Earth, water and plastic?

If you've ever wondered what my favorite medieval alchemy element is and guessed it's earth, you're right.

And I want to be your friend so we can be dorky together.

Although earth is my favorite element, water is a close second. All summer, I'm in the water. And in the winter, here in Southern Oregon, the water comes to us in buckets.

Being human, I also like to drink water. As a teenager, I'd drink from throwaway plastic bottles — how convenient! In college, I started to wise up to environmental issues and began drinking from a reusable, but still plastic, Nalgene bottle.

Then I began to recycle glass juice jars as water jugs. And a few years ago, at the Ashland Food Cooperative, I bought my first stainless-steel water bottle. Since then it seems like everyone has caught on to the metal water bottle trend. My mother gave me one. The Associated Press passed them out in the Daily Tidings newsroom. The co-op stopped selling single-use plastic water bottles.

This is all very heartening.

Here in Ashland, we are ahead of the environmental curve. But in much of the rest of the country, it's a different story.

I recently watched the documentary "Tapped," about the evils of the bottled water industry. The film was listed in Netflix's Local Favorites for the Ashland section for weeks, so I'm sure many of you have seen it.

Here's my take on the film: We can blame the bottled water companies all we want. We can call them evil and they may be. But they wouldn't be raping our streams and bottling water if so many Americans weren't still buying it.

That's the way with capitalism: Companies will do whatever it takes to make money. But, thankfully, we can vote with our dollars.

I realize I'm probably preaching to the choir on this issue, so I began to think about what our next steps should be, once we've stopped buying bottled water and urged our friends to do the same.

It's probably a good idea to avoid plastics marked at the bottom as 3, 6 and 7, because studies have found that they may leach toxins.

But, I'm also committed to using less plastic in general. Why? It's often made using oil, increasing our dependence on that resource and the industry that produces it. Also, although plastic is usually recyclable, it takes a lot of resources to recycle and the plastic often ends up in a landfill anyway.

Lastly, despite what you may have been led to believe, plastic is not a medieval element and neither is oil. If plastic or oil were so important, I have to believe that some great alchemy wizard — Merlin? — would have included them in the list of elements.

After watching "Tapped," I came home and looked at all the plastic bottles I have in my house, mostly containing shampoo, laundry detergent and dish soap.

Then, I went online and searched for "how to make your own laundry detergent." There are hundreds of recipes on the Internet and they all seem surprisingly simple.

I plan to make some using two cups of finely grated soap, one cup of washing soda, one cup of borax and a few drops of essential oil. I'll put it in a glass jar and use two tablespoons per laundry load. I'll let you know how it goes.

Later, I plan to make my own shampoo and toothpaste.

It's going to be my alchemy experiment. Following in the path of the great wizards, I'm studying the medieval art.

Except, I'm not trying to create gold. I'm working on coming up with something better than plastic.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or For past columns see

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