Sunday, January 10, 2010

Obsessive Sustainabililty (Plus Beauty Tip)

I've worried a bit about our blog — that we seem too obsessive, too preachy, too extreme in our attempts to recycle, reuse, etc., etc. I've decided that people who are super-sustainability types are probably not just motivated by altruistic desires to save the planet, but perhaps a little guilt (that would be me) or maybe it just plays into their compulsive tendencies (that would be Peter).

Granted, Peter and I are not as extreme as some (we haven't given up on toilet paper after all). But I have a feeling people may roll their eyes at some of the things we do (like make soup stock out of table scraps).

Nevertheless, I've decided that OCSD (obsessive-compulsive sustainability disorder) is OK. In fact, it's more than OK. Because for every compulsively sustainable thing we choose to do now, it might mean that it's one less compulsory sustainable thing our grandchildren will have no choice but to do in the world they are inheriting.

That leads me to my latest OCSD act. Which is also a beauty tip! (I like to leverage my ideas across platforms.)

I read in some beauty magazine years ago something that may be hooey, but I have accepted as true:  moisturizers don't add moisture to one's skin—they only keep in the moisture that's already there. So the article recommended that when you put moisturizer on after a shower, you do so before you've fully dried off, when your skin is still damp. That way, you're keeping more moisture next to your skin.

I've been doing this for years now, and while I can't say that it has kept me looking younger, it has meant that I buy a lot less moisturizer. With this method, you need a spit of lotion to cover your face and neck. So a 4 oz. bottle of Neutrogena lasts me about a year. That means I'm buying less— both saving money and saving the number of bottles I throw out a year.

OK, so here's where I get a bit OCSD. You know when you think the bottle is empty. You push the pump and all that comes out is a sputter of air and lotion vapers? Guess what? You have about two months worth of moisturizer left in there. I kid you not.

I did an experiment with my last bottle of moisturizer. I stored it upside down in my medicine cabinet, and in the morning, I'd take the cap off, and there, coagulated at the neck of the bottle, was a huge glob of moisturizer. So, I'd take the tiny amount I needed, put the cap back on, and store it upside down again. And so it went for about 6 weeks, until there was no longer a critical mass of lotion gathered in the neck.

But wait, there's more!

I found that I could stick my pinky in and get a morning's worth of lotion off the sides of the bottle, as well as wipe down the pump straw where some lotion had also collected. I got about 2 more weeks worth of morning moisturizer doing the scrape method (always storing the bottle upside down).

I saved that bottle from going into the landfill (and having to buy another) for an additional two months. Now, I can't do the carbon imprint calculation on that, but I don't need an algorithm to know that less waste is good.

Try it yourself. It really works (and maybe it's even better for your skin). It will save you money. But most important, it means that landfill we're handing down to our grandchildren will have fewer bottles in it. 

Now, if I were truly OCSD, I'd cut the bottle open and scrape off what's inside. Peter would go that far, but I have my limits.


  1. And I thought it was only me. I get a serrated knife and cut the things about 1/3 of the way down to get at the good stuff. I don't do it to save the planet. I think the planet will be fine. It's just humans who are going to be wiped off the earth like the locusts we truly are. I do it because it pisses me off that the stuff costs me so much and the manufacturers keep shrinking the amount inside by creating devilishly clever ways to hide the true amount inside. All the while increasing the amount of useless plastic in the world. This my not be PC enough but it works for me. So am I a Peter or a Therese or do I get my own special column. Sara Kelman

  2. Sara, I need to meet you. I do the same thing for the same reason. What I think needs to happen is fewer manufacturers using pumps that stop too far short of the bottle bottom--or maybe someone just needs to invent a better pump. Peter!

  3. OK OK I give. I'll come over to the truly obsessive side. I just gave my bottle to Peter to open up so I can get the last possible drop. Peter's not handy enough to invent a new pump, but his brother David may be. Maybe we'll put him on the task.

  4. But if you want to use less lotion and throw away fewer bottles, do the apply-when-damp method. I'm telling you, you can stretch that sucker forever.

  5. See dispenser deigns & discussion on Half-Bakery:

  6. Interesting link. Why not create a tube (it can be flexible to fit through the bottleneck) that looks like an upside down "T" and will suck up lotion straight across the bottom of the entire bottle? Of course, why not stop making/buying pumps and just use wide flat caps so the bottle can balance when left upside down? Heck, just flip the label and make upside down right-side up.

  7. Thanks to LinkedIn, I've just caught up with your blog and it's nice once again to "hear" your voices--as engaging and thought-provoking as ever. You may be interested to learn about a new cosmetics company my daughter and I are championing: Ava Anderson Non-Toxic. (Full discloser: we're also selling AANT.) While the pump bottles sadly offer no improvement over the type you describe in a recent post (I'll be cutting them down in a few weeks!), the contents of Ava products are effective and 100% safe, which is shockingly revolutionary. I was horrified to learn that even many so-called organic, "pure" skin care products include toxic ingredients and pose a number of serious health hazards. Upon reflection, of course, it makes sense that the stuff we're slathering on our porous bodies is just as important as what we're actually ingesting. I hate to add to your list of concerns, but I have some bad news about Neutrogena...To learn more visit . I'd love to hear your thoughts.