Dr. Bronner's

Nine Years of Going Green

Nine Years of Going Green

I measure time in units of childhood. Who had been born, who was mobile, who was in school.

On March 23, 2010 “Going Green” launched. My kids were littles: I had one in diapers, one in kindergarten, and another taking preschool by storm.  The days were long, but the years were short. I could carry two of them at once, I never wore white, and three minutes was the longest I could allow myself to focus on any one thing without the walls falling down around me.

Since then, my kids and I have both learned a lot. They now know that I am pretty archaic, with my penchant for 19th century literature and clothes from the 70s. They don’t ask me about music more recent than 1910 because I’ll have no answer nor about British history because I’ll have too long of an answer. To their dismay, they also now know that I love algebra and occasionally make copies of their math homework for my own enjoyment. It gives them something to boast about in the “weird parent” comparisons at the school lunch table.

For my part, I’ve learned from my kids that an occasional pie for breakfast does more good than harm, that teenagers are pretty fascinating and fantastic, that seventh grade is universally hard but necessary, and that sometimes the best thing I can do for my kids is stand back and let them flounder.

And then there’s what I’ve learned about blogging! Truth be told, the initial purpose of writing the blog was to save time. For a while, I had been the one to answer the flood of Dr. Bronner’s customer emails.  (Love you guys!) There was a lot of repetition.

  • Can I wash my hair/face/baby/dog/laundry/diapers/boyfriend’s grungy wool hiking socks with the soap?
  • Can I mix the soap with vinegar/bleach/baking soda/vodka/borax/essential oils?
  • Will this recipe I found online/at my chiropractor’s/on Oprah/from my grandmother work?
  • And what’s with that label?

The blog was an exercise in answering all these en masse. After all, I only had three-minute windows in which to work before the kids unleashed chaos. But the blog wasn’t my idea. My brother Mike came up with it, and the conversation went something like this:

Mike: Because we get a lot of the same questions, can you write a blog to answer them all at once?

Me: What’s a blog?

With my head buried in the sands of motherhood, I’d missed the rise of the blogosphere. Thanks to several kind and patient people, I learned that a “blog” is a portmanteau of “web log” where people write short, casual entries. I never entirely got the hang of “short” and sometimes I dive a little deeper than “casual.” I still have much to learn.

A lot of those early posts were expansions of my FAQ answers, with a little personal anecdote thrown in to liven things up. Since then, I’ve come to see the blog as primarily a teaching tool and a way of distilling the tsunami of Google-able information into quick tips for busy people. As is often the case with teaching, I have learned far more than I’ve taught.

Through the years, I have never wanted readers to think I have it all figured out, sitting high on the green mountaintop dispensing wisdom from above. Far from the mountaintop, I’m right there in the thick of it with you, learning by doing. Some of the things I try, fail miserably – and sometimes I surprise myself when they succeed. Sometimes my kids hopefully lift the lid of a bubbling pot only to discover an experiment in vegan soap jellies or homemade deodorant, two things I haven’t gotten quite right yet (which is why I haven’t posted about either).

Thus, the title “Going Green.” It’s a process. A journey. A little stumbling and winding, but generally in the right direction.

I’m proud of many things about this journey: That nine years later, I still have lots to write about; that the comment threads for most of my posts are many times longer than the original posts; that there’s still more for me to learn about science and simple living; that I am growing in my abilities as a writer and presenter; and that I still remember and use all those lessons from my 12th grade English class – although I do use contractions and the first person (sorry, Miss Irwin), but I never split my infinitives.

Those early posts are a little cringe-y. Many have no pictures, and perhaps are a little overboard on the TMI. I had no idea what I was doing. I just plunged ahead, saying “Yes!” to the adventure of it all. And here we are, nine years later!

Then there are the early videos. Ha! Some with no microphone. None with a script. Usually one continuous, uninterrupted take. And my nervousness manifested as seriousness with very rarely a smile. In the accurate words of one blunt commenter, I looked like I was on Prozac.

Looking back, here are some of the benchmark posts:

Although the “how-to” posts are more viewed, I treasure the posts I’ve written to encourage and educate.

