Treading lightly upon the earth is within everyone’s grasp, and is a natural consequence of becoming more conscious of our ecology. Bateson writes, “When we view the individual…as a part of the larger system which is individual + environment, the whole appearance of adaptation and purpose changes.”[1] All humans are part of a larger system, one that has outlived its purpose and is sounding the death knell.  It is beginning to crumble from within.  Is it hopeless, then?  Is all lost?  I don’t believe so, no.  I believe that we have all been given the ability to adapt and change and to work together to fix our crumbling world.  Saying no to artificial food is one way to help fix what’s broken.  Another way is to begin to consume less, reuse, recycle, and make more of the products we seem to require for living.  What I mean by this is, many of the products we are so quick to run to the store to buy can be made at home, saving time, energy, and production costs.  To be sure, one still has to acquire raw materials to work with, but buying these items very infrequently as opposed to buying products very often is a better choice.


What can one make at home?  Well, in short, almost everything.  Remember Little House on the Prairie?  They bought very little and made nearly everything.  But, the reality is, very few of us have that kind of time or energy to live that way.  Our modern lifestyles are not conducive to making everything and doing everything by hand.  But we can still effect change by starting small with just a few projects.  We can make things like:

  • yogurt and kefir
  • more of our own food (baked goods, beverages, snack foods)
  • green cleaning products
  • liquid handsoap
  • personal care products (lip and hand balm, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo)
  • gifts/articles of clothing (knitting, crocheting, sewing; handmade)
  • seeds for garden boxes (saving seeds from produce instead of buying them in special packets)
  • natural fertilizer (composting)

And the list goes on, but this is enough to start off with.  Preparing food at home instead of buying it readymade saves money, although it requires a time commitment.  For this reason, many people prefer to prepare enough food for the entire week all at once.  This doesn’t need to be any more than 1-3 main dishes (depending on the size of the household) and perhaps a salad that will stay good all week (or at least, washed greens to throw a salad together at the last minute).  Baking your own cakes, pies, brownies, and snack foods at home means you know exactly what is in them!  No more mystery ingredients.  You can also control variables like sugar content, type of flour, and type of fat used.  Baked goods make well-appreciated gifts, and you need little more than flour, natural sweetener, butter or coconut oil, baking powder/baking soda, real vanilla extract, eggs, and a few baking pans or dishes, to get started.


Yogurt

Making yogurt at home is simple and easy.  It takes 12-24 hours to culture, and leaving it in a turned-off oven on a heating pad set to low works well.  Simply purchase a high quality plain organic yogurt to use as your starter culture, and add ½ cup of this yogurt to 1 gallon of whole milk that has been heated to scalding point and allowed to cool to just barely warm.  Stir to combine and pour into a clean gallon-size glass jar.  Put the lid on and place in the turned-off oven on the heating pad.  Leave it there, undisturbed, for at least 12 hours but preferably 24 (at this point the yogurt will be lactose-free).  After 24 hours, put the jar of newly made yogurt into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours prior to serving.  For smaller households these amounts can be halved or quartered.  Making yogurt at home saves money and for the cost of a gallon of milk, you get a whole gallon of yogurt, with no fillers or additives.


Milk Kefir

Kefir is another fermented milk product, but is made with “grains” which are live cultures made up of bacteria and yeasts.  The grains generally are clumped together and resemble cauliflower florets.  To make kefir, you must obtain live grains from someone that you know.  They can sometimes be purchased online but often these are dried kefir grains that can be reconstituted and will make kefir but will never multiply.  Typically when you make kefir with live grains (i.e. those obtained from someone local), they tend to multiply rapidly and in a few weeks’ time, you might have enough extra to give some away. Two tablespoons of kefir grains is enough to make 2-3 cups of kefir.  The procedure for making kefir is as follows: take a clean jar, with at least a 2-cup capacity, place the kefir grains in the bottom of the jar and pour whole milk over the grains.  Leave one inch of headroom in the jar to allow for expansion and buildup of gases during the fermentation process.  Place lid on tightly and leave for 12 hours or longer in a warm place (countertop is OK but might take longer if it is cool), shaking occasionally.  Once the milk has thickened, the kefir is ready.  You will need to strain out the grains by pouring the kefir through a plastic strainer (not metal) into a glass container or measuring cup, then placing the grains back into the same jar.  You can cover the grains with milk and start the process all over again.  For the newly-made kefir, pour it up into a jar and refrigerate until needed (or drink immediately!).  Expect kefir to be of a thinner consistency than yogurt, with a more effervescent, tangy flavour.  It’s especially delicious in smoothies.


