Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Creating a healthy home - looking for alternatives to plastic!
A friend recently dropped off a book she insisted I should read. She had initially taken it out from the library, but was so drawn in that she needed to purchase a copy for herself before she was even done reading it. I'm sure many of you have come across this title and subject already - I had seen the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the toxic chemistry of everyday life affects our health - but I had not yet picked it up to read it. I generally felt that our family is quite aware of keeping toxins and chemicals out of our household, and this book would not reveal much new information. However, reading just the first chapter made me re-evaluate this thought, as I started to go over a list in my mind of all the subtle ways toxins creep into even the most eco-minded lifestyle. First of all plastics (toothpaste tubes, rice milk cartons, tofu and tempeh wrapped in plastic, almost any packaging on newly purchased items, shampoo bottles, children's toys, winter snow suits, shower curtains)...then chemicals (furniture, virtually any new clothing, carpets, car interiors, plush toys). It has been said that in an average day in North America we are exposed to over 450 toxins, just by eating 3 meals and going back and forth to work. Of course, all these toxins all build up over time in our bodies to cause a myriad of health problems.
So, how to limit the exposure, especially in our homes? It seems like you need to start with a serious purge in our homes of many familiar items, and then constant vigilence - difficult to do, and certainly not everyone has the budget to purchase all organic or so-called "eco" home products. However, by minimizing the prevalence of plastics and toxins in our home we can actually save money, because one easy way to do this is by buying less (especially new items), reusing things or purchasing second hand, and making things ourselves with natural materials.
Here are a few simple ideas on how to reduce the amount of plastics coming into the home.
a) milks, yogurts - buy in glass jars
b) freezer bags - freeze food in glass jars, or can/preserve it in glass jars to avoid longterm freezer storage
c) produce bags - avoid those flimsy plastic produce bags at the grocery store by bringing your own cotton reusable produce bags
d) shower curtains - use natural materials like cotton, or hemp which is naturally anti-microbial
e) toothpaste tubes - a simple and effective toothpaste can be mixed in a glass jar using baking soda and a few drops of pepppermint essential oil or tea tree oil
f) dish and laundry detergents - purchase in bulk and store in glass jars
g) cleaning agents - use baking soda, lemon, and vinegar for effective (and cheap) cleaning
h) bread bags - store bread in old fashioned bread boxes, paper bags, or ceramic containers with lids
i) tupperware, ziploc bags and plastic food wrap - use cloth bags, glass jars, ceramic dishes to store food
j) diapers and disposable wipes - use cloth diapers made of wool, cotton or hemp, and reusable cloth wipes and natural sprays
k) tea and coffee packaging - use loose-leaf tea, or your own garden variety, and purchase coffee in bulk and store in glass jar
l) dishes and glasses - purge your cupboard of any plastics and scour thrift stores for glass cups, ceramic, stainless steel, and wooden dishes/bowls
m) bedding - if you can spend the money, do it here - we average about 1/3 of our lives sleeping, so healthful bedding is important! use natural materials in bedding, mattresses, blankets like cotton, natural fibres, wool filling
n) clothing - try for all natural materials, or at least non-new clothing items (to avoid exposure to chemicals that treat new clothing)
o) house paints - by now there are lots of non-toxic, non VOC paints at every paint store, and at reasonable prices so these are an obvious choice
p) kid's toys - go for used, or non-toxic, all natural toys (wood, cloth, wool)
q) shampoos - make your own, use shampoo soap bars, or apple cider vinegar rinses rather than plastic bottles
r) food - to minimize plastic packaging when buying food, try to purchase in bulk (bulk flours, beans and grains usually come in brown paper bags), whole foods (e.g. produce at the market or grocery store, CSA, or home-grown), or in glass containers that are refillable (e.g. nut butters, honey, syrup, apple cider, milk, yogurt)