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Archive for the ‘clean home’ Category

Hello All,

I know that I pretty much gave up keeping this updated quiet a few months back.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed blogging but between doing the garden and green lifestyle and blogging about it, I just was not keeping up!  So I am back again in middle of a dark and snowy winter to once again take the reins of a “green” lifestyle and experiment.

My garden unfortunately petered out about midsummer.  I did get some fantastic herbs, there was a lot of homemade mint tea and rosemary meats.  I got a decent handful of potatoes but I think I crowded them in my excitement.  The bulbs that came up were beautiful, I put up some pics of the early ones mostly crocus.  I did spend a few solid weeks eating many varieties of lettuce.  That was a real treat and proved how easy it was in the cool Seattle climate to get some early greens.

Gardening aside, my eco-friendly household has been pretty steady with its changes.  I have not used a standard home cleaning product in at least a year (My one exception is dishwasher soap, it is hard to find a good one!)  I successfully cleaned my burnt food covered oven with baking soda, vinegar and elbow grease.  It was a real relief to not have to use a conventional oven cleaner; I had a lot of pies to bake for the holidays!!

Of new interest to me are the “no-waste” households I see in the news.  Every person has a slightly different way they go about achieving their lifestyle and I am going to be bringing you at least a few posts on this topic.  I want to understand how to make the transition and what prevents more households from making these changes.  Also there will be lots more book reviews!  The subject of “green” is ever-growing on bookstore shelves and I can’t wait to see what’s new!!

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In honor of spring, the welcoming of the fresh and new and the thought of Spring Cleaning, I want to revisit my initial definition of the term “green.”  In the past few posts I have introduced using the term “eco-conscious” in place of “green.”  I actually like them both, a lot, therefore I plan on using them interchangeably.

Here is a revised and expanded version of my definition based on some of my thoughts and work in the last six months.

*I took away the use of the “does not equal” symbol, I would rather keep everything in terms of positive action*

GREEN = using what you have and making it last

ECO-CONSCIOUS = re-evaluating your usual level of consumption

GREEN = not wasting what you have

GREEN = considering the environmental  impact of the things you consume

ECO-CONSCIOUS = staying informed about the most useful tools for a “green” life

GREEN = eliminating from you life the things/substances that harm you

ECO-CONSCIOUS = eliminating from your life the things you don’t need

The last two points are the main focus of this discussion.  First, I wanted to eliminate the things/substances in my life that may harm me.  This seems rather obvious but will mean different things to different people.  Initially it meant getting rid of all my mainstream cleaning supplies.  I now use the standard “green clean” kit; a bag of baking soda, jugs of distilled white vinegar, vegetable-based liquid soap, the occasional leftover chunk of lemon and salt.  There is a myriad of combinations for these ingredients so I just experiment for the cleaning occasion.

For myself, the next step in the elimination of harmful things rests with food.  Not in the sense of going on a diet but rather getting rid of the foods in my kitchen that offer nothing but empty calories and and the taste of artificial flavors.  A really excellent resource for changing food habits is another Michael Pollan gem called, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.  Its a very small book, coming in at just 139 pages.  Each page is devoted to a food rule and the rules encompass everything from what to eat to where to shop for food.  I am considering removing the pages and posting as many as I can around my house, especially in the kitchen!

After a long winter of keeping the windows closed and accumulating the dust and clutter of life I wanted that feeling of lightness and clean.  So it became the perfect time to eliminate the things from my life that I did not need.  For a solid week I was really focused on getting rid of stuff.  I wanted to fly through my closets, book shelves and kitchen cupboards pulling out anything and everything I deemed superfluous.  Suffice it to say it has not been that whirlwind of an experience.  In fact, it has been a little tougher than I thought.  There appears to be a tiny hoarder hidden inside of me, a voice that says, “Hey, you might want that, later.”  There was also the question of, “Well I don’t need it but I certainly enjoy it, so whats wrong with that?”  The answer:  Nothing!  I realized that I was most frustrated and looking to cleanse my surroundings when everything got cluttered and disorganized.  So in the process of cleaning things out, I made a big effort to organize what I did want to keep.  The min-homesteader in me was eager to keep some of the old clothing for potholder and quilt material, and make a good storage space for the jars and containers I wanted for candles and soaps.

This post is a bit of a grab bag.  Obviously I touched on a lot of points that will each eventually be posts on their own.  What I wanted to convey is how “green” or “eco-conscious” is a concept that can be easily incorporated into everyday living and that your current lifestyle need not be utterly torn down to make way for “green.”  I see it more like a regime change.  Most people will probably do some kind of a Spring Clean.  Take it as an opportunity to try a little baking soda in your scrubbing, throw out the candy (or instead of waste, give it to someone with a sweet tooth!) and give your craft clutter a re-evaluation.  I cannot wait to explore the rest of my definition as I try out more and more “green” ideas!!

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So maybe you have cleared out a bunch of your cleaning chemicals, possibly mixed up a bottle or two of an all-purpose cleaner and scrubbed your first sink with baking soda, excellent!!  If you have not, I am sure you are well on your way and I could probably stand to post some of the recipes I use as a start point, but be sure to check out my Resources and Inspirations page where I list the books I have used so far.

