I knew before coming to Timor that this was a country without recycling programs or even national waste management programs. That said, I wanted to bring with me as little packaged health and beauty products as possible. These are the best things I brought with me!
If you are already friends with me, you will know that I have a wild obsession with shampoo bars. This started maybe two years ago, when I stumbled into a Lush Shop in Washington D.C. While I was first pulled in by the bath bombs, I found out about the illustrious shampoo bar. I bought their Godiva bar, and have been hooked ever since. Shampoo bars are wrapped in paper, which is easily burnable as a trash item here in Timor, and even more easily recyclable back in the States. I stocked up before starting my service, and have been enjoyably shampoo bottle free for over a year now. Plus, they travel really well!
Lush isn’t the only company selling shampoo bars, and while I love their brand, their very much fragrance-filled product and not exactly all-natural ingredients list isn’t favored by all. Recently, I received some care package products, and in it were three J.R. Liggett’s Shampoo bars. While both brands wrap their product in paper, J.R. Liggett’s ingredients list is much more natural, with no fragrances added. Also, they are about $5 per 3.5 ounce bar, whereas Lush’s bars start at around $10 for the same size bar. However, both bars will last about the same as a 24-ounce bottle of liquid shampoo, so really it is a matter of preference and budget.
I also talk way too much about how I enjoy coconut oil. This is something that has helped me minimize the amount of products on my shelf, as it eliminates need of conditioner, body lotion, lip balm, and anti-dandruff product. It even helped me fix my bike last year. Basically, this one product is so versatile that instead of finding 4 plastic bottles on your hands, you have just one jar. I still have my 16-ounce jar from the brand, Jasön, which I decided to be plastic as I was worried a glass jar would break in the 36 hours of flying ahead.
Here is how I use my coconut oil. Since I have relatively smooth and somewhat straight hair, I’ll put the oil on my scalp for dandruff, my hair tips to prevent breakage, and with what is leftover I simply run through my hair so as to condition and detangle it. After about 10 minutes, I shampoo it off. I only wash my hair once or twice a week, which also keeps my hair healthy, so this oil thing only happens twice a week at most. After showering, I usually use it as an all over body lotion, which leaves me smelling like I actually live on a tropical island.
Lucky for me, Timor produces its own coconut oil, so when I run out, I can refill my container with some local stuff.
The week leading up to our flights to Timor, I was in LA with Gianna. She knows a lot about eco-friendly products, and before going to Timor, she introduced me to crystal deodorant. I had packed a Lush deodorant and a classic Arm and Hammer super strong deodorant because I didn’t know what I would need for very hot weather and not being able to shower for several days at a time. However, I bought the crystal because it was $7 and supposed to last over a year. Might as well try it, right?
Low and behold, my first three days in Timor were spent in Hell (I mean, a village called Hera), and the crystal kept my pits fresh for 36 hours. All you gotta do is wash your pits really well, and apply the deodorant after you bathe. I will say that if you have long, thick pit hair (like I do now) that you will stay fresh for only 12-24 hours, but that is still a long time for deodorant to work well. I’ve been using the crystal for 17 months now, and it is still going strong! I don’t need to spend any money on deodorant here, and have obviously greatly decreased my plastic waste output (yay for less plastic trash burning).
Solid Perfume from Lush
Another purchase I made before coming to Timor was a small, 0.4-ounce tin of solid perfume from Lush. It is the Lust scent, which has a rich rosey, jasmine smell. It is expensive for a tiny tin (about $15), but it really lasts and really leaves you smelling good. I like this product because it is small and compact, non-plastic, and you could use it every day for a year and still have plenty left. Also, no problems getting through airport security because it is solid! Lush has many other great scents as well.
Being able to smell like flowers is such a gift on a bad day and such a rarity here in Timor where I am constantly sweating and covered in dust.
Tea Tree Oil
I have used tea tree oil pre-PC for assisting in healing piercings (works wonders, especially on bumps). I had the same small vial and decided to bring it with me to Timor. I have the Aura Cacia brand, with the 0.5-ounce bottle. Since being here, I have used it to make room sprays and prevent lice. Another volunteer brought tea tree oil and mixed it into their shampoo to prevent lice, which just about all the locals here have.
You can us tea tree oil, and other essential oils, for different things. Tea tree oil is great for dealing with fungus and bacteria—I used it to de-mold my Birkenstock’s a while back. It can be useful for preventing skin infections like scabies (which you can also get here). I only brought the one essential oil, but a little goes a long way. I’ve only used half of my little bottle, which I have had for about two years now.
Those are my must-have products as a Peace Corps Volunteer! There are other waste-reducing products (powdered toothpaste, bamboo toothbrushes, and more…), but these ones have worked really well for me.