Best Eco for YOU, Not So Planetary

by Ivory Soap on 12/08/2009

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I learned lately that there is a big difference between what is best for your family’s health, versus what is good for the environment.  No, lemme regroup.  The green behaviors that make the most improvement on your family’s exposure to bad stuff, are not the same things that make the most improvement in the environment.

Like…whole house water filters.  AWESOME for your health, not even mentioned on any of the footprint calculators I’ve seen.

And, how about using biodegradable detergents and soaps.  GREAT for you family, but according to my new favorite site, your one family making this change doesn’t really impact the environment AT ALL.  If your whole city changed…yes.  But just you, not so much.

Also, using natural or NO lawn products.  No need for your pets and children to be wading through all that bad stuff.  WE SHALL ALL GET CANCER!  Just kidding, but seriously, your one .25 acre yard doesn’t make that much of a dent in the environment either way.

Last, eating organic and local.  This is important to your health.  It has less pesticides and way more nutrients.  And as a NATION our food habits are only second in wastefulness to our transportation habits.  But, ONE family eating organic and local, while AWESOME for the health of the family (as long as it’s real food), is only ONE bag of celery each week, riding on that truck driving from CA with a LOT of other celery…it’s MASS transportation, yo?  Not going to make a big PLANETARY difference.

Now, I don’t say this to DISCOURAGE these behaviors.  I want you to do them for two reasons:

  1. It’s EXCELLENT for your family health.
  2. It takes a bunch of people to make an environmental impact and one more–is ONE MORE.

I just don’t want you to be mislead about who is being MOST benefited here.  If you want to do the most for the PLANET recycle, change your toilets, use low flow showers.  If you want to impact your FAMILY the most, start with dechlorinated water, toxin-free body and household products, stop treating your lawn with chemicals, and eat organic and local.

But really, before all of the HATE COMMENTS hustle to me inbox…do ALL of that.  If you do those seven, you’ll be ROCKING OUT LOUD on the Green Scene…for your family AND your planet.


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

renee @ FIMBY December 8, 2009 at 6:18 am

no hate comments from me. I totally get what you’re saying.

Stefani M. December 8, 2009 at 7:45 am

That was one thing that made me finally jump on the eco bandwagon, though… realizing that my impact is probably nil, but that IT DOESN’T MATTER. Because that’s the real problem, isn’t it, that everyone has the idea. “It doesn’t matter what I do, ’cause everyone else is still doin’ it, so why should I change.” Well, it’s more important for me to say to myself (and my family) that we are doing the right thing, even if it makes no difference in the long run of the life of the planet. Plus, with websites like yours (and others), I realize that I’m not alone, either. No eco-friendly friends happen to be living next-door to me, though. 🙁

Carla December 8, 2009 at 8:00 am

Even IF it “doesn’t matter for the planet” it matters to me. Besides, many eventually big things start small. Which is what you are saying all along, I.S.

jen December 8, 2009 at 8:54 am

I get that one person doing something isnt going to change the world. Everyone knows this, which is why SO many people aren’t doing anything. The LAST thing people need is anyone telling them that the good they do doesn’t matter. IT matters.

The biggest changes are brought about by people living by example. Your actions impact the people around you. You use safe cleaners in your house, your friend notices and changes what she uses in her house, which her mother notices and tells her friends about and 4 more people do the same, etc. Your child notices the way you care about the planet and your acts of personal responsibility, and grows up to be a person who pays attention to her impact on the world. One person after another makes a positive change and large companies realize there is a market for earth friendly products, makes said products, which brings on board people who hadn’t thought their actions were that important, but now have an easy way to make the switch. And the cycle of positive action continues.

I understand that you aren’t telling people to stop being green, that your point was intended to be positive, but… its great to get people to take care of their families for their families’ sakes, but they still need to see the big picture. Our Actions Count.

Summer December 8, 2009 at 10:43 am

Everyone has to start somewhere, and if just a few people do the things that “don’t matter”, they start to matter. That’s so much for writing this!

