from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 29 July 2016

non-toxic living 1: b of s

And now for something completely different. There is so much I could, and arguably should, write about in these (in any) uncertain times. But this is simple, and it's positive.

If you read these blogs you'll know that my core concern is how we can live more lightly on this beautiful planet: 3rd in line from the sun, and unique in our solar system in its ability to sustain life. (A couple of degrees more, a couple less, and things would be quite different.)

You will know that I'm passionate to the point of being obsessive about it. You should see me shopping: is it local (food miles), is it organic, is it recycled, has it ever been tested on animals, does it have any animal ingredients, does it contain microplastics, any (other) fossil fuels, toxic chemicals, is it unrefined and/or cold-pressed, is it in a degradable/recycled/recyclable container, is it Fair Trade (not relevant if local), is it produced by Big Pharma, is it biodegradable, is it in season? etc etc. And if yes to all that, can I afford it; and if I can't, can the planet afford my not affording it? 

Yes, I'm hard work to live with; I find so too.

But we've done a pretty good job of keeping our household and garden chemical free, almost entirely.

Many of you reading this blog will share my concerns (though you might not be quite as compulsive about it all, perhaps). So I thought from time to time I'd add some simple tips on making it easier for yourself to live lightly (I've done all the obsessive slog, you see).

I want to extol the joys of two very simple and safe household ingredients.

The first is white vinegar. If you have, say, a courtyard that needs weeding, you could first of all consider whether the 'weeds' are edible. Otherwise, try boiling some white (spirit) vinegar, and carefully pouring it on the weeds (it'll kill every other plant, too, hence the care). It's even more potent if you add salt.

Vinegar, of course, is also an effective cleaning product (especially when mixed with the second ingredient, below), and in the form of cider vinegar an excellent healthful aid.

The second product makes me smile; or rather, the occasion of my utter and zealous conversion to it makes me smile.

When I lead my annual courses on Iona, I usually bring myself back something tiny, as a keepsake. Often – in fact mostly – it's a found Iona greenstone. Once it was a dolphin vertebra that one of our group had retrieved from the shoreline (the owner no longer needed it, having long vacated its housing). Once or twice I've bought myself something small and special, perhaps a candle or something hand-made on the island.

One year – and I couldn't believe I was doing this – I brought home a tiny – around 10cms by 12cms – book on Bicarbonate of Soda. Yes.

This is actually a wonder mineral. I'd already been using it for years – when I can be bothered – to make a gentle whitening toothpaste, with powdered sage, a drop of lemon juice (not necessary) and a drop or two of an essential oil.

It's a good alkaliser for acid digestive and urinary problems (most of us in the West have an over-acid diet), including cystitis (a couple of teaspoons in a glass of water).

It's a good oven and hob cleaner, mixed with lemon juice or more usually vinegar (beware there'll be a grand fizz when you mix the two).

It'll take out stains.

But I discovered I was really a B of S (does that make it sound slightly dodgy?) virgin: there is so much more, this little book informs me.

Did you know that, if you are an Ancient Egyptian, you can keep your mummies fresh and unsmelly for longer if you use B of S? 

That it will refresh and restore gloss to your hair, whether or not you're an Ancient Egyptian? That you can use it as a dry shampoo for dogs, and that it will render them less smelly too?

And you can use it on smelly feet, in smelly shoes, as a foot bath and in your bathwater (it's the main ingredient of 'bath bombs')? 

That you can deodorise and clean showers and shower curtains, basins and taps with it? And silver and brass? Plus clean and deodorise fridges, carpets, nappies, drains and loos with it? That it will remove grease?

It's good as a facial cleanser, skin softener and exfoliant.

It'll also repel fleas and ants. 

And if you knew how you could make soap and glass with it.

There. There are other applications and the author of the book knows her stuff. 

It's cheap, it's safe, and it's utterly non-polluting. So, other than laundry liquid or powder and washing-up liquid (and I expect she gives recipes for those too; if not, then Ecover can come to the rescue – I only use these), you could save a fortune and the planet by using this instead of proprietary products.

I can't think of anything else I need in the house that B of S won't do.

See BICARBONATE OF SODA, Margaret Briggs, Abbeydale Books.


  1. Wow. Bought the book. Thanks for the tip :-)

  2. You make the point so well, Roselle 😊 "can I afford it; and if I can't, can the planet afford my not affording it?"

    1. Am delighted, Peter! Perhaps that ought to be my strapline...


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