Tag Archives: chemicals

Laundry!

5 Nov

Have I already mentioned that we have a new washing machine? I don’t think I have…but we do. It was free too, which is always the best price!

We got it from the Rector and his wife, Stuart and Pru on long loan – it’s great to be able to work through the huge pile of laundry that’s been building up since our last machine broke back in July.

Anyway, we finally decided to try out some ‘Aquaballs’ instead of conventional powder. They cost £15 and are meant to last for 120 washes.

“The Aquaballs clean by releasing ionised oxygen which increases the pH level of the water in your wash and activates the water’s molecules. The molecules then penetrate deep into the fibres of your clothes lifting away dirt without damaging the fabrics.”

Apparently they “are the natural alternative to chemical laundry detergent and softener. You simply throw the balls into your washing machine and clothes are left sparkling clean, fresh and soft without any of the nasty residues of harsh detergents.”

Hmm…I’m still a little bit dubious, but if they work it will be great. I’ll keep you updated.

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Caffeine Crazed

9 Jul

I can’t remember if I have already mentioned the fact that I don’t drink caffeinated drinks. I cut out caffeine around 4 years ago when I was doing my A Levels. I felt very ill and stressed over a long period of time, and my Mum suggested that I cut down my caffeine intake to see if it would help. I now occasionally drink hot chocolates, and I obviously eat chocolate, but I very rarely drink caffeinated tea or coffee.

 

So yesterday I got taken out by a work colleague to discuss an insurance issue, and he tells me that the “Mocha is to die for”, and I think, oh what is one shot of coffee going to do? Well, I can tell you, it can apparently do a lot! I felt sooo ill all day!

 

First came the buzzing brain, and lack of ability to concentrate on my work. Then after lunch I just felt unbelievably drained, with tired muscles like I hadn’t had enough sugar. Then came a slight headache and feeling of nausea along with a slightly ‘manic’ feeling. I was still feeling the effects 12 hours later as I tried (and failed) to sleep. My thoughts were just spinning round my mind, and I felt very anxious.

 

I looked up the effects on the internet and I matched many of the side effects that I felt, although they suggest you would feel these after 6 cups of coffee! I must have totally lost my tolerance and be particularly sensitive to its effects. It makes me glad that I have cut out caffeine when I can tell it obviously has a negative effect on my body. I was just glad to wake up this morning and realise I wasn’t going insane after all!

Organic Experiments – a review

8 Apr

According to my blog stats I get a fair amount people viewing my blog (particularly the organic experiments post) because they have been referred by search engines after asking questions along the lines of “do organic toiletries work”, “are organic shampoos worth it?” or “no aluminium deodorant”. 

Well, as people are obviously wondering about these things I thought I would give you an update on my organic toiletries as it’s coming up to a year since I first started using them. Here goes…

 

Organic Hair Care

I use Greenpeople’s Organic Base No Scent shampoo and conditioner. It has a SLS and preservative free formula and contains no parabens or perfumes. I started off using the Aloe Vera shampoo but changed to this type because (a) it was 50p cheaper and (b) I figured fewer additives couldn’t be a bad thing.

I don’t really think that these products leave your hair feeling any better than conventional shampoos in the short term, but I’m almost sure that the build up of residue on your hair is reduced – meaning that in the long run your hair ends up feeling softer and lighter. They certainly don’t have a negative effect, so the fact that you’re not rubbing lots of harmful chemicals onto your scalp and down the plug has to be a huge plus point.

Yes, it is expensive at £8 a bottle, but it also is more concentrated and lasts for a lot longer. I think I have bought 3 new bottles of shampoo in 9 months and I’m still on my first bottle of conditioner (that’s between two people, and I shampoo my hair everyday and condition once a week). I would recommend these products.

 

Organic Deodrant

I use Ice Guard Crystal Deodrant. It is a mineral stick which you wet and rub on and it works by suppressing the growth of skin bacteria.

I would recommend this to anyone, and already have to most people I know! Although it is not an antiperspirant (so doesn’t stop you sweating) I have not found it a problem at all. I have used it nearly everyday for 8 months and have never felt embarrassed or let down by it. In fact it means that we have to wash our clothes less because there is no stale smell left on our clothes from deodorant at the end of the day.

It is completely natural and doesn’t contain aluminium or other additives known to be linked with Alzheimer’s and breast cancer.

