Thursday, December 18

Noitalever: Toothpaste

Hello, friends. I wanted to let you know that I've been thinking about toothpaste an unreasonable amount during this last year, but I've made some interesting discoveries.

In May, I read this post by Green Bean and realized that I, too, could use toothpaste to the last drop. I could also use less. This idea focused on the principle of "reducing," and really snuggled with my thrifty nature. It so happened that this epiphany coincided with needing to buy toothpaste again. I bought the normal stuff with all of the plastic trimmings because I just didn't have the energy to do otherwise at the time.

So, I brought my new tube of toothpaste home and sat, staring at it. "Beth thinks she can make you last a whole year," I explained to it. "But really? I think we're dealing with six or seven months of material. I'm going to make you last until December."

And so, we set out on our Life Quest, with a side of "reduce toothpaste." I cut my amount down to a third, because it occurred to me that at least a third dropped off of my toothbrush usually, so I was never using the full amount anyway. And you know what? Using 66% less has not inhibited my brushing experience. In fact, besides not swallowing any or dropping any, I cannot tell the difference!

Last week, as I was cutting apart my toothpaste tube in order to truly make it "good to the last drop," I felt an overwhelming sense of victory. I did a little thrifty dance. And then, I thought about what else I could do.

In that same post, Beth talks about how baking soda irritated her mouth and how dentists want us to have more flouride, etc. But I started thinking...

I thought about my grandmother, who used to play "Little House on the Prairie" with me when I'd spend the night at her house. The only part of that whole experience that I can really remember is getting to brush my teeth with baking soda, because it was so novel. I also thought about my aunt, who always adds bread to stuffing mixes to stretch them, or macaroni noodles to boxed macaroni. This principle of "stretching" is something we can see also in the trend to add water to shampoo or lotion. How could I stretch toothpaste?

I want to lower my impact, but not give up toothpaste (I do love it so), so here's what I came up with: I will brush my teeth with toothpaste (I purchased Tom's of Maine) during the day, but use baking soda at night. That way, I'm using much less toothpaste, but also not enough baking soda (hopefully) to irritate my gums.

I have started doing this, and so far it's working well.

Thursday, December 11

Noitalever: Planning

I think that trying to live life "less plastic" builds character, just as maintaining any kind of diet or exercise regime does. I think that these things all promote self-discipline, responsibility, and vigilance. Today, I want to write about just one manifestation of this: planning.

Sometime in fall of 2006, I saw a poster that changed my life. It was trying to sell me a University of Idaho Sustainability Mug (To-Go mugs, branded with our Sustainability Center's logo), and it said "Last year, UI students and faculty threw away (astronomical number) of paper cups," and had lots of statistics. As a drinker of a daily latte, I stopped and said, "Woah." As soon as possible, I bought a to-go mug (not a UI one, because they actually leak...) and started carrying it every day.

Now, as many of you know because you have probably tried to use a to-go mug at least once in your life with varying degrees of success, to-go mugs come with their own set of problems. I foresaw the cleanliness issue, and never let my mug sit with a few drops of coffee in it. I also foresaw it making a mess in my bag, so I learned to wash it out before I tossed it in. I still maintain this habit: I wash out the mug as soon as I'm done with the coffee (or during the first available class break, etc). This does most of the cleaning for me, actually, but I also wash the mug out with dish soap and often let it sit overnight with soapy water inside. Phew!

I never forget my mug. Maybe I used to, but it has become such a habit to keep it clean and available that I am always good to go. It is now, two years later, much loved (read: battered), but I have decided that I will use it until it dies. Another issue that I had to think about was that it has a plastic exterior, but how environmentally-friendly would it be to toss it now? Instead, I decided to make it last as long as possible and then repurpose or recycle the parts somehow.

So, the life skill that I have refined is "planning."

Here is another example: next semester, I will not have a place to buy in bulk within a ten minute walk of me. Instead, I will need to plan so that I can make one trip to the bulk foods store every two weeks. This will mean planning a vague range of meals in advance, etc. Also, not buying convenience foods will mean learning to cook...

...and I am sure that I can overcome even this greatest of obstacles, and I will be healthier and happier for it.

What have you learned from your own brand of environmentalism?

Friday, December 5

Noitalever: Less-Plastic Christmas 3

Alors, I said that I was going to make my own Christmas wrapping in the form of drawstring bags. I took it one step further, in order to trim the costs and energy involved. I decided that I could be more economical and environmentally-friendly if I re-purposed something. I went to Goodwill and found The Perfect Thing - an old Christmas tablecloth, made from beautiful fabric. It was way cheaper than buying beautiful Christmas fabric at the store right now, and...well, beautiful. I bought two, but the by-far-prettier one is a dark green with darker green embroidery.

Then, I busted out the sewing machine when I was in Oregon and finished nine bags of varying sizes in about an hour and a half. I didn't touch the second fabric because I was done with bags for the night...unfortunately, I forgot to do any sewing until the last night that I was there. Sad day. Maybe I'll have an opportunity later, but I suspect that I won't actually need more than nine bags. I could also use the other fabric for Furoshiki. Oh, the options!

When I was at the Co-op buying gifts, a woman asked me if I was the one who wrote the article! WOW! She recognized me from the picture, I guess, or maybe my basket tipped her off (but I can't elaborate, because some of you are getting gifts from that basket...), but it was super cool. I was infinitely glad that I had no plastic in my basket. :)