Category Archives: Hygiene


I am the first to admit that my homemade toothpaste is nothing spectacular. I mean, it cleans and all, but it doesn’t  foam or give you that minty fresh feeling (which, in my opinion, is part of the point of using toothpaste.) I actually taught a DIY household products class the other night at the rec centre, and I was a bit embarrassed to even include the toothpaste.

But I’ve recently found a recipe that makes everything ok. It’s mouthwash!

I had looked into homemade mouthwash previously, but was intimidated by the specialty ingredients (aloe vera juice anyone), but then I found a recipe that only included things I already had around the house.

It’s minty, it’s super ridiculously cheap, and it doesn’t leave me with the plastic bottle guilt or the burning mouth sensation of commercial mouthwashes. Why the heck didn’t I try this earlier?

homemademouthwash1 cup water
1TBSP baking soda
2 drops peppermint oil
1 drop teatree oil (optional, but slightly antiseptic)

Store in an airtight container.

Next up, I might try this spearmint tooth gel.

PS, if you missed the 90’s and hence the term “freshmaker”, you might want to watch this mentos commercial.



Filed under DIY, Hygiene

Sun(burn) Style

sunscreen fail – can you tell I was at least wearing sunglasses and a hat?

As a fair-skinned redhead who spends a certain amount of quality time outdoors (think cycling across Canada for three months) I go through my fair share of sunscreen.

And then I saw the movie Chemerical and started thinking about toxins in my products. Why the heck would companies put known carcinogens in products meant to be slathered on our skin and therefore absorbed into our bodies? I visited the skin deep cosmetic database and found out that my favorite sunscreen ranks 4 out of 10 on the unsafe scale. Not bad, but I was  thinking I ought to give some of the other guys a try. So here’s my non-scientific sunscreen review:

1) Coppertone Oilfree 30 SPF. 4/10 on skin deep. I have been committed to Coppertone oil-free for awhile now – it doesn’t make me break out, it goes on silky smooth, it smells good, it’s waterproof, and dammit it works. Unfortunately, it’s also flagged with concern about neurotoxicity (from aluminum starch octenylsuccinate) and endocrine disruption ( from oxybenzone).

2) Burt’s Bees 30SFF. 4/10 on skin deep.  Last summer I tried my first “natural type” alternative; I love Burt’s lip balm, and their products smell good, so I figured it was worth it regardless of the slightly hefty price tag. After the creamy absorption of Coppertone, I have to say that Burt’s was an adjustment.  It went on like paste, left a chalky residue, and I ended up getting burned which defeats the whole purpose of sunscreen. Don’t let me turn you off though – maybe it’s just my skin type.

3) ECO logical 30SPF. 1/10 on skin deep. We went to the Farmer’s Market in Newport Beach and there was a stand selling ECO sunscreen; it was nice to have a face to face conversation with the actual business owner, and we bought a tube. Initial review is that it goes on smooth-ish; not as smooth as standard commercial brands, but smooth enough to absorb. It smells like nothing much, it’s biodegradable, it’s made with organic ingredients, and it works (we were warned to reapply if we are sweating lots or swimming).

Now, onto the waste part. I have yet to find package-free sunscreen.

Some tubes are PET 1 or 2, so you can recycle them which is better than nothing. We chatted with ECO Logical folks for awhile about what they could do to reduce plastic packaging. They’re using recycled plastic for their containers, but we’d like to see bulk sunscreen pumps at stores and refillable containers. The problem is that sunscreen expires. It must be stored in an airtight container out of direct light, and that poses a problem to having it around in bulk.  If anyone has a good solution, please let me know.

A secondary waste issue is the sunscreen itself. I had never thought about it, but apparently “5,000 tons of sunscreen are washed off people and into the oceans each year”. That is a lot of sunscreen! And the accumulation on coral and the sea floor as well as the addition of toxins to the food chain is a really big deal.

I wish I had a real answer in terms of zero waste sunscreen, but for now, here’s a few lower waste tips for the summer:

-wear a hat and long sleeves to reduce your need for sunscreen if spending lots of time outdoors

-pick sunscreen that comes in a bottle you know you can recycle

-opt for sunscreens that are biodegradable

-visit the EWG Sunscreen 2011 page to see how your sunscreen ranks and find the safest options

If you have any great sun tips or any favorite sunscreen options, I’d love to hear them!


Filed under Hygiene, product reviews

The Great Unwashed

There has been a lot of hygiene talk out there lately.

After the New York Times article entitled The Great Unwashed, hit the streets, people started popping up all over the place admitting that they hadn’t washed their hair in years, or conversely, expressing disgust that there are people out there who don’t shower everyday.

I actually had people sending me articles on it. (Which either meant that they identified it as something I do and sent it to me out of support thinking I’d be interested, or that they think I’m really dirty and were sending me a not to subtle hint that they figured out my personal routine. . ..)

Either way, this is my official stance on personal hygiene. Wash if you’re dirty.

