Natural Living: The Beginner Guide to Non-Toxic Living
Our world is more complicated and polluted than ever before.
Today, our most of our food comes from a package, box, or can. Our makeup, toiletries, and cleaning products contain complex chemicals we can pronounce or understand.
If you want to start a more natural way of living but feel confused about the practical things you can do to minimize your exposure to toxins and improve your health and environment, then you’re in the right place.
Today, you’re going to learn how to live a more conscious life that benefits you, your family and the plant.
Ready? Roll your sleeves up and let’s get to work!
Why Do You Need to Go Green?
Every day, we get exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of chemicals whether it was from the additives in your food and personal care products, or the things you come in contact with including your mattress, couch, carpeting, or the paint on your walls.
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the air inside the average US home can be five to 100 times more polluted than the air outside because of the toxic fumes emanating from our household cleaners, carpeting, and wallpaper.
You don’t have to get sick to change your purchase and consumption habits.
It’s essential to start fixing things now starting with your immediate environment to improve your health and prevent a potential health crisis from happening.
How Can You Make a Difference?
It might seem to you that you have little to no control over the chemicals in your environment.
But making small, simple changes in your daily routine can have a significant impact on your health and well-being and even the health of our planet.
1. The Kitchen, Pantry, and Refrigerator:
Your kitchen is the first place in your home to start with if you want to eliminate toxins from your life.
There are 5 things to avoid if you want to make your kitchen natural:
2. Food additives: MSG, trans fats (hydrogenated oils), artificial sweeteners
3. Factory-farmed foods
4. Genetically modified foods
5. Unfiltered tap water
#1. Does The Food You Eat Contain Pesticides?
Hint: Food that is not labeled “organic” or not grown on a local farm, almost certainly contains pesticides.
Problem: Pesticides are toxic to us and the environment. They can harm the human neurologic system and deplete the Earth’s protective ozone layer.
Solution: Start Eating Organic Food
Since the chemicals in pesticides are invisible, odorless, and tasteless, the only way to make sure that your food doesn’t contain pesticides is to buy organic.
Organic foods are minimally processed, grown with no pesticides, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, herbicides, preservatives, or irradiation. They’re usually sent to market as close to harvest as possible.
Organic foods taste better and have a higher nutritional value. An organically grown apple can have up to 300 percent more vitamin C than a nonorganic apple.
Anna Lappé, food activist and best-selling author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen says “Pesticides sprayed on our fields poison one in seven farm workers every year, and 800 to 1,000 farmers and farm workers die annually from pesticide exposure.”
12 Fruits and Vegetables to Buy Organic
The following is a list of a dozen fruits and vegetables that most likely contain pesticide residues, based on studies by the Consumers Union (CU) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
- Green beans
- Sweet bell peppers
1. Find Your Farmer
Food shipped from halfway around the world uses lots of petroleum and emits greenhouse gases, no matter what the method of transportation it took.
So if you’re ecologically minded, you need to consider heading to your local farmer.
Web Sites to Find Local Food Products
- www.eatwellguide.com: provides an online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs.
- www.eatwild.com: lists local suppliers for grass-fed meat and dairy products.
- www.heritagefoodsusa.com: sells mail-order “traceable” products from small farms whose labels provide details about how they were produced.
2. Join a CSA
CSA (community-supported agriculture) consists of buying shares in a farm, then, during the season, you get fresh vegetables and fruits (and sometimes eggs and meat) directly delivered to you, or to a drop-off point every week.
To find a CSA near you, go to www.localharvest.org or www.csacenter.org.
3. Plant Your Own Garden
Even if you don’t have a backyard, you can get some indoor pot or make a window garden and plant some seeds.
#2. Do your beverages contain artificial sweeteners?
Hint: Beverages labeled with the words “diet”, “lite,” or “no sugar,” contain sweeteners – including “diet” soda.
