covid-19 Isolation Survival Guide

I know, I know, we’re all sick of hearing covid this, physical distancing that… but you know what? This is our reality and if I were a betting girl, I’d bet it’s going to be our reality for quite some time. And if you’re like me and just about every other person on the planet, you’re having a tough time with the new isolation conditions. I’ve gone through the various stages of grief… and will probably cycle through them a few more times before this is all over.

And the panic I’ve seen in various mom communities online suggests I’m not alone. But I’m seeing a lot of women are having a hard time coming out of panic and anxiety. I get it. This situation is HARD. But I also know that our kids are watching.  I think we owe it to them to model behaviour in crisis that we would want them to practice.

In light of that, I’d like to share a little bit of insight into what’s run through my brain over the past month:

Denial: “Huh, this virus doesn’t sound great. Glad we live somewhere we won’t be affected.”

Anger: “What?! Schools are closed for 2 whole weeks? This is going to be terrible.”

Bargaining: “Who wants to socially isolate together? Anyone want to borrow a kid?”

Depression: “I can’t do this. I miss my life. I miss people. I miss my quiet house while I’m working. This is too much…” {This wasn’t my finest several days, but I also think it’s important for kids to see us have emotions and this is where they saw the most.}

Acceptance: “OK, sitting on the kitchen floor crying felt good for those 20mins, but I can’t live like this for months. Let’s figure out a way to make this work.”

 

So, now that I am sitting squarely in Acceptance I’m trying to keep from reverting back into a depression state. I wanted to share some things that have helped me out – giving me comfort, self care, or making life a little easier. So I can help support my family through this time and show them that we can do hard things. 

I’ve put together a little covid-19 Isolation Survival Guide – I hope you find it helpful and that it inspires you to add some things to your new routine that bring you joy and help make this situation a little easier. I’ve linked some of my favourite products and businesses too.

Get Out of Your PJs 

OK, I know staying in PJ’s or yoga pants all day is tempting… but one of the biggest shifts in my mood was starting my day getting properly dressed. The bonus is that with my super comfortable (and eco-friendly) outfits from Logan & Finley, it still feels like I’m in pjs. But I know I’m dressed and ready to face the day.

Owner Julie has even created a collection specifically for the work-from-home life. You can shop online – and get a virtual wardrobe consultation – here. (And most of what I’m wearing in my photos on social and my website are from Logan & Finley!)

Logan & Finley clothing

Move Yo’ Body

I’m only just starting to get back into working out after a solid couple of months off (the flu hit our house in February). I am a terrible self-starter and got used to the routine of going to the gym. So when we all got stuck at home I had a hard time getting motivated. Enter my trainer, Reena Parekh.

I’ve been training with her for years in-person. Lucky for me, and just in time for a pandemic situation, she now does online training. She helped kick my butt into action. I’ve got workouts that burn, and the accountability to help me stick to it. 

Learn more about online training with Reena here.

Oh, and maybe it’s just me, but even when I’m just stuck around the house, I don’t like going braless. My TMPL Sports Bra has definitely been my go-to. Its super soft material feels just as good all day as it does during a workout. (I also love their leggings and tank, pictured below.)

Shop their high performance, ethically-made, non-toxic line of athleticwear here and save 15%. In the photo below I’m wearing the medium support sportsbra (that I’m wearing as I write this), tank, and pocket leggings.

 

Pamper Yourself

I’ve started putting on make-up every day – even more than I used to beforehand. I don’t know if it’s because I’m washing my hands a million times a day and looking in a mirror more often or what, but the morning routine also helps me set myself up for a healthier mindset to face the day.

My favourite make-up brands are all thanks to Maria Velve – my go-to skincare expert and make-up artist. She sells amazing brands in her online shop and can do virtual consultations too! Check her out here.

In the quiet, after the kids are in bed, and nobody’s asking me for something (maybe my favourite part of the day?!)… I’ve started really looking forward to my pre-bed facial treatment. 

I’ve been using an oil cleanser and moisturizer from Lifance, which I am absolutely loving. (You can save 15% when you use your Healthy Moms Discount Card. Don’t have one yet? Grab it here and save a whole bunch on awesome products and services.)

In the shower, I use an exfoliating face scrub I picked up when I got my last facial at Pure & Simple. They’re selling self isolation kits now that look like fun too. 

These simple luxuries seem to help melt away the stress of the day, and I enjoy them unapologetically.

 

Embrace the Chaos + Simplify

So all the product-based strategies aside, the greatest survival tactic I realized is that I have to embrace the chaos and learn to simplify. 

I say chaos because I think it aptly describes the idea that we are to instantly transform into different people and lose our usual support systems. In my case, I am now a work-at-home and stay-at-home-mom, being the primary caregiver during the day as my husband works for an essential service. We don’t have access to grandparents or babysitters. Given how quickly I went from a work-at-home-while-kids-were-at-school-mom to this new reality… chaos is really how I feel.

But I’m learning to embrace it and work with it – after I went through the grief process about what I’ve “lost”, which I still think is an important thing to acknowledge.

And simplify is a word that resonates with me as I navigate trying to do all the things… so I wanted to share something from the most gentle soul you’ll ever meet, Lynne Newman. She offers coaching and workshops around simplicity parenting among others, and has put together a great (free) e-book to help you simplify your children’s toys. 

