A Shade of Green

“In our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations” – The Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy

I have always felt like a stinkin’ hypocrite when it comes to living an eco-conscious life. I’ve not been one to form healthy, productive habits. What can I say, I’m ultra lazy. I was born with it. I’ve been known to take long showers, run 8+ loads of laundry in one day, wear leather shoes and eat meat while calling myself a fanatic animal lover, drive a gas-aholic SUV, and toss all my trash into one bin even though we have curbside recycling pickup every single week. I buy new clothes, new furniture, new toys, and new appliances instead of shopping around for good second hand bargains that function just as well. I never change my air filter, and (gasp!) used to keep the AC at 68 degrees when I was pregnant…and postpartum. I know, I’m embarrassed to admit that. It was when we were living at Taliesin West in an apartment we didn’t have to pay rent or utilities on. So, I took advantage of that fact and cranked down that AC. I loved every moment of the frozen blasts in the heat of summer. I sprawled out in my platform bed, pillow between my swelling legs, and wrapped myself in a quilt. Newborn Kaia was swaddled nice and tight. That’s when she actually slept most of the night.

But, seriously, shame on me. I know better. I carried my guilt around with me for years, telling myself “Oh, someday soon I’ll get it together. I’ll become vegetarian, honor my body with exercise and yoga, recycle, compost, never buy diamonds, buy earth-friendly products, shop organic, conserve water…” Someday became next year, then next year, until finally I decided someday had to be now. I didn’t want to chase it any longer.

And so, the baby steps began. I’ve been vegetarian for two months and I can’t imagine ever going back to eating meat. It’s a big victory for me, considering it was one of my biggest goals. And, lemme tell you, I need big victories every now and then or my passion fade away. Some days I’m a bad vegetarian. I eat pizza, and PB&J’s, cookies, and nachos. Other days I impress myself with healthy salads, pasta, and fruits, and veggies. Mostly, I’m middle of the road, always trying to think about healthy choices that will fuel my body and spirit. And always satisfying my insane sweet “teeth”.

Going veggie was an important first step in spurring that innermost core of me that wanted to be kind and gentle to our only home, Mother Earth. I felt if I could focus on my body, that which is directly mine, that which moves me to love, laugh, cry, feel life, birth my baby (and hopefully many more)…then I could muster the energy and conviction to move on to other environmental issues. Vegetarianism has been a cleansing of sorts…emotional, physical, and spiritual. It’s been my way to forgive myself for participating in an unconsciousable, irresponsible industry when I knew all along it wasn’t right for me. It feels good. It’s made me more aware of my body and the impacts something as mundane, or extraordinary, as eating have on our planet. Plus, I needed to just be healthier. Last year, after watching the documentary Supersize Me, I knew I’d be making a change soon. I wouldn’t even say my eyes were opened because I knew this stuff deep down. It’s that my eyes came back into focus. Then, I recently watched “An Inconvenient Truth” and knew it was my duty to straighten up. Even just a bit.

So, again, it’s time for more small changes, which are part of a plan I’ve devised that I loosely call the “3 month plan”. It just means I’m going to focus on making changes, forming healthy habits, three months at a time. More on that in another blog. Jason and I have committed to being more aware of our economic impact on this planet. We will try to buy second hand. We will try to buy wooden, Earth-friendly toys for our daughter. My brother and his girlfriend Robin are experts at this. Their furniture, art, and gifts are beatiful pieces they’ve aquired mostly at auctions and are funky, unique, and fabulous. Plus, each of these well-loved items has stories to tell. It’s up to us to listen.



We are keeping our ears open. A few months back, Jason began carpooling to work on most days. Our new home will be built with green, sustainable products. The landscaping will be dotted with native desert, water conserving plants. Jason’s love for bio-diesel vehicles has gotten me wanting to buy an old VW and run it on vegetable oil. While that may never happen, it’s good to yearn. A year and a half ago, we ditched our SUV in favor of a fuel-efficient Mazda. I now keep the air at a semi-reasonable temperature but I’m still working on it…

Today, I snuggled in for a nap and couldn’t sleep. If you know me, you know not being able to sleep is a big, fat anomoly for me. My mind was racing with thoughts of how I could make a difference, how I should be making a difference. I “arghed” and got out of bed to head to the store. I ended up experimenting with line drying my clothes. It’s absolutely crazy that I haven’t done this sooner, considering we live in a veritable oven 6 months out of the year. We shop organic when we can and prefer patronizing farmer’s markets such as Sprouts and Trader Joes. And then, this afternoon, I’m excited to say I made my own green, all natural household cleaners and laundry detergent! Like a big dork, I really feel proud of myself. I was beaming like I was Suzie homemaker. But seriously, it just feels good to know I’m not using toxic products in my home. I’m pleased with the results and hope I can sustain the small amount of discipline it takes in devoting an hour or so to creating these products. The laundry detergent works great and it was fun to make. And it will last me for ages, even if I happen to have another 8-load laundry streak! I also managed to whip up some toilet bowl cleaner, window cleaner (super yummy with peppermint and lemon), carpet stain remover, and all-purpose kitchen/bath clearer. I’ll post the recipes below.

