Monday, 26 September 2011

Reducing chemicals in our lives

When I think back to how our life was before we moved out here, I must have seriously had my blinkers on to most things in life. Or that's how it sort of feels now anyway.

I wasn't growing my own food and therefore had no appreciation of how much time and effort went into growing veggies and herbs. Or how it is so easy to just spray with chemicals to fix issues such as weeds or pests but how that then disrupts the whole ecosystem, not to mention that we then actually have to eat those veggies!?!?! But you don't think of that when you are grabbing something at the supermarket.

Or how I would just plant plants because they were cheap at the nursery without thinking about actually having a purpose for planting the plant - such as producing food, using the falling leaves as mulch or in the compost, or using the flowers such as lavender in a million and one different uses around the home.

Or how as I was breathing in the clean crisp autumn air and wondering why on earth we were then chasing a blowfly around inside the house with a can of fly spray to kill it. And as is so often the case, not getting him on the first go, and continually, helplessly, trying to spray him as he darts past in an effort to get out of the house.

So, outside I thought things were in order, well at least on the way, but inside needed some drastic help.

My first stop was to read 'Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the toxic chemistry of everyday life affects our health' by Rick Smith & Bill Lourie.


OK quite a bit of scientific stuff that I must admit I glossed over, but after finishing that book, I was convinced things were going to change in a big way in our house.

No more plastics. No more Teflon coated pans. No more plastic utensils. All our moisturisers, shampoos, deodorants, sunscreens, hand washes, laundry detergents and the like were going to be replaced with non-toxic alternatives all starting now. Today.

In my frenzy of throwing myself head first into the plastic cupboard with a big garbage bag at the ready, and making a mental note to count the number of kids before disposing of said garbage bag, I can vaguely hear my husband over the avalanche of plastics say 'Whoa hippie girl! What on earth do you think you are doing?'

Hmmm, the cynic. Forgot about him. As I proceeded to explain, with urgency of course, how we are killing our children and our selves with all this toxicity and especially since we are living out here in the clean air, that all things 'bad' must be banished from this house immediately, he calmly stated he was happy to support my current rant under two provisos:

1. It has to be cost effective, ie we switch to alternatives once current supplies are due to be replaced, and the healthier alternatives are not to cost an absolute bomb; and

2. It is to have no to little impact on the way we go about our everyday life.

I had to admit those points were fair.

So I decided to get 'strategic' with the items I chose first to introduce healthier alternatives, and carefully chose areas that would be easiest to implement and have the greatest chance of success, some runs on the board if you like, before I slowly progress my way to tackle the more ingrained items in everyday use. I am glad to report that 18 months down the track we have achieved those initial goals of mine, however it hasn't always been easy to find items. I am still struggling in finding a dishwashing liquid that I am entirely happy with and have only just found a washing powder that I am happy with. My cynic has also come to the party too, and I have him using an organic shave cream which he admits he really likes!! Although there are still a few areas he needs improvement - he can't get past his need for fly spray. I prefer to use the good ol' fly swat and only on the weekend did we have a stand off with each having their weapons of choice in hand ready to tackle an annoying blowfly. He gave me 60 secs to get it before he came in. I had the kids on my side yelling and pointing at which way the fly was going, and after me running around like a mad chooky trying to get this thing, I came in with seconds to spare. And probably burnt a good 100 calories in the process! But the point is that I won, and no chemicals were sprayed.

I decided to turn our lives around after reading this book, and as it was my turn to host our Book Club get together, I decided to choose this book and was very keen to see what everyone thought - good, bad or otherwise. The discussion went off smashingly well and everyone added what they were using/trying and to what success. But I guess the upside was some of the girls were willing to change the way they did things, or at least have a second thought when they did. And what could be a better result than that :)

MM xoxo


  1. I've wanted to read that book but been too afraid!

    This is a journey we've been on for quite a number of years since I had to find toiletries that were kinder on my skin, and my reaction to sulphates was getting worse. Slowly, we became more eco-aware and also, keen to reduce toxins for our own health too. It's tricky, and there are still plenty of 'nasty chemicals' and toxic stuff in our house... like Exit Mould I use occasionally (which is worse, mould or a chemical spray once a month?), sunscreen (the 'natural' ones was too greasy to wear and I found myself less likely to use it on myself or the kids), toothpaste & deodorant, packaged non-organic convenience food, but we have mostly found alternatives that work for us, and fit into the eco/ethical guidelines as much as possible. Other ideas I haven't done yet are the No 'Poo technique (no shampoo) using bicarb to wash and apple cider vinegar rinse, or oil face cleanse, or the honey one sounds good for when you have your own bees!

    We use soap nuts for washing clothes & have made a 'liquid soap' out of them too, which you can use as handwash, washing dishes etc. too apparently. I also tried growing soapwort, which grows well & I made a liquid soap from it, but haven't used it much!

    Urgh, fly spray & toilet freshener just kill my sinuses!

  2. Dixibelle, you are an inspiration girl! I still have a LONG way to go, but am getting there slowly. Thanks for the links!