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Monthly Archives: February 2014

This blog is a Kitsap Sun reader blog. The Kitsap Sun neither edits nor previews reader blog posts. Their content is the sole creation and responsibility of the readers who produce them. Reader bloggers are asked to adhere to our reader blog agreement. If you have a concern or would like to start a reader blog of your own, please contact

Kitsap Sun Focuses on the Environment

kitsap sun2I admit I haven’t been much of a newspaper reader. I’m an NPR addict and just never felt the draw to sit and read the paper every day. I would skim old pages before using them for firestarter, and my Mum still saves the comics for me, which I adore (Get Fuzzy is my favorite).

However, the Kitsap Sun may make me change my ways.

One day the Sun’s editor, David Nelson, responded to a press release I sent to him about an outdoor trip I was doing. In his message he said he and the Sun staff had decided to focus more on the environment in their reporting, and he asked if I had any ideas, thoughts or feedback about this.

I was both amazed about their decision and honored that he had asked for my thoughts.

I had been dreaming of doing some kind of sustainability writing for awhile, and felt there was no time like the present to ask…

Obviously he liked the idea 🙂

I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that the reason this Sustainable Spring blog came to be is because Mr. Nelson has chosen to use the Kitsap Peninsula’s largest and most widely read paper to educate readers about the environment.

I’m impressed beyond words, and I’m grateful to the Kitsap Sun for making this change. I do believe I will get myself my first ever newspaper subscription!

Specifically, I heart the Kitsap Sun

Thank you to David and all the excellent reporters, bloggers, researchers, columnists and others who are involved in the paper. Your hard work and dedication is appreciated.


Sustainable Spring


Tips for Tea Drinkers

As I drank my tea this morning, I realized I’ve had at least 3,600 cups of tea in the last ten years! I drink tea as tonic for all kinds of ailments – fatigue, colds, aching muscles…

I drink most of my tea in the morning though, to gently wake up before I jolt my system with coffee. There are so many uses and so much interesting tea history that I could just go on for days about it! Don’t worry, I won’t.

What spurred this train of thought was a Facebook post from a fellow tea drinker about chemicals that are often found in tea and the bags they come in. I learned there’s plenty to be worried about in these little tea cups.

I won’t get into ALL the nasty bits, as you can read those in the FoodBabe blog post I read, but here is the image that reeled me in:

Thank you to for this great chart!
Thank you to for this great chart!

I was happy to find Rishi, the maker of one of my favorite morning teas (Organic Earl Grey), with no checks. No wonder it tastes so delicious! Now I can feel good about it’s impact on my health and those involved in picking my tea as well.

The three main questions this list brought up for me were:

  1. Are there pesticides in my tea leaves?
  2. What are the “natural flavors” on the ingredient list?
  3. Does the packaging contain chemicals that could leach into my tea?

Pesticides can include so many harmful chemicals that I try to avoid them whenever possible, and the more I learn about the term “natural flavors,” the more I try to avoid those as well. Foodbabe explains these well in her blog post.

I’ve also been wary of plastic tea bags, and with a little delving into the subject, I learned some have phthalates. According to one report on the Food and Drug Administration website,

“Phthalates display a variety of toxic effects in animal studies following chronic exposure or even after short-term exposures in particularly vulnerable organisms. These effects include damage to the liver, kidney, heart, and lungs as well as adverse effects on reproduction, development, and blood clotting.” (Click here to read more of this report).

I also learned that the tea ball I use for loose teas can leach chemicals into my cup, so I use this one:

My favorite tool for tea brewing
My favorite tool for tea brewing
The deep and wide holder allows the flavor to really seep into my teas
The deep and wide holder allows the flavor to really seep into my teas

I’ve also found tea just tastes better with this little tool!

The best way I’ve found to avoid harmful chemicals is to make the wisest choices I can afford. With the list above I have a good base line in choosing teas wisely.

My favorite teas right now are: 

Rishi Organic Earl Grey – I let it steep for about three minutes, shorter or longer depending on how strong I want it. I add a 1/4 teaspoon of honey and a touch of milk alternative.

Home grown peppermint/spearmint blend – these were so easy to grow and turn into tea! I’ll share my growing and harvesting tips in another post.

On hot summer afternoons I like a cup of mint green iced tea with honey for a refresher. If I’m feeling a cold coming on I’ll have peppermint tea with honey. If I’m feeling restless at night I’ll have a cup of chamomile tea..but now I’m going to pay a lot more attention to which teas I’m drinking and what they’re packaging is!

On to the next 3600 cups…

Do you drink tea? What are your favorites? 


Who is Sustainable Spring?

I got so excited to do my first post about using baking soda and vinegar for hair wash that I forgot to introduce myself!

To begin, I’m a thirty-seven year-young woman who lives in Seabeck, Washington. In January 2014 I left my position as Program Director for the Olympic Outdoor Center to dedicate time to writing a memoir and this blog, as well as develop new programs to connect youth and adults to the outdoors. I still lead trips for the Olympic Outdoor Center and now for Bainbridge Island Parks and Recreation.

