Nearly six years ago, my husband (then fiancé) and I decided to accept a position which placed us at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Up until that point, I had only lived in two locations – Long Island, NY and State College, PA. To be honest, I was excited to make my home in a different kind of place – rural, quiet, and simple – as we began our life together.
Fast-forward to today and I can confidently say that our time in Grove City was transformative. Humble beginnings. The best kind of beginning. It was a season of clarity, beautiful friendships, and growth. It was also there that I first started to become conscious of my health beyond exercise and “diet.” I stepped out of the world of consumerism that I’d always known into a new place, one where I was encouraged to ask questions about what I was putting in and on my body. I met some amazing people who led me to great resources that continue to change the way our family views what we purchase and use.
Knowledge is power, but knowledge can also be overwhelming. It has been a long, ongoing process to comb through our home and replace the products that we were using with safer ones. Since beginning my business with Beautycounter, I hear now more than ever that people want to learn more and make healthier choices, but the process seems so daunting.
The purpose of this particular post is to simply communicate the areas of our home that have been impacted by this new-found knowledge. I am not a scientist and my goal here is not to provide statistical evidence or detailed research – you can take what you read below and move forward from there, however you wish. My aim is to encourage you to look closer at the assumptions you hold to be true regarding the products you bring into your home. My hope is that this leads you down a path of intentionality as you recognize that this type of cleansing process is not only possible, it’s also rewarding.
So here it goes – the five areas of your home to assess regarding toxicity:
- Food – Eating organic/non-gmo is nothing new. The availability of these foods have been on the rise for years. Many people still snub the idea of organic foods, saying for example that they’re “too expensive” or there’s “no difference.” The former holds a bit of clout in some supermarkets, but the latter does not. At the same time, it’s worth noting that just because you see the “USDA Organic” or “Non-GMO” logos on food, does not mean that there are no pesticides used. It just typically means that there are no synthetic pesticides/additives used. All things considered, still a far better choice. *Suggestions: try shopping at Aldi’s and/or Trader Joes. If you don’t want to go full organic, at least start with produce and meat.
- Cleaning Supplies – Our grandmothers would be appalled to know that the gallon of bleach they doused the bathtub with is actually incredibly toxic. There is a time and place for bleach, perhaps…but probably not. Standard household cleaners contain harsh chemicals and toxins. These are particularly harmful when you use them to clean the surfaces/objects you have direct contact with – which is pretty much everything. This goes for everything from laundry detergent to surface cleaner to hand soap. Even the cleaners that claim to be “healthier” or “green” or “clean” tend to be bogus. These words are not regulated, because the industry is hardly regulated, and this is called “greenwashing.” The same happens in the personal care industry. *Suggestions: try Norwex and Thieves household products. Interested in ordering some Thieves? They have almost every household product you can imagine. Let me know and I can place an order for you!
- Cookware – Okay, so let’s be honest and say upfront that everyone loves their non-stick pans. They’re easy to cook with, easy to clean, and all that nice stuff. Sadly, they typically contain Teflon and PFOA. These chemicals are known to be carcinogenic and are emitted when heated. How inconvenient. Does your non-stick pan have a scratch? Even better, because now your food is absorbing even more toxins…yum. *Suggestions: opt for ceramic, glass, or cast iron cookware. We purchased an X-trema pot and pan a couple of years ago and it has given us a lot of peace of mind. It took a bit of getting used to, but it was and is totally worth it.
- Furnishings – This is honestly the last part of our home that I began thinking about because it just seemed too big. I was spurred on to consider this more, however, when we purchased two nightstands for our bedroom recently. The things wreaked like some sort of chemical I had never before experienced. I tried to ventilate our room but I knew that I could only do some much. There is something very unsettling about that. Also, couches and chairs. I only recently discovered that most furniture is doused with chemicals like flame-retardants. So when we cozy up with a glass of wine and Netflix, we’re pretty much sitting on all of these toxins. I am not saying to toss all of your furnishings to the curb while whittling your own out of wood and burlap, but I am saying to be conscious moving forward. *Suggestions: furniture companies are wising up to the fact that their customers are becoming more aware about what goes into a couch, a table, a chair, etc. Even stores like IKEA are offering couches without flame-retardants! Check it out sometime.
- Personal Care Products – Alright, so here’s my niche. Out of all five of these categories, I find this to be the most important outside of food. Since I didn’t feel it was my calling to start a food truck or grocery store, I started my business with Beautycounter. (You can read more about it here.) Personal care products are those we use every single day. Skin care, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, make-up, etc. We put them on our skin – our largest organ – and whatever these products contain are absorbed by our bodies. The FDA has about two pages of regulation for this multi-billion dollar industry. There hasn’t been an ingredient banned since 1938. Take a look at the labels on the items you use most – are there parabens and phthalates? These ingredients are all too common, and they tend to have a cumulative effect in our bodies. These just happen to be two that are linked to cancer, hormone disruptions, and allergies. Also, you know when you see “fragrance” listed on just about everything? That’s very, very bad. It’s all synthetic and though it may smell amazing, these fake chemical scents are actually quite toxic. *Suggestions: I truly believe that Beautycounter is at the cutting edge of the movement within the personal care industry. You can read more here. They ban over 1,500 ingredients from their products, which is even more than the European Union. If you would like to learn more or try some samples, please let me know.
I encourage you to visit the Environmental Workers Group website at ewg.org. They are a non-profit and non-partisan organization that specializes in researching many of these areas. They have consumer guides for cosmetics, household products, etc. Their database contains ratings on tens of thousands of products. There is even an app for your phone where you can scan barcodes and receive safety information on the spot!
So here is my take-home point: is sitting on a couch with flame-retardants after cleaning with bleach while eating a non-organic apple going to kill you? No, probably not. The point is that the cumulation of all of these synthetic, toxic, unregulated chemicals in one’s body over time is incredibly damaging. Our reality is that we live in a very synthetic world. It may be sad in some ways, but there are positives too. Part of living intentionally means making decisions that respect the life, body, and resources you have been given. So I try to ask myself, what is the best I can personally do, and what are the best decisions I can make based on the information I have available to me today?
Is this an investment? Yes.
Is it worth it? Based on the knowledge and growing research in this field, absolutely.