Are disposible cleaning wipes hurting our planet?

Who doesn’t love quick clean ups?

Let me start by saying that, like many Americans, I love cleaning wipes because they’re convenient. I just images-1flip the lid up on the yellow Member’s Mark Disinfecting Wipes canister that I keep near my kitchen sink, pull out a square sheet of non-woven fiber and with a swipe of my hand obliterate 99% of germs like salmonella from my kitchen counter. It also makes my kitchen smell lemony. When I’m done, I just drop the wipe into the trash.

A top seller in a gazillion forms 

It makes sense then that what started out in the 1970’s as a way for mommies on the go to wipe their images-3baby’s behinds has grown to a multi-million dollar industry aimed at satisfying all our cleaning needs. These days, there are wipes to clean our faces, pets, eye glasses, car interiors, computers, dust off furniture, wipe down floors and showers, and so on and so forth. They’re used in schools, hospitals and businesses, and nearly half the households in North America have some forms of disposable wipes on their weekly shopping lists. In short, since the 1990’s when sales of the time-saving dynamos really took off, the use of cleaning wipes in their many forms has become a way of life for people all over the world.

The life of a wipe doesn’t end with the trash can

But now that so many of us are using them, like with single-use plastic shopping bags, discarded wipes are washing up on beaches wet_wipes_littering_uk_beaches_up_50_25and hanging around in landfills. The problem is, the majority of them don’t biodegrade either. And,  like plastic bags, when cleaning wipes float around on the surface of our oceans they look a lot like tasty jelly fish to sea turtles and other animals, which eat them,  get sick, and die. images The wipes have also been known to clog sewer lines, although it does say on the containers not to flush them.

Anti-bacterial everywhere!

Also, like with plastic bags from where inks, dyes, and other chemicals act as toxins when they seep from them into the ground and waterways, the chemicals and fragrances on cleaning wipes bleed too.  But the agents that make many disposable wipes anti-bacterial present other problems when they hit the ground and water. Just like they can kill 99% of bacteria in our kitchens, they kill bacteria everywhere. But some bacteria is necessary; like the ones that help garbage break down in landfills.

A public health crisis?

If that’s not bad enough, the chemicals in cleaning wipes and other cleaning products these days can cause health problems for some people that range from allergic reactions to auto-immune conditions. There are also doctors who are concerned that our extensive use of anti-bacterial agents could actually make our immune systems less capable of fighting harmful bacteria and viruses.

And let’s not forget Charles Darwin

Then there’s that little old Theory of Natural Selection, if you believe in that sort of thing.

tips to throw theperfectsurpriseparty!-3

‘Super bugs,’  sound like science fiction, but they’re not. They’re what happens when bacteria grow resistant to antibiotics and the anti-bacterial chemicals in so many of the cleaning and personal hygiene products we use. They may be microscopic, but they could really make us sick. Then we might have to come up with stronger ways to zap them and that could wreak more havoc on everything and everyone. With that in mind, maybe we should rethink our drive to kill germs everywhere and accept that there are germs in our homes and in other places that we could most likely live with and still be healthy.

A change of heart

More and more I’m learning that if a product is made to be used once and tossed, it’s going to cause problems for Mother Earth. For me, that’s enough of a reason to end my love affair with disposable cleaning wipes. Now I just have to find out about eco-friendly alternatives, and see which ones would be a good fit for my husband and me.

Until next week.

Comments: Always welcome. Always appreciated. If you would like to share an insight, experience, or ask a question, please include the words ‘cleaning wipes’ in your message. This will help me distinguish real comments from spam.

Thank you.

Clueless Girl

Comments Anyone?

THE APOLOGY

To anyone out there kind enough to have ever commented on a Clueless Girl post, thank you.  I’m sorry if I haven’t replied to you. The thing is, within the past months, more and more I’ve been marking comments on this website as spam. That’s because, and this is a lesson I’ve learned from running this blog, sometimes spam looks a lot like a comment.

THE BACKSTORY

I started Clueless Girl on Earth Day 2016 and during those first weeks and months I would get so excited whenever the ‘comment’ icon on my admin page had a number next to it. It meant a live person had actually read my blog! Those days it was mostly notes of encouragement from my mother and a few friends. I never questioned whether their comments were real. I just happily responded.

That changed after I’d blogged about how plastic shopping bags were polluting the planet, and I received a message from someone I didn’t know. It was in Chinese, too, which made me very curious.  So, I copied and pasted the long paragraph into Google Translator. That’s when I found out that the comment wasn’t a comment at all.  It was just a bunch of advertisements.

I was disappointed. It would have been cool to get a comment from China. But also, the spam-blocker program I use should have stopped the ad from getting through to my admin page. Instead, it left it for me to decide whether to click ‘accept and reply’ to publish it or to ‘mark as spam,’ and send it to wherever spam winds up. With this one, as well as with the many similar ads I’ve received almost every day since, the choice was obvious.

