The Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Let’s scale that down to 46 years. That means that humans have been here for 4 hours. The industrial revolution began 1 minute ago. In that time, we have destroyed over 50% of the world’s rain forests.
We throw away one million plastic bottles every minute, and 90% of them are never recycled. Or to give you another perspective, if we put all the people of earth on a scale they would weigh about 316 million tons. We throw away 300 million tons of plastic every year! And virtually none of that is ever recycled. Every piece of plastic you have ever seen or touched (since you were a child!) still exists in a landfill somewhere or worse, in the oceans.
We live in a convenience-based society. But that convenience comes at a huge price, which we never see. Put simply, industry, in it’s pursuit of profit to cater to our lifestyle, is killing the planet. Whether it’s fossil fuel for cars, palm oil, plastics or special metals for cell phones, the lack of recycling and environmental consciousness, which have been excluded from the the economic model, is wreaking havoc on the planet.
The big solutions will ultimately come by changing laws and regulations regarding things like pollution and recycling, but for now it doesn’t look like the politicians are going to be of much help. It is our demand for “stuff,” for convenience, that is the force driving the problem and politicians are not willing to face public scorn and industry resistance by requiring us to make changes. And we have been unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to even slow the process, much less reverse it.
The situation grows more dire every day and the sacrifices we do not make today are going to be demanded of us tomorrow, only then the situation will be uglier and more dire. This really is a situation of “Pay me now, or pay me more later.” But there are things each of us can do to help.
If you want a model, think about becoming more self-reliant, like your grandparents or great grandparents were. And yes, that means taking the time and energy to do some of the things that are now done for us. I am going to offer you some suggestions, and everything on the list requires you to make a change, but believe me, it’s worth the inconvenience. The animals and the planet will thank you. Here are some things you can do to make a real difference:
Eat Less Meat
Go meatless at least one day a week. We eat way more than we need. And meat production is an enormous consumer of resources and a huge contributor to global warming. Fifty percent of all the antibiotics we produce are used in meat production. By not eating meat your contribution may seem small, but in the aggregate, the impact will be considerable!
Say No To Prepared Food
Sixty percent of our diet consists of processed food. Most of it is loaded with chemicals and preservatives that you don’t want in your body or in the bodies of your children in the first place. Plus, it takes enormous resources to manufacture, package, ship and warehouse the stuff. I walked through Trader Joe’s today, the place is a temple to pre-prepared food.
I know we’re all busy, and it takes time and planning to cook from scratch, but this is one of the sacrifices you can make. I have found that dividing the responsibility with my partner makes the burden much more manageable. Besides, seeing your family eat healthy is enormously rewarding. Scratch cooking may be daunting at first, but once you build it into your routine, it’s really not such a big deal. Most of the rest of the world does it out of necessity.
Do I even have to say anything?
Refuse Single Use Plastics
To-go containers, plastic straws, plastic wrap, plastic bottles, produce bags – the list is almost endless. We are destroying the oceans and stuffing our landfills with plastics that don’t degrade!
There are effective, biodegradable, and reusable substitutes for many of the things we use plastics for today. I love using reusable beeswax food storage wraps instead of plastic wrap. I take storage containers into restaurants where I think I’ll have take-home leftovers. I reuse plastic produce bags. Yeah, it’s nuts, but who cares? Look for recyclable hemp or paper alternatives.
Hang Out Your Laundry
It’s not fashionable, and it takes extra time, but hanging out your laundry saves a significant amount of energy (think about your energy bill and the pollution created to produce it). Your laundry will smell great too!
If you can do it, walk, take the bus or ride your bike. Our society has not been designed to make this easy, but do it anyway. You’ll reduce air pollution and lord knows we all could use the exercise! Yes it takes more time, but why go to the gym when there is scenery nearby or the neighborhood to enjoy!
Supermarket produce is loaded with pesticides, fungicides and herbicides plus it isn’t nearly as nutritious as it used to be. And, the pollution from trucking the stuff halfway across the country is outrageous. If you want to send a message to industrial factory farmers, buy from your local farmer’s market.
Plant A Garden
This is big, but the rewards are manifold. And growing your own produce is sooo much better for your family. As I said, today’s supermarket produce stinks when it comes to nutritional content. You are spending a lot of money to essentially buy pulp and water. Growing your own also reduces transportation, storage and waste costs for the society. And gardening is great exercise, wonderfully rewarding, it’s a powerful learning opportunity for the kids and believe it or not, you’ll actually live longer! Isn’t that mostly what you go to the gym for anyway?
