Small Things & Big Movements

Photo by: DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF, appeared here.

Today, hundreds of young people and adult allies gathered in Boston, MA (and in cities across the world!) for the Global Climate Strike, organizing to demand quick and bold action from policymakers to address the growing climate crisis.

This Climate Strike brings to a close a week of turbulent headlines: legal battles between California and 23 other states and Trump over state police powers and their autonomy in creating environmental laws that are at odds with federal regulations, the shaky future of salmon populations due to warming waters, and grim findings on air travel emissions. And, halfway across the world, a group of scientists are embarking on a year long journey through the Arctic circle in the largest and most ambitious climate-change research expedition the region has seen yet. 

Is your head spinning yet? Are you getting pulled under by the existential dread of climate change? You, reader, are just one person amongst the other 7,699,999,999 on this earth. Does you switching to lentils instead of beef really make that much of a difference? You already know how I feel about the individual responsibility of climate change over corporate responsibility. (Climate change was borne out of capitalism and commercialism!!) But, small things add up to great things. Creating a ripple movement of encouraging and educating others in our lives to make more sustainable choices, to show up at rallies and protests, and to VOTE for (future President Elizabeth Warren) policymakers who prioritize The Green New Deal all matter and make a difference. No, we can’t all be Greta Thunberg. But we can be changemakers nonetheless. 

And you can start small, too. I could go on and on here about at-home composting guides, tips for buying local, how to physically buy less when consumerist culture promotes the opposite, and how to get better at upcycling. However, I too am going to start small here and just tackle your cleaning cabinet.  

I used to fall for the trap of green marketing, but after doing more research, I’ve found that products marketed as “natural” are not always that safe or environmentally friendly. A good resource to look into this more is the Environmental Working Group’s safe product guide. Here they list out a grading system of various natural products on five categories: asthma/respiratory, skin allergies, developmental and reproductive toxicity, cancer, and environmental concerns. If you don’t want to worry about making your own cleaning products, this is a great way to vet commercial ones!

However, it’s really easy to make some DIY cleaning products using things you have in your pantry, in your garden, or in bulk at a local store. Using just a few staple ingredients, you can mix and match to find cleaning solutions to replace laundry detergents, dish soap, toilet bowl cleaner, surface cleaner, and more. Here’s a quick cheat sheet (found via Pinterest):

I can already feel the skepticism from a few of you reading this about the efficacy of homemade cleaning products. For those of you clutching your Clorox wipes in fear right now, here’s a gentle reminder from the American Medical Association that for the most part, Americans are overusing household antibacterial products to a point where we are killing good microbes AND bad bacteria, which can lead to a slew of issues from antibacterial resistance to immune system vulnerability. Also, vinegar and essential oils have their own natural antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Alright, so how does one person making homemade cleaning products impact the fight against climate change? Making your own all-purpose cleaner goes one step beyond recycling because you’re buying less. I want you to do a thought exercise with me now: picture your cleaning cabinet. Do you have a plastic containers full of cleaner for the kitchen counter, maybe a shower cleaner, a floor cleaner, an appliance cleaner, and some glass cleaner? There’s no shame! I have been guilty of buying all of those and more. 

By buying less plastic goods, you’re reducing your carbon footprint. You might be encouraging your friends and family to do the same. Can you imagine what the supply and demand for these products would look like if everyone did this? Things would change pretty fast. 

But, I get ahead of myself. We’re each just one person right now, and all we can do is try to lead a lifestyle that matches our values. For me, I value doing everything I can to reduce my impact and advocate for a sustainable future. These small things can add up to great things, and great things make movements like the ones happening all over the world today during the Global Climate Strike. 

Happy cleaning!

All Purpose Cleaner

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 10-15 drops lavender, lemon, or tea tree essential oil

Mix all of the ingredients together in a glass spray bottle and shake well before using.

Toilet Bowl Pods

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup citric acid
  • 1 tablespoon of dye-free dish soap
  • 10-15 drops of peppermint or lavendar oil

Stir together the baking soda and the citric acid until combined, and then slowly stir in the dish soap.

Using an ince cube tray, divide the powder evenly and press into the molds. Let this dry for at least four hours.

Once dry, pop out and store somewhere airtight, like a mason jar. To use, simply drop in the toilet and wait for it to fizz and then use a toilet brush to scrub.

Glass Cleaner

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 10-15 drops of peppermint essential oil

Add all the ingrediets to a spray bottle and shake to mix.

Wood Cleaner

  • 1 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • 10-15 drops of lemon essential oil

Add all the ingredients to a glass spray bottle and shake to mix.

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