Smart Consumer: 'I'm a week closer to saving the planet'
Rainy-day mishaps aside, Heidi Scrimgeour found going green easier than expected Being a greener consumer doesn't mean shelling out more
I dread to think how many disposable nappies I've sent to landfill since my children were born, or about the environmental impact of my bad habit of using baby wipes for everything.
Until now, I've eschewed a green approach to family life in favour of cheaper or more convenient alternatives. But it's time to change that -- the way we steward the Earth's resources while our children are young will affect the kind of world they inhabit as adults.
If I could turn back the clock, I'd use washable nappies instead of disposables -- which reportedly take 500 years to biodegrade. But time travel isn't an option, so my best option is to compensate for the ecological misdeeds of my family's past by making us eco-warriors of the future.
So for one week we agree to ditch all our usual cleaning chemicals and non-green household habits in favour of eco-friendly alternatives. It could be the beginning of a greener way of life.
I wipe down the kitchen table using just a cloth and a spray bottle filled with water, both part of the range of chemical-free cleaning products by e-cloth (www.e-cloth.com). The children love the bottles, and are uncharacteristically happy to help me clean, which is an unexpected benefit of our experiment. The table looks spotless, but I miss the reassuring scent of bleach to convince me that it's really clean.
I wash up the dishes, baulking at the thought of using only hot water and an e-cloth without washing-up liquid, but I discover that a little bit of elbow grease goes a long way.
I sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on a badly stained saucepan, and a squeeze of lemon juice, and when I return to find the pan sparkling, I feel a glow of green satisfaction.
I put laundry in the washing machine, using eco-friendly detergent supplied by Irish online eco-store www.earthmother.ie, and I'm very pleasantly surprised by the results.
Usually, my tumble drier is in daily use so I atone for this by hanging the laundry on the line to dry, mindful that I'm saving pennies while I save the planet.
I enjoy the sensation of being outside in the refreshing early morning air, and feel like an earnest eco-warrior at the sight of my bed sheets flapping in the breeze. Until it starts to rain. Half an hour later it's sunny again. I spend the day engaged in an infuriating but intriguing dance with the weather.
In the car on the school run, the boys and I discuss our experiment. "You're harming the environment right now," pipes up the seven-year-old, fixing me with a disdainful look. Chastised, I promise that we'll walk to school tomorrow. As long as it's not raining.
It's pouring with rain. Defeated, I drive to school, under the disapproving glare of my son.
Disgruntled and feeling like an eco-failure, I buy new bed linen. It's cotton, but not organic, and I wash it with my old detergent because I want it to smell the way the brainwashers have made me believe clean bed linen should smell.
My bad eco-day improves when my sons get home and don't have to be nagged to wash their hands before tea. They love the earth-friendly minty lavender hand wash from Earth Mother (www.earthmother.ie) and tell me that the packaging says they're superheroes because "we're saving the planet every time we use it".
What's more, the green alternative to aluminium foil in which I wrapped their sandwiches (www.ecosnackwrap.co.uk) made them the talk of the school canteen.
I go grocery shopping, intending to buy only seasonal, organic and locally sourced food. I fail miserably, ending up with Spanish tomatoes and strawberries from Belgium.
At the checkout I am treated scornfully for forgetting to bring my own bags, and refusing to buy 'bags for life' but I have scores of them at home. As punishment, the cashier allows me only one plastic carrier bag at a time. My groceries mount up at the end of the conveyor belt and I nearly drop my wine.
At home, I put a supply of canvas shopping bags in the boot of my car and vow never to accept another plastic bag.
I try plant-based, organic skincare products by Miessence (www.greenearthangel.com.au) instead of my usual chemical brands, and am an instant convert but I undo this good green deed by not opting for eco-friendly ranges while clothes shopping for my growing-like-a-weed son.
I'm disappointed with myself but wish there were more earth-friendly retailers making greener options more affordable and convenient.
Until then, I fear I might remain a fair-weather eco-warrior.
Going greener wasn't as expensive as I expected it to be. Green versions of household cleaning products do often seem to be pricier, but my local supermarket was running a promotion on their own-brand ecological range, so I took the chance to stock up the cleaning cupboards and actually saved some money.
Green choices can save you money -- e-cloths can be washed up to 300 times, saving you the cost of replacing cleaning cloths every few months, plus you're spared the cost of buying household cleaning products once you've invested in the cloths.
Becoming a greener consumer shouldn't mean shelling out more money, of course, and I wish manufacturers and retailers would encourage shoppers to buy green by pricing eco products appealingly.
But ultimately going green is a long-term investment in the planet -- and a few extra euros each month is surely a fair price to pay.