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Annie Berthold-Bond

Annie Berthold-Bond
For nearly twenty years--in books, articles, and as an editor--Annie Berthold Bond has been researching and writing about the connections between the environment, personal health and well-being, and has become a leading authority. She is the author of three books: Better Basics For The Home, Clean and Green, and The Green Kitchen Handbook (with Mothers & Others; foreword by Meryl Streep), and wrote the chapter on cleaning in The Healthy School Handbook. She was founder and editor-in-chief of Green Alternatives for Health and the Environment, the national consumer magazine designed to provide a community to the emerging environmental health field, and the founding editor of The Green Guide (a publication of Mothers & Others), an Utne Reader Alternative Press award recipient for general excellence in newsletters. She is currently associate editor of News on Earth newsletter. Annie is also the author of dozens of articles, the editor and designer of her own website betterbasics.com, and she authors a popular column, " Ask Annie," most notably found on the wholefoods.com, ecomall.com, and greenmarketplace.com websites. Dubbed "The Green Heloise" by Library Journal, Annie has been featured in many magazines and newspapers (including the New York Times and Martha Stewart Living), and is a frequent guest on radio and television. Her greatest passion, outside of her family, is packaging information for the consumer on how to practice conscious harmlessness.

on a more personal note...

Annie’’s northern New England roots of independence of spirit, thrift, care for the environment, self-reliance, and Yankee ingenuity have all contributed to her longstanding fascination with folk remedies and formulas that are based on natural materials rather than chemicals. This interest was heightened when her own health was compromised and she developed chemical sensitivity. Turning her kitchen into an informal lab, and filling her bookshelves with nineteenth century formula books, she has spent years learning about herbs and testing and researching natural solutions for everyday problems such as carpenter ants, lip balm, and cleaning the bathtub. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and daughter.

Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living
Annie Berthold-Bond

The Commonsense Rule of Thumb

It is a great relief to establish a healthy home. Two-thirds of us cite healthy air and water as an extremely important local priority, second only to safety from crime, according to Roper Starch Worldwide. National Wildlife Federation research has noted that up to 80 percent of us are concerned about how pesticides and indoor air pollution affect our health. Other polls show that a natural lifestyle is one that women, mothers in particular, overwhelmingly want because it protects the health of their families.

Yet polls ever since Earth Day 1990 consistently show a significant gap between wanting a more healthful environment and knowing how to create it. We are realizing that the government doesn't fully protect us from toxic products, leaving an uneasy and pervasive feeling that we have to take charge of safeguarding our families' health. The stumbling blocks seem insurmountable.

Having lived in a healthy home for more than a decade, I've learned that after some initial adjustment, the way to establish such a home is quite simple. The most important guideline for choosing safe materials is to follow this basic rule of thumb: Use only materials that have been around so long, and been used by people without harm for so long, that they are "generally regarded as safe" (GRAS for short), otherwise they would have long since been abandoned. Using only GRAS substances will take us back to the time before plastics and forward to new technology using old and safe materials. It will introduce us to plants and healing herbs; minerals such as baking soda, borax, and washing soda; and products from animals and insects such as milk, honey, shellac, and royal jelly. We may not have realized that these natural materials could clean, disinfect, moisturize, or make paint. This discovery will open up a new way of looking at our world.

Our alternative is to get a combined degree in toxicology and environmental studies in order to do a simple risk analysis of bathtub cleansers that won't cause harm, or to go shopping armed with research files. That's a stretch for even the most well intentioned among us.

Help also comes from something we all already have, even if we need to clear out cobwebs to find it, and that is our common sense. If the choice for polishing furniture is between polish in a can that reads "fatal if swallowed" or using a simple but effective recipe of lemon juice and raw linseed oil, common sense and the GRAS rule guide us to the lemon and raw linseed oil.

Mixing up face creams or wood stain isn't much different than cleaning the windows with vinegar, soap, and water instead of using Brand Name X, or making a cake with flour, eggs, and milk instead of buying a mix. And it seems amazing, although true, that we can make paint ourselves using milk and lime. With a few simple staples we can clean our houses, wash our hair, rid the dog's bed of fleas, and do many other things too.

Looking for cause and effect is another way of choosing safe products. Sometimes I wonder if we've allowed consumer products to deplete the earth's resources or to be so toxic because the products don't look like the raw materials used to make them. We don't see the connections. A can of pretty robin's-egg blue paint in a hardware store isn't visibly connected to its ingredients of fungicides and petroleum or to the smokestacks of the factory where it was made. Seeing the loss and damage that occurs in its creation might incline us to purchase a more ecological brand or to buy a little less. Or having access to the old-timers' recipe for milk paint might inspire us to try it out ourselves.

To Read a Bit About the Book

Clean & Green: The Complete Guide to Non-Toxic & Environmentally Safe Housekeeping
Annie Berthold-Bond
Clean & Green is filled with new and traditional ideas for living free of hazardous household products:
  • Create a "fantastic" cleaner and a "soft scrubber"
  • Clean produce effectively
  • Eliminate mold without disinfectants
  • Discover the cleaning power of lemon, rhubarb and other plants
  • Use little-known cleaning agents like pumice and zeolite
  • Make your own car wax, rust inhibitor and engine degreaser
  • Rediscover gentle disinfectants like pine oil and borax
  • Create a healthier environment with air-filtering houseplants
  • Preserve bulk cleaning formulas naturally
  • Wash floors with a flea-fighting soap
  • Personalize homemade cleaners with your favorite natural fragrance
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