Intentional Living: Switching to Bar Soaps

Find a good bar soap
It doesn't need packaging
Bubble germs away.

One of my favorite sustainable swaps in 2018 was from liquid dish soap, shampoo, and conditioner to bars.

I was hesitant about the change. In my mind, a bar soap could never bubble and clean grease like a liquid. But I was wrong. I saw a good review about Beehive Alchemy's Big Block Kitchen Soap, about how it actually cut through grease in the kitchen, so I wanted to give it a try. It's made in the tradition of Savon de Marseille, which creates a hard soap using at least 72% olive oil and other eco-friendly ingredients. And it works beautifully! After 6 months of use, I have no complaints and feel the Big Block works just as well, if not better, than a liquid eco dish soap. I probably have 4 months of soap block left, so I estimate one block lasts me 10 months.

I highly recommend buying the soap tile to keep the bar in place. I tried using a smooth soap dish and found everything was much too slippery. Swish a wet brush on the soap surface and scrub your dishes clean!

All of my kitchen brushes are made by B├╝rstenhaus Redecker. They have wood handles and natural fibers, and hold up well over time (just remember to rinse them out and store them bristles-up.) My favorite is the Tampico Fiber Dish Brush. All work wonderfully with the Big Block Kitchen Soap.

I was even more hesitant to start using a shampoo bar. My hair tends greasy, and I'd read reviews from all different hair types about how shampoo bars left their hair feeling dirty. I knew it just wasn't going to be for me. But after the Kitchen Block success, I let shampoo and conditioner bars slip into my cart during a good sale at Package Free Shop. Surely I'd decide my hair was gross like the others, but I'd have made my own decision in the end. I was completely surprised when my hair felt extremely clean, silky, and healthy afterward. From day 1 until now, after over 6 weeks of everyday use, the results haven't waned. I've tried so many biodegradable shampoos and conditioners over the years and have never been happy with the results. This was a completely different experience.

In the photo, the conditioner bars are sitting on top of the shampoo bars. I purchased both in "Hydrator" from Package Free Shop. The pair on the left are new and the pair on the right have been used for just over 6 weeks. I expect about 3 months of use per bar (probably more like 4 months for the conditioner.) To ensure a long life, I highly recommend using the Silicone Soap Dish by Yamazaki Home and placing it away from any water run-off.

Another notable switch away from liquid-in-plastic soap last year was with laundry detergent. While I still use some liquid laundry detergents from The Laundress for denim, wool, and workout clothes, I've switched to powder for our regular laundry (everyday clothing, bedding, towels). I don't love the ingredients usually recommended for making your own powdered laundry detergent, and I don't want to shave a bar of soap to make flakes, so I found DanSoap All Natural Laundry Detergent, which is completely biodegradable and comes in a compostable container! It does a great job getting our laundry clean. For the tougher loads, I add a scoop of Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener. It comes in a reusable metal tin, though unfortunately the powder is packed in a plastic bag (which I recycle at Target).

I hope this encourages you to take a next step in your intentional living decisions! We can make a big impact when we find sustainable replacements, especially for the products we use every day.

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Intentional Living: All-Purpose Cleaning Spray

And your castile soap
*a modified HAIKU, I now realize. Whoops!

I started off strong there, didn’t I? Yes, this silly issue bothers me enough to bring me back after an unintentional leave of absence to raise the cutest little stuffed animal pupper that we adopted into our family. (Other updates include deleting (not just deactivating) my facebook account/s, planting like a million laurels in our yard, and taking family photos for the first time since January 2012.)

I’m currently reading yet another minimalism/intentional living book that recommends mixing Vinegar and Castile Soap to make the perfect all-purpose cleaning spray for your home. I don’t expect those of us trying to clean our home more naturally to be chemists, but upon using these two ingredients together a few years ago, I noticed that the combination creates a very strange consistency. A quick google search led me to a Bronner herself, explaining why her family's Castile Soap should not be mixed with vinegar, or any acid. Lisa Bronner writes,

“In great part it’s due to the fact that vinegar is an acid and the castile soap is a base. They will directly react with each other and cancel each other out. So, instead of getting the best of both (the scum cutting ability of the vinegar and the dirt transporting ability of the soap), you’ll be getting the worst of something entirely new. The vinegar “unsaponifies” the soap, by which I mean that the vinegar takes the soap and reduces it back out to its original oils. So you end up with an oily, curdled, whitish mess. And this would be all over whatever it was you were trying to clean – your laundry or counters or dishes or whatever.”

So please stop mixing vinegar and castile soap together. And authors, please stop recommending it in your books.

For a much better DIY all-purpose cleaning spray, I recommend:

In an 8 ounce spray bottle, add:
¼ cup vinegar (use infused vinegar if you like*)
5 drops GSE (grapefruit seed extract)
10 drops tea tree essential oil
10 drops lemon essential oil
Fill bottle to top with water
*I infuse mine with rosemary cuttings from the yard and leftover lemon or orange rinds.

