I used to accept my difficulty sleeping as a part of life. My brain just wouldn’t shut off and I would literally lay in bed for hours spinning. I’ve since become a better sleeper, and while I feel that much of it is because I’m dead tired after work and because I am blissfully happy in my little urban farmhouse with Andrew, I also owe much of it to a tincture of Skullcap.
If you’ve gone the natural route for sleep aid’s I’m sure you’ve tried Valerian and/or Melatonin, and I’m sure those left you less than enthused. Melatonin, especially, made my eyes heavy and tired but did absolutely nothing for restful, extended sleep. It wasn’t until I met Andrew that I found out about the benefits of Skullcap. (Kind of twisted because he is so much of the reason I sleep so well now, even when he sleeps diagonally across the bed.)
This vintage Disney reference doing it for anyone? Anyone?
Perhaps that greatest thing about Skullcap is that it’s not a sleep aid directly. Mostly it’s a nervine, meaning that it relaxes and calms the central nervous system while also restoring optimal function (neuro-trophorestorative). So more than anything it serves as a wonderful anti-anxiety remedy that can be used anytime of day. (I will often take a few droppers before busy nights at the restaurant.) But when used before bed it simply soothes your nerves and naturally helps you drift into a very relaxing and restful slumber. The only note of caution I will give is that Skullcap before bed makes for some pretty lucid dreams. If you’re not in the best frame of mind I would skip it until you’re in a happier place.
When I’m feeling especially wound-up I will take two droppers-full 30-minutes before bed. Because I don’t usually add the drops to water I prefer the tincture in glycerine instead of alcohol, but they’re both the same. (The Herb Pharm brand uses organic alcohol.) Available at most health food stores or pharmacies like Pharmaca.
As always, consult with your physician if you are worried about potential allergies or reactions with other medications.
Apologies for the delay with this final installment of my eco-friendly Earth Week favorites. (The neighbor we were stealing wi-fi from suddenly protected his network. The bastard.) So here it is, a list of some socially conscious accessories and toys. Some of these are first steps in making an effort at a greener life, but I always look and hope for the next iterations just around the corner.
1. Beeswax candles Burning 100% beeswax candles are the best way to add a pure, natural fragrance to a room while also cleaning and purifying the air. Burning beeswax emits negative ions that get rid of odors and toxins (like dusts, molds, pollens, and viruses!) by attracting and destroying positively charged particles. Conventional candles and air fresheners are filled with chemicals, just read the label. While these candles are more expensive than others, they burn longer and much cleaner and have the most beautiful natural fragrance. Definitely worth the investment. We get ours from a local nunnery that makes them all by hand, but they are also available at Brookfarm General store.
2. Baggu Bags Always a favorite around here, I love the bright colors and heavy-lifting capacity of these guys. I love that Seattle has banned plastic bags and now charges for paper, so if saving paper wasn’t incentive enough, now there’s a toll to consider. They used to have great mesh produce bags that I still use and love. Since they’re no longer available try something like these.
3. Powerstrip Most of our electronics (TVs, laptops, phone chargers continue to pull power even when they’re not in use or powered on. It’s called Phantom Load, and the power leached is HUGE, so much so that when people switch to using a powerstrip they notice huge savings monthly. Simply plug all of your electronics into a single powerstrip and flip the switch to completely power off the flow of electricity.
Eco- Tip: Instead of buying new, try picking up a used one at Goodwill.
4. Preserve toothbrush These guys are made of recycled yogurt cups, and once you’re done you can send them back to Preserve to be recycled into plastic lumber for picnic tables and park benches. I’d prefer to move away from plastics completely, but at least these guys are doing something other than sending it to landfills. Send your brush back with the pre-addressed packaging, or save them up and drop them off at your nearest Whole Foods. They’ll send them back for you.
5. Coyuchi Organic cotton linens Again, moving away from conventional cotton is better for the environment and for you. Since we use our sheets and bath linens everyday it’s worth investing in some nice organic cotton. We love our Coyuchi’s, and I especially love stealing Andrew’s big bath blanket towels. They are often on sale at One King’s Lane, or check them out at Coyuchi site.
6. Toyota Prius C Until last fall I had been driving my first car (a ’98 Honda Civic) for the past 15 years! It’s not that I don’t lust after a sexy sports car, it was just that I am conscious of every mile I drive, and every tank I fill. With some nudging from mom and dad I started looking for a new car and as much as I fantasized about a badass Audi coupe there really was only one car that was truly me, and that was the new Prius C…a slightly sportier version of the classic Prius. Since I’m smaller I like that there are fewer blindspots in this body style. Perfect for scooting around town. I love my little car, and more importantly I love my gas mileage!
