad I did. Check out my post "Introducing Beautycounter" for more on this. This company stands by their products in terms of performance, so no issues there. I have been really happy with each of the items I have chosen. Beautycounter also bans 1500 ingredients and will even commission research on ingredients that haven't been studied yet. Do you know how many ingredients are banned in cosmetics in the US? 30! The last major legislation regulating the beauty industry was in 1938!😵🤬
Many of the ingredients that our government allows companies to put into the products we use everyday are endocrine disruptors. That means they can mess with our hormones! Ugh!
I want to mention, as I have in several other posts, the Environmental Working Group's database, Skin Deep (https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/), where you can check the rating of your favorite products. I love Beautycounter because they've done all the work for you - you know you are getting safer, high-performing products. But, many other products pass muster, if you want to do the research.🤞🏼
If you are at the beginning of the process of decreasing your exposure to environmental toxins, it can feel overwhelming. I would encourage you to go slowly - replace an item as you use it up.
Here we are in the shower! I'm clearly a minimalist. I only know this because I've used other people's showers and there's all sorts of stuff in there! I've mentioned before I'm a big fan of bars. In this picture, I've got my Beautycounter Charcoal Bar on the left, which I use for face and body (extra points because it's dual purpose!), and shave soap on the right, which my husband and I both use. The bar on the bottom is Castile soap, which I was using until I recently discovered the Charcoal bar.
Now shampoo and conditioner are another matter. I'm not all that worried about conditioner since my husband and I both stopped using it a while ago. How did I go 4 decades using something I really don't need?! In the past, I have used Free & Clear Shampoo (and conditioner), but I got lazy about ordering it online. I really prefer to buy things in actual stores (old school, right? 😱), but store choices in my current locale are limited, so I'm letting go of that dream. But, I also got lazy thinking Pantene was decently rated on EWG's Skin Deep database - wrong!
As I said, I love a bar, so I've tried a few shampoo bars. Now, I am really not particular with my personal care products, like AT ALL, but these shampoo bars did not work for me. It's disappointing. But, I've got a plan! I'll explain more about Beautycounter in a later post, but this company uses safer ingredients in all their products and does not compromise on performance. So, I'll be upgrading to Beautycounter Shampoo, and the kids will be getting an upgrade to their shower products as well.
Today we're talking about cleaning the bathroom. I've already mentioned Castile soap - I use it in the bathroom, too. One squirt in a spray bottle filled with water will clean and disinfect any surface (including the toilet). I've got my microfiber cloth in the picture as a reminder that paper towels are not needed here either!
Now, I took a shortcut, which I know isn't 100% correct - I've reused a spray bottle to make a homemade window cleaner. Ideally, you buy a whole bunch of spray bottles to put your homemade cleaners in and keep them in your bathrooms and kitchen. Whether you take the shortcut or not - make sure you label the bottles with what's in them!
So, using my handy Clean House Clean Planet book, I made a window cleaner recipe with just a few ingredients. The book also claims you can use club soda in a spray bottle for this purpose.
Moving on to the inside of the toilet, I have gotten lazy and started buying Method toilet bowl cleaner, and once again, the score on EWG's guide is not great. (check out your own bathroom cleaners here: https://www.ewg.org/guides/categories/3-Bathroom)
So, back to the drawing board, or book, and I found a simple recipe that calls for Castile soap, vinegar, baking soda, tea tree oil and water. Just mix in the proper proportions into a squirt bottle.
What to do about about the tub and shower? The book has a recipe similar to the toilet cleaner that will work most of the time. Your best approach with soap scum and mildew is prevention - make sure there is plenty of ventilation, and squeegee the shower walls after showering. A few times a week, spray a vinegar solution on the walls (no rinsing needed).
Ok, so back to reality. I have fabric shower curtain liners, rather than those disposable, toxic-fume-emitting, vinyl ones. I struggle to keep them from getting mildew. I need help here, because the only effective way I've found to remove it is soaking/washing with bleach. That stuff really stinks up the house, and I'd love an alternative.
I'm so glad I'm doing this post series, because it has caused me to take a look at my laundry habits. I'll admit I've gotten kind of lax (read: exhausted) with trying to make sure all the products I use are safe. I thought I was doing it right!
