From the Pantry to the Bathroom: Toothpaste Edition

April 16, 2009

First of all: WOW! 35 comments on my recent post asking for book ideas. They’re all so inspiring; now I want to write a dozen more books! Oh, and speaking of books, if you live in Canada, YOU CAN BUY SLEEPING NAKED IS GREEN AS OF TODAY (it comes out in the U.S. in mid-June, so my beloved American readers will have to hold tight)! The boy in my life — who might just be wearing a T-shirt that says “I’m the epilogue” at the launch — is reading the book as we speak and chuckling away, so all of my fellow eco-nerds north of the 49th parallel: Make your way to the nearest independent bookstore and get a copy. I promise it won’t suck.

Anyway, back to the contest: my editor is still deliberating on a winner, but I just wanted to thank all of you for your contributions. Although I’m not sure who he’ll pick, I must say, I really dig this whole what-your-granny-knows-and-isn’t-telling-you topic.

But moving on — it’s time for another installment of From the Pantry to the Bathroom, where I talk about how to use natural foods for both cosmetic and hygienic purposes. We’ve already covered the wonders of coconut oil as deodorant, apple cider vinegar as toner and a combo of baking soda, vinegar, cinnamon and vanilla in place of shampoo (which I’m sorry to say I’m not keeping up — my head got itchy, my hair got greasy and I didn’t have the patience for it).

My friend Meghan is about to host a workshop on making your own cosmetics, and to promote it, she’s posted this video explaining how she makes toothpaste using baking soda, vegetable glycerin and peppermint oil. Because I’m too lazy to do this myself (and because I don’t have a trampoline to bounce on while brushing) I’ll just embed the video here:

If you’re looking for other homemade recipes, I believe Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish has one that calls for baking soda, wintergreen oil and stevia powder (although she’s since gone back to the tube variety on account of her gums hurting). But if you’ve got one already that you love, feel free to share the ingredients below; and let me know if you’ve had good or bad experiences making and using your own paste. Now that you can recycle Tom’s of Maine tubes (they also sell SLS-free baking soda toothpaste with Thistle-approved ingredients), I’m kind of tempted to just keep using that, but then again, it’s always fun to transform the bathroom into a little eco-laboratory.

Update on the ‘poo sitch, and my sister’s inventions

January 23, 2009

Two unrelated things for today’s post:

1. When Miss Crunchy decided to take on the No ‘Poo challenge seriously, I decided I’d follow her lead and, instead of just doing a one-off baking soda and vinegar experiment, I stuck with it. Well, it’s been a week and three washes without shampoo and while the results are decent, I’m starting to think my scalp might feel a little itchy. Anyway, I wrote about this more formally in the pages of the National Post, where I have my regular Sense & Sustainability column — in fact, one of you erudite readers had mentioned you’d like to hear what a dermatologist has to say about not using shampoo; well, check out the article and see for yourself!


2. In non-enviro-related news, my sister has started blogging. A word of warning: She may look like me, but we are nothing alike in personality! Actually, that’s not entirely true… we’re fairly similar, especially when it comes to cynicism. But I’m definitely the older, serious, competitive, concerned-about-many-things-such-as-the-state-of-the-environment sibling, whereas she’s more into fashion and luxury indulgences. Emma is currently working as a copywriter at a Toronto ad agency, but she’s using this new blog to write about all the other ideas that pop into her head (they’re basically inventions she comes up with that are genuinely cool but she can’t be bothered to patent any of them). It’s called Emma’s Tea Shop for Old Ladies because that’s always been her career back-up plan. Oh, and another word of warning: I gave her a DivaCup for Christmas and she had some… er… issues with certain steps in the… er… process, so apparently she’s gone back to tampons for now (don’t worry, though — I haven’t given up on converting her yet!).

From the Pantry to the Bathroom: Pee and Cinnamon

January 17, 2009


OK, first off, don’t worry — there isn’t any actual urine sitting in that bottle. But it sure looks like pee, doesn’t it? (That stuff in the bottle on the left, by the way, is baking soda and water, which refuse to interact with one another unless shaken vigorously). Anyway, this is besides the point. The point is: After one failed attempt last year to wash my hair with nothing but vinegar, I decided to give the whole natural approach to hair maintenance another shot.

Reader Melinda over at One Green Generation convinced me that her homemade system would leave my hair shiny and clean without also leaving me with an I’ve-just-spent-all-day-at-a-fish-and-chip-shop smell.

Needless to say, I was skeptical. However, as part of my new semi-regular series From the Pantry to the Bathroom, I want to make more of an effort to try new things — more specifically, new homemade things.

So I took a few minutes this morning to assemble the recipe, then followed her directions, which go like this:

1. Use an old shampoo bottle (well-rinsed) or a squeeze bottle. Mix 1 part aluminum-free baking soda to 3 parts water. Each time you use this solution, shake well to mix.

2. Squeeze the baking soda solution onto your dry scalp, then massage your scalp for several seconds.

3. Leave in for 1-3 minutes, and rinse completely.

4. In an old shampoo bottle (well-rinsed) or a squeeze bottle, mix 1 part organic white vinegar to 4 parts water. You can add essential oils or herbs if you like – I add 1 cinnamon stick and 1/2 tsp vanilla. This masks the vinegar smell, and leaves your hair smelling spicy and lovely.

5. Leave on hair for several seconds, then rinse.

I must say, it’s a bit awkward trying to pour watery liquid onto your head without having it run everywhere. The reason regular shampoos and conditioners tend to come in gel-like consistencies is so that you can squeeze a dollop on your noggin, put it down, then gradually work it into a lather until it disperses evenly. But with these mixtures, you tend to get a lot in one place and very little in others.

At least they both felt nice on my scalp, and there weren’t any major problems in terms of rinsing them out in the shower.

However, I do have long hair, so it felt like I required a LOT of this stuff. At least it was cheap.

Blow-drying my hair, I sensed it was taking longer than usual and got the occasional whiff of vinegar (this might be my fault, though — Melinda suggests using white vinegar, and I chose to stick with apple cider because I thought it smelled less offensive… maybe my olfactory senses are messed up). Still, I persevered, then brushed it out.

The result? Well, see for yourself:


Not too shabby, eh? (This is my bedroom, by the way — I was trying to get some natural light on it.) So far, it doesn’t smell at all, which is a good thing, although it’s not necessarily softer or shinier than it usually is. I think the real test will be how long it lasts — if it’s greasy by tomorrow morning, I’m definitely docking points.

Overall, I’m kind of semi-pleased with this Pantry to the Bathroom experiment. It’s obviously a better option than using chemical-heavy brand-name shampoos and conditioners, but considering I already use all-natural stuff and make a point of refilling it from the bulk store, I don’t know that this is really reducing my carbon footprint by that much.

What do you guys think? Are you into this whole no ‘poo movement or is it not worth the fuss?

Silver goes green (Day 267)…

November 22, 2007


In the midst of cleaning out all the junk under my bathroom counter (people at open houses can be pretty snoopy — I am, too, actually), I found lots of silver jewellery that had been sitting unused, getting tarnished and dusty. I still like all of it, though, and am not quite ready to give it away or toss it out, but it definitely needs a good polish.

Instead of using a solvent like Twinkle or Tarni-Shield, however, I’m going to go the green route and try boiling it in a pot of water with some baking soda and tin foil. I’m not quite sure how this works on a molecular level (Rhett, maybe you can explain for those of us with itty bitty left brains?), but the hippies seem to think it’s just as effective and far less toxic. At the very least it’ll be less abrasive than that Scourmaster up there.

Image courtesy of these highly polished folks