Michael and I have always recycled, but we really began to make some significant changes when we saw how many disposable diapers we were going through on a daily basis. Since I just couldn't bring myself to cloth-diaper (and those chlorine-free diapers are freakin' expensive, times two!), we decided we had to look for other ways to reduce our environmental footprint. (For those of you who know us personally, you know that this was more my idea than Michael's, but he usually gives in, if he knows what's good for him!) We started buying some organic food, and milk that's free of growth hormones. We virtually stopped buying bottled water and now use a Brita filtration system. We also make an effort to use only green cleaning supplies--nothing with ammonia, chlorine bleach, phosphates, or other chemicals. We use green dishwashing liquid, and I promise, as soon as my giant bottle of Gain is empty, we are also going to use something green for washing our clothes. Thankfully, this is getting less expensive to do. Clorox now makes a green all-purpose cleanser called Green Works that I saw for under $3 at Walmart, and you can use it to clean almost anything. I had some difficulty finding something to clean my wood floors (but I know that Swiffer Wet-Jet stuff has to be toxic...it stinks like crazy). Turns out that Simple Green, a cleanser that I've been using on my countertops for years now, works wonders.
That's the easy part, recognizing that there's chemicals in cleansers. The harder part about this information is realizing that there are chemicals in virtually everything we eat, drink, breathe, and put on our bodies. I realize that people with healthy immune systems can usually detoxify all of the stuff they come in contact with. And I also realize that there are very few studies that link disease with, say, shampoo. (But my friend Karen reminds me that just a few decades ago there were no studies linking smoking with cancer. That's when I think about the whole "better safe than sorry" motto.)
I also can't ignore that autism, behavior disorders, and the like are on the rise. As a teacher, I deal with them every day. I just read a study that said that the spike in these types of disorders cannot be attributed to overdiagnosis: the increase is too sharp. It must be attributed to an environmental trigger, or triggers. I feel like if I can minimize my children's exposure to all of these toxins, the healthier they will be in the long run.
So I'm going to try to buy a bit more organic food, despite the price. (These books have a list of the "dirty dozen"--twelve fruits and vegetables that have the highest concentration of pesticides.) I'll probably start looking at natural washes, lotions, and cosmetics. When the babies move to toddler beds, I'll probably buy organic sheets. See? Small changes. And not necessarily immediate ones. I'm getting there.
This post went in an entirely different direction than I intended it to, but I would definitely recommend these books if you have children or are thinking about having them. I'd love to hear what you think!