Category Archives: Conscious Consumerism

Plastic-Free: A Book Review

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Photo Credit: Kate Bartolotta

When I first got Beth Terry’s book, “Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too,”  I was excited.  It was like celebrating my green journey birthday.  Finally, I would I discover some solutions to those pesky plastic problems I had not yet been able to solve.

Beth’s book, Plastic Free, is a rare gem.  Unlike many green guides, which scratch the surface, Beth dives in boldly where no human has gone before: plastic waste.  Sure, many green tip websites, books and blogs will tell you to stop buying bottled water and  carry your own reusable cloth bag when you shop.  They’ll even tell you to use reusable produce bags for veggies, fruits, nuts, beans, etc.  What they don’t approach is other plastic waste, which is a huge and insidious environmental problem, clogging up our oceans and harming marine life.  Not to mention, the pollution generated by making plastic.  It’s enough to make you want to consider other options.

First, Beth explores what the issues are with plastic in depth.  And I mean IN DEPTH.  I have never come across so thorough of a green guide on the issues with plastic in layman’s terms.  Then, she focuses on solutions– the fun stuff.  Because, who wants to be depressed on what’s wrong.  We want to feel empowered to make it right.

Beth’s plastic-free tips go beyond just telling us how to shop, how to make our own  plastic-free cosmetics (or plastic-free options we can buy) and cleaning products, she goes into activism and what it takes to make a difference.  She is a living example of how one woman can be catalyst for positive change.  As an example, she started the successful campaign to get Brita to take back it’s water filters for recycling.

Feeling overwhelemed at the idea of going Plastic-free?  Don’t.  Plastic-Free is a totally non-judgmental guide to reducing your plastic waste over time.  Beth reminds her readers it took her 7 years to get where she is at.  No guilt required.  She reminds us to be gentle with ourselves and take baby steps that add up to larger changes over time.

In closing, I highly recommend reading Plastic-Free.  I, literally,  couldn’t put the book down sometimes.  Beth’s writing is incredibly engaging. She sprinkles Plastic-Free with autobiographical tales about her own green journey in a humorous, quirky and vulnerable manner, that endears the reader even more to her sage, plastic-free wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Get Fabulous Hair With Baking Soda And Apple Cider Vinegar

With my desire to eliminate plastic from my life, I started trying new methods of washing my hair without bottled shampoo.  People are calling these methods “noo poo” (i.e. no bottled shampoo).  One popular method uses baking soda to wash hair and apple cider vinegar to condition it.  I was quite pleasantly surprised by the results.  Dare I say that my hair looked the best it had in a long time?   By my definition that means soft, wavy and shiny. In fact, it was probably the shiniest I had seen in years with amazing body to boot.  Who knew that I didn’t need conventional hair conditioner and that ACV  (apple cider vinegar) would do the trick?

So, if I have peaked your interest, here are my instructions so you can get gorgeous, shiny hair  that is full of body:

  1.  resizeIMG_2267                                        Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 cup of water.  Put contents into an empty shampoo bottle.
  2. resizeIMG_2274resizeIMG_2275                   Mix 1-3 tablespoons of ACV with 16 ounces of water into a spray bottle (I reused an empty household cleaning bottle rather than buying a new spray bottle.)
  3. Once you get into the shower, wet your hair and pour the baking soda mixture onto your entire scalp. The nozzle of your shampoo bottle cap helps control the flow. There is no need to pour this mixture onto the rest of your hair.  This is because when you rinse, the mixture will work its way down the length of your hair. It’s a deep cleanser, so this little bit of brief contact is all that is needed. Please make sure that you rinse out the baking soda mixture THOROUGHLY.
  4. Spray the ACV mixture onto your scalp and along the entire length of your hair.  Let it sit in your hair like a conditioner for a few minutes and then rinse.  The ACV actually smooths and seals the hair shaft, making it feel silky and look shiny.  For extra shine and conditioning, rinse the ACV mixture out with cool or cold water, which further helps to seal the hair shaft.  I kind of do a mini back bend so that the cool water only hits my head and not my body. And, don’t worry, the ACV smell dissipates as your hair drys and you won’t smell like salad. Your hair will pretty much smell like nothing, which to me is truly clean.

