Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Sweaty Problem: What's The Stink?

Queen Composter wonders what all the stink is about with body odour.

Over the past few years I have been striving to eliminate as much unnecessary plastic and toxic ingredients from my personal care products. The end result is that my washroom is starting to resemble my kitchen because of the ingredients that are essential to my daily routine. My counter is lined with homemade products with coconut oil, body butters, cider vinegar, baking soda, honey, essential oils and salts. Because I make many of my own products now, I often have to store them in my refrigerator because they do not contain preservatives, so on top of my kitchen in my bathroom, my bathroom is now in my kitchen.

But there is one personal care product that I have decided to purchase from a store; natural deodorant.

I am a very sweaty person, but I have long since given up wearing antiperspirant, for a variety of reasons.  I'm no longer fond of putting aluminum on my skin, and I have found that unless I use the extremely strong, and therefore questionable, aluminum mixtures (which also burn my skin horribly), it does not stop the embarrassing pit stains for me. To top it all off, antiperspirant may actually make us stinkier! I've just given up the idea that I can go about life as if I live in an advertisement; so what if I have visible sweat marks once in a while (I have adapted to wearing darker clothing on top to mask the wet marks)? 


So then the only issue is the smelly one. I had to find a deodorant that I liked, that was natural, and didn't sting, because I have very sensitive underarm skin.

I have tried multiple DIY options:

Most of the DIY recipes use baking soda as the agent to inhibit bacterial growth, which is what causes body odour, but I have found it to be very irritating. The baking soda recipes give me a horrible rash that take days to to go away, and actually increases my sweating! I have also tried some that call for either cutting down on, or eliminating the baking soda, and adding either corn starch or arrowroot powder, but even these can irritate my skin.

I have noted a few other issues with DIY deodorant. Firstly, to remain solid at room temperature they require beeswax, which is not vegan if that is a concern for you. Some of the mixtures are crumbly in texture and must be rubbed into the skin with fingertips, rather than like a solid stick, and I have found this somewhat messy. Lastly, because the deodorants are made fresh with no preservatives, some can spoil after periods of time and should be made in small batches.

If the DIY deodorants did not irritate my skin, the above mentioned issues would not bother me and I would be happy using them. In fact, several of them were wonderful for the first few days of using them, and it wasn't until the end of the first week that problems developed.

So what's a gal to do, then?

Enter salt crystal deodorants.
This is my salt crystal deodorant after many (4+?) years of use.

There are several reasons why I like salt crystal deodorants:

  • Long lasting: I purchased my most recent salt crystal so many years ago I can't remember when I bought it or where I bought it. I'm not kidding. 
  • Inexpensive: Not only is it a reasonable price (usually less than $10 and no more than $15 depending on where you purchase it), it ends up being even more affordable when it is used for many years.
  • Minimal waste to dispose: Because it lasts so long (as in years!), the plastic holder is really very minimal. Even better are the salt crystal options with no plastic holder: zero waste!
  • There are no cloying perfumes or smells associated with using it, which is good for people with scent sensitivities and allergies. You just smell like you, which is really nice for a change.
  • It is relatively easy to use and does not require a list of ingredients to make it. 
To use a salt crystal properly, it must be applied on freshly cleaned skin. The salt inhibits bacteria growth, so if your skin has had any time to perspire, bacteria may begin to grow. Sometimes I do not have a shower in the morning (I like bedtime showers to relax me, or sometimes I even <gasp> skip a day), so before getting dressed I wash my armpits with a soapy cloth, then rinse. If your skin is not wet enough to move the crystal easily over your skin, wet the salt crystal, then rub it on your skin as you would a deodorant stick.

