Having a natural home means thinking about the air quality. Adding air filtration systems does not reach the heart of the problem. To begin people need to stop bringing in the things that create poor air quality. Sadly, many products in our homes omit volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) resulting in air quality inside our homes that can be much more dangerous then the air outside our homes. VOC’s released from many house-hold items, such as furniture (especially when made with plywood or particleboard), vinyl shower curtains (possibly releasing a higher concentration of chemicals from the heat of a shower) as well as mattresses and materials covered in stain or fire retardants. Carpeting is also a very popular culprit is the VOC’s found in homes and so called “cleaning” products present a serious danger to your family’s health and the health of the eco-system.
“These toxins affect mostly children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems, but the combination of all these chemicals in our homes may be a factor in the development of cancer and other serious illnesses.” (Bradley, 14)
VOC’s eventually creep out of our homes and wind up in the air and consequently become a component of smog. Buying more expensive products, such as low to no VOC paint is definitely worth the investment in the long run. Just think about it as an invaluable investment in your family’s well-being. Continue reading →
Two years ago when my son Keenan was five, I took him to pick apples at a friend’s orchard.
Our little apple-picking outing was a bit of an afterthought and we were late in the season, so all the best apples had already been picked. We bobbed around the orchard stretching as high into the trees as we could (sans ladder or stepstool, mind you) in an attempt to find apples without wormholes or other signs of vermin. Finally, we had collected about two bags worth and headed home to make applesauce.
Even making applesauce was a stretch for my domestic skills. I had to print out a recipe.Since my son was so young at the time, he couldn’t help much where sharp knives and the stove were concerned, so my afternoon was spent peeling, chopping and cooking the apples. Finally, we were able to taste the fruits of our labor, and boy, was it ever delicious! Now, I know it’s tough to mess up applesauce, but there was a great sense of accomplishment in taking a food from the tree, to our table in one afternoon. Continue reading →
In the Greenpeace Living Guide, it is revealed that “nothing is new”. What does that mean? It means that when we purchase items, whatever it may be, it comes from somewhere and “products are trailing strands of the most urgent narratives on the planet today: neo-liberal economic globalization, colonialism, ancient forest destruction, toxic pollution, climate change.” (116) In other words, everything is connected, everything comes from somewhere and everything is made from something else (and whatever that something else is, it is not new, indeed it is ancient and a part of the eco-system). Things are made from precious resources (often non-renewable or easily replaced) and connected to larger issues, like the corporate-globalization of our communities and health of the environment. The Greenpeace Living Guide states that we simply cannot “find the answers to the questions of economic injustice and environmental destruction in shopping. We will find it in political change.” (116)
We all know that people need things like clothing, food and household items to live comfortably. We cannot stop shopping altogether, but we can shop differently. We can shop greenly and we can shop aware. Shopping aware means understanding the impact the item in question might have when purchasing. Shopping aware also means making different choices, like buying in bulk in order to save on packaging (and money too!) or buying locally in order to support our communities and limit fossil fuel pollution. It also means working for positive political change that can protect our resources for many generations to come, even if it is through simple actions like asking our super markets to carry a particular green product or buying non-toxic cleaning supplies. Many people think that buying/living green means spending more money. Where food is concerned, that can be true – however buying green is often the cheaper option. It is more affordable because being green means buying used, re-purposing things you already have and going without things you don’t need.
Shopping with the planet in mind mean asking yourself the question: Do I really need this? If the answer is no, then the financial savings and savings to the environment are immense. Getting a “deal” at a dollar store or a department store on something that you don’t need (or really even want) is not actually saving you money. It makes you think you are, but truly you are “saving” your way into an empty bank account. The next thing is buying used items, like clothing which are not only the greener option but the more affordable one too. In addition to keeping items out of landfills and keeping more unnecessary things from being made, buying used is also better for your health because used items have less or no chemical residue, chemicals have usually dissipated or have been washed off. Used clothing is especially good for kids and babies because they go through clothing quite fast, so used clothing is a huge money saver. This is where I should mention how important sharing is. Giving away your kids cloths and toys to a younger family member or friend with kids is not only kind, but truly valuable to other moms.