2 Green Acres December 8, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I get what you are saying, but it is a bit defeatist (sp?) to say. “I am just one person, so what I do does not matter.” Take the issue of lawn chemicals. Where I live (Chesapeake Bay watershed), environmental groups are trying to get all homeowners to reduce the amount of chemicals in their yard, because all that run off has a horrible impact on the bay. In addition, all of those chemicals impact your little part of the ecological web – so even if you don’t live near the bay (like me), the have a direct impact on my part of the world.

It might be cliched, but it is true: “it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” When it comes to the environment, we need policy action but we all need individual action.

Downer Dude December 8, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Hello, I guess this message will classify as the “hate comments”, except that I really love your blog, your animals, your caring lifestyle, your curiosity and all the knowledge you communicate. I am a huge skeptic. Always have been. I think it is deep in my genes. I have, for decades now, believed that all the “green choices” so many folks make are just another fashion statement. That if you did a study those people most into buying green as adults are the kids who always had to have the name brand genes, shoes, etc. in grammar and high school. Ok that said, now I expect that we’ll see some strong comments coming in.

P.S. was all of this article about using a carbon footprint calculator? of course many things will effect the environment (good and bad) that will not have a net carbon change, right?

horribilis December 8, 2009 at 3:24 pm

It’s the Hundredth Monkey. It only takes one to begin changing things. I’m in my mid-fifties. When I was a kid, nobody ate yogurt or granola but completely off-the-wall freaks. Vegetarians were weirdos who wore black berets and wrote poetry in after-hours coffeehouses, and the word Vegan did not exist. Whole cow’s milk was Good For You and Americans thought nothing of eating milk, eggs and meat at every meal. Every meal. We’ve learned a lot since then, and it only took one person at a time to make all the changes we see around us. I love your eloquence. You made a very good point, as usual. No hate mail from THIS computer.

Ritsumei December 8, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Actually, I personally like the “do what’s best for yourself” approach to environmentalism. That sort of personal responsibility fits exactly with my ideas of how I ought to be living my life: doing right because it’s right, and also with my ideas of good government. I DON’T support any more nanny-state policy changes. The principle of the commons is at work in the environment, and it’s my studied belief that more governmental “solutions” will only make it worse. Personal responsibility is a much stronger force than government. In this case, it’s the perfect solution: protect what’s yours, make sure that it’s there and in the best possible state for either your future or maximum resale value. Penalize – hold responsible – those who pollute. Human greed can be used for the greater good in this instance.

Kathy M. December 8, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Yea, but it’s not just you. People all over your town are making changes, and you may have inspired some of your blog followers to make some changes as well. I have inspired several people to keep chickens, and start or expand their gardens or plant a fruit tree. I teach people to can and make their own soap and laundry soap. Baby steps will lead to mass change eventually.

When processed foods started hitting the grocery stores, advertisers told people that if they wanted to do what was best for their families, buy boxed, frozen or canned! Now the pendulum is swinging back the other way, because we realize the error of our ways.

Amy Sirk December 8, 2009 at 9:16 pm

It is really easy to become discouraged. I decided to see my efforts as part of a process. I’ve been in this house 3 years. Each year, each month I do more than before. Sometimes is takes me a couple of months to find a way to improve our footprint but I keep at it. Instead of making a list and making finite changes, every change I make clears my slate to look for a new change to make. I have our water use down to 12 gals/person/day. We use 1/3 of the electricity as the average household. Approximately 65% of our food is local. I was not able to do this all at once. It was a gradual progression of using less or using more efficiently. Right now my project is finding a way to keep the garden going through the winter. Once I have that worked out I’ll be able to turn my energies to another project. Don’t give up just yet.

alice December 8, 2009 at 11:00 pm

While I get what you are saying, and certainly don’t have any hate to fling, some of those changes are pretty darned easy and are a way to build habits of change and do ultimately make a small difference.

