Environmental film night promotes living chemical-free
February 15, 2011 by Miranda Gathercole
Saving the environment could be as easy as cleaning out the cupboard under the kitchen sink.
According to the Canadian documentary “Chemerical,” North Americans are poisoning themselves every day through the use of toxic chemicals in their households.
The documentary was shown last week as part of the monthly series, Green Wednesdays, held at the Kwantlen Langley campus on the second second Wednesday of every month. It follows the story of a family attempting to live chemical-free for 90 days.
The environmentally themed evening, hosted by Kwantlen’s School of Horticulture and the Green Ideas Network, is designed to show solution-based films to students and the general public about current environmental issues.
“The whole point of the Green Wednesdays is to give people some exposure to some of the kinds of issues around sustainability and the environment and our personal footprints on the planet, on whatever topic it happens to be,” said Gary Jones, horticulture instructor and event organizer.
In the documentary, there are many funny and emotional moments as the Goode family quickly realizes how dependent they are on chemicals in their home. According to the film, the average household has more than 40 toxic items that contain dozens of harmful chemicals known to contribute to health problems, including sterilization and cancer. The film suggests that this is directly related to studies showing that women who stay at home have a risk of cancer 43 per cent higher than those who work outside the home.
Products such as laundry detergent, window cleaner and even deodorant and cosmetics expose people to chemicals including trichlosan (a known carcinogen used in antibacterial products,) chlorine ( the number one toxic chemical in the home, used in bleach) and ammonia (used in cleaners) on a daily basis.
“I always try and buy green products, and it’s surprising just knowing that everyday products are pretty dangerous,” said Rachel Sproule, a first-time attendee to Green Wednesdays. “How are all of these products allowed on the market without any sort of warnings?”
Andrew Nisker, director of “Chemerical,” explores loopholes in the regulation system of the cleaner and cosmetic industries. Companies avoid labelling many ingredients in their products to protect “trade secrets.” Nisker reported on a study of 33 different brands of red lipstick that found 61 per cent of them to contain lead.
“If you can’t eat it, then you shouldn’t be putting it on your skin,” said an owner of a natural product company also showcased in the film.
Jones says that the point of showing these films is not to depress people, but to educate them and motivate them to make changes.
“It’s not just come here, listen to a movie about how there is going to be no oil here in 10 years time, go home and slash your wrists kind of deal. I like people to go home inspired enough to go find out about the subject and make their own informed decisions on what they are looking in to.”
Nichole Marples, executive director of the Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS) says “It all comes down to awareness. People saying, ‘Oh gee, I never thought of that before.’ I think these Green Wednesdays are awesome because they open the conversation, get people thinking about, ‘Oh gee, maybe that’s not the greatest thing’ or, ‘Oh, I’ve been using this for years and I didn’t actually understand it.’”
Jones says it is important that people begin to pay attention to the effects they are having on the earth and to make conscious decisions to change their habits.
“It’s life and death. How more important could it be? There’s some scary stuff out there, and we don’t know half of it. We have no idea. That’s what’s really scary, that we think we’re in control, but we have no clue really,” he said.
Joyce Rostron, vice-president of the Green Ideas Network, shares the same ideals.
“I do this for my children. They will really look to the future with open eyes. They won’t be so closed-minded about things,” she said.
Jones adds, “People come [to Green Wednesdays] for all sorts of reasons. My hope is that they go away a little bit more educated about some of these things. They’re not going to know everything about the topic, but if they can go away and get really interested they might go and do their own bit of research. Who knows?”