Going "non-toxic" usually produces thoughts of revamping everything- from your beauty routine to your furniture. But making small changes in the short term can do a world of difference for you and your family.
Overhauling my entire house was the first thing I wanted to do once I discovered the world of non-toxic living. But let's be realistic, this type of change has a learning curve- and as you learn new things about going toxin free, you will want to replace items over time. Whether its your household products, beauty items, throw pillows, or your child's mattress, it will lead to a world of good. Let's start small. .
“Spread love, not chemicals.”
Look around the house. Look in your cupboards. Look in your bathroom at the products you use. The sky is the limit. What do you find? In your kitchen you may find paper towels, plastic bottles, dishwasher detergent, dish soap, etc. In your bathroom you might find beauty products, toilet paper, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, etc. Make a list of 5 things you would like to replace sooner than later. Make a short term goal list and a long term goal list. For example, a short term goal could be reducing the amount of plastic you use by using paper snack bags for your kids' lunches, and a long term goal could be trading in your bed for an organic one. Not everything needs to be bought. There are so many DIY recipes available online, and sometimes making what you need is more fun anyway!
1. Get a New H2O Bottle
Switching out your use of plastic water bottles for a stainless steel or glass one is not only better for you, it's better for the planet. Plus, they don't pollute your body, or allow for bacterial growth as easily as refilling plastic water bottles does. When plastic water bottles heat up from being left in a sunny spot, or in your hot car, chemicals leach into the water. It depends on the type of plastic water bottle you're using. Plastic bottles that are made from bisphenol A, (a harder plastic), could possibly leach BPA into the water when it becomes heated. We are all well aware of this, and because of it, most manufacturers in the USA have removed bottles made with BPA. How do you know if your bottle has been designated as "BPA free"? This can be found by locating the number seven on the bottom of the bottle. If you forego plastic all together, this isn't on your list of worries. Why trade in your plastic bottle? Because drinking from one made with BPA, means you are exposing yourself to chemicals- one of them being environmental estrogen. Estrogen in the form of chemicals are call xenoestrogens, which mimic estrogen, and can alter hormonal activity. Yikes! By the way, BPA can also be found on store receipts- so skip taking those home. But we won't get into that! Opt for a stainless steel water bottle, like this one from Klean KanteenOr opt for a glass water bottle, like this one from Lifefactory for your kids, or this one for you, from Takeya.
2. Replace One Surface Cleaner with a DIY version
Pull one surface cleaner out of your toxin-filled cabinet of cleaning supplies. Read the back of the label. Are you surprised at all the ingredients you can't pronounce, or understand what they mean? Many "green" brands are not always green. For example, the very popular Seventh Generation products do not score highest on the EWG list. Their dish-washing gel scored an F. Yes, EWG does get paid by brands often to be featured, but their rating should still be considered. Becoming familiar with product language and knowing what ingredients actually mean is the way you can make safer choices for you and your family. Changing your household cleaning ingredients can simplify your cleaning and your life. All you need is a BPA free spray bottle, hot water, vinegar, essential oils, and a lemon- it's that simple. It takes you 2 minutes to make, has only 4 ingredients, and is "non-toxic" around babies and pets. If you want to skip vinegar (some people don't like the smell), then utilize baking soda and castile soap instead.
White Vinegar: it cuts grease, deodorizes smells, and most importantly, disinfects.
Baking Soda: it cuts grease, deodorizes smells, lifts dirt, and whitens surfaces
All Purpose Cleaner With Vinegar 3 parts hot water
1 part vinegar
1-2 tsp lemon juice
5-7 drops lemon essential oil (make sure you are using a pure essential oil).
All Purpose Cleaner Without Vinegar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon castile soap
3-5 drops tea tree oil
Why switch? Things that seem harmless, like "fragrance" are all commonly found in household cleaners. The problem is, they are all linked to a shocking variety of health issues which include asthma, cancer, and allergies, and can develop into multiple chemical sensitivities. When repeatedly exposed to even small amounts of these chemicals, adults and especially immune-compromised children, can have long-term health problems.
3. Opt for a Natural Toothpaste
Speaking of harmful ingredients, toothpaste is no saint- it often contains fluoride (which you probably get enough of in your tap water already). Earthpaste, as mentioned by Ashley of NonToxic Reboot, is the top rated, all natural toothpaste. Often found in conventional toothpastes, are ingredients such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Triclosan, and Diethanolamine, just to name a few. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or SLS, has been linked to the development of cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, as well as skin irritation and even endocrine disruption. This is reported by Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. The Mighty Nest (love their products, and also their monthly subscription) dubs Triclosan a thyroid disruptor. It is marketed as a synthetic ingredient that wards off bacteria, and inhibits its growth, which is something you want in toothpaste, right? Wrong! It can even alter hormone regulation. Diethanolamine is an ingredient that scores a whopping 10 on EWG's database as high hazard. It can cause irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), and organ system toxicity (non-reproductive). Yuck! Those three ingredients are enough to make me want to switch to a cleaner, healthier option.
4. Switch to Bleach-Free Paper Towels (or better yet, replace them with reusable cloths!)
Did you know that the large majority of paper towels contain bleach? There are numerous toxic chemicals in paper towels — just a few are bleach, chlorine, and formaldehyde (bleach and chlorine make paper towels white). When we utilize paper towels, these toxic ingredients enter through our skin and seep into our blood stream. Chlorine creates dangerous toxins that transform into what are called "dioxin" and "furans". These are two toxins that accumulate within our bodies when exposed. Long term exposure can surprisingly alter our DNA over time, which can lead to the development of cancers or hormonal disorders. It can even compromise the immune system's ability to fight infection, can reduce the chances of getting pregnant, and can even cause birth defects. How many times have you wiped your child's mouth with a wet paper towel, or used it to clean your counters? The ways we use paper towels are endless. Make a change by switching to chlorine free, bleach free paper towels, or you can decrease your use of them altogether, and replace them with reusable cloths. I just recently received my Mighty-fix box this month, and inside was a set of 5 reusable organic cotton dishcloths by Full Circle, and a memo that we can reduce our usage of paper towels by 45 pounds each year when using cloths instead! Another option I recently discovered, are Nanotowels. They clean with just the use of water!
5. Add Air Filtering House Plants to Your Home
Did you know that air inside your home is more polluted than the air outside? This is a scary thought, considering we spend much of our time indoors. It is recommended to have airflow at all times in order to decrease toxicity within the home, and allow in fresh air. Whether the air conditioner is turned on, or the windows are open, ensure there is a way to filter the air. One way to filter the air is through the use of plants. Within your home, there are chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, and ammonia, which can stem from household items and cleaners, polluting your home. They ooze from products like paint, foam-insulated materials and furniture, adhesives, carpets, etc. What's worse, is you can't see these airborne chemicals. The top 3 types of house plants that are best for filtering indoor air (according to NASA) are the Red Edged Dracaena, the Peace Lily, and the Florist's Chrysanthemum. The Red Edged Dracaena filters out benzene (can cause dizziness, and headache), xylene (can cause heart problems, liver and kidney damage), formaldehyde (can cause irritation to nose and throat, as well as swelling of the lungs), and trychloroethylene (can cause dizziness, vomiting, and more seriously a coma). The Peace Lily and the Florist's Chrysanthemum filter all of these toxins as well as ammonia (can cause eye irritation, coughing, and sore throat). See the entire list of air filtering house plants here.
Going green in small steps is easy. Utilize and implement these 5 simple ways to go toxin free, without overhauling everything in your home at once. Keep that long term goal list nearby, and over time you can chip away at making larger changes. But making small changes in the short term can do a world of difference for you and your family.