Want to Help Save the Planet? Start at Home

Jennifer Vickers


As warnings from scientists about the effects of climate change become increasingly more urgent, many individuals, households and businesses are making moves towards more eco-friendly ways of living.  Although large-scale changes like green roofs and living without electricity can make a huge impact, most individuals feel that this kind of approach is not within their power.  But the good news is that making small changes in everyday lives can make a positive impact on the environment.  One area that most people can easily adjust to being more eco-friendly is the cleaning and household products they choose to use.  


Environmental Impacts of Chemical Cleaning Products


Although cleaning products may seem like harmless helpers, useful for ridding your home of harmful and annoying dirt, dust and germs, the reality is much more insidious.  Phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia are named by the Environmental Protection Agency as some of the most environmentally harmful cleaning ingredients.  These chemicals are found in a wide range of products, from dishwasher detergents to glass cleaners.



When these cleaners are rinsed down the drain, they contaminate our water source.  Some of the chemicals that are washed down the drain are removed at wastewater treatment plants, but others remain, making their way back into rivers and lakes. When in the water, these toxic chemicals cause massive overgrowth of certain plants, crowding out wildlife. When the plants die in large masses, they deplete oxygen in the water, killing off more plants and marine life.  The packaging for almost all cleaning products is another culprit of environmental damage.  Each new cleaning product purchased means a plastic bottle that required the burning of fossil fuels to manufacture, and more plastic lying in a landfill or floating in the ocean.


Health Effects of Chemical Cleaning Products


The same chemicals that enter the water and damage the environment can enter the air around us and even our blood stream, causing damage to our health.  Many cleaning chemicals can cause irritation to skin, eyes, nose and throat. And bleach products may even cause dermatitis with direct skin contact. Products that contain lye, including many oven cleaners can be corrosive to the skin, and can be lethal if swallowed.  Many chemicals in household cleaners produce irritating and even dangerous fumes. When these fumes enter the air, they can cause allergies and asthma in children and adults, and worsen already existing conditions.  Air fresheners can also have adverse effects. The chemical ingredients contained in air fresheners can cause irritation, but may also lead to cancer and even brain damage.  


Eco-Friendly Cleaning Alternatives


There are many household items that can be utilized as cleaning products that will cause less damage to the environment and the health of our families.  Vinegar, baking soda, water, and various essential oils make up the basis for most of the household cleaners you might need. A basic, all-purpose cleaner can be made by mixing a half cup white vinegar, two tablespoons of baking soda, tea tree, lavender or lemon essential oil, mixed and topped off with water. 



You can even make your own reusable antibacterial wipes with a couple cut up old T-shirts, vinegar, water, and a mix of eucalyptus, tea tree and lemon essential oils.  If you’re new to essential oils, there are many that can make great additions to your homemade cleaners, but tea tree, lemon and lavender are some of the best to have around, as all three are antibacterial, and lemon and tea tree are also antiviral.  Tea tree oil can be helpful in preventing and removing mold. Plus, if you purchase a few good-quality spray bottles, preferably glass, you can refill your cleaning products as needed, and greatly cut down on the disposable plastic that Americans are constantly purchasing and subsequently throwing into landfills.  


Making your own cleaners has more benefits than inconveniences.  Once you have all the ingredients, it takes much less time than choosing a new cleaner at the store.  You can get your house squeaky-clean, all while saving the planet, preventing allergies and other negative side effects, and even protecting your pocketbook.


Author Bio:


Jennifer Vickers is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine

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Creative Commons (Googole Images; Pixabay)
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