Most of us know the tri-arrow symbol we associate with “recycling,” but the three arrows are actually meant to represent the concepts of “reduce, reuse, AND recycle.” So, the notion of pre-cycling captures the reduce and reuse steps of the cycle. Reducing the waste we create is something that takes some forethought. A lot of us assume that we can “just” recycle some goods, and our job is done. But recycling really does use a lot of energy in and of itself. In some cases, objects that are represented as recyclable are actually limited in their ability to be recycled. Many communities have limitations on what they can accept for recycling, especially in the way of plastics. Glass, aluminum, tin, and steel are considered to be the most readily recyclable. Glass bottles are the easiest to recycle because they can just be washed, refilled, and recapped. If you live in a place that continues a bottle deposit program, you know that you can get money back on glass bottles. Also, aluminum is another recyclable that pays per pound in most communities. So, I’m just going to come right out and say it. I hate Tetra-Paks, juice boxes, drink pouches, chip bags, and plastic bottles of WATER. The plastic water bottles are an easy fix–don’t buy them, find a water fountain, buy a portable water bottle of your choosing, or if you are desperate, go ahead and buy the water and refill it for free! It’s water, people. If you don’t like the way it tastes from your tap, buy a filter. Yes, filters are meant to be disposable, but they last for about 2-3 months and is tiny by comparison to the hundreds of bottles you’d buy for “good-tasting” water. And we all know that much of the bottled waters we have spent extra money to buy is another city’s tap water, right? It’s time to get over this mindset that bottled water is a good idea. It’s not. Tetra-Paks and juice boxes (often one in the same) are convenient storage containers for liquids and come in variations on the theme of cardboard on the outside, aluminum and plastic on the inside. The plastic is supposed to bpa-free, which is better for the foods contained inside (at least it makes them healthier to eat). They are also exceptional at storing milk and other “spoilable” liquids for a very long time. Better storage does mean less waste of the product itself, but these packages are very difficult to recycle. Some Tetra-Paks exclude aluminum, which makes them somewhat easier to recycle, but not many municipalities even accept Tetra-Paks (at least in the U.S.). It is the complexity of the multilayer packaging that makes it difficult to separate and repurpose. Your best bet, if possible, is to avoid buying products in these packages. What’s worse, perhaps than the the Tetra-Paks, is the “drink pouch.” Those infamous Capri Sun silver packets of usually 10% juice + water + sugar came into existence about 25 years ago. That makes 25 years of kid-licious drinks packaged in this (from Kraft’s FAQ page): “CAPRI SUN pouches are polyester-reverse side printed to aluminum then laminated to polyethylene (a plastic polymer). Unfortunately, this packaging is not recyclable.” If you have been to a kid’s birthday party or soccer game or during lunchtime at a school cafeteria, you know the popularity of these never-gonna-be-recycled packages of drinks. The best thing for this? Do not purchase them, unless you absolutely must. I don’t want to say an aluminum can of anything is better, but at least you can recycle cans. So, now that you are thinking about it, you are probably thinking about the packaging for granola bars, candy, chips, heck, even the plastic netting that a 3-pound bag of onions comes in…what do we do with it? Obviously, you can stop buying pre-packaged foods and non-essential packaging. It takes some training, but start a hoard of paper bags and use them for whatever…paper is much more easily recycled, but a good paper bag will last at least 10 uses. Those plastic netting bags can be wadded up and used as a kitchen sink scrub, or taken back to the grocery store to be used for your next batch of fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve been using one to collect the fallen pecans around the neighborhood. It’s healthier to avoid complex packaging, especially when it comes to food. I know you want to still live a “regular” life, though, and the idea that you are going to make all of your own stuff from “scratch” to save on packaging is probably not realistic. With a little planning on the weekends, though, you can create some healthier snacks that can be taken to school or work in reusable containers (optionally wrapped in paper or aluminum foil), or stored at home in a cookie jar or other reusable container. I know it sounds daunting for some parents, but when you think about what all goes into the landfill from just your house, and multiply that by all of the people in your town, and multiply that by all of the towns in your state, country, continent…we are a wasteful bunch of slugs that need to reconsider what we are doing to the planet just for the sake of sugar, water, and snacks. I ran across this quote recently and I think it is something to consider: “The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.” ~ Native American Proverb, Sioux Sorry for being on the preachy side, but it’s time to consider the consequences of our actions. This is just one tiny aspect of the impact we have with our carelessness…think of what impact we can have if we try to change it for the better with intent!
