I had a chat with a friend today that really got me thinking more deeply about something that I have been trying to work out for a while. My friend is a thoughtful, caring person who tries hard to do the right thing. She’s also a busy working mother of three. She was saying that while she cares about the environment and the health of her family, when it comes to making shopping choices, products really need to be affordable and convenient. A healthier, greener alternative isn’t going to get into her shopping trolley unless it can compete on price and is just as easy to use as the standard commercial option.
I would hazard a guess that most shoppers feel the same way. In tough economic conditions, most people can’t afford the “luxury” of greener alternatives that cost more than the “normal” products. And in a world where most of us feel always in a hurry, the quickest and easiest solution is often seen to be the best. We have many more pressing concerns and demands on our minds. In the morning rush to get ready for school and work, we just want our hair, our clothes and our dishes to be clean, and don’t really have the time to be too concerned about the environmental impact of our shampoos and detergents.
Spotless is trying  (like many other websites) to encourage us to replace these familiar brands with safe and easy homemade recipes. But no matter how simple and inexpensive these may be (and at spotless I try hard to make sure that they are both), taking them on does require an effort – the effort of change, as well as the effort of resisting the constant, overwhelming bombardment of marketing. Phasing out all the products that we’ve relied on for so long to keep us and our clothes and homes clean, and learning a whole new way of doing things – is it realistic to expect busy people to do this? What does it take to inspire that move ?
It takes, I realised today, just one thing: love . Just like the song says: love is all you need.
Now I’m not saying that people who buy toxic personal care and cleaning products (and really, most of them are toxic ) are not loving people. Surely that’s why we are all trying to keep ourselves, our stuff, our homes, our families, clean and cared for? We start out with good intentions. But I believe we are misled.
Starting with those simple, loving intentions, we are nagged at by all-pervasive advertising that insists that we and our families and homes all need to look better than we do. Having pushed our straightforward needs to new heights of expectation, we are urged to grasp the products that surround us in the shops and which promise to help us fulfill them. We are pushed for time and short of money and too worried about a million other things to look too closely or think too deeply about what exactly it is we’re buying. Those companies selling their cheap and easy-to-use, albeit toxic, cleaning products really have us where they want us.
We are like a harassed mother trying to do her grocery shopping with a whining toddler in tow, surrounded by aisles lined with cheap treats in bright wrappers. Strangers eye the mother disapprovingly as the complaints escalate. What could be easier than offering the child an unhealthy sweet to appease them? It is harder to be firm and say no. But which is more loving? Which should be the general, rule of thumb behaviour?
Is it truly a loving action to wash my own and my family’s clothes with a detergent that is poisoning our bodies and polluting our world – even if it is poisoning us only slowly, subtly and imperceptibly, and keeping us looking good all the while? Do I love myself when I coat my skin and hair with carcinogenic synthetic petroleum by-products – even if they give me a radiant-looking skin or shiny hair for a day? Are we really acting out of love, or giving in to pressure and following the path of least resistance because that is all we have the time, the energy and the attention for?
Buying and using detergents, toxic furniture polish, shampoo and body wash – these are just tiny actions, and seemingly inconsequential. But in their combined force, acted out every day by millions and billions of us, they sustain chains of events that continue inexorably to acidify the oceans, choke the atmosphere, drive up rates of cancer and a host of other health problems, torture animals, destroy the habitats of species and the tribal lands of people, taint drinking water and impoverish soil. These are dramatic, urgent problems that affect all of us.
Yet our attention is continuously diverted from the things that really matter in innumerable and varied ways. Short-term deadlines and the immediate concerns of our hectic daily lives keep us from focusing on them. Constant communication, marketing and entertainment distract us from them through our ever-present media. To bear them in mind, and to take actions to confront them, requires something special – love.
I love my family and the world we live in, as I know my friend does and I am sure that you do too. It makes me indignant to know that we are being swindled into acting in ways that are destructive to the very things we hold most dear, and matter most to us. If something is threatening that which we love, we should, I believe, fight back .
The good news is that that loving effort of will is pretty much all that is required. The rest is very easy. After years of cleaning the spotless way, I can assure you it does not cost more or take longer. Quite the contrary: it is in fact cheaper, just as fast or slow as you want it to be, and vastly more rewarding. I am a busy mother of three with very little spare cash to waste on expensive options that aren’t effective. I don’t want to spend any more time or money than I need to, on cleaning my house or my hair. I have better things to do, like engage with my children; spend time with friends and family; get out into nature; paint or bake or read; make the wholesome alternative products that I use and sell, and help others by my work on this website. I am certain you do, too.
We are all trying to do things quickly and cheaply, so as to have more and better time for ourselves, for friends and family, for the pursuits we enjoy. But let’s not be duped into harming the very things we are saving for and hurrying off to spend time with – it just isn’t a very loving approach .