What is the ethical way to detox?

Ask Ethan: Our eco-columnist offers advice on how to cleanse your mind, body and the planet in the New Year.

Ethan Greenhart

Topics Politics

Dear Ethan,

Despite my best efforts to follow the advice in your last column – and have an ethical Winterval instead of a clinically obese Crimbo – I’m afraid my festive season was two weeks of excessive consumption. I’m ashamed to say I even ate non-fairtrade chocolate, which made me feel sick on so many levels. A lot is written about detoxing these days, and I would certainly like to clear that unclean cocoa from my body. But I am confused by all these so-called ‘celebrity’ detox programmes. What is the most ethical way to detox for the New Year?

Camomile Ferguson

Dear Camomile,

You are not alone. A lot of people were bad this Winterval. I have been inundated with emails from individuals asking how they can make amends for their Yuletide foolery. One emailer bravely pleads for ‘salvation’ after he put on HALF A STONE over the holiday and ignored my most basic piece of advice: Under no circumstances should you wrap your children’s presents in wasteful and destructive ‘Christmas’ paper. I have told him he must not use any paper whatsoever for six months to make up for this severe lapse.

A friend of mine ate so much meat and consumed so much alcohol (lager, can you believe?) that he suffered from flatulence for the whole of St Stephen’s Day. I explained to him that if his wind is anything like that of cows, then he may well have farted a hurricane in the Third World. It seems that the ‘fart tax’ currently being considered by that visionary politician David Miliband – which has predictably elicited much guffawing from unintelligent sections of the public – should be applied to people as well as cattle. For my part, I have put a ‘fart box’ in our home, where Sheba and the kids have to deposit 5p for every windy incident. I believe just the act of putting money in the box makes them think seriously about their everyday actions.

On to detoxing: I’m afraid that many detoxing programmes, especially the celeb-endorsed variety, are bad for the planet. Firstly, detoxing kills trees. Do you know how many detoxing books there are? Neither do I, but it’s a lot. Walk into any bookshop (yes, it’s hard, seeing all those trees transformed into hardbacks and paperbacks for often selfish readers) and you’ll see detox cookbooks, mind-detox books, the 28-day detox DVD and book by Carol Vorderman. People snap up these paper-and-ink tracts every New Year, meaning that as they cleanse their own bodies they leave a big fat shit-stain on the planet.

Some combine detoxing with going to the gym or for a swim. No, no, no! Have we forgotten already the study conducted by the government-funded Carbon Trust in December, which found that ‘our leisure and recreation pursuits account for most of our emissions’? Nearly a fifth of the average Brit’s 10.92 tonnes of carbon – or 1.95 tonnes – is emitted through recreation and leisure, including taking holidays abroad, visiting gyms and swimming in heated pools that have wave machines. If you must swim then please do so in a river or lake, but be careful not to disturb the fish, eels and weeds who rightfully own these watery kingdoms.

Others start the New Year by taking up cycling. I know it has made me unpopular in the Ethical Movement but I am against it. The big secret that supposedly green cycling columnists on national newspapers never tell you is that all those rubber-tyred wheels are harming the environment. The Treehugger website (how I want to hug Treehugger!) reveals that ‘all modern tyres and most inner tubes use butyl rubber’ – and butyl is a petroleum derivative. By cycling you are helping to sustain the oil industries, and thus war, and thus terrorism, and thus death and destruction, and thus bad things in general. Your bike ride to work could lead to another 9/11! (It leads to ‘mini-9/11s’ everyday, of course, in the form of increased road-rage incidents between cyclists and motorists.)

Having said all that, detoxing can be a good thing – if it’s done right! It shouldn’t just be about your own body; it should also be an opportunity to reduce all forms of consumption with benefits for your mind, family and the planet. You don’t have to leave the home to do it. On New Year’s Day every year, the Greenhart clan gather in our living space to celebrate a new year and commemorate the deadly destruction of the year just passed. We switch off the lights and sit in the dark – there is no better antidote to excess than quiet contemplation devoid of sensory stimulation.

We continue this for a full three days, drinking only water with a little lemon juice in it, while one of us makes a declaration about our feelings. It is very cathartic. At the end, our minds are clear, and so are our consciences (and bowels!). We have, in our own small way, balanced out the selfishness of others during the holiday period.

But why should we live like this for three days only? If we’re going to make the world a better place, we need to detox the planet, too. Perhaps 2007 could be the start of a new Dark Age – and before all you cynical green-bashers (including some of my naughty colleagues on spiked) start having a pop, I don’t mean a culturally-backward age, but literally a dark age. Let’s turn off the lights unless absolutely necessary, and switch off the TV and do something less planet-destroying instead. Let’s wash our clothes by hand (better exercise than going to the gym!), and eat Cold and Slow Food instead of Hot or Fast Food. I would gladly switch off my solar-powered computer, too, but, dear reader, it is a necessary tool in my mission to save the planet.

My motto for 2007? Slow down, switch off, get a life!

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer all your questions about green and ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him at {encode=”” title=””}. Read his earlier columns here.

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Topics Politics


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