Natural Teeth Whiteners

One of my readers contacted me about natural teeth whiteners.   Great question!

We all want whiter teeth, especially as we age, and teeth whitening has become big business. According the ADA, bleaching is the most requested procedure among patients ages 40 to 60. Americans spend billions on over the counter whiteners too. For those of us who want an alternative to chemical whiteners, there are several do-it-yourself options.

  1. Baking Soda – Or sodium bicarbonate has been around for a long time and as been accepted by the American Dental Association since 1931. It reduces stains and plaque through its gentle polishing action, as well as deodorizes the mouth leaving a clean feeling.  Here’s how: Put a little baking soda on a wet toothbrush and brush normally; for extra whitening make a paste of 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 1 teaspoon of food grade hydrogen peroxide.
  1. Strawberry Tooth Brightener – Strawberries have a slight bleaching action and if used daily can help get rid of stains from tea, coffee or cigarettes.  Here’s how: Remove the stem and mash the strawberry into a pulp, dip your toothbrush into the pulp, brush normally, then rinse.
  1. Oil Pulling – Oil pulling is an Ayurveda remedy started in India thousands of years ago that uses oil to clean, detoxify, and nourish teeth and gums. Oil pulling removes excessive and bad bacteria from your mouth, which also helps with detoxification of the entire body. And it whitens teeth and makes your mouth feel clean.  Here’s how: swish a teaspoon or two of coconut oil (sesame oil or olive oil) for approximately 20 minutes. Spit it out and rinse with warm water.
  1. Activated Charcoal – I haven’t tried this remedy yet, but charcoal is being used in everything now from soaps to toothbrushes to towels due to its antimicrobial benefits. Activated charcoal is a highly absorbent porous substance that binds to tannins that stain and yellow teeth and pulls the toxins from the mouth to remove the stains.  Here’s how: Dip a clean wet toothbrush into the powdered charcoal and brush in small, gentle circles for 2 minutes. Spit and rinse well. (Be careful not to stain your sink!)
  1. Turmeric – Turmeric spice is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories available and along with its numerous health benefits is reducing gum inflammation and teeth whitening.  Here’s how: Dip a wet toothbrush in 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder and brush as normal. Allow the turmeric to sit on your teeth for 3-5 minutes, then spit and rinse. Brush your teeth again using your regular toothpaste.  (It also can stain your sink.)

It’s important to remember that natural remedies take longer to work. So, give it a few weeks – you’ll be pleased with the results. Email me with which remedy (ies ) you like.

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Information compiled from:, Baking Soda Bonanza, Peter A. Ciullo, Organic Body Care Recipes, Stephanie Tourles



















What’s Old Is New Again

Reducing plastic usage and conserving water are two imperative things we must do to help the environment. Reusable shopping bags help eliminate non-biodegradable plastic bags from ending up in the ocean, and taking shorter showers and turning off the water when brushing your teeth helps conserve water. Bar shampoo is another simple idea that eliminates plastic and conserves water.

Bar shampoo is a solid bar of soap made specifically for hair using natural ingredients. It has been around for a long time and was commonly used before the invention of shampoo and conditioners in plastic bottles. J.R. Liggett,’s a producer of old-fashioned bar shampoo, has been in operation for over 30 years.

According to, a New Zealand eco-conscious bar shampoo manufacturer, shampoo, bodywash and conditioner can be made up of up to 80% water. It doesn’t make sense to pay for water, and package it in plastic, when there already is water in the shower. So far, Ethique has prevented 50,000 bottles, jars and tubes from being made and disposed of. With their “Give Up the Bottle” program, they hope to reach 1 million by 2020.  

Natural bar shampoos don’t contain harsh chemicals, which are not only bad for you and your hair, but for the earth too. Many people find increased volume, faster growing hair, reduced dandruff and less frizz using bar shampoo. My daughter recently switched to bar shampoo and loves the experience of using it. “With my long hair, I can get a more accurate and even spread of the lather throughout my hair, and with the 100% natural ingredients, my hair has never been shinier. I feel really good about my impact on the environment.“

Bar shampoo is usually cheaper than bottle shampoo with some bars lasting 2 -3 months. It’s convenient for traveling or camping too!

Much of the country has been experiencing severe extended drought; scientists estimate by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. We must act now to help reverse these devastating trends.  While this seems daunting and nearly impossible, reducing your plastic and water usage with bar shampoo is a simple yet impactful step towards that goal. What’s old is new again, and often better.

