24 February 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng(Environmental), MSc(Environmental Chemistry))
Replace your entire cupboard of conventional cleaning products with greener options to improve the health of your family, environment and wallet
How many commercial cleaning products do you have in your home?
The number and type of different cleaning agents in the average Australian home in 2012 is a stark contrast to a century ago. It seems that sometime between 1900 and now most of us have been convinced by marketing companies that we need a separate cleaner for the toilet, mirrors, benches, floor, windows and oven. All of these items come in individual containers with fancy labels, scents and a complicated list of ingredients. But do we really need all these chemicals in our homes and are they detrimental to our health, our air quality and our waterways?
Cleaning Products and our Health
The Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) released from conventional cleaning products can contribute to poor indoor air quality in our home. Air fresheners, cleaning sprays and polishes are major sources of VOCs and should not be used excessively in non-ventilated areas.i The health problems that may be attributed to VOC exposure are many and varied. Symptoms include nasal or airway irritation, headache, and in some cases, vomiting, and feelings of drowsiness.ii With Australian’s spending 90% or more of their time indoors,iii it’s about time we thought about the indoor air quality of our home to improve the health of ourselves and our families.
Cleaning Products and our Environment
Contaminants in household wastewater (from household cleaning products, personal care products and human input from a household’s kitchen, laundry, bathroom and toilet), all enter our sewerage system where they can have a detrimental impact on sewage treatment, the environment and/or the recycling of effluent and use of biosolids in agriculture.iv Harsh chemicals flushed down our drains may be out of our sight and mind, but we’ve only transferred them to another location and passed the problem on so to speak.
Benefits of Green Cleaning Products
The good news is that it is possible to have a clean home without inviting a cocktail of chemicals through your front door, spreading them around your home and pouring them down your drains.
Switching from commercial to green cleaning products has many benefits which include:
- Healthier – green cleaning products are safer and less toxic than their commercial counterparts
- Economical – many green cleaning products are cheap, standard household items
- Environmentally-friendly – green cleaning products produce less waste (particularly packaging) and many can be used for a multitude of functions meaning we can replace an entire cupboard of conventional cleaning products with just one or two greener varieties. Green cleaning products also ensure the wastewater leaving our homes is cleaner and both easier and cheaper for council treatment plants to process.
What Green Cleaning Options Are There?
You can take the ‘greener’ option of buying the commercial eco varieties of cleaners taking the market by storm but these too have been manufactured, packaged and transported to your local store. The household cleaning products used for centuries before commercial cleaners came on the market do just a good job now as they did back then. They are common items found in our home, are cheap and indeed, are the most ‘greenest’ cleaning option.
So, before you venture to the supermarket to buy your next bottle of spray, consider switching to one of the greener cleaning options below:
Bicarbonate of Soda ( Baking Soda) is made from soda ash (or sodium bicarbonate) which occurs naturally in our environment. The soda ash is refined to form a safe, pure product that cleans, deodorises, softens water and is a fantastic scouring powder.
White Vinegar is naturally occurring however is made commercially from alcohol via a fermentation process (note vinegar made by diluting acetic acid is cheaper and is labelled as imitation vinegar). Vinegar cuts grease and is great as a window cleaner, multi-purpose spray and fabric softener.
Eucalyptus Oil is made by distilling the foliage from Eucalyptus trees and is a natural disinfectant. It quickly and easily removes grease and stains, can be used in the kitchen, bathroom and toilet and is ideal for cleaning hard surface floors. Eucalyptus Oil is non-toxic for sinks, drains, toilets and our waterways.
Pure soap contains no extra additives such as colours and fragrances and biodegrades completely. Pure soap is the original general purpose cleaner.
Lemon juice is a mild bleach, a deodorant and a cleaning agent.
Borax is a naturally occurring mineral salt which cleans, deodorises, bleaches and disinfects without artificial/strong scents. It may also be used to control pests such as ants and cockroaches.
