Week 16 – dollars and cents

We often get asked whether it is working out to be financially advantageous living in a way that avoids landfill rubbish. It is a difficult question to answer as we don’t have a baseline from which to compare. We were living in Canada for a year prior to starting the challenge, where we found the cost of living to be significantly lower than NZ, and the year prior to that had a number of different household situations such as living alone, with flatmates and with borders at various times. However, despite this we do feel that we are probably saving money.

Initially I felt that our new lifestyle was going to cause us to hemorrhage money as we started looking for alternatives for packaged products. For example, we found a metal toothpaste tube, which can be taken to the scrap metal dealer, but it costs $7 for about half the quantity of your generic $3 plastic tube. However, as the challenge has gone on we’re finding alternatives to the alternatives, we now make our own toothpaste out of baking soda and salt, which is resulting in fiscal savings. A lot of the alternatives require an initial more expensive outlay which is well re-couped over the lifetime of the product, an obvious example being recyclable batteries. We bought Eneloop recyclable batteries because they are like disposable batteries in that they come ready charged but can also be recharged over 1000 times through their lifespan (www.eneloop.co.nz). Similarly, we bought a bulk 20 litre container of laundry detergent from B_E_E as it came in a recyclable container and it is looking like it will last us at least 18 months. These sort of outlays initially hit hard but when costed out over the lifetime will result in savings. Interestingly our food bill has not changed in total although the receivers of our money have. Although we are not buying items like biscuits and muesli bars we are spending more on butter and other baking items so it seems to be swings and roundabouts. Just this week we were introduced to a website called Simple Saving (www.simplesavings.co.nz) which has thousands of tips on how to save money, many of which also seem to save packaging and landfill waste – another example of how simply reducing packaging ends up having other positive spin off effects.

6 thoughts on “Week 16 – dollars and cents

  1. Do you have a recipe for toothpaste or has it been a hit and miss to get something that you are ok with? I have been using Weleda stuff for a while but is quite expensive so cheaper alternative would be great.

    Someone emailed us the recipe. Just mix 4tsp baking soda, 1/2tsp salt, and peppermint essence to taste. Make sure your mouth is well rinsed and moist for a pleasurable brushing experience!

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  2. Hi Mathiew,

    Wow Some amazing info on your website. After talking to you the other day and checking out the website I have to say I have been trying harder to reduce my rubbish as well! I’ve also been more aware of the packagings when I do my grocery shopping. What you are doing is very inspiring.

    A few comments on making your own toothpaste:
    1. After meeting you last week, I talked to one of my colleagues at work about your home-made toothpaste, and he expressed concern about the formula, as he thinks the salt may be too abrasive for the teeth’s enamel layer.
    2. Even if you do leave the salt out, don’t you miss the foam? Commercially prepared toothpastes have that sodium laurel sulphate (not sure of spelling) and that for me makes the toothpaste last longer and gives me more enjoyingment out of brushing my teeth!
    3. I was also wondering about the amount of toothpaste that you and your wife use, because a tube of toothpaste seems to last me and my partner ages, (approx. 2 months)and that’s with us brushing at least twice a day as well. Mind you, I use a rechargeable electric tooth brush at night (and a manual one in the morning), and I find that less toothpaste is required for the smaller electric tooth brush brush-head.
    4. Lastly, I definitely believe in having fluoride in my toothpaste, and a lot of the alternative toothpaste formulations/preparations don’t have it
    5. The toothpaste plastic packaging doesn’t really take up that much space, does it? Once you sqeeuze it right up etc?

    Ok, I admit I am a bit biased, but I still think the benefits of buying commercially prepared toothpastes outweigh their bad bits. After years at Dental School and years of going to big dental conferences etc and reading journals and articles, as well as what I’ve seen at work, I have a lot of trust in fluoridated toothpaste. I personally prefer the gel-type formulation, as I find it less harsh and abrasive on my teeth, and plus I like the taste better. I definitely buy the largist volume available (eg. 120g vs 90g) as it works out cheaper, and I often buy a few tubes at once when they go on special, to save on cost. (The last tube of toothpaste I bought was $2 cheaper when it was on special! big difference)

    Will keep reading to see how you’re getting on with whatever toothpaste you choose to use!
    Cheers
    Barbara.

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  3. Surely the main toothpaste makers could provider their product in a glass jar/tub, with a spoon like tool for putting it onto the brush (best avoid all that ‘dipping’). Seems to me this is laziness on their part and lack of market forces.

    Roll on the day when packing is taxed according to it greenness.

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  4. Good on you for making your own toothpaste! I think its great. I personally buy herbal toothpaste because I hate the foam! It makes me gag. But they all come in plastic tubing, so I think i might start making my own. Thanks for the recipe 🙂

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