I think it is time to revisit that age old debate…the one about being stinky or not.
For some of you, I will suggest that you have something of an easier task in finding an antiperspirant than my poor, old, sensitive arm-pitted, living in Texas self. If you don’t have to face 90+ degree weather everyday, there’s that. If you DO, then you likely have the same debate I have.
So, there was the baking-soda and water spray, which I used for about a month. And the verdict: Doesn’t really work on really hot days. AND, even this water and baking soda formula was too “hot” for my sensitive skin. I never switched it up with aloe vera or anything more moisturizing, because I discovered I didn’t really like the mess of it…waiting for it to dry and dealing with it dripping everywhere. Yeah. Gross.
Lafe’s, which I had also reported on back in December, is still on my counter as an effective back-up for not having something else. It is also water-like in its drippy-ness and needing to dry, and it does contain potassium alum, which contains aluminum. This concerns me for more than one reason, but if you read this article at Mother Nature Network, it seems to suggest that potassium alum isn’t as absorbable as other forms of aluminum commonly found in other deodorants/antiperspirants. And, when you look it up on the Skin Deep Database, it is graded with just a 1. Combine this deodorant with synthetic clothes, however, and it is lacking…at least for me. It does not irritate, my skin, though. So, that’s why it is still on my counter…good enough for most days, but when I have an important event or meeting, I have backup.
I said I would do it, and I did. I splurged on LaVanila’s Healthy Deodorant. It cost $18. That is not a typo, and it isn’t missing a decimal. I chose the Vanilla Passion Fruit, but I didn’t think it smelled too much like either–it did smell nice, though. Similar to the other natural deodorants, it worked decently with natural fibers and less so with synthetic fibers. I didn’t notice it feeling wet or sticky, and it was very much like a standard solid deodorant stick, which I personally prefer. The sad news for me, though, was that something in this “healthy” product was still too strong for my sensitive skin. My significant other, though, liked it and said he didn’t notice it smelling too girly. Truth be told, he actually went looking for it when I had misplaced it one morning saying “where is MY deodorant?” He works construction in the Texas heat, and though he specifically prefers deodorant over anti-perspirant, he was happy with it’s de-stinking abilities. The major problem, however: when I told him how much it cost, he was shocked and a little upset that I would spend so much on something like deodorant. “For this little thing?” Yeah. Not worth it for me, but maybe for you, if you don’t mind the expense.
The major disappointment for me was Desert Essence Tea Tree Deodorant. Now, one of the things that is difficult about blogging about products is that the formulas change, like, almost every day. I purchased this deodorant around January, but the kind I bought isn’t on the market anymore, unless you happen to find it in store that doesn’t turn over products often. Anyway, don’t bother. My main complaint with this product is that it is hard to apply. It seems more “gluey” and sticky than glidable and applicable. It just didn’t want to “go on” and maybe that’s why it didn’t work. Stinky pits by midday. Like didn’t work at all. My significant other also gave a thumbs down on this one as “not working.” Desert Essence has many other fine products, which I totally encourage you to try. If you are brave, you might even try one of the new formulas of deodorant, but I would honestly try something else. Especially at almost $7 a pop.
And, just one more review that is really more of a “beware.” In one of those moments where you are at the drugstore at midnight picking up random things you need (like a gallon of milk, tweezers, a birthday card for a co-worker, and deodorant), beware of the “natural-sounding” versions of deodorant that you may find from a reliable-sounding brand. For example, Sure has made deodorant for decades. I think some of us might remember commercials that had people dressed in business professional clothing stopping in the middle of a meeting to “raise your hand if you’re sure!” or some such. Anyway, as it turns out, their recent formulas for just “deodorant” seem fairly mild as far as toxic chemicals go. The asterisk next to that statement, of course, is the fragrance formula may contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates. Or it may not. We don’t know. However, and this is my main point, as odd as it may seem, Sure’s “Natural Extracts” version has a worse ranking than than its regular stuff on the Skin Deep database. Now, it’s still not that bad, but it has more “non-active” ingredients making up the base of the product, and some of these are considered more toxic than less. Go figure.
Also, you may think Arm & Hammer’s Essentials Natural Deodorant sounds like it would be pretty awesome. Well, not only do we not know what is in the fragrance formula, but this version also uses Triclosan, an endocrine disruptor, as an anti-microbial to keep the stink down. This is definitely something you do not want to put on freshly shaved skin every day, and serves as prime example of “what not to buy” when you are wandering those drugstore aisles too late at night.
