28 September 2014

22 ways to be more natural.

I wanted to share my love of the natural, but was aware that my blog is more about my life, cooking and photography and not really a place to show how to make home-made cleaning products, plus there are so many wonderful blogs dedicated to this. I still felt I wanted to touch on this subject a little, so I came up with my 22 tips on becoming more natural. These are little things that I have done as a step towards a more responsible, natural life. 

Getting rid of chemicals that harm the water system and the body, such as bleach and other harmful cleaning products, also switching to vinegar and baking soda which cleans, removes lime scale, unblocks sinks and whitens laundry. If you do not wish to make your own, Ecover is a wonderful brand that make toxic free cleaning products. They are completely natural and non-animal tested, they also offer cheap refills so you do not waste plastic. I use their washing up liquid, laundry detergent, cleaning spray & toilet cleaner when I am not making my own - best of all, no harmful toxic chemicals going into the water system and damaging the environment, so you can feel happy about that. You can also use soap nuts for laundry. They are a type of seed that grows on trees and the shells can be used to make soap, clean your house or wash laundry. You can buy soap nuts online in bulk and if you want it to be scented, some essential oils can be added.

Micro Fibre.
I am always trying to reduce the amount of things I am throwing out or wasting. I switched from disposable cleaning cloths to washable micro fibre cloths, they are not too costly and clean very well.

I am not sure why it took me 12 years to give up wearing foundation, but I love my skin so much more without it being clogged up with a lot of heavy makeup. It stops my body from absorbing the toxins in the make up. For things like mascara, eyeliner and blusher - I switched to a natural make-up brand called Lavera which is toxic-free, natural ingredients, organic, vegan and non-animal tested. You can also make your own and there are lots of great articles online on very simple make-up recipes.

I use a natural toothpaste & dental floss brands such as Lavera and Green People for my teeth, but you can do other things for whitening that doesn't involve bleaching. These include 'Oil Pulling', brushing with activated charcoal, or brushing with baking soda. All long term natural whiteners that don't damage your teeth or mouth. I have also switched to a recyclable bamboo tooth brush to reduce the amount of plastics I use.

Hair & Skin.
As well as making home-made cosmetics, I also make my own shampoo, make-up remover and moisturiser. Occasionally I also use natural alternative brands. I didn't notice for years how many chemicals go into my skin, but I now make my own cosmetics - they are simple, smell great and I love them. I will be making a separate post soon on the different things you can make yourself with instructions. For other things that are not as easy to make, (such as deodorant or sunscreen,) I choose natural brands. For travel, I have a small bottle to de-cant some of the natural shampoo into and take where I go. Some great natural brands that I have tried include Australian Organics (I love their shampoo), Dr Organic, Lavera, Raw Gaia, Bareskin Beauty and Australian Tea Tree.

I avoid anti-bacterial gels and harsh soaps, as bacteria allows the body to build a better immune system, protecting us from infections. Instead I make my own liquid soap using a natural soap bar by Australian Tea Tree, (but you can use any soap bar as long as it is 100% natural.) A full bar will make 5 litres of soap to be stored and used when needed. I find it works as soap, make-up remover, shower gel, washing-up liquid or shaving foam. Tea tree has more subtle anti-bacterial qualities, so its great for clearing up spots - also, because it's tea tree oil and nothing else, you can use it on your face and your eyes won't sting.
Here is a good link of making your own liquid soap:

Clean Eating.
Clean eating & home cooking. My recipes don't centre around any particular culture of food, but more what I love to eat. One thing they are are locally, responsibly sourced & organic where possible, good natural whole foods, (whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, a little fish and lentils.) No battery meat, no halal butchering. Reasons for this include the food being at the peak of its nutrition, it didn't suffer, it hasn't endangered the environment by getting to my plate, no additives because I have cooked it all from scratch, it keeps your body healthy and in shape and your skin looking young.

I try to grow my own food or buy some from my local farmers market as foods free of pesticides and GMO's have more nutrients and less travel miles. Growing your own is also very satisfying. It is also good to support farmers who support good food principles, for example avoiding the use of pesticides which kills bees and other insects vital to the environment. 

I have been reducing and removing refined sugar and sugar alternatives from my diet, for example soda containing either a lot of sugar or chemical alternatives such as saccharin and sucralose, instead opting for lemon squeezed into water (drinking more water in general, great for metabolism and the lemons are wonderful for keeping you looking young.) Honey or 'Stevia' are good alternatives for refined sugar, which damages both the skin and the body. 