Thanks for joining me on the journey, and especially for those of you who have been with me from the get-go. I see your names recur. You are friends I’ve never met. I especially have a fondness for those who start your comments with, “I’ve been using your soap for 40 years…” and even the occasional, “I met your grandfather back in the 70’s…”

One of the traditional gifts to commemorate a ninth anniversary is willow, which I think fits. Not only is a willow tree green, but it is growing and flexible, moved by its environment but sturdy at the core. So, in honor of nine years of this blogging journey, here’s a willow tree for me and for all of you in the process of going green.

Further reading

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Roxy Rubinic says:

Hi Lisa!

In the past, I always made my own cleaning and personal care products from basic ingredients. Now that I’m back to work full-time, I decided to switch to store-bought natural cleaners. I was so excited to see that our Meijer is now carrying Dr. Bronner’s products. I love the commitment to safe ingredients as well as your social mission. I am concerned that my dollars are being spent in an ethical fashion, and thus, try and buy from companies that support free trade practices. Thus, I had a serious concern when I found Margaret Sanger listed as a on your toothpaste as a “great teacher”. I’m not sure if you know this, but she was one of the leaders of the eugenics movement in this country. Her goal was to limit births in “unfit” races and the working class. I’d hate to see your company’s image tainted by linking itself with her views. I am a special education teacher. I love the so-called “defectives” with which I work. It pains me to hear anyone call them “weeds”. Just thought you should know. Thanks for listening!!

“The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
— Woman and the New Race, Chapter 5, “The Wickedness of Creating Large Families.” (1920)

“Apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.”
— Sanger, Margaret. “My Way to Peace,” Jan. 17, 1932. Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress 130:198.

“… these two words [birth control] sum up our whole philosophy… It means the release and cultivation of the better elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extinction, of defective stocks — those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.”
— Margaret Sanger, “High Lights in the History of Birth Control,” Oct 1923.

“I accepted an invitation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan… I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, and began to speak…In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered.”
— Margaret Sanger, An Autobiography, published in 1938, p. 366

“Organized charity itself is the symptom of a malignant social disease…”
— Sanger, Margaret (1922). The Pivot of Civilization.

“All of our problems are the result of overbreeding among the working class… Knowledge of birth control is essentially moral. Its general, though prudent, practice must lead to a higher individuality and ultimately to a cleaner race.”
— Margaret Sanger, “Morality and Birth Control,” Feb-Mar 1918.

“The lower down in the scale of development we go, the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets.” What Every Girl Should Know: Sexual Impulses Part II,December 1912

“Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives… If we are to make racial progress, this development of womanhood must precede motherhood in every individual woman.” — “Woman and the New Race,” 1920

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Roxy – Thank you for your kind words. It’s great to hear that you’re in sync with our company’s principles. I appreciate how thoroughly you have read my grandfather’s writings on the bottle. He cites a wide range of people with a wide range of perspectives. Because he had so much to write, he did not include nearly enough elaboration – or any elaboration, in most cases – to answer all our questions as to why he cites those he does. We have been very reluctant regarding posthumously editing his words. During his life whenever we asked him for explanations, before he’d reach the end of his first sentence, he’d have a new thought he’d want to make sure he captured, and he’d be off in a different direction. We never got all our questions answered, even in person.

I don’t know completely where he encountered Margaret Sanger and what he knew of her complete career. Most likely, as he was a proponent of birth control, in the form of conception control, he connected with her on that point. However, I can assure you that he would not have supported her viewpoint on eugenics. His own life and circumstances may well have cast him into her definition of objectionable. His own Jewish family was victim of the Nazi eugenics campaign to eliminate an unfit race, with both his parents and other relatives perishing in concentration camps. He spent time in a mental hospital in Elgin, Illinois, against his will, undergoing electroshock therapy, which may have contributed to his eventual blindness. I don’t feel I can give you a fully satisfactory explanation, but I do know that he treated people from all walks of life with compassion. His fundamental message was that we are all brothers and sisters united on this earth. I hope that helps. Please feel free to share your thoughts.

I’m glad you have been able to find the products easily, and I hope they help you with the transition to your new routine.

Roxy Rubinic says:

Thanks so much for taking the time to reply! Without the constant media and internet, I’m sure your grandpa had no idea of Margaret Sanger’s racist agenda in her use of birth control. Just thought you should know. Thanks again!!!

Angela says:

Dear Lisa, I have been rationing my very last gallon of Sal Suds because I can’t get it in Singapore anymore. ? When will Dr Bronners products return to Singapore? *waiting anxiously* Thank you.

