You can make changes to help lessen the impact of chemicals on our environment, to protect it now and for future generations.
Reduce your use
- Buy only by what you need.
- Always read the label and follow the instructions.
- Use only what you need: one squirt (about 8 ml) of dishwashing liquid for a standard sink full of dishes. Remember that it all adds up down the drain – using less can have a big impact on the amount of chemicals that reach the environment.
Try making your own cleaning products
Making your own cleaning products is easy and affordable. You can buy most of these products at your local supermarket. Always read the label and check it’s safe to mix ingredients.
- Baking soda cleans, deodorises, softens water, and is a good scouring powder.
- White vinegar cuts through grease, gets rid of smells, is a mild disinfectant and you can use it as a rinse aid in dishwashers, and to clean windows. Mix together equal parts water and vinegar for an all-purpose cleaner.
- Pure soap is used a general purpose cleaner that biodegrades completely. It does not contain any added colour or scent.
- Lemon juice is a mild bleach, deodorant and a cleaning agent.
Try using chemical-free cleaning products
- Micro-fibre cloths can clean windows, benches and other hard surfaces without the need for using chemicals – just water.
- You can also opt for cleaning products with biodegradable ingredients.
Check what’s in your cosmetics and toiletries
- Natural, plant-based or organic cosmetics and toiletries containing biodegradable ingredients can have less impact on the environment. But they may also contain harmful ingredients, so take the same care as you would with any product.
- Some cosmetics and toiletries contain chemicals or tiny bits of plastic called microbeads. Microbeads can get into waterways and be potentially harmful to marine life. Some products containing microbeads are banned, but not all. Read the label to find out if microbeads are present.
Go green in the garden
- Use companion planting to control insects. Basil deters aphids, fruit flies and house flies. Plant penny royal and tansy around your garden to discourage ants and aphids.
- Planting natives can support native insects and increase biodiversity so that there is a good habitat for beneficial insects that can gobble up the undesired ones eating your plants.
- Plant broad beans to naturally add nitrogen to the soil.
- Plant tussocks, grasses, harakeke, shrubs and trees near streams. This helps to build up soil to act as a filter and stop chemicals getting into waterways. It also offers a haven to birds and other wildlife.
Build up the soil
- You can improve the health and structure of your soil by adding compost and mulch. Good soil is alive with worms, bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and other microbes. Powdered fertiliser provides the chemicals needed for plant growth, but can’t improve the soil structure the way compost and mulch does.
- Lay seaweed on your garden bed (or around fruit trees) to add nutrients and reduce weeds.
Make your own compost
- Avoid sending green waste and food scraps to landfill by making your own compost. This will reduce methane emissions from landfill and lower your carbon footprint.
- Compost enriches the soil, reducing the need for chemical fertiliser.
- Compost requires three basic ingredients: brown material (such as dead leaves, branches and twigs), green material (grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps), and water.
- Layering mulch on your garden is a chemical-free way to reduce weeds and the need for watering, and improves soil and plant health.
- Plant legumes, oats and mustard to act as a living mulch.
- Watch where you spray. Don’t spray chemicals near waterways, or near bees and other pollinators.
- Spray early in the morning or at sunset, and on a calm day.
- Make your own simple sprays such as garlic blended with water to deter pests, seaweed soaked in water to provide nutrients, or use boiling water (take care) to kill off weeds growing in paving and driveways.
Wise chemical waste disposal
- Check the label. It will tell you whether it’s safe to put in your household rubbish, if it needs to go into landfill or be disposed of in a managed way. If you are unsure, contact your council for advice.
- Keep flammable, corrosive or toxic chemicals out of your household rubbish.
- Don't pour chemicals down stormwater drains. They can get into waterways and harm marine life.
- Wash your car on the lawn so the detergent soaks in, instead of going down stormwater drains.
- Wash paintbrushes on the lawn and leave paint to dry in the tin before you dispose of it.
- You can donate or recycle left over paint: check with your local paint shop.
- Some shops accept products for recycling and disposal, for example, paint or batteries. Ask at the shop you bought the product from.
- Your local environment centre may also have advice and offer recycling and disposal options.