Let’s talk dish washing…

Being ecological and sustainable is not just about what we buy and use but also about the waste we generate. Continuing with the previous post, let’s see what we generate and how to make it eco friendly or as eco friendly as possible. Ready, Steady….

What else goes to make grey water in our homes?

Wastewater from your dishwasher and dishwashing: l_10100831_004Shall we make a list of all that goes into washing dishes, be it from hand washing or by using a dishwasher? Here we go: dish soap/gel/tablets, glass brightener, dish rinse, dishwasher salt, dishwasher cleaner…ARGH!!!! That’s quite a barrage of products that go into not just washing dishes but then down the drain! Oh My!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just cut on needless, chemical products?

Some of the basic ingredients in dish soap include surfactants, preservatives, fragrance, color as well as active or inactive ingredients. This site has some eye popping info on the chemicals and their effect on our body. One particular chemical is worrying for its environmental effect:

220px-Triclosan.svgTriclosan:It is found in most liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps labeled “antibacterial.” It is an aggressive antibacterial agent that can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Studies have now found dangerous concentrations of triclosan in rivers and streams, where it is toxic to algae. Read all about it here.

So, what can we do?

  • Use simple detergents and soaps with short ingredient lists,
  • Avoid antibacterial products with triclosan for home use. See the Environmental Working Group’s site ,
  • Don’t go crazy buying needless products!
  • Use simple liquid castile soap,
  • Make your own!

Dishwashing and Dishwasher powder/liquid

Recipe 1: The Dishwasher powderSin título
Ingredients:

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • ½ cup citric acid
  • ½ cup salt (for the scrubbing action)
  • Container

Mix all the ingredients in the container and use 1 Tbsp per load.

Recipe 2: The Old Fashioned liquid:
Ingredients:
  • About 500gms of soap flakes
  • 4.5 litres of water

Method:

Put everything in a pot and heat over medium until the liquid begins to boil. Keep stirring until all the soap has melted and then lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes. Let it cool and then pour into your chosen container. It takes only about a teaspoon of the liquid for each sink full of hot water.

Dishwasher Rinse and Cleaner:

Rinse:
  • Use vinegar as a rinse by filling the dishwasher compartment with it.
Cleaner:
  • Once in a while, run an empty dishwasher with vinegar: It’s the same concept as running a vinegarload in your washing machine. You simply toss a cup of white vinegar into the bottom of an empty dishwasher and run a normal cycle. It cleans out old food particles to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh
Dishwasher salt:
This is different to table salt as it additive-free and also comes in bigger granules/flakes and is used to soften the water. Here is some info. Have you ever thought what happens to it once it passes through our dishwasher? Salt is a major pollutant when discharged into the environment. When discharged with treated wastewater into rivers and lakes, chloride (Cl-) can harm aquatic life and damage agricultural crops by causing leaf burn or drying of leaf tissue, thus reducing crop yields. Over time, discharge from salt water softeners will lead to increasing levels of sodium in fresh water supplies, and excessive chloride levels in soil.
  • The best way to avoid discharging tons of salt into the sewers is to replace existing traditional salt-based water softeners with newer salt-free water softeners. Catalytic-conversion media can be used to neutralize calcium and magnesium and reduce scale buildup.

SIDE NOTE:

Scrubs/sponges/scourers:
Something else I worry about are the synthetic scrubs we use and throw away with our garbage as they get worn. Have you ever wondered what they are made of and how biodegradable they really are? You know the ones I am talking about:

scotch brite

I checked out the website of a very famous brand many people use and there was no mention of the composition of their scrub/scourer/sponge. I went on a livechat with one of their agents and was eventually told that they are made of aluminium oxide and plastic. Ugh. So what do I recommend? Happily, there are many options:

 

