Having a simple, eco-friendly birthday

Last Thursday was my birthday. I’m not into having a big fuss made, and I struggle with the idea of presents, which potentially means getting a heap more stuff that I don’t really need. The more I travel down this road of minimalism/low waste/sustainability, the more I struggle with it, which combines with the fact that as every year passes by, I have less and less need for new things.

That being said, I am not at the point yet where I want to eschew all presents. I don’t really feel like I need presents to celebrate my birthday, yet there is something nice about acknowledging it – and I think people often feel that one needs the other. I pondered on requesting that nobody buys me anything – but it was only a couple of weeks before and would have been a little half-hearted. Read more

Friday night movie – the Clean Bin Project

I went to see another “eco” movie at a community screening on Friday. This time I saw the Clean Bin Project. It’s about a Canadian couple, Jen and Grant, who pledge to buy nothing for a year, and each collect their landfill waste for 12 months to see who has the least impact. The goal is zero landfill waste. The movie isn’t really about the competition, but rather the journey, and the issues with waste and landfill. There’s some great interviews with some really inspiring people involved in spreading the waste message, too. Read more

Zero-waste kitchen

After my recent blog post on trying to make my own tahini, which was motivated by my desire to use less packaging, I thought I’d write about my quest for a zero-waste kitchen. Let’s be clear, though. I do not have a zero-waste kitchen. It is something that I aspire to, something I’m working towards, but I am not there yet. I might never get there completely either, but it’s something to strive for.

This is my journey so far.

My zero-waste successes

I predominantly buy my groceries from bulk-buy stores. I have a few local stores to choose from that sell nuts, seeds, flours, grains, pulses, beans, herbs and spices in bulk, and I store everything in the pantry in glass jars. I can also buy some condiments in bulk, such as tamari and soy sauce, and cleaning products like dishwashing liquid.

bulkRather than use the bags supplied by the stores, I take my own. I re-use old paper bags (I once read that a paper bag takes three times more energy to make than a plastic bag, so my goal is to use each bag at least 3 times), and also have reuseable washable cloth and netting bags. If reusing paper bags, it’s worth checking what was in there last time. Cinnamon-flavoured brazil nuts are a pleasant surprise, chilli-flavoured sugar is less delightful! I also have a rule that I can’t take any new paper bags from the shop – if I don’t have enough then I have to go without. It’s a good lesson in being more prepared next time!

bags

At my local farmers market there is an egg seller who takes back old egg cartons for re-using. I store my eggs in their boxes at home, so I have four of these so I can return the empty ones to swap with new ones without running out in between. We also have local olive oil producers at the market who sell oil in bulk and refill bottles.

eggs oilIt goes without saying that I only buy loose produce from the other stalls.

If I want to buy items from the deli counter or fishmongers, I take my own containers. When you do this, it’s worth making sure that the assistant weighs your container first – you don’t want to pay for the privilege!

As much as possible, I prepare my meals from scratch to save on packaging, because it tastes far better, saves money, is additive- and preservative-free and is FUN! As well as meals, that includes making my own bread, yoghurt, nut milk, dips… and I’m always interested in learning something new.

My Semi-Successes

We get most of our fruit and vegetables delivered via a local organic veg box scheme. The produce arrives predominantly packaging free, but usually there’s a paper bag in there with something inside. Typically the potatoes and carrots arrive bagged. This means that despite my refusal to pick up new bags at the bulk produce stores, I still seem to be gradually accumulating them. The company were very good about not putting any of my produce in plastic when I requested it – I wonder if I call and ask for no bags at all they will be able to accommodate me?

vegbox1finalThe boxes that the vegetables come in get returned each week for re-using.

