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?

An organic cotton nut sack (Day 316)…

January 10, 2008

produce bags

All right, now that I’ve gotten all box-related issues out of my system, it’s time to get into bags. No, not tote bags — I already wrote about those ages ago. I’m talking about these reusable organic cotton produce sacks.

In my various pledges not to use any new plastic and to buy as much in bulk as possible, I’ve run into a problem: Transporting things like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, beans and so on requires a ridiculous amount of preparation if I’m going to avoid using the disposable plastic bags. I don’t have any of my own and I hate reusing the flimsy ones from the store because they get all dusty and gross. I’ve tried bringing my own containers too, but they’re so bulky and often require weighing beforehand.

I really, really needed a better alternative. My friend Meghan told me a while ago she was going to make her own cloth produce bags, but it wasn’t easy finding material that hadn’t already been bleached up the wazoo, so I’m not sure what she’s doing now (Meg? Comment?).

Either way, when I found these cute little sacks online, I decided it was worth the splurge. And I can even write the code numbers for the produce on the bags themselves so I can avoid having to use those fussy twist-ties.

So the real question is: Who double-dog-dares me to ask the next cashier I meet if he can hold my nut sack for a second?

Image from

Spilling the dry beans (Day 280)…

December 5, 2007


One of my favourite dinners is actually breakfast: Scrambled eggs with melted cheddar cheese, toast and baked beans. But the ingredients list on my usual brand of baked beans makes me suspicious.

Although the label says there are no preservatives, and the back of the can doesn’t include anything too crazy — “water, beans, tomato purée, sugar, salt, calcium chloride (a naturally occurring mineral used to produce firmer beans), spices, onion powder, garlic powder” — that added sugar sends off HFCS warning signals, and I’m not too sure I like the sounds of calcium chloride, no matter how naturally occurring it may be.

Therefore, when it comes to the so-called musical fruit, I’ll be preparing my own from scratch using dried haricot beans, local tomatoes and whatever seasonings I can find in my pantry; maybe I’ll even go a little Québécois and throw some maple syrup in there. If I’m craving a falafel or hummus, I’ll get some dry chick peas; same goes for kidney beans, lentils and so on.

I’m not quite at the point where I want to be soaking bowls of mung beans overnight (some more nutritionally advanced people I know do this, but I still can’t get over the scatalogical phonetics of “mung”). However, as the official green change of the day, if there are any beans or legumes involved in one of my meals, I’ll be purchasing them in the bulk aisle of the health food store so as to avoid both packaging and suspect additives.

Photo of a 15-bean stew, before stewing, courtesy of Roger Smith on Flickr