sponge
Wooden brush, sponge-scourer and luffa
  • Wire wool! See a comparative with the above here. It ain’t my favourite but sparing use will guaranty a long life.
  • I use a wooden brush wth natural bristles to scrub the worst away.
  • I usually have a small collection of loofahs or luffas – most people use them as a body scrub but they serve perfectly well to scrub dishes too. They are the dried out, fibrous husk of a very edible asian gourd.
  • An alternative for those of you who shy away from unfamiliar things is the eco sponge-scourer, made from recycled plastic, walnut shells and cellulose – looks exactly like its unfriendly cousin.
  • For more ideas, look here
Kitchen Wipes:
We all use a multiple of these in our homes, don’t we? Most are made from microfibers. You can find out all about how these are made and how they work here.
PrintFor those of you who are too darn lazy to check out the link, let me highlight an important aspect of microfibres – most microfiber cloths are made of polyester, polyamide or other polymers such as nylon. These compounds are derived mainly from crude oil or coal. Aside from the environmental issues associated with creating these plastics, burning of materials such as nylon can produce toxic smoke. Additionally, these materials aren’t readily degradable and will be with us for some time to come. But, did you know how truly  harmful micro fibers are to our environment? To waterbodies and the species which reside there?
In the summer of 2012, in collaboration with the 5 Gyres Institute, Dr. Sheri Mason, then the Associate Professor of Chemistry at SUNY-Fredonia and coordinator of its Environmental Sciences program, lead the first-ever study of plastic pollution focused solely on the Great Lakes in an effort to discover just how much plastic there is polluting the Great Lakes and at the same time raise local and regional awareness about this issue. Her research was shocking as we found that microfibers from our clothes etc have ended up contaminating water bodies ( Here is a link to a video) and worse, as per her research a few years later, the Great Lakes fish are swallowing micro-plastic fibers that have found their way into the waste stream from washing machines. And the fish that ingest them include species sought after by Great Lakes anglers, among them: brown trout, cisco—also known as “lake herring”—and perch. You really should read this article.
UGH UGH UGH
More to come in the next post.
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Step 12: Generating eco-friendly Waste: Let’s talk clothes washing

3D collection of household cleaning products isolated on white background
The contents of these add a chemical gunk to our environment plus leave us with trash

Let’s look at the types of waste we generate ( some of which we aren’t even aware we generate) and try to look at ways to make it cleaner and greener and on the way, get rid of even more packaging and chemicals. Shall we start?

 

I. Household Liquid Waste:

Have you ever thought about what is in your waste and where it goes? And I don’t mean just your garbage (that’s another post) , I mean the dirty or grey water as it is called, from your washing machine, dish washer, shower, bath, laundry tubs, kitchen sink, hand basin….Let’s look at all this a bit more closely, shall we?

Waste water from the washing machine: Washing machines account for almost a quarter of household wastewater or, depending on your machine, about 60–180 litres per wash. So, in effect, washing six times a week could send more than hotpoint_rpd10457j_wh_05_l[1]1000L down the drain in one week alone. Add to that your dishwashing, shower and bath water, and you’re soon up to 4000L a week for the average family of four. Not to mention the  detergent, fabric softener, stain remover, dryer sheets, possibly bleach….that’s quite a chemical mix that you send down the drain every time that you do a wash. Here is a list of laundry chemicals for you to boggle yourself with. So, what do I suggest? Well, you could either buy eco-friendly products or make them yourself! Why not? Plus they are cheaper on the pocket, a win-win situation!

Detergents: Making your own detergents sounds like quite the task so you could buy eco-friendly ones. Here is a review of a few green detergents for my US readers. Here for my UK readers. If you can’t find anything in your area or on an online site or just wanna try your hand at something which is actually quite easy, you could try either or both of these 2 DIY detergent recipes:

Recipe 1: The Soap Recipe

Ingredients:Scented-Wellness-Bath-Salts-2

  • 1 bar of plain soap ( with as few ingredients as possible so stay away from Dove type soaps or antibacterial etc) or pure soap flakes
  • 1 cup of Borax (in the laundry section of most supermarket chains)
  • 1 cup of Washing Soda (this is also found in the laundry section and is not the same as baking soda)
  • Salt
  • Grater
  • Airtight container

Method:

Grate the bar of soap into as fine a powder as you can manage or use pure soap flakes.

Put the grated soap or the flakes into your container and add the borax and the washing soda. The measurements for soap, borax and washing soda are of a 1:1:1 ratio. Easy, huh?

Put the lid on and shake well until completely combined.

To use, add 1-2 tablespoons per load of laundry.

Recipe 2: The Soapnut/Ritha Recipe

IMG_3309 (005)
These nuts are endemic to Nepal and India and are saponin rich.

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 litres of water
  • 80 soap nut halves ( you can order these online or get them at your local organic shop). They come de-seeded so will be in halves
  • A container
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 60 drops of laundry friendly Essential Oils like Lemon, Lime, Lavender, Orange, Tea Tree, Lemon grass, Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Rosemary, Pine, Spruce, Cypress, Thyme, Palmarosa, Citronella, Wintergreen, Bergamot, Cedar wood, Spearmint, Oregano, Cinnamon Bark, Clove Bud, Sage, Petitgrain bigarade, Vetiver, Coriander, Juniper Berry

Method:

Heat 2 litres of water in a large pot and when boiling add the nut halves.

