This week, the EarthHero team got together and dove into our concerns about maintaining top health this season (and honestly, every season!). The more we discussed it, the more it’s become clear that we’re likely not alone in our feelings of angst. With conflicting and unclear information floating around, we’re finding that most people are confused and turning to extreme measures to feel protected.
And so, we feel you (in a metaphorical, non-germy way). It’s difficult to know where to start when formulating a defense against threats to the immune system. One thing that we know for sure is that personal health and safety shouldn’t have to come at the expense of the planet or the other creatures with whom we share it. Read on to hear eco-friendly cleaning tips on how we’re choosing to keep our space clean and our team healthy while still keeping our environmental values in check!
The war on Germs
We’ve all been there. Flu and cold season hits and suddenly it feels like everyone around you is coughing or blowing their nose. And now, we have COVID-19, bringing a new level of the unknown, causing schools to shut down and trips to be cancelled. We’re all feeling a little out of control, so we’re seeking out any way to get a handle back on things.
For many, that might mean waging war on germs, finding solace in mixtures and concoctions that scream “destroy!”, “ban!”, and “kill!”. If you’re not careful, aggressive messaging from chemically-intensive cleaning brands will have you starring in your very own episode of “Human vs. Nature” before you know it! But before you spray your countertops with bleach or lather up with antibacterial soap, make sure you’re aware of what’s in each formula.
When it comes to cleaners, some common ingredients can cause more harm than good. Two ingredients stuck out as ones to avoid when possible: Chlorine Bleach and Triclosan.
While effective at blasting away surface germs, bacteria, and mold, chlorine is gaseous at room temperature and can severely impact skin, eyes, and upper respiratory systems.
When bleach is poured down the drain and eventually released into our waterways (likely with other harmful chemicals), it severely endangers both aquatic life and surrounding ecosystems. The effects on water quality also takes many years to dissipate and can even bioaccumulate in organisms, traveling up the food chain and back into our own systems.
Found in numerous antibacterial cleaning products and hand sanitizers, triclosan is used to reduce bacterial contamination. However, this agent has been linked to reproductive issues and skin inflammation, as well as a weakening of the immune system (what!?).
As with other harsh antibacterial chemicals, triclosan contaminates waterways and threatens aquatic life. It’s the most prevalent contaminant that isn’t removed by standard wastewater treatment plants.
Eco-swap: Distilled White Vinegar
Vinegar is gentle on surfaces but powerful against mold and mildew. When paired with naturally antimicrobial/antibacterial essential oils, it is a powerhouse against unwanted germs! When added to a load of laundry, it will even help whiten your whites. Just watch out for a lingering vinegar scent (just another reason to pair with essential oils!)
- Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a reusable spray bottle
- Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (we like oils of tea tree, lemon, or cinnamon for extra antibacterial power!)
DIY Hand Sanitizer
–2/3 cup of ethyl alcohol (grain alcohol)
–1/3 cup aloe vera gel
–5-10 drops of essential oil (optional)
Pour the alcohol and aloe vera into a bowl and stir until well blended. Add some drops of your favorite essential oil to help cover the smell of alcohol.
It is important to get the measurements correct–hand sanitizers must contain at least 60% alcohol by volume to work. When choosing essential oils, you can select naturally antibacterial or immune boosting scents like Tea Tree or Orange Peel!
We chose ethyl alcohol instead of rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. Rubbing alcohol comes from water and propene (petroleum, natural gas, and sometimes coal). Grain alcohol (typically corn-based) comes from renewable resources!
Extra eco-friendly cleaning tips
- If a product doesn’t list its ingredients, we tend to steer clear. We love brands that use gentle, biodegradable formulas who want to shout from the rooftops about their eco-mission and their carefully selected ingredients!
- At the EH Offices we do a big office cleaning once a week (there’s even a chore chart!). This winter, we’re ramping up the number of times we wipe down surfaces, taking a close look at light switches, faucets, and doorknobs.
- Nothing beats washing hands in warm, soapy water for 20 seconds. Remember to turn off the faucet whilst a’scrubbin!
- For many months of the year, opting to wash clothing in cold water is ideal. Cold water saves energy, helps fabrics last longer, and also limits the release of microplastics. However! If you or a family member is feeling ill, washing all sheets and towels in warm or hot water is key in order to rid them of lingering germs.
- Stress can compromise your immune system, so take some time to care for your mental health (and help others who may seem down!) Along with your natural immune boosters, try some stress soothing teas and essential oils to create a calming atmosphere for yourself.
Protecting our personal health while paying attention to environmentally harmful ingredients doesn’t have to be hard. In a time of panic, we recommend taking a step back and choosing mindful steps to disinfect, without going overboard, with harmful chemicals that are linked to health issues and negative environmental effects. Check out our cleaning category for products that protect our planet, or reach out and we’re here to help you find the best product for you!