Most of us pay some kind of attention to the foods we choose. If youre not a gourmand, sussing out the best cuts of lamb or some obscure cheese, I bet you still put some effort into seeking out your food favourites, even if that means Kraft Dinner Original over the Three Cheese variety.
But at the other end of the food chain, as in what goes down the drain when you clean up after dinner, it can be a whole different ball game.
At that point a lot of folks seem to blank out, having no concept or no cares? about what happens beyond the black holes at the bottom of their sinks. The mouth-holes, the stomach pits, these are orifices worthy of utmost care and attention. As for the drain hole, its still a case of away she goes, and good riddance out of sight, out of mind.
It may be a case of cleaning up like mom did or the way TV commercials urge you to. Or convenience: grabbing whats on sale or the first thing on the shelf. But come on, people were long overdue for coming to terms with our pretty unclean cleaning habits. I mean, Rachel Carsons Silent Spring came out in 1962, for Petes sake.
Carson, a renowned author and former marine biologist, put the proliferation of DDT in her scientific crosshairs, exposing how it remained toxic in the environment long after its initial application and indiscriminately destroyed far more than the so-called pests it was aimed at.
Shortly before she died of breast cancer in 1964, Carson said, "Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself "
Carsons message extrapolates perfectly to our "war" against dirt.
Advertisers of cleaning products at the turn of the 20th century quickly learned that they could sell far more product to eager housewives by playing on moral righteousness. Cleanliness, after all, was next to godliness. But this ancient proverb, Hebrew in origin, and reworked for a sermon circa 1790 by Anglican clergyman/evangelist, John Wesley, is now totally past its expiry date.
Contrary to bringing us closer to God, scientists now say that we are cleaning ourselves, and our planet, to oblivion. For instance, several studies indicate that the $16-billion-a-year antibacterial soap industry, while playing on peoples fears, is in fact fuelling stronger, more resistant bacteria.
More to the point, antibacterials and all those petrochemical nasties in conventional cleaners that cant be treated by our wastewater treatment plants are ending up in our streams and watersheds.
The fair denizens of Whistler alone create 14,000-15,000 cubic metres of wastewater every single day. And even though the municipality has one of the top wastewater treatment plants in Canada, greener cleaners would definitely save money in terms of treatment costs. More importantly, they would help from a global perspective.
"You just cant keep dumping chemicals and pollution into the environment," says Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and public works for Whistler. "It builds up.
"When people make chemicals, they dont just disappear. They change form. You can remove it from wastewater and pull it out and then its in a more easily handled form, like solid waste, that you can dispose of at a landfill or something. But it goes out into the environment somehow."
But take heart, people, for solutions are at hand. All the local grocery stores Creekside Market, Nesters Market, IGA and The Grocery Store carry a wide range of green cleaners. While brands vary slightly, they all offer plenty of options from three of the top ones Nature Clean, BioVert and Seventh Generation (so named for the importance of keeping the next seven generations in mind with every decision we make).
Shop locally and youll find every cleaning agent you could possibly want to whoosh down your drain in an effective and environmentally-friendly way, from detergent to laundry soap, cleansers, dishwasher soap, even toilet bowl cleaners.
And all of them are plant-based products. So ask yourself, wouldnt you rather stick your hand into something made with coconut or lime oil instead of chemical whiteners, ozone-killing volatile organic compounds and petrochemicals? Even if you just try ONE green cleaner, youll be doing a whole bunch of things a big favour, starting with yourself.
How about starting with an eco-friendly dish detergent you can feel the difference first-hand. One of my favourites is Seventh Generation. Go fragrance-free if you dont like scent. But if you do, try the lavender. Sumptuous.
And if you think it doesnt clean as well or is more expensive, the TV-based Shopping Bags assure you, as I do, that youre wrong on both counts. While the shelf price might look higher, most of these products are so concentrated you use far less to get the same results as conventional cleaners.
Go Canadian, naturally
If you buy Nature Clean, youre also buying from Canadas oldest producer of environmentally safe cleaners and the top seller in our fair land.
Nature Clean products were first created some 35 years ago for the familys matriarch, who was allergic to all kinds of things. Like all green cleaners, Nature Clean products offer a litany of positive attributes: theyre biodegradable (no petroleum-based ingredients here), cruelty-free, septic safe, hypoallergenic the list goes on. They even offer a barbecue and oven cleaner (available at IGA and Nesters) that will let you stop using one of the most toxic substances around traditional oven cleaner.
One of my favourite Nature Clean products is the Fruit & Veggie Wash (pesticide use has increased by more than 3,300 per cent since 1945, despite the efforts of people like Rachel Carson). And give their All Natural Kitchen & Bath Spray Cleaner a whirl. Its made from lemon, orange and grapefruit peels, and works like a hot damn on grease and soap scum plus it smells delicious.
Canadian-made BioVert products are also big sellers. Bruce Stewart, general manager at Nesters Market, swears by the laundry detergent, which is three times more concentrated than regular laundry soap.
For him, supplying and using environmentally friendly products isnt just a business decision, its a philosophical one. So Ill give him the last word: "Its like were on a fast-speeding highway thats going out of control and its not going to get better. So we have to be conscious and responsible about what were putting down the drain into our waters and into our Earth."
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who looks forward to writing about the first hotel at Whistler to move to greener cleaners.
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