Problem: Artificial sweeteners are known hazards. Aspartame may stimulate appetite and bring on a craving for carbohydrates.
Artificial sweeteners aren’t just added to diet sodas. They are also added to sugar-free candies, gums, yogurt, and other sugar-free desserts.
According to Sharon P. Fowler, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Texas Health Science Center, there is a risk of 41% increase in weight for every can of diet soft drink a person consumes each day.
Solution: Start Using Natural Sweeteners
Honey has antiseptic, antibiotic, antifungal, and antibacterial properties that make it a great alternative to artificial sweeteners.
2. Agave nectar
Agave nectar is a syrup-like liquid. It dissolves easily in cold liquids and can be used as a sugar substitute in baking (use ⅓ cup agave syrup for every 1 cup of sugar in the original recipe). It also is diabetes-friendly.
Stevia is a noncaloric herb that can be used as a sweetener. Stevia comes in liquid as well as powder form and is 300 times sweeter than sugar. It also is diabetes-friendly.
#3. Do you drink from plastic bottles that leach BPA?
Hint: Check the bottom of your bottles for the recycling number.
Problem: Hard polycarbonate (#7 recycling number) bottles can leach an artificial estrogen known as BPA (bisphenol A). This chemical can cause increased risk of miscarriage and birth defects, as well as prostate cancer. Scratches in the plastic, harsh detergents, and boiling liquids increase the leaching.
One of the reasons people buy bottled water is their concerns about the safety of most tap water.
But is bottled water really safer?
A major study conducted by the NRDC, in which 1,000 bottles of different brands of water have been analyzed, several of the brands were shown to contain dangerous chemicals, exceeding levels allowed under a state or industry standard or guideline.
Solution: Get Off Plastic Bottles
1. Filter Your Own Water
Filtering or purifying your own tap water is the most economical and healthiest solution in the long term.
However, knowing which type of filter to use can be challenging. This is why it’s important to test your water. Call your local water utility and ask for a copy of your community’s annual water quality report.
2. Fill Up Your Own Reusable Bottle
Stainless steel, aluminum, and glass bottles are the best alternative for plastic. But if you must use plastic, make sure the bottle won’t leach.
Check the recycling symbol on the bottom of the bottle. #2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene), #4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene), or #5 PP (polypropylene), are fine.
2. The Bathroom
#4. Do your makeup and body care products contain parabens (including the forms methyl, propyl, or butyl)?
Hint: Parabens are used as preservatives in most cosmetics and body care products.
Problem: Parabens are harmful. They have been found in most breast tumors and can damage the immune system.
Makeup and personal care products are largely chemically based and not tested for safety.
Solution: Start Using Natural Cosmetics
1. Keep It Simple
Buy products that have the fewest and safest ingredients possible on their labels. Ingredients are usually stated in descending order, so the first ingredient makes up the majority of the product.
In other words, if the natural ingredients appear last on the list, this means that less than one percent of the product is actually natural.
2. Choose Trusted Companies
More companies and offering environmentally friendly products that contain more natural ingredients and fewer chemicals. Go to www.safecosmetics.org to see the list of companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.
#5. Do you use artificially scented products?
Hint: You may suffer from chronic headaches or hives when you smell your perfume or favorite detergent’s aroma.
Problem: Almost all fragrances are created with synthetic compounds that are known toxins and sensitizers.
Solution: Choose Products That Are Free Of Fragrance
Check the ingredients. Don’t be fooled by products that say “organic” on the label or claim to be “fragrance-free” or “unscented”. They could contain masking agents that give off a neutral odor.
