By Georgia Carter
Our Earth is not only holding the weight of the human world but also the hefty load of human waste we produce. Our environments are littered with plastic, our air is gassed with pollution, and our waterways are flooded with chemicals.
Caption: Cleaning product chemicals have been found in over 60% of America’s rivers, lakes, and dams.
Credit: Jeshoots, Unsplash
Trying to mitigate these harrowing facts can often feel like a hopeless mission. However, we as individuals hold the power of change within our palms. We can grasp certain habits and behaviours that can positively impact the planet and those who reside on it.
One of the ways to curb both plastic and water pollution is simple - do it yourself. Making your very own cleaning products is a simple yet extremely effective sustainable solution to decrease waste of all kinds.
In this post, we unearth the dangers of store-bought cleaning products, why making your own at home is better for the environment, and six recipes for different cleaning and hygiene products.
Easy, accessible, and affordable, this is your guide to homemade non-toxic products.
The dangers of cleaning products
Cleaning and hygiene products, such as all-purpose cleaners and toothpaste, generally contain harmful chemicals that pollute our waterways. Many of these products come in plastic packaging, often of the type that is seemingly impossible to recycle, not to mention the destructive process required to make the products themselves. These products can also have harmful impacts on humans as we indirectly ingest particles of these chemicals.
Most importantly, toxic cleaning and hygiene items lead to an increased amount of chemicals that seep into our waterways. These hazardous chemicals enter ecosystems and cause devastation, eating away at the foliage, polluting the water, and becoming a part of the food chain. In fact, over 60% of rivers and lakes in the United States of America have been found to contain chemicals that derive from disinfectants. The problem is clearly becoming more prevalent.
Eventually, the chemicals that fail to break down make their way into the systems of fish and other marine and water animals. This causes havoc with biodiversity, ecosystems, and the health and wellbeing of all life on Earth. Not only do humans consume the very fish that they poison, which then poisons them, but we are also drinking up the discarded toxins. More than 250 different types of chemicals are found in our drinking water that none of us even know is there.
Caption: Cleaning products cause harm in many ways, including to our waterways, marine animals, and air quality.
Credit: CDC, Unsplash
The benefits of homemade cleaning products
Making your own hygiene and cleaning products has numerous benefits for your health, the planet’s wellbeing, and your wallet.
Below are the top five reasons DIY products are better:
1. Control over ingredients: You never know what’s really added to products made elsewhere. However, when you make your own items, you have complete control over what goes in them. This can help alleviate allergies in the house and mitigate the leaking of harmful toxins into the environment. It also means you won’t be passively consuming particles of harmful toxins that store-bought cleaning products are composed of.
2. Healthier home air quality: As mentioned above, when you have control over your own ingredients, you can choose healthier options. This often results in cleaner air quality as you’re less likely to opt for hazardous ingredients.
3. Cost-effective: Supply and demand for cleaning products are in a constant loop, and prices, therefore, rise with the years. However, when you make your own cleaning and hygiene products, you will only need a small measurement of certain ingredients which you can use to create more of the product you’ve made. This ends up being cheaper in the long run. You’re also reducing the demand for cleaning products, hopefully contributing to an overall end to the production of harmful products altogether.
4. Safe for the environment: When you have control over what goes into your cleaning products, your air, and your waterways, you have a say in what seeps into the environment. By creating your own products, you have the freedom to choose items that are healthier and less toxic for the environment as opposed to choosing ignorance.
5. Reduces plastic pollution: Many to almost all cleaning and hygiene products come in non-recyclable plastic packaging. Most of this waste is tossed after usage and ends up in landfills or the ocean. But when you curate your own products, you will not be contributing to plastic pollution. You can recreate your items in reusable containers and no waste is necessary.
Caption: DIY and homemade cleaning products are substantially better for the environment and one’s health.
Credit: Good Soul Shop, Unsplash
The best five DIY cleaning product recipes
Below are some of the easiest, most affordable, and eco-friendly recipes for homemade cleaning and hygiene products:
1. Coffee Exfoliator
Instead of purchasing a body or face exfoliator from the store, which often contains harmful chemicals that negatively affect both you and the environment, why not make one yourself? If you’re a filter coffee lover or have a friend that is, this is the perfect recipe for you.
Mix all together and voila!
2. All purpose cleaner
This is for those grimy countertops, the discoloured bath, and the stained floors. You don’t need a fancy product with tons of harmful chemicals to wash away any of this dirt.
Caption: An effective all purpose cleaner can be made with just three affordable and accessible ingredients.
Credit: Creme Joe, Unplash
Mix together and now you have an effective yet unbelievably simple and cost-effective all purpose cleaner! Pour your mixture into a spray bottle and shake before use. Bonus tip: for those really grimey surfaces and tough-to-clean stovetops, add a sprinkle of baking soda before topping with your all-purpose cleaner.
This hygiene product is detrimental to our health as well as the environment. The packaging is unbearable while the chemicals that stick to our skin eventually make their way into our waters. However, there is an easy fix for this!
Smoosh all of these together in a glass jar and now you have an effective paste that forms the perfect zero-waste deodorant!
Caption: Make your own deodorant paste with your favourite essential oils and smell as fresh as a bouquet of flowers!
Credit: Jennifer Chen, Unsplash
4. Dish Soap
This harmful product directly runs into our waterways. It’s important to have clean dishes, but these toxic-paced products are not necessary.
Mix together and your dishes will be clean and fresh in no time!
One of the worst things about toothpaste is the plastic waste that is near impossible to recycle, often ending up in landfills or polluting the ocean. To lessen this plastic plague of which toothpaste waste is a contributor, make your own!
