The Going Grey Project

by Julie Gibbons on December 8, 2011

I’ve been working hard on a very important Organikal project for the last 8 months. It is probably the most important one I’ve undertaken. Cue loads of photos of me.

Julie Gibbons

I decided to go cold turkey and stop dyeing my hair.

I haven’t got a nifty response when people ask me why : there isn’t just one, simple answer. I know it’s an interesting concept for folks who have considered ditching the dye, for many reasons. I came across this article Could Hair Dye Kill You yesterday and it reminded me that it isn’t just a  philosophical or environmental issue.

Why I decided to quit dyeing

I’ve been colouring my hair for as long as I can remember. I coloured it at home by myself; at home by hairdressers and in the salon. I used conventional and natural hair dyes. I used to match my hair colour with my underwear and my jacket. It’s gone from flashes of brilliant blue set in almost black, to varying shades of purple and most recently to reddish browns. I thought I’d be an old hag with purple hair right until the very end – some of my art was in there.

And then the time came to make a change. It had been creeping up on me, I guess. One of the things I love most about our house swap adventures is that I don’t worry about my hair. I manage months of letting my silvery roots show amidst my centre parting. So why not at home?

There is such a deep relief in accepting yourself as you are, without the nagging feeling that you are walking around as an imperfect model of your ideal self – which is what happens when you have silver hair, your dye job is dark, your regrowth shows within a week and a half and you can’t find the time (or the money) to touch it up.

I’ve spent the last year and a half stepping fully into myself. It has been life affirming and life changing. I guess I reached the point where that finally included my hair.

There is also the very real health issue to add to the picture. At the end of the day, I just can’t equate my organic life with a bunch of chemicals that I pay someone to put on my head, in my hair and bloodstream.

The reality of going grey

If you search online for resources on how to go grey naturally, there’s very little information about how to do it without the continued use of colours and disguises.  I knew that I wanted to stop messing with my hair and that cold turkey was the way to do it.

Here’s the truth about how it’s been for me so far.

  • Almost as soon as I changed my mindset from “my roots need redone” to “I’m growing out my dye job” I stopped worrying about what it looked like.
  • The first month to six weeks was quite difficult in terms of how it looked. I knew it looked a mess. But I was also excited about just how white it looked in some places.
  • My son asked me to call it silver, not grey. Silver is foxy, apparently. Grey is too old for a 40 year old.
  • Women I don’t know couldn’t take their eyes of my unruly, frizzy, stripy hairdo. I wanted to wear the equivalent of an “I’m not fat, I’m pregnant” t-shirt – “I’m not lazy. Or minging. I’m growing it out. Because I want to.” or something.

20 weeks grey

19 weeks in, summer 2011 – you can see an inch or two from my centre parting and wee grey wisps by my ears.

  • I quite often look at myself in the mirror and don’t recognise the person I see staring back at me. I often lament the loss of my long, purple hair (2006);

Julie Gibbons 2006

  • I’m frequently tempted to get all of my hair cut off, ala late 1990′s, to get rid of all the dyed hair and avoid this state of half and half. Then I think back to this and am no longer tempted (is that really me in there?);


  • My mum hates the thought of me with grey hair. My brother is also grey. She isn’t :)
  • I secretly worry that the hubster won’t fancy me anymore. He assures me the grey hair matches my grey eyes beautifully. He fell in love with those eyes.
  • I attended a job interview and was offered the job, despite the grey stripe.
  • My hairdresser supported my decision unequivocally, suggesting I may like to punk it up with beetroot juice, as did her grandmother :)
  • I am saving a fortune in time and money previously spent in the salon.

Eight months in, and it’s all rather interesting. I’m sticking with it. Here’s how it looks today;

Julie Gibbons Aerial View

You can see the front of my head is much darker than the back/roots. I do love how white it is at the crown.

Side View Underneath

I’m holding up the top layer of hair here, which is still very brown, to show you how white it is underneath. I’d love it if the front was as white as this.

Side and Front Top

The line between the natural and dyed hair has always been surprisingly ambiguous. Probably due to the style of my haircut. In photographs it looks just like there is a permanent light source shining on me from above.

Perhaps there is. Perhaps that permanent light source is my hair angel.