Over coming weeks we’ll be profiling each of the green cleaners listed above with tips on how to use them around your home. If you have a tip for using any of these green cleaners around your home, please feel free to comment below.
About the Author: Laura Trotta (BEng(Environmental), MSc(Environmental Chemistry)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and son Matthew.
i Commonwealth Department of Health and Aging (2002), Healthy Homes: A guide to indoor air quality in the home for buyers, builders and renovators
iii Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2009), Air Quality: Indoor Air
iv CSIRO (2011), Sources of Contaminants in Domestic Wastewater.
21 February 2012
By Tanya Fyfe (BEng(Environmental))
Rather than purchasing a nursery of new furniture for your baby or child, consider restoring pre-loved furniture to give the piece a second life
It’s easy to think that if you have tired old furniture sitting around, you need to get rid of it and invest in something nicer. But have you considered restoring your old furniture instead? Something as simple as a bright coat of paint can make an amazing difference, and doesn’t require any special skills. As well as saving you money, this can minimise your environmental footprint by diverting materials from landfill and avoiding the materials, manufacturing and transport impacts associated with purchasing new furniture.
Until recently, I hadn’t restored any furniture before, but was in possession of a tired old bookcase we bought years ago, second hand. We also had some bright yellow paint left over from a previous project, so I decided to give the little bookcase a facelift. The aim was to make a bright bookcase to house my son Billy’s toys and books. After a quick sanding and a couple of coats of paint, I am quite pleased with the result.
What do you think?
About the Author: Tanya Fyfe is an eco mum and environmental engineer and lives in the WA goldfields with her husband Andy and son Billy. The family’s aim is to live sustainably and for Billy to grow up understanding where food comes from and how it is produced. They generate solar electricity and have an organic vegie garden and modest orchard irrigated entirely with grey water.
16 February 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng(Enviro), MSc(Enviro Chem))
Changing our habits and rituals is difficult and is best done incrementally. Rather than going for change ‘cold turkey’ we can up our chances of sustained change by gradually modifying our behaviour.
I’m a big fan of the Federal Government’s Swap It, Don’t Stop It campaign. Targeting Australia’s obesity epidemic, this campaign promotes healthy eating and active lifestyles for all Australian’s by suggesting small and relatively easy food and exercise swaps. Individual swaps are easy to make and quickly accumulate to build momentum into sustained behavioural change and a healthier lifestyle.
The theory behind the program easily transitions into the environmental sphere. It is here where the focus shifts from changing our consumerism-based and waste-intense lifestyle to an existence that is more simple and sustainable. The benefits of making simple eco swaps are profound on our health, wallets and the health of our environment.
Using the Key Four Pillars of the Swap It, Don’t Stop It campaign, here are a few simple eco parenting and lifestyle changes you can make:
Swap Big for Small
• Rather than buying your children a mountain of presents each birthday, purchase one quality item that will last
• Drive a car with a smaller engine and hire something larger for occasions when you need it
• Close internal doors so you’re not heating/cooling the entire house
NB: You can also swap small for big by purchasing items in bulk (saves packaging).
Swap Often for Sometimes
• Introduce a vegetarian night into your household each week
• Swap single-use disposable nappies for cloth or only use disposables when travelling
• Have a go at making your own infant food and children’s snacks rather than buying commercial and heavily packaged varieties
Swap Sitting for Moving
• Walk or cycle into town instead of driving
• Get active in the garden and grow your own vegetables and herbs. Read why gardening is great for kids here.
• Use local parks and the pool to entertain your child rather than the TV
Swap Watching for Playing
• Plan one activity per day to do with your child. Activities such as constructing a nature collage or baking some biscuits together are easy, enjoyable and free!
• Get your toddler involved in your daily household tasks such as picking up their toys and watering the garden. Toddlers learn by mimicking adults and they thrive on helping out around the home.
• Involve your children in food preparation and they will learn vital skills that will help them live a healthy and sustainable life.