Around The Home
There are DYI products that you can us instead of commercial products that would be a real boon for the planet and reduce your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals. And they cost pennies! It also sends a powerful message ($) to industry. Most of our household cleaning and laundry products are made from basic ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and water anyway. What industry adds are some fairly toxic, and in most cases unnecessary, chemicals. And most of the disinfectants sold are effective on only a few pathogens and none of them work against viruses. Good cleaning is still your best defense.
I am going to suggest a group of DYI cleaners and laundry detergents. They are non-toxic, work really well, are great for the planet and cost a fraction of what you are spending today. You already have most of the ingredients you’ll need in your pantry. (You can find most of the other ingredients at your local mega-mart or health food store.) Conversely, it costs a lot to have specialty products made, packaged, advertised and shipped, plus paying profit to everyone in the chain – the manufacturer, trucker, wholesaler, retail store, etc. In our present economic system, you are paying a great deal to package and ship water around the country. The following are most of the ingredients you’ll need to make the recipes that follow
• Hydrogen peroxide
• Baking Soda
• Borax powder
• Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda Laundry Booster)
• Essential oils, like tea tree oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, or lemongra
• Castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
• Olive oil
• Essential oils, like tea tree oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, or lemongra
• Castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
• Olive oil
Not to be confused:
Washing soda or soda ash, is sodium carbonate (Na2CO3). Washing soda is a caustic base. It is not edible, should not be inhaled, and can damage the eyes.
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). Baking soda is a mild base that is commonly used as a leavening agent to raise baked goods. It is edible and is mild enough to be used as toothpaste or taken as an antacid.
All Purpose Cleaner
Mix 1/2 cup of vinegar, 10 drops of tea tree, lavender, or lemon essential oil (for their disinfectant properties), and a little water. Then add 2 TBs of baking soda (this will foam up!). Place in a spray bottle and top off with water. Gently shake to mix. Spray or wipe on and wipe off with a soft cloth.
Add 4 TBs of baking soda to 1 quart of warm water. Use it to clean kitchen counters, appliances, and the inside of your refrigerator. It makes a great deodorizer and can be used to shine stainless steel sinks and appliances. Just pour the solution on a clean sponge or spray it on and wipe off.
All Purpose Cleaner II
Place 2 Tbsp. white vinegar, 1 tsp. borax and 1 cup hot water into a spray bottle. Shake to mix. Then add 1/8 cup Dawn Dish soap. Fill with water. You can add 8 drops of essential oil for a little scent.
Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner
3 drops liquid Castile soap
¼ cup washing soda, (not baking soda)
1 cup white vinegar
¼ cup vodka (quit snickering!)
4 drops tea tree oil
8 drops essential oil for scent (optional)
Bring the vinegar to a boil in the microwave. Add the washing soda (this will really foam up!) and stir until the soda is dissolved. Add Castile soap, tea tree oil, vodka and essential oil and mix. Place mixture in a closed container for storage. When ready to use, mix one part concentrate with four parts water.
Note: These cleaners are really terrific! But they do leave a film that needs to be wiped or sponged off.
Notes About Using Vinegar
While vinegar is safe for most surfaces, it isn’t appropriate for every surface. Avoid using vinegar on natural stone countertops and floors like those made of granite, marble or quartz; it will etch the stone. You should also avoid using vinegar on unsealed grout or grout that needs to be resealed. And waxed surfaces are a no-no, too.
Take half a lemon and dip it in borax. Rub it into the stain. Then rinse. Rust stains on porcelain or enamel sinks and tubs are no match for this cleaner. (This is not safe for marble or granite.)
Place one half cup of rubbing alcohol, one to two cups of water and one tablespoon of vinegar in a spray bottle. Use newspaper instead of paper towels or rags to clean glass.
IN THE KITCHEN
Liquid Dish Soap
½ cup warm water
2 tsp salt
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds
1 tsp lemon juice
Lemon essential oil (optional)
Combine water with salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. In another bowl, combine vinegar, Sal Suds, and lemon juice. Stir this mixture into the salt water mixture, and stir until thickened. (You may wish to add 10 – 15 drops of lemon essential oil.) Pour mixture into a used dish soap container.
As I said before, in addition to being devoid of nutrition, today’s produce contains residual pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Just what you want to feed your family! The FDA and EPA have been taken over by corporate interests and are no loner reliable sources regarding safe consumption.
For Hard-Skinned Fruits and Vegetables like apples, pears, potatoes, and carrots: fill a spray bottle with equal parts apple cider vinegar and water and then rub or brush it in. Wait a couple of minutes, rinse well and allow to dry.