Discover Organic This SeptemberNot content with last year’s Organic Fortnight, the Soil Association has gone one further and assigned the whole month of September to encouraging you to Discover your reason to love organic this September.

Reasons To Love Organic…

  1. know what’s in your food
  2. better for the environment
  3. higher animal welfare
  4. wildlife protection
  5. a GM free diet

Each of us will have different reasons for choosing organic. Here are some things you could consider this September as you discover your reason …

Learn the Dirty Dozen

The Environmental Working Group produces a guide each year which lists the top dozen dirty fruit & veg (that most contaminated with pesticides and which you should commit to buying organic). There’s a also a list of clean fruit and veg, to let you adjust your basket most economically. However, do bear in mind that non organic produce will contaminate the soil and the farmworkers who come into contact with it – so try and buy as much organic as you possibly can!

Print off  this handy Dirty Dozen (PDF download) guide to take on your next shopping trip.

Choose Organic Textiles

According to the Soil Association, “the market for organic textiles is growing. Certified organic textile businesses saw their sales grow in total by  35% in 2010.”

Go Organic With Your Wool (PDF Download) “Animal welfare is at the heart of organic systems. Organic sheep are reared, fed, sheltered and transported with consideration for their well being. Cruel practices are prohibited and animal stress is minimised.”

Go Organic With Your Cotton (PDF Download) “As well as being a natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre, when cotton textiles are organic there are additional benefits… Organic textile products don’t contain allergenic, carcinogenic or toxic chemical residues.”

Join in with more news, events and event competitions and special offers this Organic September by using the Twitter hashtag #organicseptember


Zero Waste Week 2011

by Julie Gibbons on August 29, 2011

How quickly a year passes, no? It seems like only the shortest time since last year’s Zero Waste Week was happening and already this year’s is upon us. Not before time, though! For here at Organikal Towers, things have been getting somewhat lax when it comes to waste…

This year’s theme is ‘Reducing waste away from home‘.

When we’re off on our home swapping adventures, one of the first tasks we undertake is to check out the recycle facilities, however this summer we’ve been at home and I’m ashamed to admit, we’ve been a bit free and easy with our waste when out and about.

My especially worst offence is cardboard cups for coffee. I know I should carry a reusable mug with me at all times, but you know, the travel cups we have are cheap and the beverage within tastes like plastic. These are among the most common mistakes that people commit while disposing off trash.

So this week, encouraged by Zero Waste Week, I’m going to invest in something I should have a long time ago – a BPA free travel mug for each of us, together with a stainless steel water bottle. I just hope the folks at my local cinema will know what to do with it, when I hand over the mug and don’t insist in using a cardboard cup first, before pouring in the coffee into my new mug!

What about you? Please hop on over to My Zero Waste and pledge your support for Zero Waste Week 2011. There are even prizes to be won! But you’ve got to be in it to …. oh, sorry – I forgot myself for a wee second there ;)

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And the winner is …

by Julie Gibbons on July 6, 2011

On the previous Organikal News Update I announced a giveaway – one signed copy of Isabel Losada’s latest book, The Battersea Park Road to Paradise….

battersea park road to paradise

The name selected at random was Debra from Later Bloomer – Hearty congrats, Debra!

If you’d like to be entered into the next draw, then make sure you’re signed up to receive occasional news updates.


The Green Chain : Eco Interview

by Julie Gibbons on May 31, 2011

This interview is part of a blogger fundraiser to raise money for three UK environmental charities. In exchange for my answers to these questions, PriceMinister will donate £10 to one of the three charities, according to my preference.

Turning the heating down by just one degree in your house saves 240kg of CO2 a year. It would take eight trees to soak up this amount of CO2! Are you currently doing anything to make your home eco-friendly?

We’re usually working from home, so manage to consume more than our average share of electricity, so it’s important that we monitor our power usage using a meter (it’s amazing what that move makes you turn off!) and source our electricity from the UK’s only 100 per cent renewables electricity supplier, Good Energy. But probably the action I’m most passionate about is banning chemicals from the home – using vinegar to clean, buying organic food and making my own beauty products. This means less harmful chemicals in our world as well as our home.

Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth’s land surface, now they only cover 2%. How are you reducing your use of paper?