Change is a continual process and even the greenest of us can improve. Here are a couple of eco swaps I’ve made recently to further reduce my family’s environmental footprint:
- Using reusable fruit and vegetable bags at the supermarket rather than the thin plastic bags on offer (am loving the Aussie made Greensacks)
- Switching from eco cleaning detergents to Enjo products to further eliminate cleaning products from our household (their bathroom gloves in particular are the best!)
- Using everyday household items such as bicarb soda, vinegar and eucalyptus oil in the laundry rather than detergents.
What are some of the eco swaps you’ve made recently or plan to make soon?
Note: This article has also been published at connect2mums.
About the Author: Laura Trotta (BEng (Enviro), MSc (Enviro Chem)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in Roxby Downs with her husband Paul and son Matthew.
13 February 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng(Environmental, MSc (Environmental Chemistry))
Watch your toddler or pre-schooler delight in using their natural environment for inspiration and materials as they make their own nature collage.
Most pre-schoolers love craft activities, however there's no denying that they can make a huge mess! With just a few minutes of planning, it is possible to combine craft with the outdoors and set the stage for your child to create their own nature collage.
Nature collages have many benefits for both parent and child, which include:
- indulging children's love of craft without destroying the house,
- educating children about their natural environment,
- not costing you a fortune in craft materials
- having minimal environmental impact!
Requiring minimal effort to set up, nature collages are the perfect craft activity for children over two years, however are simple enough for toddlers to also enjoy. Simply follow the steps below and your child will be creating their own nature craft in no time:
- Set up a large sheet of paper and glue with paintbrush on a flat surface outside
- Explain to your child that they can collect any items in the garden to glue onto the paper (of course, if you don't want your prized pansies included you may need to say so)
- Take the opportunity while your child is collecting their "craft materials" to explain what they are, where they come from and/or why they are in your garden
- Watch your child enjoy both gathering the materials and constructing their own nature collage.
Last week my son Matthew made a nature collage using materials from our backyard. As you can see from the photos, he really got into the activity and enjoyed collecting (and pouring) the sand and gathering feathers from our chicken coup!
As we live in Outback Australia, our garden composition varies greatly to many other homes in Australia. I'd love to hear what items your child used in making their nature collage, or even better, see their collages! Feel free to post photos of your child's colourful creations on our Facebook page.
About the Author: Laura Trotta (BEng(Environmental), MSc (Environmental Chemistry)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and son Matthew.
8 February 2012
Image source: Global Exchange Fair Trade Blog
This month we're giving you the opportunity to WIN a $200 Sustainababy gift voucher simply for telling us your best eco tip. Regular Sustainababy followers tune in each morning for our daily eco parenting tip published on our Facebook page but we'd really like to hear what tips you have for living more sustainably.
For your chance to win, simply email your eco parenting or general eco living tip to firstname.lastname@example.org before 5pm EST Monday 27 February 2012.
Tips submitted will be published on our Facebook page from 1 March 2012. The winner will be judged by how many combined likes and comments their eco tip receives so be sure to tell your friends to get behind you.
We can't wait to hear what tips you can share with other like-minded environmentally-conscious people. Good luck!
Competition Terms and Conditions:
- Open to Australian and International entrants.
- Tips can be of an eco parenting or general eco living nature.
- Tips are to be a maximum of two sentences long in length.
- A maximum of three individual eco tips will be accepted per entrant. Combined eco tips will not be accepted and you will be asked to choose your best three.
- In the event of duplicate eco tips being received from separate entrants, the first submission will be published and subsequent entrants will be notified of the duplication.
- Duration of competition will depend on the number of eco tips received.
- Votes for each eco tip will be tallied at 0730 AEST the day after being published to allow each tip the same voting period (i.e. tips posted at the start of March will not be advantaged over tips published towards the end of the competition period).
- No correspondence will be entered into following announcement of the winner.