Week 26 – Oral Health

Sometimes it feels a bit like we are locked in some epic struggle in our efforts to transform the bathroom into a rubbish free zone. We have won many battles: cleaning products, soap, shampoo and shaving to name a few, but the battle over oral health is still raging! This week I went to the dentist to have a filling replaced that had fallen out. During the course of the check up the dentist asked if there had been any major changes in my diet or the way I looked after my teeth as there were some tiny holes appearing on the side of my teeth. It was at that point that the assistant outed me as being one half of the couple doing the rubbish free year, and that she had heard that we were making our own toothpaste. In what felt remarkably like confession, I told all, and surprisingly did receive a type of absolution. My dentist was not too concerned with the homemade toothpaste pointing out that baking soda is still used in some brands of toothpaste, albeit a bit concerned with the overly abrasive nature of the salt. Her main issue was the lack of fluoride, which I’ve since discovered is quite a contentious issue. The blessing and curse of the internet becomes rapidly apparent when one tries to get to the bottom of these sorts of debates and after going back and forth I have decided to put my faith in my dentist and fluoride my teeth. I was able to buy from the pharmacy 100 fluoride tablets for $10 which I dissolve in water and swish about my mouth for two minutes each night. I’ll head back before the end of the challenge in six months and get an update on whether that has helped.

Toothpaste is only half the story though as the toothbrush saga is yet to reach a satisfactory conclusion. In other blogs we have mentioned some of the struggles but just to re-cap: When the challenge started we had new toothbrushes which lasted about three months and are now being used in the laundry for cleaning. Although this only equals four toothbrushes each over the year we are keen to be as close to zero as possible so the search started for a ‘landfill destined free’ toothbrush and packaging. Our initial attempt involved getting wooden toothbrushes from Brooks in Switzerland that are able to be put in the compost to break down. Unfortunately these came in solid number six plastic containers, were quite uncomfortable to use and having a straight handle it was difficult to reach the wisdom teeth. Next stop was Preserve toothbrushes from Boston, USA. They are made from recycled yoghurt containers, are really nice to use, clean well, and when finished with can be posted back to the manufacturer to be recycled into picnic tables. However, the obvious issue of carbon miles became even more obvious with the inclusion of a hand written note from the customer relations person at Preserve who suggested we buy local rather than having a single toothbrush shipped from Boston to New Zealand. Alternatively, we could buy in bulk in the same way we have for the dental floss and become distributors, however, this doesn’t really solve the carbon footprint issue. Ideally it would be great if the local market was able to support the local manufacture of such a toothbrush here – if you are involved in the manufacturing industry feel free to steal this idea!

Continuing on from last week’s medical waste theme, this week our lovely 12yr old dog, Jess, needed a visit to the vet due to a skin infection The vet suggested a course of antibiotics. Unfortunately, the tablets come in a foil and plastic composite, so to show our commitment to being rubbish free we had her put down to avoid the waste…no, no, just joking…Jess has lost her status as rubbish free dog but remains very much alive with a cleared up skin infection and the packaging has been added to our collection.

Week 24 – half hour use, half millennia disuse

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A friend of mine living in Las Vegas, (who I have to say hasn’t previously showed much sign of environmental sensitivities – we must be getting under his skin), sent me this picture the other day. The photo is of the rubbish created from a sit down meal at a restaurant. Styrofoam trays and cups, a plastic bag (presumably to get the meal from the kitchen to the table) and several small plastic sauce pottles. No doubt it is cheaper for this restaurant to buy disposables than to employ staff to do dishes. It happens here too, especially at cheaper places like food courts and of course fast food chains have been doing it since before I can remember. I often muse on how economics is the dominant ‘philosophy’ of our age, and how something can make no sense at all on social or environmental fronts but will be considered clever if it gives a player a competitive edge. Like USA and EU swapping millions of tonnes of almonds each year, EU almonds go to the States and Californian almonds go back to EU. This makes no sense, neither does over fishing or using Styrofoam for a half hour use and half a millennia disuse. There are many ways of challenging this destructive way of being, some more effective than others. Essentially this year Matthew and I are attempting to communicate something in a language well understood: money. Companies produce what sells well. If we buy the most ethical product then it will make economic sense for companies to produce the most most ethical product.

Anyway! That was a bit of a rant! Thanks to all the people who gave us their dog food recipes, but the suggestion we most liked was buying dog food from Bin Inn. I have always marveled at how we can cook for half an hour, eat for 10 mins and wash dishes for another 10… meanwhile the dog’s dinner took 2 seconds to scoop, 30 seconds to eat and she leaves the bowl cleaner than when she started. It just seems a shame to complicate this beautiful routine. Jess wolfed down the new food last night so I guess thumbs up (paws up) for her. There was also quite a bit of discussion about what I should do with my underarm hair! Quite an odd thing to be discussed for me really, but so be it. While I am very happy with my ‘new’ old fashioned razor I do need new blades. I looked around unsuccessfully for blades, tried a couple of barbers etc. Finally someone said that I could buy them in a supermarket. How ironic. I assumed they were a rare novelty. Good news anyway.

Heather of Avondale, Auckland asked about how we dispose of bones. We do eat meat but have relatively little issue with bones. This is because 90% of the meat we eat is red and most of that is stewing cuts and mince -without bones. If there are bones we put them in our organic bone destruction unit (Jess). Chicken and fish bones (which choke dogs) are put in our long term compost system. This is basically a hole in the corner of our back yard, which once full will be left for 5 or so years. It also has fur, hair, fingernail clippings and dog poo. Hope this helps. Apparently butchers used to take bones back off their customers because they sold their bones to a bone collection service. I believe this situation has now reversed, with butchers having to pay to have the bones collected. I assume the bones are still used for useful purposes, maybe you could even give the butcher money to take your bones – although I suspect they might look at you funny. Heather’s question, which was through the NZ Herald blog site, made me realise that if you have been following our year through the Herald, either printed or online you may not realise that we have a very comprehensive website: http://www.rubbishfree.co.nz. One of the features of the site is our Rubbish Free Guide. In it we have detailed all of the things we have done / are doing to be rubbish free. The site is also searchable. This enables people who have specific interests to easily see all on the site that relates.

Finally (this has been a long blog…) we are delighted to announce that Bin Inn is now sponsoring us to be doing what we were doing anyway. We have been thinking over the months what a good little advert we were for Bin Inn (this blog is again case in point) and so we approached them, hoping that they would agree. Happily they did. Thanks Bin Inn! Its great to be working with you.