Thursday, November 11, 2010

a chemical-free household, Part 2: 8 Simple Rules

Here' s Part 1.

8 Simple Rules for Chemical-free, Frugal, Green Living:

1. Simple. A lot of chemical-free living is about going back to basics. This isn't to mean we should turn back the clock on progress and do everything like the pioneers did, or using methods that our grandparents used that stemmed from old wives tales more so than science. It means going back to the last thing that really worked. For example, how did women moisturize their skin before lotion was put in a bottle with tons of petroleum-based products? With pure oils like olive, jojoba, coconut, etc (NOT mineral oils - Oil-free makeup propagates the myth that oil clogs pores because bad oils clog pores).

2. It shouldn't break the bank. If it's not cheaper for me in the long run, I won't do it. It took me awhile to switch certain things, like shampoo, because I couldn't find a truly organic way of cleaning my hair that was cheaper and just as (if not more) effective than my mainstream shampoo.

3. Think long term. I emphasized the long run in the point before on purpose. Sometimes start up costs are expensive. Cloth diapers, for example, can cost anywhere from $300-$800 dollars to start up. However, you'll probably get this money back in a matter of months. In the end, you can save thousands of dollars per kid, not to mention the long term health and environmental benefits. Also, the slightly higher cost of taking care of your body now is way cheaper than paying exorbitant doctor's bills later. Several decades ago, American's spent 17.5% of their money on food and 5.2% on healthcare. Today, only 9.9% is spent on food and whopping 16% is spent on healthcare. (this is according to Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food.)

4. Give yourself time to implement these changes. My house isn't 100% chemical-free, but it's come a very, very long way.  There are also a few products in our house that we haven't found adequate replacements (like toothpaste and deodorant -although we no long buy anything with aluminum.) Making changes can be overwhelming. Sometimes you might find a product that is better than what you were using, but still has an icky ingredient or two in it. I think that's a huge step. The less toxins we're putting in our bodies, the better off we are. Keep seeking out that truly chemical-free product and I'm sure you'll eventually find it (and probably love it more than what you used before!) If it's stressing you out, take a break and start searching again later. 
Which leads me to my next point...

5. You're more likely to stick with changes if you implement them slowly and easily. 
I have been trying for awhile to go completely paperless in the kitchen, but we're in the middle of a (very slow) move to a bigger house that needed lots of cleaning. Cleaning both the new and the old place and trying to move has been stressful and put a hold on going paperless. I'm not dropping it all together, but just waiting a few weeks until we're settled in the new place. This way, the new habits will stick and not be associated with stress, because it really isn't stressful to give up paper towels.

6. Redefine old definitions, particularly of cleanliness and beauty. Does something need to smell like chemicals and artificial fragrance to be clean? Instead of buying Febreze or Glade plug ins, try sprinkling baking soda on your rugs, boiling some cinnamon sticks on the stove, or just airing out your house by opening all the windows for a few hours. Insanely cheaper, non toxic, and will release all those germs you've been imprisoning in your home.
     Beauty. I'm not going to say go completely without makeup or hair products. It's okay to like to be all gussied up. I do think there is a huge problem with women not feeling beautiful because they don't have their hair perfect and their "face" on. I know I want to teach my daughter to be comfortable in just her own skin so she doesn't feel the pressure to look a certain way to be beautiful. I also know that this mostly dependent on how I talk and act about beauty in regards to myself and others. If she decides that she likes to have her hair fixed up and wear makeup, I hope that I can point her towards products that won't put her health in danger for the sake of beauty.

7. Read labels & educate yourself. I can't emphasize this one enough. The words "natural" and "organic" are completely unregulated in non-food products. Many products mix in essential oils and organic ingredients with the same old yucky ingredients. 
     It does no good to read labels if you don't know what you're reading. Here's a good basic guide on what to look for and avoid on labels. It's important to know not only which ingredients to avoid, but why you are avoiding them. You may end up making a scale for yourself of what products you want to avoid at all costs and which products you are willing to use on occasion. If you can't find a completely chemical-free product, you might be able to find something in the meantime that has a lower risk. 

8. Be reasonable. When I started doing this research, I didn't run out and throw away every product I own (I'm way too cheap to do that). When my old soap ran out, I just replaced it with the new product. I didn't need to replace every product either. I think with going chemical free comes a simplicity - so many things I use have multiple uses.
Another note on being reasonable...if I'm at someone's house and they have hand soap or lotion that isn't chemical free, I don't snub my nose up at it and follow with a huge lecture on the danger of chemicals. I use the product. Our bodies have an amazing ability to get rid of toxins.  The only exception I make to this is when it comes to little children. After my own research, I've determined that it is crucial for my kids to be as completely chemical-free as possible. Little bodies are still doing so much crucial development that they can't process toxins like older children and adults. (The amount of harmful ingredients in basic baby brands like Johnson & Johnson, Baby Magic and even Aveeno is appalling to me.)  Again, this is my own conclusion from the research I've done. It's a choice I'm making for my family.

My philosophy on both food and topical products is to eat/live as healthy as possible about 85-90% of the time. (I love to occasionally wear perfume & eat pizza rolls.) You are welcome to not agree with this. Like I've said in my introductory post, there's no set way to live, eat, etc. The only position I think that is hard to respect is the unconscious consumer. If you've done your research and decided that ______is safe for your family, that's ultimately your decision.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this, even if you disagree with me. :) Part 3 coming soon!


  1. Good Post!
    I like the part stressing everyone to be a conscious consumer. It is irresponsible to not know what you are putting on or in your body and to just take the companies word that it is safe. After all, the companies don't have to prove any chemical is safe before they sell it to you.

  2. Nicole,

    I think you would like following this blog

    And I really like this post. Overall, Michael doesn't believe the value of natural/organic/etc. at the moment, but I can see a few tiny wheels turning.

    As for me, you're one of the people inspiring me to "start slow" and have the courage to make some changes to my home. Thanks :)


  3. I like the 80/20 rule myself--pizza rolls might make up my whole "20" sometimes. ;)

  4. What shampoo did you switch to? The ones on the market run $10+ and I'm just not willing to pay that for us adults.

  5. Oh goodness neither am I! I usually buy the Whole Foods brand shampoo comes in mint, grapefruit and lavender. It's about $5 for a huge bottle and lasts my husband and I a couple of months. Garnier Fructis just came out with a line called Pure Clean and I'm pretty comfortable with its ingredients. You can find coupons for it and I think it's pretty reasonably priced at stores like Target.

    If you want to be really brave, you can try going "'poo free". Check out SimpleMom's great post on this:

    I haven't tried it yet, but I am going to post soon about the alternatives I use for cleaning and personal care products.