With everyone home looking for something to do, this might seem counter-intuitive. But her process will help you create a more calm home, and will make it easier for your children to engage with what they already have better.

You can download it here.

 

We’re in this for a long time. When I moved through the stages of grief and really settled into that, I was able to focus on the little things that ultimately help boost my mood and morale. Getting outside has also been a huge part of my support process, but I know with varying levels of isolation that might not be possible where you are – but if you can do it safely, try to get outside or at least open your windows every day.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not business as usual right now. Lower expectations of what you can get done in a day if you’ve got children at home especially. Practice daily gratitude, allowing yourself to acknowledge what went well. 

And most importantly, show compassion to yourself and others. We’re all doing the best we can. 

If you’d like to continue having conversations about navigating this time, creating healthy homes, and supporting healthy families, I invite you to join me over in my free Facebook Group, the Green Product Forum >> click here to join now.

 

This post contains affiliate links. These help support the work that goes into this blog and other resources I create. For any purchase made from affiliate links, I earn a small percentage at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting the businesses I love, and for helping me continue to do my work :).

The EWG Dirty Dozen, Produce Washes, and More: How to Reduce Pesticides in Your Food

ewg dirty dozen strawberries in bowl

It’s that time of year again… when eco-bloggers go nuts over the EWG Dirty Dozen list and no doubt will share headlines like your “strawberries are doused in toxic pesticides giving you cancer with every bite…” OK, maybe they don’t go that far. But some of the articles that I’m sure will come out over this time will sound pretty close. 

Before you check out this year’s Dirty Dozen list (spoiler alert: the big shake-up this year is raisins), I want to share what the Dirty Dozen actually means, does it matter, and how else you can take informed actions to reduce pesticides in your food. 

Because while tools like the Dirty Dozen can certainly be part of your strategy to lower your exposure to toxins, it’s pointless if you don’t understand what it means.

Let’s get to it then, shall we?

 

What is the EWG Dirty Dozen?

Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit out of the US, publishes its ranking of produce and pesticide residues in its Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen lists.

The “dirty dozen” are the produce that have the highest amount of pesticide residues. Then there’s a group in the middle, and the “clean fifteen” which have the lowest amount of pesticide residues.

 

How the Dirty Dozen Works

To come up with their Dirty Dozen list, the EWG uses data from USDA and FDA sampling. The USDA selects which specific types of produce will be tested each year, so there isn’t annual data for everything. Produce is tested as it would normally be eaten – for example, apples are washed under water and oranges are peeled.

The EWG takes the most recent 1 – 2 years of sampling data per type of produce – in some cases, this data could be up to 10 years old. 

In 2019, kale was moved up in the dirty dozen ranking and EWG used it as their big headline and hook to get people talking about the list. However, kale hadn’t been tested by the FDA for several years. So the reality is that although it was farther down the list in previous years, the pesticide content likely was the same or similar in 2017 and 2018.

The government studies also don’t account for all pesticides – according to the EWG, even glyphosate, one of the most widely used pesticides, isn’t tested for. (I wrote about glyphosate in our food here.)

To compare foods, EWG looks at various measures of pesticide contamination:

  • Percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides.
  • Percent of samples with two or more detectable pesticides.
  • Average number of pesticides found on a single sample.
  • Average amount of pesticides found, measured in parts per million.
  • Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample.
  • Total number of pesticides found on the crop.

The produce is ranked against each of these criteria using equal weighting, and given a score. These scores are used to come up with the best and worst when it comes to pesticide residues. You can read about their full process here.

 

How to Use the EWG Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Lists

Is the Dirty Dozen is far from conclusive or a perfect system? Absolutely not. You’ll find no shortage of articles debunking it. But as long as you understand its limitations, it can still be used as a simple way to help avoid decision fatigue and prioritize where you’re spending your money.

It can be a way to help you prioritize certified organic purchases where they’re more likely to have an impact on your exposure to certain pesticides. 

And yes, before you jump at me saying that organic farmers use pesticides too, I am well aware. But they aren’t allowed to use some of the most problematic pesticides like hormone disrupting atrazine or carcinogenic glyphosate.

 

What About Produce Washes? Can You Remove Pesticides That Way?

I get asked quite often how I wash my produce. And this will probably disappoint you, but I just wash them under cold water. Mostly because there’s only so much time in the day and I’d rather find it easier to eat fresh fruits and vegetables than reach for something less healthy. 

The truth is, no one method will remove 100% of pesticide residues.

Rinsing with regular water has been shown to be effective on certain pesticides, but not all. And it’s mostly the mechanical process of rubbing the fruits under water (some say it should be for 2mins).

Other methods that have been shown to be effective on certain fruits and veggies with specific pesticides are soaking in a solution of baking soda and water for 15mins and soaking in 10% vinegar for 20mins.

These studies had several limitations, but if you don’t mind the extra time or effort, the strategies certainly don’t hurt. However, soaking and washing don’t remove the pesticides that soak into the fruit (another reason to opt for organic where you can).

