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Everyday Environmentalist

Green Your Household Products

"I haven't had to replace anything yet!"

Stephanie Wear, marine protected-area specialist, The Nature Conservancy

By Stephanie Wear

You might think that I — a marine ecologist for The Nature Conservancy for more than six years, and a lifelong nature lover — would also automatically have been an environmentalist.

But it wasn't until I had a child that I became one through and through — especially about what's in my home.

Having a child led me to using cloth diapers, which brought me to using greener detergent to wash those diapers, which led to worrying about all the toxic, noxious and just plain dangerous chemicals I'd been using in my home without ever thinking twice, which finally led me to replacing all those chemicals.

There are many good reasons for greening your household products: reducing risk of poisoning children; eliminating the bad fumes of conventional cleaning products; and getting rid of the harmful effects on the environment that bleach-cleaned toilets will wreak.

The best part is: It's pretty easy to do. Here are a few steps you can take toward greening your household products:

  • Vinegar, baking soda and hot water are your friends. Baking soda cleans, deodorizes, softens water and scours (say goodbye to Comet!). Vinegar cuts grease and removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax buildup. Use corn starch to clean windows, polish furniture and shampoo carpets and rugs.
     
  • Reuse the containers. My first step was to buy a Shaklee Get Clean™ Starter Kit. By committing to reuse the containers in combination with using multi-purpose cleaners, you can reduce the packaging waste by 108 pounds and eliminate 248 pounds of greenhouse gas initially. 

    And instead of tossing my spray bottles and dish soap containers, I rinse them and reuse them, thus eliminating both landfill waste and greenhouse gases created when making the containers. I haven’t had to replace anything yet! 
     
  • Use washable cleaning rags, dish sponges and napkins. Throwing away paper products like napkins and paper towels is such a waste — filling up landfills and taking trees. We bought cheap and attractive cloth versions that can be tossed in the laundry with our regular loads of clothes.
     
  • Buy recycled or reusable products. Whether its toilet paper or wood toys — first make sure you need it, and then consider its impact (past, present and future) on the environment. I used the Better World Shopping Guide to start becoming a conscious consumer and track my impacts.

So while I'm still helping marine ecosystems to stay healthy and resilient during the day…now I'm doing equally important environmental work at home.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not represent those of The Nature Conservancy. 

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