Upping our Eco Cleaning Game, bit by bit


After the last couple of years, I laughed at the fact that I went to sleep last night thinking about eco-friendly ways my husband and I are upping our game, rather than all the other S that’s hit the F. Kind of a nice change of pace for my mind that loves to race just before falling off into my Zzzz’s.

Anyhow, so two key things have occurred this summer/fall that have helped push us towards a few more things that we know we should have been looking at all along, and now are finally implemented when it comes to upping the green ante a bit more.

  1. Financial – With the domestic adoption fees we’ve not yet paid off (and $11K more that will be due once we are selected by a birth mother, along with medical/legal expenses that are not predictable), we have gone into hardcore economizing here at home. No expensive dinners out, no alcohol (beer and wine are luxury items – as anyone knows, nothing can drive a grocery bill up like a bottle of either), no random things for the house or garden. All, off the list. So when we run out of things, we have started to brainstorm – is this truly, truly needed? If so, can we make it ourselves more cheaply with stuff we already have?

  2. New Plastics Recycling Bans – While we have a pretty darn limited plastics consumption as it is, buying things primarily in bulk, glass, or making it homemade, there are a few things that are hard to avoid and we’ve always been grateful that our local recycling dropoff place has allowed us to take things like plastic film/bags and rigid plastics like lids (am I the only one that hates that milk cartons – which are curbside recyclable at least here in Portland – all have those little plastic caps on the top rather than opening them on the side like we used to?), contact lens packaging/cases, and assorted rigid plastics like broken plastic buckets/tubs/toys/etc. Our goal has always been to not acquire those things in the first place, but when it happens, it’s been nice to have a place to take it for at least downcycling compared to the dump (for those who are not aware, plastic is never truly ‘recycled’, it’s ‘downcycled’ which means the stuff that is used is made into non-recyclable products like Trex plastic-infused decking, etc). But – and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing – China has now banned all shipments of certain plastics from the US which means a lot of the crap we assumed they’d take, process, and manufacture – because our country thus far has been too lazy to do it ourselves – is here to stay. So with that, our one bag every month or two of miscellaneous rigid and filmy plastics is now going to have to minimize even more.

Whew! So here are a few things we’ve implemented this past month in the non-food area of our life that were already on our to-do lists but now are completely in place thanks to the “nudges” above:

  1. SHAVING – Since I was a teenager, I’ve never used special products for shaving, I just use the lather from the shampoo on my head when I’m in the shower. I think it came out of necessity back then but hell, it works. So that’s not new, BUT my husband had been using an eco-friendly shaving product for his face (no beards allowed in this house, if I want to see a beard, I will walk outside – this is Portland, after all..and besides, he is all in favor of being clean shaven as at his work if you have a beard, you have to wear a beard net, and he said that’s never going to happen, heh…) so when he ran out this week while we were talking about packaging, he mentioned that when he was poor he always just made up some “shave oil” which was something I was not familiar with. So we found this recipe (it says ‘pre-shave oil’ but he uses it for shaving, you just have to clean the razor well), and turns out it’s just 2 parts castor oil, 1 part olive oil, and some drops of your favorite essential oil. BAM. Ironically, I had a small jug of castor left over from Round 6 of IVF that one hippie dippie website had recommended as a belly-pack, so that mixed with some EVOO from the kitchen mixed with some frankincense/jojoba essential oil I’ve had leftover for eons? He’s good to go and his skin is SO soft after!

  2. TOILET SCRUBBING – This week was deep-clean week in our house and we realized we’d run out of Bon Ami powder, and even though I’ve been making a lot of other cleaners at home from vinegar and baking soda and the like, for some reason it never hit me to do the same thing with the toilet scrub. There are 4 different DIY toilet scrub recipes on that link, and so BAM, that’s resolved. The first one I’m using the recipe with citric acid, as I bought some for cheesemaking a while back and had a bunch left over. But I gotta say, I may be more excited about using up some of these old essential oils than to clean the toilets…oh wait, my husband is the bathroom cleaner, not me, woo hoo!! (I love that man, I tell ya!)

  3. DEODORANT – Well, I’ve been making my own deodorant for about a year but when my husband ran out of his stick of store bought eco-deo last week, he not only joined the homemade brigade, he actually volunteered to make the last batch. Nice husband! I’ve tried a bunch of different recipes but have settled for the long haul on this recipe comprised of coconut oil, baking soda and arrowroot (I seem to find the latter in the bulk spice area more than cornstarch, so I sub it), plus optional essential oil. This round, our pits are rockin’ the orange and lavender oils.

As you can see, we use canning jars to store the bigger items in (the little deo is a repurposed jar I had on hand), and I use permanent marker to write the recipe on so I’m not constantly looking for the ratio of ingredients.

What’s next? Well, I’m thinking about if I should DIY the detergents for the laundry and dishwasher, but am curious about the cost savings from doing so as there are definitely ingredients to be bought and combined. Any thoughts out there? My other biggie on the to-do list is making body lotion, IF I can find a good recipe with ingredients that don’t come in plastic packaging…

For those who are curious, we already do the following as part of our eco routine:

  1. Buy shampoo in the bulk aisle at New Seasons where we bring our own container. (I’ve been through the whole no-poo, bar, powder and such for shampoo and they just don’t work with this scalp like I want, so I’m at a bit of a standstill there). I only wash my hair twice a week

  2. Use homemade ACV instead of conditioner on my hair (as of last year we now make our own ACV from leftover apple peels following applesauce canning).

  3. Keep a squirt bottle of vinegar/water for cleaning windows and counters.

  4. Use baking soda to clean the oven and cooktop.

  5. Use coarse salt to scrub burnt on/stuck on goop from pans.

  6. Only buy bar soap that doesn’t come in packaging – New Seasons lets you cut off pieces from a giant block which is pretty rad.

  7. Mop floors with mixture of water, vinegar and eucalyptus oil (amen for a husband who also does floors along with bathrooms, woo hoo!).

I know a lot of folks like to make their own toothpaste these days, but this is one thing I’m stubborn about not doing, as when I went off non-fluoridated toothpaste I got cavities, and when I went back onto fluoridated natural toothpaste (Jason is my favorite brand) I never got another one. So I use Terracycle to send back our toothpaste tubes, moisturizer bottles, etc. Not the best but not the worst and my dental bill is zero…and our water is not fluoridated so the only fluoride I come into contact with thankfully is this!

Alright, y’all, share with me what you’re making instead of buying in this realm – I’d love to hear what’s working for you or what ideas you are looking for!!

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