Fruit and veggie washes typically use surfactants to help loosen dirt, wax, and germs from the produce. But they haven’t been standardized or tested fully so it’s hard to know how good a job they do on pesticides. The FDA doesn’t recommend them because they can leave residue on the food. 

 

How Else Can you Reduce Pesticides

Some studies have shown that pesticides in some foods are reduced through cooking, so prioritizing organic for raw foods may be one way to lower your exposure (though cooking changes the nutrition quality so you still want to be getting some raw fruits and veggies in your diet!). 

You can also use a course brush on thicker-skinned fruits and vegetables like potatoes, cucumber, etc. 

And finally, always wash your produce, even if you’re going to peel it anyways.

 

If you’re starting to read all the horror stories about the EWG Dirty Dozen and are worried about your own pesticide intake, I hope this helps you navigate the landscape more confidently! You can read more on whether organic produce is worth it in this article.

If you want to learn how to lower your toxic load with strategic product swaps and habits, I invite you to join my online program the Healthy Home Method. It’s your step-by-step roadmap to help you reduce toxins in each room of your home without going crazy. It’s only for those serious about taking control of their long-term health – if that’s you, click here to learn more.

How to Prevent COVID-19 Naturally at Home

How to prevent covid-19 naturally at home

I’ll just say it straight: we are living in a crazy time right now. There is an unbelievable amount of information (and misinformation) floating around about the 2019 novel coronavirus (covid-19) and I’ve hesitated to add to the noise. But there’s something we’re not talking about that I think is important – for our health, and our sanity.  

Now, before I dive in I want to make it perfectly clear that despite what some are sharing online, nothing has been proven to cure or make you immune to covid-19 as of today.  However, there are definitely things you can and should be doing to boost your immune system – covid-19 or not. 

I’m not going to give you recommendations for supplements and herbs and immune boosting tonics, because that’s not my specialty. For that kind of information, I recommend following this page put together by Dr. Aviva Romm. She’s an MD, herbalist, and midwife and  focuses on practical, clinically relevant recommendations.

I’m going to stay in my lane here, and share tips that you can act on right now – whether you’re social distancing or in quarantine – to make your home less friendly to viruses like covid-19. 

In this article, I share:

  • The proper way to wash your hands, and what kind of soap to use.
  • The step you need to take before disinfecting, and what products actually work.
  • How fresh air plays a role in virus prevention.
  • The optimal humidity level in your home to make it less friendly to viruses.
  • The source I trust for advice on boosting your body’s immune response.

These things are not going to guarantee you don’t get sick. But they can go a long way to reducing your risk and supporting your body in the event you do.

 

Wash Your Hands (For Longer than You Think You Should)

The number one way to prevent germs from coming into your home, is to wash your hands before you touch anything. The good news is, viruses like covid-19 are easily combated with regular old soap and water (this article explains why). 

Yes, even the natural stuff – you don’t need special antibacterial soap. Just make sure you’re spending at least 20 seconds, using warm water, and rubbing your hands. There are a million videos out there on this now, but here’s the official guidance from the CDC.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the second best option when you don’t have access to soap. Be careful using homemade versions, as the concentration needs to be at least 60% to be effective.

Clean then Disinfect

If you are appropriately distancing yourself – you are avoiding contact with other people by now, right? – and washing your hands as soon as you come home, you’re doing the most important steps to reducing your risk of exposure and the spread of the virus. 

As far as the research shows, transmission is mainly through inhaling droplets from coughs and sneezing. That being said, the virus has been shown to live on surfaces for hours to days. BEcause of this, Health Canada and the CDC recommend cleaning and sanitizing high-touch surfaces daily, especially if a member of your household is at risk or showing symptoms.

Short-term use of disinfectants like Lysol and bleach isn’t going to hurt. However, long-term use could be impacting especially our children’s immune systems for the long-term (stay tuned, more on this to come). 

If you are sanitizing your home, be aware that disinfectants only work on clean surfaces. So before you sanitize, be sure to clean with a soap first. 

My go-to all-purpose cleaner is liquid castile soap in water – this hasn’t changed with covid-19. 

I use Benefect for our normal disinfecting needs (which I really only use when we’ve got a serious illness or vomit going on). It’s Health Canada approved as a hospital-grade disinfectant and has been demonstrated effective on viruses similar to covid-19 (though hasn’t yet been tested on it specifically).

Hydrogen peroxide has been shown to be effective on viruses, including other coronaviruses. You can find a list of EPA-approved disinfectants here.

Oh, and a lot of people are worried about bringing in contaminated groceries. So far, the risk is incredibly low of contracting covid-19 from food and packaging. This article provides the best summary I’ve seen on the subject. The take-away? Worry about washing your hands, not so much about getting the virus from eating contaminated food.

Please for the love of all things, do not share false information about colloidal silver, essential oils, and other strategies being spread around the interwebs that have not been proven to be effective against covid-19.

 

Increase Fresh Air

Indoor air quality can impact your immune system’s ability to fight off infection. When our homes are all closed up, the chemicals that offgas from the building materials, furniture, cleaners and personal care products accumulate. 

The impact of poor indoor air quality is two-fold. First, it increases our exposure to toxins and therefore our overall toxic load. This is a form of stress on the body, which contributes to reduced immune system performance.

