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In some ways Earth Day reminds me of Valentines Day - you either celebrate or you don't. Some lament that its a superficial commercialized holiday all about companies increasing their bottom line by pulllng on our heart strings. After all, shouldn't we acknowledge and pay special attention to our loved ones more than once a year? Some might also call it Don't-Make-A-Grand-Gesture-Once-A-Year-And-Think-You've-Done-Your-Part Day. The same concept can easily be applied to Earth Day. Should it be about just one day of the year? No. Are companies small and large putting more green in their corporate pockets because they're pulling on your eco-heart strings? Sure. But there are also truly legit companies that are promoting awareness and offering sales today because hey, why not? ...they sell an eco-product and want you to know about it. And then there are those companies that are trying to pull the organic wool over our eyes to make us believe their product is more eco/green/natural/pure/sustainable/organic than it really is to increase their bottom line. (Happening today and every day my friends...)
Green to me, on the most basic level simply means healthy. Because I'm a firm believer in both a healthy earth and a healthy body (and frankly how can you believe in one and not the other, really?!), I've compiled 15 simple tips that perhaps you haven't tried or thought of yet. Even if you just pick one to try out, that's a step in the right direction. And if you want to tackle all of them, more power to you!!
And please share your personal thoughts, suggestions and tips in the comments!! I'd love to read what you are all doing today or every day to improve the health of your body or your environment.
1). Paper Towels: I'm starting off with my personal major weakness. They are easy, disposable and feel more sanitary but they are sooo wasteful and just how many trees am I cutting down each time I buy a new bag of 8? Last year, I decided to buy a 20 pack of cheap, thin + colored (better so they don't show stains) washcloths and now I keep them in the kitchen. I try to use these as much as possible and its greatly reduced my paper towel consumption. I throw them in the wash regularly and always have clean ones on hand in my kitchen drawer. People Towels makes organic cotton towels and ecofabulous Founder, Zem Joaquin travels with them.
2). Lemon Water: A great healthy habit to adapt is drinking hot lemon water first thing in the morning, before you put anything into your mouth. According to Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, drinking HLW upon rising will help to flush your liver and kidneys of accumulated toxins and wastes. And in my personal experience, it also does a great job at clearing up skin too! How to make: 1 cup hot water + Juice of 1/2 lemon (organic, if possible). Drink up! This is also great to drink to throughout the day - hot or cold.
3). Cleaning Products: If you haven't already, start replacing your toxic household cleaners with safe, non-toxic versions. There are many shades of green and a wide range of prices when it comes to eco-friendly household cleaners. If you want the cheapest and simplest, use items found in your kitchen like baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar (and throw in some essential oil too). If you're going to miss the smell of clean then you have brand options available like Method or JR Watkins made from "naturally-derived" ingredients. If you're trying to avoid synthetic fragrance and go au naturale, check out soap that grows on trees, Soap Nuts (can't get more natural than that!). Better Life and Seventh Generation are also great products that I use in my house. Check out Full Circle Home for stylishly modern cleaning tools.
4). Aspartame: Can be found in many things like diet soda, diet foods and sugarless gum. Talk about a polluter, this ingredient has a long rap sheet of offenses and can contribute to a wide range of symptoms and illnesses like unexplained headaches, dizziness, impaired hearing, light headedness, hyperactivity, memory loss and even seizures. It's consumed by over 100 million people in the U.S. and over 1,000 million pounds are used each year in food and beverages. It destroys neurotransmitters - the chemicals that are the message carriers in the brain (source). Did you know that the makers of Round Up weed killer and Agent Orange also created and produced Aspartame? Monsanto. (Though they no longer make it) If that's not a good enough reason to ditch it, I don't know what is. Ditch it. Leave it in the dust. Don't look back. Check out Aspartame: A Silent Killer.
5). Insect Repellent: As summer approaches and the mosquitos begin to rear their ugly heads, I'm seriously considering buying a gallon size jug of my favorite bug spray/insect repellent. Conventional bug spray contains ingredients that I don't want seeming into my skin, so I was glad to find a natural version that actually works. For some reason the Midwest mosquitos are much more poisonous to my body than the West Coast variety. Its not uncommon for the sting area to swell up so large that it looks like someone beat me with a baseball bat. Its particularly lovely when they sting me on the face. So you can see why finding an effective remedy is key for me. These nasty bugs and I have a mutual hate for each other. That's why I love Brittanie's Thyme Insect Repellent!
6). Plastic Straws: I used to be a once, maybe twice a day plastic straw user. I kept a box in the kitchen and would throw one into my thick smoothies so they were easier for me to drink. But then I realized how wasteful I was being and one day the idea of sucking a healthy beverage through plastic seemed like a contradiction and I looked into alternatives. I was thrilled to find handmade glass drinking straws and loved them so much I re-ordered and bought ones for my husband and in-laws. I really like the ones I bought from Straws by Carli. She'll even make them a little longer if you use a tall cup for your drinks.
7). Beauty Products: Start by learning more about what's in the products you are using now and what ingredients are good ones to avoid. You can check out our own 37 Ingredients To Avoid In Your Beauty Products list here, or you can look up your favorite product at Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database, but be sure to read Navigating The EWG Skin Deep Database and Terri Bly's Guide To The Skin Deep Database. I know some of you treat Skin Deep like your personal care bible, but while it contains some good info, its not perfect. I highly, highly recommend you read these two GREAT articles on the subject before you click on over.
