2018 has been incredible. I’ve changed so much, that I don’t think I’d recognise me this day, last year. I think it all started with me switching to the menstrual cup in March. It made me realise that making such a small change, can have such a big impact on my health, the environment AND my purse. It’s as though a curtain had been lifted and I could suddenly see. I was shocked to see the things we do to our bodies, how harshly and unsparingly we treat it. This one tool that we live in for the rest of our lives. The one tool that I’ll always have until I don’t. The one place I can call home. And I was ruining it.
We eat rub, ingest, inhale, lather, apply so many things to our system, this temple of ours, without questioning them just because we see it on TV or it looks and smells really good, or somebody recommended it. But this year, with the cup, I changed the way I looked at myself. I started to love my body the way it is, with all its imperfections, flabbiness and white hair.
I no longer, shave, wax, thread and pull at my hair. (I actually got some pretty painful boils after I shaved and waxed so I don’t do it anymore. I trim my pits occasionally to be able to apply the crystal deo better). I no longer eat rotting animal flesh. I no longer force my body to absorb chemicals that it very clearly rejects in the form of blisters, rashes and dry skin.
Instead, I eat great food in the form of colourful vegetables and fresh greens that I shop and select that my mother (and sometimes I) prepare. I make my own spices, run a plant nursery on my balcony, exercise as much as I can at least thrice a week, meditate and even stopped buying clothes, shoes and other random stuff (I just don’t buy anything unless I really really need it, which is every 6 or 12 months). And I’m happy that I can finally, after 26 years of trying to change how my body naturally is, I am truly comfortable and happy with it. But I’m not completely there yet. (Trying hard to stop cheese completely and go on a fully plant-based vegan diet. Increase exercise to five days a week. Paint at least once a week. And things like that.)
I still get bugged from friends about eating mayonnaise/yogurt/cheese or not having enough protein, but I’ve learned to think of myself as a work in progress and suffice to say, I’m happy with how and where I’m heading. I get messages from others who are trying to go vegan, reduce chemicals etc but get demotivated with how other people don’t understand it and make fun of it (added on to the general struggle of living that way)
My advice for you is to keep on doing what makes your heart sing and the earth happy. Regardless of how much bullying /bugging/peer pressured you get into championing each of your causes, remember that if you’re doing something right for you, for the animals and the earth with good intention, “ඔයාට වරදින්නෙ නෑ” i.e nothing will go wrong for you.
I’ve been sharing my journey over the past several months on Instagram, and many have asked me exactly how and what I do to try to live a chemical-free lifestyle in Sri Lanka. Here goes:
Alternatives for a Chemical Free Bathroom in Sri Lanka
1. Menstrual Cup
Instead of the disposable sanitary pads and tampons.
Most favourite chemical-free, earth-friendly hygiene product of all time! If you know me, you know my journey with the menstrual cup and how it has changed the lives of close to 140 women in Sri Lanka through Boondh Cups in India. This tiny device is saving me 3000 LKR a year for the rest of my life! 😀 And I create no waste with it and there is no chemical reaction to my body with it. Best invention ever!
Price: 1700 LKR and 3300 LKR (where you can buy one and donate one to another menstruator)
Used to spend: 3000 LKR+ per year
2. Natural crystal deodorant and perfume
The science behind it is that the crystal particles are larger than the skin pores so it isn’t invasive with the skin i.e. it doesn’t clog the pores like chemical deodorants. It remains as a protective layer around your skin and doesn’t let bacteria grow on it! I first apply the deo crystal as soon as I shower while my pits are still damp, wear my clothes and then dab it some of my home-made natural perfume. I make my own perfume with Aastha Natural essential oil and virgin coconut oil (1:2 parts). Combined, these two keep me from smelling bad!
One of my dance partners told me I smelled like that very expensive Spa brand and I cracked out loud cuz not a single atom of me would spend on big branded nonsense! But in reality, it had just been my combination of oils that I use on my hair and body. During my transition to this chemical-free alternative deodorant, I was nervous, thinking I’d start to smell, especially since I dance, which requires me to be physically close to someone else + a lot of seating! After a year of using it, (and I’ve asked a few people to double check!) it’s all good! 🙂
Price: Deo crystal start from 200 LKR. The two rocks pictured here are 1000 LKR. I got a travel size and a regular use size that will most probably last me 3+ years by the wear pattern seen.
Essential Oil = 1000 LKR per bottle.
Used to spend: 9000LKr on a Versace, was gifted a powder deodorant and an ESCADA bottle as well. See all that plastic I’m adding to earth?
3. Natural scrub, lime, and virgin coconut oil
Instead of chemical-ly, expensive, plastic-packaged shampoo & conditioner, I use water because it cleans just as well. If my hair is extra oily, I squeeze a lime on it. If its dry, I mash an avocado on it. I apply some on my hair, my face and eat it all at the same time!
For body scrub/soap and body lotion I use a concoction of venivel, kokumpothu, sandalwood and iramusu powder (1:1:2:1 ratio) to derive a heavenly scrub that I use once or twice a week to get rid of any dead skin cells. And as for a natural body lotion, virgin coconut oil! Add a drop of essential oil if you want it to smell nice, but coconut oil is just as great! ❤
Price: lime 50 LKR , scrub ingredients cost me about 1000 LKR for over a year’s worth of powder, and virgin coconut oil is 150 LKR per 1/2 a liter.