 

We also use…

Greenpeople’s Organic Toothpaste and Olivia Soap

 

The main thing I have found is that all the products that the ‘industry’ sells as necessary really aren’t. Perhaps that’s just me being slow and most people know it already but I used to spend so much on junk to make my skin amazing and my hair shiny and now I only use these few products and if anything, my skin and hair are in better condition! Funny that, considering I’m not smothering them in chemicals anymore…hmm…

 

Anyway, if you are interested in living a more ethical/organic lifestyle but are not too keen on trawling your way through scientific based books I would recommend ‘A life stripped bare’ by Leo Hickman. It’s an entertaining but informative read on pretty much everything you need to start off living a greener life.

Bottled Up

22 Feb

You may have heard all the recent hype and argument about drinking bottled water and wondered what is the world coming to?! Surely we have better things to argue about than bottled water. Well, I agree, but I’m still going to blog about it! 

Now, I have never been one to buy bottled water, except when I’m out and have got nothing else to drink.
There is currently a campaign to try and get people to order tap water in restaurants instead of buying bottled. Perhaps it’s just the fact I never go to fancy city restaurants where they turn up their nose at tap water, but the thought of paying £1 plus (£52 per litre for some brands!!) for a glass of water is ludicrous to me! Especially when a team of wine tasters couldn’t tell the difference between tap and bottled in a recent Panorama documentary!
 

Apparently bottled water causes 600 times more carbon emissions, costs 1000 times the price of tap water and less than 25% of plastic bottles are recycled so I can see why they are promoting it. 

However is it just me or is anyone else uncomfortable with the recent ideas of adding fluoride to water? I understand the potential health benefits (from better dental health to reducing the risk of fractures of the hip and vertebrae in older women) but the fact that some are suggesting links to cancer, Downs Syndrome and osteoarthritis scares me a little.
It’s just seems like another prime example of people going ahead with things without fully understanding the outcomes.
At least I have been able to choose not to use cosmetics and products that combine cocktails of chemicals, the effects of which we just don’t know yet.
But if they change our water, what choice have we got but to expose ourselves to it? I guess this is when having your own water supply comes in useful!

Not on the Label

17 Dec

I am always really bad at finishing non fiction books and as I have been really busy am still only half way through ‘Not on the Label’.

I think I may well just summarise what’s already been covered though otherwise the finished entry will be HUGE! 
By the way, I am only going to write what she has put in the book. This doesn’t mean that I agree with it, or am saying it is fact. She blatantly has got an anti-supermarket slant in the book, and always with these types of books you have to take it with a pinch of salt and remember there are two sides of the story, and no two stories the same. 

Having said that, Josh and I no longer shop at supermarkets. This isn’t a reaction to reading this book – instead it kind of prompted us to act on a desire to eat more healthily, sustainably, and to support fair trade and local growers that we have been thinking about for a while but never actually got round to following through. 

Anyway, back to the book (for those of you who haven’t read my earlier post, this book is about supermarkets and their food production practices)… 

Chicken
– chickens, whether free range, organic or battery farmed are processed in the same plants which are often not particularly hygienic – the book suggests that 50% of chickens in the UK are contaminated with campylobacter (can cause food poisoning, but bacteria are killed if you cook it properly). The ways the chickens are processed just sounds really horrible, I think, simply because it is done on such a mass scale.
Other reports I have read suggest that this isn’t necessarily true but considering you can get a whole chicken for the price of a cup of coffee, something has to give. She talks about broiler chickens that can not even stand up due to their excessive and unnatural weight gain, just so that they can produce meat quicker and cheaper.
 

– Supermarkets, and companies that produce items containing chicken are increasingly finding ways of getting their costs even lower. This includes doctoring the chicken (even to the extent of pumping it with 50% water, using hydrolyzed animal proteins recovered from animal pork and beef waste to hold it in place). Lawrence suggests “if you’ve ever eaten a takeaway, a ready meal, or a sandwich containing chicken, the chances are you have consumed chicken adulterated [by adding water, and using additives to hold it in]”. 

– I was especially shocked at Lawrences suggestion that supermarkets are packaging meat as ‘British’ when it’s not (arguably this is the suppliers, not the supermarkets, but they blatantly know it goes on!).
She claims that this happened in the factory where she worked undercover.
This is one of two main reasons I decided not to shop in supermarkets anymore. I always try to eat British meat – but I can’t even guarantee what I’m eating! I guess unless you’re producing your own food you can never prove what you’re eating but I suppose I do trust smaller businesses more not to exploit their food.  

