I was walking with Ethan the other day and suddenly he let go of my hand and made a mad dash towards an empty water bottle about to roll into the street. He grabbed hold of the water bottle and brought it over to me proudly. Kind of the same way my German Shepherd, Agnes, used to run and fetch the drooly tennis ball. “Look mommy, “ Ethan said, “it’s litter. I stopped it from becoming litter.”
“What do you plan on doing with the litter?”, I asked, motioning to a nearby garbage can on the street. He walked over to the municipal garbage can, inspected it and said, ‘it’s not for recycling.’ Then continued our walk holding on to the dirty water bottle for another 20 minutes until we arrived at our destination and asked the receptionist if there was a recycle bin and insisted on checking for the recycle symbol on the receptacle before letting go of the bottle. On an ecological level, this is on par with having the peace of mind that your child is polite and courteous, saying please and thank you even when you’re not around to remind him (though we’re still working on that part). I felt a sense of satisfaction that I had helped instill the values of environmental consciousness within my son.
My son had reached another milestone in his life–like walking at a year old, talking at two years old, reading at five. Ethan is growing up without taking his world for granted. He innately takes on the responsibility of environmental stewardship–it will be a way of life for him, and not an issue that we, as adults, need to fight for with our petitions and votes. It's a bittersweet victory for me because it is juxtaposed with the stomach churning I feel these days. With my parents visit these past few weeks, I am reminded that I live in between the future hope of my son’s world and the helplessness I feel in the world of my past.
In my parents' defense, they have lived through so many changes. Today’s eco-conscious world must be like coming anew to America or learning how to use e-mail. I can’t blame them for not knowing, but I can try to teach them. My attempts to do so, however, makes me feel helpless–that I am making no impact with my choices. Upon returning from my stay in New York, I came home to find several alien items of the environmentally toxic kind in my home–the Lysol Disinfecting Spray, the Clorox wipes, the Re-Nuzit air freshener!
When I tried to gently remind my parents that I’m ‘clean’–that I prefer my household products phosphate, chlorine, and ammonium free, it created an opportunity for them to rail on about how I am in the less than 20% minority that buys in to the marketing hype of over priced products with designer names. That our government would never allow toxic ingredients in our household cleansers.
Even without any scientific knowledge, the smell alone is enough to intuitively know that these products are doing more harm than cleaning. So I started reading and researching. Many of these chemical based disinfectants can deactivate sensory nerve endings. They attack the liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and the central nervous system and it can take over a year to eliminate the unhealthy effects of spraying the slightest amount. Yuck.
Air fresheners interfere with our ability to smell by releasing nerve-deadening agents or coating nasal passages with an oil film that accumulates in fat cells and over-stimulates the nervous system. Sodium laurel sulfate is found in many shampoos and body washes and has been found to lower brain function.
While many of the leading manufacturers have jumped on the eco bandwagon with new product lines with names like, ‘Nature’s Source’ (SC Johnson) and ‘Green Works’ (Clorox), they still don’t always list the ingredients of their products. By not doing so, makes me suspect that there is more green washing than cleaning going on with these products. In reading labels, 'eco-friendly' doesn't quite cut it as far as what we need to know about these products. I would place more weight in seeing words like ‘solvent-free,’ ‘no petroleum-based ingredients’ and ‘no phosphates’.
Since most of my time has been occupied with moving, and detoxifying my new home, instead of food recipes, I’m listing recipes for a conscious household this week. What's interesting is that these home remedies have been around long before factory made products and now we're finding that they are just as effective and risk free:
For clogged sinks, tubs and toilets: Baking Soda and Vinegar (remember those volcano experiments in grade school?)
De-Greasing Dishes, Countertops, pots and pans: Vinegar and Water
Rug and Furniture Stains: Salt
Laundry Stain Remover: Lemon Juice
De-Static for the Dryer: Old Tennis Ball
Air Freshener: Fresh cut flowers and a little open window ventilation, soy-based candles