When you hear Green Yards and Healthy Homes, what comes to mind? Is it all out free from chemicals inside and out? Does it mean a 'perfect' green lawn, no lawn and only native plants, or somewhere in between? Have you been affected by chemicals inside and outside your home? Do you have a sensitivity to products used around the house?
Years ago, Cuyahoga SWCD started the Green Yards and Healthy Homes program to answer these questions. We fall somewhere in the middle of all these scenarios. While some may need extreme measures to get rid of all chemicals, this program encourages an inventory of what you have around the house and how you can replace some items with more environmentally and healthy friendly products WITHOUT compromising what you want that product to do.
For example, instead of using a bleach based cleanser at my house, I use a mixture of water, vinegar and an essential oil (the good, concentrated kind that are meant to be diluted in something). I've learned to equate the smell of vinegar with clean instead of the smell of bleach. I still have some chemical products that I use. Scrubbing Bubbles is one I just can't seen to give up. I like how it works and want my bathtub and toilet cleaned with this product. My Grandma worked for Dow Chemical that makes it so it reminds me of her because they always had it around.
Outside, I keep things very natural. I don't use anything but vinegar to kill weeds. I do a lot of hand pulling of weeds but other than that, things are left on their own. My gardens are full of native plants that have long root systems that, over time, have outcompeted the weed for the most part. I get some but they are manageable.
I can't control what happens when I am out in the world existing - at a store, library, school, etc. I am exposed all the time to other people's choices about what products are used in these spaces. We all know people who have cancer, tumors, etc. and don't know why. Much like stormwater pollution, it is a conglomeration of many factors that cause the most damage. If I can take out some of that risk and exposure in the areas I control AND not compromise on what I want a product to do (or not use it at all because I've learned that I don't need it), then why not? I've lowered my risk even just a little bit.
I encourage you to take an inventory inside and outside your home of the products you use and don't use, because you will find empty or half-used bottles around just taking up space.
Join us on Thursday, September 15th as we dive deeper into these topics at a Green Yards and Healthy Homes workshop in Newburgh Heights. The workshop is free but you'll have the opportunity to make products to take home for $5/each.
Happy Cleaning, Gardening, Living!
Blog author: Amy Roskilly, Conservation Education & Communications Manager