I have struggled a little with pasta. I have found one shop that sell vermicelli nests in bulk, as it seems harder to find than rice and other grains. Maybe this is because it is bulky. Sometimes we are caught short, and this means we do buy pasta occasionally in cardboard packaging. We try to stick to spaghetti rather than bulky shapes because the packaging is smallest with this.

pasta(In the last month Barilla have been swept up in calls for a boycott after the Chairman said he would never feature gay families in his advertising, and if gay people didn’t like his message, they could eat another pasta. I’m on the fence about this. I like that they package their products in cardboard and support this, yet the idea of importing pasta to Australia from Italy does seem a little unnecessary. Really, I should make my own…or switch to eating potatoes.)

The first tip we picked up from taking part in Plastic Free July in 2012 was lining our bin with used newspapers. If you want to know how to line your bin, check my post about it here. With a zero waste kitchen we shouldn’t need a bin, but we have no composting facilities where we currently live and what we can’t feed to our worms (and what little plastic sneaks in) still goes to landfill.

We buy milk from a local producer called Sunnydale who take back the empty bottles for re-using. We get stuck with the lids (which we can’t return) but it’s pretty waste free. I have a friend who has goats for milking…maybe that is the next step!?

Things to Work On

There’s still things that we buy in glass jars and tins. I buy tinned tomatoes (I have had a go at canning my own once – it was time-consuming and messy, although successful – but I ended up with three jars. Mass production, I think, is the key. Maybe when tomatoes are in season this year I’ll buy a heap and try to can a shedload of them – not that I have a shed to store them in…). I buy coconut milk, and this is on my list of things to try to make. Tahini is another one!

We have just used up our last jar of olives and I want to start getting these from a deli in future, which should mean better quality as well as less packaging.

My boyfriend likes to drink the odd beer, and beer bottles (and occasionally wine bottles) end up in the recycling bin. These are not something we keep for re-using. On the list for the distant future (when we have the space), homebrew is something that I think he’d like to try.

What else? I recently bought some cocoa butter, which came in a plastic lined bag. I know that it is possible to buy this in bulk, but none of my local shops seem to sell it. I like to experiment in the kitchen, and I don’t want to compromise by going without trying new things. I try as much as possible to keep plastic-free and packaging free, but sometimes I get caught out. Unless I change my behaviour (or an amazing bulk produce store opens down the road) I will never be completely waste-free.

So I try to do as much as I can. I might not be able to achieve 100%, but I can get as close to that as possible. As we find a solution or an alternative for one thing, so I can focus on the next thing. Small steps, in the right direction.

Tahini, pursuing a waste-free home…and when things don’t go to plan

I am currently addicted to tahini. What started as distrust for its strong and distinctive flavour has gradually grown into full-on love, and now I can’t get enough of the stuff. I use it in hummous, in baking, as a salad dressing, to make potato salad, as a replacement for mayonnaise and butter. Mmm, it is delicious.

But it comes in a glass jar. In my quest for a zero-waste home I’m trying to cut out all unnecessary packaging, and the quicker I go through tahini, the more jars I end up with. (I re-use my glass jars rather than recycle them as they end up being used as road base here in Perth, which seems a waste to me. But there’s only so many jars that I need.)

The label on the jar proudly states “just natural hulled sesame seeds”. No added oil, salt or sugar. So, I figured, I can just blend some sesame seeds in a food processor and make my own.

Turns out, it isn’t that easy. The resulting mass was nothing like the glossy, runny, beautiful tahini I can buy in a glass jar. It was a grey, lifeless lump. Looks aren’t everything, I know. Sadly, the taste was pretty terrible too. Really bitter and quite unpleasant.

tahini

This is what I wanted…

tahinifail

…and this is what I got.

I’m wondering whether I should have roasted the sesame seeds. The jar doesn’t tell me that the seeds are roasted, but experience has taught me that roasted nut butters are infinitely better than raw ones. I think I’ll give it another go sometime, and toast the sesame seeds first.

