accidental environmentalist

That’s me.

Environmental activism has never been a huge priority with me. My official stance regarding climate change is I Have No Opinion, but I’m enough of a postmodern (although not a postmodernist, there’s a difference) to be fairly skeptical regarding broad claims to epistemological certainty made by many in the field of natural sciences—and on a variety of subjects, of which climate change is only one. If you want more specificity than that, I will tell you that I usually resonate with Planet Moron on the matter.

So there’s that. But here’s what has happened: as I’ve tried to make my consumption choices more oriented towards the stewardship of our financial resources (read: as I’m turning into more of a tightwad) and I’ve become more oriented to living attentively in a specific space, place and community (which means, among other things, buying seasonally and locally, where practicable), I’ve started taking measures which happen also to mesh with the stated concerns of many environmentalists:

homemade laundry detergent

TipNut has about nine billion recipes, but I use the following, which is cheap, easy and effective:

1 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated (I use my auxiliary food processor for this)
2 cups borax
2 cups washing soda

Stir thoroughly to combine. Store in an airtight container. Use 2-4 Tbsp per load, depending on your water (and your dirt). It works great, and HEY, no phosphates and no container to trash or recycle! I could buy some fancy pants “green” detergent at Whole Paycheck, but this is way cheaper, and I don’t have to go breathe the smug.

no more fabric softener

I got this idea from Christine Moers over at Welcome To My Brain: white vinegar in the Downy ball. Seriously. It makes clothes truly scent-free and softens just the right amount. And, a $3.50 for a gallon and a half of the stuff at Wegman’s, it’s the cheapest fabric softener I can imagine. Did you know commercial fabric softeners make your towels less absorbent? They do. Vinegar does not. This is a happy thing. And HEY, no icky heavy metals leaching into your clothes and skin.

Diva Cup

I love, love, love my Diva Cup. I bought (from Whole Foods, I admit) it to save money on feminine hygiene products, but it also saves waste, as it turns out. I can’t think of a way to recycle tampons, can you?

‘poo free

This is another idea from Welcome To My Brain. I have gone shampoo free. Like Christine, I just give my hair a good thorough rinse when I shower, and every few days I scrub in some—get this—baking soda followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse. My hair is in great shape and this is such a cheap alternative to shampoo. And HEY no sulfates!

Vinegar is so wondrous, its uses so manifold. What else will clean your hair AND your clothes AND your kitchen floor?

minimal meat

I love meat. I love prime steak, and pork chops, and ohmyheart bacon. Love them, love them, love them. I can’t imagine ever going totally vegetarian.

But I almost have. Meat is expensive, and we are on a tight budget. Also meat is not so healthful, at least in the quantities I would consume if the restraints of circumstance were totally removed. So we have meat about once a week (more often for the growing boys—thank God for Dino Buddies) at most. For special occasions my nice husband takes me out for steak or I take him out for sushi. But mostly we chow on veg, grains, dairy and eggs. And as it happens, the large-scale production of meat for food has-- according to some, anyway-- a high environmental impact. So.

There are more, similar strategies to be implemented in the near future: a CSA membership this spring (about which I am SO excited), switching to baking soda after my current tube of toothpaste runs out, experimenting with essential oil/ baking soda combinations in place of deodorant, and so on.

What are you doing in terms of frugality and/or conservation?


Mary-LUE said...

I have some questions about the Diva cup. Would it be possible to email you about them? (I don't think the world wants to read my history of menstrual product use!)I think my email is in a reply to on the comments, if not, it is marylue42 @ csu . fullerton . edu

Regarding frugality... We are trying to eat home more. This accomplishes two things: saving money on food AND family dinners. I was raised eating dinner in front of the TV and with a husband who has traveled frequently, I never made dinners at the table a priority. So, less eating out is our main thing. We've also gone out less for movies, etc., which isn't really about conserving more than our dollars.

Kimberly said...

ACK! What do we need to do re: the CSA. That should be done right about now, eh? I have been so consumed with this baby thing that everything else has slipped my mind!

Planet Moron said...

Thanks for the plug!

I've actually been meaning to blog about this. I think it would really surprise die-hard environmentalists just how many of us who question such things as Anthropogenic Global Warming (and a host of other command-and-control environmental mandates) are committed environmentalists ourselves.

I live in a smallish house with a smallish yard and do all the yard work by hand, from my rotary push mower to my various trimming tools. I actually use a broom to sweep the walks, almost unheard of in the Washington, DC area where the preferred method is to hire people to use blowers powered by what sounds like surplus Boeing 727 engines.

I have a compost pile in the back, a rain barrel attached to my gutter, replaced almost all my lights with fluorescents and do all the other things my neighbors think other people should do but prefer to write $50 checks to the Sierra Club every year or two instead.

My mother grew up in The Great Depression, and I heard all the stories, so this is probably as much about avoiding waste and saving money than anything else.

Which is a long way of saying, "ditto."

Beck said...

There! I read the baking soda-vinegar shampoo idea last night with a bit of a raised eyebrow, but as I was heading to the shower this morning, I thought "Why not?". And now my hair feels spic and span! Huh! I may be a convert now! That'll save me upwards of $20 a MONTH!

Meat, around here, is THE locally produced food. It's eating vegetarian that puts more of a strain on a lot of resources - although for health reasons, we don't eat TONS of meat.

