Growing up in coastal Australia, my relationship to the land and environment (even in the Sydney suburbs) was always quite the active one. There were strict household water restrictions in times of drought, and every few summers the air would be hazy with bushfire smoke. I was taught how to swim against rip tides in the ocean, how to proceed if a snake crossed my path, and how to treat blue bottle stings. Like thousands of other school children, I was encouraged not to waste natural resources and energy, and taught that the land did not belong to us, that we were more often intruders in it. I understood the need to clean up after myself while in nature, but, interestingly, was never schooled on the many ways there are to limit my personal production of waste (I think even with her brilliant efforts in bushland conservation and composting, my mom's car trunk had the customary collection of perpetually folded "reduce, reuse, recycle" bags). Until last summer, I hadn't given it serious thought beyond owning a stainless steel water bottle. Inspired by Lauren Singer's blog Trash Is For Tossers and Studio 26 trainer Kristen Rubio's post on this blog about Permaculture, I began inquiries into how I could make the choices and changes necessary to create a little less waste in the world, and find different ways to uphold the lessons I learned growing up.
Household cleaning products, personal grooming products, and cosmetics, are all massively lucrative industries with zealous, grandiose marketing campaigns that attempt to convince us that they are necessary staples, not only in our daily lives, but also in confirming our status as civilized human beings. Making my own shampoo or countertop spray had always seemed to complicated and involved to undertake, something that people who lived in rural vistas with nothing but time on their hands did, and with so many chemical-free choices available in stores, I admit, I didn't attempt it. I was captured by those copy editors. Reading and thinking more about sustainability, I began to notice my rhythm of buying bottles of stuff in plastic bags, and a month later throwing them out and beginning again, and started viewing it as a rather sad and unnecessary cycle. Then, there are the ingredients - reading labels has always been a dizzying activity, even without the knowledge that what we are throwing down our drains is coming into sinister contact with aquatic life.
As soon as I embarked on my first DIY attempt at cleaning products, making my own toothpaste and deodorant, or using baking soda to clean my stove, I was delighted and close to embarrassed at how easy, pure, and clean it felt. It was and remains a powerful daily lesson in how I actually don't need much at all to maintain health and hygiene, in fact, less is more . In this spirit, I wanted to pay forward what Kristen and Lauren did for me, and share some extremely easy directions on how to make no-waste toothpaste. My teeth feel much cleaner using this than normal out-of-a-tube varieties. I'm hooked.
3 tablespoons of coconut oil
2 1/2 tablespoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of sea salt*
15-20 drops of organic essential oil (I recommend peppermint, spearmint or clove)
Mix all ingredients together in a glass jar (e.g. mason jar or a used food jar). If the oil needs some softening, place the jar in a pan of hot water for a little bit while you stir.
Voila! Scoop a little out onto your toothbrush with a spoon, and you are good to go.
All the ingredients are not only completely natural, but super hard-working. Baking soda helps to neutralize pH levels and odors, coconut oil destroys all manner of microbes and harmful bacteria while providing a smooth, pleasant odor and texture, peppermint oil eliminates bad odors and helps with headache, digestion, and respiratory problems, and clove oil has been used for thousands of years in both Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine to protect oral tissue against disease and infection, and rightly so, as it is both analgesic and antiseptic.
*Salt is optional, but also an exceptional way to clean your teeth and keep your gums healthy. Do not, however, used iodized salt, as it could corrode teeth with metal fillings/crowns etc.