In the meantime, I’ve been to the shop and bought myself a new jar of tahini. I’m going to try using the lump of ‘tahini fail’ in a tahini biscuit recipe that I make sometimes. I hope that the baking removes the bitter nasty taste. If not, the sugar and other ingredients should mask it.

Anyways, I thought I’d share with you, in case you’re feeling tempted to try to make your own tahini without consulting a recipe first. Which you’re probably not.

Ah well, we all have bad days!

A Guide to Green Cleaning: What You’ll Need

After having spent the week furiously and continuously cleaning after our bedroom and wardrobe went mouldy last weekend (oh, and having to deal with the fact that someone stole our credit card details to play online poker too), I am starting to feel like my stress levels are back to normal, life can continue on and the flat is now gleaming.

So I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of the green cleaning tips I’ve picked up in the last week. It’s really easy when we are faced with emergencies like that to chuck all our green intentions out the window and head to the shops to buy the biggest plastic bottle of toxic bleach that we can find. But it doesn’t need to be this way – natural products work better, are safer, don’t give off noxious fumes and don’t harm the environment.

This is a guide to all the basic green cleaning products you need to keep your home clean and chemical free.

Green Cleaning – the Basics

The two key ingredients for green cleaning are white vinegar and sodium bicarbonate (bicarb soda).

vinegar

Vinegar doesn’t go off, is non-toxic, biodegradeble and cheap. It is acidic (the stuff you can buy from the supermarkets is around 5% acetic acid) and this helps kill nasties. We bought our original bottle from the supermarket, but we refill it at a bulk buy store we found in Fremantle who sell 10% vinegar to save on packaging and waste.

Sodium bicarbonate is an abrasive that wears away stains. According to How Stuff Works, it also reacts with grease to form glycerol, which is the cleaning ingredient found in soap. When bicarb soda is mixed with vinegar it forms carbonic acid, which makes the vinegar more corrosive and enhances its cleaning ability. As an alkali, it’s also good at neutralising odours.

Essential Oils

Vinegar and bicarb soda are great at keeping things clean, but sometimes we need a little extra help. There are two essential oils that are cheap, commonly available and great for dealing with mould and other microbes: clove oil and tea tree oil.

oils

Both have antimicrobial properties. Clove oil is an excellent anti-fungal and great for using to clean bathrooms. The WA Public Health factsheet on mould recommends using tea tree oil as a way to kill the mould spores.

How to use: add 1 tsp oil to one cup of water, and wear gloves. You can either use in a spray bottle, shaking well before use, and then wipe with a cloth, or use a bowl, immersing and wringing a cloth out multiple times in the solution to ensure it mixes.

Elbow Grease

If you’re not using harsh chemicals, you will need to put in a bit of muscle yourself! The extra effort is definitely worth it for not inhaling toxic chemicals and carcinogens, and not releasing dangerous chemicals into our water supplies.

Re-use What You Can

Where possible, it’s always best to re-use or re-purpose where you can rather than buying new. We have two old spray bottles that originally had toiletries in them which we now use for cleaning purposes. We also saved some old toothbrushes (from back in the days when we used plastic ones) to use for cleaning grouting and other tricky spots.

toothbrush

Keep Packaging to a Minimum

We needed to buy a few things, so we made sure we chose products that were as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible.  We needed some cloths and bought some biodegradable cleaning cloths. They are plastic free and made with natural fibres. However, they are still single-use and if it hadn’t been an emergency we would have found a different solution.  Having been through our wardrobe, we identified a few things that were definitely beyond repair and will cut these up to use as rags so we don’t need to buy any more.

Support Ethical Companies

One thing we needed was a scrubbing brush. I wanted to buy a wooden one with natural fibres but the only wooden ones available were unidentifiable wood coated in varnish. Instead I opted to buy a plastic brush by Full Circle. They are a great company that design products that are sustainable and made from renewable resources.

brushThe brush I bought is made with post-industrial and post-consumer recycled plastic and bamboo, and has a hollow design to keep plastic to a minimum. Despite it being plastic, I feel it is better to support a company with such great intentions.