1. Perfume and Body Sprays Blended From Essential Oils
Check out these online sources:
- Aftelier Perfumes: www.aftelier.com
- Kate’s Magik: www.katesmagik.com
- Natural Perfumers Guild: www.naturalperfumersguild.com (lists members who make fragrances from botanical ingredients)
- Scentual Alchemy: www.scentualalchemy.com
2. Great Natural Makeup Lines
Check out these online sources:
- Afterglow Cosmetics: www.afterglowcosmetics.com
- Aubrey Organics: www.aubrey-organics.com
- Cargo: www.cargocosmetics.com
- Dr. Hauschka: www.drhauschka.com
- Earth’s Beauty Cosmetics: www.earthsbeauty.com
- Ecobella: www.ecobella.com
- Gabriel Cosmetics: www.gabrielcosmetics.com
- Jane Iredale: www.janeiredale.com
- Lavera: www.lavera.com
- Nvey: www.nveymakeup.com
- PeaceKeeper: www.iamapeacekeeper.com
- Sukicolor: www.sukicolor.com
- Weleda: www.weleda.com
3. The Bedroom
#6. Is your mattress made of synthetic materials?
Hint: If you have trouble falling asleep or wake up often during the night, it could be the fault of your mattress.
Problem: The typical mattress contains chemicals like polyurethane, Styrofoam, polyester, fire retardants, adhesives, and bonding agents that are recognized carcinogens. These trap the moisture our bodies release during sleep which attracts dust mites that cause allergies.
Solution: Get a Good-Quality, Natural Mattresses and Sheets
1. The Mattress
Mattresses made with synthetic ingredients release chemicals into the air that you inhale while sleeping. This is why it’s important to get good-quality, natural mattress.
If you can’t afford a new natural mattress, buy an organic wool and cotton mattress topper. Organic wool is a natural dust mite and mold resistant. It wicks and dries moisture away from the body.
Also sleep on a wooden bed instead of one made of particleboard or fiberboard, which can give off toxic fumes.
The following Web sites offer organic mattresses and bedding:
- Anna Sova: www.annasova.com (organic sheets and towels, too)
- E3 Environmental: www.h3environmental.com
- Earthsake: www.earthsake.com
- Good Night Naturals: www.goodnightnaturals.com
- Holy Lamb Organics: www.holylamborganics.com
- Keetsa mattresses: www.keetsa.com
- Lifekind: www.lifekind.com
- Natura Bed Systems: www.nontoxic.com/natura
- The Natural Mattress Store: www.thenaturalmattressstore.com
- Nirvana Safe Haven: www.nontoxic.com
- Shepherds Dream: www.shepherdsdream.com
- Soaring Heart: www.soaringheart.com for healthy baby mattresses and bedding )
2. Sheets, Blankets, Pillows, and Pillow Cases
Choose 100 percent cotton sheets. For better quality choose organic cotton.
Try bamboo sheets. Even though most bamboo is processed using strong chemical solvents, they aren’t permanently embedded in the fabric.
Look for the Fair Trade Federation label or the Co-op America’s Business Seal of Approval, to be safe.
For pillows, check out:
- EcoBedroom: www.ecobedroom.com
- Rawganique: www.rawganique.com
- Serenity Pillows: www.serenitypillows.com
4. Living Room and Home Office
#7. Did you recently install new synthetic carpeting?
Hint: If you have asthma, skin rashes, or food allergies, the reason would be breathing the off-gases from your new carpeting.
Problem: Carpeting is usually made of synthetic fibers treated with pesticides and fungicides. These chemicals are emitted as “off-gas” from new carpeting.
Solution: Choose a Carpet Made of Wool
If you have to buy a new carpet, choose one made of wool.
Wool is naturally flame retardant and nonallergenic, and it deters bacterial growth.
Don’t glue your new carpet to the floor; instead, attach it with tackless strips around the room and staple it to the subfloor.
Use a Vacuum cleaner with a well-sealed, high-quality high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA). This will kill dust mites and bacteria.
Take your shoes off when entering your house to stop toxins right at the door.
Also, consider getting an Oriental rug. They are made from natural fibers, such as wool, silk, cotton, goat’s hair, and camel’s hair.
