Thursday, July 30, 2015

Avoiding the Plague While Saving the Planet

The boys and I go for a walk in our new home town daily. During these walks I have a tendency (this is a mild word for my search and destroy missions...) to pick up trash and bottles and cans from the side of the road.  Yes, I am THAT crazy lady in your home town! This drives Mr. W up a tree when he walks with us, so I try not to do it when he's along for the ride unless it's something irresistible, like a case of empty beer cans, or  those darned loopy plastic can holders that strangle birds. But the rest of the week you can find me bending and stooping to pick up everything from empty nip bottles (there but for the grace of God go I) to scratched lottery tickets ($25 in dropped winners to date - you can't win if you don't pick 'em up!) and soda cans, to the occasional bit of used drug paraphernalia. I carry hand sanitizer and gloves, and I am not afraid to use them. But having grown up with the "Crying Indian" commercial, I can't very well just leave it all there.
I just can't! Besides, I "make" about $2.00 a week in bottle returns - what my bottle guy smiles and calls my "coffee money". We move at a good clip in spite of all the bending and stooping, and average 3 miles a day. It's fun, and since running is off the menu, the trash retrieval gives me something to occupy my mind in the face of the reduced pace. Running just had so many benefits...but I digress.

I have gone through hand sanitizer like underwear in the last few weeks. It's summer and people are leaving half-full cups and containers of all sorts of things on the waterfront and side streets, and thrown between the rocks of the jetty. I empty gooey and drippy things when possible, avoiding contact with cup rims or straws, and add them to my "trash" bag. Returnable cans are similarly emptied and added to the "nickel" bag. I reach for the hand sanitizer quite often, and today I ran out.

Now, nothing beats a good soapy scrub with warm running water. And I am not a fan of heavy chemicals, and certainly am very aware both as a health care professional and as an educated kinda crunch-berry granola-type of the issues surrounding our obsession with anti-bacterial this and that. Hand sanitizers often harbor chemicals I'd probably rather not come in contact with - but they seem a better alternative than nothing when soap and water are far away.

For example, the label on the bottle of an alcohol free version by my side reads: water, cetrimonium chloride, glycereth-2 cocoate, behentrimonium chloride, acrylates/dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate copolymer, lactic acid, tetrasodium EDTA, fragrance. Kind of makes me wish they'd just left the alcohol in, you know? I could probably fiddle with some of the root words and make some guesses about what the unpronounceable bits are, but really, wouldn't it be nicer if my hand sanitizer just read more like my new DIY foaming facial scrub bottle does? (Doc Bronner's liquid soap, glycerine, aloe vera gel, sweet almond oil, essential oils, and water). I think so.

So I set out to see if I could find a recipe online that would let me make my own hand sanitizer, preferably featuring Young Living Thieves essential oil blend, and ideally with some good old rubbing alcohol in it. For this first round I chose the most basic recipe I could find. It contains only three ingredients - rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel, and essential oils. I had all three on hand, and the limited number of ingredients appealed to me after reading that label up there.
I combined 1/4 cup aloe vera gel (I used plain aloe gel that I had obtained for my facial cleanser - this can be difficult to find, but keep trying! Most of the big-name aloe gels contain a host of other ingredients. We are striving for purity here, so less is MORE. If you can't find it at a health food store near you, try Amazon. I like Lily of the Desert brand) with 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol in a bowl, then added 10 drops of Thieves oil.

I whisked the whole thing together and ended up with two (well, one and two thirds, but I didn't scrape the bowl!) bottles of DIY, low-cost, minimal ingredient hand sanitizer. I put it into my two cleaned and recycled empty bottles and put them in the backpack I carry every day on my walks with "the boys".
I would not call them "gel" sanitizers as they are fairly fluid and I will experiment more in the future with different recipes and different ratios. The gel, really, is purely convenience. I can cup my little palm and use these just the same as the thicker gel versions - and sleep better at night knowing what's in them!

In a first trial run at the sink I found the fragrance to be much improved when compared to the chemical stuff. The alcohol evaporates fairly quickly, and while the aloe leaves a faint residue on the skin until it dries, I've had similar residue present with the creepy chemical versions.

Try some yourself! Unless you think unpronounceable "irritating, toxic and slightly flammable" ingredients are something you want on your skin - I know I don't want it on mine!


Sally M said...

What a great idea! I wonder if I can just whiz up my aloe plant in my blender and use that? I'll let you know :)

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