By now, most of us are at least minimally aware of the need to reduce chemicals and pollutants in our home and environment to keep us safe and healthy. Any easy Google search can provide a host of information about the dangers of constant interactions and exposure with pesticides, contaminants, even preservatives and artificial additives in our food. They do real harm to our bodies and to the environment. Thankfully, there are easy steps we can take to avoid keeping harmful products, both edibles and non-edibles, in our home, giving us a cleaner, greener place to live. Below are just a few of the relatively easy measures I have taken to work to get my home more environmentally friendly.
- Buy Local and Organic (when I can). One of the easiest first steps I took was to stay up-to-date on the “dirty dozen” list of the most contaminated produce, and to buy these foods organic as much as possible. Yes, they are a bit pricier, but any reduction in pesticide exposure goes a long way towards keeping your body healthier. I also try to buy most of my produce locally at the farmer’s market. Many of these vendors use organic methods anyway, because not only are they selling what they grow, they are eating what they grow. They know exactly what they are putting on their crops, and typically, they want it to be as clean as possible for their own families. You can always ask what they use on their crops before you buy, so that way you know exactly what has been used on your food. You can’t necessarily do that in a grocery store!
- Buy Plant-Based Cleaners or Use Natural Cleaners. Another painless step is to try some plant-based, perfume-free cleaners. These usually come with mixed results, to be sure, but there are natural ways you can boost their cleaning power. Personally, I like most Seventh Generation products. I boost the laundry detergent with Borax (natural based) and dish cleaner with lemon oil. Using white vinegar to clean my kitchen and bathrooms is by far the most inexpensive and natural way to kill germs that I’ve come across (I mix vinegar with a few drops of 7th Generation dish soap and put in a spray bottle). I’ve also recently purchased a steam mop to sanitize the floors using steam heat from distilled water. Again, you can Google search the best plant-based and natural cleaners and find what works best for your needs.
- Use Silicone Reusable Bags. I have finally purchased a decent-sized set of reusable Ziploc-style storage bags, and I am so excited about them! I was appalled when seeing news stories describing the billions of microplastic particles in our oceans. I was even more upset by studies indicating that we are consuming nearly the weight of a credit card worth of plastic every week! I absolutely wanted to stop contributing to this senseless waste, and I finally took the first step in doing just that.
- Recycle. I am really excited to be at a point where we recycle more than we throw away! We are lucky to have a system where our recycling gets picked up at the curb, but it didn’t always used to be this way. I completely understand the hassle it can be to have to drop it off. If you find yourself in a community that does not offer curbside pick-up, please do try to make the effort to collect it and take it to a facility. That extra effort saves so much waste! Also, please be aware that most grocery stores and Wal-Mart have bins to place your plastic bags in for recycling. Those plastic bags that wind up in our oceans look like jellyfish (read: food!) to most sea creatures.
- Educate your Children. We talk to our children about why we do the above for our home and the environment. By teaching our children the importance of protecting and preserving our planet, we instill a powerful value that will ensure they continue the effort. It’s the quality of their future that we are working so hard to protect, and education is key to achieving that end.
Are there more steps I can take to have a cleaner, greener home? Absolutely. I’m certainly not perfect at it. For example, I would like to have less paper towel waste and use less water and use it more efficiently, though we do have all energy-efficient appliances. We do own a great Prius, and we hope to trade in our other vehicle for an all-electric version in the next few years. So, eventually I will get to where I think we need to be. Every little reduction in waste, chemical exposure, and additive exposure goes a long way toward maintaining a healthy body and a healthier home. Why not just try one step at a time? Your future self will thank you!