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Only 19 Days ‘Til Christmas! Stocking Stuffers!

I *hope* you have already begun to use more natural products for yourself.  But maybe you are having a hard time convincing others to follow suit.  It can be hard to let go of favorite products and to venture out into the world of reading labels and knowing what to avoid.

So, an easy way to get some people to just *try* something new is to give them a collection of samples or maybe just fill their stockings to the brim with travel-size products.  If the product is a good one, they may just seek it out for that reason, not BECAUSE it’s good for them, just because it’s GOOD!

Try some of these:

Burt’s Bees has some easy to find, inexpensive, and varied sample-size collections.  You can find one for everyone on your list from babies and new moms to teenagers and dads.  If you can’t seem to find one in a store local to you, try their website.  If you go to “Gifts,” you will find “Gift Sets” and also “Travel & Trial,” where there are 21 different products you can buy individually to create your own little sampler.  Fun!

Aubrey Organics has a variety of pre-packaged travel sets for right around $10, which will give someone a good amount to sample.  They have six different collections to address different skin types and conditions.  They also have natural lip balms and 2oz. sizes of some products like the Natural Baby line. 

South of France Soaps is a new and surprising find for me…from their webpage, it says: 

The luxurious South of France® soap is kettle cooked in small batches using a traditional Marseille recipe with all natural vegetable ingredients. Each fragrance is chosen specifically for its cleansing and calming qualities. All South of France® soaps, lotions and body wash are free of sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, EDTA, paraben and phthalates and never tested on animals. As a result of its superior quality and fragrances, South of France has quickly become one of the best selling natural bar soap brands in the United States.

Many of the soaps also indicate they are soy free, gluten free, and vegan.  You can find this soap in various on-line stores, which will probably afford you the best prices.  I found it at World Market on sale 2 for 1.  At $5.99, regularly priced, it is kind of expensive, but the fragrances are really wonderful and the 8 oz. bar seems to be lasting a long time.  They do have a half-size bar that comes in a 2-pack if you can find it, which might make a better stocking stuffer.  But I’d be happy with a big ol’ bar of good smelling soap in my stocking!  With fragrances like Lavender and Tea Tree Sandalwood, even the men in your life will enjoy it. 

And to stick with the idea of soap bars, if you want to try a shampoo bar, look for J.R. Liggett brand.  You can find sample sizes easily online and they even come in a variety of scents…Peppermint is even a seasonal scent that is available!  These are made by hand in small batches with all natural ingredients.  Mr. Liggett, himself, indicates that you don’t even need conditioner with his shampoo bar.  Might try it myself!

Jojoba & Peppermint 3.5 oz.

And a new/old perfumer that is bringing some wholly natural and “mostly” natural options is Demeter.  They have a new line of fragrances called Demeter Naturals, but per their FAQs on their website:  “Demeter Naturals fragrances are completely natural. And while some Demeter Classic fragrances are all natural, we do use some synthetic ingredients in most Classic fragrances. Generally speaking, the ingredients in our fragrances are at least 95% derived from natural and sustainable sources, and we use no artificial color or Phthalates or parabens.”  They also conduct no animal testing.  The full size Demeter Natural fragrances (1.7 oz) go for about $30 online, but you can probably find them for less in stores or on sale.  They also have purse-size 0.5 oz sprays that might be better for stockings.  The Vetiver and Mimosa fragrances have gotten pretty good reviews.

So, these are just five ideas, but I hope they lead you to giving your family and friends the gift of healthier and more natural living this year!

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Day 3 Gift Idea – Give Experiences, Not THINGS!

If you are like me, you have a slew of people to buy gifts for.  I mean, in just my immediate family there are 10 people who (traditionally) need a “real” gift.  And of *those,* five are children between the ages of 17 and 8, two of whom expect Santa Claus to really blow it out every year.  This age range, in case you don’t have any kids in your life, or have forgotten your own childhood, is apparently the height of “wantist” behavior.

I remember sitting for hours and hours with the J.C. Penney and Sears catalogs and a legal pad taking careful notes of which items I would like to get, what color it should be if there was an option, and the price.  I knew the elves were supposed to make the gifts, but…I mean, in case it was cheaper to buy it at Penney’s, I thought I would just help Santa out with the price check.  And some years I was disappointed, because I didn’t get that one thing I *really* wanted, even though I DID get dozens of other gifts.

Ah, first world problems.

