It's been a long time since I first flirted with the possibility of going "no poo," but I think I may have done it!
Shampoo last touched my tresses over three weeks ago... I believe. (Since I was only using it a couple times a week anyway, it's easy to lose track.) Instead, I've been massaging a baking soda solution into my scalp and rinsing it out.
I don't think I look like a total greaser (though my friends may disagree). In fact, I'm still struggling with dryness on the ends of my hair and the locks around my face. I'll try to remedy that by conditioning with apple cider vinegar, if I can ever remember to put a bottle of the stuff in the bathroom.
My reasons for attempting this transition? It started with a desire to steer clear of the nasty chemicals found in the vast majority of shampoos (polyethylene glycol, ceteareth, parabens, etc.). But even after I found some safer brands that I liked, I still had to contend with my ever-increasing compulsion to reduce the number of plastic-packaged things I buy (for a number of reasons). Finally, the idea of just not ever having to buy shampoo appeals to my general orientation toward simpler living and frugality.
Next project: using coffee and/or tea as a color boost for my brown hair.
Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Clean Wal-Mart
I saw an ad for bottled water recently that caught my eye: For every liter of Volvic that you buy, the sign said, the company will provide 10 liters of clean drinking water to Ethiopian children through a partnership with UNICEF.
Immediately a red flag went up in my brain.
It may be laudable for a corporation to fund new sustainable water supplies and sanitation education programs in an area of the world where such things are sorely needed. However, it's hard to get around how troubling the bottled-water industry as a whole is.
As Annie Leonard's just-released "The Story of Bottled Water" makes clear, agua that doesn't come from the tap is problematic along its entire life cycle, from the oil required to make its bottles to the pollution it causes once it's tossed. It is not necessarily as pure as tap water, which in the developed world is regularly inspected and well regulated (violations of the Clean Water Act notwithstanding), and it costs thousands of times more.
Another video, by Food & Water Watch, emphasizes how bottled-water companies siphon off what most of us think of as a public resource,
straining the environment in the process. That is perhaps the most troubling aspect of the issue to me: the privatization of municipal water supplies. And as Mother Nature Network points out, the more people get accustomed to consuming bottled water, the more distanced they become from the tap and the less incentive they have to support bonds that would maintain and upgrade public systems.
So getting back to Volvic's campaign, if for some reason I got marooned on an island with no freshwater source and only two water vending machines, one for a company with a do-gooder campaign and one without, I would give my money to the former. Then I'd start sending smoke signals in hopes that the Plastiki would pick me up.
But really, if helping kids in Ethiopia is the objective, I'd rather just contribute directly to a nonprofit like Charity: Water.
Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user @kevinv033.
I'm always amazed at how quickly November and December blow by. Life's been so crazy that I never even managed to write a holiday-consumerism-themed post.
But I have managed to think of a New Year's resolution (a two-pronged one, even!), and I'm just going to throw it up here, all quick-and-dirty-like: From now on, I will no longer buy paper towels or paper napkins. The paper industry is supposedly the third-largest contributor to global warming, and I've been rather enjoying using rags, dish towels, and Skoy cloths to clean up messes. Also, Mr. Wallet Mouth and I have some pretty cool cloth napkins (see above) that make us feel classy when we use them.
Part 2 of my resolution is to buy and consume fewer things packaged in plastic. Ever since learning that "plastic recycling" is a misnomer (plastics are actually downcycled into unrecyclable objects) and that the entire enterprise is not very green, I've been more aware of my relationship to the stuff. I even remembered to bring my stainless-steel water bottle on my holiday plane flights (hmm, speaking of global warming...) so I could say no to the plastic cup. I'm lucky to live near a grocery store that offers a wide range of bulk goods, but for some reason I haven't been in the habit of buying non-food items—things like lotion and laundry detergent—in bulk there, so this year I'm going to try to change that.
Apparently Beth Terry is having more of an influence on me than I thought.
Last week I had a freelance editing gig downtown, and I did not manage to pack a lunch at home (I blame Mini-Mouth, who did not want me to abandon her). When I left the office to forage for food on that first day, I discovered something interesting: that I couldn't bring myself to buy certain edibles that I normally would have... because of their packaging. I had gone to a market with a deli counter offering all manner of delicious-looking salads, pastas, and the like, but I had no way of getting them without also getting their plastic tubs, and that bothered me.