Of course, as with anything, there are downsides:

  • It isn't as easy to use as just rubbing a deodorant stick if you aren't applying it after a shower.
  • Initially the salt mildly irritated one of my armpits (some itchiness), causing me to give up for a while and return to other deodorant options. One day I ran out of other deodorants and had to give it a go again and I was happy to notice that I was no longer irritated by it. If it isn't too itchy or sore, persist if this happens to you to see if it lessens. Many people do not have this issue at all.
  • It isn't sold in all major stores (I purchase it at a more crunchy grocery store)  and may be difficult to locate outside urban centres or places without access to more natural products. Of course there is always on line shopping.
  • There is no scent, which some people find hard at first. We are so programmed to expect a pleasing scent with our personal care products and it can be a hard transition to get used to this.
  • On very warm days, or more active days, I can smell body odour part way through the day, but I believe this is the same with any deodorant, and even antiperspirant. For those times, I keep a container of commercially produced natural deodorant in my bag. It has essential oils for a scent to cover my body odour. Or I just deal with being a little smelly. It isn't the end of the world to smell like a sweaty body once in a while.
I keep this deodorant spray in my bag for smelly emergencies.

So if you are not willing to jump into DIY deodorants, or you have tried them and they do not work for you, perhaps give salt crystals a chance. I was dubious at first, but am now completely sold and love it!

If you have other DIY recipes that are suitable for sensitive skin, please comment. I am always open to trying something new.

Salt crystal deodorants do contain aluminum, but it isn't the pore blocking aluminum compound of other deodorants and antiperspirants. It is potassium aluminum sulfate that is not absorbed into the skin. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Five Million Litre Oil Spill in Northern Alberta

Another oil spill and Mindful Echo is furious.

The media is reporting that Nexen Energy's pipeline ruptured sometime between June 29th and July 15th. The spill resulted in 5 million litres of heavy crude, or, 31,500 barrels. The double-layered steel pipe was only 8 months old and Nexen Energy has yet to provide an explanation or any other information beyond a feeble "apology."

Watch the video report below:

But how? How does this happen? You have a warning system to specifically prevent this from happening! Nexen Energy isn't sure yet and it could be months before the public is informed.

Meanwhile, 16,000 square metres of muskeg is slathered in bitumen, sand and produced water.

Nexen Energy CEO, Fang Zhi, has contributed little insight on the matter.


Senior Vice President, Ron Bailey, isn't so full of answers himself.

But it's okay, guys, because they're both disappointed and sorry

This is the second spill that has taken place at this site. Residents of local First Nations communities are concerned about the long-term impact this will have on the environment and wildlife, and rightfully so.

Regardless of your politics on the issue of oil drilling, at the very least, we should all be able to agree that enforcement of responsible drilling has to be a priority. How many accidents until an apology doesn't cut it anymore?


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why I Stopped Washing my Face

The Climate Crusader discovers that sometimes less is more.

Almost 10 years ago I stopped buying face wash. I had read about somebody's experience with using raw honey as a face wash. I was annoyed by all the skincare products that made big promises but didn't deliver. I had sensitive, combination skin, oily in some places and dry in others and prone to breakouts. I had nothing to lose, I decided, so I tried it as an experiment and it worked. I wrote about it here in 2011. Interestingly, I'm not the only Boother who has given it a spin. Here's another post from 2013.

Was honey a miracle cure for my skin? No. However, it worked at least as well, and in most cases better, than the face washes I'd been buying for years, and at a fraction of the cost. Plus, honey contains no petrochemicals, no preservatives, no artificial colours or fragrances ... just honey. It's completely non-toxic. You can eat it, and I frequently do.

In the process of switching from commercial products to more natural alternatives I learned that sometimes less is more. And then I watched, of all things, an episode of Mad Men that encouraged me to minimize even further. I realize the irony, as Mad Men is a TV show that's all about getting people to buy products. It is definitely not about getting people to cut back. But sometimes you just can't say where inspiration will come from.

In the episode Megan, the woman who later married Don Draper, talked about how her evening skin care regimen involved splashing cool water on her face and that was it. When I ran out of honey I decided to just skip washing my face altogether. I got it wet in the shower, but otherwise, I left my face alone. And you know what? It was pretty much just as good as using honey.

