Notes from the desert on hygiene for women
Mother Nature came this month. Using a diva cup in the wild is not easy. I will try not to get too graphic but there is a lot of complicating factors. There’s the whole issue of no running water and that as a group we are throwing away toilet paper in the trash and not flushing the toilet. So we had to start flushing after emptying a diva cup in the toilet, and with 8 women…all the more reason we need to hurry up and finish the outhouse. If this was not enough I have had dirty hands basically since I came here and I don’t want to touch anything with them. Basically, my saving grace has been baby wipes. I use them to clean my hands, to clean my diva cup and all that stuff. But then BCC: and Skip brought up the issue of the chemicals and waste created with the baby wipes. Here I am reducing water by showering with baby wipes but in doing so I am creating more waste. This planet is finite, there is no such thing as a free lunch, every action has a consequence so if you take more from one side you end up short on the other side. In this case, the dilemma is that in order to use less water I am creating more waste, but is it worth it? If I used a cloth napkin I would have to use more water and chemicals to clean it off, instead of just throwing away the baby wipe. To my knowledge, there is no way to reuse a baby wipe or recycle or compost them, and flushing even the “flushable wipes” ruins sewer systems. I am not sure if my baby wipe showers are better for the environment or not, I would honestly have to do a cost-benefit analysis on it, and with the internet as a scarce resource that is not happening anytime soon. But I would love to hear your thoughts on the Eco friendliness of baby wipes versus taking a shower.
Today is day nine of not taking a shower, however, the word shower is relative. I have been using a baby wipes to wipe down my body. If I am really dirty, to reduce the number of baby wipes I use, I put some water in a bowl and dip the baby wipe in water. I really thought this method worked so well I could stop taking showers. However, today after moving tires, digging the pit for the outhouse and gathering materials out of open landfills for the walls, I was covered in dust, black stuff from the tires and stains of all sorts. At first, I tried the baby wipe method, it certainly got most of the heavy dirt off my skin. But I was still so dirty, I even used two bowls, one to dip the baby wipe in clean water and another to squeeze out the dirty water. Still, I was pretty dirty, I also ended up doing the collecting of the materials out in the desert between 10am-1pm, the sun gets hottest in the afternoon but by noon it is pretty scorching hot. I think I burned my face. My body was sticky from the sunscreen, sweat and baby wipe moisture, and my face was puffy and hot. I could not take it anymore, I gave in and after nine days took a shower.
Showering is a whole other beast, aside from the part when I stuck my face into a bowl of water, it was extremely unsatisfying. Basically, I poured a bowl of water, and used a wash cloth with soap on it to spread the water on my body. The actual shower is outside and made from wood. Though you can close the shower curtain it is better if you don’t, the view is a beautiful scene of the desert and mountains, even though you don’t have much privacy. As you drip water on yourself using the rag and bowl of water, if any of it manages to fall down, it is caught in the baby pool we stand in as we are washing. This way the grey water you produce is caught and could be used for flushing. I had planned to use my grey water to wash my clothes in but grey water that came off my body was too dirty to wash anything in, I guess after nine days it adds up. What was surprising was I only used a quarter of a gallon for my body, and then I used another quarter of a gallon to wash my face. My face was feeling burnt from the sun, so I held it underwater, it felt so good I think that is the wettest my face has gotten since I made it to the States.
After nine days, all my socks were dirty (I had only brought two pairs…) so I ended up doing some laundry. I used the grey water from washing my face to start the laundry with, I washed some jean shorts, a tank top, a cloth napkin, washcloth, 2 pairs of socks, and four pairs of underwear. This took a half gallon, though I am not entirely convinced my jeans are all the way clean. Together washing my body and laundry took about a gallon, though not squeaky clean my fingernails were clean for the first time since getting here.
In other news, the outhouse pit is dug, and the materials are mostly collected. This took the whole group for multiple hours, we took shifts in the sun. The hardest parts were digging the hole and collecting the tires. The ground was hard, full of rocks and sand. The tires were heavy and we had to take them at least a five-minute walk. Now that the materials are collected tomorrow we start building.
Since the sun and heat are so intense, could you take a container and somehow put some sort of clear type material over the top to produce water? Sort of like a hothouse when starting seedlings. It might not produce much water although, every little bit could help to wash or flush. Just a thought.
Thanks for the suggestion! This is a possibility, but usually requires moisture to be present in order to get water. We did find that when we dug a hole deep enough for the outhouse, there is some moisture in the ground. So we may be able to get water from that!
Baby wipe use does present an interesting conundrum. Carefully examining what they are made of would be a good start & how destructive is the manufacturing process? Do they contain chemicals you don’t want on your skin /delicate parts? Can you choose a better product? Next, possible solutions to disposal…
Is there an innovative way you can reuse the material? After they dry out, perhaps you could shake the dirt and dust from them. Maybe collect the used ones for several weeks and create padding or insulation for something. Fill up cracks or holes? I’m so interested in and have so much respect for your project! So important! Looking forward to reading more.