A few years ago, I started making my own body products. I wasn’t being cool and zero waste, I was being cheap. But when I started to learn about the zero waste movement, my efforts ended up melding into a general combined push to not produce as much garbage in my home. This is a long process and I am certainly not anywhere near being truly zero waste, but I have definitely made progress. That’s all that counts.
The awesome thing about zero waste is that it usually goes hand-in-hand with using more simple, healthy ingredients and less chemicals. So it’s a win-win for you and the environment!
Here are some products that I now use in my becoming-zero-waste bathroom. Some of them are homemade, some of them are store-bought.
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This is definitely not a groundbreaking idea. In fact, it’s just one of those old-school things that shouldn’t have faded. It works just as well as liquid soap, if not better. I make my own, using this recipe from The Prairie Homestead. It’s so simple and you never have to worry about your dispenser breaking. The kids also love feeling the slick bar as they roll it around in their hands!
When I heard about shampoo bars, I thought it was such a weird idea because I had used liquid shampoo all my life. But they are actually pretty awesome and perform as well or better than liquid shampoo. It takes a little while to learn how to use them, but once you learn, they are wonderful. I make them myself, using Wellness Mama’s recipe. They are a pretty awesome alternative to bottled shampoo. It’s not totally zero waste since the soapmaking ingredients come in plastic, but it’s a fraction of the plastic use compared to store-bought shampoos. The bars have a great lather and I make it from my homemade tallow. (Same process as lard!) There are several companies that make good shampoo soaps if you’re not into making your own soap.
I was newly interested in a no-chemical life when I went to my first Norwex party and their rags totally dazzled me. They are made of mircrofiber, which grabs bacteria off your surface. Basically these rags mitigate a need for most cleaning products because all you need for cleaning is your Norwex rag and water. The EnviroCloth is their main workhorse cleaning rag, and I have really enjoyed using mine. I wash all my bathroom surfaces with the EnviroCloth and I love the way it leaves the surfaces shiny and clean. I use it with a Window Cloth to clean my bathroom mirror and it leaves it spotless. (At least until a greasy little hand comes along!)
Norwex’s Body Cloth
The Body Cloth is similar to the EnviroCloth, except it is smaller and thinner. I have loved mine. It is really good at removing dead skin and excess oil from the skin. Soaping your entire body every day disrupts the micro-biome (beneficial bacteria) that colonize your skin and protect you from disease. It also strips the oils from your skin, which can lead to overly dry or oily skin. Because of this rag, I’m able to get my skin clean without using soap. It makes my face feel so clean. It also helps me get a better shave on my legs.
Toothpaste almost always comes in a plastic container. Even the “natural” ones have stuff in them that I don’t want in my mouth. We have tried many different toothpastes: Coconut oil and baking soda, just coconut oil, herbal tooth powder, and Bentonite clay powder. But whatever weird new DIY toothpaste I am trying at the moment, I always house them in the same cute little jar. We also whittle chopsticks flat on the end and scrape our teeth. This works great for a once-a-week deep clean.
I make my own deodorant and I swear by it. I mix 2 parts coconut oil with 1 part baking soda and about 10-20 drops of anti-fungal essential oil (I usually use tea tree or lavender). It is the most effective deodorant I have tried. This is also the most zero waste too, since I reuse the same little glass jar over and over. It’s a little more messy than stick deodorant because you have to apply with your fingertips, but man, does this stuff block odor. I can even spread it on after I stink and it kills the smell.
The best zero waste conditioner option I have used is a apple cider vinegar rinse. I am beyond pleased with this method and it’s so simple. Add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar to one cup of water. Many people apply it with a spray bottle, which worked for me until the vinegar “mother” that formed in the bottle clogged my sprayer. So… now I just unscrew the lid and dump it on my hair! I would recommend storing it in an upcycled bottle, such as a kombucha bottle or a castille soap bottle. After I pour the conditioner on my hair, I let it sit for a minute and then I rinse. It leaves my hair tangle-free and super soft. I feel the main drawback is how difficult it is to apply. It’s hard to get the right amount on my hair, not get it in my eyes, and deal with the fact that it feels really cold in the winter! But for me, it’s worth it. (Do you know of a better way to apply it? I’d love to hear in the comments below!)
I’m not a fancy person and my skincare routine is very simple. Once I get out of the shower, I rub coconut oil on my face, legs, and arms and call it good. It makes my skin glow. I love how simple it is and that I don’t have to make another body product.
