On Tuesday morning I had the pleasure of speaking with Alexandra Zissu, co-author of Planet Home: Conscious Choices for Cleaning and Greening the World You Care About most, to discuss the importance of taking care of ourselves and our beautiful planet by making the conscious choice to live green. She is the author of The Conscious Kitchen and coauthor of The Complete Organic Pregnancy and contributes the “Ask an Organic Mom” column to TheDailyGreen.com. Her stories on environmental topics and food have appeared in the New York Times, The Green Guide, Plenty, Cookie, T: The New York Times Style Magazine,New York magazine, Details, Bon Appétit, Teen Vogue, Self, and Health, among other publications. She is also a public speaker and “greenproofer,” an eco-lifestyle consultant.
Candace Rose: You co-authored Planet Home: Conscious Choices for Cleaning and Greening the World You Care About Most, why is it so important for us to make conscious choices for greening and cleaning the world we care about – our home?
Alexandra Zissu: "It's really important to make conscious decisions because we're all part of a shared "planet home" and so what I do at home affects you and what you do at home affects me and both of what we do affects the world that we share. If you make good solid decisions when you're shopping for products or you're just even cleaning your bathroom, you really can have great environmental impact."
CR: This past weekend my grandmother had a reaction to something and it was affecting her skin. I went about looking for green products and everything I found on the shelf was very expensive. Is it possible for the average person on a budget to live green?
AZ: "I think it is possible and I have two things to say about the expense of green products in a cleaning product. 1) A lot of the time with a green product all you need to do is buy one thing and it's multipurpose, so you wouldn't have to buy a bathroom cleaner and a kitchen cleaner and something you would use in your garage or your basement. Just buy one thing and then use it all over the place. Another thing is you can use much less of it. You don't really need to be oversterilizing any room and another thing that we talk about in Planet Home is we provide "recipes" for make your own products at home out of really inexpensive, simple, everyday household things like vinegar and water for glass or your mirror and also baking soda with a little bit of natural dish soap will make a scrub for your sink and your tub. These are just really simple, easy formulas that we talk about in Planet Home."
CR: What is the dirtiest thing in our home?
AZ: "Often people think I'm going to say the cat litter or the kitchen sink but I actually think it's your own two hands. I think we've gotten into a situation where people are very worried about germs so they oversterilize their home when really unless somebody's been sick in the home, the home is just not really a dirty place. So really you just need to be careful to wash your own two hands with regular old soap and water. You don't need a fancy product that contains an antibacterial agent like triclosan, which you can read on the antibacterial ingredient list on any of those hand pump soaps so you would know what's in it."
CR: What cleaning tips do you have for the two dirtiest rooms in the home, the kitchen and the bathroom?
AZ: "Well people do perceive the kitchen and the bathroom to be the dirtiest places and certainly they are very high use rooms, so in them I really like to suggest that people use natural products to clean them, and again, you don't need to oversterilize or oversanitize. You certainly want to clean the places where your hands are touching, remember that your hands are the dirtiest things in any home so the fucets, the oven pull, the cabinet handles, just wipe those down and be careful. You can do this using any green product containing hydrogen peroxide or again you can just buy hydrogen peroxide (the 3%) in drugstores and dilute it. We explain how to do that in Planet Home. And if there hasn't been somebody who is sick in the house or your doing something like cutting a chicken in the kitchen and you'd like to use something a little stronger – a lot of the green cleaners, you can look for some with an ingredient called "thyme all". It's an antibacterial and it's made from the herb thyme, which is clearly very natural and I think it's a great way to disinfect."
3% Hydrogen Peroxide – Amazon.com
CR: There's been a lot in the news lately about plastics not being safe. What are some guidelines we should follow so we are sure to use safe plastic?
AZ: "I think the environmental health community has done a great job of getting the word out through the media about how certain plastics contain hormone disruptors and others are just unsafe in terms of how they are manufactured and problems around the manufacturing plants, so we're all on high alert about which plastic is safe and which one is not safe. The number one thing you can do is to make sure that you are using a safe plastic is to not use it at all. You can use glass to store your food in. You can use stainless steel or lead free ceramic. These are great ways to make sure and then you won't have to worry about what plastic it is. If you are using plastic, you want to use number two, number four or number five. You will find that number in the little arrow on the bottom of the container and these are the ones that are considered most safe by the scientific community right now. Please don't ever put plastic in the microwave even if it says microwave safe, that's a designation for how hot it can be, not that it won't reach its chemical components into your food and I say that even with 2, 4 and 5.
Stainless Steel Bowls – Sur La Table
CR: It's important to recycle and most of the time we only think of bottles and cans, what about recycling electronics?
AZ: "I don't know about you but we got a couple things over the holiday season that were new electronics which is something I tend not to buy for myself, and I was very grateful for the present but I'm also very careful because I know that sometimes electronics contain things like led or toxic chemicals. If you toss them in the garbage, they'll wind up in a landfill where those chemicals will leach out and get into our ground water and eventually back into our bodies, so I'm very careful to try and find someone who does eCycling, which they really know how to take care and we list places in Planet Home (for eCyclers.) But before I would even send something to be eCycled I would call up a friend or even my daughter's preschool and say you have any use for this old iPod, do you have any use for this old computer that I'm not using anymore, because a lot of the time something that we're getting rid of in the electronics arena is something that somebody else can still use."
CR: Where can readers go for more information and to get Planet Home?
AZ: "There's a website and it's called Planethomebook.com"
Many thanks to Alexandra for taking time out of her busy schedule to share tips with us from Planet Home. I'm definitely guilty of microwaving plastic but have now made the conscious choice to never make this life threatening mistake again! How about you?