Here are two selfies of me with my freshly washed baking soda and ACV hair.  It also happened to rain that day, so that probably amplified my positive results:

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This is what my hair normally looks like (note that it looks less wavy and a little less shiny in these selfies):

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Observations, Variations And Tips

With the baking soda ACV no poo method, my hair felt very squeaky clean.  While my hair was wet, it did not feel conditioned enough and a bit dry.  However, as it dried, it grew softer and softer.  Even with this softness, it was tangly and a little harder to comb through.  To remedy that, I re-wet the ends of my hair and put a very small amount of coconut oil on my ends.  When I say small, I mean tiny– like 1/16 – 1/8 of a teaspoon.  It works like a charm!

If your hair comes out too dry with this recipe, try using less baking soda in your mixture.  If your hair still seems unclean and greasy, try using more baking soda. Everybody’s hair is different.  See what works best for you.

If you mix your baking soda with hot water, I would use a glass bottle instead of a plastic shampoo bottle (so that the heat doesn’t cause the plastic’s chemicals to leach into your mixture) and attach your shampoo cap to it like so:

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Well, that’s all folks!  Please feel free to ask me any questions and share your experiences with this method.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Why You Should Go Plastic-Free

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Photo: Chris Jordan Flickr

Hey, ya’ll.  As you can see, I am on a plastic-free kick.  What are some reasons you think we should all eliminate as much plastic as possible?  What are some ways you are eliminating plastic from your life?  Feel free to share the inspiration in the comment section below. How can we encourage companies to offer plastic-free alternatives?  How can we inspire government officials to pass laws that phase petroleum plastic out of existence and implement new alternatives?

Notice that I used the the word inspire instead of the words “demand” and “pressure” (which can sometimes include the tactic of shaming and guilting a politician or corporate mogul into better behavior.) While demanding is fine and dandy and does produce some positive results, hence the success of non-profits seeking to make the world a better place, I feel inspiring others is even more effective.  It’s like delivering the same information in a much better way.

Personally speaking, when someone attempts to shame, pressure or demand me into a new way of being, well, er, it doesn’t work so well.  I just feel resistant and defensive and not open to truly hearing the other person’s point of view.

So, let me take you on a little journey on how the raw materials for plastic are extracted to plastic’s final destinations, so you can see the true impact of plastic.   Fasten your seat belts!

Drilling For Oil And Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking)

As our oil reserves deplete, off-shore drilling is becoming the new thing.  Of course, oil spills can devastate marine life populations.  Unfortunately, oil spills are not an uncommon of a thing.  For example,  serious spills of oil and gas from North Sea platforms are occurring at the rate of one per week.  For more information click here and here

Even if oil drilling companies are extra careful to avoid more oil spills, off-shore oil drilling poses other threats to the environment.  A steady stream of pollution from offshore rigs causes a wide range of health and reproductive problems for fish and other marine life.  Over the lifetime of a single oil rig, 90,000 metric tons of drilling fluid and toxic metal cuttings are dumped into the ocean. A single rig can also, over its lifetime, pollute the air as much as 7,000 cars driving 50 miles a day.  Not to mention, off-shore drilling activities destroy kelp beds, reefs and coastal wetlands.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE the ocean.  The rhythmic waves and forces are an inspiration to me, along with the sheer diversity and beauty of the marine life.   Swimming in pristine ocean waters is healing and nurturing to body and soul.  Also, for those of us that eat fish or sea vegetables, great nutritional value comes from unpolluted sources. We are deeply connected to the ocean and water.  Just like like human body, roughly 71% of the Earth’s surface is water (97% of water is the ocean).

In the spirit of keeping this blog on the briefer side, I encourage you to read up on fracking and also watch a documentary called Crude, which will show you the effects of drilling for oil on land through the eyes of rainforest dwellers in Ecuador, who suffered increased rates of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and many other health ailments.