The star purchase has to be the gloves I bought, made from fairly-traded natural rubber sourced from FSC-certified forests, manufactured by a company called If You Care. They are plastic free, and even the box is made from FSC-certified recycled paper with biodegradable inks. I love it when I find companies like this.

glovesMicrofibre Cloths

Rags and general purpose cloths are great for general dirt and grime, but microfibre cloths are useful for specific tasks. They are made up of very small fibres (microfibres – hence the name) and have far far more than a standard cloth. This means they are far better at picking up dirt. They are also super-absorbent and quick-drying, which helps prevent microbes growing on the cloth and makes them more hygienic. Want to know more? Check out this site for more information. They’re not cheap, but they last for a very long time, and for jobs like removing mould spores, they are far superior to general rags.

And that’s it! There’s no need for separate cleaners for the kitchen, the bathroom, this type of surface, that type of surface. There’s no need to waste money on expensive harmful products, either. None of this stuff is new, either. It’s what our grandmothers used to use before chemical companies and advertisers realised there was money to be made in producing 3000 different products and scaring people into using them. Another great example of nanna-technology : )

An exciting letter in the post…

I’ve been excitedly waiting for the gas bill for a couple of weeks now, and yesterday it finally arrived! Yep, you read that right. I was excited by the thought of receiving the gas bill.

Three months ago we decided to be pro-active about reducing our gas consumption because we realised our gas bill was unusually high for such a small flat, and being conscious of our environmental footprint, we decided to do something about it. Living in a rental, we couldn’t do much about the rubbishy cheap inefficient boiler with the gas-wasting pilot light that the landlord had installed. What we could do, and what we did, was reduce the pilot light to the lowest setting and lower the temperature setting so that we no longer need to add any cold water when we shower. Read more

Everyone buys too many clothes…

“Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes.”
– Dame Vivienne Westwood

That was what Dame Vivienne Westwood, the famous British fashion designer, told the press after the launch of her show at London Fashion Week this week, as reported on the Telegraph.co.uk website.

I’ve got to say, I love her message. It’s something I’ve believed in for years. I remember going clothes shopping with my sister as a teenager, and we’d browse through the clothes rails and pick out bargains. When I asked myself if I really liked the item I’d found, how much it cost always came into the equation. “Hmmm, it’s £10 nice”.  Which meant, I like it because it only costs £10 – if it cost more I probably wouldn’t want it. Once I realised that I was only buying things because I saw them as a bargain, often never really wearing them, it made me question my buying habits. There were many reasons why I’d never wear the things I bought – they didn’t really suit me, I didn’t have the right occasion to actually wear it, it didn’t really fit properly… and many more. Every time I’d been seduced by price, but it had ended up being a false economy.

So I decided in my early twenties to take price out of the equation completely. When I was looking for something, I would only buy things that were absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t consider price until I’d found what I wanted – and then I’d check the price tag and decide if I was willing to spend that much. If something is perfect, and I’m sure I will wear it many times, I am willing to spend a little more. It’s a much better system than buying heaps of cheap items that were a “bargain” but that I’ll never wear. Not to mention cheap throwaway fashion that will only get one or two wears before they stretch, fade and/or become mis-shapen.

How has this worked for me? Well, I no longer need to go shopping in the sales. That stuff isn’t really a bargain – it’s all the stuff the store couldn’t sell at full price so had to discount to shift it. Why didn’t it sell in the first place? Whatever the reason (badly cut, odd sizing, strange colours), it may be a reason why the person who buys the “bargain” never actually wears it either.

I spend more per item, and I buy a whole lot less. I buy things that I like, that fit properly, and I know I will wear. Spending more on an item definitely guilt-trips me into wearing it, whereas it’s easy if something only cost a few dollars to cast it aside if you change your mind.

