Making Do, Even When You Don’t Want To

A big part of being sustainable is doing what you can with what you have, finding contentment with where you’re at, and not going out and pulling together new items and resources. And, you know what, sometimes that’s hard. Sometimes making do feels like a drag. Sometimes it hits you before you’ve accepted it. Yes, in sustainability you make do by reusing old materials instead of picking up nice new ones, or you go without once you’ve realized something just isn’t a necessity even though it brought enjoyment. But, there are so many other times in life where we have to make do with what life has handed us. It can leave you sad, frustrated, lonely, and wanting. This season exposes those emotions in a BIG way.

I often find I’m happier to make do in my sustainability than in the rest of my life. I’d rather let go of making purchases once they become unnecessary or begin making certain things from scratch once that becomes an option then admit that I have to put off a dream or set a goal aside when resources and opportunities become scant.

I graduated college in May 2020, possibly the worst time to graduate college in years. Through zero fault of my own, of my college, or of my community, I spent my final semester in quarantine. I never got to say goodbye to my advisor or favorite professors who taught me so much, spend final nights with my roommate and best friend (and her cat), or attend the graduation I had worked so hard to get to. There was no closure, and I still feel quite lost.

Before this all happened, I was considered pretty hirable. I have worked a number of different jobs both in and out of my field of study, and had shown loyalty and growth at many of these jobs. I never thought it’d be that big of an issue for me to find a decent, or even good, job in my field. But quarantine turned that on its head. Now, I’ve sent out dozens of job applications and have heard absolutely nothing back. It’s crushing. This is a time where I now have to make do with what life has handed me, and I haven’t been very quick to embrace that.

In this season my anxiety has gone up, and my patience has plummeted. But, I’m learning. I’m learning to set goals involving things I used to put on the back burner, to embrace the lessons I can learn outside of a classroom or an office, and to accept stillness and quiet as part of my daily living.

I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from blessings in disguise these last few months. Hopefully you’ll begin to see them in your life too.

The blessing of TIME, even when you didn’t want it.

If you’re an active, on-the-go-constantly person like me, sitting at home that entire first week probably felt like you were beginning to decay.

So much content was being posted online about how this was the perfect time to write your first novel or invent a life changing device no one has ever seen before. While, simultaneously, content about how no one should feel pressured to do anything with their time was also being posted. You chose. You can either be lazy or singlehandedly change the world.

I’d like to argue, this blessing of time has given us the opportunity not just to fall in to being active or inactive, but to reevaluate our lives before continuing to move forward.

For me (as you can probably tell by the fact that I started this blog in the middle of all the craziness), in my reevaluation I realized one way I wanted to be more active was in encouraging others to take better care of the planet we share. I had been studying sustainability and making my own DIY recipes for eco-friendly products for a while, but I’d never really shared any of that with anyone. All this time, and the lack of a job, freed me up to be able to begin reaching out and trying my hand at teaching others about sustainable practices.

The blessing of SPACE, even when things feel empty.

By space, I mean both physical and mental space. We’re socially distanced from others when we’re out or clammed up while we’re at home, but so many of us are also facing this wall of more empty time than ever.

Personally, I haven’t seen any of my friends in person (even socially distanced) in about 5 months. It’s rough, but I’m so thankful for technology that’s gotten us through it. It’s not the same as seeing their faces in person, but I’ll take it.

On the other hand, all this quiet distance I’ve had from people, places, and things, has allowed me to approach life in new ways. I took on new goals I never thought I’d be able to accomplish with my busy life, and created space for new hobbies to emerge.

Before any of this happened I had just accepted that I would never have time to read the Bible or actually start my own garden. But by allowing this season to create so much mental space, I realized these were all possible right now in this time. Once I finished my final undergrad semester, I dug right in. I set these new goals and decided I didn’t need someone else (i.e. a job or school) to dictate how I filled my days or my living quarters. And now, when I finally do find that job I’m longing for, I’ll be able to carry this lesson with me and realize there is so much more life to live outside of the goals others set before me.

You can use this lesson as well, and hopefully give yourself space to start a garden or learn something new about taking care of yourself and our planet that you can carry with you all the days of your life.

The blessing of RESOURCES, even when they’re limited.

During this so many of us have limited our time in grocery stores, have primarily shopped online, and have learned to do what we like with less. Sometimes this might feel inconvenient. You might find that you really want a certain new product online, but shipping isn’t something you can afford. Or, you really want to make your favorite recipe, but you’re not going out to the grocery store for another week.

However, there is another way to look at these inconveniences. Rather than seeing the specific things that can’t be done in the moment, look at the possibilities the resources you have in front of you can offer.

I’ve run into this a lot while cooking these last few months. As I try and limit the frequency with which I visit the grocery store (or go out in public in general), I’ve run out of ingredients significantly before I intent to return and get more. At first I was bummed out by not being able to use exactly what each recipe called for, but I found a blessing here. I found the blessing of experimentation. I am NOT a chef (just ask my sister, she’s the chef in the family), but, without being able to follow exactly every recipe I had to a ‘T’, I’ve gotten pretty good at tossing ingredients in that I think might work and coming up with something new and awesome.

This same principle applies to sustainability. In so many ways making less frequent grocery trips (or purchases in general) has helped me cut down on the amount of gas I use driving my car, cut down on my personal purchase rate of items that might not be sustainably sourced or packaged, and helped me to learn and see just how many other areas of my life I could use what I already had first.

It also made me deeply appreciate the items I do have that are reusable. Never have to worry about running out of those, thank goodness.

So much of being sustainable is making do, and I’ve realized, so is so much of living life. We have a choice to make: is making do going to weigh us down, or show us how to live life with a little (or a lot) more peace is our hearts?