These guys aren’t as fun or as sexy as pantry staples or cosmetics, but they are an easy and important way to be kind to the planet. The great things about them is that for the most part they’re easily accessible. Here are some of our favorite cleaners for laundry, dishes, and around the house.
1. Food grade hydrogen peroxide (3%) This guy again! It really is one badass all purpose cleaner and disinfectant. Again, must be food grade! Think all the benefits of bleach without the awful smell and toxic properties that are awful for us and aquatic life. It’s kind of mind blowing that this one ingredient can be used as a natural rinse for fruits and veggies, a clean way to disinfect countertops and bathrooms, AND also to purify skin, rinse for a clean mouth, and sanitize cuts and scrapes. All this from an extra oxygen molecule.
2-3. Ecover Laundry Wash and Dish Tablets A wonderful, forward thinking company with a great line of eco-friendly products that are quickly biodegradable and made with plant and mineral based ingredients. Their factories are run entirely on green electricity and even the bottles are made of a green plastic created from sugarcane (no use of crude oil). It’s a pretty amazing company, their site is a really interesting read.
4. Natural wood brushes No plastic on these guys, so there’s not as much guilt when they finally die and head to the garbage. Wood with sisal or tampico bristles. Lots of other great natural brushes at Brookfarm General Store.
5. Bon Ami Truly a good friend. This guy is perfect for scrubbing the tub or a greasy pan. Five simple ingredients. There’s also the original 1886 version which I just learned about.
Tomorrow’s the last day to celebrate Earth Week, so I’ll close out with my favorite accessories for around the house! (Are you enjoying this as much as I am?)
Today I’m sharing some of my faves for eco-friendly health and beauty. Some you may have seen around here before, and others are new and have been secret favorites for a while. My focus for an eco-friendly beauty routine centers around finding products without the use of petrochemicals and toxins that pollute our watersouces, sea life, and our bodies. When I first started this blog I wrote a lot about our water and its sad state. These guys are all water-soluble, toxin-free, and whenever possible I buy in bulk to reduce packaging and materials, and of course recycle or reuse.
1. Auromere Ayurvedic herbal toothpaste After some of my go-to natural toothpaste brands sold out to larger corporations I was happy to find Auromere. It actually kicks the ass of any other toothpaste I’d tried with 24 herbal extracts and a fluoride-free formula. Contrary to popular belief, we do not want fluoride in our toothpaste.
2. Raw Organic Coconut Oil My lotion for body and face. Be sure to find one that is organic, raw, and cold pressed. Since we also use it for cooking we buy it in bulk from Aunt Patty’s. I keep a small container around the house and refill as needed. I’ve seen some people that whip it into a cream since it’s hard at room temp, but it is an oil after all, and introducing that much air can turn it rancid if you don’t use it fast enough. I prefer to leave it as is.
3. Baking soda Baking soda is a great way to naturally whiten your teeth, and it’s quite noticeable, but not in a fake Hollywood sort of way. Brush regularly for a few days and you’ll notice a difference. More than the aesthetics it’s an important addition to brushing because it changes the pH of your mouth to make it less acidic, and ultimately creates a happier environment for your teeth and gums. I keep a small dish in the bathroom and dip my toothbrush (with toothpaste) and brush as usual. Baking soda already in toothpaste does not count. Give this a try and see the difference.
4. NatraCare Organic tampons Cotton is one of the most sprayed crops around the globe. We don’t often think of a polluted t-shirt or cotton ball, but the sad truth is that it is. And because of this, organic feminine hygiene products are so important. NatraCare is a wonderful brand at the forefront of women’s and environmental health; their products are all chlorine-free, biodegradable, and made of 100% organic cotton. No synthetic materials (including plastics, rayon, dyes, or fragrance) are ever used. I’m sorry, but your girlie bits are an absorbable organ, what goes there is ultimately absorbed and stored in fatty tissues…which is how cancers begin to form. And since a woman can use as many as 11,000 tampons in her lifetime it matters what we use, and it matters what we throw away.
NatraCare is available online or at health stores and Whole Foods. (Trader Joe’s also has an organic version. I don’t know as much about it, but I have used them before.)
