Clues in the Antartic ice reinforce need for change here

As a captain of an expedition cruise ship, my husband, Leif, travels to literally the end of the world each year: the Antarctic in winter and the Arctic in the summer. The lure of ice and penguins was too strong for me to turn down, having traveled to Antarctica in the past, when I had the opportunity to join Leif on one of his trips to Antarctica last year.

Our trip was glorious and exciting. I returned home with memories of ice crackling in fjords and kayaking alongside icebergs, penguins and seals. However, the memories were heavily dimmed by the realities of climate change. It was a rude awakening to see the changes that had occurred in the 10 years since I last traveled to Antarctica. Tabular icebergs are breaking away from the ice shelf and inevitably affecting diverse wildlife and breeding cycles. I feared that when I returned, hopefully with our children, the situation would be even more alarming.

This inspired me to “do my bit” for the environment and make changes at home. However small, I felt these changes would make a difference. I made a list, and we began to increase our recycling, switch to fluorescent light bulbs, lower temperatures in the house and minimize water use.

The most radical change that occurred for us was in the way that I cleaned our home. While I was away, my youngest daughter suffered a painful, unidentifiable allergy. Coincidentally, I had recently been introduced to a product called Enjo, which is very popular in Australia and also in Europe. Enjo is an all-purpose, waste-free household cleaning system that replaces chemical cleaners with nothing but fibers and water. It sounded too good to be true, but I have now switched to the product in an effort to minimize the use of harmful toxic household chemicals in our home.

We all want the best for our children — the best schools, the best foods, the best doctors — but often we forget to consider the environment our children live in. Since the trip to Antarctica, I have become more aware of the inadequate, harmful products and routines that we have all irresponsibly and nonchalantly used for so long. Dr. Peter Dingle, a health and environmental lecturer at Perth’s Murdoch University, says that the quantum leap that needs to be made is one in consumer attitude. “There is research now to show the detriment of overusing chemicals in the home in terms of asthma rates, allergy rates and the number of immune dysfunctions.” I would also like to reach out to schools and encourage them to reassess their use of chemicals. This effort is echoed throughout the Northwest by many organizations such as the Washington Toxics Coalition and CoolMom.org.

In my quest to become acquainted with the City of Mercer Island’s commitment to the environment, I spoke to Joy Johnston last November. She invited me to join the committee for the Leap for Green Earth Day Celebration. This fair is on Saturday, April 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Community Center at Mercer View. We are going to have a lot of fun and, at the same time, offer ideas about easy ways to take care of the environment. I am excited to be part of this great group of people, and I encourage everyone to come. Together, we can make changes now to ensure a better future for our children.

Helene Frichot Skog was born in Australia. She met her husband on an expedition in the South Pacific, and they now live on Mercer Island with their two daughters. For more information about the Leap for Green Earth Day Celebration, please visit www.mercergov.org/leapforgreen.

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