Years back, I started cutting my laundry detergent with Borax. I thought it was a win/win: use less detergent, replace with something more "natural" and save money. Turns out Borax gets a grade of F on EWG's Guide for Healthier Cleaning (link in the comments). More recently I've been using Oxiclean, which is more of a mixed bag when it comes to the rating by EWG - depends on the specific type. Look for the Baby Stain Soaker or the regular kind: Versatile Stain Remover.
My choice of laundry soap is in question, as well. I often choose TIDE Free & Clear, which has no perfumes or dyes (have I mentioned I hate smells?!). Their score? F!
Seriously, take a look at the guide in the comments to see where your detergent falls and to find a new one (I'll be doing the same). Another option is to make your own soap, which people do - and good for them! I'll be buying something at the store. 🤷🏻♀️
Lately I've been debating whether the pods are better than the liquid. I do think the pods are a better choice for the environment because they come in less packaging. More research is needed, though.
Let's talk fabric softener. This was an easy one for me due to my aversion to smells - I use dryer balls and have no problems. Is static cling a problem for you? There are two brands of fabric softeners, Attitude and Green Shield, that have an A rating with EWG.
On the left is my spray bottle with a squirt of Castile soap (just to the right of the bottle) and water. I use this everywhere for dusting, but in the kitchen I use it on the countertops. I've been known to wash my kids' hands with it in a pinch - it's soap! It disinfects and is nontoxic. Castile soap is often used when camping out, as it does not hurt the ecosystem.
Under my spray bottle is my microfiber cloth. I know these can be used with just water, but I like my soap! These cloths have saved rolls and rolls of paper towels. Think of it! Anyone who tries to use a paper towel for something other than cat puke gets a dirty look in my house.
Next up is baking soda, vinegar and the books. When I first started the process of getting toxic chemicals out of my cleaning regimen, the book Clean House Clean Planet was my bible. I used the baking soda and vinegar recipe books as a place to compare notes. The CHCP book has a ton of homemade cleaner recipes for all around the house. I have no idea if it's still in print, but I highly recommend it!
To the right I have my Method dishwasher pods and dish soap. Method is a certified B Corporation (check it out if you're not familiar https://bcorporation.net/).
Front right are my cleaning utensils. Nothing magical about the dark gray scrubber, but this is safe on non-stick (if you still have those in your house). Do not scrub your nonstick pans with the back of the sponge or steel wool! The scraper is pretty simple, but a great tool to have. And my "sponge" is this white net you see. It's a sustainable alternative to disposable sponges. Cleans up great in the dishwasher and lasts a really long time.
I forgot to include my essential oil in the pic, so here it is. I'm sure there are better brands, like Young Living. This is what I could find in my old neighborhood.
I'm probably not the best person to talk about essential oils because I really don't enjoy the smell of almost anything. I can deal peppermint though, so that's what I have. I put a few drops in a 1/2 and 1/2 mix of water and vinegar into a spritzer bottle as an air freshener. Or, as I mentioned, a few drops in some baking soda - sprinkle on the carpet and vacuum.
People who know me know how excited I get when Environmental Working Group comes out with their guide to safer sunscreen every year. I also rely on them for their dirty dozen/clean 15 lists of produce, and I use their cosmetics database to check the safety of personal care and cleaning products.
I’m so excited that they’ve got this list of endocrine disrupting chemicals and how to avoid them. And how appropriate that they’ve partnered with Keep-A-Breast Foundation for this.
There's a lot going on in this pic, but I think it all fits under the same umbrella. ⛱️
Starting from the bottom and foreground, we have the sandwich wrappers and snack bags. The sandwich wraps are so great because, as you can can see, they open up and make a placemat. They wipe clean pretty easily. Yes, they do have some plastic on them, but use the rule of cool and you're good. I have several different kinds of snack bags - no strong preference - they all get thrown in the washing machine. Some people are big fans of bento boxes, and I'm all for that, but sometimes you just need a bag. The main benefit of these guys is obviously avoiding the use of ziplock bags, which are designed to be used once and discarded (though, I have been known to wash, dry, remove ziplock and recycle with other plastic bags at the grocery store).🙋♀️
In the middle of the picture is a green triangle and a blue-green ball. These are quesadillas and a 1/2 eaten apple wrapped in my new Etee wraps. These guys replace plastic wrap or foil and work great! They wash up easily and are compostable when they are no longer useful. I definitely need more of them!
