This is a guest post from the lovely Fabulously Broke. Check out her blog for more great content!
I went green not to really save the environment or to turn into some kind of hippie. Saving the environment was a nice bonus but to be brutally honest, it never factored into my decision. I was also hoping to be able to have less stuff in the process as I am starting to really push myself to become a bona fide minimalist.
So in short, I was being extremely selfish. I wanted to detox my own life to live longer and healthier. It’s certainly not the most altruistic reason to go green, because everyone always cites that they wanted to save the animals, save the Earth, the water, to stop building huge landfills etc before saying that it is an added benefit for their health and bodies to do so.
Well, I am not as self-sacrificing and probably more honest than that, I’m afraid.
But the most shocking thing is I never expected it to change me or to be quite as profound as it had become. I had always assumed I’d try it for half a year, maybe a year if I could last and end up going back to the old ways.
Initially, I wanted to see if I could start to substitute my food preparation, household cleaning and personal care products to eliminate that slight twinge of worry of toxins seeping through my skin, staying there and cause health problems in the future, but I’m really not that paranoid. I would use chemicals if they were proven to be safe, but with all of these reports about phthalates and BPA leeching from plastic containers, it tends to cause concern, even if a bit over the top.
Going green also comes with a price tag, but I never expected it to be a reduced one!
I actually expected to pay more money to go green, but that’s just a false assumption everyone works under, and the main reason why people cite that going green is not on their list of priorities.
When I started eliminating household products, instead of finding substitutes for them, I just tried eliminating them to see if I needed to use them in the first place.
The only more-expensive-than-the-chemical-stuff we used was white vinegar. Buying a $2 bottle of dishwasher detergent versus using white vinegar (even in bulk) at $3 per container that only washes 30% of the loads isn’t cheaper. But it’s greener, and it works.
As for everything else, I saved money: I got rid of the kitchen and bathroom cleaners using any of the following combination: soap, water, baking soda and vinegar. It cleans just as well, and takes the same amount of effort.
I also got rid of all of my laundry purchases. Laundry Detergent? Gone. Dryer sheets? Gone. Softening Liquid? Gone. Nasty Bleach? Gone.
I realized that my clothes get JUST as clean and smell JUST as good (well, not like vanilla), if I just wash them in cold or warm water. Sometimes hot, for the whites. The stains disappear for the most part, and the agitation of the machine is what cleans the clothes, not so much the detergents. I am less picky about requiring my whites to be the brightest whites on the planet. A slightly stained tea cloth is okay now – I know it’s clean.
The detergents are just there to lift very heavy, soaked in oils and grease, none of which were on our clothing on a daily basis. If we had kids who wore re-usable diapers that had to be washed on a daily basis, we would most certainly use soap in that case. But other than that, there’s no need to buy detergents in our opinion.
I also assumed that it’s more work to go green – you have to give up those wonderful chemicals that make things so easy for you instead of having to go back to the old days and put in a little elbow grease to get the job done.
And to be honest (again), I am definitely a fashionista. I like looking good (not just presentable and clean), and if my hair turned greasy or lifeless, I would have switched back to shampoo in a heartbeat, chemicals be damned!
So it goes without saying that when I switched to only using water to wash my hair once every 3 days it wasn’t an easy transition (your hair stays greasy and gunky while it tries to adjust the oil production in your scalp) and I gave up near the end and tried using shampoo again.
But the stench of the shampoo that I once loved made me nauseous.
It is probably all paranoia in my head, but my body reacted pretty strongly — I felt sick, dizzy, and I had to re-wash my hair with water, pouring apple cider vinegar as a rinse to get rid of that shampoo stench.
So by default, I stuck with washing only with water as my shampoo while researching other greener shampoo methods, but before I knew it, it was 6 weeks past and my hair improved significantly. And the added benefit to saving money on hair care as well as helping the environment is that I will never have to carry liquid shampoos or conditioners ever again when I travel.
This is a huge relief for me.
So in the end, regardless of my initial extremely selfish reasons to go green, it ended up changing me for the better and my attitude towards the Earth has also changed as a result, and I want to keep pushing myself beyond what I thought I could achieve.