I know as well that there are still so many people who have been able to keep their jobs or find new ones (congrats! and thank you for keeping on keeping on!), people who are at home with family they might not wish to be with, and people who don’t quite have enough to make do in an enlivening way. Whatever you’ve got going on in this season, I know you’re doing your best. It’s all anyone could ask, even of themselves. I’m rooting for you, and hope no matter where you’re at you find yourself a blessing to hold on to.

Let me know: What blessings are you finding in this season? Have you learned anything you’ll carry with you?


5 Little Ways To Cut Down On Household Waste

On an average day, an American individual produces 4.51 pounds of trash according to estimates in 2017 from the United Sates Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On a global stage, this sets America up to be the third most waste producing country only behind Canada and Bulgaria. These numbers are staggering, especially since so much of what ends up in landfills can end up being substances that could have been disposed of in much more eco-friendly ways. According to those same findings from the EPA, 139 million tons of waste out of the yearly average of 267.8 ended up in landfills. However, much of what did go to landfill could have easily been reused or disposed of in better ways.

There are plenty of ways in which we can all cut down on our waste production. We can recycle according to our local guidelines, purchase products in little to no packaging or with recyclable or compostable packaging, and donate our used goods that may have been well loved but still have plenty of love to give.

But, there are also many ways that are a bit less common in which we can all strive to be more sustainable in our consumerism.

  1. Buy in Bulk

Sometimes buying food or other items in bulk may seem unreasonable. Unless you have a large family or many mouths to feed, buying large amounts of food at a time puts you at risk of letting some of that food go bad before being used. However, You can still buy in bulk within reason for your life.

This could mean buying flour, nuts and seeds, or other non-perishables in large quantities. Or, for non-edible items, buying hand soap in gallon sizes to refill smaller counter top bottles, or doing the same with shampoos and body washes.

All of this will help you to create less waste buy buying one larger package rather than multiple smaller packages. Often these smaller packages, while physically smaller, create more waste in the long run from the amount you’ll be buying more frequently. You will also find you’ll have to get to the store less often, and you’ll save money in the long term as many places offer discounts on bulk items.

2. Reuse Textiles

Not everyone knows how to sew, and that’s okay. You really don’t need to know how to sew to reuse your loose fabric scraps.

Recently, I found I had a few shirts I’ve been holding on to for years but never really wear, and I would if only they were slightly adjusted. So, I cut a layer of fabric off the bottom of one of those shirts to create a much cuter crop top version, and got to use the fabric strip I cut off to make a super cute headband without any sewing.

You can take these loose scraps and make just about anything, and Pinterest is a great place to find new ideas. However, you can also use old clothes that haven’t gotten cut for scraps but are unwearable for kitchen rags, gentle hair towels, and cushioned packing material.

3. Goody Swaps

This is one of my friends and I’s favorite things to do! Often when seasons change or someone moves, we’ll all get together to do a clothing and goody swap- more or less it’s a swap meet! We’re lucky that we all wear vaguely similar sizes and have overlapping styles.

Each person can bring clothes or items they no longer use and begin swapping with each other for new-to-you items that still have so much use left. Most often my friends and I find ourselves swapping clothes and cosmetics that have been cleaned and only lightly used. It’s a great way to make sure you don’t waste any cosmetic products, especially when you found the product wasn’t right for you but you still have a lot left.

This is a great idea for any group of friends trying to save money for the holidays as well. Giving the gift of sustainability between friends is always fun!

4. Up-cycle Packaging

We’re all pretty used to wrapping our gifts in wrapping paper and gift bags with ribbon. Problem is, these items often aren’t recyclable and will ultimately end up in landfill. A simple solution is to reuse the bags and gift wrap, but there are better options for when it’s time to replace these items.

My favorite way to up-cycle items as gift packaging is to hit up my local goodwill and antique shops to find cute jars and old bottles that I can fit gifts in to. Not only do my friends and family receive their gifts, but they also receive a cute jar they can use however they want!

Other items you can reuse as packaging are fabric scraps, gently used sheets and bedding, or you can go the Jim Halpert route and find a cute sentimental teapot! (Where my The Office fans at??)

5. Composting

No matter where you live, you should be composting. Composting is the best way to get rid of any organic material, which just about everyone uses a lot of on any given day. Organic materials are often disposed of in landfills, and when they end up there they get buried among the garbage and produce what’s called methane gas. Through anaerobic decomposition organic matter releases methane into the atmosphere which causes the rapid acceleration of global atmospheric pollution.

I never used to want to do this because I assumed composting materials in my apartment would stink up the place, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. You can purchase a number of different kinds of composting bins online that will do all the work for you once you plop in some banana peels and egg shells, you can freeze your compost materials, or you can find a simple outdoor bin to keep on your balcony if you have one.

Once you’re ready to dump your compost bin, or your freezer is full to the brim with organic material, there are a number of ways you can get rid of the waste. First off, if you do have your own garden and backyard, you can go ahead and use your compost materials yourself when it’s ready. However, for those without gardens and yards, you can donate your compost to your local community garden if they have a compost heap, to your neighbors who do have gardens, or you can check and see if your community has a public composting program.

For more ideas on composting, here is a great article:

Becoming more sustainable in waste production is possible for everyone. That being said, some of these things might be a stretch for you, and that’s okay. Doing what you can each day, and getting better as you go is ultimately the goal. The one thing we shouldn’t do is get comfortable with our waste production if it is continually causing harm to our beautiful planet.

Let me know: In what ways are you becoming more sustainable in your waste production? Have you gotten into any of the above suggestions?