It is something I aspire to, but I’m not perfect. When I first switched from shopping in clothes shops to shopping at second-hand stores and on eBay, I had a brief phase of buying things solely because they were cheap. It seemed guilt-free as they were used items, but I still ended up with items in my wardrobe that I didn’t wear that just took up space. It seemed strange to spend decent amounts of money on second-hand items. Now I’ve changed my mind and if I find something I want, I’m happy to pay whatever the seller asks.

This year my sole non-underwear clothes purchases have been a second-hand jacket, jumper and skirt (plus a new pair of trainers). The jacket and the jumper were not super cheap as second-hand items go, but are really good quality and things I specifically needed. The skirt is an example of my hoarding tendencies and shows that I still have lessons to learn – it is actually the same as a skirt I already have and love, and wear all summer long, so when I saw the second one on eBay I had to buy it. Probably not necessary. Scrap that, definitely not necessary! Shows I still have a way to go!

Back to Dame Vivienne. Obviously her comment has attracted some criticism. Some think she is being hypocritical because she works in the fashion industry. Others think that by promoting quality she is actually promoting the sales of her own designer goods – her comments were simply a way to sell her products. Personally, I think that because she works in the fashion industry, she is in a better place to make her comments and have her views listened to. You need insiders to help make change in every industry, and fashion is no exception. Of course she wants to make money from her work – but you don’t see racks and racks of cheap Vivienne Westwood garments in every store you step into. She doesn’t produce wear-once-and-throw-away items. The comment about buying better quality seems less likely to be a cheap marketing plug and more likely a reference to the irresponsible, sweatshop-produced, poorly made rubbish that flies of the shelves each week – and ends up in landfill in the weeks after that. Not everyone can afford her prices, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all spend a little more ensuring the items we buy are things that are made responsibly, that we’ll love and wear many times. As Dame Vivienne said:

“Instead of buying six things, buy one thing that you really like. Don’t keep buying just for the sake of it.”

Goal setting – three months on

I decided a while back to make goal setting one of my routines. I figured it would help guide my thoughts and be a stepping-stone to making all the dreams I have become realities. The technique I decided to try is called 3 1 5, with goals set for 3 months time, 1 years time and 5 years time, under four categories: emotional/spiritual, financial/vocational, heath/education/recreation, and friends & family.

Goal-setting isn’t something that comes naturally to me. It did take a while to gain the momentum and shift from thinking about it, and wanting to do it, to actually begin the goal setting. I wrote about my struggle with goal-setting on a previous post, three months ago, when I finally filled in all the boxes in the matrix.

Three months ago. Which means my goals are up for review.

I was a little nervous about this. Whilst I knew most of the goals I’d written, I hadn’t actually consulted my matrix during the three months. I decided to take myself out of the house and to one of my favourite cafes so I was in a neutral, but pleasant, environment.

I unfolded the matrix.

My first thoughts, when I looked at all the ‘3 month’ boxes, were “Oh no! I haven’t achieved any of it!” But when I looked more closely, I realised that I was actively working towards a lot of the goals, I just hadn’t achieved them yet. Others I had changed direction slightly, so the timescale was no longer valid. Rather than 3-month goals, these had become more like 6-month or 1-year goals.

The 1-year and 5-year goals were much easier to review because they are still goals for the future and I wasn’t expecting to have achieved them. It was super reassuring to see that they all still fitted with my general plans, though, and I did feel that I was working towards most of them.

Next came writing the new matrix. This was so much easier than the first time as I now had a framework to follow. It allowed me to address the way I’d phrased things the first time round to make them more appropriate. For some of the goals, rather than saying “I have…” I wrote “I’m working towards…”. It was satisfying to move one of my 1-year goals into the 3-month box, and one of my 5-year goals into the 1-year box because that now seemed like a reasonable timescale.

It was also obvious when I reviewed the matrix that I’d left some gaping holes with major aspects of my life not even considered, so now I need to think about how to address these.