Cleaning Products

Many of us, in our concern for the environment (and our own health), use eco-friendly cleaning supplies rather than using toxic cleaners such as chlorine bleach, cleanser, soft scrub, toilet bowl cleaner and more.  But green cleaners can be costly, and less effective than those you can make at home.  You can make easily make your own non-toxic soft scrub, toilet bowl cleaner, and disinfectant spray, among others, with just a few basic ingredients.  You will need:

  • a large quantity of baking soda
  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Pure Liquid Castile Soap (available at Whole Foods, Choices, and Welk’s)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • essential oils (tea tree oil, but also lemon, lavender, or others if you want a different scent)
  • eco-friendly liquid laundry detergent such as Ecos
  • ordinary white vinegar

For all-purpose soft scrub, combine 1 ½ cups baking soda with a ½ cup of liquid laundry detergent; whisk together until smooth and creamy (consistency of cake frosting).  Add more baking soda if too liquidy.  You can use this soft scrub to clean tubs, tiles, sinks, and more.  It smells great and works as well if not better than anything you can buy at the store.


For toilet bowl cleaner, combine ½ to 1 cup of baking soda, ¼ cup Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap, water as needed, and 20 drops of tea tree oil (to disinfect) in a squeezable plastic bottle with a cap.  Shake well until completely combined and you are able to squeeze it out through the opening.  This can be used in the same manner as ordinary toilet bowl cleaner, but is completely non-toxic.  You do need to shake it up well before each use.


For a disinfectant spray, combine 750-ml hydrogen peroxide, 1-2 tablespoons Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap, 2o drops tea tree oil, and 2 teaspoons baking soda in a large. heavy-duty spray bottle.  Shake well to combine.  This is great used anywhere you need to disinfect, such as the washroom, clean-up after pets (this solution neutralizes urine and odor), kitchen counters and sink after contamination with raw meat, and it is also great for killing mold on grout or elsewhere.


For a simple all-purpose cleaning spray, combine equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.  You can add a few drops of your preferred essential oil, as well as a squirt or two of dishsoap for added cleaning power.


Personal Care Products

It isn’t just hippies who make their own deodorant!  It’s simple to make and equally effective, and completely non-toxic to your body, unlike conventional deodorants.  Combine in a bowl:

  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup arrowroot or cornstarch (organic)
  • 5-6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 5-10 drops tea tree or other essential oil (for a pleasant scent)

Mix well and pack into a small glass jar or container or into an empty deodorant container.  To use, warm against skin for a few seconds and then use one swipe under each arm.  It is amazingly effective!


To make a very simple shampoo that lathers well, take an old shampoo bottle and fill ¼ of the way with Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap (use whichever scent you prefer), add a few drops of essential oil such as lemon or sweet orange, then fill the rest of the way with warm water (the warm water is nice if you are mixing it up right when you want to use it).  Shake to combine.  To use, squirt all over hair and lather as usual.  This will not be a thick shampoo; it will be very liquidy but will lather well.  Follow with your regular conditioner.


Hand and lip balm can be made with 3 simple ingredients: coconut oil, shea butter, and pure beeswax.  These ingredients can be ordered online in bulk, affordable quantities (see Mountain Rose Herbs: http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/), and you can make a whole year’s supply of balm with very few ingredients.  You simply heat together equal parts of the ingredients, then pour into molds.  You can refill empty lip balm tubes or reuse old mint containers for the hand balm.  For lip balm a few drops of peppermint essential oil can be added to the mixture before pouring up into the tubes.  For hand balm you will end up with a hard bar of hand lotion; to use, simply rub over skin until well coated.  This forms a nice layer of protection on your skin, especially helpful in the cold, winter months.


Homemade toothpaste has the advantage of not having any fluoride or additives that your teeth really don’t need.  To make, combine equal parts coconut oil and baking soda (a few tablespoons each is a good amount).  Add 25 drops of peppermint essential oil and one packet of Stevia if a sweet taste is desired.  Mix well until a toothpaste-like consistency is achieved.  This can be kept in a small jar, tightly sealed between uses.


A really simple liquid handsoap  can be made using an old handsoap container (the foaming ones are good), and filling it ¼ of the way with Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap, 20 drops of tea tree oil to disinfect, and filling the rest of the way with warm water.  Mix well and use as regular handsoap.  It is a thinner consistency than ordinary handsoap but like the shampoo, it lathers well and leaves a very pleasant scent behind.  A few drops of lemon essential oil can also be added for an extra zing.


Starting small by making a few of your own cleaning or personal care products at home can add up to big change very quickly, particularly if we help spread the word about how simple it really is to make things yourself.  Not only do we rely far less on the grocery store (although, granted, the basic ingredients do need to be purchased from time to time), but we also save our bodies from the toxic cocktail of chemicals most cleaning and personal care products are made of today.  If, by making these products at home, we can help save the environment and help save our health at the same time, then there is little reason not to.  Let us by conscious purpose commit to consuming less, reusing, and making more things at home.


[1] Dove and Carpenter 2008: 458

 15 December 2011  Posted by janmin take action   Add comments