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.

What My Husband Really Thinks of Going Green at Home

Ever wish your partner would just trust that you weren’t over-reacting, that paying attention to ingredients mattered, and that investing in your family’s future was worth it?

If you’re like so many women I speak with, you might feel like you can’t make the progress you want in your home detox because your husband isn’t on board. Well, after so many conversations like this, I was inspired to ask my husband more about why he is on board.

For some context, we are celebrating our 11 year wedding anniversary the day this post goes live. We met in university – I was studying environmental engineering and he was in mechanical engineering. I had already started my green and healthy living journey, but he was definitely following a more conventional lifestyle. He did his thing and I did mine at first, but he slowly started adopting more and more of “my” kind of products.

We don’t hide anything in this conversation… and my hubby doesn’t hold back about what he thought of me during the worst of my overwhelm (eep).

Ready? Here we go with our Q+A… oh, and please share this with your partner if you think it will help your own conversations!

Q: What was it like for you when I first started switching to healthier products?

A: Well, when we first met, you were already using healthier stuff. The first thing I noticed was the organic granola you ate tasted better – so that was easy.

The only thing that really changed for me in the beginning was personal care products and cleaners.

Things you said made sense, like that they were healthier (helped your asthma) and prevented pervasive chemicals from entering the environment. I could get on board with that.

We definitely went through a lot of different crappy shampoos and conditioners before there started being enough good products out there. That was frustrating. More recently when you switched to homemade cleaning products I thought that was a pretty big change, but I am all for cheap home cleaning supplies and they actually worked well.

Q: Why did you decide to go along with my green product focus?

A: I want to be healthy. (Or at least when I am unhealthy it should be because of a conscious decision, like opening that other bottle of wine.)

Would you eat a fish out of Lake Ontario? I don’t think I would, and I think we need to look at what we are throwing out and washing down the drains because it doesn’t just disappear.

Q: When I was pregnant it was easy to go overboard and I admit that I went a bit crazy researching things and freaking out. What was that stage like for you?

A: Do you want an honest answer? (Yes…)

It was a little much.

Now don’t get me wrong, I get it, we are making decisions that could impact the rest of this tiny human’s life. I especially get the bit about how what is in their clothes, sheets, mattresses, and put right on their skin is absorbed by their body. And I really didn’t want them chewing on a one dollar toy made in China with flaking paint.

So I was on board for most of it… but there is also a point at which you realize smiling and nodding to the crazed pregnant woman is the best option. A lot of the stuff about some chemicals really bothered me too. Like flame retardants and BPA. The more you told me about certain studies and issues, the more I realized it was worth looking at ingredients more closely.

Q: Did you notice any shift in my decision making process (or lack of craziness)?

A: Yes, definitely. It was a few months after our son was born.  You seemed to be less indecisive and told me what really mattered… like what fruits and veggies we needed to buy organic and which we didn’t need to worry about as much.

(So, coincidentally, a few months after I had my son was when I came up with my process for evaluating healthy home strategies. The method I created to detox our home gave us both our sanity back… well, as much as that’s possible with an infant and toddler in the house…)

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to another husband whose partner wants to green their home, what would it be?

A: Just nod and say yes. (And no, I didn’t tell him to say that.)

Sure, food costs a bit more, but I feel a lot better about that when I read the ingredients.

My thinking is, what’s the worst thing that happens? You feel better and don’t get sick as much?

And I’ve seen how this impacts us. My skin no longer breaks out since we switched detergents, and our house doesn’t give me a headache after it has been cleaned. I can’t say what good it has done the kids because there isn’t a before and after, but I don’t want to expose them to crap when we don’t have to.

Q: Is there anything you would say to someone who is struggling with their home detox?

That it’s OK to get help. And I’m not one to ask for help quickly either. But I also know that’s not always the best way.

Like when [our son] didn’t sleep. We lived like zombies for months until we got a sleep coach. It made it way easier to have someone with answers on-hand.

And when I got injured, getting a personal trainer made a huge difference in the recovery (physio helped, but weekly sessions with somebody making sure I’m doing it right worked far better).