Second, there is emerging research linking hormone disrupting chemicals with immune system dysfunction. It’s impossible to avoid hormone disruptors entirely, but improving ventilation can help flush them out of your home to lower your exposure. 

Also, increasing fresh air inside has been studied with respect to the SARS outbreak in 2003, and the study authors found that “increasing building ventilation rates using methods such as natural ventilation in classrooms, offices, and homes is a relatively effective strategy for airborne diseases in a large city.”

You can increase fresh air by opening windows or running your furnace fan more often – ideally with an air exchanger (if you’re in a new home, you should have one of these and make sure you know how to use it!).

 

Check Your Humidity

The ability of viruses to survive is linked by many different studies with both temperature and humidity. However, there are inconsistencies in the findings to confirm the impact on a specific virus. Not all viruses are impacted the same. And they aren’t always linear – meaning some will survive longer in low and high humidities, but not in the middle.

For influenza, research suggests higher humidity is more effective at reducing virus transmission than low. Because covid-19 is still relatively new, there isn’t much data on it. As a result, it’s been suggested to use other known viruses to predict the impact of covid-19. 

My recommendation to help reduce the spread of cold and flu, while balancing mold growth, is to maintain 40 – 50% relative humidity in your home. Based on the literature around similar viruses, covid-19 appears to have lower survivability at higher humidities. 

Given the lack of research around covid-19 specifically, maintaining an RH of 40 – 50% will at least help prevent other illness, without contributing to harmful mold growth in your home (though always watch out for condensation if you are actively increasing humidity).

 

In Summary

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. All the time.
  2. Clean surfaces before disinfecting them.
  3. Increase fresh air throughout your home.
  4. Maintain a relative humidity of 40 – 50% inside.

I hope this helps you take a step back and focus on what you can do to help prevent your family from getting sick during this pandemic. Stressing about the situation is inevitable, but that also puts your body at increased risk of infection. So let’s acknowledge those feelings (I cry them out, personally), but not dwell on them. We’re all in this together.

Let me know if you’ve got any other questions related to covid-19 or otherwise. I’m planning out my next series of blog posts and would love to help answer your burning questions! Comment below or contact me with your ideas.

And for ongoing training and information about creating a healthier home – during and after this pandemic – join the over 3000 members in my free Facebook Group the Green Product Forum.

Are There Toxic Flame Retardants in Children’s Pajamas?

sleeping baby

This is one of those questions that has some parents totally freaking out, or completely unaware that it could be a “thing”. And if you start looking into whether there are toxic flame retardants in your children’s pajamas, you may find the answer you want in a 5 minute Google search… but it won’t take long before you read something else that contradicts what you just learned.  

When I write about a topic like this, I spend many (many) hours trying to unravel the information. Because so many articles stop short of digging that one extra step, which can make the difference between an educated decision and a wrong assumption. Now, I’m not an investigative journalist… I’m not travelling to manufacturing facilities under cover or anything crazy. But I am critically looking at sources, and trying to find the most credible and impartial information. All these are linked throughout if you want to dig deeper yourself.

So, let’s dive into the big question: do you have to be concerned about toxic flame retardants in your child’s pajamas?

Children’s Sleepwear Regulations

Back in 1972, regulations were written to require children’s pajamas be flame retardant. At the time, they were treated with brominated tris. In 1977, scientists warned that it could damage DNA and was probably absorbed through the skin. Brominated tris was banned for use in children’s sleepwear after government studies found that it could cause cancer and was absorbed through the skin. 

For 5 years, children were exposed to this carcinogen in their sleep. But it didn’t stop there. Brominated tris was replaced with chlorinated tris… and guess what? It was also found to affect DNA. (This is the same playbook followed by many chemical manufacturers.)

Until 1996, natural fibers like cotton were only deemed flame resistant if they were treated with flame retardants. But in that year, regulations changed to allow tight-fitting cotton pj’s since they are less likely to catch fire than baggy clothing.

Now, both the US and Canada require that clothing sold as sleepwear for children 9 months to 14 years old must meet flammability requirements or be tight fitting.

Canadian labelling laws require that loose fitting pyjamas treated with flame retardants have a label that says “flame retardant” along with wash instructions that describe cleaning procedures. For example, fabric softener increases a fabric’s flammability because it separates the fibers, giving them that soft and fluffy feel.

The Nuance of “Inherently Flame Retardant”

After the risks of flame retardants become more widely known, clothing makers switched away from the natural fibers that required flame retardant treatment, to polyester, which didn’t require the application of chemicals to the fabric to meet regulations.  

This is why so many articles claim that polyester is naturally flame resistant, and that we no longer have to be concerned about flame retardants. But that’s not the whole story…

It’s unclear whether all polyester is made in this way, but it appears that flame resistant chemicals are commonly used as an additive or embedded into the material during fiber manufacture. Since polyester is plastic, it doesn’t ignite into flames like natural fibers, but will melt without flame retardants. 

So while polyester may be “inherently” or “naturally” flame retardant, this is achieved either with the addition of flame retardant chemicals or flame resistance built into the fibres. Phosphorus-based treatments and nanoparticles seem to be on the cutting edge of this processing.

