by Kate Smith, Eco-Rep
This year, my Thanksgiving yielded more than just rounded bellies and embarrassing familial recollections. A few hours after arrival, when the baby had been cooed over, the sisters hugged, and the luggage tucked away, my oldest sister (the host) promptly handed me a gift. True, not in tune with the holiday quite yet, but nonetheless, urgent enough. The gift was a book entitled Clean House, Clean Planet, written by Karen Logan. Granted I am a college student and, as we all know, college students are notorious for failing to keep a clean house, or should I say tiny hole/room. However, flipping through the pages I came across some interesting information and tips that I can certainly apply in my own life and which should be shared with my fellow students.
Laundry Detergents: The lesson here is that less is more. On the one hand, it's better for our systems of waste management if the detergents we use are as biodegradable as possible and on the other hand, it is easier on the skin if you use more natural detergents. Many common products contain bleach and ammonium compounds which, though they may only cause allergic reactions in a few, can still make your skin itchy and dry. Most importantly, the truth is that if you use too much detergent, your clothes actually won't get clean. This is because detergent bonds to the dirt, and if there is too much detergent, it doesn't get washed out and your clothing remains dirty. The recommendations on the bottles are always higher than necessary, so instead of filling up just past the line, fill up just below. It'll do the job as well if not better.
Fabric Softener: Do we actually need to use fabric softener? It turns out that clothing often feels hard and rough due to detergent residues. If you feel that softener makes a difference on your clothing, try halving the amount of detergent you use and you'll probably find that softener is no longer necessary. If you're still hankering after that fresh laundry scent, know that dryer sheets are often using inexpensive perfumes to cover the smell of their chemicals. Instead, something as simple as white vinegar and scented oil can do exactly the same job.
These are just two aspects of living that we, as college students, can take control of. But we should also be concerned about what products are being used to clean our kitchens and bathrooms, and be aware of the pesticides that keep the critters out of our dorms. In the meantime, I recommend checking out Clean House, Clean Planet (it has some good recommendations for pest control, if that's a problem for you), as well as The Safe Shopper's Bible: A Consumer's Guide to Nontoxic Household Products, Cosmetics and Food. Remember, we are responsible for what we put into our environment and, as consumers, can have a great influence on the products out there on the market. Bon apetite!