What I'm Reading Now

Simon and I made a joint New Year's resolution this year to read every night before bed. There were a few other things in there too, like no lap tops in bed, that we're still working on (I'm actually writing this post from my laptop in bed.) But the reading thing has been going pretty well so far.

Like most parents to be, we've accumulated a stack of new baby and first time parenting books (both in German and in English). A great friend of mine sent me "Healthy Child Healthy World" by Christopher Gavigan before christmas and I've only just recently finished it.

Health Child Healthy World by Christopher Gavigan

Its a smartly written book. Every page is packed with tips and tricks for a more green, chemical free pregnancy and infancy. There are contributions by a long list of famous super moms and dads. Gwenyth Paltrow, Brooke Shields, and Michelle Obama all make appearances in the text by adding their thoughts and musings on various topics. To be honest though, I started this book with some serious doubts. Any composition with that many celebrities weighing in had to be less than practical for the normal person, and probably has something to do with Scientology. In an effort to be a good parent, and keep my new years resolution I read the book anyways. As I flipped through the pages I found no mention of Scientology, however the skepticism I had regarding the author's practical applications faded quickly. It was almost immediately replaced by an overwhelming sense of what can only be described as total horror. Everything in my home was going to kill me and I was convinced my baby will have 3 heads. By chapter 2 the book was discussing numerous university studies exposing harmful chemicals in everyday products and their side-effects on developing bodies. Although they didn't mention the name specifically, they made it pretty clear that my Swiffer Wet Jet (which, up to now, I have used daily and with great satisfaction) was a toxic source of chemicals that was poisoning my family.

I'm an academic at heart, so after finishing the book I admit to spending more than my fair share of hours clicking through university archives to locate the source material for the studies cited in the book. I was analysing the papers and resultant study data, almost desperately looking for misinterpreted findings,  or failures in the methods of the research teams.

I did find a few exaggerations and many cases of environments which couldn't be 100% clinically controlled, however, in the end I found enough solid information to make me take a really critical look at the products I use to clean my house.

Don't get me wrong, I do fully realise that in all likelihood my family and I would probably be just fine if I stuck with the cleaning products I've always used. At this point though, I just couldn't shake this neurotic fear of my Swiffer, and each time I've used it since then, I've had more than a twinge of guilt for the environmental waste I was creating. So for the sake of my family's long term health, and that of the environment, I've committed to restocking my cleaning arsenal with all natural products.

The book offers many solutions for more natural cleaning products and clearly outlines the cost savings if you adopt a DIY mentality and stick with concoctions of baking soda, vinegar, and soapy water. I liked the idea of using these basic components to clean my house and have already begun to fall in love with the clean and salty scent of baking soda.

Getting back to the Swiffer quickly, I was convinced there had to be a more environmentally friendly way to clean my floors (I have a whole house of wood floors) and still get the convenience of the Swiffer. So instead of using disposable wet pads like we did before, I quickly sewed up a few re-useable ones out of 100% cotton fabric and store them in a baking soda water solution 5 at a time. (It takes about 4 to clean the whole house). The house smells clean, the floors are spotless, and I feel much better about allowing my infant to crawl around free from the coating of "disinfecting" chemicals. (Check back for the tutorial on these re-useable Swiffer pads)

I did not immediately toss everything under the sink, but as products run out I'm replacing them with more natural alternatives. As far as expenses go, I've spent a lot less on the natural products I've chosen so far. This book may not have changed my life dramatically, but it really made me think about the little things I could do to promote a healthier home.

Some of my favorite cleaning product recipes so far:

Wood Floor Cleaner
      1 Tablespoon Washing Soda
      1 Gallon Hot Water

       Mix in bucket and apply with mop. Rinse with clean water.

All Purpose Cleaner
       1/2 Cup Vinegar
       1/4 Tablespoon Baking Soda
       1/2 Gallon Water

       Mix and store in glass bottle.

Tub and Tile Cleaner
Scrub with baking soda and rinse with clean water. 
For tougher calcium deposits wipe with vinegar first.

Add a few drops of scented essential oils (I like peppermint and orange) to each mixture for a more fragrant result.

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