In a recent workshop I held on eco-living, I asked the question, “What does green-living or eco-living mean to you?” Without hesitation, the audience shouted “composting”…”recycling”…”turning off your lights”…”conserving energy and water.” When we hear the terms “eco-living” or “green-living,” it is easy to conjure up images of reducing our carbon footprint, recycling our recyclables, and working under dimly lit compact-fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). We’ve grown accustomed to eco-friendly being synonymous with deprivation and sacrifice. These highly marketed terms, however, focus on only one side of the equation.
For a moment, forget what you identify with green-living today and be open to a new way of thinking. Instead of considering your impact on the environment, think about what your environment’s impact is on you.
What we apply to our skin, what we breathe into our lungs, and what we consume through our body, are all directly impacting our health. If you don’t feel passionately about eco-living from an environment perspective, that is one thing, but I have to imagine you would be passionate about your environment’s impact on you. Here’s what you need to know:
- What You APPLY: Our skin is an organ, by which we absorb the ingredients from products we use into our bloodstream and body. Personal care products and skin care products contain many ingredients, some of which are very disruptive to our health. Certain ingredients have been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, asthma and other health issues. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) studies and advocates for personal care product safety and are a great resource to know which personal care products are safe, including sunscreens and sunblocks. If you’d like a free cheat sheet of all of the ingredients to watch out for, click here.
- What You BREATHE: Over 50 percent of homes have at least six detectable allergens present, and hay fever is the 5th leading chronic disease. Our home and work environments have a tremendous impact on our health. The three things you need to keep in mind are: to keep the outside out to eliminate outdoor pollutants in your home; to minimize and eliminate dust inside the home, and to use toxic-free chemicals from your home. Doing so will help to reduce symptoms of asthma and allergies, improve your indoor air quality, and decrease unwanted pollutants. Institute a no shoe policy in your home, by taking your shoes off at the door. Also leave coats, bags and umbrellas close to the entrance of your home as well. To minimize dust, make sure you vacuum at least once a week, including fabric furniture and choose bagless vacuums with HEPA filters. Also, for hard surfaces, make sure you use a wet mop or rag to pick up dust, as it will be much more effective than dry. And for toxic-free cleaning products, look for those that have the Green Seal or EcoLogo certification on them, or if possible make your own cleaning products using every day household items. EWG also provides a great healthy cleaning guide as well. For a quick cheat sheet on safe cleaners and DIY homemade cleaners, click here.
- What You CONSUME: Staying toxic-free in what we consume specifically refers to what we drink and eat. Most specifically, the water we drink should be filtered to avoid contaminants. And we should drink out of save vessels that are BPA free. Avoid consuming water from plastic water bottles that have been exposed to prolonged high temperatures and don’t reuse disposable plastic water bottles after you drink the original water sold in the bottle. When it comes to food, always look to minimize additives. For a quick cheat sheet of food additives to avoid, click here. Always opt for organic fruit, vegetables and animal products to avoid chemicals, hormones, insecticides, antibiotics, pesticides and any other toxic elements in your food. Also, choose fish that are lower in contaminants. If you are on a tight budget and aren’t sure which foods are most important to consume organic, check Environmental Working Group’s website for the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15.
Are you focusing on any of these three areas? What do you currently do to live green?
Adapted from 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You. Make real, lasting change with this easy to follow, week-by-week guide to healthy change. Get it now at Amazon.com.