Traditional Wellness Wisdom

12 ways to swap toxic for sustainable choices in your food and home

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Have you been thinking about making changes for a more sustainable way of life and reducing waste … but feel overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to start?

There are many ways to do this: from changing foods in your diet to exchanging items you commonly use every day in your home or place of business; there are endless ideas to make your living environments less toxic and healthier for you and your whole family.

These changes can produce observable positive impact on your health including digestive, immunity, and overall well-being.

12 ways to swap toxic for more sustainable choices:

1. Trade conventionally-grown produce sprayed with pesticides and other harmful chemicals, and sourced from genetically-modified seeds for organic or sustainable-produced versions. 

“Spray-free” doesn’t mean the absence of pesticides. It’s really just a marketing term like many others.  Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides and other chemicals applied to conventional crops due to their smaller body size, the fact that they are growing and developing, and have faster metabolisms. Pesticides are linked to ADD, Autism, hyperactivity, and other health disorders in children as reported from studies conducted by researchers at The University of Montreal in Quebec in 2010.

As far as nutrient-content of organic versus conventional foods: a 2014 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition reveals that antioxidant levels in organic foods are higher. The study also shows lower cadmium concentrations and lower residue of pesticides in organic foods versus conventional samples.

Buy locally if possible,  and have a conversation with the farmer at the market or in your local area about his or her practices.

2. Trade commercial meats, poultry, eggs, and dairy which come from animals raised on feedlots, and low-fat animal foods for grassfed and pasture-raised versions. 

Meat and meat products from animals in feedlots are fed the wrong kinds of feed, contain hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Also, their nutritional content is compromised from being raised in non-sustainable environments where the soil, water, and other areas are not cared for in an ecological manner, and soils are not cultivated nor enriched with organic matter or fertilizer to make the meat healthier.

Read Deceptions in the food industry: low-fat foods for a discussion about why low-fat foods don’t support health as well as a list of recommended meat and other animal foods.

Check with your farmer’s market or local farmer. Although many grass-fed and pasture-based farmers use sustainable and/or organic practices, it’s always a good idea to interview your farmer and find out whether their animals are normally on pasture (and if they are fed any grain, soy, or corn).

Concerned about the cost of switching to naturally-grown meats? Consider the long-term cost of health problems as a result of consuming toxic meat such as sick days from work or school, doctor and hospital fees, and medications.

Take the Grassfed Meat Challenge

and read The Truth About Raw Milk, Part I and Part II

3. Trade plastic cutting boards in your kitchen for bamboo and glass boards that are formaldehyde and other harmful chemical-free.

Plastic degrades over time and can start to come off after many years of being cut on into your food. Plastic cutting boards are also petroleum-based and harmful for the environment since they don’t biodegrade in landfills for thousands of years.

Recommended are Totally Bamboo,  Greener Chef organic bamboo cutting board, or CounterArt or Highland Graphics glass cutting boards via Amazon affiliation, or glass cutting boards. 

These materials are environmentally-safe, do not harbor bacteria on their surfaces, and are easy to clean with soap and water (glass is inert).

4. Trade teflon, non-stick, and aluminum pans for cast iron, stainless steel, or enamel, ceramic, or stoneware.

Non-stick and teflon are dangerous to health. Teflon contains a carcinogenic substance known as perfluoroalkyl acids which have been found in blood samples of people and animals, and are responsible for impairing liver function and increases the bad LDL levels of cholesterol in the body.

Studies released by the EPA in Du Pont and 3M labs concluded that rats who were fed PFOAs (perfluorooctanoic acid, one of the main offending chemicals found in Teflon and other non-stick cookware) had a higher incidence of developing tumors in the liver, testicles, mammary glands, and pancreas.

PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate, another offending chemical found in non-stick cookware) has been connected to thyroid and liver cancer in rats. Other problems include increased rates of weight loss, miscarriage, and thyroid issues. The offspring of female rats showed stunted growth and accelerated rates of sexual maturation.