But there are more subtle ones that get through, as well. They say off topic things like: ‘Hey man, stop posting so many videos and just write.‘ (I’ve never published a video on Clueless Girl and I think I’ve included links to maybe 2 videos in all my posts.) Or they tell me how amazing my blog is, but make no mention of the post they’re attached to. I’ve responded to a few of the latter ones, of course.  I appreciate it when someone takes the time to say they like my blog, even if they do write with an accent and are weirdly over the top about it. So, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that after I replied with a thank you, there came a wave of similar weirdly over the top comments. Now I know that these too are a form of spam. What I can’t figure out is what they accomplish. I never click on any of the links in them. They just bug me.

Not long ago a comment came through that asked for my help. The writer said he was a new blogger. He requested some tips. FROM ME? I’m a new blogger too, so I don’t know much. But I wanted to support and encourage him.  I offered advice about maintaining a writing schedule, which for me is important because not only do I research and write for this blog, but I’m also working on my second novel in a sci-fi detective series, and I teach part-time for my local Early Intervention Program. Then I clicked ‘accept and reply’. Well. Guess what. Not long after, I got hit with a wave of similar requests for help.

I’d been duped.

THE PROBLEM 

I’m grateful to anyone who takes the time out of their day to read my blog.  If they then leave a remark or word of encouragement, I consider that a great gift for which I want to reciprocate by writing a reply.  My intention when I started Clueless Girl was to respond to every comment received. I still want to do that! The problem is, I can’t tell the real ones from the fakes.

THE SOLUTION

So, I was thinking: what if we had a code word that the spammers wouldn’t know about? I stock-vector-beautiful-brunette-girl-winking-and-making-silence-or-secret-hand-gesture-with-finger-on-lips-169363778could put something like that at the bottom of every post. That way, if someone wanted to offer an insight or ask me a question or just tell me about their experiences, if they included it in their comment I would know it was legit!

So, here it goes.

THE CODE WORD(S)

I know I won’t get an ‘A’ for creativity here, but if anyone would like to leave a comment on this post, please include the words ‘not spam’ in your message.

Thank you all so much for reading.

For next week: The Problem with Cleaning Wipes.

A Shout-out to the NRDC!

My husband says I’m too over the top about toilet paper. He could be right. I’ve just spent hours driving myself crazy reading web articles on the topic because, while I’ve learned more than I’d wanted to about how bamboo or hemp or sugarcane are the greenest things since fresh air, I could find little about the environmental impact of processing these alternatives to wood fibers.  Plus, none of the articles have told me whether or not the bisphenol A (BPA) found in TP made from recycled products could hurt us.

So I emailed some of the toilet paper companies. Then, after no one got back to me –––no one––– I emailed the Natural Resource Defense Counsel. The NRDC is a non-profit organization that works to safeguard the earth––its people, its plants and animals and the natural system on which all life depends.  (I copied that off their website.) To be honest, I hadn’t expected to hear back from them either.

I was wrong.

That same day I received the nicest email from Samuel Wicks, the counsel’s Public Education Associate. In it he answered all of my questions in a very courteous and professional manner that made me feel as if he cared about how I’m trying to make my life greener one corner of one room at one time. He also included articles.

So here’s the short of it:

Are TPs made from raw materials other than wood actually greener?

Bamboo  is used to make a variety of things; including textiles and paper. For paper goods, it is pulped into fiber by way of either mechanical or chemical processing. As a Unknowngeneral rule, mechanical processing can be more costly, but is better for the environment. The chemical processing methods used can actually harm the planet. That said, most bamboo manufacturers claim to be green, but really aren’t, because they use chemicals to turn bamboo stalks into fiber.

Hemp is another alternative to wood for paper and according to some of the articles I’ve read, it is generally made using images chemicals that aren’t as harsh to the environment. Both hemp and bamboo are not grown in high enough quantities in the US, though. That means the raw materials for products made from them would have to be shipped in from other countries, like China. This not only makes them more expensive, but increases their negative impact on the planet.

Sugarcane is grown on this continent and turning it into paper isn’t a new idea. I found this nifty video on making sugarcane paper from back in the 1950’sUnknown-1 It’s about 2 minutes long. (Click the underlined sentence above to watch it.) My favorite part is when the narrator says that sugar is one of our most important foods! But it looks like chemicals are needed during various stages of processing that plant into fiber, too.

TP from post-consumer recycled paper is the safest bet for the environment in terms of use of resources and processing. Plus,   the NRDC has a list of green tissue products.  There are plenty to choose from. But with that, I’m back to the BPA conundrum.  The way I see it, I’m left with two options: I go TP golden birthdayparty essentials-2free, install a bidet and use wash clothes. This option would be by far the greenest. I hadn’t mentioned it because,  I don’t know what I would do with my husband then. Or, I could shrug off my concerns and return to plan A: TP made from recycled content.

How bad is BPA exposure really? 

The answer is, it all seems sort of speculative, with some people raising the roof with concerns and other saying: it’s not so bad.  But one thing is certain: almost all of us have been exposed for generations. I suppose then most folks (with the exception of ME) figure there’s no point in dwelling on it.

