Eco speak: An interview with Anne Summers

by Tracy Stokes on November 9, 2006

in EcoHouse

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For Anne Summers, going green started with the purchase of a set of Eco Balls and the delivery of some council recycling bins. Before she knew it, she’d accidentally started an online shop selling all those hard to find supplies for making your own, simple cleaning products that are kinder to the environment.

Anne launched Summer Naturals in April this year, stocking essential oils, white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda (in larger sizes than are easily available elsewhere), and lots more besides.

We asked Anne about her journey to becoming environmentally aware, and for her top cleaning recipes and tips.

Eco Street: I’m intrigued, how did the purchase of a set of Eco Balls lead to you changing the way you live?

Anne Summers: My very first step towards adopting a greener lifestyle came after I found a forum on the internet, the ladies on there were chatting about an holistic lifestyle. I didn’t know what holistic meant and I wasn’t prepared to admit my ignorance, but I was intrigued by their attitudes. What appealed to me most was that the discussions were rekindling memories of my childhood and how I was raised; it was all about natural lifestyles. My very first eco-purchase was a set of Eco Balls. I admit to buying them for economic reasons, I’d still not fully grasped the environmental thing. We were then delivered recycling bins; I’d read many discussions about recycling and was eager to participate. I now moan at my local council to improve their recycle facilities, recycling is such a rewarding thing to do. I then moved on to wanting to know how to make my own household cleaners, and decided to remove all chemicals from my home.

ES: How did green cleaning lead to a green business?

AS: It is possible to find everything that you need for eco-friendly cleaning, but rarely in one place, and it became important to me that people learned to be environmentally friendly in the easiest way possible. It isn’t necessarily easy to change your car to an environmentally friendly one, it isn’t easy to buy a wind turbine or solar panels, but green cleaning is one of the easiest things in the world to do and I wanted to make that job easier for those who want to learn. So, that is how Summer Naturals evolved and I am proud to be offering those who wish to clean green the products that they need in non fuss packaging, using reused boxes for orders and operating the business in an eco friendly manner as far I possibly can.

ES: How would you explain to someone using the “usual" cleaning brands why they should be looking at more natural alternatives?

AS: Terrible damage is being caused to our water system when toxic products are poured down the plug hole every day, and they eventually coming back to meet us by way of drinking water. Using natural products, both cleaners and toiletries, and the removal of chemicals in the household can change the health of the whole family. There are so many things that can be done to improve the environment that we live in, there are so many more things that can be done to preserve our environment and in return improve and preserve our health.

ES: What are your top-tips to someone wanting to eradicate toxic chemicals from their household cleaning regime?

AS: Clean the toilet using vinegar and bicarbonate of soda: leave overnight, scrub and flush – tea tree oil will kill any nasty germs, so I add that to clean the ceramic too. Don’t use neat tea tree oil if your toilet seat is varnished or wooden.

To mop the floor, add a few teaspoons of soda crystals – available in supermarkets for about 50p a bag – to the mop bucket water. I also add a few drops of orange essential oil for cleaning power and fragrance.

Soda crystals can also be used to unblock sinks, and to boost laundry powder or soapnuts.

Vinegar can be used on many surfaces and is a very good cleaner. Use it neat to wash dirty paving stones by pouring some onto the area, leaving for an hour and then scrubbing with a sweeping brush. Let the rain rinse it away or swill with water-butt water or buckets of water left outside to collect rainwater.

Vinegar can also be used in the washing machine with a few drops of essential oil as a fabric conditioner with detergent or soapnuts, but not eco balls.

Make your own air freshener using 100ml of water in a pump bottle and adding 20 drops of your favourite essential oil. You can add more if desired, but no more than 30 drops. Some people add a teaspoon of vodka to the mix.

Make your own hand wash using 1/3 Ecover washing-up liquid, 2/3 water and a few drops of tea tree essential oil or lavender oil. Of course read the cautions of essential oils before use. An alternative recipe, which can also be used for shampoo/bath wash, is 2 teaspoons of Dr. Bronner’s pure castile soap, 4 teaspoons of vegetable glycerine and 150 ml water, add lavender or tea tree oil or both. I also use orange, lemon etc. Add no more than 20 drops, although start with 10 drops for the desired fragrance and antibacterial properties. There are a variety of good essential oils suitable for shampoo but always read the cautions before use.

Bicarbonate of soda can be used like Cif when mixed to a paste. When cleaning my cooker top, I spray with vinegar then sprinkle with bicarb and let it soak, then wipe off with a clean cloth.

Bicarb can also be used to eliminate smells in the kitchen or in pet areas.

ES: Are all of the products you mentioned available from Summer Naturals?

AS: Everything I’ve mentioned is available from my shop, except Ecover washing-up liquid and Soda Crystals, which are both easily available at most supermarkets.

ES: Finally, are there any other green tips you’d like to share with budding green cleaners?

AS: To save wastage on bicarb, save larger tubs for parmesan cheese or any sprinkler container to dispense bicarb into the toilet/cooker top of anywhere that you need to clean stubborn stains, and to save wastage on vinegar use a trigger spray.

Anne Summers is an eco-friendly housewife and mother of three, as well as green entrepreneur and founder of Summer Naturals.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michelle November 10, 2006 at 2:43 pm

Fantastic article. I have heard lots of people mention using Bicarbonate of Soda and vinegar but never been 100% sure how to use them.

I tried Stardrops as I read that it was less damaging than other products but it didn’t have the clean smell that products like Oxygel have. I’ll try your tip for using essential oils.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and good luck with summernaturals.

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