Oil Refineries

Ever live close to an oil refinery?  Me neither.  But there are folks that do live near these refineries and their story is not pretty.  As per the movie, Tapped, Corpus Christie, TX is the largest PETE water bottle manufacturer in the U.S.  PETE is in the Benzene family which causes cancer.  Other health risks of living close a to refinery are increased risk of birth defects.  Birth defects in Corpus Christie are 84% higher than the state average! PETE also contaminates ground water because these manufacturing plants have major chemical leaks.  Air and soil is also negatively impacted.

To me, clean air, water and healthy soil is a basic human right.  Heck, it is a basic right to all life to Thrive.

Risks Of Having Plastic Items

Having plastic in your home comes with some risk to the health of you and your loved ones, especially if the plastic item is what you eat from, drink from, sleep on or wear. Also, when friction or heat is applied to a plastic item, toxins can be released more readily into the air or in your food/beverage.

Two plastics of major concern are PVC (polyvinyl chloride, #3 plastic) and polycarbonate (#7 plastic). Please note, however, not all #7 plastic is polycarbonate.  If you see PLA next to the #7, then the  plastic is plant-based.

PVC is found in many common household items such as conventional shower curtains, peanut butter jars, cling wrap and air mattresses. PVC contains harmful carcinogens, most notably VCM (vinyl chloride monomer). Other chemicals such as dioxin and phthalates, both carcinogenic, may also be released into an indoor environment.  For more detailed information on the risks of PVC, click here and here.

Polycarbonate is used in some hard plastic bottles, metal food can liners, clear plastic “sippy” cups and some clear plastic eating utensils.  It has been found to leach BPA  (Bisphenol A) which mimics estrogen and has been linked to several cancers and genetic damage in infants. 

Are there any safe plastics?  Even some supposedly safe plastics can have hormone-disrupting effects.
I can’t help but think of the greatly increased cancer rates that have occurred with modern living and the presence of synthetic chemicals, pollutants and processed foods in our lives.  I don’t think it is necessarily one thing that causes an ailment, but most certainly toxins can add cumulative stress to the body over time. 
 
While your life may not be entirely plastic-free and the transition may take some time, I believe reducing toxins and increasing natural materials is life enhancing and, not to mention, beautiful.  Who doesn’t love the look and feel of wood, glass and natural fibers?  Above all, don’t stress as you transition.  Find your flow and allow it to happen organically.
Recycling and Disposal Of Plastic
While recycling  whatever plastic is accepted by your municipality is the better option, it still has many drawbacks.  For one,  if your municipality does single stream recycling (meaning that you put all recyclables into one bin and do not have to sort),  not everything you put in the bin may necessarily be recycled. To create simplicity and avoid confusion, single stream municipalities may say the accept more than they do.  
Sometimes, a wrong material or unclean item can delay the process of recycling or contaminate other items it has spilled on.   To find out recycling tips to avoid this issue, click here.  
Most importantly,  when plastic is recycled it turns into a lesser material each time (a.k.a. downcycling), until it is no longer recyclable and then makes it way to the trash.
Once plastic becomes trash, it is not biodegradable.  Bacteria have no interest in digesting it except a certain strain under very specific conditions manipulated by humans. Plastic, instead, is photodegradable, meaning it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces via sunlight.  In a landfill, there is little to no sunlight.  Out in the open, such photograded plastic can pose a threat to the wildlife as they can unwittingly eat the smaller pieces.
Not all plastic ends up recycled or in a landfill.  With landfill space scarce, some trash is incinerated,  releasing high levels of green house gasses and toxins into the air.  And then  there is the other plastic that makes it into waterways for many reasons.  Perhaps, our trash can lid wasn’t secure and some of it  blew away in the wind.  Perhaps, we  when we throw things away in a lidless public trash receptacle and it overflows, the wind carries it away and yet again, plastic and other garbage clogs our waterways.  Or perhaps some people just carelessly litter or do open dumping.  Whatever the case, this free floating garbage poses a great threat marine life.  Ever heard of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
Now that I have filled you with some sobering thoughts (and hopefully some uplifting ones as well), don’t despair.   There are many plastic-free alternatives that I will be sharing on this blog as I also explore  going plastic-free with you. Some will be DIY and others will be products from sustainable, awesome companies.   For those items that are near impossible to find plastic-free, I do believe alternatives are on the horizon as the green market and consciousness expands. Stay tuned for the inspiration!

