"Green" Health Tips

With April comes the Green Issue of the Fernie Fix, so I thought it might be a good time to go over some tips to decrease your exposure to unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals in some of the products you use in both the bathroom and the kitchen, and some other tips to decrease your environmental impact overall. Many of the additives included in these products are known carcinogens and can interfere with hormone levels. Here are five ways that you can improve your health and quality of life in an effort to be more “green”.

1) Skin care: I could write an article on skin care alone, there is so much involved in choosing products that are effective, healthy, and eco-friendly. Basically anything you put on your body should be free of harmful additives, such as fragrance, parabens, alcohol, colors, petroleum-based products, and many others, depending on the product. “Fragrance” alone refers to a combination of over 3000 possible ingredients. This goes for deodorants, soap, lotions, creams, perfumes, mouthwash, toothpaste, lip balm, sunscreen, wipes, detergents and hair products. I’d also recommend being aware of the composition of any products you put against the skin, such as feminine hygiene products, diapers, and incontinence products. Choose those that contain natural fibers, and that do not contain any fragrance. This is a daunting task, but the “Environmental Working Group” has a website that matches well-known products against existing research on any of their ingredients. www.ewg.org/skindeep/

2) Cleaning: I briefly touched on detergent in the previous bullet, but it’s also important to use cleaning products that don’t contain toxic ingredients, or non-biodegradable ingredients. Household cleaners, much like personal skin care products, often contain ingredients that are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors, but in addition can contain neurotoxins. These neurotoxins, in high doses, can cause brain damage. Try and choose products with readable ingredients, and that don’t contain warnings on their label about the safety of their product. If you’re in doubt about any of the ingredients in your cleaning products, look them up at www.householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/.

3) Water: I can’t stress enough the importance of drinking adequate quantities of clean water. “Clean” water isn’t the same as “safe” or “healthy” water. The water in Calgary may qualify as clean, but the additives that make it clean aren’t healthy for long-term consumption. I recommend drinking water through a water filter and choosing a water filter that is certified to remove the contaminants found in your water. Buy a reverse osmosis filtration system if you can afford it; it can remove contaminants that can’t be filtered by a carbon filter.

4) Go Organic: The importance of choosing organic, seasonal, and ideally locally grown produce, dairy and meats when you can becomes clearer and clearer as you investigate ethical farming practices, the effects of pesticides in use today, in addition to the potential effects of genetically modified crops. I know there’s a lot of controversy about what is called “organic” or “natural”, which is why I recommend knowing the source. Buy from local farmers, buy a share in a CSA if you have one available to you, eat produce seasonally (even if this means eating root vegetables all winter long), and get your meat and dairy from a source that utilizes ethical farming practices. Know the source.

5) Compost: What better way to know the source than to grow your own vegetables using compost that you’ve produced yourself? Eliminate a large chunk of garbage, and produce fantastic food for your garden and your plants. Composting can seem like an overwhelming idea, but it’s pretty simple once you get set-up. Environment Canada has an easy to follow guide on their website at: www.ec.gc.ca/education/default.asp?lang=En&n=BAE2878A-1

I appreciate how overwhelming some (or all) of these ideas are but it’s by no means meant to be an overnight change. These are things that you can do gradually, one at a time. When you finish the soap you’re currently using, try and buy a healthier option. Consider implementing a composting program in your household this spring (I am!). Source out a water filter that will work for your family. I’ve been personally working on making these changes over the past several years and it’s certainly not as simple as reading an article and going shopping. It can actually be fun, trying to find the best natural deodorant, or to come up with the most creative dish using the five lbs of parsnips you’ve accumulated in your weekly organic produce delivery. Have fun with it and start to make the changes that will go a long way towards promoting a healthier life for you and your family, and a healthier environment for all of us to live in.