We get asked a lot what you should do with your cosmetics when you’re making the switch to clean and find yourself with a bathroom full of crap. The honest answer is: There is no easy solution. When we were writing the book, we entertained, shocked, and made each other giggle with snaps of our stockpiled crap. They were funny and a little sad, mainly because…
and I have said this before, but we reeeeeally didn’t think we were product hoarders or especially girlie girls before we wrote this book. I have since accepted that I was (am) patently both, all things considered, and when I was swapping out dirty for clean, I had a boat load of garbage to get rid of. We both did.
But what to do with it? To be honest, we have skirted this question because it leads to some unsatisfying options. Such as:
1. You can use it up, exposing yourself to the unmentionables in the bottle, which, truth be told, will not kill you but which you probably do not want to use anymore now that you know what you know. That’s the problem, if we want to get deep for a second: With cosmetics—AS WITH EVERYTHING IN LIFE—once you see something you didn’t see before, you cannot then un-see it unless you do drugs or drink too much. It sucks, but it’s part of an evolution toward the good… So you’ve got that going for you. Which is nice.***
2. You can flush it down the can, which may or may not poison the water and the coral reefs and the fish who call it home, because a lot of these things, especially hormones disruptors, don’t come out when water is purified by your local sanitation department—but at least you get to recycle the bottle, which isn’t nothing.
3. You can toss it, and have it end up in a landfill.
4. You can donate it, but then you have problem number 1 (and, potentially, 2 and 3), only it’s outsourced to someone you don’t know. The little I know about karma tells me this is probably the least-good solution.
Me, I abandoned this problem a while ago, but I still use, finish, sample, and occasionally discard products without finishing them—which leads me with stuff that I need to do something with.
Here is what I do now:
1. If the ingredients are clean—and obviously they are these days—I pass it on. I frequently give a partly used product to a friend whose skin or hair type might suit the cosmetic better. My friends don’t care; they’re happy to get free stuff, and I get to feel better about reducing waste. They’ll also let me know what they think about it, and then I can better answer questions for you guys (and strangers on the train) when they ask me what I think about X, Y, or Z.
2. If I know from hello that a product isn’t for me, I regift. I don’t do this often, but I have done it. Besides, everyone in my life knows what I do for a living pastime. Of course, I still try to remain mindful of who I am giving it to and why, just like I would with any gift I spend money on. Maybe it’s your skin type, or a smell I know will blend nicely with your natural scent, and I will give it to you because you let me borrow your boyfriend to install my air conditioner or something.
3. I reuse the bottles (see the photo above from my “bedroom”). Naturally, I have my standbys: those products I buy again and again, eventually producing empty bottles I then have to do something with, because that’s what happens when you buy stuff. I reuse or recycle almost everything that comes into my home, and when it comes to nontoxic beauty, I’m always excited that so many naturals brands use glass instead of plastic (even though, yes, glass weighs more, so has a larger carbon footprint, arggggghhhh we can’t win, let’s all move to Tahiti). But the same way I love how pretty my bottles look in my bathroom and on my vanity, I also love how they look…as vases! Because they’re little, it works best to buy individual flowers instead of bouquets, or get a bouquet and break it up all over your home to make it look like a temple or the HQ of a cult. I especially like how these Kahina Toning Mist bottles look on my makeshift altar-thing.
4. Return the bottles to the company for a refill, if they have such a program. Check the packaging. Very few companies do this, but if they do, we love you (even though we don’t want to give up our vases).
5. Recycle them. Duh. I came across a statistic from EPA that only 28% of glass bottles are recycled in the States, which I find shameful. Recycle your glass, girls.
