Saturday, May 22, 2010

Daily Hygiene with No Added Chemicals!

Last week I ventured into the world few would dare to tread; I crossed a line I never thought I'd cross; I MADE DEODORANT!!!!  (And toothpaste).  

Something about both of these products, but particularly the deodorant, just grossed me out when I thought about making them myself.  I fear stink!  I do not want to be a "dirty hippie"- I prefer to completely surprise people when I tell them that lovely scent I am wearing is a homemade lotion, or that I have made my own all-purpose cleaner for years!  I don't want people seeing me or worse, smelling me, and KNOWING that I am a do-it-yourselfer.

And yet I firmly believe that if some giant corporation can make something, there is no reason I can't make it too!  With that in mind, and my home stock of toothpaste and deodorant running out, I began scouring the web.

A simple Google search will reveal dozens of recipies for either product.  I wasn't finding many reviews though, and quite frankly some of the recipies sounded weird! I found recipies that called for using coconut oil both in toothpaste AND deoderant!  One deodorant recipe actually called for the use of Crisco!  I do not enjoy the concept of smearing my underarms with Crisco, so I kept searching.

I ran across the toothpaste recipe I felt most comfortable with by way of  It's recommended by the American Dental Association (I'm pretty sure they said that in the page that directed me to the recipe page anyway).  It's a great paste- I've been using it 2 weeks now, it is very cleansing, and whitening!  I have been using peppermint essential oil, but contemplating using lemon or orange, or vanilla- the good news is with a homemade product you can make it anything you want it to be!  I also recommend adding some sort of sweetener to the paste- otherwise the salt will stand out behind the essential oil.  Unless you love salt in the morning, adding sweetner is a must!  I put mine in a cute little clear container that I salvaged from my make-up bin.

So now for the grand finale!  DEODORANT!  Like I said, there are a lot of recipes out there, varying from powder versions to those with Crisco.  I found a recipe I thought sounded reasonable at the Angry Chicken Blog.  It's a blend of shea butter, cocoa butter, baking soda, cornstarch and essential oil.  I chose to use Lavender, because I love the scent.  Again, the beauty of do-it-yourself is that you can make it whatever scent you want!  Her recommendation was to put it in a jar and scoop out small amounts as needed.  I did not think this sounded appealing.  Later I read that she didn't like it either, so she re-melted it and froze it into "pucks".  I decided to do a similar thing, only I used an old deodorant canister/holder.  There was some excess material, so I poured it into a small ramekin.  I put both in the freezer overnight.  I recommend letting the deodorant thaw before using, otherwise the frozen condensation will melt as you apply it, and you will be applying a layer of water instead of deodorant.

This deodorant works great!  I love it!  It goes on smoothly, no irritation (which I occasionally have trouble with from normal store-bought deodorants), and it keeps me from being stinky!  I will remind you that I ride my bike to the train every day- so I am doing a pretty good test job on this stuff.  And, I notice that as my body temperature goes up, the lavender scent is released, which is a nice soothing scent that helps relieve my stress!  It's a two-in one!  Stench repressor and stress reliever!  Woo hoo!  And, no aluminum seeping in through my pores and slowly leading to the development of Alzheimer's.  I'm a huge fan of this stuff, and plan to keep making it forever! 

In summary- making your own products reduces the amount of toxins in your daily routine, reduces the energy input for the products compared to commercially produced versions, reduces the packaging and transport associated with shipping products to stores particularly if you re-use old packages from products you already used up.  Doing this also reduces the amount of waste you create!  You pretty much hit all the right marks when you make your own products.

Please, try making some of either of the above products and let me know what you think!  Especially if you make any modifications- I am always on the lookout for ways to make things better.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Biking in the Urban Death Zone

I've been reading a lot about climbing Everest lately- and how one of the most difficult stretches is known as "The Death Zone".  Given my experiences biking to the train station some days, I feel fully qualified to climb Everest, completely confident in my ability to conquer the Death Zone!

This is because suburbanites are the deadliest drivers I've ever met!  They're embarking on an hour long journey from hell to get to work- so their commute has really just become another part of "getting ready" in the morning: cell phones, make-up, eating, etc. are all par for the course.  The one-mile straight shot to the train station on a 2-lane road with no shoulder and massive back-up thus becomes Uncle Toad's Wild Ride.

Here are some of my tips for making it work:
1) ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET!  You don't have to be hit by a car to get a head injury.  I have personally seen a guy who was riding slowly and capably, fall over sideways for no foreseeable reason!  When you fall on your bike, your hands are not really able to help protect you.  This particular guy hit head first on the pavement- had a terrible concussion, could not stand up on his own and had to go to the ER- a fate that would not have been had he worn a helmet.

2) Don't take the straight shot.  I veer off, and take a back route through a neighborhood.  This route is generally much safer- far fewer cars anyway.  Though, you do have to watch out for the endless march of school busses if you ride through at the wrong time (incidentally- what's with all these kids taking the bus?! The school is so close!  If more kids walked or rode their bikes to school we may not have a childhood obesity problem!) Ultimately the safe route is gained by trading mileage.  Instead of a one-mile ride, my ride is now 1.5 miles one way.  Not a huge addition of mileage, but I can imagine other instances where the mileage may be dramatically increased.  Doesn't matter to me though- i'd rather arrive alive!

3) When you feel your life is in grave danger- TAKE UP MORE OF THE LANE!  If a car is going to hit you while you're travelling, it is most likely that they will clip you, graze you on your side as they pass.  The more of the lane you take up, the less chance of them clipping you.  They are forced to slow down and travel behind you, or wait for an opening to pass you.  Otherwise they'll have to literally mow you down- in which case they hit your bike first and possibly your life is saved.  I also like this method because it pronounces your validity as a user of the road.  Bikes are legally allowed to ride the road- in fact it is usually illegal to ride on a sidewalk.  So go ahead, claim your space!

4) Put a basket on your bike.  I have a rack over my rear wheel, to which i mounted a milk crate with zip ties. This is a savior!  I hate carrying things in a back-pack- it scrunches my clothes and makes my back sweaty in the summer, and is generally uncomfortable.  Plus, what are you supposed to do with your designer purse?  The milk crate can hold a surprisingly large amount of items, including a couple of bike locks.

5) Save rubber-bands from your produce- they work great as "pants restraints".  Just slip around your ankles, over the pants- they won't get caught on the bike chain or water bottle holder, you won't look like a freak with your pants tucked into your socks, during colder weather your legs won't freeze from rolling them up, and if they break or you lose them, it's really no big deal- just buy some more broccoli!

6) JUST DO IT!  There's really nothing difficult about bike commuting.  It actually takes me the same amount of time to ride to the train as it does to drive.  Your first day you probably won't feel that confident, but by day 3 you're a friggin' pro!  You'll feel great riding past everyone in the morning instead of griping behind the steering wheel at all the moronic drivers! Plus there's no better way to show you are loosening oils addictive grips!