Stir from time to time during 10 minutes. Switch off the heat. and let cool for half an hour

soapnutSieve and put this water into a  storage container.

Put 1/2 litre of water in your pot again with the already boiled nuts and blend till a thick soup is formed. Be careful as its very soapy.

Then boil this for 10 mins and stir as before and then allow about half an hour to cool.

Sieve and mix with liquid 1 and 1/2 litre more of water.

Now add 2 tbsp salt for preservation.

Add  Essential oils to make it smell good!

I have been using this recipe for YEARS and I love it, especially for the coloured wash. For whites, once in a while, they will need brightening when following the soap-nut recipe in which case I use either of the 2 methods below:

How to Whiten Whites?

  • Pre-soak the whites in washing soda ( 1 cup in 1 bucket of water overnight) and leave them out to air dry under the sun after washing them.
  • Simply add one cup of hydrogen peroxide to the washer drum before adding water or clothes. The hydrogen peroxide can also be placed in the automatic bleach dispenser of the washer where it will be dispersed into the wash cycle.

How about Fabric softeners (FS)? Dryer sheets (DS)?

Some tips for DIY fabric softeners:2e9212331bad4a079de280f32470a8e9[1]

  • Baking Soda: Add a quarter cup of baking soda to wash cycle to soften fabrics.
  • Vinegar: Vinegar is a good non-toxic alternative to fabric softener. It softens fabrics and also helps prevent static cling. Use it on towels, diapers, and heavy fabrics like denim (avoid using it on delicates). Add 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar to your rinse cycle.
  • Vegetable Glycerin: Mix 1 cup of vegetable glycerin with 1 gallon of water, and add 1/2 cup of the mixture to your rinse cycle.

Some tips for DIY dryer sheets:

  • Aluminum Foil: Believe it or not, a crumpled up wad of aluminum foil in the dryer eliminates static cling.

    Aluminium foil
    You can use up the foil you have, in this way rather than on food!
  • Tennis Balls: While they won’t reduce static cling, they will keep your sheets nice and fluffy.
  • Dry Bath Towel: Throw it in the dryer with your wet clothes and it will soften everything while they are drying.

How about Grease Removers?

Recipe: The Homemade Grease Remover

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons Cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Soda

Method:

Mix together and cover the stain with the formula. Let stand for 30 minutes or more to absorb as much grease as possible, then wipe away. Soak the remaining stain in the following formula:

  • 1/2 cup White Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 5 drops Lemon or Orange oil

Soak until stain disappears. Wash in hot, hot, hot water.

Stain Remover?

Use hydrogen peroxide but make sure to swab a coloured garment with a cotton swab soaked in peroxide, on a hidden patch first. If the colour transfers, stop. If not, soak the stain for 10 minutes before washing it.

How about Sportswear Stench removers?

Have you noticed how modern sportswear, despite all its amazing qualities, somehow also has an ability to not just retain smell but to convert it into a stench which starts to emanate from your supposedly washed clothes as soon as you start heating up? Ugh! So unlike good ol’ and much cheaper cotton! Here is a nice and easy way to get rid of this stench:

Recipe: The Sports Stench Remover

Ingredients:

  • I cup of vinegar or 1/2 a cup of hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/2 a bucket of hot water

Method:

Mix the vinegar in the hot water and soak your clothes for an hour (if using vinegar) and not more than half an hour (if using hydrogen peroxide). Wash as usual. Add more vinegar if your clothes still retain the smell or soak for longer till you get the hang of it 🙂

 

 

Step 10: Cut your water usage

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Gosh, I was getting quite sick of candles (what with the past few posts) so thought I would get back on the warpath with the next and extremely important step towards a sustainable existence – cut your water usage or save water. You’ll save money too!

Fresh water Facts: Only 3% of water on Earth is freshwater, most of which is ice and less than 1% of all the freshwater is available for human use, which means <0.007% of all the water on Earth is available for drinking. Due to the accelerated pace of population growth and an increase in the amount of water a single person uses, many parts of the world are experiencing water shortage which is expected to get worse. This would be detrimental to the human population as it would affect everything from sanitation, to overall health and the production of grain! Due to over-pumping, many countries have had their sources of groundwater almost gone, and depleted aquifers have lead to cutbacks in grain harvest. Global warming will accelerate and aggravate the crisis of fresh water shortage as rapid melting of glaciers will deplete rivers and ground water supply while the rising sea level will invade the underground water table turning it into brine.