For Soft-Skinned Fruits and Vegetables like berries, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and broccoli: fill a bowl with equal parts apple cider vinegar and water and soak in the solution for a couple of minutes. Then rinse well and allow to dry.
Mix 1 1/2 cups of baking soda and 1/2 cup environmentally safe liquid laundry soap or Castile soap in a mixing bowl, stirring vigorously to combine into a paste. Add 1TBs. of water if needed. Then add 10 drops of tea tree, lavender, or lemon essential oil. Store in an airtight food container. If the mixture begins to dry out, add a small amount of water and re-mix.
Kitchen Grease Remover
The best homemade grease-cutter is baking soda coupled with a good liquid dish soap. Wet a scrub sponge and squeeze out the excess water. Put a dollop of dish soap on the sponge, sprinkle on baking soda, and wipe off the grease.
For tough spots, apply a small amount of shampoo to a wet rag (you can boost the effectiveness by adding a bit of baking soda). Work it into the area, and let it sit for a few minutes. Rinse clean. Works great on grease spots on clothes too.
Stainless Steel Cleaner
Spray stainless steel surfaces with undiluted white vinegar. Then wipe dry with a soft cloth or paper towel. It’s best to wipe in the direction of the grain and to use a gentle touch. Once you’re satisfied that all of the fingerprints and grime have been removed, go over the surface with a water-dampened cloth. This extra step is to ensure that the acid in the vinegar has been removed, so there’s no chance of it interacting with the metal over time. Stainless steel is naturally resistant to corrosion, so this is really just an added precaution. Vinegar may not smell as nice as commercial cleaners, but the scent won’t stay around for long.
As an alternative, use 4 TBs. of baking soda dissolved in 1 qt. of water.
Sanitizing Sponges and Scrub Brushes
That sponge on your countertop is a perfect breeding medium for bacteria – warm, moist . . Soak your sponges and scrub brushes in a bowl of vinegar overnight. Squeeze them out in the morning, and they’ll be refreshed and ready for use. You can also microwave most sponges for 2-3 minutes.
1 cup washing soda
1 cup Borax
1/2 cup citric acid
1/2 cup salt
You can find citric acid in the canning section of your mega mart. The citric acid promotes clumping by attracting moisture. To avoid having a rock-hard clump of detergent, leave the mixture out on the counter for 1-2 days (out of reach for kids and pets) WITHOUT a lid. Stir the mixture several times each day before storing with a tight-fitting lid. (Storing in the refrigerator helps.) You can also add a tsp of rice. If you still have clumping problems, dump the entire hard mess into afood processor. (You’ll wash the food processor in the same powder.) If glassware is cloudy from hard water, ease up on the salt.
Dishwasher Rinse Agent
Fill your dishwasher’s rinse agent dispenser with vinegar. Run the dishwasher as usual. Enjoy dry, spot-free glasses!
Place a cup of vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher, and run it through a complete cycle. Hard water deposits, soap scum and rust stains will be removed.
Fill a bowl with a mixture of half vinegar and half water, and nuke it for two minutes on high. Remove the bowl carefully; the water will still be hot enough to burn. Then scrub the walls of the microwave with a sponge dipped into the vinegar-water solution and sprinkled with a bit of baking soda. Wipe down the walls of the microwave with a cloth dampened in clean water and the oven will be sparkling clean and free of odors.
Or, for more intense cleaning:
Microwave the vinegar water until about half of it has evaporated. Don’t open the door for 10 minutes. (This lets the water cool off a bit and the steam to penetrate any baked-on crud in the oven.) Wipe as above.
IN THE LAUNDRY
(Non-Toxic) Powdered Detergent
1 bar Fels Naptha soap
1 cup borax powder
1 cup washing soda
This detergent costs 7 cents per load.
Shave the bar of Fels Naptha with a serrated blade knife (or box cheese grater) over a paper towel and place the shavings in your food processor. Pulse a few times to reduce to the consistency of sand. Then add 1 cup each of borax and washing soda (not baking soda). Pulse a few more times to mix (you might want to cover the processor with a damp kitchen towel to reduce the fumes). You can use this straight, but I like to mix this 1:1 with Seventh Generation laundry powder (for heavy loads, add a squirt of Dr. Bronner’s to the washing machine).
For top-loading washing machines, use ½ to 1 cup (or 2 cups for very heavily soiled loads). For front-loading and high-efficiency machines, use 2 – 3 tablespoons.
