Going green: Tips for getting started on a low-toxin lifestyle | Health & Wellness

After extensive studies, the European Union has banned more than 1,500 harmful chemicals that are still allowed in American products. While it is impossible to completely avoid chemicals, becoming a more conscious consumer can help your family experience positive health benefits and help the environment.

Whether you are deciding to move toward a more natural lifestyle to improve your health or the growing landfills are breaking your heart, it can be overwhelming to completely overhaul all your products and habits. Most people who have switched to a more natural lifestyle recommend choosing one area at a time to focus on, such as food, cosmetics, or cleaning products.

“You have to be convinced about what you’re doing, otherwise you’ll revert back to your old habits / patterns. Spend one hour a week changing something in your lifestyle and stick with it. Those small changes add up over a period of time! ” said A. Muller, a natural-minded mother of James Island.

Avoid the “dirty dozen”

Instead of feeling pressure to eliminate every fast-food run or “junk food” from your pantry, focus on what you can add in, starting with more fresh organic fruits and veggies.

Each year, the EWG (Environmental Working Group) publishes a list of the produce with the most pesticides to the least. A great way to start cleaning up your nutrition, is to begin purchasing those fruits and vegetables found on the “dirty dozen” list from the organic section of your favorite grocery store.

Organic items do tend to be a few cents more expensive, but you are likely to feel an immediate return on investment with the improvement to your gut health. Services like Misfits Market offer organic produce at discounted rates by selling the items that are oddly shaped that grocery stores don’t want on display. Organic produce is not chemical free, but they are more carefully regulated and use less harmful growing practices.

Look out for artificial ingredients

So many food products on the market, and particularly those marketed to children, contain artificial food dyes. These dyes have been linked to hyperactivity in children, immune dysfunction, and even cancer. They are easy to avoid by reading labels. They are typically listed at the bottom of the ingredients section as a color and a number (ie Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5.) Even products that appear to be natural in color often have one of these harmful dyes.

Some great Instagram accounts to follow for advice on organic / non-GMO nutrition are @justingredients and @flavcity

Beware of greenwashing

Another great way to reduce your toxic burden is by switching out your household products. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “using green cleaning products can help to reduce the human health and environmental concerns that comes along with cleaning.”

When switching out cleaning products, beware of “greenwashing.” Greenwashing is when companies use vague buzz words like “natural” or “sustainable” or images of the great outdoors on their packaging to convince consumers that they care about the environment and are offering a “non-toxic” product, when that is not actually the case. A familiar example is when Dawn markets their dish soap as saving animals after an oil spill, when in fact the soap contains chemicals that are harmful to humans and animals (including the artificial dyes mentioned above).

Just like with food, it is not necessary to waste what you have (that would probably be even more harmful to the environment). Instead, as you finish a product in your home, seek to replace it with a less toxic product meant for the same purpose. You may have trouble finding truly green products in big box stores, but apps like “thinkdirty,” “detox me,” or “EWG’s Healthy Living” can help you determine if a product is truly as non-toxic or environmentally friendly as it claims to be.

Instagram influencers such as @alittlelesstoxic and @ doctor.gonzalez offer reviews, suggestions, and investigations of products aimed at consumers looking for non-toxic options.

Gradually switching out foods and household products is one of the easiest ways to start transitioning to a healthier, more environmentally friendly, less-toxic lifestyle. As you begin to master these areas and join online communities with people seeking to do the same, you will likely learn even more ways to live naturally and improve your health. For example: Household plants that support clean air or the benefits of homebirth, etc. However, as you get started, be sure to take one bite of the elephant at a time, because stress will counteract any positive benefits you may gain from “going green.”

A West Ashley native, Allie Douglas and her husband Brock are parents to their three-year-ol…

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