In pursuit of ‘Greener Pastures’ in the Vail Valley |

In pursuit of ‘Greener Pastures’ in the Vail Valley

Cassie Pence
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyCassie Pence

VAIL, Colorado “-“Where’s your paper towels,” a friend asked while helping to clean up after a dinner party. Giving her a blank stare followed by a playful smirk, I reached under the sink, grabbed a rag and plopped it in her open hand. “Here,” I said, “You can clean with this.”

In most kitchens, paper towels are a readily stocked item. In mine, however, it’s reserved for the most extreme cases, like broken glass or raw chicken juice, and we go through about one roll every three to four months.

Although it was just a small moment in time, the paper towel incident made me realize that my lifestyle is a bit strange compared to others. Not everyone packs sandwiches in old cereal bags. Not everyone washes aluminum foil to use over and over again like some grandmother in the Great Depression. Not everyone curses their neighbors for not recycling. And certainly not everyone has given up watching TV.

At some point in my life, I have become a modern day hippy. This didn’t happen over night. I’ve always been interested in peace, love, organics and tie-dyed clothing ” all that do-gooder stuff ” but the real push to live a green life came when my husband started Organic Housekeepers, a green cleaning company. Research and development for the company has opened my eyes even wider to the environmental problems we all face, like climate change, chemical exposure and a food system grossly dependent on cheap oil. Paper products ” so I’ve learned since starting Organic Housekeepers ” accounts for 40 percent of trash in U.S. landfills. Hence my disdain for over use of paper towels.

But I am far from Al Gore’s poster child. Some of my predisposed American excessiveness seems impossible to shake. I whine about sharing a car, for example, and I’m not sure I can give up Thai curry paste. Flown half way around the world, my favorite spicy mash stamps down quite a few carbon footprints.

I am just an ordinary person trying to make educated choices to better the health of the world and thus the health of myself. In this weekly column, I will write about everyday lessons and battles in my pursuit of Greener Pastures. I will give ordinary ideas to live an extraordinary greener life.

Since it’s the season of reflection and resolution, I thought for the first Greener Pastures I would discuss the importance of literally cleansing the sole.

I recently had an intervention with one of my closest friends. He was wearing his shoes inside his own house. Some of you may think, “big deal, no one’s ever died from wearing their shoes inside the house.”

But truth is, wearing your shoes indoors can result in much worse than a muddy footprint on your white shag carpet. People track in pesticides, pollen and other chemicals, like lead, on the soles of their shoes. These nasty, dirty particles fly into the air contributing to indoor air pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five risks to public health. And the EPA also states that 80 percent of pesticide exposure happens inside the home. All that from just wearing your shoes inside the home.

As house guests are prone to stop by during the ski season (some may even be invited), make sure they check their shoes at the door. Encourage such behavior with a sign “Mahalo, please remove your shoes,” or like Martha does, keep a basket of slippers by the door. If guests still don’t get the hint, point and gag and then physically remove their shoes for them. I guarantee they won’t forget again.

Also, place large mats at all your entrances to reduce the trail of toxic gunk that might weave itself into your home. Clean and vacuum the mats frequently so the mats themselves aren’t a source of pollutants.

Kermit said it, we all know it: It’s not easy being green. But by taking little steps (preferably without your shoes on), one can make a big difference in health and the future of the planet.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is married to the superhero of green cleaning Captain Vacuum, AKA Tim Szurgot. Together they own Organic Housekeepers, a cleaning company that uses strictly organic, natural and nontoxic cleaning products. Contact her at

– The Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five risks to public health.

– The EPA also states that 80 percent of pesticide exposure happens inside the home, largely due to wearing your shoes inside the home.

– According to Green Seal, an independent nonprofit dedicated to promoting environmentally preferable products and services, 40 percent of trash in U.S. landfills consists of paper products.

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