Because this is at the material manufacturing stage, companies who sell children’s sleepwear might not know what chemicals or processes are used to render the polyester flame resistant. They just know that they haven’t added flame retardant chemicals, and therefore can market them as having no added flame retardants.

The additives don’t have to be disclosed, nor do we know much about health impacts – if any. 

Certain applications for making “inherently flame retardant” plastics use BPA (a hormone disruptor) and PTFE (the chemical used in Teflon). These process is seemingly for hard plastics, but again, as consumers, we’re kept in the dark of how our products are made. Wo who knows if the same processes are used on plastic fabric.

Also, there is a history of the clothing industry in general using chemicals with toxic properties in the manufacturing process for dyes and to make them resistant to mold, mildew, and wrinkling during shipment. This is why it’s so important to wash clothes before wearing them. But I digress…

What’s a Concerned Parent to Do?

The truth is, while chemicals known to be harmful to our health are less likely to be sprayed on PJs today than in the 70s, we really don’t know unless we ask. So is it worth even worrying?

Some testing has found no flame retardants in the majority of PJs tested (though when labs are asked to test for “known flame retardants”, I’m not sure of the completeness or scientific validity of these tests). The documentary Stink! is based on one dad’s crusade to figure out why his daughter’s pajamas had such a strong odour coming out of the package (and he found chemicals that are technically banned in the US). 

And while polyester can be made to be flame resistant, when I asked Hatley, they confirmed that their polyester nightdresses are treated with flame retardant (via email correspondence, December 19, 2019).

Of note, in the US, flammability tests on products with flame retardants added must be done on fabric after manufacture and after 50 washes, in Canada after 20 washes. Which means that washing treated PJs isn’t an effective solution to reducing exposure to flame retardants.

Regardless of the risk of flame retardant chemicals, there are several reasons to opt for (tight-fitting) natural fiber pj’s over synthetic. For one, polyester doesn’t breathe.  And I hesitate to share this because it is purely anecdotal, but I found more than one suggestion that fleece is often treated with formaldehyde or chemicals that can release formaldehyde during use. 

Because children spend so many hours in their most vulnerable years wearing pajamas, this is one area where I think it is especially prudent to apply the precautionary principle as much as possible.

That means prioritizing organic (next best is non-organic) cotton tight-fitting sleepwear that has “not flame resistant” on the label. The good news is, it isn’t hard to find conventional brands that fit the bill. 

I also want to remind you not to freak out. Reducing your family’s toxic load requires taking a holistic approach that’s never going to be 100% avoidance. There are lots of ways you can reduce your child’s exposure to toxic chemicals – their pajamas are just one piece of the puzzle.

If you’re tired of feeling overwhelmed and panicky every time to hear about the dangers of a new product in your home, there is a better way. The Healthy Home Method is my signature program designed to take you from afraid and burnt out to confident and clear in your home detox strategy. Without having to do everything 100% or totally change your lifestyle. Learn more and sign up here.

How to Set Your Kitchen Up For Success

woman in kitchen

Sure, we all know we should eat less processed and more home-cooked meals… but that’s easier said than done, right?! Trust me, I get it. I’ve been known to order pizza in a state of exhaustion more than once. But I know how important it is to cook for my kids, so I make it a priority as much as possible (with non-toxic cookware, of course). Note that I didn’t say it’s a priority all the time!

I know I’m not alone with this struggle. So when I met Britney Shawley, I had to learn more from her. Britney is a Mindset Coach, specifically focused on helping others find the joy in cooking. I invited her to be a guest expert for the VIPs in my signature program, The Healthy Home Method. Our conversation was so great and touched on so many practical tips, I wanted to share a small piece of what we talked about with all of you.

I hope you find this as interesting and helpful as I did!

Mindfulness in the Kitchen

When I teach others about how it is that they can bring love and joy into cooking, it always begins with mindfulness.

Mindfulness by definition is: the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

When we are conscious and aware during the Act of Cooking, the energy we are carrying literally affects the food. I bet you have had a meal that was out of this world delicious, yet it was so simple. It was the LOVE that made it so good. It’s the Mindfulness that brings love into our meals, naturally. 

Mindfulness takes you out of the thinking mind (often fear/ overwhelm) and places you into this Now moment where your heart, love and soul is. It is from this mindful place, where you will do your best work and cook your best meals.

That is because mindfulness gives us the extra boost in motivation and energy we need, to do what we need to do, instead of being caught in the thoughts about it and talking ourselves out of doing it. 

Mindfulness is a way to  be fully present in this now moment so that we can enjoy exactly where we are… even if that’s doing the dishes.

Here are 3 steps to help you to bring Mindfulness into the kitchen.

1) Start Your Day Right

When you wake up in the morning, decide for the kind of day you want. 

Ask yourself, “What do I want to feel when I cook today? What do I even want to cook today?” When you set your mind right as soon as you wake up, and decide to have an enjoyable and calm experience in the kitchen, you are far more likely to have that experience then if you leave it to the moment to happen. 

You are learning to be fully engaged in choosing the thoughts you think and the feelings / responses that you have to every situation in your life. A big way, to have a big step in the direction of success in this area is to set up your own Morning Routine. 