Gosh, we’re internet dudes, so that means we don’t consume a great deal of paper! Most of our bills and statements are now online (where the supplier has provided that option we’ll always take it. We don’t buy newspapers and use only recycled paper loo roll. We don’t use paper towels in the kitchen, either – when I think back, I used to go through a whole roll of this stuff once every couple of weeks!

But it isn’t all good news – I do have a bit of a passion for paper journals, tho and am not averse to buying magazines to trawl through for vision/dream board pics.

At PriceMinister we believe that trading second hand items online is a great way to extend the life span of products. Have you ever thought of buying or selling second hand items on or off line?

Buying pre-loved is in fact one of our core values, as specificied in our Organic Manifesto! We often buy online, but seldom sell online, usually offloading to charity collections. It’s funny how I can never get to grips with anyone wanting to buy my cast-offs, but quite happily good money for other folk’s. Maybe it’s time to start investigating this a bit further.

One of the biggest environmental challenges we face is Freshwater Shortages. Are you taking measures to reduce your water consumption?

I remember writing about this back in 2006 – well, at least declaring a few actions that we were inspired to take after visiting the Centre for Alternative Technology. I’m ashamed to say that none of them actually turned into reality. There’s really no excuse for not installing a water butt; it rains quite spectacularly here, so we really shouldn’t need to use the tap for water for the garden. We did turn more of the space into the garden over to growing food and although the ‘canal’ didn’t quite make it to fruition, we have new plans for a wildlife pond. Lastly, our cisterns were too small to install a water displacement device!

One thing we never do is use a carwash for the car, nor a pressure washer or any other such device, so I guess that’s one action we’ve actually taken.

Crikey, I’m feeling like my eco/green values are lacking a little when it comes to translating them into our suburban lifestyle!

How do you choose the produce that goes into your shopping basket? (any favorite products?)

Ah, this is an easy one. We grow some of our own food and most of the rest is delivered by our local organic foods distributor. It isn’t all local but the likes of bananas do have a hard time growing in this part of Scotland ;)

It really is mostly about balancing up the merits of organic, local, fairly traded and artisanal. For instance,  if there’s an item on the supermarket shelf that is organic and I can find a local supplier of that product (honey, for instance), I’ll most often choose the less industrialized, local option.

What is your favourite green space near home? (a photo would be great!)

east whitburn whitrigg bing

This is the view on a wintry day just five minutes from home. The top of an old coal bing, now reclaimed by the Countryside Trust, surrounded by farms and not much else. The forest is just behind this viewpoint, as is the local pet cemetery! As glorious here in the midst of winter as it is on a beautiful sunny spring day, we try and visit every day.

Which charity would you like to support and why?

I’ve chosen Trees for Cities – can’t ever have enough trees in the world. Thank you!


The offer – subscribe for £30 and you can help to run a real-life farm for a whole year, via an amazing new project run by The National Trust : MyFarm.

The farm in question is in the Trust’s Wimpole Estate – and there are three main areas that the 10,000 virtual farmers will help to run: the open access parkland, the farmland, and the farmyard.

In return for your payment, you get a monthly vote where you can help decide on matters concerning the big decisions the farm faces. At the end of a period of conversion to organic farming, the farm hasn’t grown anything for a couple of years and the first vote to be cast by farmers will be on what the farm should grow.

You will also get a voucher for one free family visit to the Farm Estate throughout the year and if you choose to join The National Trust membership scheme, you’ll get your first 3 months’ membership free, and year round access.

The reconnection of everyday people and the land and food it produces is part of the reason behind the project, but I’m sure that the 10,000 Farmers (subscribers) will not be as disconnected from the land and food issues as perhaps some other areas of the populace are.

I’m really intrigued and at the time of writing I’m considering joining as part of our home education projects.

One thing that doesn’t seem quite in place yet is a genuine community space for the Farmers and this seems to be somewhat of an oversight by the organisers. What seems like a really innovative online social project might just suffer from it’s limited exchange flow of information.

The farm’s objective is to be profitable – will majority vote casting throughout help it be so? I guess we’ll have to continue to watch with interest. I’m particularly interested in whether its organic status will be used as an argument if it does turn a loss.


The Scottish Hedgewitch Makes Nettle Soup

by Julie Gibbons on May 6, 2011

I found this video on the BBC Scotland website this morning and thought you might be inspired, too. I’m going out foraging this weekend, and the one plant I can recognise is a nettle. Will you join me?