Ola says:

How do you keep your white fabrics white for graywater systems . I can’t add bleach

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Ola- Baking soda is a natural whitener and biodegradable. Use 1/2 cup (1/4 cup with an HE washer) with your wash cycle. I’d also go with Sal Suds as it is slightly better than Castile at whitening whites, although both are biodegradable.

Susan Gwin says:

Hello Lisa! Congratulations on nine years of writing interesting, fun and informative articles! You are a terrific writer! It is a pleasure to read your work. It makes me happy! Thank you. Blessings, Susan

gina says:

just found you after listening to your brother on the Rich Roll podcast. Wish I had found you a long time ago but at least I have a lot of back reading.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Gina – I know I’m biased, but that was a particularly great interview my brother did. Welcome to Going Green! Thank you for your kind words!

Leonor Keng says:

I have been making home remedies for years now, and foraging for wild medicinal and edible plants so I can transplant them into my yard to be sure they are pesticide free. This year I began to add DIY cleaning supplies to my plate and I have truly enjoyed this adventure! Lisa your videos have been a great tool for me, they have made this transition smooth! My favorite recipe is the cleaning wipes! My dilemma was cleaning the cloths enough to reuse them I have seen other videos that suggest heavy duty paper towels but I didn’t feel that was very “green” so I purchased an undergarment bag for the wipes and I soak them in a boiling hot bath until they cool and then wash them separately on a hot water setting. They work out great! Thanks for giving me ideas I never would have tried on my own!!!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Leonor- I’m glad you’re finding the blog helpful. And thanks for sharing that tip!

terrence ward says:

Happy Anniversary Lisa, we love the Bronner’s products and philosophy…ALL ONE. We use Sal Suds every day for floor cleaning and love the sugar-soaps. Are they a new product? If so, you should have made a bigger launch. If not, I guess we did not notice them. Keep doing what you do; we and the planet appreciate YOU.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Terrence- Our Sugar Soaps are not a new product, but they are lesser known. I’m glad you discovered them! And I appreciate you too!

susan wright says:

I totally love your blog! ❤️
Grateful In so many ways for Dr Bronner’s family & products! Cheers, to 1900 more years & more ?Susan

Patricia Clark says:

I’m just starting so I look forward to learning a lot from the blog and comments. It’s never too late for this old girl to learn new information.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Patricia- Welcome! I’m a firm believer in life-long learning! If you questions as you poke around the blog, please ask. If you’re wondering about something, chances are someone else is too.

Mara Russell says:

Lovely, thank you ❤️
I’ve been casually coming back to your blog over the last few months, have been transitioning to Sals Suds more and more, and love the honesty and gentleness of your posts. Thank you for teaching this new mama and wanna-be-green person, who’s been on this journey for about 6 years. I feel like we are against all odds in this world of consumerism and single-use plastics today, so thank you for making it easier and more accessible to go green.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Mara- I’m glad to hear you enjoy my blog and that it’s been a helpful resource to you!

Gayle Hacker says:

Thank you for all your hard work. I love the Sal suds and use it to clean everything. I do my laundry with it also and it works great. Love your blog and the great information regarding “green living”. I hope you’ll keep us I formed. I appreciate the research you do. I brag on Dr. Bronner’s products whenever opportunities arise. Thank you again.

Lisa Bronner says:

Thank you, Gayle! I’m so glad you find my blog helpful.

Rita says:

I enjoyed this blog and good for you! Keep at it, I need and use all those tips even if I don’t usually comment. Rita

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Rita- It’s so great to hear you find the tips useful!

Jane Terry says:

Since you mention it, I have been using Dr. Bronner’s soap since 1978. ?
And thank you for blog, I enjoy reading it and look forward to your tenth year!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jane- That’s awesome that you’ve been using our soaps for that long!

Edna Raines says:

There are several cleaning books on the market now. I would love one from you with all your cleaning recipes. Enjoy your blog and all your information. Thank You for helping the sisterhood.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Edna- I appreciate your vote of confidence on a book, as it’s something I’m hoping to do in the future.

Dania says:

Lisa, Can’t wait for your book! We’re all proud of you!

susan wright says:

Oh that book w/ recipes would be totally cool!

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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