2) Plan Ahead

When you take some time on, let’s say a Sunday for example, to decide the meals you want to make the upcoming week, you are allowing yourself to be prepared. You are also actively taking stress off your future self through this one simple task. 

You can spend 20 minutes planning ahead / meal prepping. Or you can spend 1 hour chopping vegetables, making soup, making hummus, washing greens, prepping some small tasks for the busy week ahead. How much time you devote to Planning ahead is up to you.

This also allows you to take all those extra thoughts and stress off your shoulders when it comes to meal time. Why? Because you already planned ahead, you already know what to make, you decided on the exact meal you will make that day in the morning and you no longer have to think about food until you pick up that recipe (or pull it from the memory bank) when it’s time to cook. This step of Planning Ahead helps to save so much time and stress I cannot express it enough!!! You will then be able to BE mindful as its not 5pm and the kids are hungry, you’re hungry and you have nothing de-thawed or ready.

Final thought here… when you think about the meals you will make for the upcoming week, write down the recipes that you’ve decided to cook on your white board! (You can get one with magnets on the back for the fridge.) You can then reference this white board in the morning to decide what to cook that way, and take out any meat, soak beans or grains and get ready to have a mindful and enjoyable kitchen experience.

3) Ask for Help

The best way I can demonstrate the power of this tip is to tell you a story.

I have a client who has been working with me for a while. She came to me because she wanted to feed her children healthier meals and she wanted to overcome the overwhelm that she feels when it comes time to cook. 

There was one day where her family was coming to visit. She felt extra stressed and strung out. She was not sure if she would get everything done on time. She hit a point while making food that she got very very overwhelmed. She did not know what to do, but then she remembered what I told her. I told her to ask for help. 

So she took a moment and stopped cooking. She turned off the burners so she could fully pause and quiet her mind. She prayed and asked for help, and peace, and calm and the ability to get through this meal without falling apart inside herself. 

She then breathed deeply a few times, turned back on the burners and got back to cooking. Within 10 minutes family arrived and they were eager to help. Because she was now calm, she was able to direct her family as to what to do and how to help and they ended up having a happy, enjoyable time communicating and cooking together. 

This was the first time her family cooked with her in the kitchen, and it bonded them like nothing ever had before. She called me the next day so excited to share the power of asking for help to overcome overwhelm.

You don’t have to do it alone. This is an ask and receive universe, and when we ask for what we want, its given us.

Britney Shawley is a mindset coach, educating on how to make cooking an enjoyable act of love. You can find her at www.wholeandhealthykitchen.com and on Facebook. She has created a package for you to learn how to set up your own Miracle Morning Routine.

Is SLS toxic?

baby in bath

I’ve seen so many comments about people being excited about a product until they found out that it had SLS in it. It’s one of those ingredients that is controversial. But is SLS toxic for real?

I’ve tacked other contentious issues like EMFs, essential oils, and fluoride, and now it’s SLS’s turn! Let’s do this…

What is SLS?

SLS – or sodium lauryl sulfate – is a surfactant and foaming agent found in cleaning products and personal care products. It is often confused with SLES (sodium laureth sulfate), which has its own issues but it’s different than SLS (more on this below).

Here’s a breakdown of some of the common concerns and how worried you should be.

Skin Irritation

SLS, along with many surfactants, have the potential to cause skin irritation because it can disrupt the membrane that protects skin cells. In wash-off products (like shampoo and body wash), this is unlikely to cause an issue for most people. Those with eczema-prone or sensitive skin however may find avoiding SLS helps.

Aquatic Toxicity 

SLS is considered toxic to aquatic life and on its own is not recommended to be discharged into the environment (including down the drain). This recommendation is for full concentration of SLS rather than the amount that would be found in household products. It is readily biodegradable, which means it doesn’t last long in the environment before it breaks down into nontoxic forms.

Cancer

There is no indication that SLS causes cancer, though there are some sources that make this claim. This is likely due to confusion between SLS vs SLES (sodium laureth sulfate). SLES is an ethoxylated substance, which means it may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane. Some brands that use SLES use a process that also removes the 1,4-dioxane, but unless advertised it’s hard to know for sure. Again, this is not a concern with SLS.

The Bottom Line

Is SLS perfect? Nope. It may be made with unsustainable palm oil or petroleum (or it could be 100% non palm plant-based). And manufacturing isn’t without its problems if it’s not disposed of or treated properly, as I outlined with the environmental concerns above.

But if SLS is the only questionable ingredient in a product you love and you don’t have skin concerns, I’m likely to recommend you stick with it and move on to other things that have greater health impacts for you and your children. Then you can come back and revisit your SLS-containing products if you want.

But if you get hung up on this, you might be missing some chemicals that have a much larger overall impact. If you’re struggling to read labels and want to easily figure out what products are truly healthy vs harmful, then check out the Complete Guide to Choosing Healthy Products: Personal Care & Cleaners Edition here!

2019 Green Gift Guide

I used to plan holiday gifts for months. Then I had kids, and with all the other planning and things to stay on top of, shopping started in (late) December. I think there’s a happy medium, and one strategy that I subscribe to that has helped immensely is this: Don’t just give for the sake of giving. Regardless of whether your friends and family subscribe to your green lifestyle, you can give great green gifts that anyone would love!