My second major change-up when it  came to eliminating unnecessary chemicals in my life was the overhaul of the laundry.  At first I was nervous, what could possibly clean my clothes with the depth and vigor of that viscous bright blue compound I have always used?  Any reading into alternative cleaning techniques will leave you frightened of laundry detergent.  The concern that stuck with me the most was the use of surfactants, bleaches, dyes and formaldehyde that often do not completely rinse off the clothing-the clothing that touches my body!!  Many books mentioned soap flakes, Borax and washing soda in order to concoct my own.  Sadly, my bravery has yet to extend that far mostly for fear of my clothes and washer in any misguided attempt to combine the correct ingredients properly.  Luckily for me, there is a current trend against standard detergents that appears to stem from the objection to the phosphates that get rinsed off in the drain water, causing a host of environmental issues.  As with any product trend that gets support, the retailers must follow.  Now a trip to the laundry aisle is littered with standard detergent alternatives.  I would never advise to pick the first product that claims it is “green.”  More often than not, the company may have eliminated or reduced the phosphates but not much else.  I was looking for a product that took me back to the original elements of laundry cleaning.  The first one I have I tried is a brand called Ecos.  This stuff comes in a giant clear bottle with a very detergent-like clear liquid inside.  The ingredient list is exactly what I like to see in a green product, short and pronounceable! It is highly concentrated like many natural, vegetable/fruit based soaps so one bottle has lasted me a good 4 months and it has a very mild and pleasant smell.  Can’t complain yet 🙂  Obviously, as with any products, you just have to experiment with what works for you, but if the plan is to go green, remember to do your homework and read that bottle/box-a true green product will tell you all you need to know!!!

In other laundry news, besides soap flakes, Borax or washing soda I came across discussion of things called soap nuts.  Check out urbanherbwifery for the blog post I discovered. I can’t wait to try them out!!

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So, before I begin another post about the wonders of cleaning green, I wanted to touch on the use of the word “green” itself and how it gets used in less than satisfactory ways by companies to convince you to buy their product.  When I peruse the store aisles for green labeled products it is very inviting to simply pick up the first bottle or box with a tree or swath of greenery and flowers on it.  Upon closer inspection, many of these items stop being “green” once the packaging is stripped away.  From simple trial and error this is what I have discovered about the differences between “real” and “fake” green products:  its all on the label.  Turn over that bottle or box and look for an ingredient list.  If there isn’t one, its safe to say that you would not be happy with what is in it.  If you turn it over and do find a list, read it.  Sure, there are going to be ingredients that you don’t have a Wikipedia-sized knowledge of but what would you rather clean with?

Water, Organic Coconut Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Organic Olive Oil, Tea Tree Extract, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol

OR

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Decyl Glucoside, Fragrance, DMDM Hydantoin, Sodium Chloride, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Sulfate, Polyquaternium-7, Citric Acid, Poloxamer 124, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, D&C Red No. 33, FD&C No. 1

The first soap is the tea tree oil variety of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and the second is a common brand of hand soap.  I can’t make any claims against the ingredients in the second hand soap.  I have read a pretty large chunk of text that lists out various toxic compounds and chemicals that are used to produce everyday household materials.  Its a disturbing thought and I vote to use the kind of products whose ingredients are simple and straight forward, to me that is one of the definitions of “green.”

Consider another angle to the concept of a “green” product.  I have been out and about reading articles and blogs that concern this topic.  Something I see a lot of is the idea that what may be directly “green” and beneficial for your home and family-such as a kitchen cleaner that doesn’t require an additional rinsing to make the surface food safe-may continue to contribute to other environmental issues such as non-recyclable packaging or the use of non-renewable resources to produce the product.  It ends up being a lot to think about when turning your life green!  More posts on this in the future, I want to do a little more research on how people handle this balancing act.

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The topic that led me to a more green, human and environment friendly approach to living, is that of cleaning. It certainly does not sound thrilling, but it can be especially satisfying to realize that you can get the same (and often better!) results by using what are being considered eco-and human-friendly substances. I don’t use the term products, which to me denotes a specific conglomeration of materials,  because a majority of the items I use for cleaning are simple ingredients that often alone or in concert with just one other ingredient can get all the work done.

Here are the top items every house should have on hand for cleaning:

  1. Vinegar
  2. Baking soda/Borax
  3. Vegetable-based liquid soap

Thats it, really.  You can use these in a variety of recipes that create everything from a soft scrub for the bathroom to an all-purpose spray.  A lot of times I find myself just grabbing the baking soda and soap and mushing them together on whatever surface needs some cleaning.  I have recently developed a drain cleaning fetish (do with that what you will!) But I love scrubbing around a drain with some baking soda and a cloth, smooshing the soda down into the drain and throwing a little vinegar down after it-make sure to cap the drain to let the fizz do its work!  Follow this with a boiling water rinse and you will be reminded of the original look of your pipes.  This is only the beginning!! Remember, your entire way of doing things is not going to change overnight.  Sometimes its nice to start with the small things and being green is as much about using responsibly as it is about nixing the chemicals.  Try to use up the cleaning supplies you have left.  Have 3/4 of a bottle?  Research your local household hazardous waste facility or give away to someone who will use them.

Coming soon, more discussion on the Big Three cleaning ingredients and what to do when concocting your own laundry detergent is just not practical!

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