I think the same thing applies here. You went through that crazy patch where you did nothing but read everything out there and constantly asked me what I thought. Now you tell me the reason why we are buying certain products, it makes sense, and we weren’t wasting time and energy talking in circles.

So there you have it. My man’s (sometimes too) honest take on our green at home lifestyle. I hope this helps put some of our journey into perspective, and also allows you to have a more open conversation with your partner about your goals and needs for your own home detox.

Want to learn more about The Healthy Home Method that has allowed us – and dozens of families like yours – move forward with a proven plan without overwhelm or wasting money on stuff that doesn’t work? Details are here.

Photo credit: Krista Fogel Photography

The Products in my Bathroom Right Now

“What do you use, Emma?”

I get a lot of DMs and emails with this question, so I figured it was high time I share it all in one place!

I’m a minimalist when it comes to my personal care products. When I find a brand I like, I tend to stick with it. So all the products listed here aren’t just something I got for free and tested for a week. These are what I buy over and over again, and are sitting in my bathroom right now.

So, for all of you who ask me what I’m using, here’s the round-up for you!

Oh, and because I want to make it even easier to make the switch to healthy brands that work, you can grab a Healthy Moms Discount Card and use it with many of these brands and oh so many more.

For just $45, you get lifetime access to savings with more and more amazing products and services being added every week. The card pays itself back over and over and over. So check out my fave brands below, buy your Card here, and save. You’re welcome.

Hair Care

Shampoo & Conditioner

This one has been YEARS of trial and error. It depends on your hair type, water hardness, chlorine levels, etc. But, ever since The Green Beaver Company came out with their coconut moisturizing version I’ve been hooked. My hair is curly and dry. Adding a shower filter also really helped as the chlorine was causing extra dryness.

Curl Enhancer

Yes, my hair is naturally curly. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a little help keeping its shape and controlling frizz! I really like Kinky Curly Curling Custard. It’s light enough to use daily, in between washes for light touch ups. It has a light (natural) fragrance that I love. I am slightly sensitive and it doesn’t bother me, but if you’re especially scent sensitive it might be too much for you.

Skincare

Body Wash

As much as I love a good body wash and (natural) loofah, I’ve switched over to bar soap. Often something we get from the farmer’s market, or Soap Works. They’re zero waste, you don’t pay for the water, and more cost effective.

Facial Cleanser

I’ve become an oil cleanser convert this year! Thanks to Eco + Amour, I’ve been able to use a refill product for less waste. Unfortunately, the brand I love, Robi has decided to close so there’s limited stock, but you can find it here.

I also like Green Beaver’s Eye Make-Up Remover. It’s perfect for my sensitive eyes, which get irritated easily. I also use it as an all-over cleanser, which won’t work for all skin types and may not be the best, but I mentioned I’m pretty basic with my skincare, right?

Face Moisturizer

I got to test facial serums as part of the Cert Clean Beauty Awards, and despite adding a step to my simplistic routine I love them! My fave was Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm. It’s for sensitive skin, and helped with dryness and redness especially this winter.

For face lotion, I really like Green Beaver’s Extra Dry Skin Cream. It works under make up or before bed, and it really helped soothe winter dryness as well.

Body Lotion

Another one from Green Beaver, I’m using the Extra Dry Skin Moisturizer for my hands and body.

Deodorant

I have a post about some of the best deodorants that work for many people, because this is such a personal thing. Everybody’s body chemistry is different, and not all brands will work for all people. I’ve tried dozens of deodorants over the past 15 years or so, and so far Green Beaver’s Citrus deodorant has been working the best and longest. In the past, I’d have to switch after 6 months because of irritation.

Shave Cream

Unfortunately, soap doesn’t work so I had been using Kiss my Face, but just discovered that they’ve gone bankrupt. So, I’m on the hunt for a new shave cream (to go with my new all-metal razor by Rockwell). Any faves, send them my way :).

Make-Up

Now, I’m not a huge make-up person. I slap on some cover-up and mascara on a daily basis, and my “fancy” look is a lot of people’s everyday.

That being said, let’s dive into the list…

I will first give credit to the most talented make-up artist I’ve ever met, Maria Velve. She is also incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about non-toxic make-up and skincare made in Canada.