7 Simple, Safe DIY Home Cleaning Products

A healthy home is a happy home, and healthy homes aren’t full of chemicals. That’s why I have collected a set of recipes for DIY house cleaning products that actually work and are 100% non-toxic to humans and pets alike.

My roommate and I used to use a number of cleaning products that weren’t necessarily safe for us and our cat. Our apartment had bug issues with ants and water beetles, and since we lived community style the fridge and other surfaces and drains started to stink after a while. Because of all this we used products like Raid, Clorox, and Lysol. But, over time, we learned and did what we could to adjust our purchasing habits. We switched to using products from brands like Method, Honest, and Ever Spring that are non-toxic and available at reasonable prices just about anywhere cleaning products are sold.

That was a great first step in our healthy home practice, but since then I’ve learned that there’s even more effective things I could do to keep my living space clean and keep the earth happy. While these products were healthier and safe for us and our cat, they weren’t necessarily totally eco-friendly. They still were housed in plastic bottles that were mass-produced and contained chemicals many people aren’t familiar with.

By either reusing the bottles from these past purchases, or grabbing some empty glass spray bottles at the store, you can start making your own cleaning products at home full of ingredients you can identify and feel safe using just about anywhere.

  1. Drain Cleaner
    • Ingredients: Vinegar, Baking Soda
    • Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Let sit for 15 minutes before pouring 1/3 cup vinegar down the drain. The baking soda and vinegar will mix and create bubbles and popping sounds. Let that sit for 15 more minutes before running water to rinse this mix out.
    • For an extra touch of freshness and delight, I suggest putting a few drops of your favorite essential oil down the drain after doing this clean out. (My favorites for this are grapefruit oil and lemon oil)
  2. Bug Repellent
    • Ingredients: Water, Witch Hazel, Essential Oils (Tea Tree, Lavender, Cedar, Eucalyptus, Peppermint)
    • Mix 1 cup water with 1/2 cup witch hazel in a spray bottle. Add 20-30 drops of essential oil and shake. You do not have to add all of these essential oils, but the more of these you have the more bugs you have the potential to repel. For some common pests, I suggest using peppermint oil for ants and cedar oil for silverfish.
    • Spray this mixture directly on area where you find bugs are entering your home and where they prefer to congregate. This works best if you spray these areas once daily until the infestation is resolved.
    • Bonus: This mixture can also be used as a bug repellent for your body! How fun! All you have to change is that you should only use 15-20 drops of essential oil rather than the 20-30 to protect skin from potential irritants. (Mosquitos especially hate tea tree and eucalyptus. You can thank me later.)
  3. Multi-Surface Cleaner
    • Ingredients: Water, Castile Soap, Isopropyl Alcohol, Essential Oils of your choosing
    • Mix 1 cup water, 1/2 cup isopropyl alcohol, and 3 tablespoons castile soap in a spray bottle. Add 20-30 drops of the essential oils of your choosing and shake.
    • Use this just as you would any other multi-surface cleaner.
  4. Toilet Wash
    • Ingredients: Vinegar, Castile Soap, Tea Tree Oil, other Essential Oils of your choosing
    • Mix 1/2 cup vinegar with a 1/2 cup castile soap in a spray bottle or squeezable bottle. Add 20-30 drops of tea tree oil and other essential oils of your choosing and mix again.
    • Spray this mixture directly into the toilet bowl and let sit for 15-20 minutes before flushing.
  5. Shower Head Cleaner
    • Ingredients: Vinegar, Baking Soda
    • Mix 1 cup of vinegar with 1/3 cup baking soda in a bag. Take the bag and tie it around your shower head. Make sure the shower head is fully submerged in the mixture. Leave this on for 3 or more hours (overnight is best). Once it’s ready, remove the bag and wipe the shower head with a damp cloth.
  6. Fridge Refresh
    • Ingredients: Water, Vinegar, Baking Soda, Essential Oils of your choosing
    • Mix 2 cups of warm water, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 1/4 cup baking soda in a spray bottle (if this creates a foam let it sit before adding anything else or closing the bottle). Add 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil- this is primarily for smell, but you can also get the benefits of a disinfectant from certain oils (i.e. tea tree oil, etc.). I suggest using food friendly scents like lemon oil, grapefruit oil, rosemary oil, etc.
    • Spray this mixture onto the surfaces in your fridge, let sit, and then wipe clean.
  7. Air Deodorizer and Refresher
    • Ingredients: Baking Soda, Essential Oils of your choosing
    • Put 1 cup of baking soda in a cup or jar. Add 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil and mix. Put a lid with holes in it on the jar to both allow the mixture to pull in and trap odors while also releasing the refreshing scent of your choice of oils.
    • You can put these just about anywhere you need help with odor. I prefer to keep this in a closet or other small space so that it can work more proficiently. However, that isn’t necessary. It will help deodorize wherever you put it. Simply replace it when you notice unwanted odors returning.

These are my staple recipes for easy and safe home cleaning products, and hopefully they will become yours too! My favorite thing about these recipes (aside from the fact that they are so much more eco-friendly than their commercial counterparts) is that they are incredibly cost effective. You can buy the ingredients in bulk since so many of the products require similar ingredients. They’ll save your money, your time, and your health!

Let me know: Which of these will you be trying? Are there any other home cleaning products you make yourself?

Benefits of Using Eucalyptus in the Shower

There are a lot of fads out there on Pinterest and elsewhere to put an entire forest in your bathroom. Plants can help purify the air, enjoy the moisture from steamy showers, and over all just look incredibly aesthetically pleasing. I am always one to chase an aesthetic, especially one that has so many green-living benefits, so this has been something I’ve been interested in doing. However, I haven’t necessarily had the funds nor the space to make that fancy little dream come to life.

