On Friday, April 22, in honor of Earth Day, the Ilsley Public Library hosted a Green Cleaning event where attendees could create their own DIY, environmentally-friendly household cleaning products. The sample-sized materials and recipes for laundry detergent, tub scrub and dishwasher detergent were provided to participants, who had the opportunity to come and follow the instructions to make their own products in reusable jars. The main ingredients were basic household items such as baking soda, liquid soap, Borax and optional essential oils to add some scent, making the recipes easy to find and recreate at home.
Renee Urissiti, a programing librarian, curated this event. She said her inspiration came from her perception of the universality of cleaning.
“[I] was thinking about Earth Day and wanting to do something earth-friendly, and it occurred to me that everybody cleans, even people like me who hate to do it. You still have to, so let’s think about how to do it in a better way.”
Cleaning products contain thousands of chemicals that are not tested for safety, and which take a dangerously long time to degrade, polluting streams and rivers, harming aquatic life and entering the food chain. U.S. News identifies Vermont as the greenest state; however, the damage from cleaning products is still often overlooked by residents. The plastic containers used for each product are non-recyclable in some cases, creating additional waste. These are the larger issues that making one’s own products from natural ingredients and using reusable jars can help resolve.
The event drew patrons in for a variety of reasons — some showed up intentionally, while others stumbled upon it during a trip to the library. One participant, Lois Myers, came in with her children, seeking out an Earth Day activity, and the library was their first stop. “I like things that teach us something and are close by and good for the planet,” she said. “I was really curious about more recipes for different cleaners,” she added.
Each patron left the event with a packet of ingredients to keep handy and recipes for a variety of household cleaning products, such as carpet deodorizer, tub scrub, mattress cleaner and more. One patron had recently found out her sister is allergic to ingredients in conventional cleaning products, so the activity included additional benefits.
Urissiti's goal was to show people how easy it can be to DIY their cleaning products. “I thought that if I had people come in and see how easy it is and see how all the products we’re using to make the cleaning agents are all readily available at a grocery store, if they came in and they made it and saw how easy it was to do and to get all the ingredients, maybe they’d go home and keep doing it,” Urissiti said.
Patrons felt that the ability to make the products and know what was going into them also granted a certain autonomy over the materials they are incorporating into their daily lives, and a sense of independence — one of the participants noted feeling like a scientist.
The library will continue its string of earth-related or thematic activities — Renee hopes to hold at least two bigger events a month. For Arbor Day on Friday, May 6, they are launching a program where patrons can participate in a tree scavenger hunt, with a six-inch tree sapling as the prize. Both children and adults are welcome to participate. Part of their mission is clearly to put sustainable and earth-friendly materials and opportunities into the hands of locals to inspire them to make a difference in their daily lives.