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Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap (lavender)

I love Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap (lavender is my favourite). It’s not tested on animals, it’s organic and fairtrade. Importantly, there are no dodgy ingredients. The ingredients list is as follows:

  • Water
  • Organic coconut oil
  • Potassium hydroxide (similar to sodium hydroxide; this ingredient is needed for the saponification process)
  • Lavandin extract
  • Organic olive oil
  • Organic hemp oil
  • Organic jojoba oil
  • Lavender extract
  • Citric acid
  • Tocopherol (vitamin E)

I use this liquid soap as a shower gel as it foams nicely (additionally, I also use a homemade sugar scrub, which I highly recommend). Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap can also be used for washing your hands, but I don’t do this because it is quite pricey (I use a bar of soap instead). Dr. Bronner’s can also be used to wash hair, though an acidic rinse would be required afterwards (i.e. a table spoon of lemon juice or vinegar in a cup of water, mixed and poured onto your hair) since soap is alkali and the scalp’s natural pH is acidic.

My only complaint is that the liquid soap comes in a plastic bottle (albeit recycled plastic); it would be more environmentally responsible if it was packaged in glass, which can be reused or recycled over and over again. Dr. Bronner’s soaps can be bought online (thought perhaps not from Amazon!); I tend to buy them from WholeFoods when they are on special offer.   However, you can use a soap bar instead of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap to clean your body; I find that liquid soap tends to be more convenient however. I found an article on how to make liquid soap out of bar soap here, which I think may be cheaper than buying Dr. Bronner’s.

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Technopolis at night

Technopolis is a major cultural venue in Gazi, Athens. It used to be the city’s gasworks from 1857 until 1984. In 1999 the complex (it is a collection of buildings) was converted to a cultural centre, hosting exhibitions and events. Many of the original features of the gasworks factory remain, so that the experience is a strange mix of art and industry. It is almost as if the places is a ‘factory for protecting and generating art‘. As a consequence when you visit you not only admire the art on the walls of the factory buildings, but also the buildings and interiors in their own right. Of course, you could argue that the National Gallery in London, or the Guggenheim in New York are both beautiful buildings with lovely interiors, but it is nice to see something different, something that wasn’t ‘made for purpose’ and instead has been converted to something quite different from its original use.

The complex is enclosed, so as you walk from building to building, it seems as if you are within a gated community of art. The exhibition that I saw was the Athens Photo Festival, and it was 5 euros entry (3 euros for students).

How to get there:

The easiest way to get there is to take the metro – get off at Kerameikos (on the blue line). Technopolis is relatively close to Monastiraki and the ancient sites, so I’d recommend it to tourists visiting Athens. Do check out what’s on first on their website – that said though the website is in Greek ! Ah well, that is the advantage of art – you can look at the pictures instead… Hopefully they’ll get around to translating it soon. Here are some more tripadvisor reviews.

Athens Photo Festival 2012

Personally, I prefer ‘proper art’ (paintings, drawing etc) to photography. However, I did enjoy this exhibition. There were different themes, such as ‘Greek Reality’ (very topical, and one would naturally expect it to be there. There were lots of photos of demonstrators and riots), the developing world (a generalisation, I know. I find it interesting to have some insight into a world that is so different from the West; I saw Portraits of Violence: Gangs of Port Moresby (capital of Papua New Guinea, which apparently has a 60% unemployment rate and high levels of poverty)), and animals. Some of my favourite are shown below:

Monika Merva – ‘Irma’s Peaches’

Namsa Leuba – Here is some more of her work

Karin Apollonia Muller – Morning Run

Giacomo Brunelli – more of his photographs of animals can be found here

I really enjoyed Jan Banning’s photos. His exhibition was called Bureaucratics, and is really interesting. Banning took photos of bureaucrats in different countries.

I also liked Carlo Gianferro’s work. His exhibition was called Roma Interiors. It documented the private world of affluent Roma families.

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Coconut oil is solid at 25°C. But what does it have to do with toothpaste?

You may be disappointed to hear that the conventional toothpastes that we all love and grew up with are owned by companies that test on animals. I have listed the toothpastes that test on animals below:

  • Aim
  • Aquafresh
  • Colgate
  • Crest
  • Listerine (I know it’s not toothpaste – it’s mouthwash)
  • Macleans
  • Oral-B
  • Sensodyne

For more info on toothpastes, please follow this link from EthicalConsumer. This website ranks products (e.g. toothpaste) according to how ethical they are in terms of environment, animals, people, politics and sustainability. EthicalConsumer have given the highest score to Green People toothpaste, which is one of my favourite toothpastes (apart from my homemade toothpaste of course!). Green People donate 10% of profits to green charities. You won’t find Green People toothpaste in supermarkets, but it can be bought online and from some health shops. I have also tried Kingfisher toothpaste and Weleda toothpaste, both of which I liked. Bear in mind that Weleda toothpaste doesn’t foam – not everyone likes that, but I personally don’t mind it (Kingfisher toothpaste and Green People toothpaste do foam). These toothpastes are more expensive than conventional ones e.g. Green People toothpaste costs £3.50 for 50ml.

