Chemicals-Free September

Environmental introspections with some MLS students as they discuss their new initiative, #chemicalsfreeseptember.

Homemade body scrubs from easy-to-source items can be made to suit your individual needs!

Alex, how did you come up with this new initiative, #ChemicalsFreeSeptember? 

About three weeks ago I finished my body soap. Since then, I’ve been using a self-made body scrub made of waste coffee grinds, almond oil, a pinch of bicarb soda and some drops of tea tree essential oil. I then put that mix on the peel of my morning grapefruit, or on the leftovers lemon of my daily tea infusions and scrub on my skin under the shower.  

Combined, the coffee scrubs and smoothens my skin; the almond oil hydrates it; the bicarb balances the pH and the citrus skin functions as a perfect natural sponge, both absorbing any impurities, cleansing the skin, closing the pores, and leaving a wonderful natural grapefruit or lemon perfume on my skin (even for a smelly armpit). I think my skin has never been happier and more radiant! Even my housemate, a professional beautician, was pleasantly surprised to discover how well this works on her skin – just don’t scrub too hard 😉. 

Further, I never use any chemical-based products to clean my kitchen. My best ally to remove cooking oil, eggy smell and food spills is common vinegar. It disinfects, removes smells and is completely a-toxic, meaning that it is safe to eat and there is no need to rinse it off. I also use vinegar to clean my shower and bathroom.  

However, I must admit that I still use commercial chemical products, such as dishwashing liquid, laundry detergents and hair products. Also, in these times I wouldn’t go out asking people not to use commercial hand sanitisers. Nevertheless, I am confident (indeed I know as a fact) that there are plenty of more sustainable alternatives to most commercial detergents. This is where I got the idea of launching #Chemicals Free September. Just as we have the well-known #Plastic Free July, where people share their humble hacks to a plastic-free life, I thought that we could also institute a platform where people can share their hacks to living chemicals-free. Part of the solution to our environmental crisis is ending POLLUTION, and collectively we can help each other abandon the stereotype ‘shelf chemicals’ and embrace a more natural, sustainable way of cleaning ourselves and our homes.  

So please, if you have any recipes or hacks for making body soaps, toothpastes, mouthwash, hand sanitizers, shampoos, conditioners, face masks, deodorants, detergents and whatever else, please share it with the #Chemicals Free September community!!!

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“Wouldn’t you feel great from not causing environmental damage?”

Emily, I heard that you’ve also started to make the switch to using less chemical-based products in your life? 

That’s right! I too have slowly been trying to switch to using more environmentally friendly, natural products in all areas of my life. 

Firstly, curly hair like my own requires a lot of maintenance, and part of this involves using products which are more natural and curly-hair friendly. One focus of caring for curly hair is using natural products, without sulphates, parabens, and drying alcohols. While there didn’t used to be many products targeted for those with curly, textured or kinky hair, the market has grown significantly since then. I love knowing that my hair is finally receiving the treatment it deserves and that the products I am washing down the drain are far less likely to cause environmental damage. I still have progress to make and #ChemicalsFreeSeptember is the perfect place to start!  

This COVID quarantine is the perfect opportunity to test natural products. Indeed, Berlin’s transport company went one step further by suggesting to its commuters not to use deodorants to incentivise social distancing!1  While not going that far, I wanted to see what natural deodorant was all about and how effective it would be for me. As a martial artist, a foolproof product is vital. So, this will be my challenge heading into September: seeing if I can find my perfect chemical-free deodorant!  

Please be aware that some natural deodorants may contain high quantities of sodium bicarbonate as a way of absorbing moisture and targeting the bacteria in the armpit, which can be problematic for people with sensitive skin. However, there are sodium bicarbonate-free alternatives, so do keep an eye out for this. The most important thing to remember is that everyone’s needs are different, and there is not a one-size-fit solution for everyone. But with some trial and error, and by sharing our experiences, we can all find less polluting solutions! 

Momo, what are your thoughts on #ChemicalsFreeSeptember? 

Glad you’ve asked! I think it’s a great initiative, especially considering that I have a long history with on-and-off psoriasis. This means that conventional body soap and shampoo, you know, those with sulphates, parabens, and alcohols (the horrors!) are taboo for me. Given the severity of my condition, I’ve been using chemical-free products that I buy from organic stores/markets for the last 5 years. I must say, there’s something soothing about using a mud soap bar infused with lavender and lemon scent during a nice, warm shower.  

Honestly though, while those bars can be more expensive than conventional products (we’re talking about 50 cents to a couple of dollars),2 why forgo the opportunity to relive your childhood and literally, cover yourself up in mud. Alluding to Alex’s, Emily’s and Raveena’s introspections, I agree that #ChemicalsFreeSeptember is something that we should all try out! Not only will you come out with fresh, radiant skin, but also, wouldn’t you feel great from not causing environmental damage? Anyhow, even if your nearest organic store is outside your 5 km radius, just remember that all major supermarkets sell chemical-free products. It’s never been this easy to go chemical-free this coming September, so please, come join our community and be warmly welcomed by us friendly people! 

Raveena, you are the University of Melbourne’s Sustainability Team Leader. What’s your take on #ChemicalsFreeSeptember? 

Chemicals Free September is Alex’s brainchild, but something the whole Sustainability Team at the University of Melbourne is keen to support and promote. It’s a great initiative that will encourage people to be more aware of the potentially harmful products they are using, and the impact of these on both themselves and the environment. As a community we have a special responsibility in confronting the challenges of climate change and environmental stewardship and this initiative does just that. Even if you try to just change one product that you use, whether that be hair care, soaps and bodywashes, or cleaning products, you are making a significant positive impact for the environment as every little action counts. So why not try to challenge yourself this September with the support of this amazing like-minded community?  

Get involved with #chemicalsfreeseptember and share your innovations with the Environments team!

1 Coronavirus: ‘Don’t wear deodorant,’ says Berlin’s transport company.  

2 @Momo, my body scrub is soooooo cheap, being made form repurposed waste!!! You should find a recipe that works for your psoriasis – hopefully, #ChemicalsFreeSeptember will help you with this 😉 – Alex. 

Special thanks to Alexander Buck, Emily Ressia, Muhammad Djojosugito and Raveena Grace.  

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