Green Cleaning Machine

The ongoing eco follies of Lizz Winstead. My carbon footprint went from a size nine to a size five.

By Lizz Winstead

Illustration by Michael Byers

Over the past decade, I’ve been slowly (read: lazily) transitioning to a greener lifestyle. I am a fascist about recycling, I always try to buy locally-grown-and-raised foods, and when I smoke outside, I don’t toss my butts on the street. But before firing off a letter to the editor for giving a half-assed environmental slacktivist and smoker an inch of space in this magazine, hear me out.

One afternoon about a month ago, after looking at the array of orange, purple, and blue liquid chemicals I was using to clean my house, I finally said to myself, “Clear out that rainbow of environmental catastrophes that live under your sink. You know better.”

I fired up my computer (it runs on clean coal), and began scouring environmental websites, gleefully ordering the green counterparts to everything I had lined up before me. First it was cleansers, laundry soap, and even organic tampons. I drew the line at the menstrual cup. Seriously, even female polar bears would say, “Fuck the sea ice—I am not using one of those things.”

But then it was fluorescent light bulbs, solar chargers, and all the requisite green bags—shopping, produce, garbage, and dog-poop (deal with it, Edie and Buddie). I was committed to ridding myself of all the impertinent crap in my life. Whether it was a product that was toxic, or just something that was wasteful excess, I kicked it to the curb. Faster than a Republican chipping away at the Constitution, I scoured cupboards and drawers and gathered up everything that I knew was anathema to caring about the planet. I lined up all of it and surfed for the alternatives. My carbon footprint went from a size nine to a size five with just a few clicks. I even bought carbon offsets to compensate for the shipping.

Over the next month, my new greenery trickled in. When I replaced my light bulbs and washed my clothes with biodegradable detergent, it felt good. I was finally on my way to being a proud steward of the earth.

Then I got my credit card bill in the mail. Yes, I still get the paper bill—I’ll wait while you gasp in horror. Are you done? Not yet? How about now?

As I looked over my bill, I was overwhelmed by how much stuff I actually bought to reduce my dependence on, well, stuff. It seems that in one day of rapturous reducing mania, I had spent more than $500 in just twenty minutes on my new responsibility starter kit. And here’s the kicker: Now I have twice as much stuff.

Only after buying new stuff did I discover how hard it is to get rid of the old stuff. When I Googled, “How do I responsibly get rid of old cleaning supplies?” the first entry I found was about getting rid of cat urine. (White vinegar, if you’re wondering.) The other 1,060,000 entries gave me ways to get rid of everything but old cleaning supplies. Books, toys, tools, vinyl siding—it’s covered. For me,  it was maddening.

Each day as I go through my new clean routine, I still have to look at the plethora of old plastic bags and creepy colored liquids the new found greeniac in me so desperately wants to lose. It’s turning me into an environ-mental patient. Staring at that disgusting bottle of Formula 409 is like staring at a box of your ex’s junk that was never picked up—it just reminds you of all the bad choices you made in the past.

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Wrong wrong wrong! This couldn't be more misguided, and from the co-creator of the daily show. One expects more insight with such a title.

The last thing the world needs is everyone throwing away or recycling (which still uses energy and resources and produces pollutants) their current collection of toxic stuff and CONSUMING another pile of less toxic stuff. The new stuff may be 'green', or may just have a new 21st century green marketing campaign label on it. Don't throw it out, use it up! Wear it out. Make it do, or do without. Consume less. Less soap, less hot water, less plastic wrap, paper towels, etc. Use smaller pieces, and make it last longer (conserve). Be more efficient and careful with what you have. You have PLENTY enough already to last you a long time. Then, in several years, when you do finally run out that toxic product, then you can go purchase a more responsible alternative.

You've been using the same toxic junk for your whole life - using up the box won't kill you, but suggesting that all of us should abandon our half empty boxes of whatever and go consume more stuff is deranged. For a more comprehensive explanation, see:

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