In addition to writing and leading outdoor trips, I also help people organize their spaces with my business, Spring Cleaning. I love to mountain bike, hike, garden as much as possible and work on the trails around my house, which are connected to the Stavis Natural Conservation Area.

Me kayaking near Hansville, Washington, with Mount Baker in the background
Me kayaking near Hansville, Washington, with Mount Baker in the background. Photo by Don Willott.

From a young age I found solace and adventure in the natural world. I spent my first ten years living in a log house on five wooded acres outside of Spokane, Washington. I was surrounded by plants, water, snow, and animals from the time I was born.

My parents ran a plant nursery on our property and had a large garden that supplied a fair amount of our food. I played in the woods, collected frogs and worms, played with my ducks and chickens, cleaned peas from the garden and, well, you get the idea.

We moved to Poulsbo when I was 11 and I had a troubled teenagerhood, but through Outward Bound and long afternoons alone with my journal on the beach, I again connected with the natural world.

At age 19 I took a mountaineering course  at Olympic College, then helped lead a two-hundred mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon with teenagers from the Suquamish Tribe, and I got a job selling outdoor equipment at the Mountain Shoppe in Bremerton.

I hadn’t been so happy since I was a child. I decided I wanted a future being outside as much as possible.

As a student at The Evergreen State College, I began to learn about how humans were harming the natural world.  At first I was angry, depressed and frustrated. I wrote long, ranting speeches and poems, which I never shared.

One day as drove home from grocery shopping at Safeway, I realized it wasn’t fair for me to rant unless I was part of the solution. I sold my car and started riding my bike and the bus everywhere. I started eating only organic food and learned about buying in bulk. I started working at a consignment store and began buying only used clothes.

I realized the best way to help the natural world’s was to teach youth and from then on I have dedicated my passion and most of my energy to outdoor, environmental education.

One of my favorite quotes
One of my favorite quotes

I spent a few carless years working for outdoor education organizations in any capacity I could. During and after college I:

Things changed in my thirties – I bought a car, I give in to my Cheetos cravings, I occasionally eat out at chain restaurants. I worked for BabyLegs out of Seattle, which flew and drove me all over the country, to England and to Uganda. I got a certificate in sustainable business and helped get the Seattle Ski Shuttle, then came back to Kitsap.

I now live a relatively quiet life and try to have as little negative impact on the natural world as possible, though I don’t stress about it. I continue to learn and share my experiences along the way.

Adults are Kids, Too

I came back to Kitsap to be the Program Director for the Olympic Outdoor Center. I taught kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, standup paddleboarding, rock climbing and marine life to youth and adults.

While teaching kayaking, I realized that adults are just big kids who sometimes forget how to play. I see the same joy on the faces of both youth and adults – joy to be alive and having fun outside with seals, salmon and eagles.

My desire is that each person I come into contact with feels a little of that joy and is inspired to make choices to help preserve, protect and enhance the natural world that I love so much.

Please feel free to contact me with questions, concerns, thoughts, edits and sustainability ideas. You can reach me at, find me on my personal Facebook page, or…

Join one of my upcoming trips:

Snowshoeing at Hurricane Ridge – February 23 with Bainbridge Island Parks and Recreation. No experience needed, all ages welcome. Snowshoes and transportation included ($45/person, details at bottom of page 31). Meet on Bainbridge.

I'll be leading this trip in Poulsbo from 9:00 am to noon.
I’ll be leading this trip in Poulsbo from 9:00 am to noon.

Birding Kayak Tour with George Gerst – March 23 in Poulsbo with the Olympic Outdoor Center. No experience needed, all equipment, a lesson, seal viewing and a snack are included.

Wildlife Kayak Tour FUNdraiser – April 26 in Poulsbo for the Poulsbo Marine Science Center. No experience needed. Included: all equipment, kayaking lesson, seal viewing, a private tour of the Marine Science Center and a locally smoked salmon snack.

WOW: Women On Water kayak tours and classes – starting March 22. Paddle on the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail, share a meal with other fun ladies and get paddling tips along the way. Trips and classes for beginner to intermediate paddlers.

I'll be leading monthly tours along the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail, with stops at local restaurants.
Starting in March, I’ll be leading monthly tours along the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail, with stops at local restaurants.

All Grrls Outdoor Adventure Camp – August 18-22 on Bainbridge Island. For girls ages 8-12. Kayak, standup paddleboard, hike, mountain bike, have a beach party, learn Leave No Trace ethics, pet sea cucumbers, and much more.

Coming soon – women’s reTREATs at my house in the woods! Curious? Contact me any time with questions or ideas:

Wishing you happy, sustainable adventuring!