It seems like common sense, but I can’t believe how many people think that not showering every day is filthy. We wash people; we just don’t shower. It’s called a washcloth and a bar of soap, and no I do not sweat at my desk job (I don’t even really sweat on the 4.6km mostly flat bike ride to the office). Why would I want to waste over 100 litres of water at the end of the day?

Although this project started out all about landfill waste, you can tell we’ll started to expand our interests a bit. Wasting water or energy is just that: waste. And when you consider that hot water can use up to 25% of your household energy budget, cutting your shower length or frequency can save some pretty big time and money. Why wouldn’t you try it?


Filed under Hygiene

Luna Pads

Fair warning to those who are tired of reading about my feminine hygiene opinions: you might want to pass on this one.

Anyone still with me?

As you may know, I love the Divacup.  I started using it just before we began the Clean Bin Project to avoid waste from tampons.  It’s generally pretty great, but occasionally I have some sort of technical error where I just can’t get it to work properly.

I had one such day a little while ago, and I had actually given up on my beloved Diva for the day and used (gasp) a tampon, when a package arrived.  It was a sampler pack of Lunapads (yes, I knew they were coming, but  I’m not exaggerating – the timing was impeccable).

Before you wrinkle your nose at reusable cloth pads, let me assure you that I, myself, am not generally a fan of any pads.  I stopped using them sometime in high school and never went back.  The bulky packaging, the waste, the feeling of wearing a diaper all weren’t for me.

But, if anything, this project has taught me to keep an open mind.  (Heck, I never thought I’d be brushing my teeth with baking soda, but look at me now).  So when I was offered a sampler pack of Lunapads, I said I’d give it a go. I tried the pack pictured above: 1 pantyliner, 1 pad, and 2 liners that fit inside the pad and can be switched out.

Surprisingly, I liked them.  They’re not nearly as bulky as I remembered pads being “back in the day”, and it’s really no big deal to throw the pads in the washer.  I know that when I was younger, the thought of washing pads would have made me think “ick”, but the older I get, the more accepting of my body I get, and the more I think “what’s the big deal?”.

Personally, I liked the liners better because they are thinner and smaller.  I actually went and bought a couple more, so I can have 3 on rotation. They snap together under your underwear, so they are a little uncomfortable when riding a bicycle, but unless you’re a bike courier, I don’t think it would be a problem. And let me tell you; not a single leak.

Most importantly, I feel way better about my environmental impact using Lunapads than using traditional pads or liners.  Once you realize that the average North American woman spends up to $2,500 on approx. 11,000 pads or tampons in her lifetime, you realize that were are collectively having a pretty big impact in terms of waste. And I’m thinking that it’s an impact that is pretty darn easy to avoid.

My only question is why aren’t alternatives like the Divacup or Lunapads talked about in schools?  Growing up, I thought I had two choices: tampon or pad.  If girls were given more options, I think they’d be more inclined to choose reusables in their teens instead of waiting (like me) until adulthood.


Filed under Hygiene

Deodorant Evolution

Continuing on the personal hygiene theme. . .I’ve been making my own deodorant for awhile now.  It started off with a powder – equal parts baking soda and cornstarch applied with a powder puff (or old sock in our case).

It worked pretty well, in fact Grant still uses it, but I felt it didn’t last very long.  By the end of the day, I smelled like BO.

So I tried making a solid deodorant with equal parts baking soda and cornstarch mixed in with a bit of coconut oil (it’s solid at room temperature, so you have to melt it to mix) and some essential oil.  The only essential oil I had was peppermint (which I use for the toothpaste), so I ended up with peppermint deodorant. It smells and looks a lot like our toothpaste, so it’s no surprise that the first day it was in the cabinet, Grant accidentally brushed his teeth with it (good thing it’s all edible ingredients).

The solid is much better for me.  It lasts all day – even two days, and there’s no BO.  Sweating, yes, but BO, no. The only problem was that it was a bit awkward to apply.  You have to scoop some out with your fingers and try to smear it on your armpit without it crumbing to bits and getting all over the floor.  So, I decided to reuse an old antiperspirant container for my next batch. I just packed the mix in there while it was still soft and waited for the coconut oil to firm up.

Perfect!  It goes on just like a store bought one.  It’s a little more grainy, but definitely more convenient than the glass jar.  The only thing I’m worried about is whether or not it will melt on hot days and ooze out through the bottom of the container.  I know some people keep theirs in the fridge, but since we’re on the road right now, I’ve been keeping a close eye on it.  So far so good! Anyone else had luck with natural deodorant options?


Filed under DIY, Hygiene

Diary of a “No Poo’er”

There are a lot of people out there giving up shampoo.  So many, in fact, that there’s a name for it.  The “no poo” method (I kid you not) is when people skip the shampoo and use something else – namely baking soda and maybe vinegar – to clean their hair.

Yes, I too thought this was crazy when I heard of it.  How can you be clean without the lovely fragrant bubbles? The bottle says you’re supposed to apply it twice for crying out loud.

But I’d been skipping the conditioner for months, so when my mega sized bottle of shampoo finally ran out, I thought I’d give it a try.  The following is my “no poo” diary. Continue reading


Filed under DIY, Hygiene