5. John Masters Organics shampoo I just wrote about this last week, but if you’re looking for a high-end product line to replace your go-to shampoo this is a great one. They do not source products that have been genetically modified or extracted with heat. A majority of the ingredients are organic, and each product has a stamp to show you precisely what percentage is.
6. Josie Maran creme blush My favorite blush free of GMOs, pthalates, synthetic fragrance, and petrochemicals. Organic oils make for a soft and creamy texture that’s easy to apply (just a tiny bit is needed), and the natural dewey color is just beautiful. The compact is also biodegrabable.
7. Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide This is one of those products that’s sparked fierce debate. I can only imagine it’s because a single product with so many uses frightens people, and because in super concentrated form it is as volatile as bleach. But here, for health and beauty (and of course first-aid) uses, we are using food grade at 3%. As a mouthwash I take 3% hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and add an equal part of filtered water (stored in a glass container with a loose fitting topper). In addition to the baking soda it’s a great whitener but more importantly it kills harmful bacteria between your teeth and gums.
It’s also great for skin, and we often add some to our baths. It truly is a wondrous ingredient that’s good for the planet and for you too. Tomorrow I’ll share how we use it for cleaning. Be sure to use only food grade! Conventional hydrogen peroxide you find at the drug store has harsh metallic stabilizers that should not even be used topically! It’s difficult to find so you’ll have to search online. We buy in bulk and create our own solutions, but this product is available at Pharmaca and other health stores.
8. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castille Soap Vegetable based, biodegradable, and made from organic, fair trade oils, there are no synthetics or preservatives. Read the ingredients…you can actually recognize all nine of them. The scent comes from the oils, so no artificial fragrance has been added. My fave is the almond, but there are many others that are nice too. (I will also occasionally add this into my shampoo rotation.) These guys are available to refill, so buying in bulk is easy and cost-effective, just look for the large jugs. Central Co-op here in Seattle has them, and I believe Whole Foods does also.
9. Organic sweet almond oil The best eye makeup remover ever! No need for scary conventional brands when all you need is a single ingredient. We all know how tender the skin around our eyes is, so gently removing make-up with almond oil will help keep us looking younger while removing and moisturizing. Mom buys in bulk and shares with me. It’s also great to use as a massage oil.
Tomorrow, some of my favorite eco-friendly cleaning products. Yay!
One of the biggest impacts we have on the planet is the way we eat. Stigma’s and elitisms aside, eating locally, seasonally, and organically is one of the best things we can do to spare the environment. Here are a few of my favorite kitchen and pantry staples that are either from close by or are amazing products grown with eco-friendly, biodynamic methods.
1. Eating Locally, Seasonally, and GMO-free. The average piece of produce on the shelf is 7-10 days old! Nutrients dissipate, so supporting your local farmer means fresher, happier produce, but it also means you’re eating what’s in season. You know those beautiful berries you see at the store in December? Perhaps they’re organic, perhaps not; regardless though, we aren’t meant to eat berries in December. Industrial Organic agriculture may have fewer pesticides but it is far from eco-friendly as the amount of irrigated water and transportation (often times) into the country takes a huge amount of resources. This article from the New York Times sheds some light on the Industrial Organic model. It’s sadly, not a good one.
2. Briden Wilson Farms Organic Almonds A family farm in Arbuckle, California that produces beautiful, organic raw almonds. They grow both natural and organic, but it’s very exciting that they have just planted an additional organic orchard. It shows that every socially responsible food purchase you make is a vote toward greener agriculture. As they live and work on the farm their use of chemicals for the natural almonds is often avoided by encouraging natural predators to the pests that will help to minimize disease and infestation. We love supporting this small family farm, so we purchase these almonds in bulk for homemade almond milk, and almond butter.
3. Aptera Olive Oil When I can’t get a product locally, I make sure that what I do get is of superior quality and produced with eco-friendly practices. This olive oil from the island of Crete is not only one of the best olive oils in our collection, but the pricepoint is crazy affordable. It is also naturally organic as it is illegal to spray pesticides on the island. Most of the island still uses old-world biodynamic farming methods. I get this guy at Central Co-op.
