Friday, March 14, 2014

eco-lent: week 2, day 2

This week's eco-challenge in Northwest Earth Institute's "A World of Health: Connecting People, Place & Planet" is to get rid of toxic chemicals in household cleaners and other supplies.

It's a little difficult to know where to begin on this one, so I'll start by sharing what I'm already doing that I think is decent, and then I'll make a list of things I need to work on.

What I'm already doing:

  • Cloth diapers that I wash in a high-efficiency washing machine with white distilled vinegar (instead of bleach) and an eco-friendly diaper detergent called bum genius cloth diaper detergent. It has no phosphates, dyes, fragrances or optical brighteners, and it's endorsed by the Design for the Environment, which hopefully means something meaningful, although it's sponsored by the EPA. (This has worked great, although when I got it 3 years ago, I got a big box with 12 smaller boxes in it, each of which is for 66 loads, and I'm on my last one with my son almost out of diapers. I can't find anywhere that they sell it this way now--this link is for a 71-load pouch--but you might be able to find it with a bit deeper search.)
  • White distilled vinegar as a cleaning product around the house. Here's a helpful website about how to use it, and what to mix with it for stuff like lime buildup, drains, coffee makers, tea kettles, counters, soap buildup, etc.
  • Using an ecologically decent laundry detergent: Ecos Laundry Detergent, which is also stamped with Design for the Environment approval.
  • From the list in the graphic, above, many of those don't apply to me as I generally don't wear makeup or nail polish, we have a shower door instead of shower curtain, we don't have a stain resistant carpet or furniture or TV set, etc.
What I'm doing that I know is not so good:
  • We have some non-stick pans and they're sooooo convenient!!! I know Teflon is horrible but I can't bring myself to get rid of our non-stick pots and pans yet. 
  • I really don't pay attention to the kind of plastic my kids' toys are made of. When they were babies I made sure to get non-BPA toys, but now that they don't put everything in their mouth I figure it's not a big deal. It may not be a big deal in terms of our health, but in the sense that plastic then goes into a landfill (eventually) and becomes part of the ecosystem...that's not so good.
  • Dishwasher detergent: Cascade (or, currently, the Costco knock-off version). This receives an "F" grade on the Environmental Working Group's rating scale of such products. Powders and "natural" detergents really don't seem to do the job. Here's a list of the top 10 and worst 10 of different kinds of cleaners, so I may look for one of these at the store next time.
  • Shampoo & conditioner: Bed Head. This stuff does wonders for my hair, but what is it doing to the planet? It has all sorts of unpronounceable ingredients, some of which I believe are fossil-fuel derived. According to the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep site, it receives a score of 6/10 for the shampoo, 5/10 for the conditioner (10 being the worst) as far as how hazardous it is compared to other products, meaning it's just barely in the "moderate hazard" category, almost to the "high hazard" category.
  • Liquid Plumr: This stuff is so bad! I know it, and yet--how else does one get one's long hair out of a clogged drain? All the products by this brand received an "F" grade on the Environmental Working Group's rating scale for household cleaners. Now that I see the tip about baking soda and hot vinegar on the website I listed above, though, I'm going to try that.
What I'm going to try:
  • Baking soda and hot vinegar drain de-clogger.
  • Buying a better dishwasher detergent from the Environmental Working Group's list, here.
  • Trying some more ecologically sensitive shampoo and conditioner. The EWG has a mobile app called Skin Deep that lets you check stuff while you're in the store, so I'm going to try that next time I need these.
  • Look into stainless steel water filtration systems; get rid of my Brita pitcher. At the very least, use a filter system that hooks to the faucet so the water doesn't sit in plastic for hours before being ingested.
  • As I already said in a previous post, I'm going to get together with friends to try making hand/body soap in a couple weeks!


Anthony Noble said...

I like to use baking soda and vinegar as shampoo

Willow Githens said...

My family has in the past used a similar recipe like this to make liquid laundry soap. It's made with water, Fels Naptha soap, borax and washing soda (commonly found in the laundry soap/ cleaning products aisle in the stores). It's super easy to make and lasts a long time! A little goes a long way and you can save a ton of money.

Cherice Bock said...

Thanks, Anthony and Willow! I'll look forward to trying both of those.

sarai said...

I've been meaning to write and say how thankful I am that you've been blogging about this! Awhile ago, I had tried to go plastic free--but gave up after feeling like my efforts ended up costing too much money or time. (A huge reason for my love/hate relationship with Trader Joe's... good prices but way too much packaging). But I appreciate your balanced approach to this all, and it's motivating me to "get back on the wagon."

Cherice Bock said...

Thanks, Sarai! I noticed all your glass containers when I was at your house the other day and wondered if it was purely aesthetic or for environmental/health reasons. =) I hear ya about the love/hate relationship with food cheap, so convenient, so horrible! Baby steps, I guess, are about all we can do. Yay for jumping back on bandwagons!