No one likes sudden change, if you do it gradually but firmly, your family will learn to accept it and maybe even one day appreciate your efforts.
Someone asked me recently, "If I only have the brain space to do the basics when it comes to greening my family, what is the most important aspects I should focus on first and foremost?" To me, this is what I would implement in my home if nothing else.
1. Change how you feed yourself and your family.
Now, more than ever, we know that the food we feed ourselves can nourish us or in fact make us ill. Foods to avoid:
- Highly processed foods – them more ingredients listed on the label that you cannot pronounce, the faster you should run from it! (Hot dogs should be banned forever, in my opinion)
- 'Diet' foods, diet soda, soda - banish artificial sweeteners from your regular diet - high fructose corn syrup included!
- Juice 'flavored' drinks, reconstituted juices
- Instant foods: e.g. canned soups & pasta
- Ready-made foods like frozen dinners, pizza rolls,
- White breads
- Sugary cereals & snacks – when my kids would complain about the more natural cereals or granola bars tasting less sweet (and they would taste less sweet, without all those artificial sweeteners & HFCS!) my reply was "Not everything needs to taste like dessert, get used to it".
2. Foods to work on including more often:
- Organics – pesticides and chemicals do take a toll on our health over time, especially our reproduction organs. Start with your dairy products!
- Whole grains high in fiber - start with your breads & cereals
- Fresh, organic in-season fruits & vegetables – there's a list on The Daily Green that will give you a simple heads up on what produce you should really buy organic, as well as a list of what you don't.
- Water and fresh juices
- Peas, beans, nuts & seeds
3. Change how you cook, serve & store your foods!
- Non-stick pans and finishes are considered toxic, use stainless steel as well as cast iron when possible.
- Ditch the plastic cups and plates, serve on ceramic plates, use glass cups. I know this isn't always possible with little ones, so check your labels to avoid BPA.
- Plastic containers leach toxic chemicals into our foods. Never heat or store food, especially high fat foods that are liquid-y to be reheated, in plastics. Particularly toxic are old margarine tubs, or other plastic food tubs, many people save & use these for food storage. These types of plastics were never meant for that purpose and degrade quicker than a plastic container designated for food storage. I like to buy foods in glass jars, and then I reuse the jars as food storage containers.
The chemicals that have invaded our life to make it 'better' have turned on us. Our children's immune systems have been compromised; cancers are on the rise; autism, ADD, ADHD, allergies, eczema, and asthma are prevalent more than ever in our little ones. Our bleach sprays, detergents and weed killers are overkill, an arsenal of chemicals that are known carcinogens. They also affect our growing children's bodies & reproductive systems.
Instead, try these:
- I clean my kitchen with a spray bottle of white vinegar (I even clean my meat cutting boards with vinegar & hot water, no problem, ever!) My spray bottle of vinegar also doubles as a super effective & cheap produce wash that leaves no taste. I promise the smell dissipates quickly. (Read about more vinegar awesomeness here!)
- Baking soda and vinegar in the bathrooms
- Borax (great in the laundry!)
- Bon Ami. These cleaners are effective, leave no toxic chemicals for your body to absorb, and your septic system will love you for it as well!
- Personal products like deodorant, toothpaste, perfumes, soaps, etc, also contain a soup of chemicals that you apply directly to your skin. Find out how toxic your product is here by entering the name into their database and where you can also find out what products are safe for your whole family.
- Avoid products like dryer sheets & air fresheners. The chemicals in them contain phthalates, known to cause – yet again! – reproductive problems as well as birth defects.
- If your lawn looks lush, green & perfect, you (or your lawn company) uses too many chemicals. Nowhere in nature do large stretches of grass grow so pristine. Just because your family isn't eating your lawn, they are playing on it, having picnics on it, rolling around with the dog, etc. This means they are soaking up all the toxic chemicals it takes to make it look so perfect. There is a reason lawn companies stick that warning sign on the lawn after every visit! Make peace with some weeds or pull them by hand.
I always tell the reluctant moms to start slow, work on one step at a time, and add other steps as they get more comfortable with change. No need to feel like you must do it all at once, only to become overwhelmed, throw your hands up in defeat & ditch it all. No one likes sudden change, if you do it gradually but firmly, your family will learn to accept it and maybe even one day appreciate your efforts.