8). Water Bottles: By now, we've probably all heard or read that its best to ditch our wasteful plastic water bottle ways and opt for a reusable version. In case you haven't made the switch, there are some great stylish, BPA-free options out there. We really like the glass bottles from LifeFactory and the BPA-free plastic bottles from KOR. Both are very modern, stylish and we love that we can see inside the bottle so we know how much hydration progress we're making throughout the day.
9). Love your pets: Show your furry companions some love and respect and leave those insanely toxic pet shampoos and spray in the dust! When my chocolate lab was about 6 months old, I took her to a local groomer for a shampoo since I was getting the house ready for guests and I didn't have the time or energy to wrangle an excited puppy in the bathtub I had just cleaned - so I dropped her off while I ran errands. When I came back to get her I kneeled down, she jumped in my lap for a hug and her neck wrapped around mine. We got in the car and I couldn't breathe, whatever they had sprayed her with was so potent it gave me an instant headache, I had to drive with the windows down the entire way. When I got home and got a glance of myself in a mirror, my entire neck was bright red and splotchy and I knew it was from our earlier hug. There was no way I was letting that stuff stay on her coat or skin, so I had to give her another bath. The point is, if you love your pets - be kind to them and don't put anything on them that you wouldn't put on yourself. I like USDA Certified Organic Shampoo & Conditioner from Canine Earth. I should be receiving a whole lot of Organic Dog Products any day and I'll be sure to report my experience with all of you!
10). Just Because It's Organic Doesn't Mean Its Healthy: Is organic pancake batter that you can spray out of an aerosol can good for you or the environment just because its contains some organic ingredients? Is it healthy to knock back that entire bag of cookies just because they're organic? Sometimes I think we, as consumers, leave our common sense behind when we see the word "organic" on a product. An "organic" ingredient is one that hasn't been grown like a conventional ingredient. Its not genetically-modified or sprayed with harmful pesticides, but organic sugar is still going to pack on the pounds just like conventional sugar. Sure, organic sugar is the better option - but let's not fool ourselves into believing its healthy to replace refined sugar and flours with organic versions and its going to be a good choice for the health of our bodies.
11). Greenwashing 101: There are so many different ways people define "green". Is it sustainable, energy efficient, organically-grown, natural, naturally-derived, local, does it reduce your carbon footprint?, etc., etc. Its enough to make our heads spin. But try not to get overwhelmed by doing everything perfectly, take it one step at a time, make small changes and ask questions. If you see words like "organic", "green", "eco", "pure", "clean" on the front, sides or back of any product - put your skeptical hat on and go one step further and glance at the ingredients. If you can't find the ingredients or where and how its made and/or the company won't share that info with you and/or they become defensive and irritated when you ask questions about their product - take your money somewhere else. This is a tell-tale sign of greenwashing. Companies that are proud of their product, how and where its made and what its made of will be happy to communicate with you about it and why its great. If you get a blank stare or a defensive attitude, move on to a brand that really cares instead of one that's just trying to cash in and score their piece of the organic pie.
12). Reusable Food Bags: This is another one of my personal problem areas - my love of Ziploc bags. So when Graze Organic sent me a set of their organic cotton reusable food storage bags, I was intrigued. What a great way to reduce our plastic consumption and support organic cotton farming! A sure fire way to strike up a conversation with a co-worker in the lunch about why you're going plastic-free. Hey, maybe that person will consider making the switch too! Rebel Green makes some cool organic cotton lunch bags as well.
13). Reusable Shopping Bags: Many stores now have their own version you can buy at checkout for as little as $1. I've seen them at Target, WalMart, Kroger, Trader Joe's and more. SKN Organic Cotton totes are one of my favorite reusable shopping bags. Another great way to reduce our plastic consumption and waste.
14). Buy Used/Vintage: Shop thrift shops and antique stores for unique furniture pieces and clothing. Much of the furniture in my home are thrift shop finds that add interest and unique personality. I like a nice mix of new and old. I've found many amazing deals on furniture at thrift shops like a great mid-century modern sofa for $20 and matching chair for $5, a Drexel credenza for $40 and two match Haywood-Wakefield side tables for $5 each. You've just got to keep your eyes up and frequently cruise through shops to spot real finds. And consider buying something and giving it new life with a fresh coat of paint to make it your own. One of my favorite DIY/home design blogs, Young House Love just used many thrift shop and vintage finds to decorate their baby girl's nursery and they did an amazing job! Check their blog out for massive amounts of DIY inspiration (and they're green-minded too, bonus!). Also, be sure to check out eBay Green where you can find previously-enjoyed fashion, furniture and more!
15). Replace Household Air Fresheners: We all want our home to smell good, but the majority of conventional plug-in or spray varieties contain nasties that we probably wouldn't want to breathe in if we knew what was in them. Tests have shown indoor air pollution can be much higher than outdoor air pollution. Phthalates ("thay-lates") are a major concern and can be found in many conventional air fresheners and perfumes. They are endocrine disruptors and have been associated with preterm birth. Studies have shown that phthalates can be passed through the mother to her unborn baby. Animal studies have shown damage to the liver, kidneys and reproductive systems. In 2003, the European Union banned phthalates, but the U.S. still allows them. This is not an ingredient you will find on any label. They are contained in products with "fragrance" as well as PVC (like plastic shower curtains). Try using essential oils to make your home smell good. You can diffuse them (I like electric diffuser) and the scent with gently waft throughout your room or you can make your own DIY air spray with some drops of essential oil and water. (psst...."natural fragrance", "fragrance oil", "botanical fragrance" and "naturally-derived fragrance oil" are just another way to say "synthetic fragrance" in MOST cases).
What small or big healthy changes have you made for yourself or your home?? Please share in the comments below so we all may benefit!