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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Great Reading

Do You Use An Eco-Friendly Air Freshener?

I’ve been receiving a lot of reader questions lately.  It seem you all are pushing me to write again!  Ok, I’m trying to clear off my work load so I can get back to writing.  I miss it, too!

In the meantime, anyone have some good solutions for Sam?

Hi Melinda,

Do you have any suggestions on what one could use to freshen up a room or kitchen that is both cost effective and not damaging to ones health?

I use the store bought air fresheners but I am thinking they are probably not all that healthly am I right? There has to be another way? Any comments or advice would be great!

Regards,
Sam

I don’t really use air freshener, so any help you all have would be lovely!

Cosmetic Clays - What Are They and How Do You Use Them?

If you’re like me, you might be afraid of putting new things on your face… or making skin care products at home… or entering and navigating an apothecary or herbalist’s store.  But a dear friend of mine recently picked up the book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health and promptly signed us up for a class in making body masks.  Amazing how a little class can completely demystify the new ingredients as well as the apothecary.  Thank you, Sarah!

The following information is collated from a course taught by Katya Difani.

The Benefits of Clay

Each type of clay has its own unique properties due to its origin, mineral content and texture.  In general, clay:

  • Absorbs excess oil
  • Binds to toxins
  • Cleans away dirt
  • Exfoliates
  • Improves circulation
  • Reduces swelling and inflammation

Bentonite Clay

Bentonite is from volcanic ash and is high in trace minerals like silica, aluminum, iron, sodium and magnesium.  It is a mild clay, used both internally and externally.

Internally, it’s used to treat mineral deficiencies, anemia, ulcers, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and more.  It also binds to toxins from intestinal bacteria.  A lot of people drink it during a cleanse or detox – a friend of mine said she did it and it felt like a lump of clay in her stomach.

  • If you want to try drinking it, take 1-3 teaspoons of bentonite clay in 8 ounces of water per day.

Externally, you can add it to your bath or body/face mask.

  • For the bath, add 2-3 ounces of bentonite clay to running water and mix thoroughly.
  • Add one part clay to 3 parts water, mix thoroughly – adding extra water or clay as needed to create an even paste, and apply to your skin.

French Green Clay

French green clay – also called Illite or Sea Clay – is green colored from chlorophyll.  It contains mineral oxides, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, phosphorous, copper (antioxidant), selenium (antioxidant), and much more.

Green clay is one of the more drying of clays, so it’s good for oily skin in particular.  Also, it is a better absorber of impurities, dust, oil, toxins, and makeup – which is why you’ll see it in a lot of spas.

French Red Clay

This is similar to French green clay, but contains higher amounts of iron oxides (thus the red color).  It’s slightly less drying and more balancing than green clay, but is also good for oily skin and can even be used in place of soap as a cleanser.

Moroccan Red Clay

Moroccan red clay is highly absorbent, drawing oils from the skin as it stimulates circulation.  It contains naturally occurring dolomite, silica (good for hair, nails & skin), ferric oxide, and mineral oxides.  It smells very earthy and lovely.

This clay also mixes well with water and oils you might add to your masks.  When mixing with water, mix at a ratio of about 1 to 1.

Rhassoul Clay

Rhassoul clay was my personal favorite.  It’s used a lot in spas because of its balancing effects:  it reduces dryness and flakiness, while a the same time reducing oil and improving skin clarity.

This clay contains high percentages of silica, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.  It’s used as a shampoo, cleanser, skin conditioner, and body relaxer.

White Kaolin Clay

White kaolin clay is the mildest, most gentle, least drying clay – which is why it is the one found in most cosmetics, according to Katya.  It is high in calcium, silica, zinc (antibacterial), and magnesium.

Because of its high drying and disinfecting properties, it can help heal blemishes and inflammation.  It is also used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera.  Plus it is used in making paint, paper, fiberglass, porcelain, ceramics, and toothpaste.  It’s the Kao in Kaopectate – and Rolaids, Mylanta, Maalox, etc.

You don’t need to add much water to this clay so add little bits at a time.

My Favorites

In order, my favorites were:

  1. Rhassoul
  2. White Kaolin
  3. French Green
  4. Moroccan Red

I have very sensitive skin that is more dry than oily, however.  My friends who attended with me were more on the oily side and liked the French Green best.

Where to Buy Clay

  • Health food store
  • Apothecary
  • Herbalist
  • Or if you can’t find it locally, do an internet search for “cosmetic clay”- there are several online resources

Recipe: Quick Green Clay Mask

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons french green clay – absorbs oils and impurities
  • 2 large lemon wedges – pH balancing, gentle exfoliant
  • 2 teaspoons honey – anti-microbial (raw is best)

Directions

Mix ingredients, apply to skin, leave on 5-10 minutes, rinse with warm water.

