Change in so many cases doesn’t happen overnight. And to make sustainable changes that we are going to stick with was going to take time. It can feel a little overwhelming. Where do you start? How much change can you inflict on a family before they start to revolt? And would we be able to maintain these differences without slipping back to our old familiar ways?
For us, I think the key has been to change one thing at a time and give that chance to settle in before we go on to the next. Making sweeping changes that affect everyone just wasn’t going to work. And if I’m honest, although we had been making small changes for quite some time, it wasn’t until a member of the family was diagnosed with Crohn's, that I started researching gut health in general, and I felt propelled to make changes to the type of products I brought into the house, which I believe now to be better for us and also the environment!
A process began which made me examine my purchases. It started with household cleaning products and toiletries and then gradually filtered through to other things. Including the plastic containers I bought them in. If they were even necessary? Could I make them myself? For cheaper, less toxic and involving less waste? I did a lot of reading and researching and decided to make changes!
For us at the time, our main motivator was trying to remove as many chemicals from our home. So we started with aerosols, particularly air fresheners and deodorant. Quickly followed by kitchen and bathroom cleaning sprays, bottles of bleach, window cleaners, polish and the dreaded oven cleaner. I’m not sure what they put in that stuff but it’s had me coughing and spluttering, with eyes watering, even with the windows open!
There are so many recipes for these things on the likes of Pinterest or a good old internet search. Some work and some don’t, well at least they didn’t for me! But if you find you don’t like one go on to the next. I tried many, many until I found the ones I now use time and time again. It’s amazing what a box of baking soda, a bottle of white vinegar and a few essential oils can do. Practically anything! As usual, the rest of the family laugh as mum starts mixing all her potions! But it really couldn’t be easier and with a few reusable spray bottles, I rarely visit the cleaning aisle these days.
But it must be said that we have had plenty of failures. Washing powder and fabric conditioner come to mind, along with homemade dishwasher powder and even washing up liquid. I’ve heard that trying to use basic old fashioned recipes on modern high tech machinery may be the problem, but I know others have succeeded and therefore it’s something I will revisit and try to conquer.
Over time as we’ve continued on this journey we’ve found other things that we’ve either changed or just eliminated. Black bags and bin liners. Why wrap our rubbish in even more plastic? When it’s just as easy to tip them straight in the bin. Paper kitchen towels, which I originally cut up old cloth to replace them with but found that generally I just don’t need anything more than my normal washable dishcloths. And with very little effort we soon managed without cling film, tin foil and greaseproof paper. My shopping bill was going down all the time as was the amount of waste in my rubbish bin!
Other things I’d say are a work in progress. I think we’ve finally hit upon a makeup remover that we all like. With 4 girls in the house, we have a lot to please. And most of us are now happy with reusable makeup pads. We’re currently experimenting with solid shampoo & conditioner bars, some of us like them, others are really struggling to find one that suits them, it doesn’t seem to be a one size fits all kind of thing. And we definitely need to try again on making our own deodorant!
But on the whole, many of the changes have stuck and without too much resistance. I keep threatening them that one day the toilet paper will be gone, replaced by a basket of rags (which I know some people do and I take my hat off to them) but I think for us right now would be a step too far. But I’m happy to serve drinks in jam jars and not be embarrassed! And carry on implementing one change a time. I think my next challenge is making my own plant-based milk, so much waste from all the packaging!