So since I’m all about lists today, this question is a two-parter:
1. What did/do you do with yout dirty products in the transition to clean?
2. Do you have crafty re-uses for your cosmetics bottles? (If you have pictures, email us!)
***First person to catch that movie reference without Googling gets a prize from me. Cheaters never prosper!
When you throw out food, it ends up in a landfill. Duh, right? Except I bet most of us don’t really think about that when we toss a head of wilted romaine in the bin, which is why 27% of all food we bring into the house ends up in the trash. (That’s the official number; I bet the real number is much higher.) Once in the trash, it doesn’t “biodegrade”—mainly because it’s in a landfill, where it produces methane as it decomposes. Since we like to live as clean as we can over here in No More Dirty Looks land, here’s a list of ways to reduce the food you throw out, and what to do with it if it really is past its prime. (Bonus below: A delicious recipe.)
1. Freeze your food scraps. I use this silicone Fuccillo bin (pictured) for all my scraps and food that goes bad, and I love it. I used to use a pyrex bowl but this was problematic because everything stuck to it, making the task of chipping away at frozen produce scraps unpleasant and difficult. I would sometimes have to let it thaw to get it out of the bowl, which defeats the purpose of freezing it in the first place, yes? Yes. And then I discovered this genius bin. Nothing sticks to it, I can easily remove my scraps, and then I bring them to the farmer’s market where they can be composted and turned into fertilizer.
2. Sign up for a CSA. Lots of people say CSAs cause them to waste more food not less, but for me, when I am forced to think about the actual farm with actual farmers who are harvesting my food, I am much less inclined to let it go to waste. For the uninitiated, here’s how a CSA works: You sign up (and pay in advance) for 22 weeks of fresh produce and fruit. Then, in the summer, you start getting your yields either delivered to your house or at a pickup location near you. (To find a CSA in your area, click here.) Mine averages out to less than $20 a week for more vegetables and fruit than a girl knows what to do with. But wait! That doesn’t mean you get to throw out the extra. Read on.
3. Share. A no-brainer, but in our I’ve-never-met-my-neighbors world it can be hard to remember. If you have too much food, you are in the very lucky minority in this entire freaking world, and you shouldn’t let it go to waste. Instead, bring some to a friend, throw a dinner party, or bring it to your office for your coworkers—before it spoils. People will happily take plump strawberries off your hands; your wilted mustard greens, probably not.
4. Play Top Chef in your kitchen. The secret ingredient is whatever you’re thinking about chucking because a) you don’t know what to do with it (oh hey, garlic scapes), or b) you don’t like it. Commit to never throwing out produce, and then get creative. A few weeks ago I got some scapes and decided on a whim to blanch them then turn them into a kind of pesto. It was a recipeless experiment and guess what? Super tasty! (If you want to try: a bunch of scapes, blanched for 3 minutes; throw them in the blender with a few glugs of olive oil, salt, pepper, juice of one lemon, and parmesan—or nutritional yeast if you’re vegan—and voila! Great with salmon, eggs, other veggies, pasta, etc.)
5. Make pickles. Last week, my friends and I took a class with pickle man Bob McClure at Brooklyn Kitchen. We all have CSAs and it seemed a good skill to have to reduce waste. Also, then you get to eat pickles. I spent Sunday pickling red onions, beets, lemons and cucumbers at my friend Erika’s house and in just four hours we produces 17 jars, some of which was sourced from what we had lying around in our fridges. You don’t want to go making pickles willy-nilly, though. Take a class or get a book, and learn how to sterilize your jars properly.
6. Make juice. Before it wilts or spoils, throw your produce in the blender and make a juice. Juicing is expensive, which is why I’ve avoided getting too into the whole thing, but if you have stuff that will otherwise end up in a landfill, why not put it in your body instead? Experiment with different combinations and worst case scenario, it sucks and you flush it down the toilet. (Don’t do that, though. Just plug your nose and drink it!)
7. Find places that will make use of your waste. Lots of farmers markets have food-scrap collections that take your waste and turn it into black gold (fertilizer, friends). The June issue of Prevention magazine had a list of places that will take your waste off your hands, gratis, so cop that issue. And if you’re lucky enough to live in a place like Washington, DC, you can reach out to Compost Cab.
