Living Earth Awareness

Modern Cleaning Products:
Who's Fooling Whom?

Do you really know what cleaning stuff is good for you? What's at stake in our choices? And are we being fooled big time – at our peril and Earth's?

This article is drawn from "Renewing the Flow: Clean For Life", part of Cynthia Alves' Living Earth Awareness series (copyright 2008). approx 840 words

While Climate Change is at last Hot Sutff in the media and rising in the political arena, pollution continues to await backstage for its entrance into recognition. Each step of my research into cleaning brings more amazement

  • how issues of cleaning are deeply complex and widely interconnected with other global concerns, human and environmental
  • that after a generation of having 'non-harmful ecological cleaners' available, they are still only one tiny row among hundreds of toxic polluting products in the grocers – if available at all, and usually only one brand.
  • books about 'green cleaning' are few and far between
  • like organics, safe cleaning is so generally misunderstood, or totally ignored as a fringe oddity – as if its just about humans and what tastes, looks and smells nice – to senses that are so easily fooled, and deadened.

Its almost as if our collective psyche is stuck in awareness-agoraphobia, limited to human-centricity. Thinking wider and bigger or beyond human concerns seems too big. Or incomprehensible. Or pointless. To make a connection between what I put down my drains and global warming because of a load of miniscule creatures called plankton, what? Yes, it is a real and alarming connection.

There is also this weird sensibility. If we think about it at all, it easily seems to be senseless to challenge or make any fuss or change about the plethora of toxic cleaners. I mean, hey, if the old harmless-to-environment cleaners are so good, why did we stop using them and say yes to mountains of personal and household and industrial products. Which are good and efficient – aren't they?

Think on this:

  • Who benefits from our purchase of vast amounts of polluting substances? Polluting not only as we use them also in the manufacture, their transport, and the rubbish of the packaging.
  • How reliable are your senses of smell, taste, touch and feel? Can you really tell anymore what is natural and what is synthetic; what is healthy and what is poisonous? (Have a read of "Cleaning Yourself to Death: How Safe Is Your Home?" by Pat Thomas.)
  • On what basis do you choose to buy, and use what you buy: habit, peer pressure, fear (e.g. of germs), apparent price, attraction to senses – including eye-candy packaging, fashion and ads (makes you right and modern!), marketing offers, efficiency of substance?
  • Have you added up what synthetics you give your body each day? And considered how a body is to respond to all this in the air and water and food, on skin? Biologically, the human body evolved over millennia to be able to recognise and process all the natural substances for survival and health. Now we commonly give our bodies a vast array of new chemicals and complicated mixes which bodies cannot recognise or process. A few confusions are not a problem. Ponder your daily cocktail: toothpaste, soap, deodorant, perfume, shampoo and conditioner, wash up liquid, spray polish, toilet stuff, room sprays. . . what else? Plus everyone else's stuff assailing the senses when we are out and about.
  • Do you ever consider what happens to the water into which you pour cleaning chemicals every day? There is only one water, and water is life. There is only one water, and we can't make any more.

Which leads us back to human-centricity, and the rising pressure to expand our awareness into Earth-centricity, to be aware beyond our skins and house walls. Our body doesn't really stop at our skin edges. It is made from Earth, nutrients and air and water flowing into and out of our individual sphere of Earth-life. Earth is our body. It is not just a sentimental whimsy to harp on about "What you do to the planet you do to yourself, and all life and all generations to follow". It is the most simple and glaring fact of life.

Our choices and behaviour are still very much ruled and motivated by our society's mind set of 'living' against life. "Everything out there is a threat!", "I need to defend myself against life", "I am separate from life". We are immersed in a language of kill and destroy, which reflects our fearful beliefs and drives our destructive behaviour. Our fears are part of why manufacturers and advertisers are so easily able to hoodwink us into paying lots to make a big mess of our Big Home.

Even if we don't give any pause to Living Earth Awareness, or think beyond our skins and walls, its time to begin to love ourselves more. Green cleaning is a wise gift that we give not only to ourselves and other humans, also to our greater life of Earth. A human-centric carrot to change is that leaving behind polluting cleaning substances and moving into green cleaning, can also be cheaper. Better, as we come to think bigger, is that as wake up to how we're being fooled, and choose life rather than fear by saying goodbye to filthy cleaners, we really are using our power to renew life.

Cynthia Alves, copyright 2007

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