Going green can seem daunting. You learn about the toxins hiding just under your nose, about the environmental impact of convenience products, about all of the destruction we as consumers are causing to the earth’s ecosystems… and then we put our heads back in the sand. It’s too much to take in, too overwhelming to take action.
I hear you. And I’m here to tell you that there are 5 concrete actions you can take in your home that will have an impact on the long-term health of your family and of the earth.
5 Household Products to Ditch Today (and how to replace them)
Fabric Softeners & Dryer Sheets… replace with wool dryer balls
The ingredients in liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets are stomach-turning. Known carcinogens, hormone disrupters… not to mention”fragrance,” an ingredient name that can encapsulate 100s of unlisted and untested scent-making chemicals. The air that is expelled into the outside air from our dryers when we use dryer sheets has been proven to contain harmful emissions. (source)
Wool dryer balls can be scented with essential oils, thus leaving a pleasant scent on your clothes without the toxins. Wool dryer balls also reduce static and help soften clothes in the dryer.
I’m very happy with my Woolzies dryer balls!
Air Fresheners… replace with soy-based candles, open windows, essential oils, baking soda, etc.
Am I the only one completely horrified by those Febreze commercials where people are blindfolded and lead into utterly filthy surroundings, but they don’t know it because Febreze is “cleaning the air”? Come on!
According to David Suzuki’s Queen of Green, some air fresheners work by masking “an undesirable scent, but some use a nerve-deadening chemical that interferes with our sense of smell. Others coat your nasal passage with an oily film” Sound gross? It is. Most commercial air fresheners contain known carcinogens and neurotoxins. (source)
Although I prefer to go almost completely scent-free in our home, if you really love scent, there are so many essential-oil-based options that will leave your space smelling lovely without exposing you and your family to toxins. In the bathroom, lighting a match does wonders to combating unpleasant odors!
Non-stick Cookware… replace with cast iron
It took me ages to toss the Teflon, but it had to be done. Here’s a chart to help motivate you, too, to make the switch. In the case of Teflon, it’s the fumes released while cooking that should be of concern. According to the EWG, “Toxic fumes from the Teflon chemical released from pots and pans at high temperatures may kill pet birds and cause people to develop flu-like symptoms.” (source)
Making this switch actually took the longest for me. I didn’t think that cast iron was easy to use: I thought it was hard to clean and impossible to cook with. Turns out, we weren’t using our cast iron properly!
Cast iron needs to be seasoned, which I thought was a lengthy, complicated process. It’s not: just coat with a vegetable oil and bake. The seasoning is maintained by the oil you use to cook. If your pan isn’t seasoned, yup, your food’s going to stick! (This was our case until I learned better.) Cleaning cast iron is easy, too: no soap, just scrub off any stuck on food with a plastic brush. I follow the tips offered by Lodge and The Kitchn.
I bought one of our cast iron pans for $5 at Value Village and restored it to perfect cooking order! Our second pan is from Lodge, and we got it on Amazon.
Our cast iron pans are now properly seasoned, and even eggs don’t stick to them!
Harsh Bathroom and Kitchen Cleaners… replace with vinegar and baking soda
Just skip the cleaning supplies that have a skull and cross bones on them. You’re using them to clean surfaces that you and your kids touch every day, and you’re inhaling the fumes produced by these products as you clean.
Antibacterial Soaps and Hand Sanitizers…. you just don’t need them
When the H1N1 scare hit Montreal, hand sanitizer dispensers were placed all over the school where I was teaching. They’ve stayed there, and I see students pumping the stuff by the cupfull onto their hands. The main ingredient in most hand sanitizers, Triclosan, has never even been proven effective as an antibacterial agent. And you know what? We need bacteria: antibacterial products don’t discriminate against good and bad bacteria. There are also concerns about antibiotic resistance.
The common cold, not caused by a bacteria, anyway, won’t be prevented by using hand sanitizers every time you shake hands or touch a doorknob. [source] Soap and water really do the trick! When we’re on the go, I carry cloth wipes with us, pre-moistened with some castile soap to scrub Cub’s paws before eating.
My favourite bar soap is from The Soap Works, and for liquid soap, I make ours from three easy ingredients. For an on-the-go solution, I like CleanWell Natural Hand Sanitizer, but I will admit I only know what the label says in terms of how well it actually works. (It smells lovely!)
Are you willing to take these 5 steps towards a healthier home and a healthier planet? Do you have any other tips I may have missed?
This post contains affiliate links to purchase some of the mentioned products.