Cleaning the drains, naturally.

A blocked drain is a pain in the backside. It’s often quite disgusting to clean (we wash things away for a reason after all) and can be smelly, not to mention the inconvenience of a sink full of backed up water and gunk.

Our drains here drain less readily and block up easier than they did in Spotswood. I’ve been much better at using the plug strainer (for lack of a better word) to make sure I’m not washing the big pieces of food, paper, peelings and all the rest down into the drain. It’s on the whole compostable and that’s where that gunk goes. Rather than down the drain. But, despite my best efforts the sink was taking its sweet time to drain, evidence of at least a partial blockage.

The plunger has been packed and is yet to be unpacked, a fact we had discovered last night with a partially blocked toilet (toilet training and kids with toilet paper to blame there) so I couldn’t just give it a plunge or 3 and be on my merry way. Also, it’s unlikely to solve the entire issue as I reckon there is probably food fats down there gluing the gunk together. I wanted to remove all of that, not clear a total blockage.

TV commercials would have us believe that we can buy a bottle of chemicals from the supermarket and tip either the powder or gel down the sink which will in turn, dissolve these fats and oils and clear away the gunk. They are right as far as it goes… It will clear your drain in all likelihood doing this BUT the problem is, what happens to the chemicals then? Inevitably they end up back in nature and their toxicity doesn’t stop the second they’re washed away. Whilst it may no longer affect my family and I, it does continue to impact further down the line and I don’t want or need that on my conscience. So I made my own drain cleaner. 🙂

It requires 2 ingredients, both of which I can almost guarantee you will have in your house. 🙂 Yep, our dear friends Sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid. Yup, bicarb and vinegar. Just bear in mind that all vinegars are not created equal (see here for a great post on vinegar and how it’s made). In order to dodge this I use white wine vinegar (it’s dearer but a lot more potent) which works a treat. Now I’m sure you’ve all seen the reaction between vinegar and bicarb before. If you haven’t, picture a fully erupting volcano of white. Mixing them together causes LOTS of bubbles and froth and hissing bubbly noises and it’s as fun as can be too. 😀 Not sure who enjoyed themselves more, the kids or I. 😛 Anyway, I removed the plug and filled the plug cavity with bicarb. Then the fun bit! 😛 I tipped a huge slug of vinegar into the sink. When it met the bicarb it did its little chemical reaction thingy and cleared slowly down the drain. ok, not enough. Repeat all steps… Bubble bubble fizz fizz, drain away much faster. Still not 100% cleared so repeat again. This time I gave the sink a scrub at the same time so now I have a nice shiny sink, cleared drains and entertained kids. When it had all drained quickly away I washed it down with hot water which will also help melt off any remaining fats and grease.

I know that large amounts of acid are probably not great down the drains but I do know that they are a damned sight better than any drain cleaning toxic rubbish sold in supermarkets. It’s also cheaper and easier. Who wants to have to go to the supermarket just to get drain cleaner?

No photos this time but do you really want to see a picture of my kitchen sink? 😉

Some things you can do to be green

It’s not easy being green, but making a start is not that hard either. There are so many things we can all do that will make a difference in the environmental impact we have on the earth. Starting out to become an eco warrior overnight is a HUGE task and I would probably say it’s nigh on impossible. Well, to sustain such a huge change in habit and lifestyle is no mean feat and it is a venture more likely doomed to failure than geared to success. However the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, and here are some first steps to take if you are trying to green up your lifestyle.

Go the greener cleaner: Shampoos, soaps, toothpastes and dishwashing liquids (in fact anything that foams) quite often contain a substance called Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES). To my disgust, even some so-called green products contain it. It’s not good stuff at all. It’s not so much the impact this has on the greater environment, but upon our most personal one, our bodies. There are many products out there made without these nasties. Babyscent is where I started my SLS/SLES free shampoo and soap journey. Another option is to go “poo free“. Your hair will, after some time of adjustment, no longer require the oils to be stripped from it.
Also consider replacing your disinfectant sprays and the like with vinegar and bicarb. Here is a post of my friend Linda cleaning her stove the natural way. It is extremely effective at cleaning and if you use white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar then the product is natural. Be careful as some vinegars are diluted acetic acid made using petroleum products. But even using cheap white vinegar leaves a smaller environmental impact than all the toxic nasty products in commercial cleaners. Here is some info on vinegar as researched by another friend, The Eco Mum.

