09 November, 2008

Clear As Mud Cleansing

So the greenest of green ways to wash is brown, clay brown.  Why am I not impressed?  Why does this sound like the hygienic equivalent of anorexic veganism?  And why, particularly, does it strike me as not all that green, either?

We're human, and for millenia we didn't bathe.  We also died of a lot of hygiene-related illnesses, of course. Personal hygiene was one of the things that we discovered would reduce our mortality rates, and is thus a Good Thing.  But the fact that you need to keep in mind is that we should wash to keep clean, not to fulfill some kind of personalised ideal of - well, I actually have no idea what would drive this kind of behaviour.

For a start, it's "pick-axed out of the earth" in someplace in Morocco.  Sorry, but generally when I hear pick-axes and far-away places, it's generally a sign of exploitation.  It also tells me that it's a finite resource, and once it's gone, it's gone.  And you're taking it from one country to another.  Haven't we learned a lesson here yet?  Taking a finite resource from one place and spreading it around a lot of other places - something like uranium and fossil fuels, isn't it?

Let me break that down to tonnages - a person will use about 1.5Kg of this clay per year.  That's one and a half tonnes for every 1,000 people who use clay.  There are almost 400,000,000 people in the USA, 22,000,000 in Australia.  How many years before that clay is silting up water tables and sewage systems all over the world, and is all gone from Morocco?  See, it's an elitist, one-time thing, this.  Pure wank factor.  You could surely find clay closer to home, if you wanted to be environmentally friendly?

Never mind.  At least you've got your golden clay now, and can mix it up, a week's supply at a time, for use on your body.  Where, I might add, it will NOT do any great job of killing germs, and not even so good a job of cleaning.  Little word in your ear, Rassoul Clay Hawkers:  Clay is what I use soap for, to wash it from my skin after a hard day pick-axing it out of the ground in a secret location in Morocco...

It doesn't stop there though.  This is the personal hygiene gift that keeps on giving!  Because, it contains silicates.  Every soil on Earth does.  And 90% of bathrooms now have plastic bathtubs and shower recess floors.  And plastic gets scratched by silicates, after which it holds a thin film of clay, and grows nasty bugs.  Even enameled tubs and tile floors get scratched up and porous.  So you'll want to be pouring some disinfectant in there regularly.  Or vinegar.  Either way, something that had to be manufactured in greater quantity so you could make up for a shortcoming of clay as a cleanser.

Having messed up your surfaces, it also messes up your skin, because as the Treehugger reporter said, you end up with brown towels.  How do you think that brown got to the towels, ectoplasmic transfer?  Or maybe on your (not so clean) skin?  So you're still dirty, your bathtub or shower floor is dirty, and your towels are dirty.  Thank God that an extra half a cup of laundry detergent and an extra long wash cycle will get most of the clay out of your towels before it fatigues the threads and the towel wears out twice, three times as fast...

See - this is one of those "green" things that's just crap.  Soap - real soap - is made from a fat and a caustic substance.  Both break down in the environment just fine.  Where it gets messy is when you use detergents and surfactants and foaming agents...  I can find, with very little trouble, soaps made from olive oil and some alkali, and if hard water is a problem and they won't foam properly, I have lemons.  (The juice softens the water on my skin and that in turn allows the soap to foam better.)

Also, I have any quantity of glycerine left over from biodiesel, if I'm making it myself, or I can generally get it from a neighbour who's into biodiesel.  That too makes a reasonable liquid soap that also breaks down nicely in the environment.  And both can be made with local and renewable ingredients instead of raping Moroccan deserts.

Sometimes, just using a bit of commonsense will save you a lot.  And maybe save you from smearing yourself with mud just to feel greenwashed.

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