Going Green as a Family: An intorduction

So, if I hadn’t mentioned it already, I’m going to start aiming for three articles a week. If I can create more content than that, I will, but I have to make sure I actually have time to practice what I preach.

I will also let you in on another little secret: Not even I can take all the steps listed here. I know that time and money constraints do limit what families can do.  Just take your time and add one thing at a time as you can.

I’m going to be mentioning a lot of information from various sites, but if you’re looking to go green before your baby is born, let me recommend this book that I found at the library: Growing Up Green.  I do have it linked later on in the article.

We’ve mentioned before that everyone wants to do what’s best for their child.  We want to keep them safe. Unfortunately, that can mean a lot of different things to different people. It includes many things for me, but I’m here to talk about one in particular. For me one of the dangers of modern society is all the chemicals in our lives.

Part of this is providing healthy food that isn’t overly processed with chemicals that have potentially been linked to all sorts of health issues. Harmful toxins permeate our houses in the form of bleach, chemical cleaners, and other substances we use to manage dirt and unwanted pests in our homes among other things.

While I know I cannot eliminate them from my life entirely, I can work to eliminate as many of these potential dangers as possible and I can usually save some money in the process.  I read everyday about the rise of disease in this country. Today I was reading Growing up Green, and they talked about the rise in pediatric cancers, asthma, and obesity. The first chapter said that 1 in 6 children now have a learning disability and that approximately 1 in 150 have Autism.

While we know that this may be partially generics, until we prove otherwise, we must also admit that at least a part of these problems may be due to these chemicals and toxins in our lives that are never tested as thoroughly as they should be. I could cite and discuss all sorts of practices by companies peddling us products that are both bad for the earth and bad for us, but anyone looking and reading can tell you about that.

Just look at companies like Monsanto, who produce genetically modified crops. Their products are often studied for six months or less. Definitely not enough time to determine health issues in the long run.  The same can be said of many other companies. This is just one example.

We do know that many diseases have environmental factors. We also know that genetics plays a role, but which one plays the larger role? Honestly, I would say that it depends on the disease. Something like Tay Sachs is obviously genetic, but asthma may not be depending on your family history.

While some doctors are claiming these diseases are caused by genetic epidemics or massive changes in DNA, we know that DNA does not change that quickly. It takes centuries or more for traits to rise and fall in a single species. Which means that most likely many of these diseases are caused by environmental factors.  However, we are not currently researching what environmental factors could be causing many of these diseases and sometimes possible culprits are ignored by greedy companies more concerned with money than the health of our children.

Dr. Frederica Perera, director of Columbia Univesity’s Center for Children’s Environmental health said: “Genes alone do not explain these increases, but they do play a role with other factors. We have to think about all these factors together.” So to understand the root cause of these rising childhood health problems we have to look outside of our DNA as well. With us seeing such a rise, logic would indicate that the cause is the damage we have done to our world and to ourselves through toxins in our food, water, cleaning supplies, etc.

Scientist are just barely beginning to scratch the surface on the effects of environmental factors on our genetics.  For example, only 5-10% of cancer cases can be attributed to genetics. Part of the problem is that it is highly unlikely that one exposure or even one chemical causes the problem. It could be a combination of many of them.  We may be damaging our DNA, which will only affect our grandchildren and their children down the line.

The bottom line is that our best line of defense is to try to prevent exposure in the first place. We can’t eliminate all toxins from our lives, but we can minimize our exposure by minimizing their existence in our homes.

The Basics of Going Green

1. Exercise. It’s a great natural detoxifier and its healthy. The more you sweat the more you get out. And of course, drink lots of water. I know, I have trouble with this one too, but it will also teach your child healthy life habits.

2. Start to decrease or eliminate your intake of any drugs.

3. Probably the most obvious tip is to clean up your diet. Cut out the frozen processed foods and opt for more natural options. Also try to avoid GMO’s.

Greening Your Home

1. Green your shopping: The more of us who band together and buy as many green products and foods as we can, the more likely the market is to change toward that trend. Just watch out for false green items. Read the labels and when you have time, research the companies.  There are already states making minor headway towards complete GMO labeling and in Europe it is a reality and it all started with a few families rebelling and sharing their stories.

2. Green your clean: The healthiest moments in my life occurred during high school, and no, it wasn’t just because I was young. My parents were using a set of products from a company called Maleleuca. Everything was organic and based in natural products, but it was prohibitively expensive, which led to me seeking my own homemade alternatives. For example, I clean the kitchen floor with a mix of water, apple cider vinegar and some lemon or orange oil. The vinegar is a natural antibacterial as are the oils and you only have to use a few drops. It saves me a lot of money on cleaning supplies. I plan on one of my future posts being entirely comprised of these sort of recipes.  If you only knew what all the chemicals in our house have already been proven to be linked to, you’d be disgusted. Just look at this link from Sustainable Baby Steps to learn more about bleach.

Here are some safe alternatives. GTC (Greening the Cleaning), Seventh Generation, and Sun & Earth. However, I find many of them too expensive. Hence why I make my own. And trust me there are plenty of articles out there. Here is just one example from Keeper of the Home. It just takes some research to be able to save yourself some money and make your cleaning green.

3. Greening your Kitchen: Step one is a water filter if you don’t already have one. Right now I’m lucky to live with my parents. My mom has a really nice Japanese one that her doctor prescribed her to use. I wish I could afford it. It is called Kangen Water. However, any filtration you can add to your water will help.  Public water is not purified very well at all and often contains fluoride, which while good for your teeth is not proven safe in large doses.

Second, next time you have to break down and buy a new appliance pay a few extra dollars for the energy efficient model.  It will save you on the energy bill later.  Third, opt for stainless steel when your non stick pan wears out. Recent studies indicate that overheated teflon may be a risk to our health. Why take the risk?

Greening your kitchen also includes better food for your family. I know we can’t all afford to go organic. Heck, I can’t even go organic, but I can opt for healthier meals and buy what I can. Particularly be careful of aspartame (which is actually the poo of a bacteria turned to a sugar like substance, corn syrup, excess of sugars, and artificial sweeteners as they have been linked to cancer and other health issues. If you can, also be wary of where your meat products come from as many farms overuse antibiotics, growth hormones and other dangerous toxins. This is one I wish I could do easier in my area, but was so much easier in Louisville.

In my next article we’ll dig a little bit deeper into other ways to go green as a family. Like I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m no saint when it comes to these concepts either. I do the best I can with the resources I have. And I’m constantly trying to add more steps to my repertoire while maintaining my own sanity and a little bit of free time to myself. I would love to do more, but sometimes such things are simply unfeasible. However, even implementing a few of them will help protect your child from potential dangers in your own home.

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