Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Own Little House and Weird Chemicals

This Saturday our house will [hopefully] be vacated, and a week later we're hoping to move in. We haven't seen our house in the two years since we bought it. Eug and I agreed that, from afar, there was nothing we could do about the house, so we decided not to stress about it. Surprisingly, at least for me, we actually followed through and didn't stress, partially because we felt like the house was a gift in the first place. We had the occasional scare (Do you have $8000? Because your house needs MAJOR repairs), but for the most part, we've experienced the house as the unexpected blessing it was.

I remember it was the year we were praying for a tiny house, and this is what we got. It's more practical for a family than an actual Tiny House, but we're faced with choices how to make it our home. The kitchen doesn't have any cabinets- just a sink- and the rest of the house is also fairly bare-bones (though, strangely, the lounge has a very nice fireplace).

Stay tuned for when we move in and talk through everything we're getting second-hand. I haven't decided exactly how much detail you want, but either way the reason for talking about it is to say that our stuff doesn't need to be perfect.

Along these lines, one thing we haven't really had to think about before are the chemicals we bring into a home when we paint or bring in new mattresses- we've painted stuff before, but in small doses and we never really felt like we had a choice to do things differently. We've never had a new mattress. So we researched and found that
  1. fire retardants and other stuff may or may not be really bad for us and Noah and 
  2. the only natural latex beds in South Africa are imported and cost about the same as a small car
We weren't really sure what to do. Mattresses are expensive, and we want to vote with our money. It turns out (oh internet) that there are people who make their own foam mattresses. The foam is still made from polyurethane, and we're not exactly thinking fire protection, so it's not that we're finding a totally perfect alternative. But we found a factory that sells foam of whatever density you like, whatever size you like, so that's what we're doing. We are considering covering it with sheeps wool, my favourite textile.

Then we moved on to looking at paints, as it's quite possible our house hasn't been painted in a million kajillion years. Paints are also not the greatest thing on the planet. Who knew?! Well, we did, but last time we painted we couldn't quite deal with it. Anyway, turns out you can make your own paint from milk or hydrated lime, so that's what we're trying. It's not that we'll succeed, but I'll try and let you know either way. It's less about the actual chemicals (there's a million other chemicals we eat in our food, because that's a place we're dealing with just yet.) and more about the possibility that we CAN do something different, it's not that hard, so why not?

2 comments:

Tiff said...

This is a tangentially-related and somewhat interesting article that this post reminded me of. Read it and see what you think?

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/04/11/dear-chemists/

Jo said...

Interesting article- thank you!

I agree that most of the time, we just don't have time to get all the facts, or the facts are in scientific journals, or the facts are unknown.

When it comes to petrol byproducts (particularly plastics) showing up in so many different places, I feel as though it's contributed to a consumer culture that doesn't ask enough questions: is a thicker mattress actually better? What's in the other layers? Oh? Mainly tiny pieces of foam and a ton of glue? But the weight shouldn't all be on the consumer, because we can't be looking for danger around every corner.

One response I have is to give myself a pass on things past, and just try to look at the risk and impact of whatever we're getting next. It makes consuming exhausting, which is probably ok. It's important to look at both short term risk (to oneself or family) as well as longer term impact (to the environment and future generations)

One thing I'm not sure how to articulate is around fear. My take on the unknown (whether in toiletries, mattresses, food or paint) isn't fear based, or based on my perception of personal risk. Certain products just don't seem to be worth it-financially, environmentally, or otherwise- for some kind of collective, which has to include me.