All the carelessly dropped rubbish we have come across on our journey so far – whether along France’s Mediterranean beaches, in Spain’s historic city centers or near a fresh water reserve in remote Portugal – prompted me to post a copy of this article which I had written several years ago for a yoga school in Sydney.
1. Kitchen cleaning
Instead of using nasty, potentially carcinogenic chemicals on surfaces you prepare your food on, try natural stuff. Use bicarb soda on a damp cloth to clean bench tops, sinks, windows and fridge surfaces. Pure soap generally does the job of dish-washing detergents. Add white vinegar to the rinse water to give glasses an extra shine. Avoid caustic oven cleaners. Wipe the oven down while still warm with a wet, maybe soapy, cloth.
2. Bathroom cleaning
A paste of borax and lemon juice will keep your toilet nice and clean. Bicarb soda on a wet cloth is ceramics natural friend – use for tiles, sinks, toilets and bathtubs. For your mirrors, apply eucalyptus oil with a wad of newspaper to prevent mirrors fogging.
3. Living room cleaning
Sprinkle bicarb soda on carpet before vacuuming to eliminate any unpleasant odors. It is also a great stain remover. Half a cup of vinegar to a liter of warm water is not only a cheap and easier general cleaner for the whole house, but also useful for windows. Pass soapy water before if they are particularly dirty and finish off with crumpled newspaper moistened with vinegar for a beautiful sheen. If the vinegar smell doesn’t rock your boat, simply add a dash of tea tree or lavender oil or put some orange peel in your vinegar bottle.
4. Personal cleaning
Once you embark on a little research of the main ingredients of your average shampoo and conditioner, you will be happy to stop using them. The organic equivalents from your local health food store may be more expensive, but are likely to save you long term medical bills. The skin is, after all, our biggest organ and we should be just as cautious as to what we absorb through it, as what goes down our throat. Natural soaps are more and more widely available. My personal favorite for me and my babies: Adding a handful of organic oats in a stocking to your bathwater. This makes it milky and your skin creamy and soft.
5. Growing (parts of) your own food
Even the smallest city space can grow some herbs near a window, or the tiniest outdoor area, if available. Borrow an urban permaculture book from your library – or search online – for some creative tips which allow you to grow more with less. Think out of the square and the rewards won’t only save you dollars, but pesticides and flavorless greens.
6. Plastic reduction
Plastics are usually synthetic, most commonly derived from petrochemicals. Most release chemicals with estrogenic activity when heated, so definitely avoid microwave and direct sun exposure. The US and Europe have put various bans on different chemicals, such as phthalates. From an environmental point of view, plastics degrade very slowly and contribute big time to large numbers of deaths of fish and bird.
There are lots of alternatives for commonly used plastic items, such as aluminum, ceramic, enamel, khadi, bamboo, stainless steel, wood or even beeswax coated cotton food wraps.
A first and easy step could be recycling your glass jars, and use them for storage, as a Tupper substitute (not always suitable in toddler hands) or next time you make your own jam or chutney. Personally, I apply the 80/20 rule and, as long as not heated, don’t shy away from using the occasional plastic Tupperware. However, if you want to avoid the plastic nasties completely, check out www.lifewithoutplastic.com for inspiration, products or gift ideas.
7. Gift wrapping
Christmas is coming up faster than one thinks. Next time you wrap presies for Easter or a birthday party, consider using a nice kitchen towel or pretty scarf. Besides saving trees, it adds a nice extra to your gift. And talking about green gifts – why not give some herbs in a pot, or a natural soap and shampoo pack to get your friends on a greener and healthier journey too!