Originally published September 2 2008
Living Green Reduces Stress on Yourself and the Planet
by Roger Harris
(NaturalNews) With the growing public awareness of our personal impact on the health of the planet, many people may find it stressful to change their habits, and agree with the BBC's TV program that, "It's Not Easy Being Green." Yet going green actually reduces stress on your body, making these changes in your life worthwhile and beneficial to you, your family and pets.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that we're all contaminated by a modern life stew of pesticides, solvents, plastics and metals. However, there are many ways a person can limit their exposure to this toxic brew of chemicals and yet protect the earth at the same time, and we will discuss a few ways here.
Eat Organic, Locally Grown Foods
With summer in full swing, now is the perfect time to visit your Farmers' Market for the added taste and nutrition found in locally grown organic food. The delicious taste of a just-picked ripe tomato, avocado or peach can never be matched by one that's traveled thousands of miles to your supermarket, picked unripe to extend its shelf life and bred with a thick skin to withstand the rigors of travel.
Plus, several European research studies as well as one by the American Chemical Society have shown that organically-grown fruit, vegetables and dairy products contain 50 to 60% more antioxidants than their pesticide-dosed counterparts.
Even so, be aware that every one of the several certification programs and even counterparts from country to country, has its own policies and guidelines for what is considered acceptable on, in and around their products, so that even as a savvy consumer, you are not always comparing apples to apples, even in a health food store. Read labels, ask questions and think about the food's route to your table. Friendly Farmer Jane down the road whose practices you know and trust may be the healthiest supplier for your table regardless of her apparent lack of support for the cause for growing organically "by the book."
Further, why not use your own Green Thumb or grow one by making a garden in your own backyard, on a plot down the block, on the rooftop at work, or even a container on your deck, your personal haven to relieve stress, reflect, breathe deeply, meditate and reconnect with nature. If you need mosquito repellent, use the juice of a catnip leaf (easily grown) –- 10 times more effective than the chemical DEET –- and much less stressful on your body!
While gardening, especially during the peak UV radiation hours, choose long sleeves, a hat and a natural sunscreen with a reflective barrier like zinc instead of chemical sunscreens. In an April 2008 CDC study, 97% of Americans were shown to be contaminated with oxybenzone, a widely-used sunscreen ingredient linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage that may actually accelerate the signs of aging.
As an aside, there are even more reasons to go "Zinc" at the beach as researchers from the University of Pisa found that even trace levels of sunscreen chemicals caused degradation to coral reefs. Scientists now feel that coral reefs may harbor bio-chemicals helpful in combating arthritis, cancer and other insidious diseases. So, for many reasons a mineral-based sunscreen in a non-petroleum base is the least stressful choice for yourself and the environment.
Need to clean up now that your farm labors are done, the horse is in the barn, and you have the trough all to yourself.
Opt for Natural, Fragrance-Free Personal Care Products
What you put on your body is as important as what you put in it. It has been said that 95% of the chemicals used to make your products "fragrant" are derived from petroleum and are neurotoxins and endocrine disrupters. Our skin is permeable and absorbs these chemicals – many of which may cause serious health problems. The thin skin of your scalp, for example, will absorb the petrochemical fragrances, sodium laurel sulfate and formaldehyde preservative (often listed as Quarternium-15) used in many shampoos and hair dyes. The FDA requires some products containing this preservative to carry a warning label, but shampoo is exempt.
So, if you don't want your hair to go the way of Aunt Gladys, wash it with no fragrance, no color-added shampoos such as those offered by Unicure, Magic Botanicals, or Dr. Bronner.
Did you notice when you stepped out of the relaxing bath that the bathroom is due its own scrubbing?
Avoid Indoor Air Pollution at Home
If it's cleaning day, try using the non-toxic cleaning standbys of your grandmother –- vinegar, baking soda, Borax and Bon Ami, or experiment with the latest and greatest "green" alternatives, like Enviro-One Botanical Soap, that can be used for everything from brushing your teeth to washing your clothes.
Commercial cleaners often contain concoctions of chemicals, many of which are toxic both to our bodies and to the environment once they've gone down the drain. Almost all of them have added synthetic fragrances or chlorine (which forms dangerous compounds that store in fat cells and breast tissue). Dryer sheets contain nasty sounding and acting chloroform -- camphor and ethyl acetate.
Air "fresheners" actually add to indoor air pollution, coating nasal passages with nerve-deadening agents and impairing our sense of smell. Opt to freshen by opening a window or putting on the fan, plunking organic flowers into a pretty vase or setting out a kid-proof/pet proof countertop bowl of baking soda or vinegar to absorb any nasty smells.
Maybe you noticed that your clothes in the laundry hamper smell like your boss' new carpet, and you know there have been no shenanigans.
Green your Workplace
A non-toxic work space is healthy not only for employees but for the bottom line. The use of harsh chemical cleaners can cause respiratory problems, headaches and dizziness, leading to less than optimal work performance and missing work. Conventional cleaning products, as well as many paints, adhesives and furnishings, can give off irritating, allergenic fragrances and toxic volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) like our old friend, formaldehyde. Ask among your co-workers, and chances are that at least some of them have experienced workplace headaches, dizziness and trouble concentrating. Band together, present your concerns and ask that your workplace choose the safest cleaners and the low-VOC remodeling materials now widely available.
Still really need to get away and don't have three weeks of vacation saved up? Ask about working flex-time or sharing hours with another employee, or even working from home.
Work from Home When Possible
Telecommuting by working from home will save your wallet from the daily rise in the cost of gasoline while sparing your nerves the stress of the commute and the inhalation of exhaust fumes. You can then enjoy family time when you want it, work in your sweats and slippers at 2 A.M., or take a stretch, nap or meditation break when you want to. However, sometimes commuting to a workplace is the only option, so why not ride public transportation, buy a hybrid car, carpool or ride a bicycle.
So, these are but a few of the literally hundreds and perhaps thousands of ways to go green, in total far too numerous to mention here, so why not mail your favorites to me at:
[email protected] and I will incorporate them as your ideas into a future article.
Thanks for stopping by.
1. Archives of Environmental Health, "Acute Toxic Effects of Fragrance Products," 1998, 53(2):138-146.
2. Environmental Working Group: Americans Carry "Body Burden" of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical, (www.ewg.org)
3. American Chemical Society: "Catnip Repels Mosquitoes More Effectively than DEET," August 28, 2001.
4. "Ocean, The World's Last Wilderness Revealed," The American Museum of Natural History, 2006.
5. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2005.
About the authorRoger Harris is a writer and environmental advocate living on the Big Island of Hawaii. He has formed a network to provide alternatives to pesticides and chemicals, www.GreenerWorld.net to help the citizens of Hawaii and the world choose a healthier future.
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