Our homes are our sanctuaries. We typically spend at least half of each day in our homes sleeping, eating, working, relaxing and spending time with our loved ones. But if we don’t pay attention to the environment we’re living in, we could be causing harm to the health of our families. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that over 80% of all chronic diseases could be prevented by improving our lifestyle in simple ways, like reducing our exposure to environmental pollutants. That’s why I want to share some small, easy changes that could make a big impact on our health.
My “green neuroticism” can be attributed to my friend, Esther Ruurda-Drake (thanks, Esther). Esther’s interest in the subject stems from two major events – the death of her beloved mother (lost to brain cancer) and the birth of her daughter, Emilie. These two life-changers caused Esther to take a greater interest in how our environment affects our health. Through her research, she found that 30 years of environmental health studies have led to a growing consensus that chemicals are playing a role in the incidence and prevalence of many diseases and disorders (childhood leukemia, cancer, obesity, asthma, birth defects and autism). Even with this knowledge, many times she still chose “cheap & cheerful” or “handy & quick” over healthy because they were more convenient. I think all of us struggle with this on a daily basis. We want to do what’s best, but we also need a healthy balance of convenience to maintain our sanity.
Esther gets this, and that’s why she recently started a company called “Happy by Nature.” The mission of her company is to to empower conceiving couples, pregnant women and (new) parents to help reduce their family’s exposure to harmful environmental chemicals, starting with a few easy steps, to keep them safe and healthy. Lucky for us, my husband and I got be her first guinea pigs!
Tips for Creating a Healthier Home Environment
We were surprised by some of the things we learned during the home consultation. Below are a few of the easy ways you can clean up your home.
Indoor air quality:
This should be a top priority. Here are a few small things you can do to help with the air quality in your home.
- Leave your shoes at the door. They carry harmful bacteria that you want to keep out of your home.
- Get plants in for house (including the nursery) as air purifiers to keep the air nice and clean. A few suggestions can be found here.
- Vacuum every week and wet clean as often as possible on top of that (more important if baby starts crawling and touches the floor) to get rid of pet dander and toxins that attach to dust.
- Double check your cleaning products’ ingredients. You can use the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and/or Good Guide to see which products are the safest and healthiest.
- If you’re interested in checking your indoor air quality at any point, you can have a test done.
- Know when your water filter needs to be replaced.
- If you don’t have a whole-house water filter, consider a chlorine filter for the water you & baby will bath in. (Read about the dangers of chlorine.)
- Consider the water you drink at the office. If your office provides a 5-gallon water bottle, check if it is a #7 (contains BPA). If it is, start bringing your own filtered water and/or use a filter (e.g., Britta) for your office’s tap water.
- Avoid “fragrance” in all your body products. It’s one of the worst offenders in body care products. Fragrance from essential oils might be acceptable, but research the product well and ask questions when not convinced.
- Don’t use anti-bacterial products. They have no proven benefit and may even be harmful.
- Read labels well and check the products on the Environmental Working Group’s Consumer Guides and/or Good Guide. Don’t fall for “green washing” that so many packaged goods companies use in their marketing. (I’m personally a huge fan of The Honest Company’s products.)
- Look for products that have little to no VOCs, lead, formaldehyde or flame retardants. Check out these blog posts for specific tips and recommended products: The Hunt for the Perfect Crib and These Chemicals are in 80% of Baby Products.
These are just a few easy places to start. It’s important to take baby steps so you don’t get discouraged. Being green actually isn’t as hard as it sounds!
To contact Esther for a home consultation, visit her Happy By Nature website.
Please feel free to share your comments, suggestions and questions about this post.