The Struggles of Living Toxic-Free On The Road

I know the reality of the situation. Let's face it, I live inside a mostly plastic home with vinyl flooring and wallpaper (that's now been painted over). We use gasoline to propel us down the road to our next location and, occasionally, to run the generator. It's not exactly Eco-friendly on many levels...but then again, compared to a regular sticks and bricks house (not to mention needing 2 separate vehicles due to our work schedules) maybe it is, to a certain extent.

Gone With the Wynn's has written a great post explaining just how green one can be by trading in the traditional "American Dream" of owning a 1500+ square foot home with a nice green lawn (and perhaps a pool) and a vehicle or two for commuting to and from work for a 200 square foot home, no lawn, no pool and one towed vehicle for excursions. Being fairly Eco-conscious people, living in an RV with limited fresh water and waste water storage, we are now more aware of how much water we use for daily activities like brushing our teeth, washing dishes and even flushing the toilet. And with a small (6 gallon) water heater, shower time is limited, even with a low-flow shower head and the shut off switch we use between lathering up and rinsing off.

But I knew we could do more to reduce our impact on the environment and our health. Truth be told, my search for non-toxic, green products was mostly driven by a health issue that was costing me days of my life. Due to some strange female issues (I'll spare you guys the details) I was facing many more years of excruciating pain, massive doses of painkillers (and their side effects) and/or major surgery. Instead I opted to find a "natural" way to correct the problem...mainly because surgery seemed to be where I was headed and that meant being stationary for months.

I believe that many people have sensitivities to a lot of the regular products we use on our bodies and in our homes. But most don't realize it because it's hard to believe that ordinary products that are marketed to us for "safe use" can actually be bad for us. For years I suffered from acne that never really went away. I was 40 years old and still getting break outs, especially on my shoulders, back and jaw line. Once I switch to fragrance-free, dye-free laundry detergent my acne cleared up...completely. I recently wore a shirt my mom had passed down to me and had another breakout...she was using regular laundry detergent, heavily perfumed, and then dried her clothes with a dryer sheet containing fragrance. (She has since switched her laundry detergent to a dye and fragrance free brand and called the other day to tell me she hasn't had a break out in weeks).

With the number of chemicals used in and around the average home along with the toxins and endocrine disruptors found in cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, body soaps, hair spray and the like, I've begun to wonder if many of the chronic illnesses I see some of my friends and family struggle (as well as myself) with might, just might, be lessened by switching to non-toxic products. The main problem with that is our culture seems to thrive on pharmaceuticals and view our doctor's diagnosis as the end all, be all. I know it's hard for some people to grasp the idea that so very simple changes can have huge and positive impacts on their life.

Anyway, I wanted to share with you the products we use on the Mutiny. These are green alternatives to traditional products that have a low impact on the environment. That in itself is important when you find yourself on property that allows you to drain your grey water on top of the ground. It also just makes sense to be good stewards of the Earth. These products are also cruelty free, which is very important to me, and are checked against the Environmental Working Groups listings for harmful effects. I aim to find products that are in the 0-1 range (the lower the number the better) but occasionally have a 2 in the mix.

I also check my products, especially those that actually touch my skin for prolonged periods, to see if they contain endocrine disruptors. And trust me, you don't have to be a 40+ year old female to be concerned about ingesting chemicals that mimic hormones. These affect men and women of all ages as well as children. Considering your skin is your body's largest organ you may want to educate yourself  on what exactly you are putting on your body.

So here you go...

  • Toothpaste: Baking Soda (no aluminum) and coconut oil Edit: I now add either Orawellness or Spearmint, Peppermint and Myrrh Essential Oils to the mixture.
  • Floss: Eco-Dent vegan floss in recyclable cardboard

  • Shampoo and Conditioner: Free and Clear...this is the first product I have found that acts like a true shampoo and conditioner. I've tried baking soda and apple cider vinegar (for 4 months) only to end up having to cut 6 inches of damaged hair off my head. I've also tried various shampoo bars and "health food store" brands. This is, by far, the best for my, and Clark's, hair.

