One of my 2016 aspirations was to look at the chemicals in our home. The European Environment Agency recommends prudence when it comes to the chemicals to which we expose ourselves and the environment. The blame cannot be laid on a single chemical; it’s the range of them and how they interact with each other that’s the real problem. The thing that challenged me is: I know very little about the cocktail of chemicals I purchase, apply, spray. It’s time to change that.
I’m wary of intuiting our way through this. Companies are facing increasing pressure to produce products that are gratifying for the consumer, the producer and the planet. In some instances, this drives real genuine shifts towards sustainability. In others, it’s just a fresh coat of paint masking the rotten core underneath. ‘Eco-friendly’, ‘green’, ‘sustainably sourced’ – what do these phrases actually mean in practice?
Getting to the truth behind the rhetoric, understanding the evidence, all takes time. This is part of the reason we’re going with the ‘natural wastage’ approach (replacing things with more sustainable purchases when they run out), rather than going cold turkey (ditching everything and beginning again). Taking the former approach seems:
- more affordable. Replacing things as we go will be easier on the monthly pay check than ditching everything and beginning again.
- more achievable. Change can be hard. Doing the necessary research to make decisions about more sustainably sourced chemicals will take time. I know myself well enough to be aware that if the challenge is to research it all at once, I’ll be overwhelmed and disempowered to act. A gradual transition seems more likely to achieve the long-term goal of being able to make good decisions going forward. I’m going to play the long game.
So what’s in scope in this fresh focus on chemicals we purchase: products for maintaining the house, ourselves and our attire. What’s not in scope? At this moment in time I’m not going to look at healthcare. I am grateful for the great medical care I receive through the UK’s free National Health Service which vastly improves my quality of life, and probably my life expectancy. I’m content to continue under their expert care.
What are we trying to achieve? We want to understand:
- what’s in the products we buy? What is their impact on our health, on the environment?
- what are the products contained in? Can we move away from single use plastics as we’ve already done with the transition from shower gel and liquid soap to bars of soap?
- where have they travelled from? Can we reduce our carbon footprint by reducing our products’ journey to reach us?
- who’s involved in making them? what kind of lives are they living? Sleeker hair is not worthy of slavery to achieve it. In fact, nothing is.
There are probably other questions we’ll unearth as we seek to answer these. The point is, we’re beginning. Only by knowing where we start can we take deliberate action to change, to improve, to continue on this journey of intentional living.
This was my first foray into natural dying using onion skins (method here). It was remarkably easy and surprisingly satisfying.
Today’s soundtrack: Jeremy Loops // Trading Change (Deluxe Edition)