This means it might take some time and planning to find a gift that the person you’re giving it to actually wants (or needs). And let’s face it… as a mom, my wants these days are mostly needs as well.

With my annual Gift Guides, I hope I can inspire you and give you some great ideas to keep gift giving simple and personalized, while supporting small and local businesses instead of defaulting to Amazon and malls.

So without further ado, here are my picks for giving this year. 

My Kindness Calendar

This is a reusable and amazing alternative to the advent calendar! We got one last year and I’m excited to bring it out again in December. Your kids can pick a kindness action for each day, and add the reusable sticker to the tree. Such a lovely way to celebrate the season, right?! My kids got really excited and proud of everything they did.

Get your calendar here, and use code FORMYFRIENDS for 10% off!

Healthy Moms Discount Card

Everybody needs this card! It offers ongoing (i.e. it doesn’t expire) savings on products and services you already love and will love learning about. You can use it locally in Toronto, Vancouver, or L.A. but also on hundreds of online purchases as well. Everything from professional services to healthy food to housewares, this card helps you save some serious cash! 

Get your Healthy Moms Discount Card here.

You can also check out the participating businesses for even more gift ideas! 

TMPL Sportswear

If you’ve got a yoga-enthusiast, gym-goer, sports-player, or just general spandex lover on your list, you have to check out TMPL. They are a new company looking to totally disrupt the athleticwear market by providing clothing that meets 3 pillars: Clean (certified non-toxic fabrics), Conscious (ethically-made in Canada), and Performance (all the 4-way stretch, moisture-wicking, and odour-control you could ask for). I’ve been putting their clothes to the test for the past few months on the ultimate field and at the gym and absolutely love them.

Easy online orders and great return policy, so you can feel good knowing this is a gift they’ll love no matter what. Check it out here and use code EMMAR for 15% off!

Sustainable Fashion and Zero Waste Supplies from Logan & Finley

This eco-conscious general store has a little something for everyone. Their clothes are carefully curated to meet owner Julie’s sustainable fashion criteria (built to last, natural fibers, and/or made locally). And you can put together awesome gifts for the avid traveller in your life, anyone looking for eco-friendly housewares, and even super cute accessories.  

Check out the amazing things Logan & Finley has in their online shop here. If you’re in Toronto, definitely stop by in-person – it’s worth the trip to experience the store, and Julie is an absolute genius at styling (tell her I sent you). 

Eco Housewares from Organic Lifestyle

From luxurious organic cotton towels and sheets, to zero waste and plastic alternatives, Organic Lifestyle offers a range of products that are free from harmful chemicals. It’s my go-to shop for pillows too (my favourite pillow in the history of all pillows is made with shredded rubber of all things!). 

Browse everything Organic Lifestyle has to offer here

Healthy Home Support

Did you know I offer online courses and programs to help simplify and demystify the process of creating a healthier home? Now, you can ask a loved-one to sign you up or give to a friend! Simply choose a Guide or Program from this page, and send me an email at hello@greenathome.ca and we’ll get you set up :). 

Experience Gift Ideas

With an audience from all over the map, it’s harder for me to give specific experience ideas because they’re so location-dependent… but here are some of my favourite general ideas. 

I love giving experiences because they create memories instead of waste. Giving your time along with it means more than “stuff” – especially for people who have everything they need. I prefer experience gifts for kids too, because they already have so much stuff!

  • Spa day or massage
  • Escape room and dinner
  • Paint night at a local art studio
  • Cooking classes
  • Lessons (skiing, skating, etc.)
  • Meal delivery service
  • A passport for adventures with you throughout the year

There are hundreds of experiential gift ideas, but these are some I’ve done or really liked receiving.

What About the Kids?

This year’s guide is centred around giving to adults. For kids, focus on practical stuff and don’t be afraid to make your wishes totally clear – clothes, scooters, games, books, etc. I find kids almost always know what they want too, but giving to adults can be more tricky. Don’t forget about you. I tend to default to the “I don’t need anything” answer… but just putting this list together has given me some good ideas for my own wish list. We deserve to be spoiled too! And yes, eco-friendly housewares is now my idea of getting spoiled ;). 

This guide was short and simple on purpose. If you’re anything like me, having more choice isn’t always helpful. I hope it inspired you to simplify the season! You can keep things simple and still show you care, afterall.

This post contains affiliate links for brands I know, trust, and love. If you purchase through the link provided, I make a small commission. This does not affect the price for you. Thanks for supporting 2 small businesses in 1 click!

Healthy and Green Pet Care

healthy and green cat and dog

Guest post by Maggie Marton, author of The Zero Waste Pet.

Loving pets and loving the planet don’t have to be mutually exclusive. 

That sounds obvious, right? You love your pets, and you want to live in a healthy, clean, non-toxic home. But once you start digging into the research on raising an eco-friendly pet, much of the info out there focuses on the idea that, to live a sustainable life, you simply can’t have a pet. 

As a lifelong dog lover, a crazy cat lady, and a nature-loving eco-mama, I couldn’t accept that. I would never live without pets, yet I am committed to lessening my impact on the planet. How could I lessen my pets’ carbon pawprints? 

