Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hair Care Revisted

I had to stop my castile soap & ACV shampoo method a while back when the smell got to my ultra-sensitive first trimester nose. But now I'm happy to report that today I have gone back to the clean way and it smells wonderful! So I thought I'd revisit my method with a step-by-step.

1. Shampoo hair with a 1:1 ratio of castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner's) and water.

2. Rinse thoroughly with water. Your hair will feel tangly and messy, but don't worry.

3. Condition your hair with a mixture of 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar and 1 cup of water. Make sure you get the rinse all throughout your hair to get rid of any soap buildup.

4. Rinse thoroughly with water.

5. If you feel it's necessary (and I do), do the ACV rinse again.

6. Rinse thoroughly with water one final time. Use cool water if you can stand it, as this will help prevent split ends. Your hair should now feel softer and you should be able to run your fingers through it pretty easily.

What you do after you get out of the shower all depends on your daily routine, but I usually just comb any tangles out and let it air dry. I feel like brushes tend to spread any oils throughout my hair and make it feel gross. I could just be imagining it, though.

If you're just starting out, it may take a few days for your hair to adjust. However, I don't think it takes as long to get used to as other no 'poo methods, like baking soda. Normal shampoo strips your hair of all its natural oils, so your body produces more oil to replace what's been lost. Due to this, when using commercial shampoos my hair will get greasy and gross within 24 hours. Last time I used my clean shampoo method, I could go 36-48 hours with great-looking and feeling hair, and I actually had more volume as well, without losing any of the softness or shine.

I hope this method works for you! Just remember to stick with it; everyone's different and it will take some time to get used to. If you have any questions, just let me know!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why I'm Going Green

Since I don't have any new recipes or updates for you, I figured now was as good a time as any to explain why I've been cultivating what could possibly be described as an obsession.

It all began once upon a time...okay so in elementary school. I had just learned about deforestation and the dire straits the rainforest was in, and I was worried. So I made my mom drive me all over town so I could post homemade "Save the Trees!" signs on light posts. Now I realize that was a bit hypocritical, seeing as how I was writing these heartfelt messages on paper (non-recycled, most likely), but hey, my heart was in a good place.

My parents also helped me "adopt a whale," (I believe from WWF) so I would get regular updates on "my" whale and information on how to help save them all. Not that I did much but stare at the pictures and revel in how cool I was to have a whale.

As I grew up I was still interested in the environment and all that good stuff, but teenage conformity won out over good intentions, and for awhile I wasn't interested in much more than sports and school and dating and learning to drive.

Then, in my junior year of college, I took a nutrition course taught by a wonderful, passionate professor who opened my eyes to the importance of what we put in our bodies. I ended up taking two more of her classes and falling in love with the knowledge and insight I gained. I even wanted to change my major (which would have involved transferring schools...again) except I have a pretty great fear of all things math, and organic chemistry was looming ahead like a jack-in-the-box with an evil grin, just bouncing around and taunting me. What? Those things are scary if they have an evil grin.

So I continued with my English Lit degree and graduated with a 3.9 GPA (no chemistry, as you can clearly tell) and got married and moved away from home to live a big-girl life. When my husband and I moved home two years later, we were ready to start a family. Unfortunately, Life had other plans, and I had a miscarriage in October. Now I have no intention of dwelling on this here, because I'm still not completely over it, but I do want to say that of all the terrible, horrible, painful things that were caused by that loss, something good came out of it. And I can only now admit that.

First, I started working out again on a regular basis. I joined a gym (to make sure I would actually do it, since I was paying for it) and got involved in group fitness classes (which I had never done before because I am embarrassingly uncoordinated at times) and began friendships that would keep me coming back for the comradery and support. Not only does this get me in better shape for my next pregnancy, but it's a form of cheap therapy.

Second, I went back to my nutrition information from college and expanded. Not only did I want to be aware of the food I was putting in my mouth, but all of the other products that went on or near my body. And once I started down that path I realized just how much I didn't know, and I started sucking up information like a sponge. In fact, I'm finding it hard to stop. Just today I practically cleaned out my library's green living section because I have a need to know everything.

I started this blog as a way to track my progress and have the ability to see all the changes I've made (as well as to help me remember all the information I've accumulated). But there's a second reason I'm writing. I've recently come upon a gold mine: extra time. In my new role, I have found the time and energy I never had while working full-time outside of the home. And what better way to use that time than to do the research, testing, and experimenting that needs to be done so you don't have to? I know not everything works for everybody, but I hope that you can at least get some ideas that work for you. And at the very least, I have the space I need to track my green journey.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Step 4: Hair Care

It's been a few weeks, but I finally feel confident enough to write this sentence: I have found my new hair care routine. (Yay!)