8. Shop like a Parisian. This is how I grew up eating. We never had one of those insanely stocked fridges; we had the basics, and then my mom would pop down to the fish guy or the grocery store before supper to get whatever she felt like making that night. I understand that this doesn’t work for everyone, but we were a household with two hungry kids (and, often enough, our hungry friends) where both parents had full-time jobs, and we made it work. Maybe you can’t do this every day, but you can do it a couple times a week? I don’t know.
9. Store it properly. I am not great about this, but I know it to be true: By storing your food properly in the fridge with reusable produce bags and glass, you can seriously extend the life of your food.
10. Cook it, then freeze it. This is another obvious one that sounds like more of a pain than it is. I did this last week with spinach: Steamed it (5 minutes), chopped it (1 minute), let it cool (passive time; doesn’t count), then bagged it and put it in the freezer (30 seconds).
What tips do you have for reducing food waste in your house?
Oh hey. Do laundry this weekend? Yeah, same. I’m of the mind that the only thing worse than doing laundry is the stuff we actually pour into the machine (and down the drain) when we’re doing it. If you’re like us, you maybe use Seventh Generation or Ecover or something. But that was probably not always the case—and it’s certainly not the norm. There are a couple of reasons why we think this is bad news:
1. It’s bad for your skin.
Allergens abound in traditional laundry detergent, and many of us react badly to the dyes, fragrance and other synthetics without even realizing it. Then we end up showering in salicylic acid to get rid of stubborn bacne, or we slather on cortisone to get rid of our eczema-like rashes in a cycle that just repeats and repeats and repeats but never ends.
2. It’s bad for the planet.
Traditional laundry detergents are loaded with persistent toxic chemicals which, once introduced into the natural world, don’t leave. They can also acidify the water (fish looooove this) and are packed with petrochemicals, which, health implications aside, come from an obviously nonrenewable resource. They also used to contain phosphates, which have thankfully been removed from laundry detergents and are in the process of being phased out of dishwashing soaps—but not before they were poisoning aquatic life for many decades. Americans do a ton of laundry every week, and whatever we choose to use is being flushed down the drain with the dirt it wrestles from our clothes.
In the book we encourage people to swap out beauty products as things run out, while prioritizing replacing things you use regularly over a large surface area. Consider this your largest surface area, and get rid of your [whatever you use] ASAP. If you drop off your laundry at a wash-and-fold, leave a bottle of good stuff with the laundromat. They’ll be happy—it saves them money because they aren’t using their own detergent—and you’ll be happy because you aren’t poisoning fish or giving yourself rashes. Plus, you’ll be setting a good example. Just be sure to remind them every time you drop off that they have your soap.
As for picking a new detergent: Unless there’s an ingredient declaration on the bottle—which unlike cosmetics, is not mandatory for house cleaners (though New York has been leading a move to change that)—and unless it is readily biodegradable (the readily part is important), we’d say: Don’t use it.
And here’s a practical reason to make the switch:
Procter & Gamble announced it will be raising the price of its detergents (Tide and Cheer et al) starting in June, owing to rising commodity costs. A 4.5% increase may sound like pocket change to you, but it will offset $500 million in costs for them—a reminder of just how big this business is.
Related (and pictured): A company called Ecologic has figured out how to make packaging out of old newspaper and postconsumer cardboard, which reduces plastic and is compostable. Inside the cardboard is a plastic lining that you can remove and recycle with your other plastics. Seventh Generation’s 4X Laundry Detergent will be packaged in it (I like the Free & Clear one), and available on shelves this week. One bottle = 66 loads of laundry.
I also like BioKleen Home (which unfortunately does not have complete ingredient lists on their site), and Ecover’s stain remover is bananas. It works on everything, even olive oil stains on dainty silks.
So what about you? What kind of laundry detergent do you use?