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Enciby Enci

Greening Your Outhouse

When my little sister was about 8 years old, she got into the habit of going to the bathroom of every house, restaurant, grocery store, and department store that we visited. It was very annoying to me because I always had to tag along with her and “check out” the bathrooms.

I never found out why she used to do it, but now I’m almost as obsessed with it as I’m obsessed with plastic and Styrofoam.

Bathrooms tell so much about a person. About certain habits (do they have books, magazines, cross word puzzles or an ashtray next to the loo?), about their eco-consciousness, about their health, and much more. The bathroom is a sanctuary for some and some are scared of it.

Our bathrooms are part of our clean and healthy behaviors and yet they are also one of the biggest health hazards in our homes. We hoard loads of chemicals in this small room. From air fresheners and perfumes to pipe de-cloggers to chlorine bleach to toxic toys.

So here are a few tips to reduce your carbon footprint in the bathroom and be clean and sustainable at the same time.

  • Buy recycled and non-bleached toilet paper.
  • Recycle your TP rolls.
  • Burn a candle (or put some homemade potpourri into a bowl) instead of using chemical sprays. The sprays are extremely hazardous to your health as well as the environment.
  • Don’t run the water while in the loo. If you are shy, put a small radio next to you, or sing, hum a song or turn the radio on in the living room for your family to enjoy.
  • Don’t buy PVC, curtains or toys (look for the No. 3 symbol on products and if you see it, don’t buy it).
  • If you buy new towels, buy organic cotton (donate your old towels to animal shelters or weave a rug out of them)
  • Take military showers. Okay, maybe you don’t have to be that extreme and we should enjoy the little pleasures of life, so just take shorter showers and install a water saving shower head (free from the LADWP: Call 1-(800) U-ASK- DWP (827-5397) or 1-(800) 342-5397 for the location of the nearest branch office distributing them).
  • Use a sink faucet aerator to curb your water usage. In California we don’t have much water and we should treat it as gold! We can’t afford to waste it because we need it to survive. So use water wisely!
  • Turn the water off while you shave or brush your teeth.
  •  Ladies, please use reusable or 100% cotton menstrual pads or 100% cotton tampons. Regular pads are built out of petroleum products, and are bad for the environment.
  •  Don’t flush any pads or trash down the toilet.
  •  If you have an old style toilet and can’t replace it for whatever reason, put a couple of bricks in the water tank or a jug filled with water, to reduce the water usage when flushing.
  •  Use chemical free perfumes and colognes. If you don’t like the look of the container they come in, you can always pour it into your own favorite dispenser.
  •  Use only natural products on your skin. This is so important to stay healthy and beautiful, inside and out! Don’t put alcohol and chemicals you can’t spell on your beautiful bodies!
  •  Try out Tom’s of Main and Dr. Bronner’s Organic products. They’ve been around for ages and their friendly environmental message never changed! You can’t go wrong with these products! Remember that everything that goes down the drain, goes to the ocean and affects marine life, which affect our land,  our entire eco-system and us!
  •  And lastly, check your toilet for leakage. You can save lots of water by getting it fixed, replaced or switch completely to a composting toilet.

I was also going to recommend the use of CFL light bulbs, but they seem to me to be more hazardous then regular bulbs, so I will let you make that decision on your own. If you use CFL bulbs and they are burnt out, please take it to the Hazardous Waste Center along with your batteries, CDs, DVDs, and electronics. CFL’s are really bad for you and the environment because they contain mercury!

A couple of years ago, I picked up a bunch of CFL bulbs at various City Fairs and I’ve been recycling them since they burnt out. But when I’m done with the last one, I’m going back to the good old Mr. Edison bulbs. I want to reduce the toxins in my house and in my life as much as possible, so this is one of the things I choose to do. I rather pay a couple bucks extra in my electric bill and turn the light off in the rooms that I’m not in than support something that is bad for the environment.

As an added extra, I’m reposting here some of the cleaning alternative tips that I also posted in January’s article that can work miracles.

Bathtub and bath or kitchen sink cleaner:

Mix two tablespoons of salt with the juice from one large lemon (or two small lemons). Put on some cleaning gloves and dip a rag (it can be an old sock or a piece of towel that you cut up for cleaning) into this mix and wipe your bathtub, sink and countertops. Leave it on for a few minutes if you want to get rid of difficult stains or if you need to disinfect. This mix is 100% biodegradable and has quite the cleaning power. The lemon and the salt both act as bleaching agents and disinfect at the same time. The lemon will leave a nice, fresh scent. You will be amazed at how powerful this mix is. Don’t clean with your bare hands or the salt and lemon will “eat” your skin!

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:

Mix two tablespoons of baking soda and enough white vinegar to create a paste. To remove really difficult stains, mix two tablespoons of Borax with lemon juice until you have created a paste. DON’T put any bleach in this mix! Bleach kills everything and is very harmful to the environment! It’s best if you stay away from it altogether.

Keep your drain clog-free:

Toss two tablespoons of baking soda into your drain and then pour one cup of vinegar down on top of it. It will fizz when you do this. Let the mixture sit for five minutes and then pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. (Don’t burn yourself!)

I hope I didn’t scare you too much with these tips. As I was doing research to write this article I was getting more and more inspired by all the great things and possibilities out there on how to live greener and be more sustainable.

I know we can do only so much, but each step that we take, is a step towards making our immediate space around us better for the person next to us and the person who will come into our space after us.

I’d like to end this month with a fun little video of Sam Suds P.I. – Poison Investigator.


Enci is a Mother, Actress, Artist and Activist.

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