Used to spend: 3000 LKR on shampoo & conditioner alone per year. Can’t even remember how much I spend on other nonsense, but it was a lot.
My challenge for you is to try having a bath with just water. For a week. See how it works for you. The beauty of alternatives is that you can trial it and see for yourself. If you can’t switch completely, you can at least reduce it! For example, you can shampoo your hair only once or twice a month, but the rest of the times, you can use these natural alternatives.
4. Baking Soda & Vinegar as a cleaning agent
Baking soda is awesome! I use it up with a metal scrubber and coconut husks. (Coconut husks and used coconut shavings were used long before green living was a trend in our good ol’ Sri Lankan households. We don’t eat meat/fish in our house, so cutlery doesn’t smell. If at all, we’d use coconut oil as an oily base which washes away. For floors, I actually just use water to mop the floors and add a bit of pangiri thel to rid of flies etc. For windows, I use vinegar and newspaper.
Price: Baking Soda 400 LKR per kilo which will last you atleast 7 months. Unsure of the price of Vinegar.
Used to spend: All this must be atleast 2000 LKR in total which will last you a year. And where does all that plastic go? Companies don’t give a shit about recycling. So these will end on earth somewhere.
A small video clip to remind you what we will remain on earth hundreds of years after we die.
View this post on Instagram
A typical walk down through a super market aisle. Did you know less than 2% of these plastic will be recycled and most of these, once used, will gush onto our beaches and sea. 🌊 #BERESPONSIBLE #beatplasticpollution #saynotoplastic #supermarket #plasticeverywhere #plasticaisle
Earth-friendly Alternatives in my daily life
At first, remembering to take these was difficult. I’d be outside wanting to buy something, and then realise I don’t have my cloth bags to put it in. But eventually, it grew on me and now, the same way I take my phone and keys, I remember to stuff these in my bag before I leave the house.
Polythene Bags vs Cloth Bags
I’ve completely stopped using polythene bags. I’ve asked my family to not bring any to the house as well. I use Cally Reusable Bags for everything from shopping for groceries and on the rare occasion that I buy any clothes. I use a glass jar to bring home the spices I don’t make (rather than bring it in a small polythene bag), I buy lose soy and grains from the pola market when I do the weekly shopping and use Cally Reusable Bags to buy anything I buy from the supermarket such as vegetables and rice.
Metal Reusable Lunch Box & Bottle
I’ve completely stopped buying food in polythene bags or using plastic single-use water bottles. When I travel within Sri Lanka (which I do quite often) or I leave home, I take these three items (minus the cat) with me.
Metal Water Bottle = 370 LKR
Metal Lunch Box = 700 LKR
Cally Reusable Bags with 10 bags = 1900 LKR
Cloth serviettes, hanky and butt wipes
I’ve stopped using tissues whenever I can in restaurants, at home, and at the office. Instead, I use towels. The bleaching in tissues, very much like the bleaching used in pads are dangerous to our bodies. When we use the toilet, we dab our most sensitive parts with these bleached tissues! Yikes!
Anything wooden and clay
I’ve started to make more (rather all) the purchasing decisions in our house, and I actively buy anything that will not harm the earth. Brooms and clay pots for the kitchen so that after I use it, I can throw it away and it will biodegrade without too many negative impacts.
Eco-friendly Sri Lanka
Our ancestors (my grand mom’s time) have been using and reusing almost everything way before all these “earth-friendly”, “eco-friendly” and “going green” fads saw the light of day. They used and reused everything! There was a time when we had to hand over our used milk bottle to get a new one, waited for the bothal pathataha man (fellow who collects bottles, papers and everything else for recycling) and kept on sewing our shoes when they broke without throwing it away and buying a new pair. If you have grandparents and even if you ask your parents’ generation, they’d tell you how simple and different and earth-friendly life was those days.
My grandmother used to make her underskirts using my old school uniforms. She’d tell us not to use the fan so much and to use it only if it’s really really hot, or reminded us to always switch the lights off during the day and close the tap when we’re using soap to stop wastage. I thought it was weird. I mean, we paid for it, we want to use it and we have the ability to use it. So why should we not use it? Throughout the years the reason dawned to me.
Nowadays, our generations are completely different. 90% of us just don’t care. I see it so often around me that it breaks my heart to see how insensitive we humans have become with our relationship with nature. We exploit and waste because it is easy for us, because we’re so busy, and we just don’t have time to care. We take, take and take, and take some more. We’re quick to blame the government or the cooperations (who we fund by buying their garbage ) but we don’t take any responsibility to what we as individuals do. We’re as much a part of all this as animals and nature are, and what affects the planet, affects us too.
A friend asked me, ‘What are you proud of this year?’
And this was my answer. The lifestyle choices that I made for myself, my family and the earth. That’s what I’m proud of this year. ❤ By sharing what I do and how I live, I hope I inspire others to live life just a little differently, to be a little more sensitive towards our bodies and earth and to live a life that is good the planet, its beautiful plants and animals and good for you. ❤