One of my goals is to do this exercise four times over the space of a year. Whether it’ll be something I stick with long-term I’m still not sure about, but at the moment I’m finding it quite motivating. My favourite bit about it is that it’s so empowering – recognizing what I want and committing to working towards it. Taking control of my destiny, if you like!

If you’re not someone who regularly sets goals, why not give this a go? It’s a great way of thinking about what you want to get out of your life, and being pro-active, rather than lamenting the things you don’t have and can’t do. In three months time it will be New Year’s Eve, so rather than trying to make New Year’s resolutions whilst laying on your sofa nursing a hangover and eating comfort food, start thinking about what you want now. That way when it comes to New Year’s Day you can look over the last three months and congratulate yourself on what you have achieved…whilst nursing a hangover and eating comfort food. A much better start to the New Year!

New Year’s Day is not the time to start planning the rest of your life. That time is right now!

Beware, the Diderot Effect

Have you ever bought something brand new, taken it home and positioned it pride of place amongst your other things, marveled at its shiny-ness… and then realised that your other things look slightly more drab than they did before? Slightly less satisfying, slightly more tired?

Have you ever felt that now your new shiny thing is making all your other stuff look bad, maybe it’s worth upgrading all of that too?

Before you act on you impulses and head straight back to the shops, be warned. It will only bring tragedy.

At least, that’s what happened to Denis Diderot.

Denis Diderot was an 18th Century French writer who was given the gift of a beautiful scarlet dressing gown. Initially he was very pleased with it. However, he felt his other possessions looked shabby in comparison, and slowly began replacing them with more luxurious ones that matched the splendour of the dressing-gown. His straw chair was replaced with a leather one, a wooden plank bookshelf was replaced with an amour, some unframed prints were replaced with more expensive artwork. Not only that, but new items were added: a writing desk, more art, a bronze clock with gold edging and a large mirror over the fireplace. He wanted his home to be as luxurious as he felt whilst wearing the gown.

These new purchases spiralled Diderot into debt, and led him to write the essay “Regrets on parting with my old dressing-gown, or a warning for those who have more taste than fortune”. He came to regret his new purchases, all the result of the scarlet dressing gown, and wished he had kept his familiar old dressing gown.

“I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one.”

Diderot was the first one to write about it, but the experience he writes about are actually a recognised social phenomenon – the process of spiralling consumption resulting from dissatisfaction brought about by a new possession. It’s called the Diderot Effect.

Next time you buy something new, you’ll probably feel some dissatisfaction with your old things. That’s understandable; no doubt the new thing is bright and polished and shiny and packaged splendidly. However, you can be mindful of these feelings without acting on them. Remember Diderot’s lesson. Let the feelings pass. There’s no need to rush out to the shops to replace everything else too. Shiny new things fade with time. Unpaid credit card bills don’t.

A (dentist-approved) homemade toothpaste recipe

Yesterday I finally had a long-overdue visit to the dentist. I haven’t been to the dentist in two years. Whilst you may not think that two years is a terribly long time to avoid the dentist, I must admit that the last time I went the dentist told me that I needed a filling*, and I never bothered to get one.

*To be fair, the dentist seemed quite vague (I think he was a recent graduate), definitely told me it was to be on the safe side, and from what I could see from the x-rays (knowing absolutely nothing about dentistry of course) there was no urgency. So I saved the £120 or so it was going to cost me and cancelled the follow-up appointment.

Moving continents didn’t help either, and then I was further delayed because I rang a few dentists to find out filling prices and all the dentists were really mean. Really really mean. One was outraged that I hadn’t had a filling and told me I would probably need root-canal surgery by now, and another told me that I’d have to have a scale and polish before the dentist would even see me, as their dentists wouldn’t dream of looking into dirty mouths. (For readers who live in Perth, yep, that dentist was in Claremont).