Also check out How To Make A Simple Facial Mask, which also lists other ingredients if you want to experiment.

How To Make A Simple Facial Mask

A friend of mine took me to a class in making body masks recently.  It was FABULOUS!  As I do a cleanse this month, I’m looking forward to detoxing my face with a mild, homemade mask….

The Problems with Store Bought Facial Masks and Scrubs

I spent a good deal of time in health food stores looking for a super mild facial scrub and/or mask during my first cleanse.  Most of them are extremely abrasive, many have a lot of chemicals in them, and they all have very strong scents.  These are all negatives for my sensitive skin.

The closest I could find to something I would put on my face was Giovanni’s D:tox collection.  While it still has a scent, it’s fairly mild and the scrub is not too abrasive.  Though, of course, it’s expensive.

All facial masks you find in the store have preservatives in them!  According to our lovely course teacher, Katya, clay only lasts a week or two when it’s wet – before it begins to grow molds.  So be sure to store your homemade masks dry, and just mix up what you’ll use in a week.

Recipe: Simple Facial Mask

The following recipe is by Katya Difani, and adapted from Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health

Ingredients

  • 1 cup clay (she recommends white kaolin clay)
  • 1 cup finely ground oats
  • 1/4 cup finely ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup finely ground lavender or rose petals

Instructions

  1. Grind the oats, almonds, and lavender or rose into a fine powder – using a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder.
  2. Combine all ingredients together.
  3. Seal in a glass jar until ready to use.
  4. To use, mix 1-2 teaspoons with a small amount of water (purified is best) – just enough to make a smooth paste.
  5. Gently massage into your skin.
  6. Leave on for a few minutes.
  7. Rinse with warm water.

This mask is very gentle and mild.  The white clay is not very drying, and still draws out toxins from your pores.  The oats are soothing, cooling, and moisturizing.

Other Ingredients To Try

The list is fairly endless!  Here are a few ingredients that caught my ears and eyes:

  • Blueberries – antioxidant
  • Acerola cherry – antioxidant, stimulates collagen
  • Licorice root powder – anti-inflammatory, awakens the skin
  • Lemon juice – exfoliating, antibacterial
  • Honey – antibacterial, moisturizer
  • Green tea – antioxidant (you can also spray your face with tea before applying the mask)
  • Papaya
  • Avocado
  • Yoghurt
  • Camomile
  • Poppy seeds
  • Corn meal
  • Ground coffee beans
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Essential oils – citrus oils in particular
  • Body oils – the three I liked best were jojoba, grape seed and rose hip seed – but even olive oil would be nice

Coming Soon:  How to Make a Simple Facial Scrub & Cosmetic Clays Demystified.

Please comment if you have other ideas.  And have fun treating yourself!!

March: Money Management

In January I focused on a cleanse.  In February I focused on yoga.  In March I have focused on money management.

Over the years, I have made vast improvements in money management.  In my early 20s, I fell into the new student credit card trap.  I received – and signed up for – multiple credit card offers, but had no guidance on financial matters.  As a result my credit was bad for years (seven, to be exact).

Later in life, my accounting and management skills have become much better – thanks in large part to financial education and my husband’s savvy.

We have one credit card that we pay off each month.  We haven’t bought a house because it would be beyond our means right now.  But… we have student debt.  Lots of it.  As much as a house is worth.

So this month, we’ve focused on making smart money decisions.  We’ve cut down on spending little bits of money here and there.  But more importantly, we’ve set a plan for paying off our student loan debt and we started a savings account.

I took on a second contract this month, which means I’m working longer hours but that much closer to paying off our debt.  And we’ve decided to stay in the area for at least a couple of years, so that we can pay off debt and start saving.

It’s the beginning….

What Helps You Manage Your Money Wisely?

I’d love to know what books, systems, and other resources you use!

 

Book Giveaway: Ecofrugal Baby

I am going to pause for a bit to let everyone catch up – I know I’ve written a slough of posts lately!  In the meantime, I’d like to post the first of a few giveaways up my sleeve in the coming weeks.

Ecofrugal Baby

Ecofrugal Baby is written by fellow blogger Laura K. Cowan at 29 Diapers. The 174 page book is packed with tips to save money in your baby’s first year without skimping on quality – and without leaving a long-term negative impact on the environment or your baby’s health.

A baby’s first year in the United States costs an average of $10,000.  Laura claims you can save about $7,000 using the tips in this book – and she writes from experience, having done it herself.

