Our family has been inching down the path of a cleaner, greener home and a healthier lifestyle. I say inching because it’s taken a couple of years to get to the point we are now, and we still have years to go before we could be a poster child for Awesome Green Healthy Wholesome People magazine. (Yes, I realize that’s not a real magazine – but it should be).
Some people farther along on this journey may ask why it’s taken so long. Don’t we care about our health and the environment?! Well, there are a lot of reasons this has been such a slow process for us.
It’s a complete mindset change
I don’t know about you, but in our house growing up something wasn’t really clean unless you bleached it and scrubbed it with steel wool. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we used all kinds of chemically based cleaners around the house. Also, as a person who lives in Houston and whose income (and the income of most of my family) comes from the oil and gas industry, I’m pretty slow to boycott things that are produced within that industry.
Buying organic, free range, green anything is more expensive. Yes, some products are concentrated and so last longer in the long run, but the initial cash outlay can be significant – especially if you’re replacing everything at one time. I had a good friend who decided to use cloth diapers instead of disposable. While it was great to not spend $30/month on diapers, the initial cost of the cloth diapers and waterproof shorts, etc. was rough on the pocketbook.
It takes more research and work
It’s super easy to go to the grocery store and buy a box of goldfish, some fruit snacks, a bottle of floor cleaner and some acetaminophen. It’s much more time consuming to make your own, healthier fruit snacks, research the chemicals in the floor cleaner to decide if it’s really something you want your one year old crawling on and eating those fruit snacks off of, and double checking the amount of acetaminophen you’re allowed to take when your headache just won’t go away.
So, for better or for worse, this has been a pretty time consuming process for us. However, there are some things we have done that I would recommend to people who are trying to start this process as well and feel a bit overwhelmed by it all.
Start with one product at a time
For us this was dryer sheets. I loved using dryer sheets to get all of the static out of our clothes, plus I liked having my clothes smell clean and fresh when they came out of the dryer. After reading about some of the stuff that went into those things, we switched to wool dryer balls (I got mine at Amazon, but you can find them other places also). These are great because they help with the static, cut off some of the dry time, and I can add scents to them to still have my clothes smell good. If you’re more concerned with food than cleaners, I would suggest choosing one food type at a time to switch. We did this with milk since my children drink so much of it. Organic milk is much more expensive, but it was a change that was important to us and that we could fit in our budget without having to do without something really important, like chocolate.
Look into DIY things
I like making things, so finding recipes online for homemade bug sprays, floor cleaners and tile scrub was interesting to me. It turns out lots of things can be cleaned with vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. If you’re not into the DIY thing, there are a number of companies out there that sell concentrated cleaners with lots less chemicals than you find in many brands.
Shop at farmer’s markets
We like shopping at farmer’s markets when we can for a number of reasons – the produce is fresh, you can ask the farmers directly what sorts of pesticides or growth hormones they use, and it supports the local economy. A lot of times you can also find things like homemade soaps, local honey and other things that are harder to find at a chain grocery store.
Basically, making the change to a more “natural” home is a process for us. We’re moving one step at a time, juggling what is best for our family and our finances. Sometimes I spring for the organic and sometimes I can only afford the generic store brand, but I think being aware of what you’re eating, what you’re using to clean your home and what you’re breathing can only be a good thing.