Bag the bag: Plastic (polyethylene) bags leave a huge impact on the environment. Marine animals can ingest them after mistaking them for food, disintegrating bags tar into small pieces which are then distributed everywhere by the wind and landfills are full of them. They are also a waste of our dwindling crude oil supplies and unnecessary. So-called “green bags” are an alternative, although in my opinion they’re not much better than plastic bags as they are made from non-degradeable polypropylene bags and have a large carbon footprint, both in their construction and in their location of construction. Here is a Choice report on them. I have rid our house of the majority of them (passing them on to family to use) and instead we use calico bags. Although cotton is a very water hungry plant which does not endear itself to me for growing in Australia and cotton can be bleached and chemically treated, it is at least a natural resource and can be re-grown. Calico is also not as heavily processed so it will have a lesser impact. To replace other sorts of plastic bags, there are reusable sandwich bags available made from oiled cloth and we use reusable cotton bags I made from fabric scraps and an old bed-sheet for holding fruit and vegetables (replacing “freezer” bags). I can’t always use these but in most cases I can.

Water usage: Cutting down our showers to four minutes and conserving water is another great thing to do for the environment. If you can collect and use your own rainwater in tanks, even if it’s just for your gardens, you will not only cut your water bills but it helps conserve water. We are hoping to put in several tanks which we should be able to run our house off but this is not always possible for everyone. But conserving water with shorter showers, stopping the water whilst brushing teeth, rinsing vegetables in a sink of water rather than under the tap, making sure the washing machine and dishwasher are water efficient models and only running when full are all great ways to cut down on water usage.

Local food: Buying locally grown food and eating “in season” foods are also a great help t the environment. Food imported from half way around the world requires refrigeration to keep it fresh which uses energy and it also comes with travel fuel costs giving it a much larger carbon footprint than a locally harvested product. Food that is in season is also going to be at its nutritional and favour best as well and hasn’t the carbon footprint from cold storage for months. Shopping at farmers markets (have a look here for your local market in Australia)  is also a great way to support local farmers and even make a few friends. I check in all the time with our local farmers market Spud farmer and orange growers and we trade children stories and Thermomix stories too. It makes grocery shopping so much more than just a chore. And if you have the space to grow your own, even just a balcony pot for herbs then the carbon miles are nearly non-existent. And the flavour will be at a premium!

Transport yourself: Travelling to and from work or wherever our destination may be is a huge contribution of pollution into the environment. And in some cases there are alternatives to lessen our impact. Can you carpool? If 5 people are all driving in their cars to the same (or close by) locations there are 5 individual contributions of pollution into the environment but if all 5 can share 1 car then there is an 80% decrease there immediately. Not to mention the fuel savings. Imagine only spending around 20% of your normal petrol bill. If carpooling is not an option, public transport may be a solution. Sadly, our buses, trams and trains are just not recognised by our government of being as worthy, or in my opinion, worthier of funding and development as roads. A train may cost a lot more power to run but that cost is divided between a LOT more people making each individual transport footprint MUCH lower. If you work relatively close to home and you’re within riding distance, a bike will keep your transport costs to a bare minimum. Once you have your initial set up needs covered (bike, helmet, any necessary riding clothes, etc) then you’re pretty much done apart from upkeep on your bike. Bike parking is free and you will also get a great workout too. And last but certainly not least, good old shank’s pony is a wonderful means of transport for short distances. Walking is another free transport option and apart from carbon dioxide expulsion (you need to be breathing anyway so no difference there) I cannot think of any pollution it causes. It can also be, in some cases, faster than driving. For me to load 3 children and our various bits, bobs and bags into the car along with a pram, drive the 800m to childcare, unload all of the aforementioned and get into childcare, it takes me at least 10 minutes, if not 15-20. However, if I sling Orik into my Ergo harness, the bags onto the shoulders of their owners and grab 2 hands, we can walk to childcare in 15-20 minutes, or if Allegra goes in the pram and Jasper walks, we can get there in 12-15 minutes. The added bonus of walking there and back for the kids is they sleep a lot better when they’re worn out from a full on day. And I get the 3.2kms there and back twice to chalk up to exercise too.

Anyway, there’s just a few ways to start on an eco journey. If you have any other easy ways to change to a greener lifestyle, please share. I’d love to hear any other suggestions.