So, too, my kids have already been tricked out with fancy phones, iPods, gaming consoles of various kinds with various games, sporting equipment for every sport they ever expressed an ounce of interest in, puzzles, board games, and so many clothes we can’t even keep track of them all.  Based on how they take care of the things they already have, I am reluctant to buy them more.  Because here’s the thing.  They don’t seem to care if they destroy or lose or leave at the soccer field or stain any of the above.  And I’ve come to understand that they don’t care, because 1. They did not earn the thing they have broken or lost or ruined, so it has no real meaning or value, and 2. They believe the thing will be replaced almost as if with the snap of their fingers.

And who can blame them, really?  It’s the world they’ve become accustomed to—a throwaway society.  These kids are actually my stepkids and they don’t live with us full-time, only on the weekends.  You can imagine how well it goes over when I, self-dubbed “Crazy Stepmom,” tries to get them to eat like vegetarians, go outside and play, and earn things like X-Box privileges by doing simple chores like crushing cans and taking out the trash.  So…you can imagine how well this “let’s go do something instead of getting gifts” might go over.

But honestly, when I look back at it, I remember things I did with my family 1000% better than the gift I wanted but never got when I was 4 or 5 or 9 or 10 or…ever. 

So, especially if you can explain to your kids, or even just convince your folks or friends or whomever, that you are going to *do* something instead of get something, they will be able to keep the memory much longer than the thingamajigs they got (or didn’t get) this year. 

It doesn’t have to be that grand or even cost that much money.  I have tried this year to instill a little more Christmas doing and giving by taking the kids to the local Christmas parade where a local charity collected gifts for needy families.  Next weekend we are going to the “Trail of Lights” where there is a walk-through Christmas light display.  There are a handful of Christmas-themed 5Ks and Fun Runs complete with face painting and hot cocoa happening around town from now until Christmas Day and afterwards.  If you have a sporty family, it can be fun for all, especially if you just want to get out and get some fresh air. 

There are Christmas Markets in some parts of the world that have food and drink samplings and fun things to peruse/purchase.  There are sing-alongs, caroling, Christmas tree lightings, ice skating, parades…if you have snow, a simple day of sledding can be amazing fun for kids of all ages.  If you don’t have snow, try hiking or camping, and family games of charades or Pictionary or (something everyone has a chance to play and do well—let’s avoid the hurt feelings at Christmas) or whatever happens to be your favorite. 

It’s a perfect time of year to get your family involved in a charity of some sort, either volunteering at a place that serves the needy, visiting nursing homes, collecting items for donations, or getting involved with an animal rescue.   This kind of thing can really put the world into a different perspective for kids who are used to everything they could ever want being at their fingertips. 

Religion is an obvious part of the holidays, and if it is part of your family’s traditions, go and sing and light candles and remember why we celebrate.  I will always remember the specialness of getting dressed up on Christmas Eve, everyone holding candles and singing Silent Night, and then the stockings of apples and oranges and nuts and candies some dear soul at our church gave to all the kids.  Just a whiff of those fruits in the midst of a cold night takes me right back to those days.  How exciting it all was!

 And honestly, just making things together like cookies and decorations or a snowman becomes the stuff imprinted on our brains when think about the holidays.  I can still remember laying under the Christmas tree, looking up through the lighted branches, while my dad listened to Elvis’ “Blue Christmas.”  It was so simple, but so lasting.

Of course, these are all things you can do *this* season.  But maybe NEXT year, you can actually plan a trip somewhere special.  Go to the mountains, go to the beach, rent a cabin in the woods, go on a cruise…or, gasp! Go to Paris, Costa Rica, Hawaii, or Rome!  If you plan it now, or broach the idea to your family THIS year, you’ve got a whole year to plan and save and make it happen.   I mean, life’s too short to sit around dreaming about going somewhere when you could…you really could, if you just decide to spend all that Christmas money on something different and longer lasting than just “stuff.”

Of course, there’s no place like home for the holidays!  Just shake it up a bit, start a new tradition, and go DO something!

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Greener Christmas Day 2 – Make Some Snacks!

You know who you are, oh you of the kitchen, who prefers to cook for your best pursuit of the holidays, to show people you love them, to feel jolly and creative and, well, just right with the world.  To eat is human.  To cook is divine.  In my opinion.  BUT, you don’t have to be a master chef to make delicious goodies.