Meat & Fish.
Although I have cut out meat with the exception of occasional fish from my diet, I would not wish to force my food beliefs on others. I do however encourage responsible food buying, sustainable fish and organic free range meat and dairy (which is not much difference in price.) This ensures animals are not being kept in terrible conditions, have a nice life and doesn't contribute to destroying the oceans. If you were to change anything, I would say this is the most important.

Buying certain foods in bulk such as rice, lentils, nuts. These can be stored in jars and therefore less packaging waste.

Instead of buying bunches from the supermarket that come from other countries and die within a week or so, I grow hardy flowers in the garden such as roses and hydrangeas, then pick them for flowers to decorate the house. Herbal boutiques are good too, as a lot of the herbs grow all year round. You can make a nice vase of flowers using rosemary and lavender, which will have a nice smell, (you can also add leaf cuttings to it.) Dried flowers and leaves have beautiful colours too, you can dry them yourself or choose plants that have died, they will keep their colour for quite some time. During autumn my hydrangeas change from pink to a beautiful red green colour, they can be dried and retain colour for several months before becoming brown. I collect lots of them and make autumn boutiques with a mixture of winter berries and holly, including dried twigs with the brown leaves still attached. Potted plants are another way of keeping flowers in the house that will last for much longer.

I am trying to make my garden a better place for nature, planting wild flowers, bird feeders and insect nests. Even when living in the city, there are small things you can do to make a difference. I do not have a lot of space, but instead grow my vegetables in containers. I avoid buying peat-based soil because it damages the environment and I will soon be making my own compost. If I have black fly on my plants, instead of using pesticides which kill bees, I clean them with natural soap and water or plant flowers nearby that repel them, such as marigolds. 

'Saying No to Palm Oil'.
Palm oil can be found in soaps, chocolate, ice cream, lipstick, Nutella and many others. If you see vegetable oil without it saying for example '100% sunflower oil', that will most likely be palm oil hidden in the product. It is an oil that when produced causes massive amounts of damage to the environment in countries such as Indonesia and endangering the Orangutan. 
For more information on Palm Oil please read: 

Trying to avoid headache pills and instead finding alternatives such as Indian head & jaw massage, exercise, drinking water, chilli powder, cold compress, ginger root drink and chewing almonds with their skins on. For sore throats you can gargle with warm salt water and apple cider vinegar, or drink warm lemon and ginger. For a head cold, breathe in the steam from hot water with eucalyptus essential oil in. For help with digestive problems, you can take 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar with hot water, or 20ml of lemon juice with 1 tsp of baking soda in water, wait until it stops fizzing then drink. Also, I have not yet tried this, but activated charcoal (a natural absorbent of toxins,) can be good on occasion in small amounts. You can detox with certain foods too, home-made beetroot soup or cooked seaweed are excellent system cleaners.

Reducing what I buy and asking myself if I really need it, or if I will be bored of it in 6 months time. I also don't buy any animal related products any more, such as cashmere, silk, leather, fur, angora, (only wool if i know it was responsibly sourced.) I try to opt for natural materials that are also responsibly sourced, such as cotton or wood, instead of plastics.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse.
Recycling all unwanted clothing at charity stores and as much of packaging as possible.

Cloth Bags.
Never using plastic bags and instead carrying a cloth bag with me.

Reducing plastics, is also incredibly important and there are many great ways to do so. Water bottles are an important one, switching to a refillable aluminium or glass bottle that you can take with you, the same with hot drinks, as coffee shops will fill your flask for you. If you make your own lunch then instead of using plastic boxes, try a stainless steel lunch box. I also like to eat yoghurt which I decant into a small glass jar, rather than disposable plastic ones.
This article has some wonderful tips on reducing plastic usage including things for children, such as eco-lunch packs and non-plastic toys:

Using Apple Cider Vinegar which has many benefits, including help with stomach issues, sore throats, indigestion problems, dandruff, acne, tooth whitening, anti-bacterial & household cleaner.

There are always simple things you can do to reduce electricity and heat. Switching to energy saving light bulbs, turning a washing machine down to 30C, avoiding the use of tumble dryers and keeping your heating off. You could also source your energy from an eco-energy supplier or solar panels.

Responsible Buying.
Lastly, I always try to think about where the things I buy have come from, before they became something I owned and if I am comfortable with the methods used to bring it to me. An item that I buy such as a bouquet of roses may have travelled from the other side of the world to get to me, a make-up brush or jumper could have had the fur pulled from the animal to make the item, a chocolate bar could have had environment damaging oils hiding within, clothing made through child labour, gold or diamonds could be sourced using slave trade - something that seems so tiny and innocent could have a whole other story about its methods to create it and I ask myself if I am comfortable with that or need it in my life. This, I would say is the hardest one because it is something you must always be considering, and it can be sad at times too, but I feel it is worth it and I hope you do too.