4. de Buyer Mineral B Pans It’s virtually impossible to find non non-stick pans. Everything has a teflon coating (even Polar Bears and dolphins do now). It’s a toxic chemical that we don’t want in us (women of child-bearing age and children especially), and we don’t want in our water. Making the switch to steel pans may take slightly more care than conventional non-sticks, but your cooking, your food, and even your health will improve dramatically.
de Buyer has been manufacturing steel pans in France since 1830. The Mineral B pans are made of 99% iron with no chemicals or coatings. An organic beeswax finish is used to prevent oxidation during shipping, and also to aid in seasoning for natural non-stick surface. These pans are not only free from chemicals, but they are the best you can get period. Now easily found stateside, you can find them at Williams Sonoma and other kitchen shops.
5. Pride and Joy Raw Milk You know your milk will be good when the farmers consider themselves “grass farmers who also milk cows.” Pride and Joy manages their pastures without the use of any chemicals or genetically modified ingredients because their cows eat 100% grass (clover, alfalfa, and chicory too) during grazing season, and the finest hay during non-grazing months. While this leads to a lower yield per cow it ultimately results in a healthier herd and the highest quality milk. Their cows produce milk for up to 12 years, compared to just 3-4 with a conventional dairy. The girls are never given hormones and when antibiotics are used (only in life threatening situations) that cow is removed from the herd, the milk is not used, and the cow is no longer considered organic.
Raw milk is very difficult to find in Washington state, but it’s important to use in place of pasteurized because it is alive with active enzymes, antioxidants, and amino and fatty acids. All of this and more is killed during pasturization and homogenization. Unpasteurized means less resources and energy. Better for you and better for the environment.
Located in Granger, WA. Milk is available for pick-up, but also available at certain co-ops in Seattle. If you’re not in the Seattle area, look for a local dairy and research their farm and practices.
6. Hama Hama Oysters Sustainably farmed at the base of the Hama Hama river, in the Hood Canal, the Hama Hama oyster farm has been around since 1922. The oysters grow slowly taking twice as long to reach maturity. Still owned by the same family the farming practices from the oysters to the sustainably harvested timber are as green as you can get. We love our Hama Hama’s. And if you’re interested, you’ll find Andrew and me at their Oyster Rama this Saturday (April 27th).
7. Bob’s Red Mill Employee owned, non-GMO seeds, and one of the largest organic whole grains lines in the country Bob’s uses traditional methods of grinding whole grains with a stone mill that stays at cool temperatures. This ensures the nutrients stay in tact and uses less energy. Milling, testing, packaging, and distributing is all done in-house too. We don’t use too much flour, but when I bake I love Bob’s organic flour. We also love his stone ground oats for oatmeal.
8. Jo Landron Atmospheres sparkling wine One of my all-time favorite glasses of bubbly you may remember my post on it here. In 1999 the vineyard was certified as 100% organic and by 2008 the vineyard was converted and certified as fully biodynamic. The fruit is only ever harvested by hand, and the bubbly itself is created in the traditional method meaning that the second fermentation is done in the bottle. If I’m going to enjoy a bottle of sparkling wine it’s so much better knowing it’s biodynamic and chemical-free. (Hence, no hangover the next day!)
Far from a product junkie I mostly skip beauty products in exchange for home concoctions like homemade masks or repurposed tea toners, but that doesn’t extend to hair care products (except for a seaweed water rinse!). And while I have no desire to make my own shampoo, I should also admit that I used to find myself missing conventional shampoo: the fun of trying new brands, the ease of shopping, and the excitement of a good hair day that follows when you switch formulas. Squeal! I can totally see why so many people call themselves junkies.
The truth is that most ”natural” hair care products either completely suck or are anything but natural. And that combined with my missing gene for hair styling, and my usual hair routine of drying my hair…in the car…with the window rolled down, leaves me needing as much help as I can get from a shampoo and cream rinse. So with all of these things to consider, it’s no wonder why I love the John Masters line of products. Killer products with great ingredients I have all the elements I miss from conventional shampoo but without the cocktail of toxic ingredients.
Check out their strict standards for ingredients:
No sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, DEAs, MEAs, or TEAs | No GMOs | No animal testing | No artificial colors, fragrances, or fillers
And check this out, good stuff to know:
All products must be made with 70-100% organic content |All essential oils used must be steam-distilled and not extracted with propylene glycol – which kills the effect of the oils | All plant oils must be cold pressed, not heat distilled – which kills the therapeutic properties of plant oils | All ingredients must be harvested in an environmentally-friendly manner (wild-crafted)
If I remember correctly (its been so long) the price is comparable or even slightly less than salon products. I alternate between the products here, but also have one less expensive brand in the mix as an attempt to prolong the life of each of them. They last us quite a while (even with long hair) and it’s an easy way to save some dough.