Yeah, I’m one of those people that uses a menstrual cup. I’m also one of those people who loves my menstrual cup. It feels great to not clog up the garbage can with disposable pads once a month. For leaks or light days, I have some awesome cloth pantyliners. Most disposable pads are not only super wasteful, they also have questionable ingredients, which makes me glad to wave bye-bye to Disposable-Pad-Land forever.
I have used this hairbrush for about a year now and I love it. It’s made from bamboo and boar’s hair. It is so soft and goes a good job distributing the oils in my hair and fluffing it up. The kids love using it too and they fight over it when it’s time to brush their hair. Bonus! I doubles as a back scratcher! (Or at least that’s what Elsa thinks!)
We have totally switched from tissues to hankies. I don’t see tissues as being a horrible product since they and their packaging are compostable, but they are still technically making waste. Hankies are definitely more of a hassle (just like any other washable multi-use item) but their pros far outweigh their cons. I love that they are super big and thick, so they can take on even the worst runny nose. I made some smaller ones for the kids from cute flannel fabric and they love them. They are also awesome to have in your pocket for any amount of unforeseen events (as long as they are freshly washed and not soiled yet!): Bandaging wounds, holding berries, washing faces, making a tourniquet, holding a poultice in place, a doll’s blanket… the uses are endless. I keep them in a drawer that the kids can reach.
Ways I want to improve:
- We are still using plastic toothbrushes and I want to buy wooden toothbrushes next time we get new brushes.
- I use a plastic brush to clean my toilet. When it gets worn out, I want to replace it with this.
- We still use normal floss and little plastic flossers. I’d like to switch to these.
Zero waste is always a good goal. I know it can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to change everything in one day. I want to encourage you to think about small steps you can make in your life to move towards zero waste.
What zero waste practices do you use in your bathroom? Share in the comments below!
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Ah, tea. The ancient drink that causes us to slow down, calm our busy minds, and enjoy the here and now. It awakens all our senses: the rising steam mesmerizes, the heat warms, the smell calms, and as for the sound… to be honest, it’s usually the screaming of a forgotten kettle and me running through the house.
We all need to slow down. The practice of putting on the kettle, waiting for the boil (obviously I need some work in this area), pouring the steaming water over healing plants, and enjoying in good company or wondrous silence— it is a good way to slow the frantic rhythm of our day and just enjoy the moment.
There are so many ways to make tea. English breakfast tea in a teacup with cream and sugar. Herbal looseleaf tea in a favorite mug. A teabag carelessly plunked in a random mug.
I’m going to talk about herbal tea because it is a really easy way to begin your journey as a herbalist. Herbal tea is one of the easiest herbal preparations. It is a very gentle, yet effective way of delivering herbal medicine to the body. Teas are extra effective for treating stomach, kidney, bladder, or intestine conditions because it is absorbed by the digestive system.
What is tea?
Tea, also know as an infusion, is water that has extracted the medicinal compounds out of the plant. You can make two types of infusions:
- Hot infusion
- Cold infusion
In a hot infusion (also known as hot tea), the boiling water speeds up the extraction of the plant. A cold infusion (think sun tea or iced tea) takes much more time, since the water is room temperature. It uses the power of gravity in a science called Circulatory Displacement. I don’t understand the details of it, but I have seen it at work. Once I made a cold infusion overnight and let the infuser ball drop to the bottom. In the morning, the color of the water hadn’t changed and it definitely wasn’t tea.
Hot infusion vs. cold infusion: which should I use?
If it’s a cold day and you want to cuddle with a mug, make a hot infusion. If it’s summer, you might want to make a cold infusion. Just remember that cold infusions take about 8 hours, so if you’re in a hurry, make a hot infusion.
Getting more herbal-y and technical, cold infusion is good for plants that are slimy, or demulcent (such as Marshmallow or Slippery Elm), since the boiling water will make them coagulate into a hopeless mess. It is also a gentler way to extract from plants that have volatile oils (such as mint or blossoms).
Whatever method you use just remember this: don’t use one herb longer than 12 weeks without a break, because your body begins to ignore it and it isn’t as effective as it was in the beginning. Our body likes to be surprised by changes in food and medicine.
Loose tea vs. tea bags
Tea bags are a great way to go if you’re starting out but aren’t committed to tea-making. I like Traditional Medicinals’ lineup of herbal teas. But if you want to save money and reduce waste, loose-leaf tea is the way to go. A box of tea bags costs about $4 and contains a little more than a 1/4 cup of herbs. Loose leaf teas from Mountain Rose Herbs are about $10 for a cup of herbs. You can get such a superior quality for about half the cost! Another good reason to use loose-leaf tea is that you end up with more small bits of the plants, which feed the good bacteria in your gut. This allows your gut to absorb even more of the nutrients from your cup of tea.
