I have always been interested in conservation and the environment as long as I can remember. When I went to university it was the first time that I had lived away from home, and I tried to live as sustainably as I could; walking everywhere, recycling and due to being a poor student, my purchases were limited so I wasn’t contributing to mindless consumerism in the same way that I do now. I have always loved a bargain and still now, despite earning a decent wage, shop in charity shops for my clothes and buy as many things second hand as I can. All the toys we have bought for James so far have been second hand, and many of his clothes are second hand and hand-me-downs from friends. I like that we are not only saving money, but reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill by buying or using things that others are done with.
It is only recently that I have started looking more carefully at the products we use in our home. When we were trying for James, and then when I was pregnant, I read about reducing chemicals in our home from using BPA free plastics, to avoiding aerosols and choosing milder chemical products. We made the shift for some of our cleaning products, and on the whole, I’ve been impressed with the products I’ve tried. I had read about “green” cleaning such as using vinegar and lemons. I like the idea of whipping up lovely cleaning products free of chemicals, that would be effective and leave my home smelling pleasantly of essential oils and lemons. However, in reality the few that I have tried these recipes they have been ineffective, lumpy and have made my house smell like some sort of hideous chutney. So the idea of home made cleaning products was soon ditched in favour of a more practical, time saving alternative, namely buying more eco-friendly products.
I am time poor now that I have James and so my weekly shop is done online from a large supermarket chain. Said supermarket chain only stocked Ecover at the time of my switch to more environmentally friendly products, so I started out switching my usual Fairy washing up liquid (which, have you ever noticed carries a massive warning on it about how harmful it is to aquatic life?! I mean, surely we all put it in water that then goes into our water systems?) for an Ecover alternative. I think this has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, and once I got over the fact that it doesn’t smell as strongly of “winter pomegranate” or “fluffy swans and spring breeze” or whatever, and that it doesn’t foam up as much, it’s actually pretty good. An added bonus is that you don’t need to use as much, so I’m sure we go through a lot less of the stuff. I’m not sad enough to keep a record of my weekly supermarket shop spending, so I can’t be sure that I use less, this is merely an observation. Since moving to the farmhouse we now also have a dishwasher. This was possibly the most exciting thing about moving house and the new kitchen. I cannot tell you how much I love my dishwasher. The fact that there might be 3 meals worth of dirty dishes sitting there, but they are all out of sight tucked into the dishwasher, rather than sitting on the side waiting to be washed makes me very happy indeed. So I have only ever tried Ecover dishwasher tablets and I don’t have any other brands to compare them to, but when I compared the price to leading brands in Tesco, they were as cheap as the big brands, and I’ve found that they clean effectively. Finally, in the kitchen I have a Method kitchen spray which smells AMAZING (all orangey and zesty and fresh!). I love to spritz this round daily to do a kitchen worktop clean down. I’m not sure of the antibacterial nature of it though, so I do still do a weekly bleach of the sink and sides, and change my cloths regularly as I don’t like to take risks with germs now I have James.
I used to favour a cheap supermarket own brand cream cleaner for my bathroom as I found it made the bath etc super shiny and the abrasive nature of the cleaner made everything squeaky clean, and I liked the lemony smell. However, I’m pretty sure the environmentally friendliness of it was pretty poor. So I have switched to a Method bathroom spray. I have yet to find a good eco-friendly cream cleaner stocked in Tesco, and I have to say I don’t love the bathroom spray. It does a reasonable job of cleaning, but I’m not a massive fan of the smell (eucalyptus mint), and I like to work the cleaner into a lather which the spray doesn’t do. I need to search for another product I think. I have the Ecover toilet cleaner, which does a good job, comes in a range of smells and seems reasonably priced when compared with the leading brands. There’s not much more to say about one’s loo cleaner really!
Overall, I’ve found that environmentally friendly cleaning products work just as well, if not better than their chemical based alternatives and brand leaders. I think I need to shop around a bit (most likely online as in reality I don’t have the time to go to different stores to pick up favoured eco-friendly products), to find ones that I really like. I’d love to have a local “green shop” that stocks such things, and I’m sure there are in Edinburgh, but the home delivery option offered by the large supermarkets wins for convenience for me at this time in my life. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll find the time to stand cooking up lovely smelling home-made cleaning products and do without the bought ones entirely!