 

Flow versus Force: Finding Ease In Your Green Journey

Sometimes Small Green Steps Create Bigger Change

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What Does Going Green Mean To You?

What started you on your green journey?  Have your reasons evolved over time?For me, my initial interest in going green was to reduce garbage.  The idea of mounds of stuff accumulating in landfills (some of it never biodegrading) really bothered me.

Over time, as I learned more about sustainability and evolved personally, my reasons multiplied and deepened.  For me, going green is about living in harmony with Earth, consuming from a balanced place and a wholesome, healthy and vibrant way of living.

On a global level, I care for about how people, animals, plants and ecosystems  are effected by pollution and habitat destruction. I feel part of a new consciousness taking root where every action considers the whole, where we feel empowered to create an abundant world that mirrors our hearts, where businesses and governments are created from a place that honors and nourishes all life.

Creating New Habits

So, what creates change?  Zooming back into to things on a more personal scale, I believe, that small steps can often be more powerful.  Perhaps, what applies on a personal level can apply on a global level.   Going green is no different from any other way you may change and evolve as a person.  For example, many years ago, I wanted to eat way less sugar for health reasons, BUT I was very addicted to sweets. A few times I made dramatic short-term changes, like going on a candida cleanse.   However, after such a dramatic change in behavior, my dominant habits that I had for many years, soon returned (albeit, slightly improved).

Over the years, however, my intake of sugar has naturally decreased without much force or will-power.  Why is that?  For one thing, I was working on myself to become more present, peaceful and clear in my life purpose. Shedding some emotional baggage in my life has made it easier for me to not emotionally eat and also to be more in tune with my inner rhythms and what truly nourishes me.  Plus, I was sincerely interested in eating wholesomely.  I believe any authentic dedication will eventually take root and blossom.  Also, when I chose the path of least resistance, the changes more likely stuck.  Over time, those changes added up to big results.

Going green is much the same thing.  Celebrate what you already are doing now and see what new steps you are ready to take next.  Remember, new habits form better in bite sizes.   Right now, I want to go to the next level in weening myself off of plastic.  After seeing this YouTube video and going to this website with plastic-free products, I felt both inspired and a bit overwhelmed.   I thought to myself, “well, I can do more to eliminate plastic from my life, but what about about supplements that are for my cat’s health condition that come in plastic bottles?  What about protein powders that come in plastic containers?  I don’t want to give them up.  Do I have to bake my own gluten-free bread?  I don’t like baking.  It takes too much time. ” And then, I saw the price of some plastic-free alternatives, and I was like “wow, I am going to have to earn more money to live plastic-free.” 

Let me share a little secret with you: when we feel overwhelmed, we are not in a peaceful and present place and, therefore,  not capable of making empowering decisions.   So, just chill.  Take some deep breaths with me and trust the process.  Ahhhhh, good.   So, how about this? Pick 3 new habits you can explore and incorporate over the next few weeks.  Make it fun and enjoy trying something new.

Here are my 3 new habits to explore incorporating into my life:

  1. Find a store that sells organic, bulk spices and get a few reusable spice containers.
  2. Try soap nuts for doing laundry.
  3. Grow my own sprouts to put in salads.
  4. I am adding a fourth as a bonus.  It’s not quite a habit I ready to form yet, but I  am curious to explore different types of snack-foods that are either easy to make or come in sustainable packaging.

After you’re in a peaceful place, feel into the inspiration and where the flow is.  As you explore new alternatives and develop new habits, you will become an inspiration for others.  Those that walk the talk in an inspiring way, without preaching, positively impact others. And for those others habits that may seem like a struggle to incorporate, take a step back and trust that you will be ready when the time is ripe or you will find an alternate way that works better for you.  This sort of attitude creates an open space for more powerful change and, ultimately, makes you a more empowered citizen of the Earth.