Of course, one glaring reality that I have yet to discuss in this blog is the fact that all of these products are delivered in the form of a plastic container of some sort. Many do not have recycling labels, and many, even if they do have a number on it, aren’t really readily recyclable, because the inner workings or caps are made of different plastic types. Can you imagine how much plastic goes into landfills just because we feel the need to apply chemicals to our pits so we won’t stink/sweat?
You can, of course, like me, go back to the drawing board, and make your own. My dear friend, Rebecca (fellow naturalist and good food foodie), swears by a simple powdery mix of baking soda and cornstarch dispensed by a glass spice-shaker…you know the kind they have at pizza parlors for the red pepper flakes? Just a dusting seems to work for her. I haven’t tried it yet (I will, I swear), but she smells pretty nice every day, and she even rides her bike to work in the Texas heat! That sounds like a winning product review to me!
I personally think I am going to return to my original preference and create a spray formula of some sort (alcohol? water? aloe?) that will be scented with essential oils or oil blends that do not contain any crappy chemicals in them. Hey, it works for me.
I will keep you posted on this on-going debate, but until then, feel free to share any good finds or recipes that really work. Any good ideas are welcome here!
I have promised to write about a subject that is near and dear to my heart…sweating. And not so much the sweating part as the stinking part that usually happens along with sweating. Because, when you do ask the question, to sweat or not to sweat?…the answer is obviously to sweat, because humans eliminate toxins from their bodies via the sweat glands (why do you think they have saunas in health clubs and gyms?). Sweating, of course, is less than comfortable when you are wearing nice clothes or just any clothes that reveal obvious sweat-marks. Perhaps we need to take a page from the rest of the world and just, well, be sweaty and okay with it as a natural thing our bodies need to do. But, in our American society, this just isn’t okay, because although we may be able to overlook your embarrassingly sweaty pits in a meeting, we will not forgive you for bringing your stanky funk with you.
So, what’s wrong with anti-perspirant? Aside from not letting your body eliminate toxins from your underarm sweat glands? 1. These products can make you just sweat more in other parts of your body…this happens to me. So while my pits might be lovely and dry, my whole back will be drenched to compensate for it…this is even worse than sweaty pits in my experience, especially when you go sit in the air conditioning afterwards…freezing! Since it isn’t summer, this may be less of a concern, but keep it in mind when summer rolls around again. 2. Not sweating causes toxins to accumulate in your body and this has been associated with cancer of the lymph system and possibly breast cancer. Enough said. 3. Aluminum is one of the main ingredients people want to avoid, but alas, this is the key ingredient for keeping the sweat glands in check. There is already a lot of aluminum in the world, but applying it directly to one of the most absorbent areas of the body gives one pause when you consider that an increased risk of Alzheimer’s has been associated with increased levels of aluminum in the body. Most anti-perspirants (even the “natural” crystal ones) use some form of aluminum salt to keep those sweat glands in check. Your cells literally swell from the aluminum salt application enough to close up the sweat glands. Depending on the strength of the anti-perspirant, you may only need to apply once a day. However, the other problem I have with these products is my tender, sensitive skin begins to react to this application of salt in my underarms every day so that they hurt and feel…well…crusty. Even the pretty, made for a woman anti-perspirants do this to me. So…deodorants for me!
But wait. What’s wrong with deodorants? If any of you have been paying attention to my blog you can probably guess…it’s phthalates and other endocrine disruptors. And I thought I was being so clever and healthy. I replaced my Secret solid for some fancy Bath & Body or Victoria’s Secret body spray about five years ago. I rationalized that the alcohol would be killing the bacteria that are actually responsible for making sweaty pits into stinky pits, and then the fragrance would cover up anything that may develop throughout the day. Well, although that worked pretty well except for during the deepest Texas summer and trips to the gym, I was still applying harmful chemicals to my skin, half the time on freshly shaved skin, no less.
No doubt, some of you may have already tried the natural crystals. I suggest that you read your package ingredients and see if it contains an aluminum salt. If it does, I would also suggest looking for a different type. It just doesn’t seem worth the risk to use a product that may impact your brain function in later years, and since it runs in my family, I am absolutely concerned and will not use aluminum-based products if I can help it.
