About two years ago, I shared a post on what I was doing to transition our home to being a cleaner and greener one. And, as with all things in life, it’s been a journey of learning and growth. So, I thought I would update you on what I’ve learned since then!
As I mentioned originally, and it bears repeating, the best way to transition is by taking it one step at a time. Just pick one thing you’d like to tackle, and focus solely on that thing. Once you’ve conquered it, add another, and so on. The reason for doing it this way is twofold: 1) It is more sustainable. If you slowly incorporate one change at a time, it makes the continuation of that behavior more likely; and 2) It’s more affordable. Although some of these changes can actually save you money, some of the alternatives I’ll share, may cost a little more. If you incorporate one thing at a time into your budget, it can help to make the transition more manageable. I’d also like to add here, that if you are hoping to try some of these changes, but have cold feet because of the cost—don’t! Simply do what you can. A little is better than nothing at all.
I’m a firm believer in the fact that our modern, 21st century lives have become entirely too toxic, and the toxins we encounter daily are likely contributors to the significant increases we’ve seen in everything from cancers, to neurological disorders, infertility, and depression. Imagine, from the moment you wake up in the morning, after being radiated by the phone next to your bed all night, until the moment you roll back into your mattress saturated with flame retardants, your body is constantly being bombarded by toxins. There are known endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and heavy metals in almost every item we use from our make-up and toothpaste, to the nonstick pans and plastic spoons we cook with, to the furniture we sit on, and the grass we walk on. And not to mention the constant time we spend with our phones in our hands and next to our brains.
Being an almost lifelong vegetarian, I’ve always had some sort of awareness of the fact that we should be mindful of what comes in contact with our bodies. However, what really woke me up to the importance of being a conscious consumer was having children of my own. When I was pregnant with Micah, one day after mopping the house with whatever cleaner I was using at the time, I imagined my little boy, crawling around on the floor, and licking the dried remnants of whatever chemicals I had just put there. That thought didn’t sit well with me, so I decided to clean up my act (no pun intended 😂) It’s been an almost, five-year journey since I first started transitioning to a greener lifestyle, and I’m so grateful for everything I’ve learned along the way. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far, and if you have any other clean/green tips, feel free to share them below!
And one last thing! There’s tons of research out there on these topics, so I’ll leave some links at the end if you’re interested in learning more.
What We Eat
This is the area I recommend starting with because you truly “are what you eat.” The countless chemicals sprayed onto fruits and vegetables, and pumped into meat, come in direct contact with your system because you’re ingesting it. If you can decrease the toxins you introduce directly through your food, you’re all the better for it. What’s more is that by eating organic, whole foods (fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes, etc.), you boost your body’s immunity and better its ability to metabolize some of the toxins you present it with that exist within your environment! Again, take small steps. If you aren’t able to buy all things organic, focus on the “dirty dozen” (see that list here). Buy things organically that are on that list, and do what you can for everything else. If you live in an area where there are local farmers nearby (Hooray for North Carolina!), try to buy from them. It’s cheaper, supports local businesses, and may in fact be cleaner than what you find in the store. Many farmers use organic methods but legally aren’t allowed to use the “certified organic” label because it’s a trademarked term they haven’t paid to use. Moreover, because its grown locally, that produce is likely more nutrient-packed than produce shipped in from who-knows-where and picked days, even weeks ago.
As an aside, if you’ve been struggling to figure out what’s healthy to eat, you’re not alone. Advertisers have done an amazing job of confusing everyone. There are so many labels put on food today like “low fat”, “low carb,” “diet,” etc. that it gets difficult to tell what is actually going to help you achieve your health goals. The question I always ask when thinking about what I should eat is “Is it easy?” Was that food item simple to make? For example, is there a novel written in the ingredients list, full of words you can’t pronounce? Then, it probably isn’t a good idea to eat it. Better yet, does that food item even have a label? Produce labels are easy to read, because there are none! Keep it simple, the fewer ingredients the better, the easier they are to read the better, and if there’s no label at all (i.e. produce), that’s ideal!
In the Kitchen
An article was recently published by Sandee LaMotte at CNN which stated the FDA was being petitioned to ban entire groups of chemicals within consumer products. The example was used of one attempting to eat a “healthy” organic vegetable dinner, which was packaged in chlorine-leaching plastic and cooked on a PFAs-coated pan (otherwise known as nonstick or Teflon). The point was well-made. There are too many toxins used in consumer goods.
In our kitchen, I’ve eliminated plastic cookware and storage containers. We use glass tupperware and mixing bowls instead. We use stainless steel pots/pans and glass bakeware. We’ve gotten rid of single-use plastic like Ziploc bags, and use either brown paper bags, silicone food storage bags, or reusable cloth sandwich bags.
The quality of our drinking water has become increasingly more questionable. Tap water has been shown to contain contaminants such as aluminum, chloramine, nitrates, and more recently pharmaceuticals, and PFAs (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Of course, bottled water is an option, but that leaches microplastics. Filtered water is usually the best option, however, not all water filters are created equal. In selecting a water filter, you must first be aware of what you’re aiming to filter out. Yes, filtration of viruses, fungi, and bacteria are a must, but you also want to be sure that your filter has the ability to remove other contaminants that are now in the water supply. I specifically wanted to make sure the filter I chose had the ability to get rid of PFAs and heavy metals, amongst other things. I’d say research what’s important to you, test your water to see what needs to be removed, and select a filter accordingly. It was an investment, but we went with a Berkey. It’s AMAZING, we love the taste, and within seven months we made back our investment since we no longer purchase bottled water.
