I’ll make it myself

I resent having to buy personal care products. For several reasons.

This picture was doing the rounds on Facebook last week and this sums up many of my reasons…

Kind of revolting to think that, by trying to feel good about ourselves with a pamper session or by putting on some pretty or smelling nice we are increasing our chances of ill in future years. Feel good now and pay the price later. Well, I don’t like this. I also don’t like having to fork out money for this stuff either. And in many cases I have been able to make my own safe, cheap and effective homemade products to replace many of these.

Shampoo: This was one of the first products I changed. There are many companies out there that make natural and organic shampoos and conditioners free from all the garbage packed in by your supermarket brands. I switched over to using Babyscent  products just over 4 years ago. I found my hair lighter, easier to manage and needing a lot less washing. In the end I was washing my hair every 2 weeks and it wasn’t even particularly oily even then! I decided about 2 years ago to take it to the next level though and go “poo free”. I have not used shampoo or conditioner on my hair since then. If it gets particularly grotty (maybe every 3 or 4 months, I make a paste of bicarb soda and water and scrub it into my scalp. After a thorough rinsing I use 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water to condition it. It’s great. But mostly, hair is self regulating and self cleaning. Hair gets oily in order to clean it and keep it healthy. By stripping the natural oils the scalp ups the oil production, hence starting the cycle to needing to shampoo all the time. When I went poo free I was pregnant and I think it took longer for my scalp to settle but it took a few months and then the greasiness just disappeared. My hair is as healthy as it has ever been.

Eyeshadow: This is for me, one of the simple ones. I just don’t use it. lol However, there are truly natural make up companies out there. I have used some of the Adorn Mineral Cosmetics which are all natural, organic and toxic free. I haven’t tried their eye-shadow however, but if it’s anything like their lipstick it will be amazing.

Lipstick: As above. I have used the Adorn Mineral Cosmetics lipsticks and they are beautiful and creamy.

Nail Varnish: I’m not a real varnish user but I came across a page a few weeks back with some information on nail polishes. It is worth a check out.

Fake Tan: As much as lying in the sun for hours to achieve a healthy glow is not a safe alternative with the incidence of skin cancer being so high, neither is pouring toxic chemicals all over your body a wise move. Personally, I would rather spend some time in the sun working, being sensible with using sun protection than fake tan. If I get some colour then that is a bonus. Having a husband who prefers pale skin to a sun tan is a big bonus though too. Being sun smart is very important though. Slip, slop slap (see my comments on sunscreen though), and staying out of the sun when UV rays are at their worst is paramount. However, I have heard mentioned that our fear of UV rays is leading to a deficiency in Vitamin D. On a sunny winters day like today, hang out the washing with your sleeves pushed up and sans hat. You may or may not get some colour but you will get the glow of health from breathing in fresh air, absorbing some Vitamin D (the skin can’t absorb it if you have sunscreen on and it won’t pass through glass either) and just generally being outside. That’s enough for me.

Hairspray: This one stumped me for a while until a friend one day pinned a recipe for homemade hairspray on Pinterest which I immediately repinned. I never followed it up until after attending a class on vintage beauty tips where the same recipe was shared as a substitute for pin curl setting spray. During the war women made their own. Essentially it is just sugar water. Take 1/2 cup of water, just boiled, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol (I found this at the chemists) and you can add oils of your choice for scent if you need. Stir sugar in the water until dissolved then add the alcohol. That’s it! The only thing I have had trouble with is I’ve been using too much. This stuff is so effective it will stun you! Not to mention cheap as chips, not needing propellants to spray (use a very fine mist spray bottle) and you can scent it as you like too. Win!

Deodorant: Another homemade job, again a Pinterest find and this deodorant works perfectly.

Blush: Pinch pinch the cheeks for some colour, then flick the hair back! It’s what they used to do before cosmetics. As someone who rarely uses make up… Well, again, worth checking out Adorn Mineral Cosmetics

Foundation: And again, Adorn can help you here. :o)

Perfume: Most perfumes these days are made with synthetic ingredients. There are still some that are made with natural oils or you can make your own too. I’ve pinned several pages on Pinterest for cream perfumes and for liquid ones. I’ve made a few and I mist them on when I need a treat. Here and here are some recipes.

Body Lotion: Well, including facial moisturiser too, I have the perfect substitute here. Coconut oil. A little goes a long way and it smells divine! My skin is soft and supple, it’s great to use on your tummy during pregnancy, all over the body and n the face too. It takes a little time to absorb completely but it makes a great make up base too. If you still like the idea of lotions, Pinterest and the net are full of recipes. Some I’ve pinned but I have only tried. The recipes are here, here, here , here and this one which I have tried and it is DIVINE!

Other products to consider carefully before you use them are sunscreen, medicinal creams and for babies and young children, nappy creams. We use a home-made sunscreen here too. It is a Thermomix recipe but you could easily make it without a Thermy using a double boiler. It also states to stop before adding the zinc if you want a great nappy cream, but since many nappy creams contain zinc, you can also use it with the zinc. Your call. 🙂

As for salves for stings, bites and grazes etc, I have use the Babyscent multi-purpose cream but at the moment I am addicted to The Eco Mum’s Essential Salve. We use it for chapped lips, bites, stings, scratches, grazes and sore bums too.

I love making my own products. It feels so good to know that I am in control of what I put on my skin. And it’s saved me money and cupboard space too.

It’s not easy being green

Kermit the Frog is on the money. “It’s not easy being green.” It’s challenging when you want to go the whole way. When you want to be so eco-friendly that trees come past and thank you. It’s also challenging, occasionally expensive and extremely educational and rewarding. It can also be a very difficult balancing game sometimes.

I’m a mum to 3 children under 4. We live in inner Melbourne next to a major freeway but we’re lucky enough to have a good sized house and enough garden space to truly play when we get the time. We have Jasper who is 4 in just under a month. He is a high octane boy with a LOT of curiosity and is definitely an out doors kid. Then there is Allegra. She will be 3 in December. She is definitely a tom-boy, getting out there and getting mucky with her big brother. At the moment she is all about attitude as only a 2 year old can be. Then there is Orik. He was our little home-birth baby and has been our all natural baby in so many ways. He’s nearly 1 which I am finding very hard to believe and he’s giving this walking gig a good go too. He’s a complete snuggle bug and has been my healing baby too. He’s the first child I’ve had where I haven’t been plagued with ante-natal and post natal depression.

Our green journey has been a gradual awakening. My husband, Martin, is mostly happy enough with what I decide if it’s financially viable. This isn’t his pet project, it’s mine and although he agrees with what I’m doing and is all for it, I don’t think he’d have gone down this path if not for me. I think it’s starting to become more personal for him now though. Me, well, I never wanted to be one of those hippies, urban or otherwise and was adept at turning a blind eye to non-vaccinators, organic eaters and non-chemical. I mean, the government won’t sell us poisons will they? But it’s been a slow process of realising that they may not sell us poisons but they will turn a blind eye to those that do and they will make it easy for companies to hoodwink us. Some of it is semantics, some is downright bullshit but I am slowly learning.

I think one of the first things we changed when we moved in to our house (I was 6 months pregnant with Jasper) was deciding to use cloth nappies. I did little research, bought some that looked pretty and were cheap and we went from there. Being lazy I immensely disliked the more frequent changes and the washing required and we soon converted to eco disposables which soon changed to non-eco disposables.

By this time I was using a natural SLS free shampoo and conditioner (Babyscent)  and loving my super soft and silky hair. I was also drinking organic fair trade coffee. Allegra came along and due to rising expenses we tried cloth nappies again with somewhat more success. We love the range from Eenee and although microfibre is man made it does dry super quickly and it was one of the first times I had to sit down and make a conscious compromise. We try to use their cloth nappy range, occasionally with the pad inserts and we have their 100% compostable nappies on standby for back-up. We are using environmentally unfriendly disposables right at the moment though but every day the guilt eats me. I just can’t physically handle the washing at the moment with 2 kids in full-time nappies and 1 at night. If it wasn’t for exploding poo and the fact we are soon moving…

Using cloth nappies led to other green changes. We clean with vinegar and bicarb, use homemade washing powder, softener and my house and clothes smell fresh and lovely because of it. My bathroom is just about chemical free with natural toothpastes, eco toothbrushes, homemade hairspray and natural soaps and it’s the room I’m proudest of aside from my laundry. But it’s been a process to get there. It came down to the “I am using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth because my teeth hurt but every time I use it I worry about its ingredients. What do I do” kind of choice. Then there’s the “I’m using a so-called eco dishwashing liquid but just discovered SLES is an ingredient and I know it’s bad but I don’t have a replacement ready to go so what do I do”. This has now been replaced with Castile soap which works a treat and I KNOW it is safe.

And plastic! I was willing to allow plastic in my home because it’s just too expensive to do otherwise but since the Bisphenol A (BPA) disrobing and the untrustworthy Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) I have learned not to trust the government and there is way too much evidence for ME to be comfortable using BPA products, no matter what the FSANZ says. And if this plastic is bad then who’s to say the others are safe. We have decided to try to nearly completely de-plasticise our house. This has been a tough call in many ways as we had to throw out a LOT of toys and replace them. We scour 2nd hand shops, markets and eBay for wooden or metal toys. And we have found them a metal shopping trolley, wooden trains, my old dolls bed which my dad made for me 30-something years ago, metal cars, etc. It does mean that they outlast the 1-2 weeks lifespan of plastic toys though. There are some things we have allowed though. Duplo, dolls, and later on, Lego, Barbie (eek)­­ and other such toys. Plastic, I know, and it makes me cringe, but I feel there are some things that are just necessary in childhood and I don’t want my kids to be the nerds at school who don’t have anything “cool”.

We’ve almost completely cleared out the pantry and storage container cupboard of plastic including original and vintage Tupperware which I got from my grandmother, (some contain BPA – 2nd last FAQ), other plastic containers, and other sundry plastics. Some are special but to me, not as special as the safety of my family. They went to my mum who was warned what contained BPA, and what she didn’t want she passed on to a friend of mine who was also subsequently warned. The other non-BPA plastic food storage containers (recycle code 5 etc) have also been passed on to a friend who is in the know so I know she is also safe. In their stead I have spent quite a bit and bought glass containers. They do have plastic lids but all are confirmed to be BPA-free. The lids aren’t heated either which reduces the amount of plastic toxins released to what I consider acceptable levels. My pantry is full of glass jars with stainless steel lids, home preserved pasta sauce and tomato puree and I am almost rid of the cans in there. I am constantly looking for ways to replace canned food with homemade and I’m nearly there. I even bought a vintage stovetop Fowlers Vacola preserver and jars and am as proud as punch of the 12 jars of pasta sauce gleaming redly back at me. I’ve also preserved nectarines, peaches, apple and in large amounts, tomatoes. I’ve also recently bought a canner which, when we move I will break out so I can safely can vegetables and legumes etc. It’s not safe to preserve these using the waterbath method. Only pressure canning will do.

Going green with our food has been the easiest part of our journey surprisingly. I am lucky enough to own a Thermomix which is pretty much every possible kitchen appliance rolled into 1 with a few other bits thrown in for good measure. Rarely a day goes past where I don’t cook with my Thermy. He (yes, in our house he is a member of the family) allows me to make my own of so many things. I make my own bread, butter, sauces, spreads and can cook delicious meals like Butter Chicken in about 30 minutes without using a jar of paste or sauce. It makes me feel good knowing I am also serving up nutritionally superior (it cooks at a much lower temperature which doesn’t destroy all the nutrients), low or no preservative food that tastes divine. I take no credit for my cooking skills either. I enjoy baking but I really hate cooking so Thermy is my lifesaver.

I still feel guilty not using certified organic all the time but at the moment we need work out how much we are saving on our food bills with bulk and raw buying and then we can consider organics. I do buy organic where I can – herbs and teas are a great place to start. It is a bit dearer than non-organic teabags from the supermarket but the extra taste is well worth it. We also live near a market where we go probably every 2 weeks and buy up dried fruits and nuts in cotton and calico bags so no plastic wrapping. Gladwrap and foil sit in my draw and grow dusty and I have some reusable tin liners which replace baking paper, and we also make our own yoghurt and ice-cream from scratch. And I make both with Thermy’s assistance now so I can reduce the carbon miles and packaging there too. Our local farmers market is a big deal for us too.  It’s such an important family outing for us all. I also dry my own fruits, vegetables and I’ve even made beef jerky and yoghurt roll ups. Homemade fruit roll ups, home dried banana, apple, apricots, peas, the list really is endless as to what I can do. I’m so excited!

If I sit and look around my house I see so many things I still want to change. I’d love to wear organic and natural fibre clothing, avoiding cotton for its water-hungry properties, buy local produce only and keep our carbon miles low, reduce our rubbish low (this has improved but not enough for my liking), lower our power reliance and bills, get our veggie gardens going, fruit trees producing and so many other things. Many of these are earmarked as urgent jobs for once we’ve moved. It’s overwhelming and it’s constant. But, I’m learning that compromise is ok when you’re starting. I’m learning that it’s a step by step thing and that if you try to do it all at once it’s not sustainable to mind or wallet or lifestyle. I’ve learned that sometimes it is ok to fall off the wagon (like our current disposables phase) and that you need to forgive your lapses and sometimes necessary choices. I’ve also learned that there will be setbacks, like Sunday when I found that my deep freeze containing nearly 1/2 an organic lamb had been switched off and unplugged and the entire lot was off. Heartbreaking! However, the environment understands that in today’s society there is a LOT to change and that it’s not easy starting to be green and she is grateful for what you ARE doing to help.