Salad
In the same way vegetable production is always being made cheaper. If you examine a 99p bag of salad you may well find that it only really contains a few salad leaves.
Would you even enjoy those if you knew that they were several days old, washed in chlorine solution twenty times the concentration of a swimming pool (ie a mild bleach), have a marked reduction in vitamin and micro-nutrient content, and that the rise in the sale of these washed salad leaves is linked to a sharp rise in E. coli and salmonella outbreaks?  

However it wasn’t really the amount of chemicals that are pumped onto our food that disgusted me, I already knew that. The thing that made me feel awful is the fact that so many people are being exploited just to bring me a packet of salad, or those mini-corn placed in a tray. Lawrence suggests that in this country much of the veg preparation is done by illegal immigrants who live in terrible conditions, forced to do so by gang masters, and coordinated by organised crime, keeping control through fear and violence.
Farmers, although they don’t necessarily want to use this labour are often forced into doing so because of competition and low prices that supermarkets want to charge. Everyone seems to know about this aswell…the supermarkets, the growers, the packers, even the local authorities (although they are often powerless to stop it due to ridiculous red tape)
 
Likewise, Lawrence discusses the huge vegetable growing areas just behind the tourist strip on the Costa del sol, which are not only destroying the environment through heavy pesticide use and monoculture, but are worked on by destitute people (many immigrants from Morocco) who just live in the rubbish tips surrounding the polytunnels, queuing up day by day hoping to be picked for work. 

Beans, Bread and Apples 
These chapters were about all sorts really. The main ideas though… 

1.  In today’s society we demand perfection from our food, but in real life food doesn’t always look perfect and therefore there is huge amount of waste and tampering with food.Supermarkets have distorted our view of food so much many people think that a soil covered, or slightly deformed vegetable is going to taste horrible. For example on one farm, for every 30 tonnes of carrots harvested just 10 tonnes were used, likewise a third of all apples are thrown away (many just because they haven’t got the right colour balance on them).  Just think how many extra starving people we could feed with this food!Also, because people expect perfect food the amount of pesticides and chemicals that are used is huge. An apple may have been sprayed up to sixteen times before it reaches your table. I’d heard that statistic before but it is still gross to think what we are putting into our bodies. 

2. Supermarkets are centralised and therefore food is no longer eaten where it’s produced. This means that food is transported miles around the country which adds to climate change, pollution and road congestion. She gives the example of a plum farmer who can see a supermarket from his farm and could cut his food wastage dramatically (they have to be picked eaten within a certain time) but it couldn’t be worked out.Food is older and less nutrient rich as a result and people are becoming isolated from food production. We’ve all heard the story about the kids who don’t know milk comes from a cow… 

3. Local shops are suffering, and as a result local communities. Seven out of ten English Villages don’t have a local shop. These are places where neighbours who might otherwise not meet bump into each other, where elderly and those with children can get out and about a meet with familiar faces. By loosing these roots we are undermining the whole fabric of communities, and are instead left with bland shopping parades filled with charity shops, fast-food outlets graffiti and litter. I read somewhere else the other day that Tesco takes one in every eight pounds spent in the UK, and as a result independent retailers in the UK are at crisis point.  Anyway I think that’s enough for now…really recommend this as an interesting read. I obviously haven’t got even started conveying how much information she has got in this book!

The Story of Stuff

13 Dec

I have just watched an internet film called ‘The Story of Stuff’. It’s interesting that I came across it today because I was only thinking this morning as I was eating my breakfast, how much ‘stuff’ we have in our flat. Although most of it is pretty much useless except on an aesthetic level, loads of energy and resources must have gone into making them.

On the film Annie Leonard suggests that global corporations have created the current mindset of constantly needing new things, stemming out of the late 50’s when the economy needed to be boosted. She claims that the manufacturers even make the products to

(a) break as quickly as possible without the consumer loosing faith in the company,

(b) to become obsolete as quickly as possible to keep up with technology advancement or
(c) to be replaced as quickly as possible due to changing fashions and trends…because of course, we are only worth the value of the possessions we own(!).

Apparently 99% of products bought in North America are trashed within six months. I simply cannot believe that. I really hope that it is not the same in our household, although our record probably isn’t great either.

