Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chemical Free is the Way to Be!

I'm aware that was the dorkiest title in the history of all blogs. I've embraced the idea that I will never be "free" of Kindergarten, even if I'm not currently teaching it. But it goes with the rest of this little passage, so....

A few reasons for this particular topic- 1. I've had several people ask me over the last few months about chemicals, toxin free cleaners, cloth diapers, where I'm at in the "green" process (and seriously, it is a process for me! I'm a slow changer...),etc.  2. This slow transformation has spawned as a result of becoming a parent. 3. October is Holistic Living Month!! Did you know?! I was excited! (Can you tell??)

**Disclaimer: And just for the concern of a few friends, I have not become the epitome of a tree hugger who thinks Mother Nature is holy and real. I promise I haven't turned into a lobbying environmentalist!**

Most of this began several years ago. (I know. It has taken me SOOO long to arrive at this place. Don't   judge!) Tommy and I had started reading information about hormones, antibiotics, etc. in food. So, we stopped buying regular dairy and switched to organic. We stopped buying regular meat/poultry and switched to grass fed, cage free, no rBGH, etc. We occasionally purchased organic produce; and I do mean occasionally. As we strove to get some synthetic properties out of our bodies, we also made the decision for me to stop taking the Pill. It seemed to thwart our efforts of health and more natural living when I was regularly putting synthetic hormones & chemicals into my body daily. We finally got convicted and brave one month, tossed it, and switched to Natural Family Planning (which is not the "I want to get pregnant" method. I know I heard you laughing at me.) We successfully used this for several years to not get pregnant and then used it to achieve pregnancy. (And as a side note- let me just say I'm not downing birth control, child spacing, etc. Those are such personal decisions. This was simply part of our journey. That's all.) About a year before I got pregnant, I started reading a little bit about chemicals in household cleaners, detergents, etc. If you know me well, you know I've had a long love affair with bleach, Orange Pledge, and all forms of antibacterial products-the heavier the fragrance, the better. I didn't like what I was reading because I like zero germs and I like scents. A lot. But it seemed to be staring me in the face. Shamefully, I just put it aside and told Tommy that all of that information was just "overkill" and we couldn't be perfect. I attempted to switch by buying one of the "greener" versions of a popular cleaner--it didn't work well, I didn't like the smell and this just reinforced my opinion. What we were doing was good enough. Fast forward a year or two-- we're pregnant and those healthier cleaners seem to be a bit more appealing, but still just more change than I was willing to succumb to. Finally, I decided that I would be willing to let go of two things-- my dish washing detergent, my laundry detergent (I'm pretty sure a tear rolled down my face when I said goodbye to Gain), and my dryer sheets. I figured that the residue of the chemicals was left of our dishes and that was ingested. So switching that made most sense, and I started making my own. And I figured that we wear some form of clothing for about 99% of the day. By switching, I could limit the amount of chemicals/fragrances that we were breathing in and likely seeping into our skin. And to my surprise, even though I missed the sweet fragrances, more natural products worked very well. The more I used them, the more I acknowledged what those fragrances really were and it made me miss the smells less. A lot less. 
A few weeks before giving birth to Abi Kate, I started reading about chemicals and toxins in body products and their immediate and long lasting effects on body systems. I'd stumbled across a toxin-free company while looking for some postpartum items. They had rave reviews everywhere I looked. So, I bought a few of their products. (And inside I was going, seriously, I "should" switch this, too?! No, thanks. That is definitely going overboard.) 2 days after having Abi Kate, I dumped what the hospital gave me and started using their products instead-- and I was officially sold. I started putting our shampoos, soaps, makeup, etc. on the Environmental Working Group's  Skin Deep database (Go type in your favorite body product. You might be surprised....) and was SO displeased with what I found.  I started learning about phthalates, parabens, SLES, and a slew of other chemical concoctions tied up in the word "fragrance".  I immediately knew I needed to switch Abi Kate's soap and lotion. So I did. Then I switched Tommy's and mine. 
A few months ago in the summer, a friend hosted a Green Cleaning Workshop (her influence has been spilling over into my life for over a year now... Maybe it will stop one day?! haha!)  And at this point, I just decided that this was it. I was going to learn what I could and if it meant getting rid of my cleaners, then so be it. So, I went, was schooled by a local green cleaning goddess on what was unhealthy about my other cleaners, and I stopped loving my bleach in vast quantities on every available surface or linen. And I stopped needing my Orange Pledge and antibacterial laced soaps. I began using the cleaners she taught about and much to my chagrin.... I loved them. LOVED them. The essential oils offered up just enough smell to satisfy my need for scent, (and they also have natural antibacterial/fungal/viral characteristics depending on your oil of choice). They worked exceptionally well, much better than the popular green cleaners I'd tried so long ago (which come to find out aren't really different from a regular cleaner. Just a different label. I'm sure no one else was shocked by this but me.) And most importantly, I didn't worry about what my family (and especially my daughter with her tiny body and new immune system) was inhaling and what we were ingesting from touching surfaces that had been cleaned with such products. And if I wasn't 100% convinced after learning what I did and using the products, I was completely convinced after hanging at a dear friend's house helping her clean when her sweet 2 year old took a sip of the healthy/safe furniture polish (and I was standing right beside her when she did). What if that hadn't been edible materials? What if that had been a mainstream product? We would've been on the phone with Poison Control. And let's be honest, it is that easy and that quick for a small child to find something that interests them--even the best behaved children (she is one of those children-- and I'm a good judge of little kid behavior). 