I used to use shampoo and conditioner each and every day. My hair is long (a few inches past my shoulders) and had a 24-hour life cycle: if it wasn't washed routinely, it got greasy like that (snap).

It took a lot of trial and error, and more than a few days of gross hair, but I finally figured it out. I began by going all-out No 'Poo (such a stupid name for a movement, but I guess it's catchy) and using only baking soda mixed with a little water to clean my hair. I was worried about it being too dried out and tangly so I added some olive oil. Bad idea. I couldn't get it out of my hair for days. Plus, the baking soda burned my scalp (not terribly but in a "hey my head feels really hot" kind of way).

It didn't seem to matter how I used the baking soda - dry, pasty, or completely watery - nothing worked and my hair was disgusting. Plus, I missed the suds of regular shampoo. It's something you don't even think about until it's gone, but how else are you supposed to know you got all of your hair clean if you can't feel the suds everywhere?

I wanted to give up just so I could feel clean, but I was dedicated to keeping toxins out of my hair and my drain. So I tried again.

This time I bought some liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner's seems to be the only one in town) and mixed 1/4 cup with a 1/4 cup of water. Suds! Beautiful suds!

The shampoo is very thin, but not much is needed. It's actually light enough that I could spritz it on my head with a spray bottle. That half cup will last me at least two weeks, and I'm still shampooing every day (although I think I could probably get away with skipping a day every now and then, which is huge).

Now for the conditioner. The shampoo works well to clean, but it leaves my hair tangly. All I need to use is 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV) with 1 cup of water. Shake, and pour over hair. That's it! At the beginning I did this rinse twice, but now (after about a week) I only need to do it once. The rinse leaves my hair smoother and de-tangled. I can easily run a comb through it after I get out of the shower, and to be completely honest that was not always possible with my regular conditioner.

ACV doesn't have quite the smell that white vinegar does, but it's still definitely there. However, the smell dissipates as the hair dries and is completely gone as soon as my hair is dry.

After starting the castile soap/ACV rinse regimen, my hair was back to normal in about 3, maybe 4 days. It's soft and shiny again (one of the main things I was worried about before I switched). And what's even better is that my hair does not get greasy as quickly. I can easily go 36 hours without washing my hair, sometimes longer. It would be nice to not have to wash it every day, but since I'm using products that are good for me and the earth, I don't really have a problem with it (not to mention it's cheaper; I got a quart of organic ACV for $2.50!).

Now, there are a lot of reasons and information out there about going No or Low 'Poo (I'm sorry, that's just what it's called), and I'm going to let you all do your own research since this post is so long already. But, from my own personal experience, what I'm doing is totally and completely worth it. It's cheaper, healthier, and safer. Triple win!

Wikipedia actually has some really good information.

Nature Moms has some tips about washing with baking soda, and also why you should discard your regular shampoo.

Here, if you scroll down, you'll find info on what's all in your shampoo.

What's so bad about shampoo anyway?

How ACV works.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Step 3: Floor Cleaner (or All-Purpose Cleaner, Part 2)

Now, I know I said you could use the all-purpose vinegar/water solution to clean your floors, and you can. However, if you're looking for a cleaner with a little more scrubbing action, I suggest you try this one.  So far I've only used it on our linoleum floors, but you could also use it on toilets, walls, countertops, or whatever you feel like.

The original recipe (from the Eco Chick's book) calls for 1 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup baking soda, and 1 gallon of water. Since I was using an old 1 gallon milk carton, I halved it.

The fun part of making this is watching the baking soda and vinegar react (at-home science experiment!), and also a really good reason to halve the recipe because that baby would overflow like nobody's business.

The good news is that the baking soda neutralizes the vinegar odor, so your olfactory senses won't be put out every time you scrub your floor. Plus, a little goes a long way, so I still have most of that batch left to use whenever I feel like it. Handy and affordable. I like it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Step 2: All-Purpose Cleaner

The second switch I made on my green journey was extremely easy. Instead of using a commercial cleanser for my countertops, I made a simple one out of vinegar and water - and it can be used for more than just countertops!

I took an old plastic perfume spray bottle and mixed 1 part white distilled vinegar with 2 parts water. Just make sure you shake it up before you use it.

