Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Green Living Priorities


For those of us that were not green from the start, sustainable living might pose a lot of questions. Where do I start? What should I buy? How do I not break the bank? Honestly, for me Green Living is first and foremost about the health of my family. The health of the planet is just a perk, and frankly 'saving the planet' has become a cliche phrase. I think if we all would be more concerned about our health and of those around us - we would be doing the earth a lot of good as well.

1. Food and Water
This includes what you eat, drink, and what comes in direct contact with your food. Reducing your exposure to pesticides and man made food additives and ingredients is vitally important. I find that most people start questioning what they eat when they have children, that is when they start to realize that food makes up what we are and chemical laden food can be the trigger of many ailments. Buy organic (and local if possible) as much as you can afford and avoid junk food altogether, even 'organic' junk food. Don't forget that raw fruits and vegetables will give you the most nutritious bang for your buck. Of course, as with anything, moderation is key and variety will give you a balanced diet. Try to avoid toxic materials coming in contact with your food as well and invest in a good water filtration system.

2. Medical Care
I am amazed at how many people boast to be 'going green' yet they don't mind polluting their own bodies with chemicals found in allopathic medicine. While there is a place and time for modern medicine to do it's life saving job, I find that the majority of people abuse it and resort to it for ailments that can easily be treated naturally. When it comes to vaccines, I think it is the choice of every parent, though not an easy one. It would be an easier choice if vaccines did not contain questionable ingredients and didn't have so many credible opponents (people that developed vaccines in the past, doctors, and research scientists). Not to mention the billion dollar pharmaceutical industry (conflict of interest abounds).

3. Skin Care Products
You might not realize that what you put on your body does get absorbed through your skin. Unfortunately there are no regulations for the ingredients in skin care products - even for babies (except for the ones containing a drug). So it is up to you to protect your family from chemicals that are carcinogenic, mess with hormones, or are toxic in some other way. I recommend checking all the products you use on the EWG Skin Deep Database.

4. Household Cleaning
What you clean your house with has gotten a lot of attention lately. It seems like every company that normally makes toxic cleaners is now trying to be more 'green'. But in reality, less toxic doesn't mean healthy. If you can't afford to buy Eco-friendly cleaning products, make your own. In my experience it actually costs me less to use healthy cleaners. Often they do a better job and don't give you a nauseating headache either. Your home traps all the Volatile Organic Compounds released by toxic chemicals in cleaners, ultimately your children will be the ones to suffer most. In anecdotal experiences parents saw drastic changes in their children's asthma and eczema when switching to natural cleaning methods.

5. Indoor Air
Household cleaning products are not the only contributors to indoor air pollution. If you can afford finishing your house with zero VOC paint, it will do wonders to indoor air quality. Consider that rugs and furniture also off gas for years. Whenever possible invest in furnishings made of natural and untreated materials. Wool rugs for example and natural wood furniture finished with food grade wood treatments (like the ones for wood cutting boards). To help with indoor air, plant some house plants to help filter it! Easier said than done, I know, at least for me. I do best with a cactus.

6. Textiles
While to me organic and Eco-friendly clothing is not a priority, it would be if I could afford it. Let's face it, out of all the ways to go green, organic clothing carries one of the heftiest price tags. If it is within your budget though, consider starting with organic bedding. You spend at least six hours in that bed (right?). It is best to avoid sleeping in pesticide treated sheets and a formaldehyde laden mattress. Though I consider that a luxury for myself, it is more important for my baby. Babies have very sensitive skin and you are the only one who can help lessen their exposure to unhealthy or synthetic materials. Bamboo has been a popular fabric of choice as it does not need any chemical treatment and is a highly renewable resource. Wool is also a great choice for blankets.

7. Transportation
I think most of us would rather have a fuel efficient vehicle. While this Eco-living choice does not directly impact your health, it does impact your wallet. Well, in short term it isn't profitable. But in the long term it will save you money. Hopefully the future will see to it becoming a more affordable option for all. Meanwhile, get on your bike and get some exercise.

All of the above only touches the tip of the iceberg and there are many more ways to live a sustainable life style that is beneficial for the health of your family. Please share your tips in the comments!

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