Monday, December 3, 2007

Save Money, Save Your Health, Save the Earth

First, before I forget, this doesn't save you money personally, but does go a LONG way to helping save the earth. And that would be using reusable shopping bags instead of getting the millions of plastic grocery bags. Even if you put them in the recycling things at stores, it still uses resources to recycle them, so not taking them in the first place is the best option (the articles at do a good job, IMO, of putting it all into perspective). Anyway . . . someone on a message board I'm on just posted this link where you can sign up for their birthday club & get a coupon for the rice stuff (no idea if it's any good or not) and a free reusable shopping bag, again, no idea what the bag's like, but hey, it's free! And while we're on the topic of reusable bags, other cheap/free ways of getting reusable bags is to go through your closets and find all the promotional tote bags you never use, and use those. You can also generally find tote bags like that at consignment shops for almost nothing. Or, more and more stores are selling reusable grocery bags for $1-$2. Whole Foods has nice ones, I end up using their bags, not only for grocery shopping (they're big enough to hold cereal boxes!) but also for all kinds of other things, including carrying my baby carrier collection to babywearing meetings, containing random "stuff" in the back of the car, taking a change of clothes . . . the list is really endless. And I noticed this weekend that Super Fresh has really PRETTY bags w/ pictures of animals & stuff on them for $1 . . .

Ok, now for something that will save your money & your health, not just the earth :)

Reduce your personal care products. There are all kinds of articles out there warning you of the dangers of the preservatives & such used in most personal care products, but the "natural" equivalents are pricey. But, doing without, or making your own, is super cheap, and healthier, and better for the environment (when you rinse that shampoo down the drain it's going into our water supply, and polluting the earth). So, some specific examples:

First babies/young kids. Seriously, they do not need ANY personal care products!! Soap, even "baby soap" is drying to their skin, and plain old water gets dirt off. Ditto with hair. When my girls were babies we used the normal Johnson & Johnson baby wash stuff, their hair drove me INSANE! It would get SOO matted, and so then I'd have to use the detangling spray (from J&J of course . . . coincidence?) to comb it. Then I learned about no using shampoo (for me) and so logically, if I'm not using it, why would I use it on my babies? BUT the baking soda & vinegar I was using on MY hair, wouldn't work on their hair, so I started using just water most of the time, and using a gentle, moisturizing bar soap(lavender w/o herbs) to wash their hair if it seemed to need it. Over time, I needed the soap less & less often so that in the last year or more the only time I've used soap on their hair was last winter when L was sick & threw up in her sleep, it took soap to get the smell out of her hair. We use soap on hands to kill germs, and sometimes my friend Angie gives the girls toy soaps as gifts so then they play with those in the bathtub until they're gone, but otherwise we don't bother. Once we stopped using shampoo on their hair, we stopped needing the detangling spray. Last winter when the static got really bad I did make a spray of distilled water (always use distilled water in spray bottles, the minerals in other water can clog the spray mechanism) with a little aloe vera added to it. If it was really bad I'd put a dab of coconut oil on my hands and work that through the ends of their hair to moisturize it.

Ok, now for the rest of us:
Hair: I already mentioned that I was using baking soda & vinegar on my hair, although last winter, after discussion on a simple living forum I was on, I went to not even using that, most of the time I just rinse my hair with water every couple of weeks, though I do still use the bs/vinegar once in a great while. I also will work a little coconut oil or jojoba oil through the ends once in a great while if they seem dry. Massaging my scalp to help work the natural oils down is also important with water only. And honestly, I wouldn't recommend going straight from shampoo to water only. I'd either do the bs/vinegar first or a friend of mine used a "natural" shampoo (not sure which brand, but one you'd buy at a health food store, not the drug store) but used less each time she washed her hair, and washed her hair only if she "needed" to.
I didn't use many "products" on my hair prior to starting all this natural stuff, so I don't have first hand experience with it, I know I've heard of people using flaxseed gel instead of hair gel. Mix ground flaxseeds w/ water and let it sit, it will form a "gel" store it in the fridge though.
You can color your hair with henna and it will actually be beneficial for your hair instead of frying it.
I'm not sure about hairspray, would love to hear others' ideas though.

Soap: Kind of like with the kids, why do we need so much soap? Soap is drying, and useful for killing germs but ummm . . . what germs are there on my stomach on the average day that I need to dry out my skin using soap in the shower? So, I stopped using it. I still use body wash to shave my legs. And when my face feels oily OR dry, I use sugar scrub or honey (generally alternate every other day, as needed) to clean/moisturize/exfoliate my face, but everywhere else, plain water works just fine.