According to one of the articles Samuel had sent, 98% of our exposure to BPA comes from contact with #’s 3-7 plastics, anyway. I don’t know if that makes it all okay, but at least then only 2% of our exposure comes from using recycled paper products. And, with the latter, the powdered version of the chemical is not a coating on the surface, like it is when I take my receipt after the cashier at Price Chopper hands it to me.  It seems people who handle receipts frequently should be most concerned. But in terms of recycled paper, the traces of BPA powder are mixed in with the slurry before it’s even turned into TP or other products.

So, what’s my final answer?

My husband and I are going to stay with Marcal for now. But we do plan to try a few of the different brands of toilet paper from the NRDC list. Green Forest is said to be somewhat softer compared to most recycled based TPs. It also received high marks on Greenpeace USA’s list of green TP’s.  Unfortunately, it’s not available in our supermarket. But Marcal is!

With that, my husband will be very happy to hear that next week’s post will be about Clorox wipes.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the NRDC, here’s the link to their website: https://www.nrdc.org

Toilet paper: My new worst nightmare!

imagesI’m not gonna lie. I’m a little freaked out by this whole BPA thing.  I’m about fifteen years late for being freaked out, but now that I’m here, there’s no turning back.  It seems Bisphenol-A has been used as a coating inside things like plastic baby bottles and cans for food and beverages since the 1960’s.  And, since it can leach into our food, that means when I was a baby I likely sucked BPA down with my formula. The first reports about how it might be bad for us came out in the 1990’s.

Guess I hadn’t been paying attention.

I wish I could return to those days when I was oblivious to how BPA, that little old endocrine-disruptor that can throw a person’s hormone-system out of whack, is floating around inside almost all of us. I wish I still had no clue about how it can cause things from reproductive problems to developmental delays to obesity to diabetes and so on and so forth. And, I so wish I hadn’t found out that, not only is theimages synthetic form of estrogen inside cans and plastic food containers, it’s on recycled paper products, like toilet paper, too!

Just a few days ago I felt like I’d won one for the environment after I’d convinced my husband to switch from Charmin to Marcal. It’s better for the planet, I said. It’s made with 100% recycled paper, I said.

Ugh!

The problem is that cash register receipts and other types of thermal paper get thrown in with paper recyclables, contaminating the whole lot with a powdered form of BPA. So now I’m not sure if switching to Marcal is the right move. I can only imagine what my husband will say when I break that to him. It took a lot of finessing on my part to get him to say yes to Marcal, which he did mostly so I’d stop talking about toilet paper. Now, not only am I not sure about switching, but we may have to rethink toilet paper entirely.  My biggest wish at the moment is that someone else give him that update.

dapperweddings.co.uk-3

My husband responded with a long sigh and then this: “Sounds like we’ve always been exposed to BPA. Is it really that big a deal?” He rested his arm on the banister atop the stairs to the loft, looking towards me and my desk and my opened laptop through the eyes of a guy who’d seen it all before.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“And yet you’re freaking out.”

He had a point. In fact, most toilet paper in public restrooms are made from post-consumer recyclables, which means most of us get a dose of it whenever we ‘go’ outside our homes. BPA has been detected in paper currency, too. With that, in addition to the #’s 3-7 plastic food containers that things like DD smoothies come in, there are more ways of being exposed to BPA, or its substitute, Bisphenol-S, (which, as it turns out, is no better,) than there are tweets by Donald Trump.

“Why don’t you just email Marcal and ask if their TP has BPA in it?”

“I did. They never got back to me.” I couldn’t hide my frustration.  “It really bothers me when companies don’t reply to my emails.”

“You’ve said.” From his grimace + head nod he had more sympathy for Marcal right then. “So, what are the alternatives? And before you even go there, we’re not stock piling corncobs!”

I laughed, although his somber expression said that he wasn’t joking. But he’d made me wonder: With all the corn fields around, why wouldn’t there be corn toilet paper. “They have TP made from bamboo, hemp, and sugarcane. It probably wouldn’t be that much of a leap.”

“Why do I even open my mouth?” The question seemed to have been directed at heaven, so I didn’t answer.

Before paper mills made toilet paper, people actually had used things like corncobs, stones, pages from the Sears and Roebuck catalog, and so on. (And we today think recycled-paper TP is rough.) When mills started making paper products for personal hygiene, they continued to use the wood pulp/reclaimed paper combo that they had for making printing paper and stationary. But these days with concerns over BPA and our vastly depleting forests, some companies have started making TP, tissues and such out of other materials. I don’t know whether choosing one raw material over another makes a company any greener. It’s on my list of things to find out. But at the moment I typed corn toilet paper into the search bar on my laptop and hit the return key, I felt the tingle of what might be a brilliant idea run through my finger tips.

My Google search came back with nothing.golden birthdayparty essentials

“Does that mean I’m the first person to think of it–––ever?”

“And you’re surprised?”

“Um…yeah! Aren’t you?”