Stepping Up a Gear with Green Juice

by Julie Gibbons on April 8, 2011

You may be forgiven this last while to think I’d stopped eating food altogether and had taken to mashing it and grinding solely for use on my body – but do not be alarmed, I am a sturdy girl and still love to eat!

The Organikal kitchen does strike a fine balance between food love and health love, we can’t help it – and our latest foray has involved organising a new veg box for a new breakfast regime:

Juice Friendly Veg Box
It’s been custom picked to provide us with enough juicy greens to make a green juice for five days out of the seven. A green juice, for breakfast? Remember we finally made the foray into green juices last year, trying out the powdered variety. Not an instant success, we got used to the smell and the taste, but I wasn’t sold on it as a regular supplement to our diet, although I still use it – especially on days when greens have been lacking.

Plant foods high in alkalines have been high on our list for some time, but our standard veg box just didn’t deliver enough of the right ones for a juicing regime. Until I read Kris Carr’s latest book Crazy Sexy Diet. Isn’t it funny, what finally moves you to take action on the stuff you know you should do, want to do, but haven’t quite got round to doing – stuff you’ve known for years?

Crazy Sexy Diet Green Juice

Kris is an exceptionally motivational writer, telling her story of a particularly rare stage 4 cancer that she’s been living with for the past seven years or so. I’m loving her Crazy Sexy Life website and after watching a ton of videos I ordered the book. The day after I read it, I visited a supermarket and bought the ingredients listed in the recipe for the Make Juice Not War drink and promptly set to with a juicing extravaganza (you can see my real life TV approach to the making of on video over at my VegBoxMenu website).

Make Juice Not War

An instant success! Yes, I’d found a way to get my day started with all of those juicy greens – rich in nutrients, enzymes, anti-oxidants and what not – in a format that actually tasted great! That same day I got in touch with our organic veg box suppliers, Grow Wild and asked for a custom box.

I’ll be honest with you, living in the frozen north as we do, this customisation adds a fair bit onto the cost of the standard box – particularly at this time of year.  At first I figured that we wouldn’t be able to afford it in our £80 per week groceries budget. But you know what? We value our health so much that we’re just going to cut down on the stuff we spend cash on that we know doesn’t really fit into our Organikal way of life. How many coffees would we need to quit drinking to pay for the extra cucumbers? Think about it? I’ll bet your good health is worth sacrificing a couple of coffees for …

And there’s an added benefit – the spring clean effect doesn’t just apply to your body, after juicing this lot the house stays smelling wonderfully fresh. Bonus :)


Crystals for Natural Health

by Julie Gibbons on March 29, 2011

volcanic alum crystals

What have you got there then, I hear you ask? Pretty crystals and flowers, can you see?… can you guess what I’m up to?

The chrysanthemums are a red herring – my wee plant just looked so very sunny on the windowsill, I thought it’d be nice to add in it’s spring vibe into proceedings :)

As for the crystals – well these, dearest friends, are not for meditating on or for any other ceremonies. They are in fact beautiful natural volanic alum crystals and we use them to make natural deodorant sprays.

You may have seen natural crystal deodorant sticks in your health food stores. You may also have heard that aluminium based deodorants are dangerous.

I recently discovered some answers to these issues when I discovered Natural Spa Supplies, run by Sally Mittuch. Sally imports and retails a small selection of completely natural personal care products and has become something of an expert in this field.

Her research on natural crystal deodorants led her to distinguish between byproducts of the aluminium industry and natural volcanic crystals, pure and unprocessed. As always pop-pickers – be careful what you buy and don’t fall for misleading labels…

I’ve tested out both the crystals and some alum powder to make my own low-strength deodorant spray. I followed Sally’s instructions and diluted with water into a spray mister bottle. I love the crystals – they’re so pretty and make such a beautiful noise when I shake the bottle, but I’ve found the powder creates less instances of blockages with my pump spray. I guess it really is just a question of personal preference.

alum crystals and powder

Sally has a fantastic range of natural spa products for sale and I’m very excited about all of them. I know Mrs Green at My Zero Waste is also a fan, so I know I’m in good company. It’s all based on natural personal care and in addition to following the lead of wild mammals, I am reminded again that our prehistoric ancestors made not a bad job of looking after themselves, so I asked Sally the following question …

Why do you feel it is important for today’s peoples to revert to prehistoric ingredients for self care?