Instead, I started simple. The one that I knew I wanted for the bathroom for sure was eucalyptus.

As an occasional allergy sufferer and headache getter, eucalyptus is often my go to essential oil to seek out to help with these issues. I mix this oil with lotions, put a few drops in my aromatherapy diffuser, and sometimes I’ll just grab the bottle and sniff for some instant head clarification. The next logical step to me was to make the eucalyptus plant itself a more consistent part of my day-to-day.

Rather than being reactive with my eucalyptus use, I wanted to be proactive by consistently having it around when I’m home so that I can find relief without keeping the oils right with me. And since I spend a great deal of time in the bathroom directly across from my room for both bathing and making all natural skin and haircare creations, this was going to be the best place for it to be.

That being said, whether you spend all that much time in there or not, this will also be the best place for you. Eucalyptus plants and cuttings yield the most benefit from being in steamy or moist environments. In nature they can most commonly be found in the hot, dry area of Australia and California, but they can tolerate cold and wet areas as well. However, for you to get the most benefit from its natural oils and aroma, you’ll want to keep the plant in a humid area to help the plant release those natural oils.

When finding eucalyptus to bring into your home, be careful what kind you are buying and where you are buying from.

Two big things I realized after the first time I bought eucalyptus cuttings:

  1. There are over 600 species of eucalyptus, and not all of them emit the famous smell essential oil companies have gotten us all used to. Southern Blue Gum (Eucalyptus Globulus) is the one you’ll want for the best aromatic experience. (You can also use Eucalyptus Radiata, but this species has a slightly lighter smell)
  2. Be conscious of where you buy your eucalyptus from. It may be easy to just grab some at the grocer, but, if you can, go find some at your local nursery. You can even call ahead to most local nurseries to ask if they have any available. I assumed that since eucalyptus isn’t commonly grown in my area that they just wouldn’t have it… Wrong!

The first time I picked up eucalyptus cuttings, I just grabbed a couple branches from the baskets at Trader Joe’s. They didn’t smell the way I expected them to and they weren’t locally sourced. I had just assumed that the reason they didn’t smell strong in the store was because I hadn’t put them in a humid environment yet, but that turned out not to be the case. Granted, I did still enjoy having them in the shower for their beauty and the otherwise fresh, leafy smell they did have.

Once you get the right plant or cuttings for your shower, get ready to enjoy a spa day every day! As you shower, the eucalyptus plant will get steamed from the warm shower water and give off aromatic oils from its leaves in response. These oils can help with congestion in the chest and head, help with gentle, natural muscle relaxation, and provide clarity from stubborn or persistent headaches.

I used rubber bands and a scrap of elastic to set up the eucalyptus.

Set up is simple as well. All you’ll need to do is bunch up your eucalyptus cuttings like a bouquet and tie them to your shower head just behind the stream of water. Be sure to put the leaves behind the water so that they get well steamed but not completely rinsed.

There are also plenty more uses for eucalyptus cuttings and oils which I will be posting about in the near future. We’ll explore how to (and how not to) make essential oils at home, as well as how to use the leaves and oils in DIY skin and haircare products.

Let me know: Is eucalyptus a staple in your day-to-day wellness practice? What’s your favorite use for eucalyptus?

Beginning the Sustainability Journey in the Pandemic

We’re all taking on this season as best we can. Some of us are working from home, some have lost their jobs, some have family to take care of, and some are spending more time with themselves than they ever wanted to. One thing, though, that I’ve seen a lot of people learning in the pandemic is how to love the planet in better ways, and therefor love each other better.

Before any of this, so many people would be out each day purchasing food to-go in toss away containers, driving everywhere all the time, and pretty much just barely acknowledging their role in contributing to pollution. But now, the pandemic has forced people all over the world to step back and pause. To breathe and notice the low air quality. To open their eyes and notice the lack of wildlife. To consume with greater consciousness of what and how we are using the resources at our disposal that we often take for granted.

The biggest excuse I have heard for the roots of sustainability not to take hold in people’s lives, and one I’ve even used myself in the past, is that it’s just not accessible to be sustainable. It’s hard to see where you can make lasting changes in your daily habits when you’re constantly busy, running from class to class, or are barely home due to long, hectic hours at work. I used to feel like there was just no way I could do more to avoid all of the single use plastic I was using. That I couldn’t swap driving my car for riding my bike to get to nearby places because I just didn’t have time. Or, that I couldn’t cut down on water usage because I was too active to maintain a short and sweet shower routine. 

I would pack my lunch in reusable bags, drink from a reusable water bottle, use dry shampoo to cut down on shower time, and bring reusable bags with me when I went to the store. All of this was fine and good, and I still do all of them today, but it wasn’t enough. I used to think, “I’m doing enough. Even a small amount is something,” and, yes, doing whatever you can to create a more sustainable life it fine and good as well. However, it’s important to really ask yourself, “is this actually enough?” 

