Good food and nutrition are undoubtedly important, but sometimes we become so fixated on our diets that we forget all of the other potential hazards around us that impact our health. The chemicals in our cleaning products, cookware, beauty care brands, furniture, food storage containers and more all contain alarming compounds that damage the environment, can worsen allergies and asthma, disrupt the endocrine system and may even lead to cancer. But there’s no need to raze your home to the ground – you can begin to create a more eco-friendly home today by incorporating simple changes into your daily life.
Swap The Air Fresheners
Instead Try: Essential Oils
Air fresheners, both the ones we spray and the ones we plug into the wall, emit harmful compounds – including fragrance (a cocktail of hundreds of unlabeled chemicals), formaldehyde, benezene, limonene and tolulene. When we’re exposed to this medley, we can experience eye and skin irritations, immediate respiratory issues or headaches, but on a deeper level these chemicals can affect the nervous system, our hormones, our hearts and our lungs. The particulates in air fresheners are so small they may burrow deep into the body, and perhaps collect for years before we notice.
What’s more, these air fresheners don’t actually make things ‘fresh’ or clean – they only hide odours. If your home is smelly, find the source of the smell and clean it! However, if you enjoy a scent in your home, try using essential oils in a plug-in aromatherapy diffuser or a reed diffuser. Depending on what scent you choose, essential oils are powerful and can help you relax, aid with sleep, improve your mood and even repel insets – but it’s extra important that you use oils that are top quality.
Swap The Paper Towels
Instead Try: Washable Dish Towels and Rags Made of Old Shirts and Sheets
Paper towels are an energy drain on the environment because they require water, energy and trees to be produced – and then we throw them in the trash. Even recycled paper towels use water and energy. According to one survey, 95% of American households use paper towels.
To mop up kitchen spills, dust or clean your home, try using cut-up old dish towels and t-shirts. They are absorbent, re-usable, and it’s likely you already have some old duds on hand that you could transform!
Swap The Toxic Household Cleaners
Instead Try: DIY Home Cleaners
Similar to air fresheners, conventional household cleaners contain volatile organic compounds that negatively impact our health, and many of them are considered carcinogenic. Many kitchen staples like baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar are effective for ridding pathogens like e. coli from your home, while essentials oils have anti-microbial and disinfectant properties, and even show promise for protection against salmonella when used as a ‘veggie wash’.
There are a multitude of amazing DIY home cleaning recipes for every room in your house! For a great compilation to get you started, check out these 10 non-toxic home cleaning recipes.
Swap The Conventional Moisturizer
Instead Try: Coconut Oil
Check out the ingredients on a bottle of conventional moisturizer and we bet you won’t be able to pronounce more than half of them! Beauty care products are loaded with chemicals, including parabens, BHA, BHT, fragrance, phthalates and triclosan, which mess with our endocrine systems. While some ingredients in moisturizer might not be incredibly dangerous in isolation, we don’t use these beauty products in isolation – we apply them daily, and the average woman uses 12 products containing 168 ingredients every day.
But did you know that coconut oil makes an amazing moisturizer? That’s why it’s often included as an ingredient in beauty products, but you can use it on its own. Plus, it’s anti-microbial and anti-bacterial, and smells great! Keep a second jar in your bathroom for easy application.
Swap The Plastic Containers or Plastic/Foil Wrap
Instead Try: Glass Containers or Beeswax Wraps
Plastics have a double-barreled impact: the environment on one hand, and our health on the other.
Almost 300 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide in 2013 alone. Plastic shopping bags, plastic cutlery, plastic wrap, plastic food storage bags, plastic cups, plastic water bottles, plastic Tupperware containers, the list is endless. Anywhere from 22 to 43 percent of that plastic ends up in landfills, where it won’t biodegrade. Plastic also ends up in our oceans, between 10 t0 20 million tons per year, where animals mistake it for food, get tangled up in it, or it destroys their habitat.
On the health side, plastic containers have chemicals like bisphenol A and phthlalates that leach into our food. BPA mimics estrogen and messes with our hormones, leading to an increased risk of hormonal disorders, infertility, early puberty, and breast and prostate cancer.
Instead of plastic, use glass or steel containers to store your food. Mason jars are inexpensive and you can find them at your local hardware store. Swap the plastic wrap for reusable food wraps (they’re often made of beeswax) or, if you’re handy with a sewing machine, you could even make your own fabric covers for bowls and plates.
Swap The Teflon-Coated Cookware
Instead Try: Environmentally-Friendly Cookware
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PFTE) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are chemicals found in Teflon cookware and they can be ingested and inhaled when cooking. They are potential cancer-causing substances, may give you flu-like symptoms and can even be found in human breastmilk.
According to Mimi Huang, a toxicologist, “Assuming you use your cookware appropriately, i.e. not heating it excessively and unattended, always heating the pan with something in it, not scratching off the Teflon and consuming it for dinner, using non-stick pans is relatively safe for humans.” Teflon-ites claim that it’s safe up to 350 degrees – but how do you know what level of heat your element is producing?
Try using cast iron, ceramic, or stainless steel cookware instead. These options can be more expensive, but they last a long time. To save money, try scouring thrift stores or garage sales for a good cast iron pan (or pillage your grandmother’s kitchen).
Do you have any simple tips to create a more eco-friendly home? Please share in the comments!