Thursday, September 30, 2010

Easy Ways to Make your Home More Eco-Friendly

We all want to do our part to protect the environment, but without a large paycheck, that can be seem difficult, if not impossible. But doing your part doesn’t have to be hard. Small steps add up to a big difference -- you just have to know which ones to take.

Recycle miniImage via WikipediaHere are a few simple things you can do that will make a difference, and cost you nothing (or maybe even save you money):

1. Use less water. 

Saving water is all about small steps, here are a few that will help save big.
- Shut off the water while you brush your teeth
- Take showers that are a minute or two shorter
- Only flush the toilet when you need to
- Only run full loads of laundry and dishes
- Buy from sustainable producers. These are farmers, ranchers, and other producers that use techniques that pollute less and use less water. You can do some research online or ask at your local organic market to find these products. (For some good ideas on where to look, visit

2. Use less energy. 

Even if you don’t have the money to buy a hybrid car or convert your house to solar power, you can make a big difference with small changes.
- Buy energy efficient appliances.  They may be more expensive up front, but they make up for the increased cost over time via lower energy bills.
- Unplug chargers when you’re not using them.  Cell phone and other chargers use power even if there’s nothing attached to them.
- Put devices with remotes, like T.V.s, VCRs, and stereos, on a power strip and turn it off when you’re not using them.  These devices use a lot of power to run the remote receiver even when the device is off.
- Walk or ride your bike for short trips.
-  Buy local products. It takes energy to transport food and other products across the country. Buying local not only supports your local economy, it helps use less energy.

When it comes to saving energy and water, it’s a great idea to get the kids involved. You can even make it a game. Have them track how much water and electricity everyone is using. You can compete to see who uses the least water.  You can often count on your kids to help keep you on track when given the task.

3. Reuse.
Most of us know the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, but when we work on conserving, we often leave reuse out of the picture. While you can often find tips on how to reuse common products from other people, what you need most is creativity. With a little thought there are many items around your home that can be reused – toilet paper holders can be used to sow seeds for the vegetable patch (or as collars to protect new seedlings -- see our gardening blog). And old yogurt containers can be cut into strips to make plant labels. Old food jars can be refilled with homemade foods or can make great impromptu vases.

4. Use environmentally friendly products.
When you go to the grocery store, you probably see more and more “natural” or “eco friendly” products every time.  There are generally two big problems with these products: 1. Just because they’re more natural than regular products doesn’t mean they’re entirely natural (see previous post). 2. They’re often expensive.

Sodium bicarbonate, sodium hydrogencarbonate, ...Image via WikipediaIf you want inexpensive, natural, safe products, why not just make them yourself? Vinegar is a great way to clean and disinfect glass and other surfaces. Need to remove stubborn stains? Just add some baking soda to your vinegar cleaner. Some quick searching online will lead you to hundreds of other natural safe home-made cleaning products. (You can also find other ideas for competitively priced truly natural and clean products on our website at

We all knowing that going green means better for the environment, but it’s also better for you.  And surprisingly enough, conserving resources also helps save you money, which is something most of us are happy to live with.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's Really In It? Evaluating "natural" product labels

With the plethora of new "natural" and "organic" products on the market, it can be super-confusing to try to figure out which ones to buy! Visiting my local Walmart lately, I noticed an entire section devoted to "natural" beauty care. However, upon examining the labels of some of the skin-care products in this section, I found a lot of chemicals I wasn't sure I really want on or in my body.

So how do you find products that are truly natural, or organic? First of all, "natural" just means the product contains something somewhere that came from nature. This doesn't mean the entire product is actually from natural sources. (100% natural is another matter.)  The same thing with the "organic" label.

Official seal of the National Organic ProgramImage via WikipediaBy law, a product must specify what percentage of the ingredients are actually certified organic. However, a product can claim it is "organic," even if only one organic ingredient (in sufficent amounts) is present, as long as it specifies in the tiny print on the label, which ingredients are organic.

Here are some helpful tips to navigate through the "natural" beauty product jungle:

1.  Look for products marked "100% Organic", and also with the "Certified Organic" sticker. ("100% Natural" is also good, but be aware this does not mean organic.) If you can't find 100% Organic products (which in some items may be very difficult or impossible to find), go for the highest percentage possible, and try to make sure the other items are at least natural, if not organic.

2. Look for products with ingredients you can identify. I like to only purchase products if I can actually pronounce all of the ingredients!  This doesn't mean you have to know exactly what everything is. For example you may see the ingredient "rosehip seed oil", and not know what a rosehip is, but you can at least recognize that it is a natural substance. As an opposite example, recently there has been quite a bit of talk about parabens, and how bad they are for you (many new products even advertise "paraben free!" on the label). Therefore, if you see something like "methylparaben" on the label, you don't have to know exactly what a paraben is and how it works, to know you should avoid that product.

3. If you are buying all-natural products, be aware that they may have a shorter shelf-life than the usual chemical-laden fare. Therefore, we recommend where possible, that you purchase direct from the manufacturer, so you know the item is fresh. For example, the leading manufacturer of organic beauty products & skin care that we recommend on our website makes all their products in small batches, so that they will be as fresh as possible when you order them. If you purchase their products from another store, you may not know how long they have been sitting on the shelf. (Also check the label carefully, as some may recommend refrigeration.)

4. Seriously, if you can't pronounce it, it's probably a chemical you don't want on or in your body! (With the exception of some products that list natural plant-based ingredients by their scientific names -- but usually they will list the common name -- e.g. "rosehip seed oil" -- as well.) Ingredient lists for most items will also probably be much shorter than for traditional products, as natural products don't (or shouldn't!) contain artificial fragrances, dyes, or preservatives.

Hopefully this will serve as a handy checklist, next time you are bogged down in the "natural" beauty product aisle!  Just remember, don't just look for "natural" or "organic" on the front of the bottle -- check the label, and look for "100%". Also look for a short list of ingredients which you can identify (or at least spell!), and an expiration or "use-by" date.

Happy shopping!  And for our recommendations of our favorite truly natural and organic products (as well as lots of other tips and ideas for avoiding toxins in your home), feel free to stop by our website at

And if you have any other recommendations, feel free to leave a comment!

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Welcome to our new blog on living greener, and reducing your toxic load!

Thanks for visiting our new blog!  This is part of our network of blogs for new holistic living. This blog will focus on articles, tips, and resources for reducing the toxins in your body and the environment, leading to a longer and healthier life for yourself, your family, and the planet as a whole.

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...Image via WikipediaWe will offer weekly articles and videos on relevant topics pertaining to toxic load and green living, product reviews for "green" and natural products, tips, recommendations, and many other valuable resources.

We always welcome comments and questions!  You can always find more resources, product recommendations and information, as well as contact info, on our website at

Thanks for stopping by, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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