Whether it’s diapering or recycling, we all have some level of ” green guilt ” surrounding our family’s use of resources and exposure to toxins. Fortunately, there are a few very easy ways to empower your family and vote with your dollars, while reducing your environmental footprint and toxicity vulnerability.
1. Get rid of anything with a strong fragrance or chemical smell — a likely sign of endocrine-disrupting phthalates. Common culprits: plastic shower curtains, plug-in air fresheners, and most scented candles. Opt for fabric shower curtains, naturally scented candles, and essential oil diffusers.
2. Pare down as much plastic as possible from your kitchen. Don’t put heated food in plastic — in fact, don’t heat plastic, period. Swap plastic for glass or safer plastics when possible. Also avoid anything labeled as “non-stick” or “stain repellent,” often a sign of PFCs. Learn how to season a cast iron pan with cooking oil and remove stains with baking soda instead.
3. A good organic crib mattress starts at $250. I know — it’s a lot. I suggest splurging on the mattress and saving on the crib. IKEA cribs have pretty rigorous safety standards and start at $79. Stuck with a traditional mattress? Let your new mattress off-gas outside or in a well-ventilated area for a while before using it, and cover it with an organic cotton cover or a natural latex, wool, or cotton mattress topper.
4. Surround your home with air-filtering greenery and invest in a HEPA air purifier. Not only do they help absorb some of the yucky stuff and allergens in the air, they also make great white noise.
5. Shopping for sustainably-made, well-crafted toys can pay for itself in longevity and ease toxicity concerns. Secondhand toys can be great for wallets and landfills, but be sure to check for recalls and be wary of anything that sets off the chemical alarm (soft, squishy plastic; shiny, metallic glow; so cheaply made you can’t believe it survived this long). My personal rule of thumb is to avoid anything metallic or shiny that may be painted with lead or cadmium, anything made of soft, squishy plastic (think cereal box crawlers), and anything with fragrance, like scratch-and-sniff stickers. I also don’t trust anything that bursts out of a piñata or emerges from a plastic egg.
6. Consume Less! Yerdle.com and local Buy Nothing Groups on Facebook are a treasure trove for free used children’s clothing (and grown-up clothes too). Craigslist and eBay remain a mecca of trash-to-treasure bargain finds, including plenty of gently used and organic baby clothes. And new e-commerce shops and apps like Poshmark and Thredup offer deeply discounted secondhand fashion for women and children. Have an older boy and younger girl? Find a family with just the opposite and arrange to swap clothing seasonally. Don’t know a family that fits the bill? Post your request on a local parents’ board. Don’t be afraid to ask. If your child has a playmate with no plans for a younger sibling, hit up the mom to see what she’s doing with outgrown clothes. If she just planned on giving them to Goodwill, maybe they can go through you first.
7. Work to enact political change that will make a difference on a larger scale. Support candidates with strong environmental initiatives. Write letters and send e-mails, from complaints about your school district’s lack of recycling to petitions to the federal government. Sign petitions like the I Get to Know petition to ask for clear labeling on infant diapers. Get things off your chest and use your voice to feel empowered. My Budget Activist Guide offers tips for being part of the solution with limited time and money.
With these simple tips you can begin to transform your family’s health in easy-to-implement steps.