Where to Shop
- Earthweave: www.earthweave.com
- Flokati: www.flokatirug.net (100% wool area rugs )
- Rawganique: www.rawganique.com (organic handmade hemp throw rugs)
- Ten Thousand Villages: www.tenthousandvillages.com (hand made, fair trade–certified rugs and floor mats)
#8. Was the room painted or wallpapered within the last year?
Hint: If you smell a strong odor coming from your walls, it’s caused by airborne chemicals known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These include ethers (PBDEs) and phthalates, as well as glues or adhesives used in the wallpaper.
Problem: Most VOCs are known to cause serious health problems.
Solution: Use Paper-Based or Natural Wallpaper
The environmental organization Greenpeace recommends paper-based wallpaper. Other natural fibers can also be used like linen, cotton, silk, sisal (extracted from leaves of the agave plant), cork, rice paper, grasscloth, jute (finely split bamboo), and cellulose (wood pulp).
It’s preferable to use traditional wallpaper paste than self-stick wall coverings because of the high levels of VOC content in the adhesive.
If you’re going to paint your walls, look for “low-VOC” or “no-VOC” on the label.
Where to Shop
- DesignTex has EarthTex: www.dtex.com (a non-PVC wall covering without heavy metals or plasticizers)
- Hollingsworth &Vose has WallTek: www.hollingsworth-vose.com (nonwoven wallcoverings containing no PVC or formaldehyde)
- Innovations in Wallcoverings, Inc.: www.innovationsusa.com (has a line of natural, renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable materials)
- MDC Wallcoverings: www.mdcwall.com (offers Natural Environments, which use natural materials, including the dyes)
5. Household Cleaners
#9. Do any of your household cleaners contain ingredients such as ammonia, chlorine bleach, phosphates, or formaldehyde?
Hint: If there’s a warning on the label that the product is poisonous, dangerous, or flammable or there are a skull and cross bones on the bottle then these ingredients are present and the product is toxic for you to use.
Problem: Most all-purpose cleaners, ammonia-based cleaners, bleach, metal polish, disinfectants, drain cleaners, glass cleaners, dishwashing detergents, etc contain irritants and dangerous chemicals.
These chemicals can be more dangerous than the germs themselves.
Researchers are finding links between the rise in the “cleanliness factor” and the increase in asthma and allergies.
Children are found to be twice as likely to develop breathing problems if their parents regularly used common household cleaning products such as bleach, disinfectants, and air fresheners.
Solution: Start Using Naturals cleansers
If a product smells strong, you can be sure that it’s toxic for you to use.
Also, be wary of products that don’t require you to scrub at least a little bit.
Finally, consider making your own cleansers using hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and baking soda.
Instead of using Bleach, use Borax powder (Dilute 1 teaspoon in 1 quart of water and add 2 tablespoons vinegar.)
Instead of using Spray furniture polish, use Natural wax polish.
Instead of using Toilet bowl cleaner, use Vinegar.
9 Easy Ways to Make Your Home Super Natural
1. Eat organic or pesticide-free foods as much as possible. Shop at farmers’ markets or plant your own garden.
2. Start using natural sweeteners. Try honey, agave nectar, and Stevia.
3. Choose filtered tap water over bottled. Choose glass or stainless steel water bottles.
4. Use natural, chemical-free body care products and cosmetics with the fewest and safest ingredients.
5. Be cautious of any products with “fragrance,”. Pick those made with essential oils instead.
6. Sleep on a mattress made from nontoxic, natural materials. If you can’t afford a new mattress, buy a wool and organic cotton mattress topper.
7. Switch to sheets and towels made with organic cotton or bamboo.
8. Avoid volatile organic compounds (VOCs), found in vinyl wallpaper, new carpeting, and paint.
9. Clean your house with nontoxic natural cleaning products. Try vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide.
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Portions of this article were adapted from the book Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home, and Planet–One Room at a Time, © 2009 by Beth Greer. All rights reserved.