It’s simply a matter of changing your mind set I suppose, which is difficult when you have pretty much the whole of society around you telling you that you ‘need’ this or that to make life worth living, or to be seen as anyone important.

The film suggested that the corporations have demanded that our ‘spiritual satisfaction come from consumption’ – no wonder that people are so miserable in today’s society, and that we have the lowest amount of leisure time of any generation since feudal society.

Research has shown that the top two leisure activities are now watching TV and shopping…hmm what a meaningful life we must lead.

We don’t buy much stuff except food because we can’t afford it at the moment, but I really hope that once we are earning more we don’t just go back to buying stuff for the sake of it. Why not check out another way of living…That reminds me, we really need to get some energy saving lightbulbs!

Organic experiments

11 Oct

Did you know that the many products we use on our bodies every day are actually full of harmful chemicals? I have been researching them and have been freaked out by what I have found so have decided to try and cut many of the brand name products I use and opt for more natural, often organic products. 

Why?
One of the main ‘badies’ is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, (SLS) and its close relative Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) which are commonly used in many soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to “foam up”. These can actually be highly irritating and dissolves the grease on your skin and is absorbed into the body. It’s used because it’s cheap, The sodium lauryl sulfate found in our soaps is exactly the same as you would find in a car wash or even a garage, where it is used to degrease car engines = YUCK! 

Anyway, why don’t you check out some of the stuff yourself, there are loads of sites around. here’s some:

http://www.natural-health-information-centre.com/sodium-lauryl-sulfate.html

http://www.safe2use.com/data/sls-sles.htm

http://livingtoxinfree.org/Articles/SLS-SLES-ALS.htm 

The problem is healthy alternatives are so expensive! The only way I have been able to use organic products is to cut out the amount of products I use in the first place.  I tried to work out the things I actually needed and the things that I only bought because the adverts told me I needed them to be beautiful/healthy blah blah!
As a result I cut the number of bottles and pots on my dressing table dramatically, and the money I save by not buying them can be spent on the more expensive natural products

Now, I buy (Green People’s)

Organic toothpaste (normal toothpaste has SLS in it among other things, including aluminium which may cause Alzheimer’s)

Organic Mouthwash,

Organic Shampoo, conditioner

Natural Soap

Mineral Deodorant (normal deodorants/ antiperspirant also have aluminium in them which is especially absorbed into recently shaved skin and antiperspirant may also be a cause of breast cancer due to the fact that you’re not letting any of the toxins out of your skin). 

Is it worth it?
The products named above have all worked for me.The tooth paste takes a bit of getting used to as it doesn’t have the foaming agents that normal toothpastes do, and you don’t get so much of the ‘minty freshness’, but doubled with some mouthwash it works okay.

The shampoo and conditioner also take a bit of getting used too. They don’t smell as lovely as normal shampoos because they don’t have the perfumes in it, but then again they don’t smell horrid either. My hair doesn’t really smell of anything now.When I first started using them my hair didn’t feel as nice either, a bit dry and strawy, but, seriously, I’ve been using it for about 2 months now without any other product and my hair has never felt this nice before. It feels soft and without residue, and I don’t even use the conditioner all the time. It lasts for MUCH longer as well (about 3 times as longer as conventional shampoos).

The deodorant was one of the things that took the longest to get used to. The stuff I have is called Ice Guard and is a lump of mineral salts that you wet and then rub on – so none of the nice smells you normally associate with deodorants.However, I find it actually works better than regular deodorants because it leaves absolutely no smell on my tops what-so-ever, because the salts suppresses the growth of skin bacteria and it doesn’t have any perfume smell which goes stale by the end of the day (and it lasts for  at least 24 hours). Unless I have been doing strenuous exercise I don’t need to really wash my tops every time I wear them. It only costs about a fiver but can last for about a year!

However, you have to remember that this is NOT an antiperspirant. In my job I’m okay and I don’t find it a problem even when I’m just doing normal day to day exercise but it probably wouldn’t be the best thing if you were running around getting hot and sweaty all day.

Anyway, here’s my ramblings on the subject. The whole experience has really opened my eyes to how much manufactures manipulate us into thinking we need all this stuff to make us beautiful. I have cut about 70% of the products I use but I don’t think that it has made any difference to how I look or feel. It’s just an extra reminder of 1 Peter 3 v 3-4. It’s liberating, and I love it!