Eco Home Living

Published on September 6th, 2012 | by Guest Contributor

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Green Steve Becomes a Chemical Dodger

Those of you who frequent the green blogosphere may well be familiar with the Twitter hashtag #ctww. If not, the acronym stands for Change the World Wednesdays (CTWW) and refers to the challenges that are laid down at Reduce Footprints each week with the aim of inspiring us to live sustainably.

The CTWW challenge laid down August 22nd was a particularly tough one, namely to avoid applying chemicals to our skin wherever possible. As this wasn’t an issue I could honestly say I’d put much thought into in the past, I quickly got to thinking about the amount of chemicals I actually use on my skin and how to avoid doing so. Here’s a look at five of the chemical sources I sought to avoid and how I went about it.

baking soda

Baking soda

Deodorant

I guess ditching deodorant entirely would have been the easiest solution, but I decided that my colleagues in the office wouldn’t be too keen on it! Besides which, part of purpose of the challenge was to hunt down alternatives I could use from now on. After all, it’s not like I’m never going to use deodorant ever again.

There are plenty chemical-free deodorant brands on sale out there, but many have pretty bad reviews. In my opinion, no matter what a product is made from, if it doesn’t work as it’s supposed to, it can’t really be considered eco-friendly. The process of its manufacture has still led to some pollution, so if it’s not up to scratch, then resources have been wasted all around.

Therefore, I decided I’d try and make my own. I found a few fanciful fragrant recipes online but, not being really being experienced in the field, I figured the simplest option would be best. By just adding a little baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to a little water (making sure it was thoroughly dissolved it can quite chaffing otherwise) I had an affective and, happily, neutral smelling deodorant. What a great solution! (pun, shamefully intended.)

Sunscreen

I’m susceptible to get sunburned if I forget to apply any sunscreen.  During the week of the challenge, the weather was fine in London, where I call home, and experienced a few bursts of blistering weather in the early part of the week (before reverting to sustained bursts of terrible weather, as usual.)

Luckily, getting hold of some quality chemical free sunscreen wasn’t a problem in the least, as I’d be given some by the good folks of Green People who I met at an environmental trade show a couple of months ago. Their product is free from mineral oils and silicone and seemed to work pretty effectively when I dozed off in the sun!

Detergent

When laundry day came around I found myself needing an alternative way of washing my clothes. I opted for a product called Soapnuts, which are just dried fruit shells which contain natural soap. You place these in a muslin bag and throw that in the drum of your machine, nice and easy.

As an added bonus no fabric softener is needed, which is a welcome saving. They’re also versatile.  You can soak a load of them in a litre or so of water, and once it’s cool and strained, you’re left with you a liquid cleaner. A good tip for adding scent is adding a little essential oil in the fabric softener drawer for fragrance. I’d recommend this as the soapnuts leave your clothes smelling really neutral as opposed to the ‘clean’ smell you get from regular detergents you might be used to.

Shaving Cream

Though trendy young men seem to sport all sorts of facial hair these days, it’s not for me. I like to go clean-shaven and was fairly astonished when I realised just how many chemical irritants were in the cream I use. Whilst I didn’t manage to find a chemical free alternative, I did avail myself of 2 Shave Now’s shaving gel which is 80% organic and at least doesn’t contain substances such BHA or BHT which have been linked to a range of health issues, including cancer.

Toothpaste

To be honest, I’d never given the chemicals in toothpaste a second thought, which, given that I use it twice a day, everyday, only goes to show how easy it is to go along with something without considering its consequences.

Looking into it, I found some pretty terrifying claims about fluoride, the key ingredient in most toothpaste. Many of these seemed pretty outlandish and I wasn’t able to verify them. Of course, my scepticism about the dangers of fluoride is probably informed by the fact I’m a citizen of the UK, where fluoride comes in our tap water.

Given this fact, buying in or making my fluoride-free alternative seemed a little redundant as I would be brushing my teeth with fluoridated water anyway. (Of course, I could have used bottled water to brush my teeth with but that wouldn’t exactly do wonders for my carbon footprint!). I guess I’m a little reluctant to go with the idea that my Government has knowingly and routinely poisoned me…

Despite coming across a wide number of sources decrying fluoridation of water and the use of toothpaste, I didn’t really find anything that could convince me, especially given the number of medical journals and journals that have argued its safety.

With this in mind I’d like to end this guest post by opening the topic up for discussion in the comments below and posing the following questions;

How do you weigh up the evidence when ‘experts’ on both sides of the argument put forward different arguments about a certain substance?

What are the chemicals you always scan labels for and what would you advise others to avoid?

What other solutions can you suggest for avoiding such substances?

Author Bio: Steve Waller lives and works in London and is attempting to reduce his carbon footprint wherever he can. You can find out more about his efforts, opinions and research at Green Steve, his personal blog.

{baking soda photo via katalopolis}





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