living green: a search for greener products that actually work

My journey toward greener products has been a roller coaster. Motivated by my desire to be more eco-friendly, minimalist, and frugal, I started replacing personal care and cleaning products with natural versions whenever I ran out. I researched and tested different store-bought and homemade concoctions, with mixed results. More than a year later, I finally feel like I'm settling into products and routines that work for me, and decided to share (inspired by Elise Blaha times two and Sherry Petersik). Not everything is homemade and cheap like I originally hoped, but I have found I need fewer products, and what I have lasts a long while.

greener products

Ian and I both use Dr. Bronner's castile soap for body wash. The 32-ounce bottle lasts us for months, making it very economical, and the peppermint scent is refreshing. I did have some dry skin issues over the winter, and temporarily swapped Dr. Bronner's for Method moisturizing body wash. However, the dry skin might have been due to a few less successful experiments with natural lotions. I love coconut oil, but it didn't seem to be enough for my dry winter skin. For now I'm using Aveeno daily moisturizing lotion, which scores well on GoodGuide, and Burt's Bees almond milk beeswax hand creme before bed.

I tried the no-shampoo method with a baking soda cleanser and an apple cider vinegar conditioner. It knocked out my dandruff after just two washes, but I soon discovered it was over-drying the rest of my skin, leaving it painfully itchy (a recurring issue for me, it seems). I started testing shampoos and conditioners with high marks on GoodGuide. I like Aubrey Organics, but every month or so I need to use a 50/50 apple cider vinegar rinse to get rid of buildup. I'm currently trying Yes to Carrots and love it, but know the use of "fragrance" isn't ideal.

In the smelling good department, Ian and I both use Tom's of Maine toothpaste — with fluoride because Ian has had cavity concerns — for minty-fresh breath. And after a series of epic fails with natural deodorant, I'm a huge fan of Soapwalla deodorant cream (purchased at Follain). It doesn't prevent sweating, but even after long bike rides around the city I don't have a noticeable smell, and the formula is designed to absorb moisture. (Bonus: it doesn't discolor my clothes at all.) I apply a few drops of jojoba oil before applying deodorant, again, to keep my skin from drying out.

greener products

When we moved to Boston, I began having more issues with blemishes. I blame the climate. It was frustrating but manageable, until last year when I stopped regulating my hormones with a pill—after almost five years, I was finally fed up with the side effects. I tried both eco-friendly and not-so-eco-friendly acne solutions, and became militant about hydration and changing pillow cases at least once a week. But it just kept getting worse, and the blemishes were becoming painful. I finally went to a dermatologist and came home with a prescription. It cleared things up, but I wasn't thrilled about some of the ingredients and warnings.

Meanwhile, I discovered Follain. Tara recommended Shamanuti's charcoal cleanser, seaweed toner, and face oil moisturizer, which have worked well for me. Since my prescription brought my face back to a good place, I am hoping my current routine can maintain it. If not, I know Tara has a few other products I can try before I resort to refilling those prescriptions. I also use a honey and cinnamon mask when I remember. Yes, I smear honey, which is antibacterial and loaded with lots of healthy things your skin can absorb, on my barely damp face and leave it for at least ten minutes.

I don't wear much makeup, so I wasn't motivated to spend extra money on new products. But after I developed an allergic reaction to my eye shadow, I made the switch to organic and have had no issues. I know I could improve on a few of these product choices (Mineral Fusion in general and Burt's Bees lip balm get low scores on GoodGuide), but makeup is a slow turnover for me. I'll get there eventually, most likely via Follain. Currently I use Jane Iredale dream tint moisturizer with SPF (purchased at Follain), Mineral Fusion blush, and Burt's Bees beeswax lip balm. For special events, I add Mineral Fusion mascara, and bareMinerals foundation and eye shadow (I picked up a couple samples at Sephora, but now use eye shadow so infrequently I haven't actually purchased any yet). And coconut oil works great as makeup remover.

greener products

For cleaning, I love Method everything. I looked into homemade cleaners to save cash and space, but the experiment fell short of my expectations. Then I discovered Method products are generally ranked very high on GoodGuide for not only the greenness of their products, but also their commitment to the environment and society. Plus the products look good and smell even better. Sold. The only non-Method cleaning product we use is Trader Joe's dishwashing detergent, because it's cheap and we're happy with it. (I recently have heard good things about Better Life, which gets equally high GoodGuide ratings for ingredients, and plan to give them a try.)

Method favorites: sweet water hand wash, daily shower spray, antibacterial toilet cleaner, fresh air laundry detergent, squirt + mop wood floor cleaner (almond scented and floors are oh so shiny!), clementine all-purpose cleaner, and lemon mint dish soap.

It's not easy for me to get all of these products locally (particularly the extra eco-friendly refills), so I often buy from SOAP.com. Orders of $49 or more ship free, and if you're new, you can use ANNA7968 to get 20% off your first order. I personally don't get any perks when anyone uses this code, but every referral donates up to $30 to the FEED foundation.

And that's it! All of the products in our bathroom and kitchen. I know there is always room for improvement, and going green looks different for everyone, but I'm so thankful I've gotten to a place where I'm happy with both the greenness and effectiveness of the products I use.

If you're curious, we keep a running list of the green habits we've tried to incorporate into our life.