The book comes with a Savings Calculator to help guide you to purchase what you need and save where you can. While some of the tips are pretty standard to our community here (Craigslist, Freecycle, garage sales), there are definitely quite a few resources I didn’t know about.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I: One-Time Baby Gear Costs

1. Mobility Gear

2. Sleep and Comfort Gear

3. Cleaning and Changing Gear

4. Cloth Diapers

5. Feeding Gear

6. Safety Gear

7. Nursery Furniture and Storage Gear

Part II: Ongoing Baby Care Costs

8. Clothing

9. Food

10. Toiletries

11. Entertainment

Part III: Baby’s First-Year Savings Calculator

Giveaway!!

In the spirit of eco and frugal and the title of the book, I will give an e-copy of the book to 2 (two!) lucky commenters! 

Just leave your name and the little one’s name (or future name, or name you make up) in the comments below. I will pick two names on Sunday afternoon at 3pm PST.

Good luck!  And thanks for reading.

What Is The Hardest Part About Living Sustainably, Frugaly, or Green?

A long while back many of us shared the most difficult things to change in our lives – on our paths toward sustainability.  We have so many new people joining us, and life has changed quite a lot since then.  So let’s do it again!

Once we share them here, we can help one another to make those changes over time.  Shall we?

For me, the hardest things have been:

  1. Making the time to cook.  Particularly at lunch,  I eat (organic) frozen food.  Ack – it’s true!
  2. Making the time to help other people make lifestyle changes.  Particularly lately, I haven’t made time to help others by way of the blog (sorry guys!), speaking, and other ways.
  3. Being a real part of my new community.  I don’t spend enough time at local events, I don’t volunteer locally (there are lots of local organizations that could use my help), and I don’t feel like I participate in my new neighborhood.

What Change Is The Hardest For You?

Think a bit, and then please share!  What do you wish you were doing, but you just can’t make yourself do?  What do you feel guilty about doing?

I will tell you it feels good to write them down.  Now that they’re there, on paper, I see what I need to work on.

Try it!

For Older, Wiser Ladies: Green Solutions to Incontinence

The other day a reader wrote me anonymously asking if there were any green solutions to the normal leakage that occurs with getting older.

Our society is just full of “taboos,” right?  I received many emails from women thanking me for bringing up the idea of greening our menstrual cycles.  It’s a shame to me that we don’t talk about these things more readily – especially since they are so much a regular, normal part of our lives!  So I encourage you all to be a little more forthcoming about it, a little more willing and ready to discuss it, a little more ok with the fact that we are women and this is what our bodies do and that is just normal!

And to our lovely male readers – maybe you can help us all be ok with these normal parts of our lives, too?

I would say the same is true for incontinence.  It’s an embarrassing part of growing older and wiser, but it is a normal part.  Our muscles change over time – and that is that.  I want to anonymously thank the reader who asked me to write about this – it was brave, and it was just right on – thank you.  I know you’re not alone in looking for these solutions!

So…  Here’s the thing:  I’m not there yet, so I don’t know personally.  However, I did do some research.  Here’s what I found…

Panties for Incontinence

Green Solutions to Incontinence

  1. Lunapad – I asked Morgan, who so graciously offered the Lunapad Giveway.  Here was her response: “Cloth pads and pantyliners are a great eco-friendly solution. We have quite a few customers who use our products for just such purposes. Here are our recommendations.”
  2. Moon Pads – In addition to their cotton pads, Moon Pads have a line of waterproof pads that they recommend for incontinence here.
  3. Sckoon Organic Underwear – Sckoon has a line of Organic Cotton Reusable Urinary Stress Incontinence Underwear, where the liner is built into the product.  Check them out here – they look like a pretty light-weight solution, if you just need a little safety mechanism.  (They’re also available on Amazon, if you prefer shopping there.)
  4. HealthDri Cotton Panties – Available for men and women, there are several styles to choose from here.  They vary from light volume to much heavier volume.
  5. NatraCare Organic Cotton PadsThese incontinence pads are not reusable, but they are organic cotton and available in most natural foods stores.  I imagine they are much more comfortable and comforting than Depends.
  6. Nighttime Pants – If you need more protection in the evenings, I found these washable bedtime pants that are quite discreet.
  7. Bedding – You can find small bed pads at almost any department store, which you can just slip beneath your sheet.  I won’t list them all here, as there are so many good options I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding them in the bedding and nursing sections of a local store.
  8. Other Resources for Panties, Pants and Pads – While I don’t know these companies, I found several online that have quite a lot of options:  P&S Healthcare, Metro Medical, and LL Medico.  Each of these has a variety of styles, several of which are quite beautiful looking.

What About You?

Please let me know if you have tried any of these, or if you know of other good solutions.  If you’re shy to write a comment, please feel free to send me an email instead.  Or, in this special case, feel free to comment as “Anonymous”!

And younger ladies, feel free to share these tips with your mom!