I kicked off my healthy and green pet care journey with the two biggies: food and waste. 

Eco-Friendly Pet Food

Pet food impacts the environment because pets consume a lot of resources. “The average European cat uses as many resources in his lifetime as the average African,” said Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in a presentation to the Pet Sustainability Council. 

Cats are obligate carnivores. Their bodies require meat. Meat production has a huge environmental footprint. Feed your cat protein that requires fewer resources; ditch beef for chicken, for instance. Then, talk to your vet about your cat’s weight. Most cats are overweight. You might be able to feed your cat less to get her to a healthy weight, which saves the planet resources, saves you money, and gives her a longer, happier life. 

Dogs are omnivores. They need a varied diet and can thrive with less meat. Always check with your vet, but it’s possible to diminish the amount of commercial food your dog eats by substituting fresh fruits and vegetables. (Bonus points if you grow your own!) Since more than half of all dogs are overweight, this is a win-win for the planet and your dog’s health. And keep an eye out for some exciting developments in dog food: Up-and-coming pet food brands are incorporating invasive species like nutria and Asian carp or novel proteins like crickets.

As for packaging, purchase cat food in cans. Many dry food bags contain a coating on the inner lining that prevents it from being recycled. Choosing wet ensures the packaging can stay out of the landfill. Unfortunately, canned food for dogs is often cost-prohibitive to feed exclusively. To cut down on packaging waste created by your pet’s food, consider a brand that participates in Terracycle

Sustainable Pet Waste Management

Once you nail down a low-impact feeding routine… what goes in must come out. Pet waste impacts the environment when left unmanaged.

First things first, cat owners: Ditch the clay litter. It’s strip-mined, and contains tiny dust particles that cause respiratory problems for you and your cat. Choose one of the many natural alternatives, like recycled newsprint, non-GMO grass seed, corn husks, coconut shells, and more. Cats are finicky, so you might have to test a few before you hit on a solution. 

Since these litters won’t clump like the clay litters, you’ll have to scoop more frequently, which also means you don’t have to refill the box as often since you’re removing less litter with each scoop. That’ll stretch your dollar while you save the planet! One note: Never flush or backyard compost cat waste. Cats can carry toxoplasmosis, a parasite that can’t be treated by most water treatment facilities and might not be killed in a backyard compost heap. Check your municipality to see how they want you to handle the waste. When in doubt, scoop and toss in your regular trash. 

For dogs, there’s no Poop Fairy who picks up after your pet, and left-behind piles contaminate groundwater. Dog poop can be composted for flowering gardens, or there are septic systems you bury in your backyard, like the Doggie Dooley. That’s unreasonable, though, for apartment dwellers or anyone with a tiny backyard. Instead, flush your dog’s poop. Call your local water treatment facility to make sure it’s OK, but the EPA recommends flushing as the safest option. And if that’s not possible–say, you’re out on a hike or far from home–use a plant-based pickup bag and toss it in the trash or municipal compost bin (check with your municipality first).     

Bottom line: You can love your pets and love your planet at the same time. These are only two areas of pet care where you can make a significant, positive impact on the environment with tiny changes. Every small step adds up to create a tremendous impact. 

I’m so grateful to Emma for allowing me to share these ideas about greener pet care. If you want to dig into any of these topics, or discover other ways your pets can help you save the planet, come join the discussion over at TheZeroWastePet.com!

There’s No Such Thing As Scientific Proof

I’ve been asked a lot recently for the science that proves we should be concerned about ingredients in our personal care and cleaning products, mattresses, air, and water. It’s from women who’s partners are skeptical and need the science to prove it before they make any changes.

I’m not surprised. “There’s no scientific proof” is one of the favourite lines in shoddy news articles and it’s what industry uses to debunk claims that their products aren’t safe.

Well, I’ve got news for you (and a resource)…

There’s no such thing as scientific proof.

Science works based on evidence. But there’s no way that science can be proven, because that would mean it will never change.

Math can be proven. 1+1 will always be 2.

Science on the other hand, relies on evidence. There can be damn good evidence (which is why the theory of gravity and evolution are largely not up for debate in the scientific community), but there is always the possibility that the evidence can change.

One very relevant example of this is the theory that the dose makes the poison. It stems from a 16th century philosophy that an otherwise toxic substance isn’t harmful below certain thresholds.

That was considered to be a fairly solid theory in toxicology, and is still used today. However, most recently, scientists have found that certain chemicals do not behave linearly – some cause more harm at low concentrations than at higher amounts.

What we do have in the world of environmental health is scientific evidence.

So, if you want to better understand the evidence behind health risks of low amounts of chemicals in everyday products, you’ll find a slew of quality research published in sources like Environmental Health Perspectives – a peer-reviewed journal, part of the US National Institute of Health.

If you’re reading something that claims “scientific proof”, you have good reason to doubt the source.

And if someone is asking for proof, know that all you can do is give evidence. From there, it’s about what evidence you want to believe. I wrote about other ways you can speak with the skeptics in your life here.

For me, I’d rather believe the evidence that is building a solid theory around environmental toxins and do something about it then believe that lack of proof means I should sit idly by and hope.