Scary, right? So what can we do about it?

There are tons of sites out there with brilliant suggestions on how to cut your water usage at home, from using cistern displacement devices (a simple low cost solution to conserve water in the toilet, saving about a litre per flush) to fixing leaky taps ( that’s about 15 litres of water wasted per day, thank you very much) to getting a water butt to harvest rain water, to installing water metres to buying water efficient stuff…… But here, I’d like to highlight a few which you can start on STRAIGHT AWAY, no installation needed:

The Long shower situation: 1Sit down somewhere before you read this – Did you know that a shower can use up anything between 6 and 45 litres of water per minute. OMG. That’s about 6 to 45 tetra bricks of milk. Gulp! Yes, it is seductive and relaxing to let hot water pelt you but you really must buck up and consider THE waste if you do this every day. Why not reserve a long shower to once a week? Or with a friend (wink wink). Plus long, hot showers just end up dehydrating your skin (you’ll end up looking like a prune in a decade or so) and you are washing good bacteria away. I usually have cold showers from May till October and believe me when I say that they are the quickest, tingliest showers of the year! Very invigorating! The rest of the year, I hop in, soap vigorously, rinse and hop out. I wash my hair once every 5-7 days – I have trained my hair to get disgusting after the 5 day mark by getting it used to not being washed that often. Works well!

fullsizerender-2The ‘Brushing-your-teeth-with-running-tap’ paradigm: I also call this the ‘Are you an Idiot’ paradigm. I mean, seriously, ARE you an idiot? Why one earth would you leave the tap running while you are brushing your teeth? Do you keep pouring wine from the bottle even as you are drinking it? Or perhaps your barman just leaves the beer tap running while pouring a drink for you (insert exasperated emoticon here). That’s about SIX litres of water per minute you are running down the drain, bubba. So, lemme re-train you: Load brush, brush teeth, run tap, rinse mouth, switch off tap. End story. It’s not thaaaaat difficult, just a matter of conscious decision making which I am sure you can do 🙂

The ‘Washing-dishes-with-running-tap’ paradigm: fullsizerender-2Also known as the ‘Are you serious ( roll eyes)’ paradigm. As above. STOP IT. Solution?

If you have a single sink: Buy a basin that fits into your sink, soap your dishes, fill said basin with water and rinse the dishes. Alternatively, put all your dirty dishes in the sink and wet and soap them (ooo la la), putting soaped items on the kitchen counter. Once the sink is empty, rinse it, stopper it and fill or half fill it with water and rinse your dishes

If you have a double sink: Do a celebratory jig and then soap your dishes in one sink, fill the other with water and rinse dishes in sink 2.

The Clean clothes complex: fullsizerenderMany of us put clothes to wash as a habit, regardless of whether they are dirty/smelly/sweaty or not. Don’t gasp in disgust but I wear my jeans/skirts/sweaters at least half a dozen times before I put them to wash. T-shirts in summer are put to wash after use, of course! Same re undies, regardless of weather (!). I know people who wash their towels every day; this doesn’t make sense to me unless you didn’t soap yourself when in the shower? So, please re-think before you put an item of clothing for wash – does it need to be washed or can I wear it again? You will save up on electricity, washing liquid, clothes softener, water and, your clothes will last longer and brighter 🙂

The ‘Just-wanna-wash-clothes/dishes-now’ or the OCD complex: A lot of us have this complex maybe because the sweat/dirt becomes a looming monster and needs to be washed NOW! This is definitely the case for those of you who buy expensive exercise wear – have you noticed how these so called breathable (or whatever wonderful advertising hot word is used) clothes seem to trap the sweat and convert it into stench if left in the clothes bin for just ONE day and then releases aforementioned stench the next time you wear it and start heating up? I swear this stench can be bottled and used as a bio weapon! I have gone back to plain old cotton – you can leave a stinky, wet t-shirt in the clothes bin for a year, wash it and no stench! I understand that not everyone has enough clothes or dishes to wait for a full load but….get some at a second hand shop! Stick to natural organic fibres and do your clothes wash when your dirty clothes bin is heaving or your dishwasher full! Once again, you will save up on electricity and water.

Good luck! Be like Yoda, don’t ‘try’, DO!