Photo: Can small steps add up to big change?

Green makeover winner, Melanie, shows off her homemade laundry soap made with my Queen of Green recipes. Credit: Paula Colvin

A local reporter recently showed up to interview the Smiths, the Alberta family fresh off their "green" makeover by yours truly. They'd thrust aside many of their gas guzzling ways, admitted they'd sacrificed nothing, yet gained so much.

The reporter's first question: "Where are your solar panels?" Then he leaned into the garage looking for signs of a shiny Prius.

Unfazed, with nary a solar panel nor hybrid car in sight, Melanie Smith — mother of four — proudly whipped out her homemade liquid laundry soap. Her once full bottles of store-bought detergent now brim with a less toxic, fragrance-free, cheap and equally effective concoction. And her energy-efficient, washing machine has never been happier — especially in cold water.

The Smiths won me over with a plea Melanie wrote to Canadian Living magazine last fall. "Greening the Smiths" isn't just a catchy title. They're for real.

Unfamiliar with the Queen of Green, they weren't sure if I might tell them to sell a vehicle or remortgage their home to install solar panels.

After all, I'm an "environmentalist" right? A word that conjures up images of sandal-wearing off-the-gridders who've sworn off T.V's and cars, and who can't walk past a tree without hugging it.

Today, "going green" has a new set of stereotypes. To be green you must have green — money. Can't convert your home to solar power or grey water recycling? Then why bother!

In the face of something as serious as climate change, can small steps like making laundry soap really make a difference?

Maybe individual action is a way to deal with procrastination. Not your own delays on that year-long bathroom renovation. But the frustrating inactivity on important issues displayed by government and policy makers.

It took the Canadian government two years to ban toxic BPA from baby bottles — a landmark decision. Moms like Melanie Smith had a choice: wait for government action (her youngest is now walking and talking) or take a small step to go toxics-free at home.

Since starting my journey as the Queen of Green, I've "greened" my wedding, Christmas, and a vacation or two, and whipped up over 50 batches of liquid laundry soap. Maybe you have, too.

Do small steps detract from the big picture, which can be overwhelming and depressing? Or does going "green" one laundry load at a time give us the perspective we need and a sense of the responsibility to act?

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

May 23, 2011

Read more

Post a comment


Jun 07, 2011
4:57 PM

From my perspective, doing one small step at a time is definitely the way to go. Every time I learn something new in my research it makes me feel that much more empowered about what I’m doing.

My family is going “green” one product at a time. This gives me time to research the alternatives and figure out what works best for us. So far we’ve converted our hand soap, shampoo, styling product, soap, and lip balm. We’re buying some products and going home made for others. We’re soon moving on to deoderant, hair conditioner and cosmetics!

We just purged our cleaning products and are busy filling containers and spray bottles with all natural alternatives!

Baby steps really add up to a lot!

Jun 03, 2011
9:13 AM

‎’…climate change, if we are successful in fighting it, will be killed by a thousand cuts…’ (Raj Patel ‘The Value of Nothing’) I enjoy our small vegetable garden, and can count 4 families this year alone who have started gardens as a direct result of hearing about ours. Ditto re freezing/canning/locavorian and other habits. How many people will be inspired by those 4 families, and their children, over time? Frustrating to feel that one’s green efforts are just a drop in a very big bucket—but over time, hopefully it all has a ripple effect.

Jun 01, 2011
12:30 PM

This is a great article and really supports what I believe in- every change, no matter how small, can make a difference! We are the ones responsible for saving this planet. Start now by doing whatever you, no matter how small, to live more sustainably and go green!

I found this site and it has helped me have a positive impact on the environment by giving me tips and advice on how I can go green…

Jun 01, 2011
11:38 AM

Gin, If you have a suspect laundry soap, you could finish it off, then make the switch. Most provinces don’t take it back as household hazardous waste, so that narrows your options. And you don’t really want to give it away…

Congrats on making the switch in advance!

Lindsay Coulter

May 30, 2011
9:22 PM

What do I do with the detergents that I have already bought?

May 26, 2011
9:52 AM

Heidi, Of course I’d love to share the recipe. I linked to it in the blog. Click on “homemade liquid laundry soap”. I also have 3 different versions of laundry soap recipes on my David Suzuki’s Queen of Green Facebook page. Join me there too!

May 24, 2011
4:32 PM

So curious… What is the recipe for this homemade laundry detergent? Are you willing to share?

May 24, 2011
11:59 AM

This is a great post, and very true. My husband and I always have this discussion at home, I am of the belief that every small thing we do is important, even if the impact doesn’t show in the “great big world” it teaches our kids by example, and if everyone is doing this then our kids will grow up knowing better then us and hopefully not making the same wasteful mistakes. and isn’t that the point? To give our kids a clean healthy future?

May 24, 2011
10:09 AM

Small steps add up! We have started to make our own cleaning products, grow our own veggie garden, drastically cut back on meat consumption, actively reduce our single use plastic…….When you add up all of our little changes it equals a big one! Times this by the many other families who are doing their part and you get the beginning of a revolution!

May 24, 2011
9:25 AM

I believe any step is good. My husband and I have been slowly weening ourselves off of chemicals, OK, maybe just me, the crazy hippie wife…lol. We attack one product at a time, first, laundry detergent, second, all-purpose cleaner, and so on. We wash clothes with cold water. You don’t need to spend lots of money to go green, I actually have been saving money. I believe if more people realize how easy it is to go green/chemical free, those of us that are going towards a greener living would not be considered tree-hugging hippies. Maybe some education needs to be in place to show people it isn’t always about the hybrid car, walk more places instead or not about the solar panels, making sure the lights are off when leaving a room, these small things do make a difference and not just with the environment, with your cheque book also:)

The David Suzuki Foundation does not necessarily endorse the comments or views posted within this forum. All contributors acknowledge DSF's right to remove product/service endorsements and refuse publication of comments deemed to be offensive or that contravene our operating principles as a charitable organization. Please note that all comments are pre-moderated. Privacy Policy »