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As I experiment with the various green improvements to my lifestyle I like to read a few types of books (besides my usual perusal of the internet, which I can say sometimes gets a little overwhelming!)  At first I stuck to the nitty gritty informational kind that included cleaning product recipes, organic gardening and self-sufficiency/homesteading advice.  Most of these are great, but I feel the gap between my current life and the fruitful organic garden and chemical-free environment.  I needed to uncover my own motivations toward change in hopes of discovering how to attain my green-life goals.  Recently I have begun to read books that focus more on the intellectual and spiritual reasons for choosing a green.  This month’s book is Twelve By Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid & Beyond the American Dream by William Powers.  So far it is a deeply emotional and spiritual look at why one person chose and why another person may choose to pursue a extremely simplified and in turn, greener life.  Once I am finished a final review will be posted under my Inspirations and Resources page.  Until then I will share the tid bits that speak to me most.

Finally, the word “green.”  For my purposes and the purposes of many a blog and book, green is not only meant to be understood as the desired color of a perfect world, but in a much larger sense as a way of harmonious and clean life.  I struggle with the use of “green” as the descriptor.  It has become short-hand for a multitude of thoughts and philosophies and I often feel that the intricate and awesome connections amongst them is lost in order for this movement to stay “catchy.”  In an upcoming post I want to explore these connections and hopefully find a new way of describing my work-it may even mean changing the name of this blog!!

Hello all,

As you can see I have sorely neglected my blog and I am now hoping to get back on track with it.  My goal is to deliver on a regular basis.  What I have to say may be small, but I want to show you, the reader, something new as often as possible.

Unfortunately, my first post of the now old new year is going to be a bummer.  After some unexpected research, I have discovered that one of my beloved cleaning ingredients has been implicated in health problems and now takes its place in the pantheon of things to avoid.  That ingredient is BORAX.  I found the article at www.motherearthnews.com which then led me to an environmental health blog along with a liberal helping of site user comments on both.  Disappointing yes, devastating, no.  I went to my cleaning supplies and dumped out my bottles of all-purpose cleaner and made an experimental substitute.  Instead of Borax I used baking soda, this could be a problem since the baking soda and vinegar in in my recipe are going to react with each other, but we shall see.

This problem brings me to another thought.  Much of the “green” culture is based in a fear of the things we don’t want in our lives and fear of the things we used to do.  You can’t just throw anything you don’t want in the garbage.  You can’t use most of the cleaning and hygiene supplies for fear of industrial chemicals.  The foods we eat are genetically altered or covered in pesticides and pumped with hormones.  While I will always agree that you should be educated about your world, at a certain point the perspective needs to change.  If what we know about our world is true, then how do we prefer to live?  How do I buy/grow/support food I want to eat?  What should I clean with?  How do I want to organize my recycling?  Education and understanding can quickly lead to negativism and paranoia because it can be almost too easy find whats wrong.  Changing my own lifestyle and in hopeful extension others’ lifestyles, is what interests me most.  This recent borax discovery emphasizes the need to focus on finding the positive alternatives as we educate ourselves about what we use and depend on.

This was a wordy post, I hope to get down to nuts-and-bolts in posts to come!!

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!!

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.

Clean Without the Chemical

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!

Here’s to something new…

I decided it was time to “go green!”  Ok, it didn’t happen exactly like that.  It was more like a perfect storm of inspiration that led me on my current journey to a “green” life.  I am coming from the absolute first step a person can take, having had no previous desire to embrace green-ness outside of some recycling and turning off a light when I leave the room.  I hope to inspire those people who consider the idea but poo-poo it for a variety of concerns or simply believe it requires too much extra in an already too busy life.

I should start with my rudimentary take on what the term “green” means to me.  Here is a sort of word/picture flow chart because a long paragraph seems dull and well…wordy.

GREEN = using what you have and making it last

GREEN ≠ waste

GREEN = thinking about the impact of the things/substances you use

GREEN ≠ (always) buying “green” things

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

I know the definition will change, expand and become more detailed over time.  It has already expanded considerably these few short months of work.  I hope to revisit the definition of this concept every so often to see how my successes and failures shape my thoughts on living “green.”  The topic of going green is quiet vast, taking in every single aspect of a person’s life.  My initial interest was sparked with a favorite subject of mine, cleaning.  So that’s what this blog will start with and forever be peppered with.  I will however branch out to personal care, gardening, eating/cooking and day-to-day activities where I think a touch of “green” may successfully be attempted.

I have no idea how or when I decided to start my “green” adventures.  All I know is that it is an addicting process that once begun is now impossible for me to drop.  So here’s to our Adventures in Green from the Emerald City!!

p.s- I live in the Seattle area and the charming nickname for this fabulous city was too good to pass up J