I would guess that there are tons of people out there who would argue that the world we currently live in is a safe one. The foods, the products, the clothing, the cleaners. Completely safe for the humans, for the animals and for the environment. In fact, why would anyone even suspect otherwise? Don’t we have government agencies created specifically to take care of these kinds of details so that we can focus on the more important tasks, like raising kids and following dreams? I’m thinking even scooping the litter box ranks higher than keeping tabs on the smorgasbord of chemicals is found in our cleaners and cosmetics. Because unless it’s your job, who has time for that?
I thought I didn’t. Life was full of wild children, barking dogs, and dirty toilets. Those bottles lining the shelves had already been thoroughly tested by someone else so I didn’t have to waste even a minute wondering whether or not they were safe. For me, the kids or the dogs. Consequently, I didn’t give them even a passing thought. I just liked that my house smelled like lemon and my hair wafted strawberry. And for a while, that was good enough for me.
Until, you know, life happened. And sickness (of the mental and physical variety for good measure) forced me to my knees. Over time I realized that no doctor was going to heal me like I was asking to be healed, and with that realization came the understanding that it was time to take things into my own hands. And piece by piece I threw away each toxic part of my world as I discovered it, and piece by piece filled that space with a truly safe alternative. And the journey to greening my world began.
Personally, I’ve found it to be an exciting one. Liberating, even, to realize that things can be so simple in a world that grows increasingly complicated. It started with the foods I was eating, eventually traveled to the cosmetics I was using, and finally landed on…everything else. At first I was furious, like I’d been duped into thinking someone was looking out for me. But I got over that really quickly because it was just a huge waste of my time. So, I grimly shouldered the responsibility for my own health and well-being (and that of my girls) and got to work.
I’d already begun making radical changes by the time I bought Renee Loux’s Easy Green Living, and I eagerly devoured her book while on vacation that year (because camping provides countless quiet hours to fill with books. Or naps. Or a healthy combination of the two.) And by the time the week was up and we were heading home I was on fire, ready to tackle my home and transform it into this eco-friendly haven that I could already see and smell and feel. Her book just really brought it all together and painted one big eco-friendly picture. So, I took off running. Or maybe sprinting, because I was (and still am) wildly enthusiastic about clean living. Clean eating. Clean cleaning. And even though I’m a jump-right-in-and-let’s-do-this kind of girl, it was a huge job. And definitely not an overnight transformation. And honestly, to this day I’m still self-educating, because as much as I learn, there’s always more to know.
Before sitting down to write this today I did some quick research. A Google check of the ingredients listed in the top brands of all-purpose cleaners since the information in my head is now ten years old. I was really hoping something had changed for the better, but I’m sad to report that everything looks exactly the same as it did a decade ago. But I have no intentions of bombarding you with a list of all of the (chemical) reasons why I avoid virtually every cleaner sold today. However, if you want to know how your cleaner of choice ranks on a scale of A to F, there’s a website I’ve been using for years now – EWG.org. (The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.) Just click on the green tab (EWG’s guide to healthy cleaning) at the top of the page that I linked to, and check out your brand. EWG was one of my top dependable sources in those early days and I still find myself turning to it from time to time.
So now I’ll move on to the happy part, especially if you just found our your cleaner doesn’t rank on the safe end of the scale. It’s an inexpensive and eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner that I’ve been in love with for probably ten years now. It’s one of the recipes I found in Renee’s book, slightly modified, that I use all over the house: kitchen counters, bathrooms sinks and toilets, animal messes. Everything. I literally don’t even own another cleaner. And after the initial expense of ingredients and a bottle, it’s costs me about $1.27 per bottle to make. And that’s using organic essential oils. So, to recap, we’ve got safe, effective, easy, smells great and cheap. Pretty awesome, right? And to top it off, I’ve tweaked her recipe with specific essential oils that repel critters like ants, because we have an influx every spring. So, what’s not to like?
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1. Add all of the ingredients to a 16 ounce glass bottle. Cap with a spray nozzle, and shake well. Spray the surface liberally and wipe clean.
2. I use this cleaner anywhere and everywhere: in the kitchen, in the bathroom, animal messes and general spot cleaning.
3. Both hydrogen peroxide and vodka have antiseptic properties. I add the peppermint essential oils for their antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Lemongrass is also antifunal and antibacterial. Both are great at repelling insects.
4. I've also made this cleaner by skipping the vodka and replacing it with extra hydrogen peroxide.
Please note: Hydrogen peroxide will decompose at a quicker rate if stored in a clear bottle and thus exposed to sunlight. Store in a cupboard to preserve the antiseptic properties or opt for a darker glass. (My preference is blue!)
So what I really want this eco page to be about is solutions and not an onslaught of scary warnings, because other people have already done the digging and exposed all of those ugly little secrets. And while I’m deeply grateful for their work, now I want to focus on the remedy. Tried and true recipes that I can vouch for because I’ve been using them for years. One little piece at a time. But for those of you crazy-like-me people who want to leap right in, I wholeheartedly recommend Easy Green Living to anyone interested in looking for a major overhaul. Fast. It’s a treasure trove of facts, eco-suggestions and recipes. And that’s it for this eco-tip… 🙂
Have a happy week, friends!