What better way to avoid consumerism and meaningless gifts than to give the gift of yumminess?  And with a little bit of effort, food can become a wonderfully special surprise for your friends and family.  If you use the right ingredients, it can even be healthy, or vegan, or local, or organic, or all four!

Here’s a super easy formula you can follow:

1.  Make three snacks.  These should be relatively easy to store (no refrigeration).  Keep in mind any allergies or food limitations of those whom you would like to give the gift. 

2.  Decorate three lunch size paper bags with stamps or stickers or drawings, or….don’t.  But you should probably, at least, write the name of the snack on the bag so that it is visible before the person opens the bag. 

3.  Fill the paper bags with snacks and tie them with ribbons or raffia or twine or whatever you like to make it festive. 

4.  Write the recipe for each snack (or type it up and print it out if you don’t like your handwriting), and enclose them in a Christmas card.  Write a sweet note to your giftee, too, while you are at it.

5.  Put the snacks in a basket with some colorful tissue paper.  Add things like pinecones, cinnamon sticks, and uncracked walnuts or pecans if you like.  Or, and this is the one I like best, place the three snacks and card with recipies into a seasonally appropriate reusable grocery bag.  Some of them are quite lovely, and when the food is gone, they can go get more with the bag!  Yay!

Easy, right?!  Of course there are so many variations to this that can make it less or more fancy.  You could use tins or jars for the snacks.  You can just give one snack, and maybe just put the recipe on a card and tie it like a tag to the bag.  Maybe write it directly on the bag.  Maybe don’t make a snack, but a drink mix instead.  There are really so many possibilities.

Here are some snacks that might be good:

Granola, spiced or glazed or candied nuts, “real” Chex mix, cookies, trail mix, chocolate dipped pretzel sticks, spiced tea mix, cocoa, homemade marshmallows, and stuff like that.

Do note that anything with butter or oil as an ingredient will make a plain brown paper bag become spotted with oil…in this case, think about using a jar or tin.  If you use any chocolate or white chocolate, make sure it is the kind that will essentially harden after cooling and don’t leave your gifts sitting in the car for too long.

And, to boot, check out the recipe tab of my blog for a good, healthy recipe for Pistachio Cherry Granola.  I’ll likely add some more recipes as the season progresses, so check back often!

If you double or triple your normal recipes, this formula might take care of several people on your list.  Don’t forget to include directions with your recipes so that someone could actually re-create the snack.

Most people love gifts like this, so take a chance and give some food.  Be divine for a day.

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25 Days ’til Christmas! Day 1 Gift Ideas

Now that the season is upon us, it is time to think about celebrating the traditions, sharing good times with family and friends, and making new memories.  In our pursuit of a greener holiday, there are all sorts of options to have a smaller impact on the environment while still making the holidays special.

Some of us may be choosing a life of reduced consumerism, while others may finally have a little bit of money they’d like to spend on nicer gifts this year.  Some of us may merely be on a budget, while others may be wanting to keep their money in the local economy. 

Over the next month, I’ll try to give everyone some good ideas that are greener, cleaner, local-er, and still special.

Today’s idea is one that may not be available to everyone, but you never know until you do a little research. 

For the foodies in the family, for the localvores, or really anyone who enjoys fresh food, check into your community for farms that participate in a CSA program.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  How it works is usually something like paying for a magazine subscription, except instead of a magazine, you get fresh, usually organic, usually extremely local, freshly picked vegetables and fruits.  Many of the farms that offer CSA participation call your investment in their farm a “share.”  Most CSAs operate under the concept that you are helping support the farm by paying for the products they produce in advance of the season.  With this investment in a share, farms are better able to plan their seasons, crops, deliveries, and profit.  Some farms (most of the ones I’ve checked out) even offer eggs, dairy, and meats also raised on the farm or a partner farm for an additional cost.  Some CSAs deliver while others have pick-up locations at farmer’s market locations.  You can even tell them which vegetables you would rather not get or trade with another shareholder.

You can get weekly or bi-weekly (meaning every other week) “shares” of food that are in season.  Of the farms local to me, they indicate that throughout the year there are 60-70 types of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and sometimes flowers you can get as part of your share, and most shares are 6-10 different kinds of produce that come to you in a box or paper grocery bag–sometimes up to two paper bags full.  What you get, of course, depends on what is in season. 

Additionally, several of the CSAs I have read about have “field” days where you are invited to come help harvest or do other work on the farm, which is optional and completely up to you.  Some even offer a “work for your food” kind of plan where you can earn your food through sweat-equity.  A couple of CSAs come with newsletters and recipes for cooking ideas.  There are even a few that have community meals where members come to the farm once a season and dine with fellow CSA shareholders and the farmers.  It sounds like so much fun!

