Plastic-Free July Eco-Challenge, Day 20: The Earth is Our Home…Clean Up Your Room

As a kid in middle school (many moons ago), I heard a radio ad on my favorite station exclaiming “The earth is our home. CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM!” I loved this ad so much I made a poster of it as a school Earth Day project and kept it on my bedroom door. This confused my mom so much, because, I never cleaned up my actual room.

But the slogan didn’t refer to my bedroom, or bathroom, or living room. The room it referenced was our part of the world. Keep our portion of the earth clean. If everyone did just that, what a wonderful state our world would be.

Which Room to Clean?

I really did love this slogan, and took it to heart. My girl scout troop adopted a highway, and I helped them clean the two-mile stretch of road in my hometown. Once, I did a lake beach clean-up. I campaigned for dolphin-safe tuna, and lectured people on the importance of clipping six-pack rings. As a seventh grader. I was pretty brutal, with not many cares to give about what people thought of me.

But there was irony in my action. As clean as I wanted the earth, I did not do a lot of cleaning at home. In fact, my room stayed consistently messy my entire childhood.

Nowadays, I still struggle to clean my room. I’m fairly disorganized, but not gross. The cats’ litter gets done daily (most days twice- in the morning and evening- our cats poop a lot). I’m getting better at helping keep the destruction down to a minimum in the kitchen when I cook dinner. Once in a blue moon, you will even catch me with a broom in my hand (and not to ride while playing Quidditch).

However, I thought about that old slogan while creating this blog post series. Because while Chris does a majority of the cleaning, we both have a responsibility to keep the earth clean and safe. And there’s a way to clean up your room while cleaning up your room. Keep the portion of the earth you hold dear clean and safe while keeping your house clean and safe.

Cleaning Down the Drain

I know the focus of the month is plastic waste, but house-cleaning products has more than the bottle they are packaged in. They are a combination of chemicals, some of them dangerous, which react to dissolve grease, grime, and some nasty bacteria. I mean, that’s WHY they are in plastic bottles. So they don’t dissolve the container and spill all over the cupboard.

But what happens to the cleaners when we use them? Where does bleach end up when you clean your sink? Does toilet cleaner just disappear? To us, it does. It just goes away, never to think about again. But to the environment, it has a lasting effect. That bleach, cleaner, and disinfectant which warns you to keep out of reach of children and never ever ingest or get in your eyes goes down the drain, and into our water systems. And if it can harm you, it definitely has a negative effect on the ecosystem where it ends up.

So, what do we do? Stop cleaning our house?

Of course not. We just get smarter, and safer. For us, and the planet. Clean our room (earth) while cleaning our rooms (home).

Here are a couple Do-it-yourself cleaners you can make for the home, and overall ideas to reduce your waste while cleaning up:

Basic surface cleaner:
  • 1 part distilled water (or purified water)
  • 1 part white vinegar
  • Lemon juice (optional)
  • 10-15 drops of essential oil per cup of vinegar-base liquid

Bathroom Cleaner
  • 1 teaspoon of Castile
  • 1 teaspoon of Borax
  • 5-6 drops of essential oil of your choice.
  • Fill a spray bottle with warm distilled water (warm water dissolves Borax better). If you don’t have Borax, you can substitute with a tablespoon of baking soda.
Carpet Freshener/Cleaner
  • 2 cups of baking soda
  • 30 drops of essential oil of your choice (lavender, rosemary, and lemon work well)

Combine baking soda and essential oil in a glass mason jar. Place a cap on it and shake well. Apply liberally to carpets, wait a couple hours (or do this right before going to bed). Vacuum baking soda application thoroughly. A much better alternative, especially if you have pets or small children.

Toilet Fizzy
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 2/3 cup citric acid
  • Essential oils (I used 30 drops each of lavender and orange)
  • A misting spray bottle with water or vanilla extract
  1. Mix the baking soda and citric acid in a large glass or metal bowl. Wear gloves for this to protect your skin.
  2. Slowly mist the dry powder with water a little at a time, mixing as you go.
  3. You want to barely wet the powder to get it to stick together in the mold. 1-2 sprays may be enough. Too much water will cause it to start fizzing.
  4. Add essential oils and continue mixing
  5. Separate mixture into single use sizes. Use a tsp measuring spoon and place them on a piece of parchment paper, or use a silicone mold.
  6. Let dry for a couple of hours, then carefully transfer from parchment or mold to an airtight jar to use as needed.

Whether you are an eco-warrior cleaning up the environment, or a stay-at-home dad cleaning up your bathroom, we can all do our part to clean up our room. The earth is, after all, our home.


One Response

  1. How well I remember those Adopt-a-Highway sessions! It’s amazing what people will throw on roadsides. It sure is hard to get away from plastic, but this blog has made me much more aware of exactly how much plastic there is in the world. That’s a start!

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