Buying items from the people who make them is also greener. Buying local jams, for example is greener then driving to the department store and buying jam made by someone else, some where else. Further to that, make it yourself! Re-purposing or making things by hand offers a level of creativity that cannot be bought. It is also a great way to engage kids to do activities that are good for their mental stimulation while building long-term skills. It is also an excellent way to start the conversations with kids about the state of the environment, in a way that is positive and empowering rather then disheartening.
Another issue (explored in the video below) is that affluent countries are consuming more than their share and more than they share. Many scientists are saying that there is a finite amount of resources to go around and many countries use more then they need and leave other people and communities with less than they need. In that regard, buying less “new” items is not only an environmental action, but a social one.
When we constantly consume we are not addressing our deeper individual feelings and desires. We are not looking at the “why”. The “why” is often the feeling of needing something because of an internal void or not-so-hot self image wherein we believe that we should have an item which in some way will make us more likable or better than we are (often done unconsciously). We have been conditioned to believe that shopping will make us better to others or to ourselves, but that is just the calculated, highly studied and utilized power of advertising. So, don’t be fooled. Loosing money and hurting the planet for the “newest” car, gadget or item will not bring personal fulfillment, just a temporary high. Doing the work to love yourself unconditionally (with or without material wealth) will bring deep satisfaction and joy.
The Greenpeace Living Guide can be purchased [here], however it’s greener to find it used, borrow it from a friend or the library. Learn more about Greenpeace and how to donate to them [here].
Video: The Story of Stuff, created by Annie Leonard reviews the stuff we buy, use then throw away. View website [here].
Recipe for an organic, non-toxic hand sanitizer that is made with water, veggie glycerin and vodka (option to eliminate vodka when making it for kids). It is safe, anti-bacterial and affordable! This is a healthier alternative to commercial hand-sanitizers that are often full of all sorts of harsh chemicals that we don’t want in our kid’s mouths!
It is scary to discover what is lurking in our pillows. The standard pillow is made with synthetic down or poly-fill and is full of chemicals, like fire retardants and off-gas. When buying a pillow, especially for your child consider eco-friendly materials. Pillows can be filled with organic cotton, wool, real down or even kapok (a tree fiber).
Making pillows is a rewarding and fun activity to do with kids. Consider going to a used clothing store and make an adventure out of finding materials. Used natural material especially cotton contain less chemicals and by using them you are keeping items from entering our already full land-fills. You can purchase eco-friendly material for stuffing pillows from lots of places. Call your local fabric store to see what they have in stock or order on-line. Even if your fabric store does not carry an eco-friendly option by asking for it you are encouraging them to do so in the future. Most stores show interest in selling something if they realize there is a demand for it.
Even the most inexperienced of sewers can make a simple pillow. Simply cut two pieces of material (of equal size) to the size you want your pillow to be. Sew (inside out) by hand or by machine all the edges except one, which you sew later after it is stuffed. Turn right-side out and stuff with your eco-friendly material. Sew the opening closed and voilà! Your pillow is finished. Making pillows can become an art. Attaching old buttons or other appendages can be really fun for kids. Learning how to make items that are eco-friendly and within a small budget can be a valuable learning experience for kids as well as bonding time while you make your home warm, colourful and non-toxic.
If you do not want to make your own pillows try to find someone locally who does make them or check in your local stores or on-line for an eco-friendly alternative Sometimes it is greener and more eco-friendly to keep the old synthetic pillow that you have (it has likely already released off-gas) then it is to throw it in the garbage and buy a new one. That said, when it is time to buy a pillow, natural fibers are assuredly the better option. Some people take old pillows in-order to repurpose them into new items. Consider a recycling program or the like when disposing of your old pillows.
In the image: Eco-friendly owl throw pillow hand-made by mom Kate Prandy from EarthLab. Click image to view Kate’s items for sale.