As for payment plans, they seem to be as varied as the vegetables you can get.  Some have an annual fee, some break up payments throughout the year, some charge “per box” and some have a system that sounds like a season-specific plan, where you get anywhere from 4 to 8 boxes per season.  Right now, many of the local CSAs are offering gift cards or gift plans for as low as $25 for the holidays.  Of course, you can gift as much as a whole year’s worth, if you want, and I am sure they extend the gift-card giving to birthdays and other special occasions.

Considering how much produce I buy every week, this sounds like an amazing alternative/supplement to getting grocery-store fruits and vegetables that are sometimes already “over the hill” or weeks away from being ripe.  Additionally, you’ll not only get more nutritious food (because it’s so fresh–sometimes picked that day!), but you can also have the peace of mind that organically grown foods are lacking in toxic pesticides and have a lower impact on the environment with less inorganic inputs.  Since these foods have been grown so close to home, less energy has been spent on getting the food to you, which reduces air and water pollution.  At the same time, you are actively supporting farmers and their families make a more reliable living without having to be so dependent upon bank loans.

It is a really exciting option that I know I am going to look into not only for my own family but probably a few of my friends.  I hope you will look into a CSA for the holidays and think about giving this gift of green not only to the people on your shopping list, but to yourself as well!

 

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Post Christmas Splurge!

So, I couldn’t resist…I bought some more shampoo, hairspray, and toothpaste.  They were all on sale!

First, Everyday Shea Shampoo in Vanilla Mint.

Vanilla Mint Everyday Shea Shampoo

This came in a gigantic size (32 oz.) for $13.99 (about $0.44/oz).  I’ll use it for body/hand soap, too, to justify the cost.  The mint (spearmint), in my opinion, overpowers the vanilla, but it’s still lovely and makes me feel all happy.  It produces a nice lather and doesn’t leave hair feeling…shall I say… TOO clean?   If you’ve ever washed your hair with Dr. Bronner’s you know what I’m talking about.  It’s not like that at all.

Shea butter and oil, as well as coconut oil, are the saponified fats in this product, so it should be quite moisturizing.  I’ve only used it for a few days, but so far, my hair seems manageable and not greasy and not crunchy.  So far so good.   The company uses fair trade ingredients, no synthetic fragrances, no parabens, and does not test on animals.  The fragrances are created with essential oils (and they have unscented versions of their products, too).  This means no phthalates!

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss an ingredient: cocamidapropyl betaine.  This is a surfactant that is synthetically made by chemically manipulating coconut oil and it can be an allergen to some people.  If you know you have skin reactions to surfactants, you may want to avoid this product.  If I notice anything strange, I’ll report back.

Second, Giovanni L.A. Hold Hair Spritz!

Giovanni L.A. Hold Hair Spritz

Okay, so I delayed getting hairspray after my purge, thinking I didn’t “really” need it and most brands cost about $10/bottle.  Unfortunately, this meant I couldn’t wear my hair up, because I can’t stand the falling-down fly-aways that happen without hairspray.  And, honestly, I’m one of those people who like my hair to be neat and without the hairspray, all of those little pieces that wouldn’t lay flat after midmorning drove me nutso.

THIS hairspray to the rescue!  Giovanni products are vegan with a few exceptions of beeswax in their lip balms and milk in some of their products.  They do not test on animals, they do not put phthalates in their products, most fragrances are created naturally from essential oils and plant extracts, and many of their ingredients are certified organic.

This hairspray smells slightly floral, and holds lightly all day without being stiff (although this is touted as “maximum hold,” I don’t think it can be compared to the hard/crispy hairsprays we remember from high school).  At least the hairspray holds enough that I don’t have to fuss with my hair in the  mirror at work with those crazy fly-aways.  I haven’t tested the up-do hold, yet, but I’ll do more homework and get back to you on this.  It also hasn’t had to stand up to any crazy humidity yet.  I’m happy with it so far, so I hope it works for the occasional bun or ponytail.  It cost $7.95 for 5 oz…which will probably last about 4 months for me.  Not bad. And yes, ANOTHER toothpaste:  Now XyliWhite Cinnafresh Toothpaste Gel.

