I once wrote an article called “Losing My Friends While Saving the Earth.” That was after my first environmental book came out (Home Ecology, published in London in 1989, in the US in 1990). I tried to do everything then: my new baby was in cloth diapers, I scrubbed the tub with baking soda. (And this wasn’t because I had time or money to spare. We were dead broke, and I was working two part-time jobs and juggling a baby and a toddler. I was hypercharged, a woman with a mission.)

What I found is that while some green tips are easy, clear, and really do the job, others just plain didn’t work. And as I got to know other authors, I discovered that they weren’t quite as rabid as I about actually testing what they recommended. I starting collecting the weird advice people dished out to an unsuspecting public (“Write small so you’ll use less paper.” “Use lemon juice instead of bleach.”)

As a result, I lightened up (a little). I changed how I approached each task, and focused more on what you might call the “lifecycle” of any given activity. How much damage does my oven cleaning do to the planet? Not much, considering how rarely I do it (every five years or so). In my life, ovens are definitely the small stuff, and I am not going to sweat it. Each of us needs to find a balance that allows for doing good and staying sane, after all.

But I’d love to know whether baking soda (or something else) works for you. Here’s one method to try: Nontoxic oven cleaner.

karen christensen's corona typewriter on t s eliot's desk

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