- Tea kettle (or a saucepan) for boiling water
- A favorite mug
- A infuser (I use this one from Amazon, and these are really fun for kids!)
- Herbs or herbal blend of choice (I use herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs and they make wonderful tea blends too).
How to make a hot infusion
To make a cup of hot tea, bring water to a boil.
While it is heating up, put 1-2 Tablespoons of loose herb in your infuser. For a pot, use 4-5 Tablespoons of herb or more, depending on how big your pot is.
Once the water is almost boiling, pour it over your herbs and cover. This keeps the volatile oils from escaping. Let it stand anywhere from 10-30 min. The longer it infuses, the more medicine extracts from the plant. I usually let it infuse until it’s a good drinking temperature. Use it within 24 hours.
How to make a cold infusion
Put 1 Tablespoon per cup of water in your vessel (I use a mason jar).
I totally made this wrong for the pictures. I put 1T for 1 quart of water. I should have done 4T. Duh.
My helper is cute, but as you can tell from the herbs scattered on the table, he is not super helpful quite yet. Oh well, he will be in a few years.
Make sure the infuser is hanging so gravity can pull out the constituents. Let it sit for 8 hours. I usually make it in the evening and Trent takes it to work with him in the morning. Use within 24 hours.
Keep herbalism alive and make a cup of tea today!
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Before you read this, go back and read Why Live in a Tiny House? Part One.
Our decision to build a tiny house began an exciting change of several of our values. We tried to analyze different things that society told us is healthy or normal and decide for ourselves whether they were or not. Here is our “re-working journey” in a nutshell:
Obviously, home size was one of the first things we questioned. Our culture tells us that one of the marks of successful adulthood is buying a big, beautiful house. Trent has worked for the last 6 years building and remodeling aforementioned houses. He noticed that although owning such a nice house made clients happy, it didn’t bring contentment or peacefulness to their lives. Houses are no longer simply a roof over your head; they have become castles that allow us to separate from each other and from nature.
We began to question the food we were eating. We realized that most of the food we were told was “healthy” was actually damaging our health. Pasteurized dairy products have lost their bacteria and enzymes that help us digest them. Our vegetables have been sprayed with chemicals. Many oils from the store are rancid and have been bleached. Even “healthy” pre-made food (such as crackers and bread) have some questionable ingredients. We also realized that the way conventional agriculture is growing our food is wreaking havoc on our soils, water, and air.
We started to notice how much plastic we were consuming, and this continues to be an ongoing process for me. Plastic is literally everywhere: shopping bags, food packaging, produce bags, storage containers, toys, shoes, garbage bags, blenders, and water bottles. Plastic is convenient and it plays into our consumeristic, throw-away culture, but it takes 500-1,000 years to degrade. Virtually every piece of plastic ever made still exists, except for a small percentage which has been incinerated.
Old Skills Abandoned
We realized how few people know the old skills that almost all generations before us have known: how to grow, harvest, preserve, ferment, and sprout food. How to build a house that uses local resources. How to make medicine from plants. How to survive in the wild. How to care for animals, butcher, and preserve the meat.
Our electronic civilization is truly amazing, yet we have become shadows of the humans who walked the earth just a hundred years ago. We don’t know how to survive in the wild. We can’t live without our grocery stores. We can’t make our own clothes. If anything goes wrong in this well-oiled machine, we’re screwed. Nature needs us, yet we have lost our feeling of need for nature. We have all moved inside to be with our virtual world and have rejected the natural world around us.
Breaking free from consumerism
We are selfish and our current system makes being selfish easy. We want to consume, but we don’t want to give back. So we buy our single-use items, consume them, and throw the remainders away.
It’s hard to break out of this mindset. I know it’s been hard for me to be less of a consumer and more of a maker. To be honest, I still have a long way to go. It is hard for me to take my mason jars to the store and grind my peanut butter, to remember my cloth produce bags, to preserve food in the fall, and to cook most of our food at home, yet for the time being, these are the things I am committed to doing. They are my current step in a long journey away from consumerism.
It is necessary that we consider what affect our choices are having on our land. I deeply desire to leave a planet to my grandchildren that is worth living in. I want them to have fresh air and clean water. I want them to eat food from soils that have been properly cared for. I want them to be resilient and strong.
As I said in part one, we want a full, rich quality of life for our family, and the tiny house is just a small part of a response we are making to our consumeristic culture. I realize that tiny houses aren’t for every one. I also realize it isn’t feasible for everyone to grow all of their own food.
But we can all do better than we are doing right now.