I have decided for my own health concerns to avoid fluoride.  This toothpaste doesn’t have any fluoride, but it does have xylitol, which works to prevent cavities by killing bacteria.  It also contains papain (a fruit enzyme) for whitening effect.  The paste itself is very much like gel, but it has the same color as beeswax, which I suppose could be a bit off-putting at first, but at least it’s not full of fake food dyes.  Here are the other ingredients: water, hydrated silica, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium coco-sulfate, carrageenan (Chondrus crispus), cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) leaf oil, tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) leaf oil, potassium sorbate.   Keep this FAR away from dogs, because the high quantity of xylitol could be fatally toxic (this is true for anything containing xylitol, obviously).  I like the cinnamon flavor, but it certainly isn’t as powerful as Jason’s Powersmile pepperminty-blast of fresh.  It does foam up nicely even though it doesn’t have any SLSes, and the slick-clean sensation is about a 9/10 for me.  I feel like my teeth keep that quality longer than with regular toothpaste…like it’s 11 pm now (I brushed my teeth around 8:30 am), and there’s no noticeable plaque-y feel on my teeth like there normally would be.  I find this amazing!  It  cost about $4.39 for a big 6.4 oz tube.  On www.iherb.com, you can get other flavors, and it is on sale for $3.81 right now.  It’s a definite thumbs up, and I am happy to feel un-conned on fluoride with this one. AND…although I haven’t tried any of their products, the Yes To Inc. company that creates Yes to Carrots and Yes to Cucumbers (and other vegetables)…have passed the no phthalate test!  They have a wholly organic line of baby products, which of course are good for adults to use, too.  They also avoid the use of parabens and SLSes.  They try to use as many organic and non-synthetic ingredients as possible, so just read the labels to see if there might be anything objectionable in it.  They do not test on animals and most products are also vegan…those that aren’t contain only beeswax and honey.  This is another brand that is widely available at WalMart and drugstores, but you might find a better selection at a “natural” store.  You can also shop at their online store, of course.  So, huzzah for finding another good and easy to find natural brand.  Options are awesome and variety is the spice of life!  Next time…the deodorant test continues.  Spoiler Alert!  I am breaking up with Tom’s of Maine forever!

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The Natural Toothpaste Taste Test (and research)

So, hey, everyone…I know you are dying to hear about TOOTHPASTE!  That’s right toothpaste is on the board today, and I have spent about two weeks testing 3 different brands.  First, though, a little lesson about toothpaste (okay, it’s kind of a big lesson, but bear with me).

I think it is safe to say that the things we want toothpaste to do are:  clean the tooth surface, prevent cavities, bad breath, and gingivitis, and whiten the tooth surface (or at least reduce the staining that can happen with food, drink, smoking, and age). 

Cleaning and whitening are usually accomplished with detergents and abrasives. 

The most common detergents in toothpaste are sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, and no doubt, if you are reading my blog you may already have seen it listed as things that companies are removing from their products.  Why are these bad, you may wonder?  Why the heck are they in everything from shampoo to…toothpaste?  Well, as a surfactant, it makes things slippery and disassociate from surfaces (helps get things unstuck) and it also emulsifies, keeping things in solution (those unstuck particles stay unstuck).  This is ideal for cutting through grease, dirt, and for your teeth…plaque and bacteria.  Not a bad thing.  For hair, these surfactants can be too strong, stripping hair, and leaving it feeling like straw.  They’ve been officially labeled as “human irritants,” with the “laureth” version being much more irritating than the “lauryl” variety.   If you want to avoid these, it’s not hard to do these days…do as you like, but I wouldn’t call them “toxic” or “dangerous,” just irritating.  If you are prone to “canker” sores or “gum boils” (as my grandmother called them), it may be the SLSes to blame.

Abrasives can be any variety of particles meant to polish your teeth with the physical action of scrubbing.  These should be mild, obviously, to prevent damaging your tooth enamel.  Common abrasives are aluminum hydroxide, calcium carbonate, calcium hydrogen phosphates, silica, mica, zeolites, and hyrdoxyapatite.  Based on my research, the only one you should try to avoid is aluminum hydroxide for its suspected toxicity.  Most whitening-action toothpaste, as it turns out, whitens more than regular paste due to “more polishing” and therefore more abrasiveness.   Be mindful of these varieties as they may end up doing more harm than good in the long run. 

