By Deborah DeMoulpied
While Earth Day has evolved into a carbon-alert-climate-change moment, it originally started from the idea that it was time to “clean up” our environment. Back in the 70s it was “Keep America Beautiful,” “Every Litter Bit Hurts,” the “Clean Air and Clean Water Act,” and trying to keep rivers from catching on fire. And while humans are now better trained than to throw their garbage out the car window, the insidious minute particles of garbage coming out of our smoke stacks and tailpipes have created an atmosphere humans have never known. It is time to clean it all up.
That’s “cleaning” in the large metaphorical sense. But what about cleaning in the literal sense? Like tiles, sinks and ourselves? All cleaning is good, right? Well that depends.
Unless you are only using water, most cleaning involves a collecting product (cloth or sponge) and something liquid or sticky. Whichever we use, it is either washed away or thrown way or both. The point is, it has an impact on our environment to varying degrees and the idea is to make the least impact.
Lowering that impact comes down to knowing what it is you are using, and that means knowing the ingredients. While our country does not mandate listing ingredients on personal care and cleaning products, consumers have demanded it enough so that most companies comply with an ingredients list that, most of the time, you can read. But know that there could still be ingredients that are not listed.
On a recent trip to New Zealand and Australia, I was very surprised to see that many of the same personal care products from companies I am familiar with do not have ingredients lists. Maybe consumers there don’t squeak loudly enough, or the additional chemical bans in those countries give consumers more confidence. Either way, I was very surprised and grateful knowing that I could go back home and spend hours in the isles deciphering labels.
Since it is the season for spring cleaning, here are some basic green tips.
1 – Open the windows. Get a fresh air exchange after being bottled up all winter.
2 – White vinegar, baking soda and lemons will clean 95% of your projects. The Internet is loaded with advice; it’s not rocket science.
3 – Otherwise, read the ingredients. Choose organic when you can, and ingredients that are simple and understandable. Less is more.
4 – Ditch the paper towels or other disposables – Reuse old cloths or t-shirts.
5 – Use a HEPA filter on your vacuum or use a central vac.
6 – Use the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Over 2,000 products are reviewed. The website includes a “Hall of Shame” you might find interesting!
While these are small things you as an individual can do please remember the big picture. Climate change is upon us in a big way. Australia just finished their warmest year on record, shattering previous years. New Zealand finished their second warmest. On our trip we saw plenty of glaciers that we were told would be gone in a matter of decades. The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change has spoken. It is really down to “now or never.” It’s one planet under all of us. If we don’t clean it up, who will?
Happy Earth Day.
Deborah DeMoulpied is owner and founder of Bona Fide Green Goods, an earth-friendly department store in Concord, NH. Bonafidegreengoods.com won the Webby Awards Green Honoree in 2011. Deborah is also faculty of the Anticancer Lifestyle Program, teaching patients about environmental toxins and healthful solutions.