Available at Whole Foods, Pharmaca, or Madison Market for Seattle friends.
[PS - the sea mist is awesome and infinitely better than the one from bumble and bumble!]
I took an extra few days off from posting to relax and unwind, and really, I didn’t do much of anything. Even the chickies are a little annoyed since their time to run around outside was shorter than usual. They’ve even started pouting when I herd them back into the coop.
Outside of the work with the hens, we’ve spent most of our time researching and collecting seeds for our sexy new raised beds in the soon-to-be garden. I was sure we were making it more complicated than it needed to be, but there are a million varieties to learn about, and our selection is narrowed to only heirloom and non-GMO seeds. We’ve found a couple of resources, but perhaps it’s not us that’s making it so difficult to find. Chemical agriculture is everywhere, and avoiding it takes a lot of work.
GMO OMG A film by Jeremy Seifert of DIVE!
Somewhere in my searches I came across this documentary that premiered yesterday at the Environmental Film Festival at Yale. At once it’s exciting because this very important cause is slowly but surely gaining momentum, but also alarming and sad in that it’s not as well-known or appreciated as I would wish it to be. Regardless though, it’s movies like this that will help the movement along and hopefully add a few more people to the cause.
A quick summary from an article on Rodale.com:
GMOs are not necessary feed the world | GMOs have never been tested for long term health impacts | 60 other countries require GMO labelling | 3 companies control 53% of the seed market | 500 species of bugs are resistant to pesticides and are now “superbugs” | Haiti- one of the poorest countries in the world would not accept GMO seeds after the earthquake in 2010
I still don’t really get what a BB cream (blemish balm) is and to be honest I moved passed it as a silly cosmetic trend, but now that my favorite product and vanity staple has been “rebranded” to include “BB” on the label I guess I knew more about it than I thought.
Like every schoolgirl venturing into the make-up world I tried wearing a mixture of primer, cover-up, foundation, and powder when I was in high school. And after exactly one attempt I knew that routine was not for me. Aside from the process of it all, I hated the cakey and artificial look all those things combined to be. So I quickly moved to a simple tinted moisturizer and have never looked back. A tinted moisturizer evens skin tone with a light coverage, and also provides SPF protection. It’s one step, gives a natural look, and with Tarte’s version it’s as clean as you can get in cosmetics. For me it’s everything, or more importantly free-from-everything:
phthalates | parabens | petro-chemicals | GMOs | sulfates | dyes | fragrances | oils
Who knew we had to worry about genetically modified make-up, but we do, and it matters. Our skin absorbs up to 5 pound of make-up every year. It matters.
I was concerned because with the new BB rebranding the packaging did not mention the GMO and petro-chemical free formula, so I sent a note to Tarte and they promptly responded to reassure that the formula was the same and it is still free from those elements. Too bad those weren’t considered selling points any longer, but regardless, having Tarte’s toxin-free coverage as a cosmetic staple is a great step for cleaner living.
I knew the bees were struggling, but everything I’d read last year and my chats with the apiarist at the farmer’s market led me to believe, or at least, hope that they were doing better. But sadly this article from the NY Times last week confirmed what I knew was the reality. To me there is no “mystery” as to why the bees are dying; it’s pretty freaking obvious. I truly hope that forward thinking farmers and apiarists can help combat monoculture crops and their rainbow of pesticides before we lose our honey bees.
For Seattle friends who want to help support our bees check out The Pollinator Pathway project and see what native and even some foreign plants can help encourage our bees. They have a great list of plants and even some garden designs that will make it even easier to get your planting strip bee ready.
One of a few teas I drink everyday I rely on Tulsi for it’s stress relieving and antioxidant properties. It’s also referred to as Holy Basil, but the Tulsi herb has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to promote balance and well-being. I usually have a pot after matcha or green tea, and before I head to work. I swear it helps make the commute easier and helps set the tone for the rest of my night at work. I also love it because it can take high heat, so the water doesn’t need to be tempered like with green teas. Just boil water, steep for 8-10 minutes and you’re set.
Organic India is, of course, organic and practices sustainable farming and harvesting methods and is GMO-free. (They even preserve seeds.) You can find it at most grocery stores but you can also find it online quite easily. If the hectic pace of life is starting to get to you try sipping some Tulsi. It will help you relax and make you happy.