Itty Bits: Making the Move to Biodegradable

Posted on October 12th, 2010 by Tonia 6 Comments

It’s official- we live on a little farm.  We completed the move last weekend with the help of many friends and family.  It feels absolutely awesome to finally be home in this place we have pined over and dreamt of for nearly a year.  Now, if only we could sell our Duluth house, we’d be REALLY happy!  I promise, a whole big long awesome post will be coming soon with pictures of the new place.  I want to get it somewhat set up and looking cute before I let you all see it!  Currently there are still big boxes…everywhere.

Day 1 at the farm, it became pretty obvious that our lives here are going to be very different than before.  First of all, this place is much more rustic than our Duluth house.  It’s an old, charming, romantic farmhouse…but with all that charm comes certain idiosyncrasies.  The stairs are squeaky, for example.  There is a colony of mice living quite the comfy life in the walls of the guest cottage {an issue that needs to be remedied immediately, if we ever hope to rent it out.}  And the previous owners converted the plumbing to a gray-water system…meaning we have to use biodegradable soaps and cleaning supplies. 

This last issue might not seem like an issue to some of you.  You might be thinking, “awesome! everyone in the world should be using bio-deg stuff!”  And you’re right…it’s ridiculous that it is normal for us to pour products with toxins and all kinds of terrible pollutants down our drains daily.  I know this, and yet I am finding it difficult to part with many of my favorite products.


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For example, personal hygiene products.  Let’s be honest…bio-deg shampoos and conditioners JUST DON’T WORK AS WELL.  I’m speaking from personal experience here.  I have yet to find a bio-deg brand that doesn’t leave my hair feeling kind of sticky, looking flat, and definitely not shiny or smooth.  Boo!  What’s a girl who desires to live a low-impact life, but enjoys soft, silky hair to do?

I wrote Aveda’s corporate office an email, asking if their hair products are bio-deg, in hopes that I would not have to kick my Aveda addiction upon arrival at the farm.  They wrote me the following confusing message…

Dear Tonia,

Thank you for taking the time to contact Aveda.
Aveda products contain biodegradable surfactants, essential oils and other ingredients which are readily treatable by municipal sewage treatment plants, and are considered non-toxic.
Hair care products in general should not be released or discharged directly into the environment.  Even if the product is biodegradable, states like Minnesota do not permit usage of shampoos or cleaners in open lakes, rivers or ponds.
Should you need further assistance, please contact our Consumer Relations team at 800.328.0849 between 8am-5:30pm Central Standard Time to speak with a Customer Service Representative.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns.


AVEDA – Customer Relations – Blaine
Aveda Global Consumer Communications

Ok so, your products are bio-deg, but I shouldn’t use them like they are?  Hmmm… Maybe this is just Aveda’s way of subtly reminding us that gray-water systems are not exactly legal.  That’s right, most state governments- lacking any real way to control whether or not people would just dump all kinds of toxic crap down their drains- made gray-water systems against the rules altogether. 


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So, shhh, don’t tell anyone we’re doing this.  But maybe there’s a real good reason for this law?  I mean, how much harm are we doing by depositing all this soap into the ground?  Even if it is bio-deg, how quickly does it break down?

Of all the environmental buzzwords ‘biodegradable’ has perhaps been the most misused and the most difficult to understand.  Because in the past there have been no guidelines or regulations, many products have called themselves biodegradable without any real justification.”

This quote was found on this website, which has a great article on the matter.  It’s true, you can’t take these claims at face value, you must always read the ingredient list to make sure there’s nothing nasty in it.  I also read this article that states that bio-deg soap made with essential oils {like avocado oil} breaks down quickly in soil, and will actually help your compost pile decompose quicker, if you add a small amount to it.

All the research I can find says that soil does an excellent job of breaking soap down quickly.  But we will have to be extra careful that none of our soapy water is getting anywhere near a fresh water source.  Soap deposited directly into a body of water {like, if you take a “shower” in a lake or river} does not break down.  SOIL is the key elements here.

It looks like I am just going to have to deal with sticky hair from now on.  I am sure I will get used to it, but hey, if I have to suffer- so should you.  😉  The Itty-Bitty Challenge this week is to use bio-deg soap {in the shower, for your dishes, everything!} for at least a week.  Make the switch permanent if you can!


  1. Jared says:

    Tonia, thanks for your honesty about the challenges of going bio-deg. It’s sounds like it’s gonna be difficult, and who wants hair that feels like sticky stems? I can’t wait to check out the greywater system sometime soon.

  2. I agree with Jared. I’m so glad you not only share how to, but the challenges as well. It helps us to see what we’ll face up ahead.

    Still, the challenges are so worth learning to live green, live with less, and live simply.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeri Taira, Tonia. Tonia said: Itty Bits: Making the Move to Biodegradable […]

  4. Cheri says:

    Hi Tonia,
    Congratulations on everything! The wedding, the farm, the new life together. It will be exciting to watch your story unfold.

    Re: biodegradable soaps and stuff – particularly shampoo.

    I use ( and love!) a shampoo bar made by my friend Tennessee Farm Girl ( her name is Cheri and she even spells it right!). It makes my hair feel clean and silky.

    Here is a link to her website:

    I use the Citrus Sensation Gourmet Shampoo Bar. Ingredients? Distilled water, saponified cocomut, castor and olive oils, jojoba, sweet almond, apricot kernel and avocado oils, shea butter; sweet orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime eos (essential oils).

    While I don’t see that she claims this is bio-deg, it sure sounds likes something you could eat!

    Hope that helps. I like her other soaps too. You can link to her blog on mine (another cheri) to see some of the other thinks she grows, does, and makes. She is an inspiration!

  5. […] on 10. Nov, 2010 by Tonia in Uncategorized Remember when I complained about biodegradable hair products?  All the brands I have tried so far have left my hair feeling sticky and coarse.  I may be a […]

  6. […] hair is pretty.  I like it.  I’ll miss it, but this is for the best.}  I no longer have to complain about biodegradable shampoo not working as well as the regular stuff, because with this haircut it […]

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