So there I was, fresh batch of yogurt made, plastic-free groceries put away, reusable bags ready for the next grocery run. I was feeling pretty smug about my increasingly plastic-free life.

Later that evening, brushing my teeth after dinner, I squeezed toothpaste out of the plastic tube onto my plastic toothbrush and started brushing. And suddenly stopped. Looking in the mirror, mouth full of foam, I thought, “Seriously? This, too?” How many tubes of toothpaste have I tossed in the trash during my life? How many toothbrushes have I condemned to the landfill or the ocean?

First thing in the morning, I started researching toothpaste recipes online. It was easier than I thought it would be. I found one that I liked and that even worked for sensitive teeth. After experimenting for a few months and getting feedback from friends, I tweaked it to make it more palatable. The chemical-free ingredients (coconut oil, baking soda, bentonite clay, trace minerals and essential oil) can all be safely ingested — not that you would spread it on your toast in the morning —  and each serves a purpose in cleaning and protecting your teeth from decay.

Options in certain grocery stores and online include brands in glass jars with similar ingredients. I’ve tried them all! But I prefer the homemade recipe taste and find it easier to keep a stock of the ingredients and make a new batch when I run out. The recipe is below if you are game. I bought a bamboo toothbrush and, after just a few months, I’ve eliminated plastic toothpaste tubes from my trash production!

It takes two months to form a new habit, according to Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London. We are midway through week four of the stay-at-home order. We may have another three weeks to go. Maybe more depending on how Washington state fares. It’s a perfect time to start.

Being at home has given us back time we normally spend commuting or shopping or doing activities outside the home. What are you doing with this time? Making masks? Binge-watching? Cleaning out closets? Becoming one with your couch? Whatever it is you are doing, is OK. Keep perspective. As my wise daughter said the other day, “This is not a productivity contest. It’s a pandemic.” It’s OK to take cover under the duvet one day and write half your novel the next.

But it’s also a great time to form some new habits. Like making toothpaste! You’ll need the following ingredients, available online or at certain grocery stores (I go to PCC).

4 Tbsp Coconut Oil

3 Tbsp Natural Baking Soda

3 Tbsp Bentonite Clay (I prefer white purely for aesthetics)

1 Tsp Xylitol

5-10 Drops Concentrated Trace Minerals (remineralizer)

20 – 30 drops Essential Oils (peppermint is nice)

Water as needed

Mix all ingredients with a non-metal spoon in a non-metal bowl (bentonite clay is volcanic ash with an electric charge). I use five to six drops of the trace minerals because it’s too salty otherwise. And I go crazy with the peppermint — 25 drops or more! If your coconut oil is solid or difficult to mix, warm it up for a few minutes on the stove or in the sun. Store in a non-metal container (preferably glass). Dip your toothbrush in and brush normally. Safe for children and adults. Keeps for several months at room temperature. Credit to: The Crunchy Moose, thecrunchymoose.com/.

When I first proposed the idea for this climate-focused column, I never dreamed that, just three columns in, we would be dropped into the middle of the surreal scenario that we find ourselves in. “How do I write about the climate, when this is taking over our lives,” I wondered as it sank its teeth into our lives and our psyches. But then, the skies all over the world started clearing with fewer emissions resulting from stay-at-home orders and industry stoppages. Anyone who has disputed the fact that climate change is caused by humans can no longer credibly do so. The coronavirus, with all it has taken from us, has given us an opportunity to wake up to what we must do. Let’s stay awake and demand that our leaders take heed.

It’s going to take more than postings on FaceBook and talking in our small circles of like-minded friends. It’s going to take all of us embracing discomfort when talking to those who disagree or have blinders on.

And accepting that, no matter how difficult, we have to adjust our habits and change our patterns.

Hope you are hanging in there, staying healthy and focusing on the eventual light at the end of this pandemic tunnel. We will beat this and come out on the other side, hopefully, intact. Maybe better than when we went into it.

Course Correction for the week: Try making your own toothpaste. It can be a fun activity with kids, too, and a teaching opportunity for them about the climate.

When we are free to go about our lives as we did before the pandemic, hopefully you will have established some new, climate-healing habits.

Talk it up amongst your friends.

Get comfortable with discomfort and pushback.

Most of all be patient with yourself and your loved ones.