Actionable Steps for Everyday Sustainability:

  • In the shower switch to all natural shampoos and cut down on the number of days per week you wash your hair.
    • I used to wash my hair every day, and that was non-negotiable. But out of necessity for time and having heard about how much water I could save simply be skipping that step a few times a week, I decided to try it. It took about 3 weeks of greasy roots for my hair to adjust, but now I can go 3-4 days between hair washings without my hair looking unkept. 
    • Tips: 
      • When you shower use a natural shampoo without sulphates, parabens, and phalates. These ingredients can strip your hair of natural oils causing your scalp to over produce oils to compensate, leaving hair greasier quicker. They also will not cause chemicals and other harmful ingredients to go down your shower drain and out into the world. My favorite natural haircare products are from Calia Natural.
      • You can help your hair maintain volume between washes by putting it in a high ponytail over night to lift the roots. And there are plenty of hairstyles that will help hide greasy roots or use them to your advantage during the day like a slicked back ponytail or simple french braid. 
Calia shampoo and conditioner- I use their purifying set for dry hair.
  • In the kitchen
    • Meal Prep
      • Cook a weeks worth of meals on Sunday to save.
        • This can be a weeks worth of fresh cut fruit for breakfast, or a big pot of soup with rice for dinner. Whatever you can grab an go when your busy.
        • This will help you cut down on food waste if too much is made for a single meal, as well as encourage you not to use excess electricity or gas to cook every single day.
        • I am hoping to post some of these extended recipes soon!
    • Use reusable cooking accessories
      • Instead of using plastic wrap, try beeswax paper or reusable rubber and metal containers.
        • This will cut down on the day to day waste of products simply used to store things in the fridge.
      • Trade parchment paper and aluminum foil for reusable cook mats.
        • My roommate and I switched to these a year ago, and have been using the same ones ever since. They last forever and are really easy to clean.
          • These are the one’s we purchased!
  • If you have to leave the house (wear your mask, please stay home if you can and refer to the other sustainable practices to learn from in the mean time.)
    • Keep a recycling bag in your car
      • When you’re out during your day and find yourself snacking in your car or grabbing a to-go meal, keep a recycling bag handy along side your regular trash bag. This will give you the opportunity to be a conscious consumer, and recycle what you can when you get home.
    • Cut down on the use of your car when you can
      • It’s not always possible if your destination is far away or you need to get there fast. But if you can plan for a little extra time to get where you need to go, or you live close to your destination, consider riding your bike to get there. This will give you exercise and help reduce carbon emissions that are harmful to the planet. Being stuck inside so much, our minds and bodies could both use a little more movement and fresh air.

This is a good time to take advantage of your time in quarantine. Use this time to take care of yourself, and when you’re ready learn to take better care of the planet and your fellow humans. There are so many little things we can do every day to shift and be more eco-friendly, and there’s no better time to start then now.

Let me know: What have you started doing during quarantine to be more eco-friendly? Are there any sustainable practices you’ve found difficult to maintain during the pandemic?

DIY Hair Growth and Anti-Dandruff Spray

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that my scalp health is the pits. My scalp is a notorious war-zone in which the skin just refuses to act natural. No matter how much I hydrate or attempt to balance my scalp, within only a day or so my scalp goes right back to it’s crazy business. I’ve used just about every dandruff shampoo and “itch relief” product at the drug store, and all of them have similar issues. They were either chock full of chemicals and ingredients I didn’t recognize, or they helped my scalp but made the lengths of my hair dry and waxy. Aside from the relief of rosemary rinse that lasts about a day and the ice packs I keep in the freezer that help sooth the burn from itching so much, I needed a long term solution. I only wash my hair every 2-3 days for the health of the lengths of my hair, but my scalp has been in dire need of extra love. I needed something that I could use more often than just in the shower.

After extensive Googling, and “Pinterest research” as well, I landed on a mixture that I could use as a hairspray. This hairspray is easy to make, all-natural, and can be used anytime, anywhere. That anytime, anywhere factor is the biggest plus because when that itch kicks in and you’re not intending to wash your hair within the next 30 minutes, you need that relief, and you NEED IT FAST!

What you’ll need:

  • a spray bottle
  • a bag of organic green tea
  • 1-2 medium sized sprigs of rosemary
  • tea tree oil

How it’s made:

  • Heat 1 cup of water and add a bag of green tea and 1-2 sprigs of rosemary.
    • Let sit until tea is fully brewed and cooled.
  • Once tea is cooled, fill your spray bottle with the tea until it’s about 3/4 full.
  • Add 20-30 drops of tea tree oil.
  • Screw the spray bottle top on and shake vigorously to mix the oil and tea.

How to use:

  • Separate hair into sections and spray directly onto the scalp.
  • Once you feel the scalp is sufficiently covered, use your fingers to massage the spray into your scalp.
    • You can follow this up by brushing out the hair to help spread the spray further, but this isn’t necessary.
  • That’s it, it’s that easy.

This simple mixture is made to last and can be stored in the cabinet or in your purse for on-the-go use. It doesn’t weigh the hair down and won’t leave your roots greasy. Since tea tree oil is a dry oil, you might even notice this spray refreshes limp hair on the days you don’t wash it. You will need to shake the bottle before each use to re-mix any separation of oil and tea; however, the longer you have the mixture the more it will blend naturally.

As much as I am raving about the delight of relief this hairspray is for a devastated scalp, it has so many other benefits as well particularly for cleansing of the hair follicles and removing impurities. Aside from dandruff and itch relief, this cleansing can help promote healthy hair growth and decrease excessive hair loss.

Green tea contains a natural antioxidant compound called a catechin which helps to reduce dihydrotestosterone (DTH), a hormone derivative of testosterone (which both men and women have), that can cause hair loss. By reducing DTH on the scalp hair is less likely to fall out, allowing hair to grow thicker and healthier over time. You can also reap these benefits by drinking green tea regularly.

Rosemary has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties which can help to gently cleanse, condition, and remove impurities from the scalp that can cause that itch.

Finally, tea tree oil is a staple of both skincare and haircare that is well known for its ability to remove toxins from pores and hair follicles, as well as lift product residue off the skin along with dead skin (in this case, dandruff). You can also add a couple drops of tea tree oil to your normal shampoo for an added boost of dandruff and itch relief in the shower.

