Thursday, April 3, 2008

Good to the Last Drop

As my family's garbage output is now officially less than ten percent of the average American's (see sidebar Riot 4 Austerity numbers), I feel like I can finally talk some serious trash. There are tons of ways to taper off your trash: compost, ditch disposables, make your own, buy items with less packaging or better yet don't buy it at all. The list could go on and on but the simplest way is to stretch your resources. In other words, it ain't empty until it's empty.

Several weeks ago I lifted the lid on the bathroom waste can only to discover our toothpaste tube lounging amongst the spent tissue and cotton swabs. Sure, to the Muggle eye, that tube looked empty. I knew better. I rescued it from the waste bin and, squeezing and scrunching, happily brushed my teeth with its contents for another three weeks.*

Like Green Bean Good Fairy, I glide from room to room working my stretching sorcery on various lotions, conditioners and soaps. We have mostly switched to bar soap but, for years, I added a splash of water to liquid soap whenever I refilled a container. We are almost out of face cream. Before delving into what would be the most eco-friendly replacement, however, I decided to do the greenest thing of all and keep using what we had - with some water mixed in. My husband asked me this morning if I've refilled the bottle because it seems to be regenerating itself. ;-) The added benefit is that the water actually makes the thick lotion easier to apply.

As to the conditioner languishing in my shower, that baby has been around since before the dawn of global warming. Like a miracle of biblical proportion, even though I add water every time I use it (every 3rd or 4th shower alternating with the vinegar wash), the creamy consistency remains the same, the bottle just as full.

For other products, I forgo adding water and just use less. A capful of laundry detergent? Why? A 1/4 of a capful (and sometimes none) will get the job done. You don't really need to fill that little bowl full with dishwasher detergent - just a dash.

To what do I owe my mystical powers? Why, to my parents, of course. In the interest of frugality, we would often add a bit of water to a near empty ketchup bottle to use up the dregs. It worked like a charm - unless someone went overboard and the ketchup turned to tomato soup. That was not so tasty on the tater tots.

So with that final warning to not be overly exuberant with the water, I hereby bestow, on you, my powers of alchemy. Go forth and bewitch thy bottles, remembering the simple spell: reducing the refuse makes everything good to the last drop.

*To further reduce wasteful packaging, many people make their own toothpaste. I'm sure this is fine but, after taking my then 4 year old in to have 8 cavities filled in one sitting (we were using store bought toothpaste without fluoride), I'm a bit gun shy to transition the family to homemade toothpaste. We'll stick with a "natural" brand of toothpaste.


Melissa said...

love the blog! I'm new to this area myself so I liked your bay area resources section. I'm hoping common ground might do another container gardening course sometime as I only have balcony space to plant on. do you mind if I put a link to your blog on mine? it's
Also, I'd love to hear any more great bay area resources you might know of.

Burbanmom said...

Ha! I'm glad I'm not the only "cheapskate/envirowarrior" that does this! I took in a tube of prescription face lotion into my doc to request a refill and she laughed her ass off when she saw how twisted, squished and squeezed the tube was! Hey, no sense wasting good product (and the money that bought it!).

Rock on Green Bean!

Joyce said...

At the risk of starting a debate, I was glad to see your little addendum about flouride in toothpaste. I've been a little worried about all the folks making their own. My dad was a dentist who worked for years to get flouridated water here, because the benefits were so clear. He, for instance, grew up where it occurred naturally in the water, and had only one cavity his whole life! Nobody in his hometown had cavities. He got the legislation passed, and the before and after statistics were amazing! If you live where there is no flouride in the water, you really must have it in your toothpaste.

Grant said...

A tube of toothpaste is not *truly* empty until you have crushed it with a pair of pliers so that it's completely flat, then cut it open with a knife and used what was un-squeezeable.

I wish I had seen this post a few days earlier because I just finished such a tube last week. It was Tom's brand, so totally recyclable to boot.

arduous said...

Yes, I agree with Joyce about flouride. I'm a little amazed at how many people insist how it's bad for you. Most of the stuff I've read on how flouride is evil has been what I'd call "science." But if someone has a proper peer-reviewed and published study about why flouride is bad, I'd love to read it.

Anyway, I always use flouride because I can't afford to get cavities, but luckily Tom's of Maine does carry flouridated toothpastes.

CindyW said...

You are all nuts, I say! Eco-nuts. But I love all your nuttiness :) Happy Friday.

Chile said...

I use a method a little easier than Grant's: scoop out toothpaste with the back end of my tweezers. There's enough lurking at the mouth of the tube (where it's hard to crush) to brush your teeth almost a week!

Fake Plastic Fish said...

Hi Green Bean. I read your comment on my blog about your buying club, and I'd like to find out more. Can you please email me directly? I can't find your email address.



Green Bean said...

Melissa: I think Common Ground usually works through its classes over and over again so keep your fingers crossed. :) Please add me to your list, I'd love it. Check back my bay area resources - I'll add new ones as I find them.

Burbs: glad I'm not the only one.

Joyce and Arduous: yes, I agree with you - at the very least where kids are concerned. Everyone needs to make their own decisions and it is not my place to tell them what to do but we eschewed flouride and paid the price. Needless to say, we use a flouride toothpaste now.

Grant and Chile - thanks for the tips! I haven't actually thrown away that tube yet so let's see how many more days I can eek out of it.

Raw Food Diva said...

The only thing about adding tap water to extend products is that tap water is full of bacteria. Distilled water is better. Most products add preservatives because of the water in them. Some products use no water or distilled water for this reason,and some products use airpumps so no air can reach them as this is another source of bacteria.
I would just keep any facial lotions away from the eyes if you are adding water. Also if you have any acne it can be exacerbated by unchecked bacteria. The tipping point can come quite suddenly and without you even realizing it.
ps yes I am an Esthetician!

Green Bean said...

RFD: Thank God there is an Esthetician who reads this stuff! Thank you for the tip. :)

Jennifer said...

We've also done this since childhood... the shampoo bottle that won't die, for example.

Hazel Nut said...

We used to add vinegar to the ketchup bottle - was really good on french fries ;)


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