Friday, October 17, 2008

Go Green

Living in a country that has such a deep relationship with the sea makes you more aware of how your actions impact on the environment. At least it has for me. I began to recycle and be more aware of what sort of packaging I chose when shopping (paper bags instead of plastic for vegetables, let's say) after seeing summer beaches strewn with plastic bags and bottles. This sort of mess, when you bring it up with your parea, is almost always blamed on our messy mediterranean neighbours.

Oh really! I didn't know Lebanon was so fond of Greek brands of bottled water, or that the Turks had a predisposition to shopping at Champion Μαρινόπουλος. The mind boggles at the dedication it takes to travel all the way to Greece to buy Loutraki bottled water in Champion Μαρινόπουλος bags and go all the way back to your home country to throw the waste in the sea. Tsk tsk, messy mediterranean neighbours! Hmmmm....

Anyway, recently I started thinking about the chemicals in our day to day lives which we have accepted so seamlessly we don't even stop to think about them. For example, earlier this year I gave up chemical deodorants and antiperspirants when a very young colleague got diagnosed with breast cancer. After some experimenting with various high end and low end alternatives, the absolute best solution I found was baking soda. Just dust a little on your armpits after a shower and you'll stay fresh for up to two whole days. That's a tip that I got from someone who left a comment on this blog.

I turned this experiment into an article and while researching, I stumbled into another nasty chemical - paraben. Parabens are chemical preservatives that are used in 99% of all cosmetic products. No joke. Take a random sample of toiletries from your bathroom and I guarantee most if not all contain some form of paraben (usually prefixed by propyl, methyl, ethyl). In a study on breast cancer tumours, most were found to contain parabens.

Nobody can prove or disprove if they're cancer causing, but why take the chance? Not only is this crap getting absorbed into your skin, we wash it down the drain each time we shower, and the little sea creatures shouldn't have to eat paraben flavoured plankton just because we think We're Worth It!

Korres, the Greek cosmetics company, makes a point of not using parabens in their products, as does the Queens and Kings range of shower gels and lotions. I mention these two primarily because I know they are easily found in Greece, otherwise there are lots of brands that have started making chemical free toiletries.

So the new ways of doing things are not always the smartest or the healthiest, even if they are better advertised and more flashily packed. I went to Champion supermarket the other day (Champion, put the cheque in the mail for all this free advertising) to see if they had started stocking the My Planet range of cleaning products, but I found something even better.

I was specifically after washing powder because we were running out and the washing machine along with the kitchen sink is where we find ourselves pouring the most chemicals into the sea and harming our little sea friends.

Amongst all the usual names like Skip and Ariel, and Champion's own green range L'Arbre Vert, I spotted a green and white box with a picture of a baby on the front. This is Arkadi green olive soap flake washing powder, hands down the most natural washing powder you will ever find. It has only four ingredients: Saponified olive oil, fatty acids, water and sea salt. That's all. Not only that, it was EUR 2.65 for a kilo making it the cheapest choice too.

I have tested it out and can say that it works exactly as well as anything else I've tried. The only difference is you sprinkle it over the clothes in the washing machine drum instead of putting it where the powder would usually go, as sitting in the soap drawer it just turns to a green goo. I usually also add a tablespoon of baking soda to the wash because it softens the water and makes for cleaner clothes.

So there really is no excuse. Save some pennies and some sea life! Buy Arkadi washing powder!



Olive Oyl said...

Unless there has been a major policy shift over the last six months, Korres only has a few products which are free from parabens, check those labels carefully. May be a shlep to the organic shops but labels such as Lavera & Weleda are now more widely avaiable in Greece and are completely clean, not just paraben free. There's an amazing pharmacy in the centre of Athens that seems to stock the entire range of Weleda (biodynamic products at ordinary prices). Very handy, if slightly alarming book ; The Chemical Maze Shopping Companion - Bill Statham

deviousdiva said...

Thanks for that advice. I'll give it a go. The price is very attractive too.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bol
I am the one that left you the tip for the soda-deodorant, i am very happy you found it useful.
Now as to soap flakes: I am also a big fan of them, but for doing the dishes. (just mix them with water in a bowl, and soak your sponge in it. Hot water's best, but cold will do). Now that you gave this tip on how to do use them for the washing machine I cant wait to try it. (I have tried the other way you desctibed and clothes did not get clean!)