Earth Day is just around the corner, which means the call to live a greener life is nearing a fever pitch.
Like a lot of people, I want to be a good citizen of Mother Earth. I want to reduce my carbon footprint, recycle my aluminum, hang my laundry out to dry.
I do a lot of these things — and I'm willing to do more, to a point. It just a) can't cost too much money or b) take too much time. I don't have much of either to spare.
A recent e-mail in my in-box offered a "green" possibility that would fit both those parameters: DIY cleaning products.
"We all want our homes to be clean and sanitary for ourselves as well as our children and pets," it read. "Discover how we can do that without the use of harsh toxic chemicals."
My household includes three boys, a dog, a cat, a lizard and five chickens. We are a veritable germ farm, and I rely on the sinus-clearing aroma of bleach to help me judge when things are really clean.
That's not necessary, says Minta Meyer, a certified aromatherapist at Essential Elements in St. Petersburg.
Most of the cleaning products we use often — all-purpose spray, shower scrub, toilet cleaner — can be made from pantry staples and enhanced with essential oils.
"Most of the things we teach in our class, most people have in their cabinet," Meyer says. "You don't have to make a big investment."
Distilled white vinegar mixes with water to make a glass cleaner; baking soda, castile soap and a touch of vinegar work together in a shower scrub. ("Especially with soap scum, the vinegar really helps cut through," Meyer says.)
Adding essential oils to the mix helps to create a clean smell and has therapeutic benefits, Meyer says. Sweet orange, for example, is antiseptic and antifungal but it is also valued as an antidepressant.
"The plants that these oils are distilled from naturally develop defenses" to bacteria and fungus, Meyer says. "Then we use them in our showers."
With essential oils, you also can tailor the aroma of your cleaner and create a signature scent. "You can have fun with it," she says.
My first attempt at a DIY cleaning product — an all-purpose spray made from vinegar, water and a few drops of lemon and Siberian fir essential oils — met my "green" criteria. It was relatively cheap: The vinegar came from my pantry; the oils ranged from $8 (lemon) to $20 (fir). (Each bottle of oil should last months as only a few drops are used at a time.)
It also was quick to make (just measure and mix) but, more importantly, it worked.
I feel greener already.
B Buckberry Joyce is the lifestyles news editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8113 .
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