What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

15 January 2011

Use Less

Since some time in May, I've been doing research. When on the internet or in a healthy-living section of a store, I often wander over to the personal care products just to see what is available. And it turns out: A bunch of stuff.

To begin with, there are so many ways to make something "alternative" or "green" or just plain "healthy": oil-free, fragrance-free, carcinogen-free, toxin-free, locally-made, cruelty-free, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, the one thing all these "frees" have in common is a higher price tag than the Wal-Mart brand soap & shampoo I normally buy. (BTW, I only mention budgeting in these green posts as an acknowledgement that most of us live on a budget, and to prove to myself & the world that it can be done. It's not a "woe is me" plea for sympathy at my cash-free plight. I live on a student budget, but it isn't that bad.) And I'm reluctant to purchase any product-- especially one with a high price tag-- without knowing how well it will work and whether or not I'll be throwing it away in frustration a few weeks later.

After all that looking and considering, we've changed our laundry detergent. Otherwise, I'm still using the same stuff that I've always used. But I came to this conclusion instead: I could just use less.

If my own parents are any gauge of the conversations that happen inside a typical home, then the tendency to use a lot starts early. I lost count of how many lectures I heard about not needing to fill the bathtub to the rim, or that my hair would get clean without using half a bottle of shampoo in one go, or how wasteful it is to leave the soap sitting in water so it dissolves. And don't even get me started on how little dish soap my mother wanted me to use. But you know what? They were right. For a couple of months now I've been trying to make my shampoo dollop smaller and smaller--after all, I can always use more, but once it's on my hair, I can't use less-- and it turns out my hair still gets clean with less product. The same is true of soap, of toothpaste, of lotion-- it's always easier to start small and add more if necessary.

So, once again, I reject the new-fangled in favour of What My Mum Always Said. Did I mention that I'm an honorary Walton? I've practically turned into Olivia.

Have you ever had a realisation that you could just use less of something?


Brandon P said...

I had this realization about using soaps when it came to me that it wasn't the soap itself that made you clean (more soap=more clean), but it was what the soap did to the dirt. Now I'm really aware of it.

Su said...

I remember reading ages ago that most of the ingredients in toothpaste are there to make it sudsy and to make it taste good. Apparently there's something in the Western brain that likes suds, so that's one of the reasons we use much more soap & stuff than necessary. But of course I've no idea where I read that. :(

Anonymous said...

Years ago I was looking at the website of our local water provider and read that because of the softness of our water they recommend using half the amount of detergents than the manufacturer says. I've been using half the laundry and dishwasher detergent since, and everything still gets clean just fine.

JEFritz said...

Yes, great point. I remember reading that you can use less soap in the dishwasher, laundry machines and the bathroom and still get good results. I've cut back a lot and I haven't noticed a difference in the cleanliness. Soap is more of an aid; the water and the scrubbing is what really dissolves the dirt.

Su said...

@Grahame: Somebody told us that when we got our new washer last spring-- it's amazing how much longer the detergent lasts now.

@JE: Very cool! This whole conservation thing might just catch on after all. :)

Mary Mary said...

My parents are exactly the same. They believed in using less heat. We lived in a two-story house, my parents kept the thermostat at 60 and the upstairs was not heated. There can be some awful frigid nights in the Midwest! Because of this, I find I can't handle an overly-heated house. I feel like I'm sweltering. I always make sure the heat gets turned down at night and that there is a chill on my cheeks in the morning. Otherwise, I feel like I'm baking. It's just something my body adjusted to over time and that's how I function. Thanks for sharing!

Su said...

I've turned the heat down, but I'm still in the adjusting process. Of course, that's much easier down here than in the Midwest! My parents live in Indiana & they keep the house warm in the evenings, but turn the heat down at night, so our house was always freezing on winter mornings.

Adina West said...

Great post Su - having family experience with eczema also gave me a different perspective on the whole soap suds and washing detergents thing. Lots of froth and bubbles really aren't a prerequisite to getting things clean and unnecessary extra chemicals/fragrances etc are usually bad for skin. So using as little as possible and choosing products with less complicated ingredient lists is good for skin and wallet and environment. Triple validation...

Su said...

Woohoo! It's not every day you get triple validation!