If you want a quick listing of abrasive ratings for common toothpastes (it even includes some Tom’s, straight baking soda, and some brands, like CloSYS, that come in fluoride-free versions) check out this link:  http://dukeslc.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/toothpaste-abrasion-ratings/

Prevention of cavities

This is probably the most controversial topic I’ve written about yet, because if you start looking, you will find whole websites dedicated to the vilification of fluoride, while others (like most of us have been taught) promote fluoride as THE ingredient that prevents cavities.  There are so many studies about this, and so many things that people claim are fact without any references, so I don’t want to promote a culture of reactionary assumption.  Honestly, you are going to have to decide for yourself on this one, but I’ll summarize my findings.

First, let me explain that there are three different versions of fluoride used in toothpastes:  sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate, and stannous fluoride (which is actually a naturally-occurring salt).  My research has turned up evidence that only one version of fluoride actually helps harden teeth and this is stannous fluoride.  The only toothpaste brand using this version of fluoride today is Crest Pro-Health.  There are also “fluoride treatment gels”  like Gel-Kam, OMNI Gel, and Flo-Gel  that use stannous fluoride, but these aren’t intended for daily use and aren’t “toothpastes.”    If you leave stannous fluoride on your teeth too long, it can discolor your teeth (but usually it’s not permanent), which may be why most companies don’t use it.  Usually the discoloration is as white flecks (not that bad), or a golden brown (pretty bad).   I could get into other chemical reactions, but let’s not.

The research I am citing is from the American Journal of Dentistry, August 2011; 24(4) 205-10, from an article called: Enamel Protection: a comparison of marketed dentrifice performance against dental erosion.  Note: dentrifice is just a fancy word for “toothpaste.”  The authors, Faller, Eversole, and Tzeghai, compared our three previously mentioned forms of fluoride on actual cores of human teeth and with human saliva (okay, kind of gross, but at least it is realistic).  The results were that stannous fluoride protected enamel the best against citric acid and phosphoric acid (common acids we consume in food and drink), while sodium fluoride and sodium monofluorophosphate were not significantly different than the control nor each other.  So, long story short, if you want to use fluoride, you should go with the stannous fluoride.  That’s Crest Pro Health.  Have at it.  It gets a 3/10 from EWG’s database.

NOW, why might you want to avoid fluoride altogether?  A summary of reasons goes like this:

  1. Fluoride accumulates in the body.
  2. Some people are more sensitive to fluoride than others, and this usually applies to children…the impact goes beyond tooth enamel discoloration, as described below

(Specific to fluoride in your water, but also applicable to fluoride’s impact on the body)

  1. There has never been a single randomized clinical trial to demonstrate fluoridation’s effectiveness or safety.
  2. Fluoridation’s role in the decline of tooth decay is in serious doubt.
  3. Fluoride may damage the brain, lower IQ, and may cause non-IQ neurotoxic effects.
  4. Fluoride affects the pineal gland, thyroid function, causes arthritis symptoms, and damages bone.
  5. Fluoride may increase hip fractures in the elderly.
  6. Fluoride may cause bone cancer.
  7. Fluoride may cause reproductive problems.
  8. The chemicals used to fluoridate water are not pharmaceutical grade, but are usually the byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry and may be contaminated with a variety of other impurities that may include substances like arsenic.
  9. Many scientists oppose fluoridation.  As of July 2011, over 3700 professionals have signed a statement calling for an end to water fluoridation worldwide (this statement and a list of signatories can be found on the website of the Fluoride Action Network (see: www.FluorideAlert.org)).

So, like I said at the beginning of this section, there is so much research you can go hunting for yourself and make your own decisions.  Another site you might want to check out is www.fluoridation.com

Other things you may find in your toothpaste

Xylitol – you probably recognize this from some sugar-free gums and candies, but it works to prevent bacterial growth and therefore prevents cavities and gingivitis; it also makes your toothpaste sweet and comes from natural sources.

Stevia extract – a not so new to natural-living proponets, but new to most of us mainstream people, this is a  natural non-caloric sweetener. 

Saccharine – less natural, used for zero-calorie sweeting, associated with cancer in rats, but is generally accepted as safe in small quantities…this is the sweetener in Sweet-n-Low.  It only gets a 2/10 toxicity rating.

Essential oils and plant extracts – in some natural toothpastes, this is another bacteria-fighting and additional cleaning ingredient.

I would obviously read other things on the ingredient lists of the toothpastes you use and avoid those things that are otherwise harmful.  The EWG Skin Deep database does contain a large number of toothpastes, so you can check out their toxicity ratings per ingredient.