Some of you may have already tried Tom’s of Maine deodorant. I have tried three different scents over the years, and I don’t know if they have been tinkering with the formula or if the essential oil used for scent makes that much of a difference, BUT…the only kind that kept me from being stinky was the lavender version. This product is not powdery or silky, but rather on the sticky/goopy side. I have applied, then blotted before putting on clothes to keep the white-marks from getting everywhere. You must remember that Tom’s is only a deodorant and not an anti-perspirant, so you are still going to sweat. This brand is easy to find in most places you can buy personal products at about $5/tube. Tom’s is also all-natural and never uses phthalates. You might want to give it a shot just to see if works with your body chemistry or well enough for you to be happy. I can live with it until I find a replacement that is better…and these are the ones I think I am going to try in the near future.
The gold standard seems to be La Vanila brand Healthy Deodorant. These babies cost $18/50g (1.7 oz) unless you buy a three-pack for $44 (that’s a $3.33 savings per tube). La Vanila swears by natural perfumery (they also have some apparently to die for fragrances/lotions/soaps) and science that exclude “petrochemicals, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oils, silicone, synthetic dyes, sulfates, or parabens” and additionally, since we are talking deodorant, they also have eliminated aluminum from the mix. You can buy these at Sephora and according to the reviews there, these are actually even acceptable for men to use (and they like it and don’t complain about smelling girly). If Santa Claus doesn’t bring me a gift card to Sephora, I might have to splurge and go get this anyway.
Options to consider. Honestly, you have decide for yourself on this. Do you care more about being sweaty or being stinky? If you care more about being sweaty, you are probably going to have to opt for some form of aluminum containing product. IF you choose this route, I suggest Lafe’s Natural and Organic Deodorant Spray. It uses potassium alum, which is a mineral salt containing, you guessed it, aluminum! It contains less per content than many other brands and works decently to keep you dry AND stink free. It only contains water, potassium alum, and aloe vera juice. I’m not sure about the plastic bottle it comes in, because it seems to have no recycle symbol on it, so that’s something of a question (I’ll contact them and see what they say about that). This brand is made right here in Austin, too, it seems, and you can get it on-line for about $6/4 oz. bottle, but I think I got my last bottle at the local fancy grocery store for about $4-something. On the up-side, it is unscented and therefore if you have found a natural perfume/body spray you like, it won’t clash with it at all, and you can share it with the men in your life without complaint. I confess that if need be, I might use this again during the high heat of the Texas summer if La Vanila or the recipe below can’t cut it.
Weleda spray deodorant was recommended by someone online, but a review of its ingredients (via drugstore.com) turned up benzyl benzoate, which is similar to phthalate in the fact that it is an endocrine disruptor. It’s even been used as an insecticide. However, when you go to the Weleda.com website, a different set of ingredients are listed and benzyl benzoate isn’t there. So, there could have been an update to the formula and drugstore.com hasn’t updated that info (or aren’t selling it yet). Read the label and if the benzyl benzoate is there, don’t buy it. This brand is also on the costly side…$13 from Weleda’s online store. It comes in Sage, Citrus, and Wild Rose fragrances. The company is natural certified six different ways to Sunday, so it seems ridiculous that they would put anything crappy in their formulas (like benzyl benzoate or phthalates), so in this instance, although it does not say “phthalate free” anywhere, I think we can assume it is. Or should be.
Now, for the real nitty-gritty hippy version. If you’ve done any sort of “greening up” your house, you’ve surely heard the praises of baking soda already. You can scrub with it like a scouring powder, you can brush your teeth with it, you can wash your hair with it, you can polish your silver, settle an upset stomach, get the stink out of your refrigerator, and, of course, make your baked goods rise. Now, too, you can keep your armpits from being smelly. You can dust it on like a powder using ½ c. baking soda mixed with ½ c. cornstarch. Or you can (and this is what I did) combine about 1 ½ cups of distilled or filtered water with ¼ c. baking soda. Mix well and pour it in a spray bottle. It’s that easy. AND it is ridiculously cheap at probably about $0.15 per batch. You might try adding some witch hazel, alcohol, aloe vera juice, or rosewater to improve your recipe. Witch hazel and alcohol will help kill the stink-causing bacteria, aloe vera will moisturize, and rosewater just smells good (but make sure it’s natural or make it yourself). Essential oils can be added with an alcohol mix, but without alcohol they won’t disperse properly. Spray this on your underarms after you get out of the shower and let it dry before putting on clothes. I’m trying this right now, and I’ll let you know how it goes.
But I’m still gonna try La Vanila just because I want to.
Sweat on, dear friends, sweat on.