Bar shampoos can be found on line and in natural food markets.


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Information compiled from and


Caring For Your Reusable Shopping Bags

I volunteer at my local farmers’ market where I’ve gotten to know many of the farmers. One farmer told me about the rules and regulations for vending at the market, all designed to keep food clean and safe. That’s reassuring, but he also expressed his frustration that no matter what he does to keep food clean, there is always someone who touches the produce with dirty hands or who sneezes on it. It is obviously important to wash your produce before eating or cooking with it, but he also thinks that reusable shopping bags are part of the problem with food contamination. Our conversation inspired me to write this post.

Green wtih Betsy Market Bag

It’s exciting to see the reusable bag movement catching on, but it is imperative to wash the bags just like anything else when it gets dirty. Canvas bags can be washed in the washing machine on hot and then dried in the dryer. Recycled plastic bags should be washed by hand with warm soapy water (don’t forget the seams where grime can collect). Nylon bags should be washed inside out by hand in warm soapy water and air-dried. Occasionally you will need to replace the bags with new ones.

Two more important points

  • Use separate reusable bags for meats and produce.
  • Never keep your bags in your car or trunk. Heat can cause the bacteria to breed even faster.

Do you wash your bags? If so, great. If not, don’t let the idea of washing your reusable bags deter you from continuing your new eco-conscious habit. It’s as easy as washing your dirty clothes!

Some information compiled from

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Thoughtful Back-to-School Clothes Shopping


I recently bought a dress with the above tag.  Handmade in India and Nepal by Mata Traders, a “design-driven, fair trade brand helping to end global poverty”,  I thought why can’t more clothes be manufactured under these much more humane and fair conditions? Why aren’t more clothing manufacturers motivated with these values rather than greed and quick profit at whatever cost? Part of the problem is that there is a huge demand for inexpensive everyday clothes, usually manufactured in China and often under horrible conditions.  And who pays the price for cheap? The workers and the environment.

Fair trade clothes aren’t necessarily a lot more expensive than mass produced clothes.  I prefer buying better quality, thoughtfully made clothes that cost a bit more than cheap, mass produced ones. I just buy fewer.  Thankfully as the organic and sustainability movement grows, consumers are more conscious of how their clothes are manufactured and under what conditions.  As a result there are increasingly more fair trade companies from abroad and here in the U.S.

As you start your back-to-school clothes shopping for your kids or your fall shopping for yourself, look for stores that are likely to carry fair trade clothes with this Fair Trade USA label or a comparable label like the one above.

Fair Trade USA “enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth.”

Wherever you shop, even chain stores with “fast fashion”, ask the sales clerk about responsibly made clothes.  It’s all about educating, voting with your pocketbook, and thoughtful purchasing.   In other words, create the demand.  As the demand increases, so will the supply and that’s how change happens.

Click here for a list of fair trade and ethical clothing companies available on line.  For you Cape Cod readers, visit Shift Eco-Boutique in Hyannis or Orleans, a boutique with fabulous eco and ethically made clothes and accessories.

Shift Eco Boutique

For general back-to school green tips for kids of all ages, click here.


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Some information compiled from

Watch Out! Read the Labels…..





What could be a more perfect hot summer day treat than an all natural fruit bar made with real fruit or fruit juice, no sugar added, and an excellent source of Vitamin C? But before you take a bite, turn the package over and read the label. There you will discover several unwanted and possibly dangerous ingredients – sorbitol, polydextrose, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, polysorbate 80.



What’s the big deal?


For starters, “No Sugar Added” is highly misleading.  It should really say artificial sweeteners added and three different kinds at that!  Notice too the asterix after sorbitol which says, “Sensitive individuals may experience a laxative effect from excess consumption of this ingredient.” According to WebMD, “This medication is used as a laxative to treat occasional episodes of constipation.” It is also used as a sweetening agent in medicinal syrups.  The side effects of sorbitol are nausea, gas, diarrhea, stomach cramps or anal irritation.” Who wants a medication, especially a laxative, in their popsicle?

Acesulfame potassium is also an artificial sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar. According to, “Acesulfame K (as it’s also known) contains the carcinogen methylene chloride. Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans.” Sucralose is another chlorinated artificial sweetener like aspartame, often referred to as “sweetpoison” and reputed to be one of the most dangerous artificial sweeteners of them all. Polysorbate 80 is a surfactant and emulsifier used in cleaners and personal care products.  So, what’s it doing in popsicles?