  • Deodorant: Still struggling to find a suitable product that works well. I alternate between a salt crystal and a homemade blend of baking soda, coconut oil and eucalyptus oil but every once in a while I succumb (for the benefit of those who must smell me) to fragrance free Sure...which I despise. The hunt continues. Edit: I've finally been able to adjust to a 50/50 mixture of baking soda and coconut oil as my exclusive deodorant. I threw away that nasty Sure.
  • Soap: Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Baby Mild and Kiss My Face Naked Pure Olive Oil Bar. I dilute the Dr. Bronners (about half and half with distilled water) and use it exclusively on my face. This acts as my body wash, hand soap and shaving cream as well. Edit: 100% Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild now. For exfoliating my face, neck and decolletage I use my Clairsonic Mia which I received as a gift 4 years can also use baking soda. I use a dry brush on my body in the mornings.

  • Shaving: Merkur Safety Razor and Astra Superior replacement blades. It takes a few times to get the hang of using a safety razor but when you consider how much money you've probably been spending on disposables it just makes sense to make the switch. I not only save a bunch money but I don't have those plastic disposables taking up room in the cabinets or the garbage can. I get a closer shave and have never cut myself using the safety razor. Eliminating plastic waste has been a goal of ours since we hit the road and this is a big help.

  •  Lotions: After spending a month at Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm for yoga teacher training I've fallen in love the the oils prepared by Ayurvedic practitioner Ambika. While I love the blends that are dosha specific (that's a topic for my yoga blog) I found that pure sesame oil makes the perfect skin conditioner and protector. If, however, you are more inclined to more "normal" lotions The Seaweed Bath Company makes a wonderful option (scent-free as well as scented choices). 

  • Dish Soap: Puracy or Ecover Although both contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES, not SLS) both of these still score low (meaning good) on the EWG website. I've tried other natural dishsoaps but have found they do not clean well and often times leave a greasy residue. Edit: I was experiencing dry, red, itchy skin with the Puracy and Ecover was getting hard to find while traveling. I've been using Methods Sea Salt dish washing soap and it seems fine but I need to invest in gloves.
  • All Purpose Cleaner: Homemade blend of water, white vinegar, baking soda and essential oils. I also use lemon juice and baking soda as a scrub (it acts like Comet or Bon Ami). But I almost always opt to use my eClothes. Edit: I prefer my Norwex clothes over eclothes mostly because of the texure (Norwex feels more cottony). But the the price, eclothes are a wonderful deal.
  • General Cleaner: eCloth or Norwex. These microfiber clothes are the bomb-diggety. They clean and kill germs effectively with just plain water. There have been numerous studies on exactly how effective these clothes are at killing germs. They take up little space and have pretty much freed up what little storage we have under our sink, since we no longer need (or use) chemical cleaners (no Windex, 409, or even "natural" chemical cleaners). The Norwex cloth is a miracle worker on our shower door!

  • Pot scrubber: Spaghetti Scrub. If a simple overnight soak doesn't do they trick I use this scrubber. Made from peach pit powder it cleans even the toughest stuck on foods. 

  • Air Freshener: Homemade blend of water (one cup), vodka (1/4 cup) and essential oils (20+ drops depending on how strong you like the scent).  
  • Detergent: Charlie's Soap Laundry Powder non-toxic, safe for the environment,fragrance and dye free. A small jar (made of post consumer recycled plastic) washes 100 loads! Perfect for the RV where space is at a premium. Edit: Turns out Charlies has not scored well with EWG so I'll be purchasing Ecover Zero. Second choice would be Seventh Generation Free and Clear.

In previous blog posts I wrote about eliminating our use of plastics. It's been a slow process and as I sit here looking around, I see that we are still surrounded by them (although there is much less). We do our best, and really, I think that is the point. Plastics can act as an endocrine disruptor so we never heat things in plastic, I try not to drink out of plastic and we use mesh or fabric bags to store food items like dried beans.

After nearly a year of research, trial and error and slowly making the conversion to use non-toxic products I can say my symptoms (pain level) has decreased but at least 80%. My skin is clear, my scalp doesn't itch, my hair is healthy and my allergies have disappeared (although I still get a little congested when I drink red wine but we all have to make sacrifices, right?). It's also not expensive, especially when you consider the money we save on not purchasing cleaning and beauty products, as well as the ibuprofen and prescriptions that are no longer needed. 

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  1. Outstanding...while I have plenty of changes to be lead the way with your list of natural living!!

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