Now, there are a couple of things that are worth mentioning. First, I very rarely wear makeup. When I do, I wash my face with soap. I also use coconut oil to clean the eye makeup, which works well. I do sometimes use a soft facecloth on my face to exfoliate. Also, now that I'm 39 I use a non-toxic moisturizer every day. Or sometimes I use coconut oil to moisturize.

The funny thing to me is that it took me decades of using face washes to even consider the notion that I didn't actually need them. When I got my first pimple as a 12-year-old I bought the strongest face wash that I could find, assuming that it would help. Now, it's true that I got that zit before I started using face wash, but I got plenty of zits after. And for years, I didn't think that maybe the face wash was useless. Instead, I just thought I hadn't found the right one. Marketing messages are so effective that we often absorb them without even realizing it.

According to the Environmental Working Group the average adult uses nine personal care products every day. Taken together these products contain 126 unique chemicals. And 25% of women use 15 or more personal care products every day. Lotions, shampoos, conditioners, soap, face wash, deodorant, tooth paste, toner ... it all adds up. Some of these products contain ingredients that are not good for us. Some of these products are very expensive. All of these products have some kind of environmental footprint as they are manufactured and shipped to us. Do we really need them?

I'm not trying to convince you to ditch your favourite shampoo or face wash. But if it isn't really working for you, you might want to ask: do I really need it? I was surprised to learn that when it comes to my face, the answer is no.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Connecting Kids to Nature

From the bean of Green Bean.

"Wait, where did you see a beetle?" a voice floats back to me, across the dusty trail.

"I still haven't found any cottonwood," my youngest niece intones.

"I'll show you where to look," her older cousin offers, leading her to look down the hill and pointing toward the river. "They seem to grow more down there," he surmises.

We are on a hike. A very hot and very uphill hike. The scenery is beautiful but I would be lying if I said that these kids wanted to be here. At least initially. Until I whipped out a homemade scavenger hunt and offered a prize for all who participated (pack of gum) with a bounty (cold hard cash, people) for the one who found the most items the quickest.

Now, instead of complaining, the older trio is practically running the trail in search of lizards, dragonflies and wildflowers. Their younger counterparts have taken a more thoughtful, methodical approach and have even spotted a mule deer and dung beetle.

By the time we get to the top of the hill, almost all of the scavenger hunts are complete. (Mental note to make longer ones next time!). My teenaged niece has diligently completed hers, noting "bonus" items such as ravens (seen and heard), algae and squirrel. My son has counted 27 tadpoles and made a checkmark on his sheet for each and every one.

I couldn't be happier!

Not only did I get to enjoy the hike but six kids learned about local flora and fauna, developed a better understanding of how animals and plants interact and became interested and invested in the natural landscape.

I cannot take credit for the idea of a scavenger hunt. While reading the book, How To Raise a Wild Child, I came across this and several other practical ways for getting the next generation off of their screens and out into the wild.  This book is part of a burgeoning movement to reconnect kids and nature. The benefits of getting outside are well documented. When we do it, we become healthier, happier, even smarter. Parents consistently rate connecting children with nature as second only to reading in importance. Yet most children spend 6-7 hours daily in front of a screen and only a few minutes outdoors.

My scavenger hunt was just one step toward connecting my children with nature. There are a million more steps we can take: modeling wonder at the birds, mammals and plants (it's not hard!), booking camping trips or other outdoor outings, creating a nature journal complete with illustrations, mixing up the activities (hiking, kayaking, inner-tubing, geocaching, down time at the beach and more), and cutting back on screen time. Eco-Novice wrote a great article a few months ago about using technology to connect kids to nature. Groovy Green Living shares 4 Apps That Making Hiking Fun for the Entire Family.  Mindful Momma has a plethora of tips on getting kids to spend more time outdoors in the summer.  Six years ago, I shared reflections on a summer spent where the wild things are.

What ideas have worked for you?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Water Conservation, Green Phone Booth Style

A hot, dry summer and a hazy, smoky sky have got the Climate Crusader thinking about water.