This combination not only brings sweet relief when scalp pain sets in, but also brings nutrients and over all restorative health to the scalp. And if you don’t suffer from scalp issues, this can still benefit you in your hair growth and chemical free living endeavors.

Once you’ve tried this DIY hairspray, let me know how it worked for you. It’s now a staple of my haircare routine, and I’d love to know if it becomes one of yours too.

How to Make Aloe Vera Gel

Making aloe vera gel at home is easy! (but also sticky and smelly, and you gotta be really careful how you store it once it’s made.)

I made my own aloe for the first time recently, and, boy, did I learn a lot. I’ve used the insides of my aloe’s leaves before for hair masks, face masks, and shaving gel, but that was always with other ingredients. This was the first time I set out to make good al’ aloe gel simply for the skin and scalp. We’re nearing the middle of summer here and my skin is getting parched and burnt (love that for me…), so aloe is my go to.

I had been a life guard for two years, and a swimmer for just about my whole life, so by no means have I ever been a stranger to sunburn. Over the years, I’ve tried just about every aloe gel you can find at the local drugstore and Ulta (and who are we kidding, Sephora is too expensive). I always find that the aloe from all of these places is sticky, stays sticky, and dries sticky. As someone who hates having lotion on cause I always thought that alone was too sticky, the drugstore aloe gel was just a no go. However, it was a no go that I had to go with because I had no other choice. I will say though, out of all the ones I’ve tried, I gotta give credit to Sun Bum for making an aloe gel and follow up lotion that actually soak in and don’t leave your skin feeling like a damp rubber band.

And while I do appreciate Sun Bum, it still contains ingredients I wasn’t too keen to keep around like polysorbate 20, triethanolamine, and phenoxyethanol. Seeing ingredients you can’t totally pronounce or that you don’t know what they are by their names is a concern, and a number of these ingredients can be drying to the skin (especially more sensitive skin). Plus I wanted to use aloe for more than just the burns on my shoulders. Particularly, I wanted to use it for my hair, and I couldn’t afford for my hair to end up drying out as a result of these ingredients. Out of fear, I have not tested this product on my hair, and have yet to find a review or post anywhere about using this product that way- if you try it let me know.

Enter aloe vera plant!

With all of this in mind, the aloe vera plant was the first plant I chose for my beginner garden. I didn’t go right for making my own aloe gel, but soon enough I was researching recipe after recipe to begin making my own.

Here’s what I did:

  • Start by cutting off a full grown aloe leaf at the base making sure to cut it as close to the plant as possible.
  • Take the leaf and set it upright in a cup to drain the sap.
    • Aloe leaves carry a yellow sap, also called aloe latex, inside them that does need to be drained out before you can move forward. Aloe latex smells like bad corn starch and can potentially be really bad for you when used on the skin or ingested.
  • Once the sap has been drained, you can begin cutting the leaf.
    • Start by cutting the sides off to remove the barbs on the edge of the leaf.
    • Then try and get the knife as close to the skin as you can and slice that off. This might be easier if you pre-cut the aloe leaf into smaller portions.
  • From there scoop out and scrape off all the pulp and sap you can from the leaf and put that in a blender.
  • Add one fourth part water to how ever much aloe you have. (1:4 ratio)
  • Blend until there are no large chunks of pulp left.
  • Stretch netting over your container and pour in the gel.
    • Panty hose or cheese cloth work
    • This strains out any remaining pulpy bits.
  • Voilà!

Here’s what I learned:

Yes, this method does work! You get a really great light aloe gel product that soaks into the skin easily and is safe for any part of your skin. HOWEVER, doing this alone will result in your aloe gel turning hot pink within three days or less.

I freaked out when I went to grab the jar from the closet and found what once was a nice clear liquid, hot pink. But, as I’ve learned, aloe gel naturally goes through an oxidization process once removed from the plant which can result in it turning the color of a fresh strawberry. Some people have even reported thinking that their aloe plants were bleeding due to the reddish innards.

Now, this doesn’t mean it became unusable, it just became less potent. It was on a fast track to becoming unusable and nasty though.

Here are the three best things you can do to make sure your aloe doesn’t turn this fast:

  • Use less of the leaf at a time.
    • Cut a chunk off the end of your aloe leaf and use that in your recipe. Then wrap up the remaining leaf and place it in the fridge to preserve it until you’re ready to make more.
  • Refrigerate the aloe gel once you’ve made it.
    • I left mine in the closet upstairs because I didn’t feel like running up and down the stairs every time I needed it, but that laziness came at a cost.
    • Better yet, freeze what you won’t be using immediately, and refrigerate what you want to have on hand.
  • Add citric acid to your recipe.
    • Now this one I wasn’t too willing to do, but it turns out to be the best way to preserve your homemade aloe gel and make it last.
    • All you need is citric acid powder, lemon juice, or an equivalent substitute. Just add a very small amount if you’re using the powder (like 1/8 of a teaspoon) or a few drops of lemon juice (like 1 teaspoon).

I hope you find this helpful, and that you don’t make the same mistakes I did. It’s never fun when you spend so much time trying to make something at home just to have it go sour.

Let me know: Has this recipe worked for you? What would you do differently? What’s your favorite way to preserve aloe vera gel?

Rosemary Hair Rinse

Rosemary hair rinses are the perfect DIY goody for anyone with a scalp in need of some love.