I finally had a recommendation from someone for a dentist whose receptionist was actually nice over the phone, and so I braced myself for the inevitable expense and booked. I also thought that this would be a good opportunity to get some professional advice about my homemade toothpaste… and find out if it was actually working.

Turns out that the dentist I visited is the Nicest Dentist Ever. She didn’t seem phased that I had been told I probably needed a filling and hadn’t bothered to get one. I told her that I made my own toothpaste and we discussed all the nasties in conventional products as well as the fact that I don’t buy products in plastic. I told her what I used to make the toothpaste (recipe below) and she said it contained all the key elements that commercial toothpastes had and would be absolutely fine to use. She was so nice I even admitted that I don’t floss very often.

So she looked at all my teeth, and took some x-rays. She said the brushing and toothpaste was working fine, all the fronts and tops of my teeth were in great condition. I have the green light to continue with my homemade toothpaste!

Unfortunately I still need the filling.

In fact, I need three.

All of the decay is where the teeth touch each other at the sides. Turns out flossing is probably a useful thing to be doing after all.

So, said the dentist. What would I like to do? Obviously I’ll be wanting to keep things plastic-free. She assumed I wouldn’t like the amalgam (silver coloured fillings) because they contain mercury. She also doubted I would like the composite (white) fillings because they are made from resin – or plastic. When I said I didn’t know much about them, she said if I looked them up she was pretty sure I wouldn’t want them either.

I didn’t actually know there were other options. Apparently there is also porcelain, which uses a small amount of resin to bind it but far less than the composite filling, or gold.

Now I’m no gangsta and I’m not sure gold fillings are quite the look I’m after. Porcelain sounds great… except they’re $800 each. Composite fillings are just over $200.

In the end, I chose the composite ones. Plastic or not, I just don’t think I can justify the extra expense.

Appointment is next Tuesday.

In the meantime, it’s great to know that my homemade toothpaste now has dentist approval!

Homemade Toothpaste Recipe – dentist approved!

I’ve posted my original toothpaste recipe here (and also the reasons I make my own in the first place) but this is the one I’ve been using more recently that I’ve tweaked slightly.

Sodium bicarbonate. This is the abrasive that cleans the teeth. It has quite a salty taste that can take a bit of getting used to. It also neutralises stains and odours.

Glycerin. This acts as the lubricant and binder. In the past I’ve also tried coconut oil. I’ve read that glycerin can coat the teeth and form a barrier that prevents re-mineralisation, and some natural toothpaste users prefer coconut oil. However, because sodium bicarbonate can be quite abrasive the glycerin can help protect the teeth. The dentist thought glycerin was better suited than coconut oil.

Peppermint oil. I add this to give the toothpaste the fresh minty taste that psychologically we associate with toothpaste.

Clove oil. I started adding this recently because clove oil has great anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. You often see clove oil in natural toothpastes and the dentist told me that she still uses it for some of her procedures.

And that’s it! I no longer add extra salt as I found the taste too salty, and the dentist said that with the bicarb it’s not neccessary to have another abrasive.

Method:

Mix 8 tbsp sodium bicarbonate with 6 tbsp glycerin. Add 10 – 15 drops of peppermint oil and 1 drop of clove oil. That’s it!

Store in a jar.

A couple of final things. The dentist also said that what can be more important that the abrasive in the toothpaste you use is the type of brush. Often toothbrushes are more abrasive than the toothpaste. She recommended using a soft toothbrush, particularly if you are worried that your toothpaste is too harsh.

The last thing to bear in mind is that not everything works for everybody all of the time. There are people who only drink fizzy drinks and eat daily Mars bars and have great teeth, and there are others who only eat salad and have mouths full of cavities. This toothpaste contains all you need in a toothpaste to keep teeth and gums healthy, and it is working for me. It should work for you too, but be mindful of what’s going on in your mouth, and if you suspect things are awry, maybe consult your dentist?!