Thursday, February 18, 2010

Greening One’s Household, Phase II

Yesterday Ruth Pennebaker at Fabulous Geezersisters wrote eloquently about losing a friend to illness and learning to appreciate one's health as one grows older, and Sheryl Kraft at Midlife Matters provided a quiz that made me realize I need to drink more water and get additional exercise if I intend to remain healthy. Recently health has been on my mind a lot because I finally woke up from my consumerism-induced stupor and moved from Environment 101 into Advanced Environmental Hazards: Plastics. Part of this migration was the result of the health care debate in Congress and the influence wielded by insurance and drug company lobbyists, representatives of corporations that do not care about people. Another motivation was NStar’s insane plan to spray herbicides on the Outer Cape, where we drink well water from a single source aquifer. A third reason was my granddaughter, Juliette, and the world she will inherit.

I have been thinking more about the products that surround us on a daily basis, products which perhaps should be banned from our homes. The easy ones to eliminate are the majority of soaps, shampoos, cleansers and detergents, which sometimes even carry messages on the bottle, warning of toxicity, since alternatives are available. Five years ago we purchased organic cotton sheets for Chez Sven and started serving/eating organic food, whenever possible. We recycle and compost. Now I realize these efforts are not enough. Everyday household products require a thorough re-evaluation for content.

Above, for instance, stands Sven. He has just shaved his head and is admiring the result in our powder-room mirror. Please notice what’s on the shelf in front of him. Sven loves gum and is about to unwrap a piece. I was sorry to tell him he will be chewing plastic. Check out the whole story at Beth Terry’s Fake Plastic Fish. You will also notice our new tube of Tom’s toothpaste and a bottle of Cool Mint Listerine, which is tottering on the edge of my shopping list, about to fall off for good. I used Listerine on the advice of my dentist, but the ingredients do give pause. What’s in Listerine? Chemicals. Do I really want them in my mouth twice a day? No. (See The Ecologist for the list of ingredients.)

Now, check out what Sven is wearing, his favorite fleece. I knew fleece isn't supposed to be good for you but was not sure why, so I asked my green innkeeper friend, Sheri Gibbs. Sheri became much more aware of these things after a bout with breast cancer. Here’s her explanation, as well as a source of safer fleece options: “Fleece, recently, is no longer all made the same. Apparently, some manufacturers realized that off-gassing is deadly and make their fleece from something else...You’ll see some ‘safe’ fleece now in the Gaiam and other catalogs. Most fleece is made from recycled soda bottles. Off-gassing may last a number of years, but you can never stop having the harmful chemicals from the recycled soda bottles go into your blood through your skin from wearing the bad fleece on your body. The only clothing I know of to be actually safe anymore is that made of certified organic cotton, and wool (if that is untreated with god-knows-what, depending on where it comes from and what country). Beyond the chemicals from which fleece is made, also consider whatever on earth they use for the dyes. I have no idea what that all is for sure.”

Sheri went on to admit she still wears fleece, despite the risks.

I believe we are on the cusp of a people’s movement against the chemical industry. Why a people’s movement? Because the chemical industry will not regulate itself unless forced to do so.

What changes have you made recently in your household, based on environmental choices and a search for safer products?