NOW, lesson over.  Sheesh, I apologize.  On to the taste tests!

Toothpaste #1:  Tom’s of Maine Whole Care with fluoride in Spearmint flavor.  The fluoride is in sodium monofluorophosphate variety.  The other ingredients are glycerin, water, calcium carbonate, hydrated silica, xylitol, carrageenan, spearmint leaf oil and other natural flavors, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and zinc citrate.  It’s not animal tested, and Tom’s is committed to sustainable practices, recycling, being as natural as possible, and giving back to the community.   So, it was not too gritty, and seemed adequately paste-y in a way that sort of reminds me of my childhood Colgate.   It foams up like a “regular” paste and has the same level of refreshing minty-ness.  It seems like the clean-lasting factor is about 3 or so hours, which is decent.  Basically, this is your average paste with average results with natural ingredients.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Toothpaste #2:  Burt’s Bees Natural Toothpaste:  Multicare with Fluoride in Peppermint flavor.  The fluoride here is also sodium monofluorophosphate.  The other ingredients are glycerin, hydrated silica, xylitol, calcium sodium phosphosilicate, sodium cocoyl  glutamate, titanium dioxide, cranberry fruit powder, stevia extract, carrageenan, xanthan gum, silica, natural flavor, lecithin, and maltodextrin.  So, this is free of SLSes, and you can tell since it is less foamy.  The paste is noticeably grittier than average, and it looks slightly off-white and speckled from the cranberry fruit powder.  The peppermint flavor is refreshing but doesn’t last.  If you don’t get enough paste on your brush, it does seem to “go away.”  When you DO get enough on your brush, the clean-feel lasts longer than Tom’s, which may imply more abrasiveness.   I’ve already chatted up Burt’s Bees in other posts, so I’ll refrain now.  And I also noticed a saltiness that isn’t extreme in any way, but noticeable.  I would give this one 2.5 stars.

Awesome stuff!

 
 
 

Toothpaste #3:  Jason Powersmile All Natural Whitening Toothpaste in Peppermint flavor.  There no fluoride in this toothpaste and I’m going to count that as a good thing.  The other ingredients are calcium carbonate, purified water, vegetable glycerin, sodium cocoyl glutamate, peppermint oil, carrageenan, aloe vera leaf gel, bamboo stem powder, parsley extract, perilla seed extract, baking soda, silica, stevioside, grapefruit seed extract.  I’m just going to come right out and say it.  I love this toothpaste!  It is strong on the peppermint side, so maybe that makes me “feel” like it is cleaning better?  Very refreshing and lasting in flavor (think Altoids), as well as in that clean feel.  And I’m not joking.  On days when I used this paste, in the afternoon, I was still thinking, “wow, my teeth feel clean.”  Again, this may be due to increased amounts of abrasives, but it may also be due to the increased amount of plant extracts that act as anti-bacterial factors.  The paste color is a little tiny bit on the gray side and less paste-y in texture…more like a white gel, which I guess is the aloe.  I’m giving this one a 4.5 out of 5.

Now, interestingly, as I was doing all of this research I found this:  “Most of the cleaning is achieved by the mechanical action of the toothbrush, and not by the toothpaste. Salt and Baking soda are among materials that can be substituted for commercial toothpaste.”  So, you know me, I went and brushed my teeth with the magical baking soda.  It seems to foam up on its own…this is the reaction of the basic pH of the baking soda with the acidic pH of the saliva.  From an abrasive point of view it is mild, and it seems my brush alone would do a fairly decent job, and without the zing of peppermint or cinnamon, I’m left feeling just…salty.  And it’s not very pleasant.  And it’s drippy…like you can’t walk around the house brushing your teeth this way…at least I couldn’t.  I would use baking soda if I ran out of Jason’s, but I’d prefer something like paste.  1 out 5 stars.  Sorry baking soda.

Categories: toothpaste, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reporting Back, Finally!

Found this bag by Credo Bags today...love!

 

I have updates! 

I was asked to contact Aveda and Philosophy specifically by friends and I contacted each company and finally received responses from each company.

First, Aveda. 

Verbatim from their e-mail response:  “Aveda’s plant-based mission and principles, on which the company was founded, have always steered us toward using plant-based or plant-derived ingredients whenever possible.  In keeping with this mission, Aveda products are developed using pure flower and plant essences and are phthalate-free. Aveda does not use phthalates in its formulations.”  So, this is good to know, however, I have learned to go ahead and take a look at the other ingredients to make sure that nothing is listed there that might be harmful in a different way. 
 