Yesterday evening, as I was making the 45 minute drive home after dinner with my in-laws, the air was filled with hazy smoke. There are wildfires burning nearby, following a hot, dry June and even hotter, dryer start to July. Here in the Pacific Northwest we're more known for our 'liquid sunshine' (a.k.a. rain) than actual sunshine, but so far 2015 has proven an exception. We're parched. And local government is responding by increasing water use restrictions. No surprise.

Many people are far more experienced with drought than I am. I have decided to take this opportunity to read through old Green Phone Booth articles to get suggestions. If you'd like tips on saving water and the planet, here's a quick guide I've compiled courtesy of my fellow super heroes.

Save Water in Your Garden

Green Bean has eight suggestions for saving water in your garden. They're very helpful, from switching to drought tolerant plants and mulching, to collecting rainwater and gray water, to changing your watering habits and more. Read more here.

What to Avoid in a Drought

When the rain dries up you might be tempted to let some plants and trees die and empty your birdbath. Don't! Green Bean explains five things you should not do in a drought. Protect the planet when water is scarce. Read more here.

Droughts and the Water Crisis

Droughts are nothing new, but with climate change we are experiencing more hot, dry years than ever in recorded history. Retro Housewife writes about her experiences in Oklahoma, and explains why it's important to take action. Read more here.

Rain and Rainbarrels

Truffula shares how watering her garden and using rainbarrels made rain take on a new dimension for her. Read more here.

Drink Water!

When it's hot you need to hydrate. You may be tempted to opt for iced tea or pick up a plastic water  bottle. Eco-novice explains why the best way to save water is to drink water, straight from the tap. Read more here.

The Best Way to Wash Dishes

Queen Composter explores the eco-friendliness of dishwashers versus handwashing dishes. Which one uses less energy and water? The jury may still be out. Read more here.

Why Everyone Needs to Care About Water Conservation

Not everyone lives in a place where fresh, clean water is abundant. With a global food chain and a growing population, the availability of water is something that increasingly impacts us all, whether we know it or not. It may be rainy where you are, but that doesn't let you off the hook when it comes to your water use. I explored this issue, and how everyone can help, in a past post. Read more here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's Easy Living Green ... When Everyone Else Is Too

From the bean of Green Bean.

I just returned from visiting one of the most gorgeous places on earth. I hiked, photographed wildlife, kayaked, and breathed in fresh air. I did not compost. I brought home groceries bagged in plastic. I rode in a giant SUV.

Despite the beauty, my recent vacation left me with one big takeaway. Living green is really easy - if you are surrounded by others doing the same thing. If not, it is downright hard!

Home in Northern California, it feels like a third of the cars on the road are hybrids (the real kind that get kick ass mileage) or electric vehicles. During my vacation, I spotted one Prius (out of state license plate) and zero EVs.

At home, even if I forget my canvas bags, it does not matter. We have a plastic bag ban and the cashier won't have my bread double bagged in plastic before I can whip out my handy Chico bag. When visiting, or living somewhere without such a law, you are swimming against the tide if you try to avoid single use plastic bags. If recycling facilities are not readily available, you can still recycle but only after hauling your recyclables around and searching out an appropriate drop off. When surrounded by SUVs, one might feel uncomfortable in an itty bitty hybrid. None of these things are impossible, by any means, but they do require much more effort.

Living in a bubble, I assume that the rest of the world is also embracing EVs, with charging stations popping up every time you turn the corner. That solar panels pepper roofs and thirsty rain barrels suck from the downspouts. That customers line up at stores armed with reusable bags and sip from glass water bottles. A turn outside of my microcosm, though, brings home how much progress has, and has not, been made.

A recent study found that states with strong green voices are making much more progress reducing emissions than those states without.  While I am proud of the progress my state is making - and am hopeful that more will be made - how do we extend this progress to states with fewer environmental advocates? How do we amplify their brave voices and encourage quicker change?  How do we make it easier for greenies living in less green states?

And finally, hats off to all you environmentalists sticking to your values even while you are sticking out like a sore thumb!!


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