And that’s it! Now you have toothpaste that is both safe for the environment and effective for you.
ernearmedev. (2020, July 30). The Benefits of Homemade Cleaning Products | 2020. Ernearmetx.com. https://ernearmetx.com/blog/the-benefits-of-homemade-cleaning-products-in-2020/
Lederle, D. (2015, July 10). DIY Natural Deodorant...That Actually Works! The Healthy Maven. https://www.thehealthymaven.com/diy-natural-deodorant-that-actually-works/
Meredith, D. (2018, November 15). This DIY Body Scrub Is the Best Thing to Do with Leftover Coffee Grounds. Taste of Home. https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/coffee-scrub/
News-Medical. (2018, December 20). (How to) Make Your Own Toothpaste. News-Medical.net. https://www.news-medical.net/health/(How-to)-Make-Your-Own-Toothpaste.aspx
The Environmental Dangers of Using Cleaning Products | AspenClean. (2018). Aspenclean.com. https://www.aspenclean.com/blog/the-environmental-dangers-of-using-cleaning-products
Renowned natural historian and british broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has a new documentary in the pipeline, this time to urge people to ditch meat in preservation of the planet.
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet recounts the 94-year-old’s extraordinary encounters with the natural world, exploring some of his defining experiences as a naturalist, and also the devastating changes he has seen unfold over six decades in the field.
“The way we humans live on Earth is sending it into a decline,” says Attenborough in the official trailer for the film set to release in cinemas on the 28th of September. “The planet is headed for disaster. We need to learn how to work with nature, rather than against it.”
A Life On Our Planet unpacks the deterioration of Earth’s environment, focusing on the loss of biodiversity as a result of industrialised agriculture. Sir David Attenborough’s message urges people to reduce the amount of meat that they consume, just as he has in recent years, because “the planet can’t support billions of meat eaters.”
By taking on a lower-impact plant-based diet, human beings could increase the yield of the land, reducing the need to clear forests to create the space needed to meet current agricultural demands.
Despite the pressure placed on the planet by modern farming practises, Attenborough explains that it’s not too late to stop the deterioration of Earth’s ecosystem. “We must restore biodiversity. We must rewild the world – and rewilding the world is easier than you think. A century from now, our planet could be a wild place again.”
The documentary will be available on Netflix before the year’s end, hopefully resulting in a shift in the way we consume and encouraging sustainable behaviour across the globe.
To read more about the film, visit the official website.
By Emma Hanly
The production, consumption and wastage of food are influential elements of health for both people and the planet. With a predicted population increase of 2-4 billion people by the year 2050, and an already suffering environment, food will continue to be a major issue in the 21st century unless we change now.
In the recently released EAT-Lancet Commission report, it was stated that “food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth”. It’s no secret that global food production is one of the biggest threats to climate sustainability, and this begs the question: what constitutes a sustainable diet? The answer is green and simple. “A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.” says Walter Willett, MD, professor at Harvard T.H. Chan, school of public health.
While some people may believe that ditching meat, dairy and other animal by-products is too extreme a sacrifice, others believe that the personal and environmental benefits make the choice a no-brainer. The potential health benefits alone are quite convincing. When it’s done right, a vegan diet can lower cholesterol enough to significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. Veganism can also lower the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, such as colon and prostate cancer. Additionally, cutting out animal products is also known to help people to lose excess weight, and with an approximate 13% of the world’s adult population classified as obese in 2016, this may well be enough of a reason to make the change.
The consumption of meat and other animal products contributes to widespread pollution, global warming, land degradation, deforestation, water scarcity, global hunger and species extinction. In fact, according to this source, the diet of a meat eater creates seven times the greenhouse gasses as the diet of a vegan. If every American dropped a single serving of chicken from their diet per week, it would save the same amount of CO2 emissions as taking 500 000 cars off the road. You’d save more water by not eating one pound of meat than you would by not taking a shower for six months. Raising animals for food uses 30% of the Earth’s total land mass, occupying more space than the entire surface of the moon.
The numbers are clear: meat-heavy diets are a waste of resources, and switching to a plant-based or vegan diet is one of the most effective ways to reduce your ecological footprint. While a vegan diet is widely believed to be beneficial for the planet, not all plant-based products are green and sustainable. Products like Oreos and Kelloggs cereals, while tasty and vegan, are doing vast damage to the environment because they include an ingredient called palm oil. Palm oil plantations accelerate the global temperature rise, release massive amounts of CO2 and directly threaten 193 of the world’s critically endangered species, including the Bornean Orangutan (source: International Union for Conservation of Nature). It goes without saying that vegan products which include palm oil are not green, but rather mean.
There is a dire need for change in the global food system and we, as consumers, have the ability and responsibility to vote with our money. Our demand (or lack thereof) affects the supply of either sustainable or unsustainable foods. Above all, the most environmentally friendly diet you can follow is one that includes locally sourced, plant-based foods. Opting for whole foods that don’t involve processing and packaging is the best way to reduce your environmental impact while properly nourishing your body.
The switch to veganism doesn’t have to mean ‘all or nothing’: meat can be phased out progressively, one meal at a time, and with the hoard of recipes and resources accessible online, there’s hardly an excuse not to give it a try. Changing to a vegan diet does mean eliminating certain foods, but it also provides an opportunity to improve your physical health, that of the planet, and to explore many new and exciting flavour combinations that are clean, green and simple.
By Emma Nylah
If you would like to sese how much you could reduce your impact on the environment try this vegan calculator. https://thevegancalculator.com/