(Non-Toxic) Liquid Laundry Detergent
1/2 cup borax powder
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap
Combine ½ cup Borax, ½ cup washing soda (not baking soda) and ½ cup of Dr. Bronner’s into an empty gallon plastic jug (you’ll need a funnel). Then pour in 4 cups of hot water. Shake to mix. Then add enough water to fill the container. Shake before each use. For a standard-sized load of laundry, use ¼ cup. Use a little more for a heavily-soiled load. Note: If you do a lot of laundry and prefer liquid detergent, write me and I’ll send you recipes (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to your washer’s bleach dispenser. The vinegar will: whiten your whites, brighten your colors, eliminate static-cling, remove lint, kill bacteria and remove soap residue from your laundry and your machine, and your washing machine will smell much better!
IN THE BATHROOM
Use in place of commercial cleansers. Mix 1 cup borax, 1 cup baking soda, ½ cup salt (If using on fiberglass tubs, omit salt to prevent scratching.) Add 6 drops essential oil for fragrance (optional). Store in a shaker container (like an empty cheese container). Sprinkle on or apply using a sponge or scrubby. Disinfect sponges after use.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Before you go to bed, pour a couple cups of vinegar into the toilet, swish it with a toilet brush in the morning, and flush. This simple strategy will sanitize your toilet and remove those stubborn hard water stains, too.
Are you ready for this? Use Kool-Aid. Specifically, lemonade Kool-Aid. Flush the toilet, then sprinkle a package of Kool-Aid lemonade around the sides and scrub with a toilet bowl brush. Let this sit for several hours (overnight is best), and then flush in the morning. (Don’t drink!)
Pour half a box of baking soda down the drain and then pour in enough vinegar to just wash the soda into the drain. Allow the foam to settle and then repeat until all the baking soda is used. Unlike store-bought drain cleaners, you don’t have to worry about this one damaging your pipes. It’s tough on clogs, not your plumbing. Use it to clean kitchen and bathtub drains too. You can even use it to unplug a clogged toilet!
To 2/3 cup baking soda, add 1 tsp fine sea salt (note: – this is great for cleaning teeth, but can be omitted or reduced if the taste is too salty). Then add 1 – 2 tsp of peppermint extract or 10-15 drops of peppermint essential oil (or your favorite flavor). Add filtered water until you reach desired consistency.
Each batch yields the equivalent of one tube of toothpaste and saves about $4. Store in an airtight storage container. To use, simply wet your toothbrush, scoop or spread, and brush!
Homemade Mouthwash: Natural and Antibacterial
This homemade mouthwash will help keep bad breath at bay without harsh alcohol. In a container with a sealable lid (I use a small mason jar), mix 2 tsp of baking soda with ½ cup water and 1/2 cup of Aloe Vera juice, 2 drops tea tree essential oil and 2 drops peppermint essential oil. (Note: certain oils such as peppermint and wintergreen should be avoided with young children. Tea tree oil isn’t the most pleasant tasting. You want to be sure to spit this out.)
Shake before each use as the baking soda will settle to the bottom of the jar. Swish 2-3 teaspoons of this formula in your mouth for a minute or two. As with any mouthwash, try to avoid swallowing while gargling. Refrigerate after making. You can double this recipe, but making bigger batches is not recommended because the oils will blend over time and flavors can change.
Aloe Vera is extremely helpful in the treatment of gum diseases like gingivitis, periodontitis. It reduces bleeding, inflammation and swelling of the gums and is a powerful antiseptic.
Soak dentures overnight in a little hydrogen peroxide and baking soda with enough water to cover. This works great and is good deal cheaper than commercial tablets!
AROUND THE HOUSE
Place 1 TBs. baking soda and 1 cup of water in a spray bottle. Put the lid on the bottle and shake well. Once the baking soda has dissolved add 10 drops of essential oil.
Mix ¼ cup of vinegar and a 3/4 cup of olive oil. You can also add essential oil like lemon, orange, or lavender. Dip a soft cloth in the mixture and use it to wipe the furniture. To clean crevices and carvings in furniture apply with a toothbrush.
Mix vinegar and baking soda to form a paste. Work the paste into the carpet stain with an old toothbrush. Allow the paste to dry, and then vacuum. You can try using straight shampoo too.
For tough stains like wine or chocolate, use hydrogen peroxide. Just apply the peroxide directly to the stain; allow it to sit until it stops fizzing and then dab the area with a clean rag to lift the spot. You may need to treat tough stains more than once. For best results, try to treat stains before they have time to set.
Got visitors? Spray their scent trail with vinegar. It disorients them.
To clean pewter, use cabbage leaves, then buff with a clean cloth.
Make a paste of baking soda and water.
Use milk to remove lipstick stains. Soak in milk for 30 minutes, then rinse in hot, soapy water. Then wash as usual.