Here are some cutting boards I use or have used, and recommend via Amazon affiliation: Concord ceramic 3-piece cookware set

All-Clad 10 piece cookware set

Le Crueset 5 1/2 quart Dutch Oven

Le Crueset 11 3/4 iron handle skillet

Lodge cast iron, 3 quart combo cooker

Lodge cast iron 12-inch skillet

Lodge cast iron, 5-quart Dutch Oven

5. Trade canola or vegetable oil for traditional oils. 

If you are cooking with vegetable oils or using them for salads, now’s the time to throw them out. These rancid, genetically-modified vegetable oils become trans-fats during processing, and are culprits of heart disease and cancer. These products are not actually food, but a chemically-altered fat which our bodies don’t recognize and cannot absorb. These substances are cheap to produce (think industrial waste by-products) and make huge profits for companies selling them.

Read more about why canola and other vegetable oils are harmful to health from The Weston A. Price Foundation.

I recommend Bragg’s organic olive oil, Nutiva coconut oil, via Amazon affiliation, as well as ghee, butter, tallow or lard from animals on pasture.

Also from Amazon affiliation and Tendergrass Farms:

Fatworks pastured lard, GMO-free

Fatworks pastured beef tallow, GMO-free

Pork Fat, Tendergrass Farms, pasture-raised, GMO-free

Ancient Organics grassfed organic ghee

Pure Indian Foods grassfed organic ghee

Purity Farms grassfed organic ghee

Healthy, traditional oils are a rich source of important nutrients and essential fatty acids. These foods also support digestive, brain, endocrine, thyroid, and cardiovascular health. Foods with healthy fats are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the earth.

Some of the most important, fat-soluble vitamins found in fats are Vitamins A, D, E, and K2 – and those are essential to aiding in absorption of nutrients found in many other foods, including vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes.

Read The importance of dietary fats and Do you eat butter or margarine for health?

6. Trade commercial cleaners for safe, non-toxic, natural cleaners.

Many disinfectants used in commercial cleaning products are considered pesticides by the EPA.  Products containing bleach (“ultra” concentrated) or quaternary ammonium chlorides (“quats”) are corrosive, that is they can cause permanent eye damage if spilled or splashed. Chlorine bleach is a powerful lung irritant and can form toxic compounds in fumes if combined with other cleaners such as ammonia or strong acids like toilet bowl cleaners. Many of these products have been tested and declared endocrine disruptors and are linked to reproductive damage and alterations in specific genders, and cancer.

I use and recommend Dr. Bronner’s Hemp Lavender or Tea Tree Oil Castille Soap, vinegar & baking soda, lemon, olive oil, and grapefruit seed oil extract all recommended via Amazon affiliation. Dilute mixtures in a spray bottle with filtered water and experiment with how much you need for cleaning.

I also recommend and use Branch Basics non-toxic cleaning products. Branch Basics lets you use one pure, easy to dilute soap to replace all cleaning products in your home. Save up to $300 annually on home cleaning.

Small starter kit

Medium starter kit

Large starter kit

7. Trade plastic containers used to store food and contain beverages for stainless steel, silicone, glass, and ceramic (lead-free) containers.

Many plastic containers contain BPA and other harmful petro-chemicals that can cause interference in the endocrine system, hormone function, and can lead to the development of cancer.

Try stainless steel for water and stainless steel, glass, or ceramic for cooking and storage. Most ceramic cookware and containers produced in the U.S. are lead-free, but be sure to check that the manufacturer doesn’t use this chemical in their products.

I use and recommend this type of safe glass Lifefactory bottles with protective silicone sleeve. Here’s another choice in blue.