So, that leaves me with a long wish list of eco-friendly habits I plan on forming over the next few months. I have a long way to go. Here they are, in writing, so that I can’t back down like a big, whiny wimp. (Go here for more simple energy saving tips that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming).
To Do’s. Now!
– Recycle. Like, for reals.

– Buy more earth friendly products that I can’t make myself (i.e. biodegradable garbage bags, makeup, personal products, etc)

– Use tote bags at the supermarket instead of plastic grocery bags.

– Remember to turn of lights when not in use (Yes, I know honey!

– Start yoga
Here’s my “really wanna but hate to say I probably won’t for a long while” list:

– Use cloth diapers

– Buy a bio-diesel or hybrid vehicle

– Compost (although I do plan on this when our new house is complete)

– Shop fair-trade

– Plant a garden (again, at our new house)

– Use solar power and recycle waste water


But hey, who knows, I just might reach all of these goals. This past week, I read a 10 year old diary entry that stated “Some of My Dreams Are…” My answers have all come true: to marry Jason, have kids, visit Italy, and try snowboarding. Cool.


Recipes and Resources
Go to these websites for some more great recipes for making your own, natural household products. Inexpensive and gentle on the environment and your family.




Laundry Detergent


1 Bar Fels Naptha Soap, Grated

5 Gallon Bucket

1 Cup Washing Soda

4 1/2 Gallons Water

Place grated soap in a small saucepan and cover with water. Heat on low until dissolved. Fill bucket with hot water, and add soap. Stir to combine. Add 1 cup washing soda and mix well. As it cools it will thicken. May be used immediately. Use 1-2 cups per load. This makes 4 gallons of detergent!


Lemon-Mint Window Wash

The lemon juice and peppermint oil in this window wash formula discourages flies and other insects from perching on your windows. It works beautifully, leaving a streak-free clean that you’ll really appreciate.

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cups club soda

½ tsp. peppermint oil

1 tsp. corn starch

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl, using a spoon to blend them well. Then, pour into a plastic spray bottle. Shake well before using.

All-purpose cleaner/disinfectant

It’s as easy as adding about 20 drops of tea tree oil (a natural antiseptic) to a spray bottle of water. Smells great too (unless you don’t like the smell of tea tree oil)


Laundry Stain/Carpet Stain Remover

Another easy one with just equal parts vinegar and water
Mix and use to remove tough stains including grass, perspiration, rust, jam, coffee, orange juice, wine, beer, ketchup, barbeque sauce, chili, urine and pet stains.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

I mixed ¼ cup of Borax into a spray bottle full of water. However, I found that the Borax must get clogged in the sprayer. So, putting just ¼ cup of Borax in your toilet bowl and letting it sit for ½ hour before cleaning does the trick!


5 Comments Add yours

  1. marybeth says:

    vinegar is the best!!! i don’t ise anything anymore but lemon juice and vinegar and a touch of tea trtee and lavander. it makes everything squeaky cleans and smells sooo fresh.

    goog for you leigh! i am proud to know you and get to witness your path. be the change we want to see in the world, my good friend gandhi once said.

    love you

  2. amygeekgrl says:

    good for you, your family and the earth!! sounds like you’ve made a LOT of baby steps over the past few years.
    i’ve made some of my own cleaning products myself (have yet to try the laundry soap though a friend gave me that same recipe recently) and i know what you mean about feeling so proud about it. it does make you feel good to know your cleaners are non-toxic and you don’t have to have all the windows in the house open to clean the bathroom, lest you be overcome by the fumes. 😉
    keep up the good work. 🙂 and thx for the recipes.

  3. amygeekgrl says:

    p.s. cloth diapering is really not a big deal once you start doing it. it is somewhat costly to get started, but they more than pay for themselves over the years, esp. if you have more than one kid. and then you can often sell the nicer ones (like fuzzibunz) on ebay when you are done. 🙂 let me know if you ever have any ?s abt it. 🙂

  4. Kate says:

    First, congrats on living your convictions rather than just having them. It’s inspiring.. I wish I could do more of the same.

    Questions, though: do you find it takes more work – more cooking, more ingredient-shopping, more inventiveness – to be vegetarian? Are you drowning in cheese? Are you floating ten feet above the surface with your own bean-itude? Are you starting to get bored with fewer options? Or, do you feel so much better that all of the above is worth it? I’m often struck with wanting to try it, but I’m not sure how it would really work. Please share! And kudos and good luck.

  5. leighsteele says:

    Amy – thanks for the encouragement! I appreciate it.
    Kate – to answer your question about going veggie: yes and no. I’m probably not the best example because I ate very little meat anyways prior, so going veggie has been really a very slight transition. In terms of inventiveness or more cooking: not really. I think of it as this: I can eat anything (almost) that someone who eats meat does, I just eliminate an ingredient or two. Example: Pasta, lasagna w/out meat, margarita or veggie pizza, veggie sandwich, tons of soups, mexican food (beans instead of meat). Know what I mean? I have a few really awesome veggie cookbooks and I’m amazed how how yummy the recipes are. And easy! When you don’t have to waste time cooking meat, sometimes cooking becomes much easier. And if you feel like you want to try it, just go for it. I encourage you, even if it lasts two days. Good luck. Thank you so much for the support.

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