Household Cleaners & Laundry
I spoke about the household cleaners, laundry, and beauty items I use at length in my last post about this topic, so I’ll just include my summary table here. As I mentioned before, this journey has been a learning process, and I’ve since changed some of the products I use, so here’s my updated list.
|Conventional Product||Cleaner Alternative|
|Dryer Sheets||Wool Dryer Balls (Add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance). One ball can be used 1,000 times!|
|Laundry Detergent||Hello Bello Organic, Unscented Laundry Detergent (I use this for the whole family!)|
|Air Freshener||Essential Oils in a diffuser|
|Windex||Vinegar (seriously works wonders!)|
|Cleaning toys and other items||Hot soapy water and vinegar|
|Ajax or Dawn brand Dish soap||Seventh-Generation Dish Liquid|
|All-Purpose Bathroom Cleaner (I used to fluctuate between Fabuloso, Ajax, and Clorox)||Vinegar, Baking Soda, and a smidge of Seventh-Generation All-purpose Cleaner if needed|
|Stainless Steel Cleaner||Vinegar|
|Dishwasher Detergent||Seventh-Generation Dishwasher Detergent|
|Garbage Disposal Freshener||Run the disposal with Lemon Peel|
|Cleaner for Baby’s Bathtub||Seventh-Generation Dish Liquid and Vinegar|
I recently purchased a set of Branch Basics concentrate. This will act as a replacement for all household cleaners, soaps, and laundry detergent. Once I give it a fair try, I’ll update this post to let you know how it goes!
|Colgate Toothpaste||Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Toothpaste|
|Floss||Dr Tung’s Activated Charcoal Floss (It’s PFAs-free)|
|Lotion||Homemade Whipped Shea Butter and Coconut Oil (I primarily use this for the kids. I have eczema and often require something a bit stronger).|
|Secret Deodorant||Crystal Mineral Salt Deodorant Stone|
|Eye-Liner||Juice Beauty Liquid Line (Made with organic, plant-based ingredients)|
|Hair Care Products||Shea Moisture & Kinky Curly Lines (I recently started using Micamas Remix for the kids, and will try it out on myself soon enough).|
|Face Moisturizer||RenJour Christ Face Oil|
|Baby Shampoo & Conditioner||Tiny Twirls Shampoo & Conditioner|
|Baby’s Bath Soap||Alaffia Body Wash and/or Bubble Bath|
|Water-based Lubricant (yes…that kind)||Coconut oil! (Important Note: Oil-based lubricants should not be used with latex condoms)|
|Latex Condoms||Lambskin Condoms (Important Note: Only to be used in monogamous relationships. Does not prevent against STDs).|
|Dove Bar Soap||Dr. Bronner’s Castile Bar Soap|
|Softsoap Hand Soap||Mrs. Meyers Hand Soap|
|Gillette Shaving Cream||Dr. Bronner’s Castile Bar Soap with a traditional safety razor. Most disposable razors have a moisturizing strip with unlisted ingredients.|
|Vaseline Lip Balm||Burt’s Bee’s Lip Balm|
This has been my latest focus. With the recent rollout of 5G and the increase in usage of wireless devices as a society, I’ve been working to do what I can to reduce our radiation exposure within the home. There’s a lot of debate as to whether or not the non-ionizing radiation we receive from wireless devices like our cellphones can result in biological harm and/or cancers. There has been evidence in support of and against this. For me, my choice is always to lean on the side of caution, such that if an item or product has been shown as possibly having the ability to cause harm, and its presence or usage can be decreased or eliminated in our home, I try to do exactly that. I suppose I’d rather be safe than sorry.
What amazed me most in tackling this issue, was how many of the things we use daily give of electromagnetic radiation. Anything that communicates wirelessly with another device is a radiation source. This includes your cellphone, Bluetooth speakers/headphones, Wi-Fi, laptops, baby monitor, smart TV, and smart meter. Also, not surprisingly, the microwave is another huge source.
In my approach, I had to make sure I started small because I didn’t want to disrupt the flow of our home, and I also had to get DJ’s buy-in. So, I couldn’t require him to change a whole lot. I started with the microwave, since I make most of the meals anyway. Eliminating its usage was actually a lot easier than I thought. We reheat food using the oven, or on the stove in a skillet, or my personal FAVORITE– in the Instant Pot. If you have one, we use the steam feature, which adds so much moisture to the food. When reheated, it tastes like it did the day it was made, or even better. Since we’re foodies, the fact that the food tasted better made it a much easier transition than I thought it would be.
As for our Wi-Fi, we keep it off for most of the day (I turn it off by accessing the router), and connect to the internet via ethernet. That switch was easy enough for hubby since he’s at his desk all day anyway and doesn’t really need to move around much. In the evening, if we need it, we’ll turn it on for a few hours, then turn it back off before bed. As for our cellphones, we charge them away from our beds at night, and use them only on speaker when making a call. We’re currently working on switching over from a wireless baby monitor to a wired camera system, but in the meantime, we keep the monitor as far away from the crib as possible. When it comes to EM radiation, distance is key and wire as many devices as you can.
Here a little, there a little. That’s how we’ve transitioned and are continuing to do so. I’m learning at every step of the way, and hopefully you’ve found some of what I’ve learned useful. I’d love to hear about what you’re doing to make your home health a little bit better. Let me know below!
Blogs I’ve found helpful:
Branch Basics: https://branchbasics.com/blog/
Tech Wellness (a site all about living healthfully with tech): www.techwellness.com
Radiation Resources: https://techwellness.com/pages/research#T1
About PFAs: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects/index.html
Netfilx Documentary entitled “The Devil We Know”