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What to look for in your cleaning products. Plus a giveaway!

Posted on August 19th, 2014

If you’ve been following the My Simple Home series, you’ll know I’m really rather committed to keeping my home ecologically and ergonomically minimal and sustainable. I’ve shared on toxic hazards you should avoid and how to detox your kitchen. Oh, and how to buy a sustainable couch. Which I did finally do!

Banksy image

Banksy image

Today, I’ll touch on a few tips for cleaning up your cleaning products… for toxicity and environmental purposes. Plus, the kind folk at ENJO (a planet-friendly cleaning product company that makes microfibre products requiring only water) are kicking in to give away

an ENJO Essential Pack of cleaning gloves, cloths, paste, detergents and floor cleaners – everything you need to clean your floors, bathroom and living areas – valued at $950 

Keen? See the details below.

And just so you know, this is a sponsored post, but as always views are all my own. You’ll find my very particular position on sponsored posts and advertising here and further thoughts below.*

How to clean up your cleaning habits

1. Check for eco labels by independent accreditors.  Try  programs like Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), Planet Ark, Australian Certified Organics and National Asthma Council Australia’s Sensitive Choice. You can read more at Green Lifestyle Mag.

2. Read your labels. Detergents have two major ingredient categories: “builders” to reduce water hardness and “surfactants” to lower the surface tension of water.

  • Avoid the bad “builders”, namely any kind of phosphates, which contribute to the deoxygenation of marine environments, and EDTA, (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), which can bind to heavy metals and cause damage to both people and aquatic animals.
  • Instead, go for products that use safe builders such as sodium citrate or sodium bicarbonate.
  • Avoid these “surfactants”: butyl or 2-butoxyethanol, which are toxic when inhaled, and oxalates, which can interfere with hormonal regulation above certain concentrations.
  • Instead, choose surfactants like alkyl polyglycoside, isopropanol and glycerol.

Here’s more on how to know if your green cleaner is really eco-friendly.

3. Use cleaning cloths that go straight in the wash. I’m not a fan of wastage. Disposal Chux wipes drive me mental. And don’t get me started on paper towels! I’ve found this clever all-purpose cloth that does the day-to-day work, and this Kitchen Glove designed with two different sides to remove grease, grime and food residue from your rangehood, bench-tops, splash back area, tiles, stove top, inside your oven and microwave. Once you’ve finished, just pop in the wash. I’ve come across ENJO a few times in my quest for toxin-free cleaning products. Founder and CEO Barb had a son who was struggling Read more

How to buy the most sustainable sofa (ever).

Posted on March 14th, 2014

As many readers of this blog know, it’s taken me 40 years to buy a sofa. Which, it so happens, is 32 years longer than it took Steve Jobs.

Image via Favim.com

Image via Favim.com

I’ve previously found some comfort in the fact it took Jobs eight tortured years to find his perfect sofa and quietly repositioned my chronic couch commitment phobia as genius when I read that Job’s indecision was due to the same eccentric perfectionism that created the iPhone.

Perfectionism certainly stalled me, as it does often. In this case I feel (reasonably) justified. I do think it’s super important to make a thoroughly researched and mindful decision when it comes to big house hardware. A lot of resources go into creating, building and delivering them. As well as disposing of them once we realize we made a dumb, fashionable purchase.

I think it’s criminal that many of us now regard furniture as almost seasonal.

I don’t want to be the person chucking out a cheap sofa after three years.

I want to be the person who proudly holds on to it, allows stories to attach to it, has it in her life as a familiar totem and who can pass it on in 30 years to a loved one.

How about I outline a few factors I considered in making my decision, and some tips for buying the most sustainable, toxin-free, environmentally credible, practical, timeless, economical sofa possible. (For those not wanting to read all the way to the punch-line: I arrived at the “Leila” three-seater (deep option) by Jardan.)

First up, let’s be real:

  • The most sustainable option is second-hand. No new resources used, no waste going into landfill. Makes sense.
  • The most toxin-free option is second-hand. Most modern couches contain flame retardants that are not chemically bonded to the foam, they are ineffective in preventing furniture fires and are linked to serious health effects. Formaldehyde is used in pressed wood products and may be present in couches that are stain-resistant. With a pre-loved sofa, someone else bore these toxic loads. Clean sailing for you.

I looked into second-hand options for quite some time, and have previously taken on couches from friends and from off the street etc. But I was turning 40 and felt it was time to invest in something that actually suited my needs.

If you buy from scratch:

  • Be practical with the shape. Think about it. Reflect on how you use a couch. I went for a three-seater (I wanted the couch to be a hero Read more

How bad are microwaves, really?

Posted on February 13th, 2014

In my list of Top 100 Hairy Chestnuts I Get Confronted With When I Talk About Cooking, “But aren’t microwaves bad?” comes in at about #25. I’m a fan of getting more people cooking, first and foremost. For some this involves using a microwave. Thus, my short answer to the above question is: If it gets you cooking with real food, go ahead, use a microwave. Indeed, I use a microwave from time to time. We have one at the office for heating our lunch, for instance. The longer answer, however, follows here…

Paleo Choc Muggin: a one-minute microwave meal

Julie Van Rosendaal’s 2-minute microwave mug brownie. I have a sugar-free Paleo Choc Muggin (a muffin in a mug!) version, available from I Quit Sugar For Life

Microwaves don’t radiate you

Microwave ovens use radio/microwaves to make the water molecules in food vibrate, which produces friction, which heats the food. It uses a form of non-ionizing radiation (it can’t directly break up atoms or molecules). This means it can’t damage your DNA like, say, X-rays do.

But they do emit EMFs

Building biologist Nicole Bijlsma says: Microwaves do emit EMFs three types of electromagnetic fields: electric field (minimal), magnetic field (can be high from the digital clock and also where the transformer is located) and radio/microwaves. The electric and magnetic field (from the digital clock) will be present even when the microwave oven is not heating. The magnetic field will increase when the microwave oven is in use and will drop off to background levels within one metre. The World Health Organisation has classified radio/microwaves and magnetic fields in 2011 and 2002 respectively as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. However, unlike the pulsing nature of the radio/microwaves used in the telecommunications industry (mobile phones and Wi-Fi), the microwave oven uses continuous wave fields so the biological effects are not likely to be as bad.

Do microwaves kill nutrients?

Any cooking will change the nutrients in food in some way. Low and slow cooking preserves the most nutrients, as I’ve shared before. The faster you cook (or heat) your food, the more nutrients and enzymes you destroy.

A study published in The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that the amount of nutrients lost depends on the duration and way in which the food is cooked – steaming broccoli in the microwave for 90 seconds is better than zapping it for 4-5 minutes.

Research from the University of Oslo found that microwaving carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, green and red capsicums and tomatoes led to an increase in the antioxidant content of the foods (in that the antioxidants become more available for absorption).

Read more