Spring Courtright kayaking2

Healthier Hair Wash – Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda, vinegar and a measuring cup are all the ingredients you need for this hair wash
Baking soda, vinegar and a measuring cup are all the ingredients you need for this hair wash

Two of my ongoing goals are to put fewer chemicals on and in my body and to reduce the number of things I buy with packaging.

The more I learn about the chemicals in products and their potentially dangerous side effects – in my body, in the people and places along the way to their creation, and in the water supply after washing down my drain – the more I want to avoid them.

In a recent Puget Consumer Co-op newsletter, they highlighted concerns about the thousands of chemicals found in personal care products. Statements that jumped out at me in one article were:

“…the Environmental Protection Agency website states that ‘of the 10,500 chemical ingredients used in personal care products, just 11% have been assessed for health and safety.”

“Body care products are among the least regulated products on the US market. There are few meaningful laws about what can or cannot go into body care products. Consequently, conventional hair care products have few standards.”

The most concerning “personal care” product chemicals I keep coming across in my research are:

Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates – a foaming agent in shampoo, possible carcinogen, attracts and kills many bugs, can affect people with skin sensitivities (I have VERY sensitive skin!)  

DEA/Diethanolamine – an emulsifying agent that can create carginogenic compounds when combined with other chemicals found in personal care products).

Parabens – (used as antimicrobials and preservatives, but many have been linked to breast cancer and hormone disruption).

Fragrance – this can mean any of thousands of chemicals, most of which are unregulated and untested – yikes!

Those are just the chemicals found IN body care products. The containers they come in are also full of unregulated chemicals, which pollute people and natural systems while being made and after we’re through with them, whether we recycle them or not.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Over the years I’ve tried endless natural shampoos, conditioners, gels and sprays, but found my hair was always about the same – kind of lifeless. A couple months ago I FINALLY tried washing my hair with baking soda and rinsing it with white vinegar…and it worked!

I was expecting my hair to look drab and flat, but instead it was full of body and looked incredibly healthy. I talked to my favorite hair cutter (Alex at Moda salon on Bainbridge Island) and she said she regularly uses a vinegar rinse to liven up her hair as well. Alex has beautiful, shiny hair.

It’s really fun to experiment – I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you experience!

I’m still playing with the best amount of soda and vinegar to use and the lack of foaminess was weird at first, but I’m excited to be free of all those plastic bottles full of chemicals.

Here’s the general recipe – tweak it according to your hair length and level of oiliness. Mmy hair is few inches past my shoulders and the ends tend to be dry.

(I keep a glass measuring cup in my shower for this to mix the ingredients in)

Baking soda wash:

  • 3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 3/4 cup water

Use your finger to mix them together thoroughly, then immediately tip your head back a little (to keep it out of your eyes), pour the mixture all over your scalp, and massage into the roots for a bit (using it on the ends can dry out the hair).

Rinse with warm water.

Vinegar rinse:

  • 1 part white vinegar (I use about a half cup)
  • 4 parts water (I use about two cups)

Let the vinegar soak in for a few seconds, then rinse with cold water. I’ve read that cold water rinses are best, but I can’t get myself to douse my head with cold water in the winter! Warm water seems to work just fine. I hear the cold water method will help eliminate static and frizz, and will make hair shinier. As it gets warmer I’ll give this a try.


Washing every day with any product will dry hair out, so try washing every 2-3 days and see what happens. My hair is much healthier when I don’t wash every day. It can take one or two months for your body to adjust to not having to produce so much oil, so your hair may seem oilier at first, but it’s worth the wait!


Essential oil fragrance – the vinegar smell disappears surprisingly fast, but longer hair can hold a slight vinegar smell for awhile. To cut this, I add a couple drops of essential oil in the vinegar rinse before pouring it over my hair or I’ll put a couple drops on my brush and run it through after my shower.

My favorites essential oils right now are:

  • jasmine
  • ylang ylang (one of the ingredients in Chanel No. 5 perfume!)
  • vanilla (you can use the same vanilla you use for baking)

Baking soda grease cutter – if your roots are a little greasy but you don’t have time to shower, rub in a little baking soda. The added bonus is that you’ll get a little extra body! If you have dark hair, mix in a little cocoa powder. Using too much can make your hair look grayish, so again, don’t experiment before a big outing unless you have a hat handy.

Coconut oil conditioner – when my ends are dry I rub a tiny bit of coconut oil into them and leave on for an hour or overnight, then I wash with the baking soda/vinegar method. Be careful not to use too much as it can make your hair look greasy – don’t experiment just before a hot date!

Alex (my favorite hair cutter I mentioned earlier), suggests an occasional coconut oil “hair mask:”

“All you do is slather it on clean, wet hair, leave on for 20 minutes – you can wrap a towel turban style to use the warmth of your head to increase penetration. Rinse well. So shiny and soft, and smells good too.”

What are your sustainable hair wash and personal product experiences? What are your “green goals?”

Great resources for more information about chemicals in personal care products: