Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC, commonly known as vinyl), Polyurethane foam (foam rubber), Polyster. All these poly’s. All non-biodegradable plastics. Not so good for our health or that of the planet, right? And yet so many health products are made from these materials. Take electric heating pads and gel ice packs, for example.
My cold packs are made of gel in PVC bags. And my heating pad is made from layers of PVC, polyurethane foam, and synthetic fabric. We worry about the chemicals released when we heat plastic food containers in the microwave: hormone disrupting phthalates, for example. So why would we put PVC in a heating pad? Or in any health product? (See my post about PVC blood and IV bags, for another example.) What’s more, neighborhoods near PVC factories that are subject to emissions of dioxins and vinyl chloride have higher rates of some cancers than other areas of the country. Healthy products, right?
So what’s the alternative?
Well, for ice packs, we can do what my mom did for us back in the day: ice in a towel. Or ice in a bathtub! After running my marathon in January of 2007 (and by running, I mean jogging, walking, and finally stumbling), my sweet kind sisters put me in the tub and dumped trash cans full of ice all over my aching legs. (They got the ice from the machine down the hall. Lucky for us, we were staying in a motel. But you could prepare buckets of ice ahead of time.)
I hated it at the time, but the ice bath worked so well that I was out partying and dancing with them that night!
So what about that heating pad? Or what if you don’t need the intensity of ice or cold gel? For a lot of you, this will be obvious information. For me, a revelation. And thank god for Twitter and what I learn from the #ecowed discussions every Wednesday. Someone happened to mention “rice socks.” Huh? “What is that,” I asked. I have socks. I have rice. Whatever it is, I can make it.
Turns out they were referring to any one of several cloth packs filled with rice or buckwheat or flax seeds or corn or even cherry pits that you can freeze or heat in the microwave to substitute for plastic heating pads or gel packs. Many Etsy sellers make and sell fancy ones with colorful patterned fabric and essential oils. (See links above).
Awesome. But like I said, I have socks. I have rice. I can make my own! There are only two instructions.
1) Fill a sock with (uncooked) rice.
2) Tie it shut. I tied mine with twine, but you could just knot the sock itself.
3) Optional: add essential oils or dried plants like lavender.
Then, put it in the freezer…
I found the cold rice sock to be perfect for soothing a headache.
So, what are your favorite plastic-free remedies for relieving the swelling of aching muscles or the pain of monthly cramps or (I’m told) pregnancy? Always looking for alternatives to plastic.