It bothered me enough to make me keep looking for other options until I found something plastic-free. I ended up with a Greek wrap (encased in paper) and some tomato soup (in a compostable bowl, sans plastic lid, which got me a weird look at the cash register).
The next day I passed over a tiny Japanese place with yummy-looking noodles (they had no ceramic bowls or plates, even if you ate there) and went with a burrito from a stand across the street.
I find this fascinating because I hadn't purposefully set out to "be like Beth" and radically cut my plastic consumption. It was much more subtle than that. It was as if some new wind current had entered the atmosphere of my subconscious, without my even realizing it completely, and yet... there I was, changing my purchasing behavior.
The tipping point was probably when Terry commented (in Facebook, not here) on my recent post about envelopes, informing me that the West Coast ships most of its plastic "recycling" to China, where it is either processed by workers laboring under often-toxic conditions or burned for energy. Not, as she said, what most of us have in mind when we think of recycling.
Now, I know that my individual lunch choices amount to zilch in
the face of, say, the huge issues associated with climate change that
world leaders recently met to discuss. And I'm not saying I'll never again buy any food item that's packaged in plastic (in fact, a quick glance at our grocery bags from this weekend shows that I already have).
But it's safe to say that a new level of awareness has undeniably crept into my psyche, and it will be interesting to see how it manifests in the future.
Ever wonder about the recyclability of envelopes with plastic windows in them? I know some people throw them in the trash because they think the plastic renders them useless for paper recycling. I don't do that, because my understanding is that the envelopes are still recyclable, but I have always wondered why.
In her blog Fake Plastic Fish, Beth Terry sheds some light on the subject: recyclers "accept the plastic windows because they are easily separated from the paper during the pulping process, and the plastic washes away." (Of course, then, as she notes, there is that niggling little question about where "away" is.)
Another thing I didn't know is that some of those plastic windows aren't actually plastic, but specially processed paper called glassine, and that some envelope makers nowadays offer windows made of corn-based PLA, which is compostable in certain (limited) facilities but still problematic.
December 2010 I haven't actually bought anything from Po-Zu yet, but I appreciate their awareness of the fact that many vegan shoes are made of petroleum products and aren't necessarily better for the environment than leather footwear. Po-Zu seems to set a high bar for itself when it comes to ingredients and supply chains.
March 2010 After running out of dish soap, I started using our good old bars of Sappo Hill out of necessity. But you know what? Our dishes are just as clean, and when I pick up the soap at our grocery store, the only packaging on the bars is the price tag. And did I mention the soap is awesome? We love the oatmeal bar.
February 2010 TMI alert: If you're a squeamish guy, read no further. I'm done with tampons! Instead, I'm using the DivaCup.
January 2010 Mr. Wallet Mouth and I both love Pact. Its underwear is made of organic cotton, and the company donates 10% of its sales to worthy environmental causes. Not only that, but the company is serious about eco-friendly packaging. Each pair of undies comes not in a plastic bag but in a little cloth pouch made from fabric remnants. I'm also impressed with how responsive Pact is over email; when I asked a packaging question, I got a nice reply from the CEO.
December 2009 After reading about Skoy Cloths, the biodegradable paper-towel alternative, on Fake Plastic Fish, I bought a bunch for stocking stuffers and my own kitchen, and I'm now a fan. They're lasting a long time, despite repeated washings in the laundry, and they arrive with minimal packaging.
October 2009 I was already of fan of Straus yogurt (see June 2007), but now I love it even more. According to Michael Straus, a son of the company's founder, Straus yogurt "is made, cooled, and set in stainless-steel vats, unlike most yogurts, which are poured while still hot into plastic cups to cool and set." As someone who's concerned about plastics and chemical safety, I'm happy to hear that!
July 2009 I'm using a lot more baking soda now that I'm making more of an effort to clean the house in a nontoxic way. But from now on I'll be buying Bob's Red Mill, since Arm & Hammer engages in animal testing.
July 2008 Started feeling extra-good about buying one of my fave meat substitutes, Tofurky, after learning that its maker, Turtle Island Foods, is an independent, family-owned company (Unlike Boca Foods, which is a subsidiary of Kraft, and Morningstar, which is owned by Kellogg).
April 2008 I'm going to start buying my canned beans from Eden Foods, for two reasons: it uses custom-made cans that don't contain bisphenol A, and it's an independent, family-operated company.
February 2008 From now on, whenever I order takeout or ask for a doggy bag, I’ll make sure to avoid #6 polystyrene containers (and, of course, Styrofoam).