Opt for Clean ‘n Fresh, instead of Annihilation ‘n Toxic Consequence
Americans remain largely in the dark about millions of pounds of toxic chemicals being used, shipped, discharged, and spilled in communities. Many are also unaware of the lifestyles and industrial processes that are disrupting the self-sustaining balance of the profound and complex interactions amongst all organisms on Earth. Our objective now must be to increase awareness, minimize impact, and replace questionable processes with those that honor sustainability of nature’s cycles.
Mainstream household cleaners typify American consumerism. Capitalizing on insecurities, manufacturers and marketers transform synthetic cleaning agents, anti-redeposition agents, bleaches, builders, enzymes, and optical brighteners into an $18 billion market. The products work under more varied conditions, against more forms of dirt, in colder water, require less time and effort than ever before, and introduce a plethora of chemicals whose presence in homes raises serious health and environmental concerns.
Consider the consequences of product ingredients and processes. Self-sustainability is necessary for a closed system, like the Earth. If ingredients can be recycled by nature, they are biodegradable. The cycle is complete and low impact. However, if ingredients cannot be broken into smallest possible parts via micro-organism action, the waste quantity of these ingredients will build up and harm nature’s cycles. Bioaccumulation is the unfortunate opposite of biodegradability.
Negative water impact leads to water pollution and eutrophication. Negative air quality and atmospheric impact leads to atmospheric ozone loss, acid rain, global warming, and air pollution. Negative land impact leads to resource depletion, deforestation, loss of habitat and biodiversity, soil contamination, and landfill space consumption. Additionally, negative human health impact thru ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact with dubious chemicals leads to acute toxicity (immediate) or chronic toxicity (cumulative).
Take antibacterial disinfectants, soaps, and sponges treated with triclosan for example. These products kill harmless bacteria, helping super germ strains to emerge that survive chemical onslaught and have resistant offspring. The negative long term effects undermine the chemical “solution.”
Reference the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), often available on manufacturers’ websites, which list hazardous ingredients and consult the Household Products Database by the National Institutes of Health (www.householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov) for information on specific ingredients.
When replacing toxic products, seek local toxics and electronic recycling days instead of the trash or drain. These products are too toxic for home, water supply, and landfill.
Select eco-friendly products which are non-toxic, biodegradable, effective, from renewable resources, packaged in recyclable material, not tested on animals, and do not contain harmful ingredients such as petrochemicals or chlorine. Seventh Generation, Ecover, CitraSolv, and Life Tree are some of the reputable companies producing various household cleaning products in alignment with these preferences. Also consider concocting DIY cleansers.
Distilled white vinegar is an eco-friendly and economical cleaner that effectively zaps out most mold, bacteria, and germs with its level of acidity. For wiping down surfaces, use a 2:1 ratio of water and vinegar in a spray bottle. For grime, use a full strength vinegar saturated rag. And for scouring, create a paste from ¼ cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap, and a splash of vinegar. Other recipes for vinegar dilutions and concoctions targeting specific tasks are outlined at here.
Lemon, grapefruit, and orange essential oils are antiseptic and antiviral, while lavender essential oil is antibacterial and antimicrobial. Each can be diluted in water or water and vinegar. Furthermore, all offer the uplifting and soothing benefits of aromatherapy.
Simple Green, another alternative, is a biodegradable, eco-sensitive, non-toxic cleaner and degreaser that breaks down large globs of oil, grease, and fat into increasingly smaller microscopic droplets thru a process called micro-particulate fractionalization. Available by the gallon, it can be custom diluted to varying concentrations in alignment with the task at hand.
Select durable tools such as cotton cloths that can be laundered, rather than disposable paper towels, wipes, and mops. Consider cutting and employing conveniently-sized pieces of worn bath, hand, and/or dish towels.
Cut sponges and scour pads in half, in order to conserve and increase ease of use. Disinfect the sponges and scour pads by saturating with boiling water.
Reuse rinsed foil, crumpled into ball, instead of steel wool or copper pads for scouring pots, pans, and baking glassware.
Front-loading washers are more efficient than the top-loading counterparts. Front-loading washers reduce water use by almost 45% and energy use by almost 65%. The force of gravity as the laundry tub spins functionally replaces the agitators, which causes less wear and tear on the laundry. There is less drain on the water heater, since they are frugal with water. The spin cycle is more effective in removing water means laundry is drier, thus requiring less time in the dryer or on the lines. And less detergent is necessary, which is better for the environment, laundry, and finances.
Use bath or beach towels sparingly and launder blankets only when stinky and/or soiled to reduce the quantity of laundry requiring processing.
Line dry as much as possible, utilizing solar and wind power.
Leave toxins at the door with a doormat or instill a shoeless house policy, instead of bringing in oil, antifreeze, animal waste, particulate pollution, pollen, and any other questionable substances inside. Less dirt tracked inside is a bonus side effect, which means less sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming. In turn, this reduces work, water, and energy use.
Opt to use a spray bottle with essential oils diluted in water, instead of synthetic fragrances from aerosol cans. Open windows and doors, allowing fresh air to flow in and toxins to flow out. And further improve air quality with houseplants.
Finally, recall the power of intent and project love sweet love amongst the moments of domestic tasks.
Recommended reading: Seventh Generation’s “Guide to a Toxin Free Home” pdf, available here.