For months now due to fad hair product usage (Function of Beauty…), anxiety, stress and irregular washings, my scalp has been as irritated as the day is long. I have been desperate to try just about anything to soothe my burning, itchy scalp. My first shot was an apple cider vinegar rinse, which is great and all, it just wasn’t enough to last between washes. Each time I’d wash my hair, I had about two hours of relief before the itchy came back, and I was scratching so hard my hair was falling out. It HURT! I had red patches that felt like fire, dandruff everywhere, and, for some reason, oily roots (which was just adding insult to injury if you ask me).

Disgusting right? I’m sorry you had to read that, but also not sorry. I want you to understand just how bad my scalp health was, so you’ll know just how incredible this rosemary rinse is.

The recipe is incredibly simple, and it doesn’t take a lot of prep.

All you need is about 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary and some water.

I start by cutting 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary from my garden and washing them. I often find that there’s a bit of dirt and sometimes little bugs hiding in-between the leaves, and I don’t want either of those things in my hair (bugs? No Thank You!).

Once they’ve been washed, I toss them in a pot and pour in around 32 ounces of water which is enough to make two bottles of the rinse. I often reuse old GT’s kombucha bottles which are 16 ounces a piece (I’m a kombucha addict, so I reuse those bottles for everything). You can use however much you want, or however much your pots can handle. Just make sure you have the proper containers to store the rinse in after.

Bring the water to a boil, then turn it down a bit and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. As the rosemary simmers the water will turn an olive green color. Once the color is dark and the leaves look a bit limp, it’s time to let the rinse cool.

Once it’s cool enough, you can pour your rinse into whatever bottles you have. I personally prefer to store these bottles in the fridge before using them even though that’s not entirely necessary. I find that using them is more effective for scalp relief when they are chilled before use.

When you’re ready to use one just take it out of the fridge, take a normal shower, and then pour the rinse over your head making sure to thoroughly coat the scalp. Let this stay in your hair for about 5-10 minutes (usually I’ll wash my body and face while I let it set in), and then rinse it out with nice cold water. While it sits in your hair and as you rinse it out, it’s also good to massage the scalp to really make sure you work this product in and purify the scalp. I use inversion here and flip my hair upside down while I massage my scalp to encourage hair growth and healthy blood flow to the scalp. It also doesn’t need to be rinsed out for long, you only really need to give it a quick once-over since you want to retain as many of the benefits as possible.

It’s really the simplest thing you can do to help your scalp maintain a healthy pH and remove impurities that cause irritation.

Bonus: I often add about a tbsp of apple cider vinegar once I take a bottle out of the fridge for a bit of added purification. Apple cider vinegar can increase hair’s natural shine, and can also be incredibly beneficial for maintaining a healthy pH, removing product build-up, and soothing an itchy scalp since it’s anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.

Thanks for reading!

Once you try this Rosemary Hair Rinse let me know, how did it work for you?

Starting Your Own Skincare Garden

Starting your own skincare garden is simple, and can be done both indoors and outdoors depending on your living situation. All you need is plants, pots, and lots of pruning.

Here, I’ll walk you through some of the plants I picked for my skincare (and more) garden!

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera was an absolute must in my garden! As a former lifeguard and all around sun-sensitive being, aloe has been a staple of my summer routine for years. However, for all those years I used store bought aloe loaded with extra ingredients and preservatives I had no idea how to pronounce (Ugh!). Regardless, aloe saved my skin too many times to count, and I knew I needed to grow my own.

Aloe Vera is incredibly easy to grow and maintain (which was lucky for me because for the longest time I was never someone you could say had a green thumb). I picked up my Aloe Vera plant at Lowe’s, and I would suggest purchasing an adult plant as their leaves are ready to use and they will grow pups sooner than an immature plant.

Aloe Vera pups grow around the main plant, and can be removed and repotted. When repotted they can grow as large as it’s original parent plant.

They’re pretty self-sufficient and don’t need you to be doting on them too much. They only need to be watered about every week and a half, so their soil can maintain a soft, damp state without being drenched (aloe doesn’t like having wet ‘feet’). They also need a pot with a good drainage system which just means you need a pot with holes in the bottom. And if you don’t have that, you can line the bottom of a pot with a few inches of rocks to aid in drainage space. Make sure your aloe plant has plenty of sunlight as well, aloe likes indirect light (6+ hours) or direct light (4-6 hours) per day.

Aloe can be used for so many different things. You can use it simply for its gel to ease burns and rashes, or you can add other ingredients to the pulp to make something more exciting. My personal favorite uses for aloe are shaving gels and dandruff relief scalp masks (I’ll have these recipes posted soon).


Rosemary has far more uses than aloe (or at least I use it for far more). Typically, it’s grown for cooking. You can dry some and use it to make amazing breads and crusts, but you can also grow it to use in hair rinses and face toners. Not to mention- it smells delightful no matter what you do with it!

Growing rosemary is also fairly simple. Rosemary isn’t a big fan of being heavily watered, and in general it prefers to be left alone. I only water my rosemary when I notice the soil has become dry to the touch, and I only give it about a half cup of water at a time. Rosemary’s natural habitat is in the dry parts of California, so if you live out there (yay for you!) your rosemary plant will thrive being planted right in the ground in your backyard. However for myself, here in Virginia, our weather is muggy and it rains too often for rosemary to grow successfully in the ground. Rosemary, like aloe, likes to be in a pot with good drainage and can handle indirect sunlight (6+ hours) or direct sunlight (4-6 hours) per day.

You can use rosemary in a number of ways outside the kitchen including as a hair rinse that promotes healthy growth and as a facial toner that helps balance your skin’s natural pH (I’ll have recipes posted soon).


When I started the garden I really wasn’t sure what to do with lavender, but it was too beautiful and fragrant to pass up. Luckily, it turns out you can use it for a whole lot of homemade goodies (including food which excited me to no end).