Simple, right? And yes, there is a distinct smell of vinegar when I spray it, but it's gone as soon as it's dry. If you were really opposed to the vinegar smell, you could add some lemon juice to the mix. I haven't tried this, so I can't tell you how well it works, but supposedly it gives it a fresher scent.

And the amazing thing is this cleaner can be used for just about anything. I've found it works great on windows (no streaks!) and could be used on floors, walls, toilets, refrigerators...the possibilities are practically endless. As a side note, however, I have read that vinegar should not be used on marble. Just a heads up.

One last thing about cleaning countertops: if I have a particularly gross spot with stuck-on whatever, I'll make a paste with baking soda and water, rub it in, then let it sit for a little bit. Then I'll spray the vinegar/water mix on it and wipe up. Easy peasy!

Vinegar is a great cleanser because it's versatile, cheap, and a disinfectant. Now I know that the product I'm using to clean a surface I have been known to eat off of is completely safe and sanitary. And I get the added bonus of knowing I'm not polluting the environment - what more can a girl ask for?


Is Cleaning with Vinegar Hygienic?
How to Clean Your Home Naturally
3 Homemade Natural Cleaning Products
Green Cleaning This Spring

Friday, March 25, 2011

Earth Hour 2011

Earth Hour - Logo

What are you doing Saturday night? On Saturday, March 26 at 8:30 PM, my husband and I will be turning off all the lights and each and every appliance in our house for one hour. Why? Because we are again participating in Earth Hour.

Earth Hour is an event started 4 years ago in Australia that has since become a global movement to take a stand against climate change. Each year this event has become bigger and bigger, involving hundreds of millions of people, hundreds of countries, thousands of businesses, and even iconic buildings and landmarks. That's right. Even the Golden Gate Bridge, Rome's Colosseum, and the Sydney Harbor Bridge have all stood in darkness for one hour each year, as a symbol of the changes we need to make, and the ease in which we can live a more sustainable lifestyle.

You can pledge to turn off your lights for one hour tomorrow night starting at 8:30 PM local time simply by going to

This year, the organizers have decided to take it a step further and ask each of us to "go beyond the hour." It's an initiative that is meant to get people thinking and talking about the other ways in which we can incorporate eco-friendly ideas into our own lifestyle. Things as simple as recycling, eating more locally grown foods, composting, and switching to greener beauty products. Learn more and add your own act here.

This blog is a testament to the things I'm already starting to do and change in order to live a healthier, greener lifestyle. What will you do?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Step 1: Facial Scrub

I've been trying out different face washes for about 6 months now, sometimes because my face just would not stop breaking out, and sometimes because I realized the chemicals in them were actually bad for me and my trying-to-make-a-baby body. Recently I really learned how bad the chemicals in commercial products are for you (a post on that later) and decided I'd try a home remedy.

There are only 2 ingredients: honey and baking soda. I put about 4 tablespoons of honey and 4 teaspoons of baking soda in a small jar and mixed them together. This will last about 10-12 washes (I haven't totally run out yet, but I'm getting close). Here's a picture, post 1st wash (excuse the hair; it had been up all day).

To begin, my skin is not great. It's oily and acne-prone, but gets dried out easily. I have to wash it 2-3 times per day to keep from feeling greasy. I also have spots that seem to be always red. To sum up: it's a mess.

Most of this you can see from the picture. But after that first wash (which was just before bedtime on Wednesday) I noticed two things pretty quickly: my face instantly felt smooth, and the next morning I had just enough oil on my face to keep it hydrated, not the normal layer that felt like it coated my pores.

I did notice just a bit of dryness around the corners of my mouth, and this is no doubt due to the exfoliant properties of the baking soda. If I didn't use that, I'm sure I wouldn't have an issue. But, to be fair, the dryness wasn't enough that it made me reach for the lotion. In fact, I haven't used lotion on my face since I started, and this is normally a step I never skip.

Also, while I still wash my face at least twice a day, I don't feel the need to wash it more often (we'll see if that remains the case with my workouts this week).

And finally, I feel that the redness has seriously subsided. It's not totally gone, but I feel better walking out of the house without makeup.

All in all I am very happy with the results so far. I'll keep up with it, and post pictures periodically so you can see the results.

Here are some resources on honey. Of course, make sure you always do your own research as well.

Benefits of Honey

Properties of Honey

World of Honey

And here's where I got my recipe: No More Dirty Looks