We're still working on eating cleaner. We've started buying almost all our produce organically if possible, stopped consuming meat in such vast quantities, and started ditching the stuff that comes in a box or a can       (Did you know Campbell's lines their cans with Bisphenol A?! I didn't. That's definitely not "Mm! Mm! Good!" Just because the FDA says it's ok in small quantities, doesn't make it safe. I don't think that's a hard leap for anyone to make.) Much like I said in a previous post, we're not purists and we never will be. If you were to open my shower right now, you'd see my healthy soaps, but you'd also see my regular Herbal Essences shampoo and why? Because I haven't found a natural shampoo that works on my hair. And my husband purchased a whole set of them before we began this transformation because they were on super slasher sale. ;) And yes, there is tons of organic produce in my fridge--right beside the cans of Mountain Dew that I like. We're not striving for zero exposure to chemicals, toxins, and pesticides, but less exposure. 

Something I get asked a lot whenever the topic comes up is "Isn't that so expensive?!" Some things, yes. Some things, no. Making your own cleaners is ridiculously cheap and the essential oils go such a long way because it only takes a few drops. Share them with a friend and they become even cheaper! Buying organic and healthier body products can be more costly. But this is how we look at it-- we can pay now or we can pay later. I'd much rather offer up a few extra dollars now towards our health than to pay for it physically when I'm older. And yes, I am that convinced of the effects of chemicals. (The company I referenced earlier is Earth Mama Angel Baby. I've used most of their products and haven't found one that I don't love. They run half off sales almost every single Friday on Facebook. Just like their page and you can see it, too :). )  I think most people think it's overprotective or overkill like I did for so many years. And that's ok. I do not think less of anyone else even in the slightest who doesn't subscribe to these ideas. These are personal convictions. But Tommy & I just can't "un-know" what we've learned. We know that we can't do everything to shield our children from chemicals and from disease. We live in a fallen world where those things are just realities. But learning about what we can do to help Abi Kate and ourselves live healthier lives has spurred us on to change. For us, this is a part of fulfilling 1Cor. 6:19-20 and "honoring God with our bodies". We're not even slightly halfway there, but we're diligently working on it. 

According to a 2005 study in Environmental Health Perspectives, 23 elementary aged students were urine tested and 100% of their urine revealed the presence of pesticides. After 4 days of being fed organic food, from that same group of children,  only 1 child's urine contained any detectable traces of pesticides. That's crazy. I could write a really long time about VOC's, BPA, nutrient deprived food, etc. but it would be more boring that what I've already written and who knows if you can trust where I got my information from ;) Truthfully, there's people who've been doing this a lot longer than me, who are way more dedicated than me. There's people who know a lot more than me that could tell you much more than I ever could! I still have gobs and gobs to learn. But really, it just won't mean anything to you unless you do your own research. You might decide, like we did, that it's worth it to change a few things. Maybe you'll think it is, or maybe you'll think it's not.

Truth is, no one can do everything to protect their children from unhealthy things. But we can all do something :) I recently found out that Abi Kate's car seat was ranked one of the worst for VOCs. I had a mild cardiac arrest and then realized that I just had to let that go and move on. I can't freak out about every infinitesimal thing. There's no balance in that. 

If you made it to the end of this, you are a champion worthy of a reward! I'm a newbie,  so if you have any healthy tips, please send them my way. And better yet, if you've found a healthy shampoo that you are in love with, let me know! My hair will thank you :)

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