So let's all "take care" on Earth Day 2008 to "give care" to those we love, to our communities, to our cities, to our states, to our country, to our planet. Sounds like a huge undertaking, no? Well, in reality it can all begin with the simplest of activities that you were probably going to do anyway: Spring Cleaning. (It's what you do in spring, isn't it?)
Only this year, I am suggesting that we mix things up a bit, literally and figuratively. Instead of unconsciously reaching for those expensive, toxic products locked away under the kitchen sink, let's be more mindful of the effects of our actions. I propose that this year, we make a clean sweep by using some safe and wholesome ingredients you probably already have around the house to create healthy, non-toxic cleaning recipes that are equally, if not more effective!
It might come as a surprise, but commercial cleaning products are actually only a modern, and highly successful, 20th Century marketing "convenience." Prior to the technologies of the Industrial Revolution, the means to produce mass-market pre-mixed cleansers didn't exist. And while I am no Troglodyte, and actually enjoy many of the benefits of modern conveniences and technologies, I do try to use those that are helpful and life affirming, and opt for healthier alternatives to those that I know are harmful and life-threatening.
OK, so back to Spring Cleaning. First, let's clean the windows and let all that glorious springtime daylight fill your home. Wipe away the winter grime with a simple but highly effective solution of one teaspoon of white vinegar added to a re-cycled spray bottle filled with warm water. Squirt it on and wipe it off with re-cycled newspaper, and you'll be amazed at how shiny your windows (and mirrors) will be. And your entire bottle of new glass cleaner costs you only about $.02, to boot! (Remember, the price of store-bought cleansers takes into account the costs of advertising, shipping, packaging, supermarket real estate, etc., while a simple bottle of white vinegar costs under $1.00 and can last over a year.)
Next, by mixing one cup of baking soda, one cup of borax (yes, it's still made and you'll find it in the laundry detergent section of your grocery store), and a pinch of table salt, you'll easily create a gentle, non-toxic bathroom and kitchen cleanser that works great. Sprinkle it on, give it a good scrubbing and rinse it clean with warm water. And here's my favorite tip: if you use the cut side of a half a lemon as your scrubber, you'll have the added benefit of that wonderful, natural, fresh citrusy scent.
Remember, whatever you use to clean your windows, mirrors, sinks, bathtubs, showers or toilets -- either these homemade recipes or those store-bought chemicals -- all gets washed down the drain and into the ground water. The only difference is that these easy, non-toxic recipes don't pollute and aren't harmful to the flora and fauna of our lakes, streams and oceans, and you won't even have to use rubber gloves while cleaning because they're so gentle. Plus, your family and pets won't be exposed to air-bound chemicals or toxic residues.
So I suggest that this year, we all not only celebrate Earth Day by taking care of others and ourselves, but by also offering care. Former Soviet President Gorbachev once suggested that it took only 5% of the leadership of Russia to create Perestroika. Just imagine what a "caring" 5% of the population could offer right here and right now to make an environmental difference locally and globally.
At least for just this one-day, show the world not only that you care, but how you care.
Michael de Jong will be signing books at Macy's on April 22nd at the Roosevelt Field Mall and at the Herald Square Macy's on Saturday the 26th, both in New York.
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