Eschewing synthetic products in favor of natural ones is a great way to be kinder to our bodies and to the environment.
But how do you get started? It's one thing to say you're going to rid your life of industrial chemicals once and for all (at least to the extent that such a thing is possible), but actually turning words into action can prove difficult – especially if you're not sure about all the ways synthetic substances already affect your daily life.
Here are a few tips for ridding your life of many common, yet unnecessary, industrial chemicals.
1. Stop using antibacterial soap.
In addition to research suggesting that antibacterial soap may lead to antibiotic resistance in users, the stuff just doesn't clean your hands any better than natural soaps.
The ingredient that makes antibacterial soap antibacterial, triclosan, is toxic to aquatic life – not just bacteria but also some animals. Some reports even indicate that the chemical can combine with chlorine in tap water to form human carcinogens, although the jury is still out on that one.
How can you stop using antibacterial soap? Easy. Just buy soap labeled "natural" or "detergent-free" instead.
2. Throw out synthetic fragrances.
Air pollution doesn't just happen outdoors in crowded cities. Many common household air "fresheners" actually fill your home with chemicals, some of which may be harmful.
One alternative is having better ventilation. Open a window from time to time. You could also set out some baking soda or a bowl of vinegar if you're trying to rid an area of an unpleasant smell. Also go for unscented soaps and deodorants to avoid rubbing those same chemicals on your body.
3. Avoid harsh cleaning products.
If you think all-purpose cleaners must come in a spray bottle and have an overwhelming smell, think again. A simple solution of one part vinegar and eight or nine parts water is just as effective, and it won't hurt your children or your pets if ingested.
Vinegar is also a lot cheaper than ammonia-based cleaning products. Pour it into your toilet whenever you clean the bathroom and enjoy effective – and safe – odor control.
4. Leave processed foods behind.
Here's a simple exercise. Head to your pantry and pull out a box of something. It might be a snack food, a "just add water" dinner (think Pasta Roni or Hamburger Helper), or a cheap, name-brand cereal.
Now look at the ingredients. Are there any words on the list you're unlikely to use in typical, daily conversations about food? If so, you're probably eating something that's heavily processed, not to mention chemical-laden.
Thankfully, it's pretty easy to replace these items with natural, organic foods. And doing so isn't as prohibitively expensive as you may believe. Think beyond the supermarket and look for new places to purchase fresh food. Your local farmer's market is a great place to start. Many people even order organic produce online from local delivery services.
5. Ditch those chemical weed and bug killers.
Everybody likes an attractive outdoor space, but maintaining one shouldn't come at the expense of your health. A mounting body of evidence now links many common herbicides to increased incidences of cancer.
Replace common herbicides and pesticides with organic, natural sprays, or just get down on your hands and knees to pull weeds the old-fashioned way. The extra exercise will serve you well, and there's always room for some quality time outdoors.
Adam Green is a freelance writer and organic foods enthusiast. He contributed the post on behalf of Full Circle, an organic produce delivery service in the Pacific Northwest.