The Most Affordable, Sustainable, Non-Toxic Mattresses

Photo credit:  Hitch Exclusives

Photo credit: Hitch Exclusives

Tips For Buying Affordable and Chemical-Free Mattresses

Have you ever thought about the mattress you are sleeping on and how it may effect your health?  Did you ever wonder how the production and disposal of your mattress might effect the Earth and people you don’t even know?

When I first started looking for eco-friendly, healthy mattress options, I winced.  So expensive!  But, I did not give up.  Stay tuned for the unique and wholesome options that I have discovered.  I will be using full-sized mattresses as my examples.

What’s in a typical mattress that we should avoid?

Many conventional mattresses contain polyurethane foam, styrofoam and polyester.  These materials are all made from petroleum.  Drilling for oil and refining it so it can be made into products , such as mattresses,  is very toxic to the environment and the people who live by these refineries. Polyurethane foam, for example, emits volatile organic compounds that can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation.

The next thing to look out for are flame retardants.  Legally,  mattresses are required to have these.   So, while our bed might not burn down in the rare case of a fire, we are instead subjecting ourselves to another risk: toxic chemicals that may lead to health issues over time.   If your mattress is from before 2004, it was likely treated with PentaBDE, a member of the polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) family of flame retardants. PentaBDE is now known to be toxic to the liver, thyroid, and nervous system.

Yikes!

For mattresses from 2004 or later,  Ryan Trainer, executive vice president of the International Sleep Products Association, an industry group, says most companies use “various types of barrier fabrics”.  On the safer end, there is  cotton treated with boric acid or rayon treated with silica.  On the more toxic side of things, bed companies use fire-resistant materials such as modacrylic fiber (which contains antimony oxide, a carcinogen) and melamine resin (which contains formaldehyde).

Also, let’s not forget the bigger picture: as a general rule of thumb, any product that is toxic to our health  is also toxic to manufacture and dispose of.  Just think about the people who live near the factories that make conventional mattresses.  What are they breathing in? We are all interconnected.  We share the same atoms of all the animals, plants, soil and water, so what’s not good for us is also not good for the planet.

What about soy memory foam, you might be asking?  First of all, you will want to make sure it is 100% soy (and not mixed with petroleum-based foam).  While soy memory foam may be safer in your home, it may also be made from GMO soy.  GMO crops are heavily sprayed with the herbicide, Round Up Ready. They are genetically designed to be able to withstand these heavy sprays without dying.  GMO crops are also fed with artificial fertilizers.   Neither of these are good for the environment that sustains us, nor the people who live near or work on these industrial farms.

The Most Affordable Eco-friendly, Natural Mattresses

So, if you want to avoid flame retardants and sleep on truly natural sustainable materials, what can you do?  Organic mattress companies have found a simple way to fireproof; they wrap their bedding in a layer of wool, which is naturally fire-resistant.  However, full-sized organic mattresses encased in wool generally start around $1599, which is still pricey to me.

Allergic to wool or lead a vegan lifestyle?  There are sustainable mattresses made of organic cotton and natural latex. With a doctor’s prescription you can purchase a mattress without fire retardants.

So, here are the exciting affordable options you have been waiting for (drumroll). The first one may be my favorite and is also the most expensive of these affordable options: $1068.  It is a short, easy DIY project of inserting a 6 inch natural latex core inside of an organic cotton cover with wool batting. Vegan options are also available. This particular version has no flame retardants because only whole mattresses are legally required to have flame retardants– not parts that you put together yourself.

Getting an organic futon mattress is another more affordable option.  I found a full-sized on made with wool and organic cotton for $809.37.  I chose this one because I like softer mattresses.