Speaking of plastic wrap, the round guy in the back right of the picture is what we use in the microwave instead of wrapping stuff with plastic wrap. It is made of plastic, so you need to be careful that your food is not touching it. It's main benefit is keeping your microwave clean without producing more single-use plastic garbage. 👏
Lastly, I've got a bag of lentils and a bag of shredded cheese. It's true, they are in ziplock bags, which is not ideal. I'm open to hearing about alternatives here! We shred blocks of cheddar and mozzarella because it's cheaper and also because they put additives in the pre-shredded stuff to keep it from going bad to quickly. Who needs that?! We buy dried beans and batch-soak them. After rinsing and draining them, we put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, we put them in freezer bags. The benefits here are avoiding BPA-lined cans, saving money, and making it easy to use what we want and store the rest.
Water bottles and travel mugs.
Ok, this one is mostly for out of the kitchen, but then again, many people use bottled water in their homes. Bottled water does serve a purpose and plays an important role in specific situations - after a natural disaster such as a hurricane or when water supplies are not safe for consumption (looking at you, Flint, Michigan). But outside of those situations, tap water is best. It's got the fluoride your teeth need, and the price is right. Tap water must meet many requirements to be considered safe, but bottled water has no such regulation. You don't really know what's in there. Best case scenario: bottled water is sometimes tap water from another location! You are paying a premium to have tap water bottled up and shipped to your area! While the bottles themselves are recyclable, many do not end up getting recycled, and remember the fossil fuels needed to produce those bottles, ship them, and then recycle them. Lastly, if you do use bottled water, remember that these bottles are designed for single use. It's tempting to refill that bottle and continue using it, but the plastic starts to break down and soon you are consuming endocrine disrupting chemicals like BPA. 😨
I shared a picture of my very loved water bottle to remind you to bring your water bottle everywhere! Most people own a reusable water bottle, but they don't carry it all the time. How about when you go on vacation? Check out the portable water bottle in the foreground of the picture - it's perfect for throwing into your suitcase. While you can't bring a full bottle of water with you through security in the airport, you can bring an empty one. Fill it up at the water fountain at the gate. What's more dehydrating than air travel?
I had to show my travel coffee mug for a similar reason. Most people own one of these, but do you keep it in the car? How often do you make an unplanned trip to the coffee shop? Once again, bring it with you when traveling - especially on car trips! Is it just me or does everyone drink more coffee when they're driving?
Paper cups from coffee shops are a major contributor to landfills. Commit to using your travel mug more often and we can make a difference together! ❤️🌎
Containers, of course! Tupperware has been around since the beginning of time, it seems, and it is very convenient. Especially for those of us with kids, who wants to risk broken glass? But, I'm here to tell you I've been using glass containers for several years, and the only person who has broken any of them is me. 🤷♀️
I won't say "never" to plastic, since it is really handy. My rule of thumb is any food that isn't hot and isn't going to be hot - like leftover salad or cut up fruit - can go into a plastic container. Putting hot food in a plastic container or heating it up in the microwave can release chemicals from the plastic into your food. Of course, not all chemicals are bad, but we know that some are (see my video on Endocrine Disruptors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRbDhIY-xJ8). So, it's not a matter of being paranoid, but being careful. Also you want to check the integrity of your plastic containers. As soon as you see any cracks or evidence of wear, it's time to get rid of them (hopefully they can be recycled).
There are so many options for glass containers these days, so shop around for something that meets your needs. They can be expensive, so replacing your plastic containers with glass over time might be a more realistic approach. Make sure to look for something with a well-securing lid - that is my biggest complaint with some of my glass containers (especially if you are taking leftovers to work/school). If you are concerned that your container still has a plastic lid, you are not alone. The best approach to dealing with those is make sure your food (while it's still hot), does not make contact with the lid. Obviously if you have your container in your lunch box, it may get tossed around, but as long as the food is cold, touching plastic should be ok.
You'll notice I have some metal containers in the picture as well. These can be great too, and less expensive than glass. Be sure to avoid acidic foods, as those foods can interact with certain metals causing leaching of the metal into your food.
Finally I've got glass jars for storing dry goods like nuts, beans, popcorn kernels, etc. The benefit of these jars is to reduce reliance on the hard plastic containers these items might come in. While those containers can be recycled, they still use a lot of fossil fuels when they are produced and then again when they are recycled.
Over the course of the past 10 years or more, I have be working on developing more sustainable practices at home to reduce waste (including recycling). I have also been on a mission to swap out cleaning and personal care products with safer versions (products that limit exposure to environmental toxins).