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August 3, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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Environment

This week’s column includes some cheap and eco-friendly solutions for cleaning and also includes a little reflection on how cool and amazing the world around us is.

We all love cleaning. Nothing is more appealing than approaching the flat toilet, cleaning gloves on, toilet brush held out as far from one’s body as possible, to sluice some toxic cleaning product around the bowl. Yum. What better way to spend a Sunday.

However, the pain can be lessened by taking out the toxic cleaning product step. Unfortunately, while there are a lot of great eco-friendly cleaning products now on the market, they are often more expensive than their more toxic companions on the shelf, and on a tight budget it seems logical to sacrifice them for an extra can of baked beans.
The solution instead is to make your own (thanks to Greenpeace for these ideas).

The main ingredients you will need are:
Baking soda
Vinegar (white)
Soap (such as soap flakes or pure soap bars)
Lemon juice
If you like, essential oils for a nice scent (such as eucalyptus oil)
Also, a good old scrubbing brush and water can do a really good job, rather than just using a cloth.

All-Purpose Cleaner

This solution is safe for all surfaces, should be rinsed with water, and is very effective for most jobs. For a stronger cleaner, double the amounts of soap and lemon juice.

1/2 cup (125 ml) pure soap (if using soap bar, grate ½ a cup’s worth)
4 litres hot water
For a clean scent and to help cut grease add 1/4 cup (60 ml) of lemon juice.

Scouring powder

Use a firm bristle brush and scrub with pure soap combined with either table salt or baking soda. Baking soda alone on a damp sponge is also effective on most surfaces. You can also personalise your scouring powder by adding an aromatic herb or flower. Put the ingredients in a blender and run until the fragrance has infused the powder.

For oven spills, scrub using straight baking soda or combine with the stronger version of the all-purpose cleaner.

Remember to wear gloves when scrubbing.

Air fresheners

Commercial air fresheners work by masking smells and coating the nasal passages with chemicals which diminish the sense of smell by deadening the nerves. Avoid these products. Instead, try the all-natural air purifiers—house plants. Or try these natural recipes to diminish odour and add a fragrant smell to your house:

  • Use baking soda in your rubbish or compost, and also in the fridge to help reduce odours at their source.
  • Dissolve 1 tsp (5 ml) of baking soda in 2 cups (500 ml) of hot water, add 1 tsp (5 ml) lemon juice. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray as you would an air freshener.
  • Place a few slices of a citrus fruit, cloves or cinnamon in a pot with enough water to simmer gently for an hour or two.

Toilet Cleaner

For cleaning toilets, mix equal quantities (between ¼ and 1 cup) of dish washing detergent, baking soda and water. Leave on the toilet for an hour or two, then clean.

And here are some sweet facts that reflect how infinitely amazing the creatures we share the world with are.

  • Woodpeckers slam their heads into wood at a rate of 20 pecks per second. What protects them from injury is a spongy area that sits behind their beaks and acts as a shock absorber.
  • The monarch butterfly can detect its lover’s scent eight kilometres away.
  • Snails can sleep for up to three years.
  • There are at least ten thousand billion ants in the world, but only about six and a half billion human beings. That means there are around one thousand five hundred ants for every human being.
  • Elephants can’t jump, pigs can’t look up at the sky and kangaroos can’t walk backwards.
  • Fish hear through their bodies.
  • The loudest animal in the world is the Blue Whale. It can make sounds as loud as 188dB (the sound of an aeroplane taking of is about 120 dB) which can be picked up 850 km away.
  • Cows can have regional accents
  • The average garden-variety caterpillar has 248 muscles in its head.

And a positive eco-news note:

In a recent event, the troubled relationship between India and Pakistan took a rather more productive turn, in the form of an international tree-planting competition.

Pakistan managed to set the Guinness World Record by planting 541,176 mangrove trees in just one day. This bet India’s record by nearly 100,000. It was achieved by around 300 volunteers from local fishing communities who each planted about 2000 trees (in temperatures of as hot as 37 degrees celsius!).

Mangroves create an extremely important eco-system that provide a habitat for a huge variety of organisms, and also protect the coast from erosion and storm events. Such local initiatives also represent the kinds of grass-roots activity that communities are taking to mitigate climate change. In this case, the mangroves will not only absorb carbon dioxide, but also better protect the coast from rising sea levels.

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