Green People Toothpaste

However, I prefer my homemade toothpaste because:

🙂 It’s cheaper than ethical toothpastes, at about £1.30 for 100ml
🙂 It’s simpler than both conventional and ethical toothpastes (there are only two ingredients)
🙂 The containers that the ingredients for homemade toothpaste come in can be recycled, unlike conventional plastic toothpaste tubes

Homemade Toothpaste Recipe
1 tablespoon of raw virgin coconut oil (organic – I bought it on special offer from Planet Organic (near Goodge Street tube station, London) for £6.99 for 400ml)
1 tablespoon baking soda

Mix the two well and store in a container. Voila! Optional: you can also add a couple of drops of peppermint essential oil. The coconut oil dissolves the bacterial biofilm (a sticky substance that bacteria secrete so they can stick to your teeth), and the baking soda is slightly abrasive, which dislodges the bacteria. I also ensure to brush well, particularly the nooks and crannies that bacteria love so much. I really like the taste of my homemade toothpaste. However, it doesn’t foam, so it may take a while to get used to. I personally prefer non-foamy toothpastes. I get my teeth cleaned regularly (once every 6 months) at the dentist, who is pleased with my teeth so far.

My advice for an ethical toothpaste newbie is to experiment with different ethical toothpastes – they may cost more than conventional toothpastes, but at least you aren’t supporting a company that tests on animals, or uses ingredients that aren’t necessarily safe (I’d encourage people to google many of the ingredients in their toothpaste e.g. triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate). Alternatively, try making your own toothpaste with coconut oil. Coconut oil is a wise investment as it has lots of uses – I use it as a moisturiser, lip balm and as an ingredient for my homemade deodorant.

Would you try an ethical toothpaste? Would you try and make your own toothpaste? 

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The Environmental Toothbrush

The Environmental Toothbrush is the most environmentally-friendly AND vegan toothbrush out there (there is a more environmentally friendly toothbrush that is completely plastic-free, but it isn’t vegan because the bristles are made of sterilised pig hair). I have been using the Environmental Toothbrush for over a year now. I bought it from a health shop in London (near Russel Square), but you can buy it online too. I’d recommend the soft bristles, because the medium bristles seemed harder than the conventional plastic toothbrushes that I was used to.

What I like about this toothbrush:

🙂 It’s compostable which means that you can put it in your compost, and it doesn’t have to go to landfill (the handle is made from bamboo, the bristles are made from compostable nylon, the cardboard box can be recycled)
🙂 It’s vegan
🙂 By buying it you support a small company rather than ethically dubious big ones such as Colgate (which tests on animals)

There is room for improvement however, because it is not 100% plastic free- the inner white sleeve that the toothbrush comes in is not recyclable or compostable and has to go to landfill 😦

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Review: Willowherb Soap

Willowherb soap – ‘Spice Island’

I bought this soap on the Isle of Wight (£4.95 for 110g).

What I like about this soap:

🙂 It is handmade on the Isle of Wight, so buying it supports the local economy
🙂 Since it is made in Britain, I can be confident that sweatshop labour was not involved, and that the producer was paid fairly
🙂 It’s not tested on animals
🙂 The ingredients are vegan
🙂 It smells lovely
🙂 It’s ingredients are excellent & safe

There is room for improvement however, since not all of the ingredients were organic. In particular, it is important that essential oils are organic, because they are highly concentrated, and any pesticides/insecticides/herbicides that were used to grow the plant will have been concentrated as well. In addition, the soap was packaged in plastic (cellophane). I am not a fan of plastic, particularly plastic that can’t be recycled. I learned all about the problems associated with plastic and how to live as plastic-free as possible from this blog. The author lists 95 steps to reducing your plastic consumption.

Ingredients of Willowherb Soap (As quoted on the packet)

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Organic responsibly sourced palm oil – it is important to ensure that palm oil is from responsible sources, since currently tropical rainforests and peatlands in South East Asia are being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations.
  • IW (Isle of Wight) rapeseed oil – local 🙂
  • Organic shea butter (from the nut of the African shea tree)
  • Castor oil (from the castor bean)
  • IW (Isle of Wight) spring water
  • Sodium hydroxide – otherwise known as lye. This reacts with the oils to produce the soap, in a process known as saponification. Lye is corrosive, but after this process it is neutralised.
  • Turmeric (a spice)
  • Ginger
  • Essential oils: patchouli, orange, lime & ginger
Currently, I use Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap, whose ingredients are:
Water, Organic Coconut Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Organic Olive Oil, Tea Tree Extract, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol (vitamin E)
However, Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap is packaged in plastic. It is also a little expensive. Ideally I would like to make my own soap – I even have a recipe that calls for water, olive oil, lye, coconut oil, sunflower oil and essential oils.

What soap do you use? Do you read the ingredients list on your soap? I like to know exactly what each ingredient is and what it is doing in my soap, as well as if it is environmentally friendly. This also applies to shampoos, moisturizers, toothpastes, cosmetics… anything really! 

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