Let's Talk About Living Green!

Living Green Matters!

 

Many people assume that they can't do anything to help the environment, that nothing will make a difference. However, there are several simple ways in which you can become environmentally friendly, and it doesn't take a lot of time or money. Here are some suggestions:

 

  • Use alternative transportation as much as possible. A very large percentage of traffic (and air pollution) is from commuters and their vehicles. Try to use public transportation for long commutes, walk or ride your bicycle for shorter distances. If you drive, don't speed, and always make sure your tires are properly inflated. (It will increase your gas mileage, which is very important for today's driver.)

  • Recycle, recycle, and recycle. Reduce yard and kitchen waste by composting. Once again, we return to Grandma's time and want to keep a plastic bucket under the sink for coffee grounds, eggshells, and vegetable or citrus rinds. (No animal scraps or fat.) If you forget to request paper bags at the grocery store, remember to reuse your plastic bags. Large grocery stores often have recycling bins for the overflow of plastic bags, so you can take those back to the store with every trip. Another idea is to donate them to your local food bank.

  • Natural cleaning products present environmentally safe, cost-efficient choices the toxic and lethal house cleaning products used in many homes worldwide. Using natural cleaning products is dangerous as most cleaning products commonly used in the home eventually contact the air, water, and/or soil, where they can cause significant and irreparable harm to animals, plants, drinking water, and food. The average person uses about 40 pounds of toxic household cleaning products each year. Scary! These cleaning products contain dangerous ingredients, including neurotoxins, carcinogens, allergens, central nervous system depressants, heavy metals, and other agents that cause or contribute to cancer, respiratory problems, reproductive abnormalities, allergic reactions, and behavioral problems, among other serious medical conditions. 

  • Watch your water usage. Don't leave water running when it doesn't need to be. Take short showers with low water flow and take baths only rarely. Don't turn on the dishwasher if it isn't full. Low flush, environmentally-friendly toilets are available at home improvement centers. 

  • Don't smoke. It's bad for you, and it's bad for the people around you. Cigarette smoke releases carbon monoxide - the same stuff that comes out of your car tailpipe- and has been proven to cause cancer. However, I am all for freedom of choice, so if you must smoke, please do it inside your own home and away from children.

  • In winter, lower your thermostat. In summer, raise it. It saves energy and releases less pollution. You can set it to turn on automatically during lower temperatures in the winter and higher temps during the summer. If you can, turn it off completely during the summer months - that's even more environmentally friendly.

  • Dispose of old batteries, paint, motor oil, and antifreeze at a toxic disposal site. You must avoid keeping such materials around the house. Some cities allow for this kind of recycling to be available through curb pick up - call your sanitation department to find out if it is available where you live.

  • Take action for the environment. Write to local politicians about sprawling and other issues that are affecting your environment. Lobby or participate in walks and protests. You can also participate by planting trees. Find out through the local store about environmentally friendly plans for your town, and get involved! It's good for the environment, the landscape, and you.

 

Which Domestic Cleaning Products Are The Worst For The Environment?

 

• Phosphates found in dishwasher and laundry detergents, cause algae bloom, which kills fish and aquatic plants, and produces chemicals that are toxic to animals and people who drink the water.

• Trisodium nitrilotriacetate is a possible carcinogen in laundry detergents. It can upset the elimination of metals in wastewater treatment facilities.

• Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite), available alone and in detergents and other products, is toxic to fish and can bind with organic compounds in water to form organochlorines, which slowly make its way into the environment and build up in the fatty tissues of wildlife. Chlorine is especially toxic to organisms that live in water and soil. 

• Naphtha and mineral spirits, found in furniture polishes, are neurotoxins and considered hazardous waste. Mineral spirits break down very slowly and pollute air and water. 

• Formaldehyde, an ingredient in furniture polish and various cleaning products, is a potential human carcinogen and is the leading cause of cancer in many animals. 

• Phthalates, found in furniture polish, upset the work of hormones causing genetic defects in both animals and people. 

• Ether-type solvents, methylene chloride, butyl cellosive, and petroleum distillates, usually found in oven cleaners are harmful wastes and can pollute the air, water, and soil. 

• Sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide, in drain cleaners, can change the pH of water and cause fish to die. 

 

Taking The Next Step

 

So, you have decided to live an eco-friendly life? It is a big step in the right direction! When do you know that you take it seriously, though? If you can recognise yourself in the following statements, you are on the right track!