Deodorant: Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer's. All antiperspirants contain aluminum (as far as I know). Additionally, common sense says, we sweat to release toxins from our body, an antiperspirant keeps us from sweating, thus keeping our body from disposing of toxins efficiently. Doesn't seem like a good idea to me. There are various aluminum free deodorants available (at health food stores) but they tend to be pricey. So, I started reading about it, and experimenting, and here's what I came up with. Sweating is healthy & beneficial, we don't want to stop our bodies from releasing the toxins they need to release. BUT anyone who spends time near us would prefer that we not go au naturale either. What makes our underarms stink? It's bacteria that's released (those toxins, remember?). So, if you kill the bacteria, no stink. The most important thing, I've found, is to not let the bacteria get a "head start" on you. The days that I get up, and start rearranging furniture (ok, so that's not something I do very often, but something that leads to sweating. . . ) w/o taking a shower or anything, are the days that I start stinking, and once I'm to that point, I have to take a shower to get rid of the bacteria. If I spray deodorant (recipe in a moment) on BEFORE I start to stink, I can skip a shower once in awhile if I need to. My "deodorant" is as follows: fill a small spray bottle (the kind you'd put hair spray or whatever in for traveling) with regular white vinegar (vinegar kills germs/bacteria). Add a few drops of any or all of the following essential oils: Lavender, Tea Tree, Rosemary, Lemon. All of these are antibacterial, and I have all on hand for other uses, so I generally use them all, if you don't already have them, you can just use the TTO &/or Lavender EO that you bought last week for cleaning ;) Shake before each use, and spray onto your under arms each morning after your shower (and during your shower be sure to use a wash cloth (or those puffy things, if you prefer) and thoroughly wash your underarms with warm water). That's all there is to it. I have a small spray bottle thingy (got it at the dollar store, I think it's designed to keep perfume in, in your purse) that I have filled w/the same mixture and carry it in my purse. Once in a great while on really hot days I feel the need to "re-apply" but those are days that I'd probably WISH I had my regular deodorant to re-apply anyway. More often, I use the purse spray to (a) spray on our hands to clean them when we're not where we can wash our hands (remember, it's an antibacterial spray, that's what you want, to kill germs) (b) spray onto especially gross public surfaces that my kids were going to be touching or licking (shopping cart handles, fast food tables, toilet seats . . . you get the idea. I'm not overly concerned about such things, but if their immune systems are low &/or something looks especially icky, it's great to have) Just spray it on and then wipe it down w/ a napkin (or the cloth hankies that you carry in your purse so as to not have to use disposable tissues, but that's another post) (c) once or twice one of the kids has fallen and gotten a scrape that needs some serious disinfecting (gravel in it or whatnot) and for that I've used this same spray (it BURNS though, so for minor scrapes I use a small bottle of grapeseed oil (olive oil will work if you don't have grapeseed oil) w/ several drops of lavender EO in it. The lavender EO is antibacterial but also soothing/healing, and it doesn't hurt).

Makeup/Sunscreen: Mineral Makeup!!! It's really hard to do cost comparisons for this, yes, it appears to cost more, but you use so little that this stuff lasts FOREVER! And I love it! And oh yeah, the major (non-colored) ingredients in the foundation are zinc oxide & titanium dioxide, so it makes a great sunscreen too! I'm not at all a fan of sunscreen (that's another whole different post, that I'll probably save for spring LOL) but we do use it when we're going to be in the sun ALL day, which is pretty much only if we go to an amusement park or similar. Last summer (or maybe the one before) one of the times we went to Sesame Place, I put mineral makeup on my face/chest and sunscreen on my back. The only place I got sunburned was on my back! The mineral makeup worked better than sunscreen, and w/o all the carcinogens!

Liquid Hand Soap: Obviously we DO need to wash our hands, and the more often, the better. But the "antibacterial" soaps that are so prevalent, don't make things any "cleaner" than regular soap and are harmful in that they are producing antibiotic-resistant bacteria (see here). So, instead, buy a foamer bottle (disclaimer: I haven't tried Tupperware's, and in fact didn't know they made one. I got mine a few years ago by trading candles w/ another small business & don't remember who it was. But in general tupperware's stuff is good). Use distilled water (very important! Everyone I know who's used regular water, has ended up w/ a clogged foamer after awhile) and fill the foamer at LEAST 3/4, probably more like 7/8 with the distilled water. Then add a liquid castille soap (Dr. Bronners is the most well known brand, any pure castille soap will do). You can find it at health food stores, or some grocery stores, it's pricey, but see how little you're using! If you use unscented soap (bronners comes in yummy EO scents, so that's what I use) you can add a drop or 2 of EO to make it smell pretty. The foamer means you get a whole handful of "suds" w/ one pump, and it uses very little soap, so very inexpensive! Also great w/ kids, who can make a total mess w/ regular liquid soap.

Moisturizer: Well, when you're not drying your skin out w/ too much soap (making sure you drink plenty of water will help keep your skin naturally moisturized as well), you don't need as much moisturizer, but what you do use, go for quality! Lotions are primarily water, and then require preservatives to keep the water from growing bacterial. Body butters, or straight oils/butters don't have water in them (well, aren't supposed to, but read the ingredients, even at Whole Foods & such, I've noticed that many of the body butters are really just slightly thicker lotion) so don't need a preservative (healthier & not putting those chemicals into the water supply) and they're much more concentrated in their moisturizing. Shea butter is amazing stuff.
Since I use coconut oil for cooking, I usually wipe off the spoon w/ my finger & work that into my hands, and it's nice too. Jojoba oil is also good. Cocoa Butter, Mango Butter . . . all of these are natural moisturizers that are going to work better and longer and require you to use less, so in that sense it's saving money.

Ok, that's what I can think of. Feel free to leave a comment asking about other things, I don't promise to have answers, but I can let you know if I do know of an inexpensive/natural alternative.

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