Maria introduced me to Pure Anada and sells them in her shop which you can check out here. I am in love with their mascara! It stays in place, goes on nicely, and comes in brown (which I prefer). Also a fan of their lip balm and eye shadow.

Also, there hasn’t been a product I’ve tried from Beautycounter that I didn’t love. The lipstick is no exception. I don’t love wearing lipstick (I’m more of a tinted gloss kinda girl), but this one feels great and makes me feel a little fancy :).

I have been using Jane Iredale’s powdered foundation for years. I’ve stopped using it as a foundation, but still really like it for under eye coverage. I get it from Pure + Simple, where I go for the most amazing facials, by the way!

Finally, I discovered a refill liquid foundation product by Cosmic Tree at Eco+Amour. It doesn’t feel heavy or drying and covers nicely!

For the Kids

Can you guess what brand we use for the kids?

In case you couldn’t tell, I am a big fan of Green Beaver. So that’s what they use for the most part too. Beautycounter’s kids line is also nice.

As I mentioned off the top, most of these brands are also on the Healthy Moms Discount Card. Grab yours here and start saving on your next order and on dozens of healthy products and services.

There you have it! That’s what I’m using in my clean personal care routine, and have been using for a long time now. I hope it helps inspire you to make healthier changes to your own routine!

Beyond Label-Reading: What Else You Can Do to Reduce Toxic Chemicals in Your Home

If you’ve been following along with me for a while, you’ll know that I’m a big believer in the power of collective action. Every change we make in our own homes, every conversation we have with others about our choices, has a ripple effect.

But many of you want to know what you can do beyond voting with your dollar. So, I asked the experts at Environmental Defence, a Canadian non-profit dedicated to education and advocacy for a healthier planet, to share their advice in this week’s blog! I hope you enjoy.


If you’re conscious about the ingredients in the products you use, you probably know that it takes more time, effort and (sometimes) money to purchase safer day-to-day items for you and your family.

As a concerned consumer, you bear a disproportionate amount of responsibility to avoid the dozens of harmful chemicals that have become pervasive in our products and environment. That’s because Canadian regulations of harmful chemicals have largely failed to reduce our exposure to toxics in our food, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, furniture, and countless other goods.

The onus shouldn’t be on you

Doing research, reading labels and sourcing products you trust is certainly one way to take control over your health and that of your family. But too often, product labels are either unclear or inadequate. And even when all the info is there, toxic-free products are often inaccessible or unaffordable to many.

That’s why government laws should ensure that chemicals that can disrupt our hormones or increase our risk of cancer aren’t in cosmetics and other consumer products.

How to become an advocate for stronger toxics laws

Advocacy organizations like Environmental Defence have, for many years, worked hard to reform Canada’s toxics law, known as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (or CEPA). This law is now 20 years out of date and needs to be updated to keep up with the evolving science on toxics and the regulatory actions taken in other parts of the world.

But policy change can be slow and often faces significant opposition from industry. In order to counter such resistance to improve regulations, government officials, especially elected ones, need to know that there is strong public demand and support.

For example, the ban on microbeads in cosmetics was one of the fastest cases of regulatory action taken by the federal government on a toxic substance. It took approximately three years to ban these polluting plastic bits from wash-off skin care products from the moment the government considered taking action. Why? Tens of thousands of Canadians supported the campaigns by Environmental Defence and other advocacy organizations by writing to their members of parliament (MP) to demand a ban.

Without this kind of citizen advocacy and public support, efforts by environmental and health groups are unlikely to be effective. In other words, you are an essential part of the positive change that we at Environmental Defence would like to achieve.

If you want to go the extra mile to keep harmful chemicals out of your products, your home, and the environment as a whole, here are some helpful tips to get you started:

Going the extra step

Sign our petition

Join the thousands of Canadians that have signed this petition asking Health Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and your local MP to reform CEPA immediately.

Contact your local MP

Whether you write a letter, call or set up a meeting with your local MP, you have the power to tell them your story. Why do you care about this issue? Does it personally affect you or a loved one? MPs are there to hear from their constituents and act on their behalf. