Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Three wins on the way to becoming a zero waste household

Over the last few months, I've promised to get back to you about my search for a) witch hazel in a glass bottle; b) an alternative to the leave-on shower spray I'd been using; and c) toothpaste that did not come in a plastic tube. Well, bless my half empty trash bin, I found answers.

My homemade toner kit
© L. Kathryn Grace
Back in June, the big, plastic bottle of witch hazel I’d been using to make my own gentle skin toner had finally run dry after two plus years. I searched the world wide web and found not a single source for the stuff in a glass bottle. I was just about ready to order the herb and distill my own when I found a better solution all round, one I'd known and practiced for years as a teenager and young adult: Splash cold tap water on my face.

So simple! Nothing refreshes and closes the pores like cold water, and if you're lucky enough to live where the water comes really cold from your tap, why bother paying for expensive designer toners? I don't know why I stopped using this method in the first place. Someone talked me into believing I needed bottled goods to be beautiful, I suppose. (No wise cracks from the peanut gallery. You know who you are.)

Vinegar-Water_Leave-on Shower_Spray
Vinegar/water leave on shower
spray in reused bottle
© L. Kathryn Grace
Later, in War on Garbage skirmishes: Some wins, some losses, I mentioned I hunted an alternative to the leave-on tub, tile and shower spray I loved. Enter vinegar and water, half and half. (Thanks for the tip to dilute, Mrs Green!) Yes! That's it! Vinegar and water.

I've trialed it for nearly three months and see no discoloration to my tile or bathroom fixtures. I’d still go with caution, if I were you. Vinegar is mildly acidic. I’ll let you know in another three months or so if I’ve noticed any change. One thing is certain: It works better than the expensive vinegar-based stuff I’d been buying every three or four weeks! Spray it on, climb out of the shower, dress and walk away. The vinegar scent dissipates quickly.

One HUGE caution: (pdf file). If you use a tub cleanser such as Bar Keepers Friend or a mildew reducer containing chlorine bleach, be careful not to use vinegar until all traces of the bleach have had time to dissipate. The two chemicals interact and create a lethal gas that is odorless and colorless. Deadly.

Tom's of Maine tooth paste in aluminum tube
Tom's of Maine
© L. Kathryn Grace
In No More War!, I told you I was determined not to buy another plastic toothpaste tube. I tried my grandmother's poor-woman's baking soda and salt method. Ouch! That left my gums stinging. Plus, I discovered that dental hygienists advise against baking soda or salt as they are too abrasive. I hunted for other homemade recipes, all of which required some ingredients that are shipped in plastic.

Then, doh!, I remembered Beth Terry at Fake Plastic Fish is way ahead of me. What does she do? She buys toothpaste in an aluminum tube! So I nosed around, and sure enough, a drugstore up the street carries Tom's of Maine Clean & Gentle Care line, all in aluminum tubes. (I know. I know. They’re owned by Colgate-Palmolive now, but what’s a girl to do?) Not a perfect solution, but a good interim one until I find a workable recipe for homemade that meets all my needs.

Got tips to share?

What about you? What new tips have you discovered lately for reducing, reusing and/or recycling?
We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.
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Wanda said...

Congratulations on your wins. Do you have any concerns about the aluminum?

Kathryn Grace said...

Wanda, yes indeed I do, and I'm glad you mentioned it. There are so many reasons aluminum is a poor solution and only slightly better than an all plastic container. This is a stopgap solution only until I find a way to take care of my teeth without buying product in a single-use container. Any suggestions?

Sharon said...

There are a lot of baking soda and salt recipies online for homemade toothpaste. I would think if the two are used sparingly, it might be a safe alternative. Have you found anything that talks about different levels?

mrs green @ myzerowaste said...

brilliant post - I love how the first 2 solutions are unbelievably simple too; simple, frugal and eco friendly living really do go hand in hand,
How about using any toothpaste you like and sending the packaging to the Philippine Community Fund? They will then weave your toothpaste tube into amazing handbags which will be sold and the profits will keep them fed and their children educated and medicated :) You can send to: Our United States Postal Address

The Philippine Community Fund, Inc.,
PO BOX 1713,
IL. 60430 USA
and read more about them on their site

Wendy Gabriel said...


Wonderful post! And I love the idea of The Philippine Community Fund. Thank you!


Deb Shucka said...

I've found the comments as interesting as your post this time, which was amazing. I love the simplicity of your approach. So glad someone else pointed out the aluminum thing, and I'm really happy to know about the Phillippine Community Fund.

Kathryn Grace said...

Sharon, I have read quite a few articles about baking soda and salt, tried a few, but so far nothing that works for me. I do have one option I'm hoping to try before this new tube runs out, but it involves a couple of ingredients that so far I can only source in plastic containers. Still hoping to iron that out.

Mrs Green, thank you so much for the Philippine Community Fund suggestion. If you subscribed to this comment thread, you can see you've generated some interest! That will definitely be a solution for the baby/child toothpaste tubes we keep on hand for the grandkids and for the plastic tube which is the only option for the brand my sweetie prefers. Thank you, too, for tweeting this.

Wendy, you're welcome, and thank you for your kind words and for tweeting this post.

Deb, Yes it is so much more fun when folks share their knowledge and personal wisdom. I love it! Thanks for your thoughtful responses.

Hayden said...

Love the Philippine Community Fund suggestion!

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