Yesterday I served these fruit bars to some visiting relatives.  My husband bought them and I thought they looked okay. Later after reading the label, I wished we hadn’t served them.   It’s so easy to be misled by packaging – that’s the intent.

What can you do?


With any packaged food, make it a habit to read the label.  As Michael Pollan, the food writer and activist says, “Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.”.


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Information from and







Conserve Water This Summer!


We are having a beautiful summer in Massachusetts – clear blue skies, dry air, not too hot.  Ideal, but we need some rain! Though we have had some rain the past few days, we haven’t had nearly enough.  Several towns are facing mandatory water restrictions and many have voluntary water bans from the Department of Environmental Protection.  Much of the Northeast, parts of the Southeast, and scattered areas in the Midwest are abnormally dry.  The West continues to be in serious drought conditions.  Conserving water is a must!

Here are two major areas where you can conserve water.

Watering Your Lawn

A lush green lawn is lovely, but turf grass is our largest irrigated “crop”, using as much as half of all fresh water used in urban areas each year. Typically, at least half of all water consumed by households is used outdoors. Lawns require two-and-a-half to four times more water than trees and shrubs, and a typical suburban lawn uses 10,000 gallons of water over and above that provided by rainfall in a single year. Wow! Here are a few suggestions to conserve water with your lawn.

  • Mow high.  Longer grass encourages longer roots, which require less water and food. It also holds moisture better.
  • Avoid mowing during the hottest part of the day.
  • Don’t mow if you don’t have to.  Save the gas instead.
  • When you do water, water deeply and infrequently.
  • Water between 4 and 6am when the demand is low.  After 10 am much of the water evaporates.
  • Check your automatic sprinkler system periodically to make sure the heads are actually watering the lawn and not the sidewalk or your house.
  • Since there seems to be a trend towards hot, dry summers, consider re-landscaping to minimize grass areas in your lawn, lowering your demand for water.  Think about “Edible Landscapes” – they make good sense!
  • If you can, let your lawn go dormant during this drought period.  Lawns are supposed to go dormant in the summer – we just keep them artificially green by watering.  If your lawn has a good root system established, it won’t die and will bounce back during the cooler temperatures of fall.

Washing Your Car

When we wash our car at home,  try to avoid washing near the storm drain. Water run off  goes right into storm drains and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands.  You can cover the drain with a rubber mat or wash the car on grass or gravel and let water seep into the ground.  If you do this, make sure to use non-toxic, biodegradable detergents.

To cut down on the amount of water you use when washing your car, try rinsing with rainwater collected  in a bucket or rain barrel.  Use a bucket instead of a hose for washing and use the hose only on the final rinse.

Other Ideas

Turning the water off when you brush your teeth or shave, running the dishwasher and washing machine only when full, shortening your shower are a few other easy ways to save water.  Click here for more ideas.

Water is a precious resource – let’s all do what we can to conserve!


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Don’t Let Mosquitos Bother You This 4th of July!

Fourth of July is around the corner – fireworks, barbeques, games, swimming, camping and all those other wonderful outside summertime activities, and mosquitos. For those of us who are mosquito magnets and looking for a safer alternative to DEET, there are personal insect repellents containing botanicals like citronella, basil, lavender, geranium, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, cedarwood, and tea tree. While these are mildly effective, the longest lasting and most effective botanical is Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, according to the Environmental Working Group. (The Environmental Working Group is a consumer watchdog organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.) In fact, the CDC recently confirmed that Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus can be as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is a plant-based repellent oil made from the leaves of the Eucalyptus Citriodora tree from tropical northeastern Australia. A 30% concentration of Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (with 19% PMD, a naturally occurring substance) provides up to 6 hours of protection against mosquitoes and ticks.

Repel makes a Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Pump Spray and is available on-line. I prefer to support local cottage businesses selling insect repellents at my local Farmers’ Market. Check yours to buy some too.  When buying a mosquito repellent, always read the ingredients to make sure they include Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (not to be confused with eucalyptus).

Insect repellent sold at my Farmers' Market

Insect repellent sold at my Farmers’ Market


For more ideas for mosquito control, click here.

Summer goes by quickly – don’t let mosquitos and ticks keep you inside!


Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is not for use on children 3 and younger, can possibly irritate lungs and has possible allergens.

Information compiled from and

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