  • You don’t have a special cupboard for storing cleaning products because most of the things you use for cleaning live in the kitchen and live a double life as food.

  • You are quite prepared to argue with your spouse/partner/flatmates about the merits of baking soda and the like for cleaning versus “that overpriced stinking chemical muck” in the middle of the supermarket, regardless of crowds collecting to watch.

  • You are a bit dubious about hiring a professional cleaner for your house, as you suspect that a professional might bring in all the chemicals you’ve been trying to avoid for years.

  • You buy baking soda in bulk and you know where to find the massive containers of vinegar commonly used by restaurants.

  • When you read period novels about life below stairs, you have your eyes peeled for descriptions of how the maid(s) cleaned various odd items, either to spot mistakes or to learn new tips.

  • Most of the essential oils in your home are disinfectant-type ones such as tea tree oil rather than the more flowery ones like ylang-ylang.

  • You are a frequent visitor at your local liquor store and have given up explaining that you need large quantities of vodka for cleaning glass rather than because you’re hitting the bottle.

  • You have considered starting up your own professional cleaning company using natural cleaning methods only. Surely, other people like you want to avoid household toxins as much as possible but don’t have heaps of time to clean their house.

  • Your concern for your household environment extends to the wider environment and you cringe when you see people glibly spraying chemicals around your child’s classroom.

  • The only interest you have in brand-name cleaning chemicals is the package they come in – that spray bottle that has a foam-producing nozzle looks very handy.

  • You have tried cleaning the toilet using a brush for the part under the rim – and lived to tell the tale, even though you gagged when you saw the gunk coming out.

  •  You have been to at least one Enjo sales party and have bought a few of the microfibre cleaning cloths.

  • You don’t balk at the idea of cleaning leather upholstery. A bit of olive oil will do the trick, won’t it? (It will).

  • Your recipe book has a section dedicated to cleaning products, and this section has more entries than the section dedicated to entreés.

  • It’s been so long since you used an ammonia-based product for cleaning glass or floors that you start gagging and coughing if someone uses it near you. The same applies to chlorine, but trips to your local swimming pool have hardened you to it.

  • You are quasi-fanatical about saving soap scraps to boil down into soap gel, which you will use for cleaning floors, cleaning cars, cleaning the toilet…

  • You’ve got no idea where your local dry cleaning agent is located, as you are quite capable of handwashing anything delicate.

Spread The Word

 

Do you check at least half of the boxes mentioned above? Give yourself a tap on the shoulder if you do! You haven’t reached your final destination, however. Sometimes, one of the hardest parts of switching to using natural cleaning methods is to persuade the other members of your household that it is the right idea. If you don’t, you have with the following three options:

  • cleaning the house yourself

  • putting up with their chemical gunk on the bits that they clean

  • hiring a professional domestic cleaner to come in and treat your house.

 

The only problem with the last couple of choices is that you still have to put up with the fumes and toxins from the detergents. Hiring a professional is also expensive unless you have a massive house, in which case it can be worth getting it professionally cleaned.

So how to convince your nearest and dearest to ditch the “Super Fabulous Carpet Cleaning Goo”, “Sparkling Windows”, “Kills 99% of Germs” or “Gardenia and Lotus Blossom Scent” printed in large sans-serif fonts on the front?

 

  • Leave a book or a magazine article outlining some of the horrible side effects of commercial cleaning products. Make sure it is at some handy place where they’ll find it. Some people have to read about a fact, written by someone with an alphabet soup of letters after their name, to believe it. This way, the reader may think that switching to natural cleaners is their idea.

  • The price test: many natural cleaners are a lot cheaper than the commercial ones. What’s more, they tend to last longer and are more versatile – just think of all the things you can do with vinegar.

  • The demonstration: showing the reluctant party just how good natural cleaners are at cleaning windows, for example, will convince them. Once you’ve demonstrated that vinegar can get the windows shining without any streaks AND without giving you a hideous headache if you breathe it in, half your job is done. Enjo clothes are particularly good at it – use the grease-absorbing cloths on a filthy barbecue for best results.

  • The non-toxic test. Eat or drink some of the natural cleaners you are about to use, then challenge them to do the same with the cleaners they are about to use. No contest!

  • The smell test. Peppermint of lavender oil comes in handy, as most people like it. Add bits of this to the baking soda, vinegar or vodka you’re using (or the soap gel, or the water) and wait for that person to say “Mmm – what is that? It smells lovely?” And then you tell them. Real-plant essences smell so much nicer than the fake scents.