And then, for those of you who are truly crafty and hands on (and also like firmer mattresses), you can make your own mattress with buckwheat hulls for about $400. There is a DIY kit  sold online.   Or you can get them ready-made for about $500.  While this may all sound strange, hulls have been used for hundreds of years to fill pillows, mats and futons in Europe and Asia. You could combine this option with a 3 inch natural latex core for a softer feel.

Also, another DIY homemade option, that is old-fashioned and rustic,  involves making a mattress stuffed with straw.  People have been sleeping comfortably on straw mattresses for ages.

I, personally, am excited to try one or more of these options when I am ready to replace my current mattress. Perhaps, I will start with a buckwheat hull pillow for the fun of it to see how I enjoy that texture for sleeping.   I look forward to the delicious feeling of sleeping on something truly wholesome that nurtures my body and soul.   Ahhhhh, the beauty of living in harmony with the Earth.

 

 

 

The Beauty of Less Stuff

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As I look around at my humble abode that I share with my boyfriend in Brooklyn, I feel proud.  I feel like I have accomplished a mission.  My home is simple, low-clutter and artful with a beautiful clear energy.  I’m not a neat-freak, but because I have a lower amount stuff in a spacious apartment, I don’t have to be.

Severals years ago,  I read “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston and started getting rid of things, even old diaries that I felt held painful memories and old stagnant ways of being.   If an object inspired negativity or ambivalence, I often let it go.  Luckily, I am not very nostalgic, so this is was easy for me in certain ways. I peeled away layers and layers, disliking holding onto things that were not useful or beautiful to me.  My only stuck spot in this was if I couldn’t find a sustainable way to get rid of something like, for example,  used lipstick,  burnt-out incandescent light bulbs, broken candle votives,  etc. Did I ever regret getting rid of something?  Yes.  Admittedly, I can be a little get-rid-of happy. Three items comes to mind that I could totally use now.  Ugh.

Not only was I letting go of things, but many items in my home are sustainable (i.e second hand).  Admittedly, my initial motivation was the cost-effectiveness.  But later on, I also realized it was much greener and also began to purchase some new things, when in my price range, made of sustainable materials, like my bamboo drying rack for hanging my laundry.

Anyway, I think there is a beauty to having less that is both sustainable and liberating.  Here are some benefits of letting go of stuff and accumulating less:

  1. The energy and look of your home will be more open, spacious, airy and clear.
  2. It feels therapeutic and cleansing to let go of objects that carry ambivalent or negative associations for you.
  3. As your home becomes less cluttered and bogged down by stuff, you feel clearer and lighter inside.
  4. You’ll have less stuff to organize and clean, which means more free time and simplicity.
  5. A chance to look within and heal:  do you compulsively collect, hoard or emotionally shop rather than face some difficult feelings inside?  Perhaps, this is a time to nurture yourself in more healthy ways, like a yoga class or a nature walk, or find a therapist or insightful, caring friend to talk to.  There are also professional organizers  and declutterers that could be just what the doctor ordered.
  6. Freedom of movement: it’s easier to change residences with less stuff to pack and move.
  7. Sustainability: consuming less of the Earth’s precious resources means less deforestation, less habitat destruction, less mountain-top removal and strip mining for minerals, less pollution, less toxins, less endangered and going extinct species and the health and well-being of the human race for generations to come.  See if you can buy second hand or find a a more sustainable version of your desired or needed item.
  8. Less expensive: use that money for things that truly nurture you like buying  organic food, getting a massage,  an eco-travel adventure, taking an art class  or whatever makes your heart sing.
  9. Less stuff, less gadgets, less television and video games, means less distraction and more quality time to connect with the world around you, to connect more with friends and family, to engage positively with your community,  to follow your passions,  and to also cultivate a deeper relationship with nature.
  10. Getting rid of stuff is also an opportunity to  be generous.  Perhaps, your friends and family could use what you no longer need.  Doesn’t it feel good to give?  Perhaps, you could donate to your local charity.  Heck, you could be generous to yourself and make some money selling  your castaways on craigslist or have a yard sale.

Thank you for reading and happy spring cleaning!  Feel free to share your own inspirations on this topic in the comment section.