Hannah Goes Fishing

A Fishing (and more) Blog

Steppin’ Up to Sustainability

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I figure it’s about time for a clean/green lifestyle update!

For those of you new to the blog, I’ve given up all bathing products except for toothpaste, soap, a washcloth, and lotion from my personal hygiene routine.  I figure my shower time has been cut in half, and a bar of soap lasts me around a month and a half.  I use plant-based soaps in recyclable packaging to washing everything, including my face and hair.  I’m pretty happy with how it works on my hair, and once a week or so use a vinegar rinse to keep my scalp pH balanced in Fairbanks’s extremely dry conditions.  I have noticed lately that my face has been especially dry compared to when I first started this routine, but I believe that part of this is due to the weather being extremely cold lately and me not being diligent in protecting my face with a scarf.  Thus, I’m back to using the same amount of lotion I was using before giving up drying face wash.  I’m still on the lookout for a good replacement lotion when I finish the bottle I had from pre-green routine – any suggestions (leave ’em in the comments!)?

Someone asked me the other day if I feel that I have more breakouts than before I gave up traditional face wash.  I used to use a St. Ives brand off-and-on with other breakout fighting washes containing salicylic acid.   I have had pretty clear skin since puberty, but still get the occasional zit from time to time.  Since switching to just soap and washing gently with a washcloth, I find I don’t break out any more often than I used to, and my skin certainly feels nicer!  I’m using a washcloth I bought at Fred Meyer made of bamboo (doesn’t mold as easily) fibers.  I find if I end my shower my massaging my face with just my finger tips in warm water, it helps get rid of dry skin the wash cloth helps slough off.  So far, so good!

I’m also using Tom’s of Maine toothpaste instead of my old brand (hint: starts with a C!), which I LOVE.  It tastes great (I’m using “wicked mint”), isn’t too strong like some other pastes I’ve used, and leaves my mouth feeling clean but not burning.  It’s reasonably priced (even for Alaska), and they have some great business practices (listed on the back of the tube) that I feel good supporting. Downside: their tube is made of plastic.  But, until I use up the several tubes of toothpaste I’ve mysteriously collected over the last year, I’m not going to get too seriously about switching to baking soda (my eventual goal).

Aside from my personal routine, I’m working on changing my whole frame of mind about how to be more sustainable and lower impact.  I’ve been inspired by a number of blogs (many of which are listed on the left-hand panel – check ’em out!) that seem to be pretty much in agreement about a few essential steps that will make any home more sustainable.  Best of all, they’re easy!

1. Buy in bulk – cheaper, you can use your own bags, and it might give you an opportunity to buy things you otherwise wouldn’t have tried.  Example: I plan to buy soybeans next week and try making my own tofu!

2. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle – I’ve talked about this before, but it’s absolutely essential in one’s efforts to go green to identify what you can and can’t do without.  The first step, start refusing extra stuff!  Here’s an easy way to start: take your own coffee cup whenever you want to pick up some espresso away form home.  Forget your cup?  Challenge yourself to go without your caffeinated treat until you have your mug with you.  Also consider giving up plastic straws in restaurants, free pens and other doo-dads in offices and other give-aways, and using your own bags when shopping.  My store (a big chain store, at that) gives me a five cent discount for every personal bag I use.  I’ll take it!

3. Know what you’re using – Spend an half hour per week researching your favorite products and finding out their true cost: what’s in them, who makes them, and what is lost from the planet or culture by using it.  Don’t like what you see?  Try a new brand.  If you find something you love, please be sure to tell me in the comments so I can share it with other readers!

4. Shop local – most folks know this one, but sometimes convenience can overrule our desire to do the most good with our dollar.  Challenge yourself to find local sources for your favorite products (or at least not a national chain store) and shop as close to the source as possible.  I love Alaska Grown products and like to buy them as often as possible – see what your area is producing and support local!

5. Try something new – This has been the most fun part of my efforts to go clean, green, and sustainable.  I’ve been trying new veggies, making my own reusable bags from old T-shirts for shopping, and am cleaning out my closet to donate clothes I like but never wear.  Reducing my unused clothing and other belongings has been a great way to de-clutter my life.  As we speak, I’m enjoying the scent of home made vegetable broth simmering on my stove (SO easy to make!), something I’ve never tried before.  Looks like this kid won’t be buying store broth anytime soon!  Long story short, almost everything we use, consume, and buy can be made at home, found second hand for big savings, or re-evaluated (do you even need it at all?).  In your effort to research your own products, try Googling: how to make homemade _________ (insert thing you want here).  I’ll bet dollars to dimes you find a way to empower yourself to be self-reliant and sustainable!

Aside from all that, here’s a few other strategies to try:

– Plan your shopping trips, meals, and purchases.

– Research your consumer choices!  Vote for your values with your dollar.

– Take small steps.  No one expects you or anyone else to get totally clean, green, zero-waste, or sustainable in one day, month, or even year!  Set small goals, accept small setbacks, and keep challenging yourself.

– Don’t go it alone. Read blogs, get a friend to join you in your efforts, or share with an audience (like me!) all your awesome efforts.  I couldn’t have gotten rid of so many old clothes if my wonderful room mate M hadn’t agreed to do it with me.

– Be proud of yourself!  You ARE making a difference, despite what your naysayers might say.  I know I run up against folks who can’t see that a small difference is still a difference almost every day.  But I feel good about my decisions, and make a big effort to make sure my choices are founded in fact and not opinion. 

I know I’m certainly proud of you!  Thanks for reading, and please be sure to leave your ideas, efforts, and questions in the comments.

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One thought on “Steppin’ Up to Sustainability

  1. For lotion, I love Burt's Bees. They've got a really thick one (I can't remember the name, but it comes in a glass bottle rather than plastic) that works super well for winter, and like Tom's they support a lot of really good things (especially bees and beekeeping). I've also got a local lotion that I picked up at the farmer's market last summer. Not sure how well I like it (it can burn when my skin is super dry) but I'm not buying anything else until I've used it up. I quit washing my face almost entirely last year and discovered that my skin actually prefers that! I tried a traditional facewash a little while into my experiment and that made my face break out. Facewash is just a marketing ploy.And as for baking soda instead of toothpaste, I tried that for about six months. It seemed to leave a film over my teeth which attracted more stuff to my teeth and they just felt really dirty. Try it and see how it works for you (some people swear by it) but don't be surprised if it has less than stellar results. I'm not sure what the alternative is yet.

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