I think the lawn chemicals can really matter — both to us personally and to the earth. Yes farmers have huge fields and thus use way more chemicals in total, but individual householders tend to use proportionally more chemicals — often more than is recommended on the package and more than would be financially effective for a farmer. And really, a perfectly green lawn is not only unnecessary it is a wasteland for the bees we so desperately need. In addition a lawn that is not perfectly green is a note to your neighbours that those chemicals are not needed — a small flag of change.

Many tropical birds are dependent on our switch to organics — yep it would be better if I gave up coffee, but I am not there yet (no where near).

As for recycling my area picks up almost everything but electronics, plastic bags and styrofoam (so that is a cinch) and I can collect most of those and deliver them myself. The next step is to buy less so I recycle less. I will really be happy when we have successfully pressured electronics companies so that they make things that last (and be upgraded), so that I do not have to keep replacing my radio/cd player.

So lets all do what we can and eventually our individual changes will spread — like the example of my garbage company that picks up almost all recyclables now. Twenty years ago I had to cart off most of it. Twenty years ago several local stores would NOT let people out the door with a purchase and no bag — now asking if you want a bag is standard. Twenty years from now we will have made bigger strides.

Sallie December 8, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Hi, I noticed you meantioned lawn chemicals. Well they are the worst! I was contaminated/ burned, by road side pest/herbicides sprayed by our county. I battled 2 years of health issues and still have fragile health. It was then I became more aware of what we are doing to our selves. I now run a ReUseIt group which I truely believe in keeping out of our landfills what we can.

One household does make a difference!

Ann December 9, 2009 at 7:22 am

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead

Remember that your actions can cause others to act. How many people would never change a thing if you weren’t an example for them? It only takes one person to start a revolution.

the Bag Lady December 9, 2009 at 7:57 am

Each individual who makes an effort contributes to the global effect, so even though it feels as though we are David against Goliath, we have to keep in mind that David did eventually prevail!
As cattle ranchers, we have made conscious decisions to try to lessen our impact – we do not fertilize our hayfields or pastures with anything other than what falls out of the back of the cows (ahem), nor do we use pesticides, other than the small amount we put in our cattle oiler (a device the cows walk under that prevents infestations of lice and other pests) or herbicides.

Handful December 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Kathy M. – Baby steps… I like that!
The Bag Lady – David and Goliath…excellent example.

I have a three acre yard. I do not use lawn chemicals. I do not water either. Brown grass is cheap grass! I do however water the garden. Luckily my well taps into a huge underground lake. And most of our fertilizer is organic. Still exploring ways to keep the buggers off.

I do wonder about our drinking water supply though. We drink straight from the well – it tastes so much better than our softened water – but with farm fields surrounding us I worry about the chems. We are looking at a whole house filter as suggested by?? Ivory or TL – sorry, can’t remember.

And, unfortunately, our refuse service (nor any other country pickup here) has NO recycling services. We have to drive 45 miles round trip to recycle so I ask is that eco friendly? My Aunt just moved to town though and I can start taking things to her.

A small thing but it just occured to me.


All you wonderful people!

CJStewart December 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm

I was so excited to read this post. Don’t get me wrong. I love Earth. It’s my favorite planet. That being said, I always tell people that my first priority is my family. There are lots of things that are good for Earth that aren’t so good for my family. One perfect example is playground mulch. Grinding up tires to use as mulch instead of throwing them in a landfill? Great for Earth . . . really bad for my kids. Usually, by making choices that are best for my family I’m also helping Earth.

Jacquelyn December 10, 2009 at 7:41 pm

I agree. The biggest impacts on the environment, good or bad, will likely be on the corporate and industrial level, since they are driven by what masses of consumers demand. If we all demand more, faster, newer, now, environment be damned – they will provide it. If we demand less, slower, better, as we need it, please take care of our planet while you are at it – they might listen. That’s why, in addition to making the right choices for ourselves, we also have to have active voices and demand change from government institutions, corporations, industrializing nations, and all the ‘big’ players who can truly impact our world with their choices.

jamie January 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm

I need to start buying non toxic/vegan soaps for the bathroom. But when I see the prices on J*A*S*O*N products, my eyes bulge. Hard to spend $8 on shampoo.

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