December 2013 prompt:
Natural New Year’s Resolutions ~ We will all soon hear people around us resolving to change in the new year. But, one of the keys to natural living is to appreciate that we don’t need a new year for a fresh start. Each day, we have the chance to make better choice and form healthier habits. In December, we want to hear about your natural resolutions, regardless of the time of year you decided to change. Tell us your success stories (e.g., you reduced your family’s exposure to GMO’s), your future plans (e.g., you are going to work to stop yelling) or even about how you embrace each day’s potential for building new habits.
Our step onto the path of natural living started when we discovered one of our children was very sensitive to strong scents and perfumes – bye-bye conventional cleaners, scented lotions, and perfumed products. Only later did we learn what a huge step that was.*
Next, we discovered he was allergic to the “easy” ingredients that are readily found in processed foods. He cannot have wheat, eggs, soy, peanuts or hazelnuts. That pretty much cut out the center of the grocery store for us.
The last event that cemented our commitment to more natural living was a day when I decided to read the labels on our personal care products that were labeled “natural”, and compare them to the EWG’s toxin list. They were not even close to being as natural as they claimed to be.
The key to our shift in living and purchasing was doing one thing at a time. If all those things had happened at once, I think I may have crawled into a hole and never come out. That was not an option, though – it hardly ever is. Even if you don’t have a child’s needs motivating you to make a change, you can make a list of all the things you want to change for your family. Then prioritize it, and take one thing at a time.
We started by shifting to the Clorox Green Works line of cleaners (stay with me!), and giving or throwing away all my perfume and lotions. Then we started learning about gluten-free and egg-free eating. It became easier as I realized that there were still over 2000+ foods he could eat – I just needed to shift my perception. Since soy needs to be out, too, it cuts out a lot of the food in the gluten-free aisle as well. Soy lecithin is a popular, inexpensive ingredient across the grocery store aisles. Hence, the commitment to whole food eating was cemented. You can’t find chemical additives or preservatives in fresh fruits and vegetables! You do have to be aware of pesticides – that inspired our commitment to know our sources.
Then started the search for personal care products that were “safe”. We started by asking our “crunchy” family and friends what they used. If they made the EWG “cut”, we tried out their favorites to see how they fit our family. If not, we kept looking. Hours were spent reading every label on every product labeled “natural” in the natural stores to see what we were going to allow into our home.
Looking around on the EWG site, I also discovered their cleaning guide. The cleaners that I thought were “green” were tossed out! We started making our own cleaners. Little by little, we have been lobbying our cleaning lady to make the switch to our home-made cleaners that use vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, baking soda, and castile soap. She is coming around. There is a compromise because I don’t want to lose her help cleaning for our active family of six!
We continue to take baby steps every day. As we learn more about organic foods, we are growing our own, shopping the farmer’s market, and choosing organic over conventional when it makes sense. We wash all our produce with baking soda and rinse it longer than we used to. We take time to cut our own fruits and vegetables for snacks instead of buying packages of gluten-free crackers or pretzels. We shop local for breads that are made at a gluten-free bakery. We have found that knowing the source and shopping local is one of the best ways to ensure we are staying true to our commitment to live green.
How does it work in real life?
- We take time to pour our own water in stainless steel water bottles instead of buying plastic containers on the road. Each kiddo is in charge of their own bottle in the morning, or sometimes Night Owl surprises us all and has them filled before we need to get going.
- We always keep fresh fruit and vegetables in the house. Costco is carrying organic, or we buy from the organic section at Sprouts, or we hit the farmer’s market.
- We pre-cut fruits and veggies for the week and leave them in containers for the Sweet Peas to help themselves.
- We grow our own greens – it is amazing what your children will eat if they have had a part in growing it! Look into hydroponics or a Tower Garden (aeroponics) if you want to grow year round.
- We make our own juice – KitchenAid has a juice attachment for juicing citrus, or we use our juicer for apples, strawberries, and carrots for the Sweet Peas.
- We make water infusions to add variety – our faves are lemon-cucumber water, strawberry-basil water, and orange-basil water. There are so many things you can add to water at night that yield a yummy flavor in the morning. Go for it – come up with your own family favorites.
- We travel with a cooler and ice packs for our snacks. Our favorite road snacks are cut fruit, carrot sticks, hummus, cheese and crackers. We also buy dehydrated strawberries from Trader Joe’s for road tripping – fresh strawberries can be messy!
- We have reusable wipes instead of disposable. They wash right along with our diaper wraps.
- We have made the switch to un-paper towels. Even though we can’t use them in the microwave to warm food, we can use them for everything else. The amount we have cut back on paper towels is astounding. We have gone from using 2-3 rolls per week to about one-two per month. We buy ours from Shannon’s Cloth and More.
- Personal care products: we use Dr. Bronner castile soaps, Earth Mama Angel Baby products for the Sweet Peas (and I love their Angel Baby lotion!), and Puma and I like the Whole Foods 365 line for shampoo and conditioner (she likes citrus, I use mint). I am not 100% happy that they use soy…there is a little trade-off for a product that cleans our long hair without drying it out or leaving it greasy and stringy. We recently discovered a local product to replace shaving cream – check out Zoaps !
The next area on my list to “green” is our children’s toys and clothing. I am slowly finding more organic fabrics to choose from. We are being more mindful about buying less plastic and more wood, even though to be honest, the holiday season is grinding me…our boys love the plastic!! To that end, I ordered a modular castle I think they will love from Manzanita Kids.
If you want to resolve to Live Green in ‘14, I encourage you to go for it! Start with the area that is the most important to you, and just start by changing one thing. You can change one thing! Once you do it, and prove to yourself that you can change one thing, pick a new thing. Little by little, one change at a time, you are living greener than you were yesterday. By simply choosing one change per month, that will be 12 greener choices over the course of the year. The great news is you can start your journey to Be Green anytime – any day can be the day you make a choice to do one thing for better health.
* There are thousands of unregulated chemicals being used in the cleaning and cosmetics industry because they are not “food” or “medicine” (click HERE for more info on the cleaning industry, and HERE and HERE if you are ready to start “greening” your personal care products).