Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Cost Effective Eco-Consciousness

I’ve been trying to write this post about the dilemma that I, and I’m sure lots of moms on limited budgets, have. The issue is the high cost of organically and/or availability of locally grown produce, and the cost of ‘green’ or ‘natural’ cleaning, beauty and household products vs. mainstream ones. Thrown into this issue as well are the extremely high and un-covered by insurance alternative healthcare options like homeopathy, herbs and supplements, acupuncture/acupressure and other such things are. It seems that the things that are less chemically toxic, better for the environment and that promote overall health instead of merely masking symptoms are usually out of reach when you’re not in that top 10% of the financial bracket.

This post was prompted, in part, by this article over atPeaceful Parenting‘s blog. The point of the article being posted on that blog was absolutely valid – the question, “Are we really saving money on groceries today if we have a bigger health bill tomorrow?” is definitely one to ponder. The issue I have with this lies in the comments section. I was appalled and annoyed at the judgement and condemnation that I saw there. Only one person mentioned the financial straits that some parents are faced with that makes the grocery game (and learning to play it well) something that some families need to do in order to feed their families.

For me, personally, our situation is not that dire but learning to coupon better and keep track of what we have on-hand and what we need to add to that for specific recipes would stretch our grocery budget. In some cases, that would mean not choosing the ‘greener’ option but choosing to buy what I had a coupon for. That’s not to say that I don’t make better nutritional/less processed choices when possible, but I’m inclined to make my dollar go as far as it can, and if playing the grocery game can help with that then I’m willing to do that. The problem is that articles like that one, and the comments that accompany it make me feel like I’m spinning my wheels – instead of getting healthier by eating better, am I un-doing whatever the good stuff has done by picking something ‘less’?

Then the conspiracy theorist in me comes out to play… the part of me that says, “Sure, you can eat better foods, but you can’t avoid the toxins in literally every other aspect of your life. The air we breathe and the soil our local produce is grown in is tainted beyond redemption thanks to the oil and paper/logging industries that keep our local economy afloat.”  And let’s not forget about the insecticides that the county comes out with to keep the mosquito population from carrying us away (and the Off! that I spray my kids down with when they’re going to be outside for a long time – which we have to use because they’re allergic to the soy-based alternatives we’ve tried – and going bug-spray-less means lots of skeeter bites that itch, which means lots of lidocaine being slathered on because they’re allergic to bites, without which leads to infection and scarring – so, a little deet is the lesser of about four evils in that scenario).

It makes me wonder just how much of the organic/green buzz is pure propaganda. Does it make THAT much of a difference what you eat and what you clean your house with when so many other areas of your life are filled with toxins and chemical exposure that you cannot avoid? I just don’t know.

In the process of trying to write this post (this is the 3rd draft…), I kept getting distracted with the thought that a lot of my complaining when it comes to the cost factor sounds like excuses. Even though some of it is valid (like the probability that companies who make many of the greener products have caught on to the fact that people will simply pay more for those products and have no incentive to bring the cost down to a more comparable level), a lot of it comes down to choice. very time I start to say, “It costs too much”, I get conflicted with the fact that we spent $7 at Chick Fil A the other day. Granted, that’s the only time we’ll go to CFA until the week after next, but still… Then there’s the fact that if I worked, finances would be less of an issue (but then, not really, because at least during the summers, I’d only be working to pay for childcare; and the toll that working would take on my family would be prohibitive as well – so me working really isn’t an option).

What I’ve come to realize is that the good thing about being truly eco-conscious is that as long as you’re willing to forgo the flashy, showy, “Look how AWARE and INVOLVED in SAVING THE EARTH I am!!” stuff, keeping your home clean and eating with organic in mind is not all that hard to do. Frugality goes hand-in-hand with eco-consciousness, so thrift shopping and recycling clothing and household goods happily plays into this as well. Things like cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, borax, essential oils and castile soap – and making your own soaps and bath/beauty products. The fun thing about that is that it doubles as a hobby – so that’s more bang for your buck! Instead of buying re-usable shopping bags, make them from old sheets and clothing. Better yet, help the kids make and decorate them! Call it arts and crafts {smile}. Curtains, toys and decorating can also be liberated from old clothes and sheets. Art quilts, re-purposing old tee shirts and sweaters, even fabric scraps can be made into something awesome.

Let’s not forget about gardening and composting and vermicomposting! If you have boys, this is something they’ll dig most enthusiastically (girls, too – I’m not being sexist, lol). Growing your own little garden is (relatively) easy and requires less work than you might think. Now, I’m not talking about growing huge amounts of food or anything, esp. to start with. But you can grow a few tomatoes, onions and other fruits and veg fairly easily to supplement what you buy. We’ve been saving seeds from nearly everything lately – especially cherries! I have visions of a cherry tree-lined driveway in a few years…. We’re just getting started with the whole gardening/composting thing – but I’ll tell you what – going to visit and having your child finish up a banana and ask, “Hey Mom, where’s the compost bin?” at someone else’s house makes you smile.

I will say that some of the things that are most expensive to start with are good quality essential oils and herbs. Herbs, you can actually grow and dry yourself – and you can infuse them with intent as they’re growing, which is a nice touch, esp if you’re going to be using them for healing in your home. Oils – splurge. Buy from a reputable company and you’ll get more out of the product. Even if you just want to dabble, get the good stuff. Inferior quality oils don’t hold their fragrance and you won’t want to use the product you made. Also, if you’re using herbs and essential oils in a medicinal capacity you definitely want the best you can find. Some oils are more expensive than others. Start with more affordable oils and buy one at a time to build your collection. When you’re literally using drops at a time, they tend to last a while.

I guess what was really bugging me was the judgmental attitude from those who either aren’t faced with the same financial considerations, or just didn’t think before they wrote. It bugs me that most of those people probably have more than a couple of eco-consciousness contradictions in their lives – we all do. For some of us, diet is our main focus, for others, it may be household upgrades (like solar power, rain water collection or the like), for others it may be something else. There’s a fine line between taking advantage of modern conveniences and knowing which of those to forgo in favor of meeting whatever ideal is important at the moment. I think that every step we take with mindful intent, we’re improving the health and lives of our families, and that is what is important.




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