When it comes to washing, people have become more and more removed from nature. Most bathroom cabinets are brimming with a multitude of chemical products with unpronounceable names. Advertising dazzles consumers with scientific jargon and the glory of the latest formula. As a result consumers are loosing their natural reasoning on how to care for their body.

However did people manage before modern cosmetics?

Well the answer is simple – they took clues from wild animals – and used the raw or minimally processed products of nature. For example, clay does all the washing of the hair, face and body; cold pressed plant oils do all the moisturizing, and volcanically formed alum crystal does all the deodorizing.

While simple plant soaps can be made by infusing saponin rich plants such as soapnuts or soapwort, for shaving, a true soap is necessary. This can be made over the campfire with ashes, water and oil or rendered fat.

The closest analog today is the ‘savon noir’ or black soap which is made from olive oil and lye. It is used for shaving and exfoliating. We use an ultra fine green clay for cleaning the teeth because if its high mineralization properties and because it absorbs the bacteria which contribute to tooth decay and reduces inflamation. These are the key products – just five of them!

When people revert to the simplest of resources, not only will they find that the products are less irritating to the skin, that they really do work, they are more economic, fully traceable and much lower in transport miles than any highly formulated product with multiple ingredients.

What is more, everything can be modified and personalized by consumers at home. People can add powdered ingredients such as sea salt, kelp, essential oils and floral waters to the clay mix to suit their mood or skin type. A cold pressed plant oil can be modified with essential oils. People either use a deodorant crystal (with no fragrance), or make their own deodorant with alum powder or pebbles and floral water.

A drop of essential oil can be added to the savon noir and finely ground sea salt or herbs, powdered resins such as myrrh can be added to the green clay for tooth brushing. Again, buying or even gathering the base ingredients and making your own modifications is far cheaper than a luxury brand and everything is made with your own love and your own needs in mind.

As far as accessories, we need a comb (brushes are relatively recent inventions!), an exfoliating glove/loofah, a toothbrush (people used to gather a fresh stick and chew the end to fray it, making their own disposable brush), a nail care tool, maybe dental floss, a pumice and a razor. That’s it.

When it dawned on me that I had become this minimalist or prehsitoric, I finally emptied my bathroom cabinet or four carrier bags of plastic bottled chemicals, most half used, well past their expiry dates! Now with only a few products I have become an expert on them and really anyone who uses skin care products should know everything about them too! Luckily when you use ‘prehistoic products’ you will not need a degree in chemistry, but just some good old fashioned common sense!

I’m convinced that going natural minimalist in the personal care department is a must for this natural woman and am getting ready to embrace my wild mammal as I write this.

You can join me in this revolution – head over to Natural Spa Supplies and see what takes your fancy …


Feed your skin avocados

by Julie Gibbons on March 23, 2011

You’re eating avocado, right? All those good fats, not to mention scrumptiously tasty…

You probably already know they make a delicious creamy moisturising face mask with some added lemon juice and yoghurt. I know this in theory, but I haven’t ever tried it out because truthfully, I think avocados are way too delicious to put on my face.

That was before I discovered that you can also make a pretty delicious facial scrub by finely grating the avocado stone. Avocado oil would make a pretty cool base, as would almond or vitamin E, however, I’m feeling hormonal and oily and am going to use some plain organic bio yoghurt instead.

If you’re keen to try it out as well, remember and keep the scrub away from delicate areas such as your eyes and gently massage your skin – no sandpaper type scrubbing allowed ;)

I’m feeling quite excited about this discovery – it always seems such a shame to put such a  gorgeous stone straight into the composter!

Do you have any surprising ingredients for your home made skincare regime?

As for salon procedures, I believe it is worth visiting only the best salons for beauty procedures. My personal favorite is Lasting Impression Medical Spa. How about you? What salons do you visit?

(Avocados may trigger latex allergies, so I’d imagine this would work the same if putting it on your skin. Please do take your usual precautions in accordance with preserving your own health – I’m not a healthcare professional and I really don’t want to see you poorly.)

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