Northwest Earth Institute's workbook, "A World of Health: Connecting People, Place & Planet" is to clean up my home by removing harmful cleaning chemicals.
I have to admit that this is another one of those things where I know that soaps and other cleaning agents are harmful, but I haven't done a whole lot to ensure that I'm not putting gross stuff down the drain. As I've been reading through the articles in this NWEI workbook, I've been re-convicted about the fact that everything we put down the drain ends up in our waterways or has to be cleaned out. Apparently, the drugs acetaminophen and codeine can be found in all major US waterways. We don't flush these down the toilet in pill-form, perhaps, but they pass through us and stay in our water, affecting, well, everything that lives in or drinks water, so...pretty much everything.
As I've been doing this eco-challenge process, I've been struck again and again by the interconnectedness of everything within our planet. We like to think of ourselves as solidly "self," separate from everything around us. We also like to think of other entities and objects as separate from one another--so we think of a plastic container with food in it as two separate objects with a definite line between each. It's not so simple, however, because everything is reacting to and interacting with everything around it. I'm not exactly the same as I was when I started this blog post, because chemical reactions within my body have changed food into energy and waste, I've used some energy to think and type, I've lost hairs and skin cells, I've brought in oxygen and released carbon dioxide along with any particles that might be in the air, and so forth. There's not a completely distinct set of molecules that is "me," because they are always changing, re-forming, interacting with the world around them. This is the same with the whole planet's ecosystem.
It seems to me that this categorizing of "self" vs. "other," of one object separate from another, though it has its uses, is one of the main reasons we have a hard time understanding one another as human beings. We like to be able to categorize; we want everything to be distinct and clearly definable as one thing or another. "Good" or "bad," "us" or "them," defining disciplines and jobs so as to create as much specialization as possible--but then there's no crossover. We don't learn from one another. These are artificial distinctions that end up making us blind to the network of interrelated cause and effect going on all around us, including us.
What if we saw ourselves as part of this amazing, intricate whole? What if we realized that our personal choices impact the entire planet? What if we recognized that the destruction we cause to forests, air and waterways destroys us as well?
As I said in my post yesterday, I'd already begun thinking about the harmful effects of soap in the water, from parabens and phthalates to plastic micro-beads, and so I've got a date on the calendar to make soap with some friends at the end of the month! I'm sure I'll post pictures. But this is only one of the soaps and other cleaning products in our home.
A goal for the week: educate myself about the harmful additives in soaps and cleaners around my house, and research alternatives.