B-au naturel

A rediscovered post from last August, when i was travelling:

Those who know me won’t be surprised by the true confession that i don’t use deodorant. Apart from a brief stint in my impressionable teens, when my parents tried to convence me that deodorant is the very glue that holds civil society together, i could never get past the idea that smearing or spraying chemical gunk on a fairly permeable area of one’s skin was a smart thing to do. I also didn’t buy that human odour was necessarily offensive to we creatures who have been smelling it, presumably, since we dropped from the trees.

Sure, there’s a point at which. But given basic hygiene, the occasional shower and the odd load of laundry, we should be able to put up with each other au naturel, no?

However, it has been a long, hot summer. And i’ve been travelling by Greyhound bus, spending much time in close proximity with strangers And i’m living out of a small backpack, with just three shirts to my name, in hostels and other accomm’s with limited laundry facilities. Sometimes — i admit it — i stink.

Last week i decided to see what i could do about it, and went into a drugstore while my clothes were drying in the laundromat, to check out … gulp … the deodorant aisle. There were dozens of products, arrayed in colourful packaging along multiple feet of shelves, that one could roll, wipe or spray on, in tantalizing scents from none through floral or spicy straight into industrial. They all cost in the $3-4 range, except for the frightening “extra strength” products, which were up around $8. But a quick check of the ingredients list was sobering. Here’s the formula for Old Spice Classic Antiperspirant & Deodorant Stick (from this link):

Active ingredient: aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly (16%) (anhydrous)

Inactive ingredients: cyclopentasiloxane, stearyl alcohol, talc, dimethicone, hydrogenated castor oil, fragrance, polyethylene, silica, dipropylene glycol, behenyl alcohol

    Gak! I don’t know about you, but none of that sounds like stuff I want to smear on my skin on a regular basis, never mind wash all that crap down the drain into the water system (an aspect of product use we don’t generally think about).

    A quick Google search for “toxic deodorant ingredients” yields a thousand reasons to stay away from all of the above.

    But the invisible hand of the market being the thoroughgoing extremity it is, there’s usually a “green” alternative to most everything these days. Exploring further on the drugstore shelves, i noticed a small “natural” deodorant section, with about half a dozen choices. I finally settled on one that is, basically, just a stick of salt — not table salt (sodium chloride) but ammonium alum, a mineral salt. The chemical name for its lone ingredient is aluminium ammonium sulfate — something i can actually pronounce — and its chemical formula is [Al(NH4)](SO4)2 (Wikipedia entry for chem nerds).

    What you do is wet the top of the salt stick with water, then rub it on your pits, kind of like you might season a turkey. You’ve gotta do the scarecrow thing with your arms for a minute until it dries, but then … protected!

    Did it work? Bearing in mind that i have no baseline to compare it to, yes. Pretty well. Nobody ever moved to another seat in disgust. I’ve still got the stick, and use it before any potentially high-stress, nervewracking situation. Although my first line of defense against such annoyances is to avoid them in the first place.


    First published on the WestCoaster.ca (link) in May 2009, the day after the provincial election. I’ve been meaning to get it up here since then….

    I am hardly an hour back from today’s stint as voting clerk in the provincial election, and i must say it was an enlightening little adventure.

    First off, it was clear that, while we may lack for female candidates in front of the cameras, the bulk of our electoral burden is borne by women. Of the 14 of us serving up ballots hot and fresh to Tofino voters on Tuesday, but one was male. (Me, in case that needs pointing out). This made for some uneasy self-questioning during the tranquil early hours, but fortunately none of my co-workers seemed to notice or care, and once the action hotted up toward noon, gender fell off the radar.

    Second, it’s quite a trick to put together an airtight voting system. I was boggled by the complexity of the exercise, Continue reading “Electioneering”

    LIFE for Betty K?!?

    After a long break away from blogging, i’ve decided to start posting a few things again. Here’s my letter to the  topmost legal captains of B.C. on a matter of some import. First, the situation, excerpted from an excellent post on the rather blunderbuss The Galloping Beaver blog, called Life sentence for Betty K? (well worth the quick read):

    . . . Betty Krawczyk was 65 years old when she went to jail for Clayoquot Sound. . . . She went to jail again at age 78 for standing in front of bulldozers in 2006 to protest the building of the Sea-to-Sky Highway. . . . She . . . went back to prison for another 10 months. . . .
    After serving out her last sentence in full, Betty appealed it on the grounds that the squelching of protest inconvenient to corporations and governments is an illegitimate use of the legal system.
    The Attorney General’s response to her appeal has been to recommend the court re-sentence her under the rules of “accumulated convictions”, designate her a chronic offender, and lock her up for life!

    So, my letter:

    TO: Michael de Jong, Attorney General <AG.Minister@gov.bc.ca>
    Michael Brundrett, prosecutor: <mike.brundrett@gov.bc.ca>

    CC: Gordon Campbell <premier@gov.bc.ca>

    Dear Attorney General,
    However much Ms. Krawczyk is a thorn in your side, your current stratagem of using some far-removed and distasteful precedent to propose locking her up for years is highly repugnant to this lover of free society. To equate having a strong environmental consicence with having a pathological disease insulting, absurd, and a serious undermining of democratic principles. Who’s next on your hit list — advocates for the homeless? Opposition party members? Because with this line of thinking, you can pretty much get rid of anybody  you want.
    Find some perspective, gentlemen. Murderers go away for life. Kidnappers. Unrepentant, hard-core criminals. Not old ladies who stand in the road, struggling to protect what’s left of our ever-diminishing environment. As unconventional as she is, Ms Krawczyk is a hero to many; notwithstanding that, she deserves reasonable treatment at the hands of our so-called system of justice. I predict that locking the lady away for many-to-life will bring down a firestorm of protest and controversy from properly thinking people throughout this province (and the world) — something you would come quickly to regret.

    Sincerely yours,

    greg blanchette
    Tofino, BC