2010 In Review

The New Year is a time of both reflection and of looking ahead. Many people choose to create plans and resolutions with how to be better in the new year. I wanted to look back at the top things I’ve learned this year. These things will definitely help to drive what I do in 2011. I hope it helps you too.

  1. There are more things made of petroleum than I could ever have dreamed of.
    • The range of products is staggering.
      • All clothes and dish detergents, by definition, are petroleum products.
      • Mascara is made from tar. Most cosmetics are petrochemically based.
      • Paraffin waxes used in candles and and candymaking
      • Many food additives are petrochemicals.
      • All plastics are made from petroleum.
      • Fertilizers, insecticides
      • Most moisturizers and lotions.
    • Many “safe” petroleum products are actually derivatives of known dangerous petroleum products. Bisphenol-A, a petrochemical used in the manufacture of plastics used for food preparation and storage, is a derivative of Benzene, a known carcinogen.
    • It accounts for 14.4% of all petroleum usage in the US (according to the US Department of Energy). That’s about a BILLION barrels a year. Think about that. If we reduce our consumption of these resulting products, we can help with the energy crisis. This number also doesn’t include the petroleum-derived products made in other countries.
  1. Only a small fraction of the 80,000+ chemicals used in industry today have been tested for toxicity in humans. Of those that have actually been tested, next to none have long term testing, only cursory studies that have little to no value. Each year thousands more are added to the mix.
    • The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 allows chemicals to be sold and used unless they are proven to be a risk.
    • It is not required by any law or agency that ANY testing occur. It’s at the discretion of the manufacturer.
    • It is not in the best interest of a manufacturer to do these studies.
    • It is very, very difficult to prove that a chemical causes health issues. A chemical may be on the market and causing issues for decades before it is controlled or banned, if it is even ever controlled or banned. Asbestos, a known carcinogen that causes continued deaths every year, is a good example.
  1. Eating organic/local/fresh/grass fed is actually cheaper than you may think.
    • Organic/grass fed food is definitely more costly, but the more I became interested in reducing additives and chemicals in our food, the less processed food I bought. The more nutritious food I made, the less snacks and processed foods I’d buy. In the end, it was about the same cost to buy less food that was more nutrient-dense than it was to buy the additional processed junk I used to eat because I was hungry all the time.
  1. Making your own home and body products is generally more frugal, and definitely more rewarding, than buying them.
    • Soapmaking from scratch makes lots of soap, more than I think I could use in a year. Depending on the ingredients used it can be expensive, but I think a worthwhile endeavor.
    • I now exclusively make my own cleaners and cleansers with vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. It’s cheap and well worth it.
    • Laundry detergent is easy to make and costs pennies a load. You may have to have your local hardware store order the washing soda for you. If you have hard water, try the liquid variety. It takes me 10 minutes to make up a batch, which lasts a few months.
  1. The level of trust which we give to corporations to “do the right thing” is completely unfounded. Looking at the historical record, again and again it is shown that companies will do whatever it takes to continue making a profit, regardless of how many people they hurt.
    • If you think I am kidding, or overstating, I suggest a read of Doubt Is Their Product or The Hundred Year Lie. The former is by a government insider who has seen firsthand how industry lobbying works to block regulation , it targets several specific industries and their dangerous products. The latter is from a journalist and includes a 100 year documented timeline of adverse events in the chemical and food industries and the laws of the US.

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