  • The versatility test. One bottle of diluted vinegar with a dash of essential oil can be used for cleaning glass, cleaning benchtops, disinfecting the toilet seat and as an air freshener. Then watch the convinced stagger around with a barrage of bottles and potions, one for each job. Smile smugly when they drop something and you don’t.

  • The skin test: Show your skin – free from cracking, flaking and itches – after using the natural cleaning products without rubber gloves. Then have a look at their hands. Oh, they’re wearing rubber gloves, aren't they? Doesn’t that tell you something?

 

Does it sound all too general for your taste? No problem, let’s get into the specifics! Here are a few of our favourite one-liners that will convince even the most cynical skeptics of green cleaning:

 

  • “Baking soda and vinegar are cheaper.” The perfect line to use if you’re in the supermarket aisle, trying to buy the household cleaners and the household bean-counter has the calculator out.

  • “What would you use this in the fridge? The fumes will make the cheese taste weird.” It especially works for highly scented cleaning products.

  • “So what if it takes a bit more elbow grease to use my stuff? It burns calories.”

  • “That stuff always makes my hands itchy after I use it.” And then ignore remarks that you’re just a wimp and why don’t you use rubber gloves. Or else proceed to the next argument.

  • “Last time I used that stuff, I accidentally breathed some of the fumes in and was coughing for the rest of the day and/or had itchy eyes and a headache.”

  • “The chemicals in those cleaners affect hormones, and might make my PMT worse.” A good one for women to use on husbands. Pregnancy makes another excellent reason for switching to natural cleaners.

  • “Did you know that those artificial fragrances are some of the worst carcinogens around?”

  • “People have killed themselves by using too many chemical cleaners.” Yes, there have been cases of people dying after mixing ammonia-based toilet cleaner with chlorine-based cleaners – these react to form chlorine gas as used in the trenches of World War I. Then the silly person, in a small, enclosed space bends over the toilet bowl to scrub it out.


 

Some added arguments that apply to chemicals for use in the garden vs. organic methods.

 

  • “Some of that stuff’s going to still be on the lettuce when you come to eat it.”

  • “How are you going to stop the cat/dog/baby eating that snail bait?”

  • “I can just use old coffee grounds/eggshells/wood ash to keep the snails off – no need for that expensive bait.”

  • “All those chemicals will kill off the good bacteria in the soil that protect the plant from disease.”

  • “That spray will kill the bees that pollinate our flowers.”

  • “The carrots taste better when you use organic fertilizer.”

  • “Why can’t you pull the weeds out by hand – the exercise will do you good.”


 

Still more arguments for natural pest control inside the house:

 

  • “I don’t want that mouse poison anywhere near the food.”

  • “Using a flyswat is more fun. Why not pretend it’s a shoot-em-up computer game?”

  • “That fly spray will hurt my pet fish.”

  • “Don’t bother with that mouse poison – get a cat. A cat’s amusing and good for relieving stress.”

  • “You saw the rat? Kill it yourself with a cricket bat – it’s the closest you’ll get to being a dragon-slaying hero, darling.” Another good one to use on husbands, especially if they have a taste for action movies of the historical/fantasy type.

 

Negative Myths About Green Cleaning Products That Are Absurd

 

The first and very common myth about green cleaning products is that they don't work. The statement, however, is not true - they are as efficient as the commercial cleaning products. Compared to the traditional window cleaner, a homemade solution of vinegar and water cleans glass and windows the same way by removing dirt and making them shine.

The second myth you may have heard of friends or people around you is that cleaning takes more time when using homemade green cleaning products. The chemical formulae of detergents are indeed much more concentrated than natural cleaners. Therefore, they do dissolve the grime and dirt faster than vinegar or lemon juice, for example. The scrubbing and polishing, however, take the same amount of time.

Some people do not use green cleaners because they consider them more expensive. One quick calculation will prove the absurdity of the idea. Check your cash receipt from the grocery store and see if the vinegar and baking soda cost more than the detergents. 

Most people believe that if you can find a product on the market, its manufacturer must have run extensive tests and research to make it health-safe and eco-friendly. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case! There are so many hazardous detergents on the market that you stay away from the housekeeping section the next time you visit your local store. Do not presume that a certain product is safe only because everybody is using it.