Give it a little shake every time you use it. I find that the light mist from these spray bottles does a perfect job covering our kitchen counter tops with the right amount of cleanser. Then I wipe with a slightly damp rag.

In case you'd like to old-school label yours as well, this is the label maker I used.

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Film Photos: Deception Pass and Anacortes 2012

These are some favorites that I never shared. We stopped to walk around Deception Pass and went on a (mostly whaleless) Anacortes whale-watching tour our first year living in Washington.


Intentional Living: Feminine Hygiene Products

Chemicals in where?
No thanks, please let's not go there.
Cotton is enough.

Feminine hygiene products. If that doesn’t apply to you, feel free to tune out today.

I’ve been extremely excited about the influx of healthier feminine care options into the market lately. It seems crazy that we’ve all been using these chemical-laden products for so long without second thought. Or if you haven’t had that thought yet, maybe it’s time!

My favorite company to offer organic products is Lola. I’ve been using their products for over a year now. They have a great subscription system that is fully customizable. I get their organic tampons in all sizes (and have not tried their pads.) I prefer the design of their compact applicator tampons the best. They come in light, regular, super, and super +, but the applicator is plastic. I’ve switched to buying the cardboard applicator for regular and super (they’re currently not available in light and super+) because they are fully biodegradable.

Another great company offering organic tampons is Sustain Natural. I buy other products from them, but decided not to buy their tampons because they only offer regular and super and their boxes aren’t fully customizable. However, their applicators are made with bio-plastic, and I just really like this company.

Speaking of applicators, there is a new product out of the UK called Dame currently running on Indiegogo. From their site: “D is a reusable tampon applicator. It uses self-cleaning technology and medical grade materials so you can enjoy the comfort of an applicator without the plastic waste.” I’m intrigued.

All great options, but you can even find organic tampons on the shelves at your local stores now. Even Brandless is selling $3 boxes!

In switching from conventional to organic tampons, I’ve realized that they work just as well, but maybe hold a little less volume than you’re used to. So in the time you would expect to wear a regular sized conventional tampon, you may want to bump up to a super organic one.

Finally, do you flush your tampons? I can’t unless I want to risk an emergency plumbing bill. Our house has a sewer pump that doesn’t handle anything beyond organic waste and toilet paper. But in general, you just shouldn’t. Main line sewage clogs are becoming a big problem, and I’d like to do my part to make it easier to create reusable drinking water. This article covers it.

A couple months ago, I realized how much toilet paper I was going through to wrap used tampons for the trash. I was hoping to find an eco-friendly way to dispose of them and came across MaskIT! I highly recommend this product. According to their website, one female goes through 24 rolls of toilet paper to cover one year’s worth of tampons (I think I went through more than that.) Their MaskIT pouch is made from plant starches, vegetable oils, and compostable polymers and is completely biodegradable. It’s easy and hygienic, and I’m just so happy to have found them. They even sent me a hand-written thank you card with my order that reads “Small changes make a BIG difference when we work together! Thank you for helping us save trees!”

I only talk about tampons here because that’s my preference, but if it’s not yours, hopefully you’ll still think about the products you’re using. There’s always the Diva cup, but I’m just not there.

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Intentional Living: The Basics

Plastic everywhere,
But not in my body please.
We can do better.

I’ve realized lately that there are a few earth-friendly tasks that I assume everyone does. And it’s sadly just not true. So I’d love to share these actions that I find to be very basic and easy to implement into your daily life.

1. Recycle everything you can. Find your local recycling program’s requirements and learn them. Tape the guidelines to your refrigerator or your recycle bin and do your part. Nothing that is recyclable should end up in your trashcan.

You can always just get another little bin to hold your recyclables, but if you’re looking for a good system, we’ve used these slimmer connectable trash cans in the past, and recently switched to this stackable Muji system. Ideally, I would try to stay away from plastic bins and have stainless, but I find this to be a good solution for now based on price, convenience, and size.

Our Muji trash bin: recycling on top, trash on the bottom, and compost in the freezer. :)

2. Use steel or glass water bottles. There is no need to buy plastic water bottles unless you had a lapsed moment where you forgot your reusable water bottle, aren’t near home, and can’t find a place to give you a glass of water (happens to us all). I highly recommend Klean Kanteen (stainless) and Bkr (glass), both of which I wash in the dishwasher (always a big selling point for me.)

If you like that bottled water comes filtered and want to be able to refill away from home, I recommend keeping a GoPure water purifier pod in your reusable water bottle.

3. Do not have plastic straws in your home. You will be just fine without a straw. Or, buy a plastic alternative straw. I have 4 stainless straws (2 regular and 2 smoothie sized). They also come in glass, bamboo, and there are compostable plant-based packs on amazon. You have options. Then, try to pass on that straw when you’re out and about.

If we can make these three simple adjustments the new baseline, maybe we can have an impact on this.

This post contains affiliate links. You can read the Amazon Affiliate disclosure in the sidebar. Please know I only ever post links I personally support and think may add value to my readers. Thank you for supporting the blog!
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