I have been strictly forbidden from trying homemade laundry detergent, however. My husband knows TWO women who wrecked their washing machines SOMEHOW doing that! But I just skip fabric softener altogether and revel in the resulting clinging brotherhood of socks.

Kim Pospisil said...

How cool is this? I started using borax with my laundry detergent instead of an expensive oxygen booster. I have also begun using vinegar and water as a quick and cheep surface and window cleaner. That way, my almost 3 year old has some fun “helping” me and I can get some things done. I think it’s good for her to see chores as a fun thing.

Never knew about the laundry softening effects. I don’t know if I could do the baking soda thing in my hair though. I’ll have to try it on a day when I’m not going anywhere. I have been using less shampoo though. When my hair is pretty clean already, I just use water and a little “poo” to make it smell nice. I’ve been wanting to try your laundry soap recipe but I need to find an old food processor so I can grate the soap.

We’re also joining a CSA this spring too. It’s going to be super cheap. We’ve also changed our diet too, for health reasons to only have meat once a day. I’m feeling better. I haven’t checked my blood sugar numbers to see how that’s working out but I am told it’s supposed to have a positive effect.

Convenience is expensive. Frugality requires wisdom. Wisdom costs time and attention but is worth every penny.

It would be helpful if I didn’t make peanut butter cookies using the full sugar recipe. Old habits die hard.

Recovering Sociopath said...

Kim P., I use all the sugar in my p.b. cookies but also use natural p.b. and whole wheat flour, so I figure it all comes out right in the end. :)

Also, I have become a big fan of exercising portion control instead of defatting or desugaring things. I'd rather have just a spoonful of Haagen-Dazs than a big bowl of yucky lowfat ice cream.

Lynne said...

harrisLove this. Good ideas, and at least you are doing something!
I have a query though ... maybe you can help. I have the most curly, unruly, frizzy hair on the planet. I guess I could try the baking soda instead of shampoo routine, but the idea of not putting on my anti-frizz mousse before I face the world in the morning fills me with horror. I guess I could just cut my hair really short, but does anyone have another suggestion? Is there an alternative to the chemical laden products?

happygeek said...

I must confess no-poo makes me nervous.
But, I hang my clothes to dry in the summer (you get used to crunchy clothing), I never use fabric softener, LOVE vinegar, use the re-usable bags at the grocery store, try to do all my errands at one time, saves on gas, recycle as much as humanly possible, use all high efficiency light bulbs, walk for errands in the summer, upgraded to a high efficiency furnace and low flow faucets and toilets, and plan to grow a garden this summer.
I too am unsure about he whole global warming thing, but am certain that if we keep dumping pollutants into our world willy-nilly something bad will happen, just not next Tuesday. (As David Suzuki would have us believe.)
I live in a province funded almost completely by oil and gas (the last 3 months have been fun around here, let me tell you) and as such understand the need to balance job security with environmental responsibility.

Kathleen Marie said...

Fantastic Post!

This is a money saver for those who love skin softening/scrubbing products -

1 cup sugar or 3/4 cup salt for a finer scrub
4 tablespoons baby oil or mineral oil
3 tablespoons aloe vera gel
1 teaspoon vanilla or you can use other oil scents
Mix well.
This fills an 8 oz Mason Jar and lasts quite a while.

Sore Throat Remedy - It works!
Just mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with 1/4 cup of honey and take 1 tablespoon six times a day. The vinegar kills the bacteria.

UTI's - Cure urinary tract infections with Alka-Seltzer. Just dissolve two tablets in a glass of water and drink it at the onset of the symptoms. Alka-Seltzer begins eliminating urinary tract infections almost instantly-- even though the product has never been advertised for this use. Save's on doctor bills and trips to pharmacy.

Blemishes -
Honey remedy for skin blemishes ... Cover the blemish with a dab of honey and place a Band-Aid over it. Honey kills the bacteria, keeps the skin sterile, and speeds healing. Works overnight.

Toenail or nail fungus - Listerine therapy for toenail fungus. Get rid of unsightly toenail fungus by soaking your toes in Listerine mouthwash. The powerful antiseptic leaves your toenails looking healthy again. No doctor visits or pills to take.

Vinegar to heal bruises ... Soak a cotton ball in white vinegar and apply it to the bruise for 1 hour. The vinegar reduces the blueness and speeds up the healing process.

Enjoyed your post ... I'm kind of the same way and try to do more. I figure I'm on this earth for a short while and do my part as best I can.

My husband hunts for deer, elk, turkeys and we just process them at home. Deer meat is much healthier than beef and much leaner plus no hormones and such, ie organic meat.

The turkeys around here also clean up the mess the birds make at my bird feeders. I make my own bird suet as well. I also can and will finally for the first time in several years have a garden again this year with a little greenhouse.

Have a great weekend.

Zanshin said...

Environmental activism is a priority with me, but I agree with you on global warming. It may or may not be happening, and if it is, it probably isn't caused by humans, and regardless, it probably can't be fixed by humans. (Time to move to where the food is...) Plus there are so many other pressing problems out there that we should be worrying about and fixing instead.

Just a heads up: my dentist told me that using baking soda, or toothpaste that contains baking soda, can be good as a tooth polish once and a while, but shouldn't be used on a regular basis because it wears down the enamel.