Secondly, Philosophy.  Also, verbatim from their e-mail: “thank you for contacting philosophy! we do have many different products that are phthalate free. please reply to this email with any specific products you are interested in and we would be happy to verify if they are phthalate free.”  Yes, the e-mail contained no capitalized letters.  Weird. 

Anyway, this is more of a “skirting the issue” response to me, because while Philosophy does have some phthalate-free products, they are not committed to using natural products, and so, don’t.  This means that phthalate-free products may have different harmful chemicals in them.  I confess to completely crushing my sister-in-law’s favorite lip gloss from Philosophy by letting her know that it contained three different ingredients that are considered to be carcinogenic, bio-accumulating, and/or endocrine disrupting.  Whoops.  So, I am debating crafting a doozy of an e-mail in response, listing every Philosophy product I can find, also asking pointed questions about the oxybenzone, octinoxate, and benzyl benzoate they put in their lip gloss. 

Thirdly, Thymes.  This is a fancier-than-usual product line that they sell in my fancy grocery store, but you can also find them in gift shops and on-line.  I wanted to buy my mom some of their candles/soaps, but decided to see if they were “okay.”  Their response, also verbatim, was:  “Thank you for your reply. No, we no longer use SLS/SLES, propylene glycol, DEA, TEA, formaldehyde donors, or phthalates in our products. I hope this is helpful and if you have any further questions, please let me know. Thank you!”  Similar to my Aveda research, it would be wise to check out the other ingredients they use to make sure they are “good enough.”

So, if you want to hunt down info about specific chemicals, you can either read up on wiki or head over to EWG’s Skin Deep database.  They have a big databank of products that they grade based upon ingredients.  There are a couple of caveats with the EWG database, though…some of their listings are outdated and therefore do not necessarily have the current product formula in the database.  They also score heavily for potentially harmful side-effects that don’t necessarily affect people in the same way.  For instance, I am not allergic to fragrances.  Anything with an undisclosed fragrance (possibly because fragrances can contain anything from phthalates to synthetic fragrances that do not occur naturally) gets a high score of 8/10.  Hence my research that entails actually contacting the companies and asking for clarification.  However, if you want info about a particular chemical, it’s a good source. 
 
And my own review of the ridiculously cheap, homemade baking-soda-based deodorant spray that I wrote about last time:  Day 1, I wore a wool sweater over a long-sleeved tee and jeans, the temperature high for the day was 50 degrees, and I did not do much in the way of exercise. Day 2, I wore a loose jacket over a t-shirt with a scarf (and jeans again), the weather was a little warmer, and I matched the same level of effort for the day.  I am not a sweaty person, usually, so I’m not really concerned about wetness, but on the funk-level, I am more concerned.  In all honesty, I have to say that at the end of each day, there was surprisingly *almost* no stink.  I think this works better than Tom’s for me.  And when I say almost, that means, there wasn’t zero odor, but I’d say it was at about 97% funk-free even the next day. 
 
Day 3-4 were spent on the weekend doing not much.  Then came Monday, which was, notably, the first day I wore synthetic fabrics.  And this was the first day of funk.  I thought maybe I had not applied enough.  So, of course, like the good little researcher I am, I made sure I put enough on the next day, and wore another outfit of synthetic fabric.  Same result.  I switched back to cotton, and voila, no stink!  And then, I did go to the gym.  And I did sweat.  But I did not stink.  So all those health classes touting natural fabrics to allow the body to breathe weren’t lying!   Natural fabrics allow any moisture to wick away.  Synthetic fabrics?…not so much, therefore encouraging funk-causing bacteria to grow.   So, at least for me, I will continue to use the non-aluminum, baking soda and water “deodorant” on those days when I wear natural fibers, and someday, when I splurge on the La Vanila stuff, I’ll use that when I wear the synthetics.  In the meantime, though, I have stumbled upon a reason to buy more natural-fiber clothes.  Oh, dang.
 
 P.S.  The only drawback to the baking soda and water formula is that the spray pump seems easily clogged by the baking soda in the solution, so I now I just “splash” it on.  Maybe less baking soda or more water will reduce that problem? Next batch I’ll tinker with the amounts.  But, definitely a thumbs up.    Try it!
Categories: deodorant, endocrine disruptors, phthalates, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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