Living Lightly

Falling off the Green Machine

Falling off the Green Machine

It happens. I’m guilty of it often enough. The stomach flu hits three kids in one day and I start to mistrust everything I know about the effectiveness of natural cleaners and the dangers of conventional ones. Out of desperation to get this horrible bug out of my house, I reach for the 409. Or it may be simpler than that. I might just be suckered by the beauty of that clear blue Windex, or the lemony scent of Pledge. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much commercial TV, seeing too many miraculous Before and After shots of soap scum cleared in a single effortless swipe. Perhaps I’ve heard just one too many, “You clean your house with what!?”

In the midst of a crisis or moments of weakness, the questions come pouring in:
Am I putting my kids at risk by not using the stuff that good looking people say is so good? If it were really bad for us, would the government allow it to be sold? What good is this natural stuff doing? What good is my little squirt bottle with my homemade solution when there are still paper mills and oil spills? How am I making any difference?

Have you heard the story about the boy and the starfish?
One day a man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…”I made a difference for that one.”

Falling off the Green Machine
My nephew found this isolated starfish on the shores of Emerald Isle, NC. He threw it back. (picture by Cindi Teel)

The point is, it all does matter. It all does help. Soaps and vinegar and baking soda and all that really do work. And, no, the government does not know everything that is going on. In my house, it’s mostly up to me to know what’s what. So, whatever I can do, big or small, to make my house safer for my husband, my kids, and myself – that matters. Even if it doesn’t help anyone else. But then, it probably does help someone else. I might inspire you, who might inspire 10 other people, and thus it starts.

So if you fall off this green machine, pick a quotation and climb back on. I’m a sucker for a well-turned phrase, so here are a few that could make a good natural housecleaning mantra:
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. ~ Edward Everett Hale

It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. ~Sydney Smith

And lastly, One man’s hands can’t… but if two and two and fifty make a million, we’ll see that day come round. Not exactly what Mr. Seeger was talking about, but I think he’d agree.

Further reading

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Erica says:

70% alcohol – sprayed directly onto surfaces – is what we use for actually killing germs. We have also found that alcohol can also be used as a Windex replacement (although it’s less cost-effective than vinegar or club soda, so use it sparingly.)

10 Steps to Green says:

[…] Here are some of my previous posts to help you get started: What I Mean by “Green” Deciphering Soap and Bodycare Ingredients – Beware of the “-eth” Who Gave Soap a Bad Name Sal Suds in a Spray Bottle How to Make A Castile Soap Household Cleaner Spray Open Wide Falling Off the Green Machine […]

Lisa Bronner says:

Thanks for sharing! We’re all in this together, one step at a time.

@Joanna – Thanks for the support in your blog. Your recommendation means a whole lot more than mine!


Catie says:

I feel really small sometimes, and wonder why I’m working so hard to make green changes and reduce my family’s impact on the environment. Especially when there are so many others who don’t seem to care. Then I look at my children and all my doubts go away. I’m doing this for them! I can’t control everything they breathe, and everything they consume – but I can control what we use in our home, I can teach my children to be smarter consumers and make healthier choices, and I can encourage others to make the same changes. I just have to leave it at that, and know that I’m doing the right thing!

Joanna Sheets says:

Hi Lisa,

You bring up some very valid points concerning house cleaners. Isn’t it ironic that scare tactics stem as far as what we wipe our counter tops off with?! Keeping things clean isn’t rocket science a few simple & real ingredients can do the trick without harming us or our environment. We love your family’s mission & products and did a recent blog posting about them. Take a look if you have a chance.

Take care,


Theresa Boyle says:

I completely understand where you’re coming from about getting sick and then having second thoughts about the green cleaning you’re promoting in your home. Watching all those glorious commercials about how our homes “won’t be clean unless we buy “their” products” and making us feel guilty because we choose to use vinegar and soda or other items. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars marketing their products. Teaching us their products are the best and shame on us if we don’t make those purchases! You wondered about the government being involved specifically “they wouldn’t allow harmful products to be sold on the market”. Well, truth is, is YES THEY WILL and YES THEY DO!

The EPA reported in Jan 2010 that our indoor environments are 2-5x more polluted than outside and in some cases, the air measurements indoors have been found to be 100x more polluted! Why? It’s because of all the cleaners and personal care items we use to make our homes clean and safe. There are typically 150 chemicals commonly found in homes. These chemicals are harmful and are linked to allergies, birth defects, cancer and psychological abnormalities. The average home today contains more hazardous products than are found in a chemistry lab! 80% of all cancers are attributed to environmental rather than genetic factors, including exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, many of which are found in common household cleaning products.

I decided that I’m done giving money to these big named companies so they can make their millions and my family can stay sick! I’m no longer buying those household cleaners. I have drastically reduced the amount of hazardous chemicals in my home. I’ve found a better way to keep my home and my family safe and healthy. I’ve found something that is even better than vinegar and soda. I’m referring to NORWEX.

I sell Norwex. Norwex mission: “To improve the quality of life by radically reducing the use of chemicals in personal care and cleaning. Norwex is committed to their mission to promote health and to reduce the risk of poisoning and disease and to make a positive impact on our environment. Norwex offers products in the following areas: antibacterial microfiber, enzyme cleaners and organic personal care items.

Norwex microfiber is the worlds only antibac microfiber (patent pending). Norwex has integrated silver into the fibers giving the items antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It’s not harmful to humans and has long been known as a natural way to kill bacteria. The silver prevents bacteria from growing in the cloth therefore making it a “self cleaning” cloth! No other microfiber can claim this feature. Our cloths have been shown to be 99.9% effective against bacteria, yeasts and viruses. Even the heavy hitters like MRSA, Strep, Staph or H1N1. Our cleaning system saves time, money and our environment. The best things are: you don’t breath, touch or ingest any chemicals, dirt, dust and germs are completely removed (instead of being spread around) and you only use WATER.

I can’t control what goes on outside my home but I can control what goes on inside. There is a lot of money to be made by keeping the population sick. I’ve decided not to continue buying products that our government KNOWS are harmful. I’ve decided it’s not worth it to allow these big companies to get rich at the expense of myself or my family’s health. That’s why I got involved with Norwex. I commend you for not falling prey to the misleading ads that plague our lives! Don’t be sucked into buying products that claim to be healthy. Do your research and make informed decisions. Check out Norwex, do your homework. Also, I challenge you to check out the “Safe Shopper’s Bible” to see a list of common household products that are known to contain irritants, carcinogens and/or neurotoxins. I guarantee that once you read that list, you won’t be reaching for any of the cleaners listed! And that goes for that pretty blue bottle of windex!

Good luck and take care.

Liz says:

I’m just new to using all natural cleaners and soaps in my home. After a very bad bout of eczema I thought I owed it to my kids to switch (skin is all cleared up thanks to dr bronner and shea butter)
I hope I don’t fall off the green wagon.

Carolyn says:

I keep my house and laundry clean with Mrs Meyers cleaners, they help me stay on the green machine and my house smells great (when I clean) I also use tropiclean shampoo for my cats and dog and it’s cruelty free and earth friendly as well. I love Dr Bronner’s products for me~

Kari says:

About a month after I went to some classes to learn how to use essential oils medicinally, both of my kids got sick. I felt like all eyes were on me and I thought people must have thought I was dumb for thinking I could keep from being sick by changing to essential oils. I realized later that the truth was that it was my first test in keeping to my new standard of living. Practice makes perfect.

Thanks for the encouragement!

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

Learn about my book, Soap & Soul!

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