• Caroline O'Hagan

How less than mainstream choices can equal more freedom and less expense!

I remember, many years ago when making weekly grocery lists, how so many items on the list were cleaning or personal care products. When money was tighter, earlier on in my marriage (as it tends to be when you have small children and one income) I remember dreading the weeks where we needed shampoo, toilet paper AND washing powder all at once. Some weeks it was worse than that. If I needed sanitary products, we ran out of deodorant, needed nappies (thank goodness those days are over!) and had bills to pay (which seemed to be every single week!) sometimes, we had to manage with or do without and wait for next pay day.

Financially we are much more stable now anyway, and those things would not be the stretch that they used to be now, but I realised recently, that the choices I have made for the products that our household use - which have largely been based on best choices for the environment, as well as the best choices for our health - has also taken away that need to keep buying products all the time - they either last longer, don't been to be replaced constantly, or turn up when needed by repeat order from the internet.

I will preface this by saying that I have absolutely no affiliation with any of the brands that I am about to mention, just that we use them and love them.

My natural health journey really began back in 2010 when I still had a toddler and a pre-schooler. I was invited to a Norwex party, where I was shown the wonder that is chemical free cleaning, using Microfibre cloths and water. To be honest, I probably wouldn't be as excited about it now, because there is evidence to show that microfibre cloths actually shed those microfibres which end up in our water ways causing significant negative impact on the environment.

However, for me, discovering that I didn't need to use Windex, or Ajax or Pine O Cleen or BAM or whatever harsh chemicals I had been exposing my family to for many years, was the beginning of massive changes in my perspective as a consumer. Fast forward 9 years and I still use the cloths I bought all those years ago, so the microfibres they were going to shed have probably long since gone - which doesn't excuse it, but my point is that they have lasted us for almost a decade, and until they actually need to be replaced, I won't be replacing them with a better alternative.

So straight up, discovering microfibre cloths and the Norwex system allowed me to eliminate all the above mentioned products, and many more, and opened my eyes to just how toxic all those products are. I have not bought a single one in almost a decade and never will again. To be fair, I signed up as a Norwex consultant at the time, and I earned most of my cloths, the mop and many other products, but the outlay for a set of cloths etc. would have absolutely been worth it, to never spend anything on cleaning products again for many years.

I now use Koh on the rare occasion that I need a little something extra, like when cleaning the greasy range hood, the oven, or getting a stain out of something. Besides that, I make a paste with Bicarbonate of Soda and White Vinegar when I feel the need to scrub the kitchen sink, or have a particularly stubborn bit of dirt that the cloth needs an extra push with. Koh comes in a big wine-box style package, and you just refill your spray bottle with it when you need it. I have been using sparingly for over 2 years now. So my one time purchase of whatever it was, has lasted all this time.

When i clean the top of my stove I boil the kettle, and gently drop a very small amount of freshly boiled water on it, add a few drops of Lemon pure essential oil, and VERY carefully wipe away with my cloths. Essential oils have multiple applications in health and home care (and NONE of them involve ingesting them, unless prescribed by a Qualified Aromatherapist or Herbal Medicine practitioner) and can save you plenty of money, if you use lemon or orange oils to clean in your home, eucalyptus or tea tree have antibacterial properties and are a great addition to the water you are mopping with, etc.

I am working on the transition to making my own dishwasher tablets and washing powders using simple ingredients - mainly based on bicarbonate of soda. Currently we use earth choice, and refill the large bucket of washing powder - minimal waste but it could be better.

In the shower we have eradicated plastic bottles, opting for luxurious hand crafted soap bars that everyone enjoys (our favourite is The Soap Bar on the sunshine coast (great excuse for a road trip every few months). A single bar lasts several weeks, and all four of us use the same one. Packaging free, no waste, beautiful on the skin, and natural ingredients. Such a huge win! We also collect soaps from markets, health shops and others as we see and find them - we all really enjoy mixing it up and trying new smells.

I use Ethique Shampoo and conditioner bars, and again the whole family have transitioned to them and love them too. They last for months - yet another item we don't have to add to the weekly shop, come in a compostable box, minimal environmental impact.

Our toilet paper now comes every few months in a large box, wrapped in recycled and compostable paper from Who Gives a Crap. While this toilet paper is produced in China, they have reasons for that - main one being that there are only 2 toilet paper manufacturers in Australia, and neither one would lend their factory space to WGAC to allow them to manufacture there too. So the most cost effective option, to create 100% recycled toilet paper, tissues and kitchen paper was to take it off shore. This one does go against the grain a little, but I have come to believe that their impact on the environment is far less, even being manufactured off shore, than the current brands made here in Australia, not from recycled paper, and arriving in plastic packaging.

We use the boxes in the garden, recycle or compost the rolls, and save the papers for bin liners, wrapping paper, any number of uses. Another win for the pocket and the environment. Because we have a septic tank, we are relatively limited to what commercial brands we could use, and found the ones we could buy at the supermarket would run out really fast and we seemed to be buying toilet paper, endlessly. WGAC lasts much longer, and is just as nice on the botty.

Our deodorant comes as a monthly subscription from nopong.com and we all love it, smell amazing, and recommend it to anyone and everyone! The only draw back that I can see, is that they print their labelling directly onto the tins, so while you can reuse them, you then have to create a label to cover up theirs.

Menstrual products account for a a ridiculous amount of landfill and environmental waste. Each pad is estimated to take between 500-800 years to biodegrade - meaning for the few hours of use, they will hang around for the best part of a millenium. Multiply that by the millions, if not billions of women using them every day, and we have a significant problem on our hands.

This article published by the ABC will go into more depth, but please understand that there are multiple sustainable choices out there for you, and not only are they infinitely better for the environment, but they are significantly better for your body and your health too. Using non-disposable sanitary products can significantly reduce period pain and other health issues, as outlined Here and Here. Besides all of that, after the initial outlay on your product of choice, you literally won't need to worry about purchasing menstrual products for years to come. I intend to make my Hannahpads last (if I can) until I no longer need them! My daughter has already expressed a desire to use the period undies and reusable pads, so I am really excited for her that she will start off that way and know no different.

Menstrual cups have become the reusable choice for previous tampon users - having never been one myself, I cannot give a testimony, but a very small amount of research will tell you that they are THE choice if you are not a pad user.

So in summary, making the switch to eco-friendly and natural products may seem like hard work, but I never have to think about buying toilet paper, sanitary products, shampoo or conditioner for weeks and months (and when I do, you can buy online direct, or through nourished life or at Priceline). I haven't bought cleaning products for many years, but my house is still clean, and we all enjoy good health continuously.

Don't even get me started on re-usable water bottles, keep cups, stainless steel straws, biodegradable plates etc. thats a whole nother topic - but know that you can keep your home and your personal care products purchases to a minimum, reduce the fuss, reduce the cost over time, and feel free of having to add them to your shopping list each week!!

I always consider products you may be using that could have health implications for you, as part of a Naturopathic Consultation. To book an appointment, you can call 0433 280 621, or go to the contact page ^^

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