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Seeds of stewardship: A call to chemical-free caretaking

Complacency can feel comfortable. It is often believed that one person or one home cannot truly make a difference, but as we celebrate Earth Day this month, let’s look at what God requires of us. I’d like to share how he has taken me on a journey to heighten my awareness of what it means to be a “caretaker” and how he has provided a mission field for our family.

In 2000 my dad, Jack Reitsma, was diagnosed with cancer and passed away six weeks later. His sudden passing was a shock. I had been raised on our family farm in Smithers, B.C., where we had grown our own vegetables, raised our own meat and eggs, drank fresh milk and sourced our water directly from a local glacier. Our lifestyle epitomized “clean living.” That said, the farm was also place where we were in contact with a plethora of chemicals – including gasoline for washing our hands! Subconsciously I affiliated many of the chemical scents found indoors with cleanliness and, truthfully, I liked it. When I married and moved out, I stocked my own home with an arsenal of wipes, sprays, aerosols and fabric softener as I had been accustomed to using. Though I was aware of the toxic symbols on the containers, I was naive to their greater effect on my health and our environment.

Clean living revisited
Years later I was given an environmentally friendly cleaning cloth by my sister that she said worked amazingly well. I proceeded to use it with Windex, thinking the cloth was meant to reduce our paper towel consumption. I didn’t realize the cloth was made to be used with only water, so my results were disappointing and the cloth was abandoned. A few years after that I watched my other sister remove her waterproof mascara using only a cloth and water. Immediately I stopped using my regimen of wipes, cleansers and toner and switched over to her routine. Skin is our body’s largest organ and it is constantly absorbing. If I could wash with only water, I decided that would truly be “clean living!”

In the Garden of Eden God assigned mankind to be caretakers of the earth. Reflecting upon this, I had to ask myself: What do I do differently than my neighbours in this regard? How am I a caretaker? How am I God’s ambassador for his beautiful creation?

Through my research I discovered I could maintain both our personal care and house cleaning without the use of harmful chemicals through switching to environmentally-friendly cleaning products. My husband wasn’t convinced until he read documentation showing the test results of these products which were being used to clean hospitals in Europe. All of this converged on the heels of my dad passing, so we decided to convert our home to “green cleaning” and I became a consultant with a company called Norwex.

As a parent, I had taken pictures and enjoyed the humour when our babies kissed themselves in the mirror – not thinking about the fact that the mirror had been cleaned with toxic cleaning spray. Each of our homes contains many chemical residues – unless we choose an alternative. Dr. Dick Irwin, a toxicologist from Texas, reports that “chemicals have replaced bacteria as the main threat to health.” Indoor air pollution is one of the top five highest-ranked environmental health problems in America, with chemical levels up to 70 times higher than outside. Norwex chair Bjorn Nicolaisen notes that, “More than 80,000 new chemicals have been created and most have never even been assessed for their impact on human health.”

Choices and changes
Whose life has not been affected by cancer, allergy or disease? The statistics are unprecedentedly higher than in the generations before us. The Consumer Protection Agency states that “150 chemicals found in the home are connected to allergies, birth defects, cancer and psychological disorders.” Our society assumes that if it’s sold in the store it must be tested and safe. It isn’t! We can make the decision to change this.

After my introduction to cleaning without harmful chemicals, I felt led to educate others about the alternatives. When we are obedient to God, he uses all platforms of vocation for his work. My first calling was to educate our society about the choices they could make. Caring for our health and the environment starts with us, but we must make changes to our lifestyle and daily habits. Not only are some chemicals harmful, many other conveniences are ruining our ecosystems as well. Through my research I discovered many disturbing facts, such as a study released by Simon Fraser University to determine the impact of extremely low levels of toxins on children. These toxins are in our everyday lives and found in our homes. (The results are alarming and can be viewed on YouTube: Little Things Matter, The Impact of Toxins on the Developing Brain.)

I also learned that plastics do not biodegrade, but eventually break down into small particles from exposure to the elements, lasting virtually forever. And this all for the sake of convenience: shopping bags, bottles, ziplock and fresh produce bags, stretch food wrap, straws, micro-beads in body wash, etc. Only five percent of all plastic generated globally is recycled. Our great-great-grandchildren will experience the ramifications from our plastic gluttony. As David Suzuki says, “What we do to nature, we are doing to ourselves.” How do we begin to reverse these problems? Can one shift make a difference? I believe we can and we need to do something.

Our business is God’s business
My second calling has been to speak life by mentoring and making disciples. As a Norwex consultant trainer and team leader, I daily coach and mentor my consultants to develop the gifts God has given them. God has shown me how to express my belief in others so they can believe in themselves. Once a friendship and trust is nurtured, I can naturally invite people I meet to seek God for their true identity. In 2009 God laid upon on my heart the desire to start a Bible study for my unsaved consultants. While some say it’s not professional to mix business with religion, that is exactly what God told  me to do. Six years later many of these women have given their lives to Jesus. God has moved into their homes; first generation Christian children are entering Christian schools, baptisms are occurring; new spiritual leaders are rising up and beginning to disciple others! Regardless of what we do, our business is God’s business.

God is using my Norwex business as a platform to fulfill his purpose for my life. As a child, I wanted to be a teacher or a missionary. Today I’m living that dream – daily, both are fulfilled! Since 2006, God has grown and blessed my desire to educate those around me and I now lead a team of over 4,000 consultants across North America. Each consultant represents thousands of homes that are being educated yearly.

Call to action
I challenge you to make every day Earth Day by doing some or all of the following:
      • Strive weekly to bring more recyclables than garbage to the road.
      • Radically reduce your use of plastic: be intentional to find other options!
      • Write the date inside your roll of paper towel and see how many months you can use one roll.
      • Choose to clean your home without harmful chemicals. If you are not willing to pour the solution into an expensive salt water fish tank, please don’t pour it down your drain.
      • Research your food, personal care, cosmetics and cleaning supplies. See what they are made of at ewg.org.

Never think that one person or one home can’t make a difference. Start by looking at the products you are using daily. Filter each item through these three questions:
      1. Will this harm or protect God's creation?
      2. Is there an alternative?
      3. Am I setting an example or living for convenience?

My goal is to heighten awareness so the upcoming generation will think twice about every product they use. As stewards we need to wisely evaluate our choices to honour and glorify God in every aspect of our lives. As long as there are aisles full of chemicals for personal care and cleaning in every department store, I’ll have a message to deliver and I know God will continue to bring me families to disciple.

 

Paper towel facts
     • Over 13 billion pounds of paper towel are used yearly in North America. This works out to 3,000 tons of waste every day.
     • To make one ton of paper towels, 17 trees must be cut down and 20,000 gallons of water consumed.
     • Multiply that by the 3,000 tons (mentioned above), and you get roughly 51,000 trees and 60 million gallons of water consumed every day. For what? A single-use, throwaway 
product.

  • Delores (Reitsma) VandenBoogaard is the Executive VP Sales Leader for Norwex. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband and three children. Delores blogs about her experiences with clean living at DeloresVan.com.

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