Also recommended:

Klean Kanteen products:

12-ounce stainless sippy bottle for kids and 12-ounce stainless water bottle with cap,

and

Smart Planet 3- compartment, collapsible lunch container

Kids Konserve Nesting Trio Stainless containers with leak-proof lids

Lunchbots Rounds stainless steel containers, 8-ounce, set of 2

8. Trade canned products such as beans and tomatoes for dried bean and fresh tomatoes, or freeze, ferment, or can for when they are out-of-season.

BPA, found in cans, interferes with hormonal activity in the body and gets stored in your cells.  Some companies that have removed BPA from their canned and other products are still including toxic ingredients in the place of BPA. Read more from Rodale News.

Aluminum cans can leech aluminum into your food, which has been liked to Alzheimer’s and other degenerative mental disorders.

Learn to ferment foods to naturally preserve them and provide enzymatic and probiotic benefit to your digestive and immune systems. I recommend Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin and The Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Food by Wardee Harmon via Amazon affiliation.

Learn to can foods. Here’s a helpful guide from Mother Earth News.

Or, consider not eating tomatoes and others until they are in season since even canning your own at home can potentially expose you to BPA or other chemicals in the lining of jar lids.

9. Trade refined table salt for real, unrefined sea salt.

Refined table salt is primarily composed of sodium chloride and causes the body to retain water in its effort to isolate the toxin being stored in the body – hence the “puffiness” or swelling associated with salt consumption. Refined salts are processed and subjected to high heat, virtually eliminating all healthy trace minerals and nutrients, and leaving behind toxic chemicals which make our bodies sick.

Real salt that hasn’t been refined is essential to health and contains important trace and other major minerals that are largely missing from our diets like potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iodine, manganese, and phosphorus.  Recommended brands via Amazon affiliation include Real SaltCeltic Sea Salt, and Mineral Dead Sea Salt.

10. Instead of new, buy something used at a thrift store, garage sale, or on Craigslist, or borrow or trade from a friend or relative.

11. Instead of washing clothes on warm, use cold water. 

I’ve been washing all my family’s clothes in cold water for over a decade, and our clothes still come rinsed and clean.  Using cold in your wash is a good way to save on your monthly electric bill.

Use a clothes line instead of your dryer. If you still use a dryer, ditch toxic dryer sheets. To avoid static in clothes, make sure you don’t over-dry them in the dryer (which will also save on electricity).

12. Trade tap water for filtered water.

Tap water is notoriously full of many chemicals and heavy metals.  It is nearly impossible for city reclamation filtration to remove substances from water like antibacterial substances, caffeine, medications, and many other chemicals and toxins. See how the tap water in your city ranks in a list of the best tap water from all over the U.S. from the Environmental Working Group. Recently, a startling report came out about Hexavalent Chromium, a carcinogenic substance being found in tap water of 31 U.S. cities.

Investing in a good water filtration system for your sink or house can provide great benefit and reduce the amount of toxins you are exposed to. We use and recommend Berkey countertop water solutions. Here’s the one our family uses.

For shower filtering, I pass these recommendations from friends who use and love them:

SONAKI Rich & Luxury Shower Systems

Bath filters from Rainshow’r

LifeSource whole-house water filtration

More tips? Read Tips for saving money and food in the kitchen

What ways have you reduced your exposure to chemicals and toxins?

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2 Comments

  1. Sandrine Love

    Raine, I absolutely love this very comprehensive list! I was delighted to realize that I have accomplished every item you identified and I wholeheartedly agree with your choices! I do prefer glass to stainless steel for a water bottle because I have some concerns about nickel in stainless steel. On occasion I wash in warm or hot water if there is a need but, have been washing in cold for years. I do know that it was important for me to make the changes slowly over time so as not to get overwhelmed.

    Reply
    1. Raine Saunders (Post author)

      Hi Sandrine – thank you for providing your comments! I also prefer glass to stainless steel, but sometimes stainless works better for our family. However, I agree that it is certainly a good idea to be mindful about nickel which is found in these containers, and others which can hold harmful substances. 🙂

      Reply

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