Lavender is finicky. It doesn’t like too much water, but it also doesn’t like soil that’s too dry. It doesn’t like too much sunlight, but if you take it out of the sun for too long it starts to look sad. Sadly, when I purchased my first Lavender plant I didn’t know what I was looking for, and I’ll tell you, the first thing you need to look for isn’t it’s size or how many blooms it already has. You need to look at the roots. Healthy lavender roots are a darkish gray-green, and they’re sturdy almost like wood. My first lavender plant had root rot which happens when you over water lavender- the roots were almost purple-gray and soft to the touch (yuck!). It took a while to correct, but after letting the plant dry out and readjusting its watering schedule to about a half a cup whenever the soil got to be too dry, the flowers perked right up and the stems got stronger.

Lavender with an attempted healing of root rot.

I commonly use the lavender I grow for essential oils and bug spray (because Virginia mosquitos are the worst). I have been a nanny and babysitter for a number of years, and it wows parents every time when you show up with homemade, non-toxic bug spray to use with their kids (I’ll have recipes posted soon).


Chamomile is a delightful little plant that can be used for teas, hair rinses, and skin soothers. These little tangly bushes are cute as can be, and a favorite of mine.

This plant is somewhat easy to grow. They don’t take a lot of water, but they can absolutely handle having wet ‘feet’. The “somewhat” part comes in to play when you account for the time it takes for chamomile plants to mature. For best use, you want to wait until your chamomile plant begins to flower which feels like it takes forever. However, it’s so (SO) worth it, because those little flowers can be used to make delicious, soothing, herbal tea, lightening hair rinses (hello vibrant blondes!), and soothing skin lotions for the face and body (I’ll have recipes posted soon).

My final pick for a beginner garden: Sweet Mint!

Now, sweet mint isn’t a super popular skin care ingredient. But, if you’re looking to make your own mouth washes, tooth pastes, face masks and delicious drinks, you’re gonna want one of these.

Sweet mint (as with most other mint plants) is a fast grower and will quickly take over whatever other plant you put in a pot with it. They are best planted alone and will thrive with regular watering. I read on so many sites that sweet mint is draught tolerant, but I gotta disagree. Usually draught tolerant means you can water it once or twice a week, but I noticed when I did that the leaves at the bottom of the stems were drying up quickly and turning brown. Now I water it about every two days, and when I notice some dead or drying leaves I pluck them and burry them in the dirt around the main stems.

Dead mint leaves fall off the stem easily when touched and can simply be buried.

Just about every day, I pluck 3-4 healthy mint leaves and add them to a water bottle with some lime juice. This is what many call a “detox drink” but I don’t know who we’re fooling saying you can get cleansed simply by adding a lime to water (sadly it just doesn’t work that way, it’s not magic). However, it is healthy to be drinking plenty of water, and the added benefits of lime and mint are great (not to mention delicious!). (I’ll have recipes posted soon).

Thanks for taking a walk with me in my garden!

I’d love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite garden grown skincare ingredients?

Hey There- and Welcome to the Garden!

I’m so glad you’ve come to this neck of the woods! Whether it’s flowers or face masks, exercise or good eats; there’s no better way to find find beauty, than by going from Garden to Gorgeous!

A little bit about me-

My name is Alicen, and I am a class of 2020 graduate from the University of Mary Washington. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a focus in music, and for the most part music has my heart. However, in the four years I spent living in college dorms, a new field of study grew in my heart; sustainability.

Living in a dorm- especially living in a dorm with a cat- having plants and growing my own food were’t really options, and it also wasn’t really an option to cut down on plastic waste when many meals were purchased on campus in to-go containers (gotta love unavoidable dining plans). On a college budget, sustainable skincare products were also hard to come by without breaking the bank. So my junior year I began making my own skincare products out of miscellaneous kitchen products; oatmeal face masks, rice hair rinses, and left-over coffee grounds body scrubs. Its amazing what you can make with leftovers and discount Aldi goods. But, this simply wasn’t enough.

It was one thing to purchase huge, cheap containers of oatmeal to glob onto my face, and pull coffee grounds out of the machine after my morning cup to throw in a jar with some coconut oil, but I wanted to go further. I wanted to grow my own ingredients, and know where my purchased ingredients were sourced from. I wanted to have my hands on the production and collecting of products. With some products this was obviously unreasonable (I cannot grow coconuts for oil in Virginia’s climate, and I have no clue where to even begin making oil out of a coconut. Same goes for growing coffee, except I do know how to make a damn good cup of coffee). However, there was plenty I could do in my own backyard once I graduated, and I could research my butt off to learn about how the oils, vinegars, and other products I purchased journeyed from their habitat to my hands.

Through plenty of trial and error (and many lovely, patient friends and family who tried my homemade products), I have figured out recipes and sustainability tips that actually work, and work long term. On this blog you’ll find a lot of that trial and error accompanied by the solution to many “Pinterest hacks” that turned out to be Pinterest flops. I’ve tried a lot of them so you don’t have to (you’re welcome!).

Aside from the many sustainable product recipes and skincare tips you’ll find here, I also have affinities for fitness, healthy foods, and other sustainable products, so those will pop-up here as well. I am personally gluten and soy-free, and almost all of my friends are vegan, so heathy foods (and the occasional dessert alternative) are a must. We could go all day talking about taking good care of your skin, but skincare is only half the battle when it comes to healthy, fresh skin. What you do with your body and what you nourish your body with are just as important, and there are so many ways to do all of this while being eco-conscious and giving mother earth some love.

Thanks for coming on down and checking out Garden to Gorgeous!

For questions, inquiries, and comments you can contact me at: