Saturday, May 31, 2014

How many toothbrushes before you turn green? 1st post in a series about my eco awakening

Think about your tooth brush. How often do you replace it? Every month or so? If you are following your dentist's advice, you probably use 10-12 toothbrushes per year. That's somewhere around 400 discarded toothbrushes by the time you are 35. The crazy thing is, when you throw that toothbrush away, it doesn't just disappear off the face of the Earth. Its out there somewhere along with all my toothbrushes and our families toothbrushes and all the toothpaste tubes and other non-degradable and non-recyclable things that are being manufactured, purchased, consumed and discarded every day.

Consumable objects we use every day could be made of recyclable and/or biodegradable materials. Nowadays, many items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste do come in eco and bio friendly versions. So why aren't more people buying them?  

I struggle knowing I should be more "green".  Finding health-conscious, eco friendly, bio-safe products at reasonable price points can be a challenge and that means I would have to step outside my routine to change things that are so, well routine. But recently, I've been forced to face the music; a total eco conversion is on the horizon for my household.

I'm fully ashamed that I've bought products like Comet and Resolve laundry pre-treat. Ashamed because I knew all along that they contain ingredients that aren't good for my family's health but I've kept on buying them anyways because it was my habit to use those things. Even though I knew other products were out there as alternatives, it was just easier to keep doing what I was doing. 

Until one day recently, my husband came to me brandishing a 'clean' baby bottle with distilled water in it, ready for formula. 
"Taste this," he said.  Already knowing that something was wrong, I took a sip. 
"Eww.." I said, "It tastes like the smell of the baby dish soap!"

That day, we switched to washing all the dishes (not just baby stuff) with Seventh Generation free and clear dish soap. So far, it has done a good job for us. Clean dishes, no perfumey smell. Excellent. 

What really gets me is that after repeatedly boiling the bottles and furiously scrubbing them with the new eco soap, we can't get the perfume smell of the old soap (Palmolive Baby), out of the bottles! I know, gross and scary, right?! If I can smell it, that means that residue from it is in there and that my baby was ingesting it!!! Needless to say, I quickly ended up making a second trip out and got all new bottles, nipples and a new bottle brush. 

I started looking (and smelling) the other cosmetics and cleaners which come in contact with my baby and I don't like what I've found. So, we are in the midst of a total conversion to (what we hope are) healthier products with less toxic ingredients for the whole family. Ive found quite a few eco products that look comparable to what I was using, and they are available at national retailers for a reasonable price (Here I come, Target and Meijer !). Stay tuned~ I'll be commenting on my experiences and the products as we make the switch. We are a regular family on a budget so it wont be a complete overhaul all at once. Instead, I'm switching the major stuff first (sanitizing surface spray, baby products etc) and slowly picking up other stuff here and there.

We already employ reusable water bottles and reusable grocery totes. As for the water bottles, we've found that bottles with attached lids and no straws work best for us. We looked for BPA free ones and if they get to smelling funky, boil for 2 minutes and you have a sterilized no funk bottle.

People look at me like I'm crazy when I bust out my reusable grocery bags, but I just love em. They can fit more than a flimsy plastic bag and some can fold up small enough to tuck into your purse or baby bag. I could write a whole post about reusable bags! I might just do that...

Cleaners I'm interested in trying:
Seventh Generation (free and clear) - natural laundry detergent powder, dryer sheets, stain remover spray, dish soap, surface disinfectant wipes, toilet bowl cleaner, tub and tile cleaner, glass cleaner
Mrs Meyers - air freshener, surface scrub, soy candles

Personal Sundries we are looking to switch to:
Toms of Maine - toothpaste (adults and kids), mouthwash, deodorant 
Burt's Bees - body wash, face wash, moisturizer, lip balm, sunscreen, shaving cream
The Honest Company has diapers that are better for the environment than the pampers we have been buying. The whole reusable diaper thing is a very hard idea for me to swallow, and so is $70 for 200 diapers. Besides the expensive (but better!)  {but so damn expensive!} diapers, Honest Co makes products for baby which are natural and not crazy expensive, like their mineral sunscreen.

We are gonna go recycled paper balls to the walls and search for recycled paper goods like paper towels and toilet paper. Also, biodegradable dog poop bags and better kitty litter.

We already feed the animals a healthy, more natural food than whats typical. Taste of the Wild
is a grain free diet and they have both dog and cat food. We get ours at The Andersons.

...But just switching to other products is only going half way to the finish line. 
A while back, we saw a documentary on Netflix called Chemerical. In it, a family makes a full conversion to making their own cleaners and sundries! 
Momma Goode even lists her easy to follow recipes on her site. I am looking forward to trying out some of those recipes!

A friend of mine introduced me to a website,, the Environmental Working Group (thanks, Kevin!). The people there compile lists of products and ingredients, from cosmetics to household cleaners. They have a few searchable databases that allow you to see what is in products and learn if potentially harmful ingredients are lurking in your make up bags, closets or cleaning supply cabinets. Look up a few of the products you use everyday on the ewg databases. Does it make you want to find a hazardous waste disposal site in your area and switch to eco products too? 

Our apartment village doesn't opt in to recycling services, but I know that behind a nearby Kroger, there are labeled dumpsters for sorted recyclables. I'm going to have to take a closer look at what they accept and devise way to get my recycles sorted in a clean, space efficient way before they get carted over there...

Hopefully, my next toothbrush will be one of the items I'm throwing into the recycle bin rather than the trash bin. 

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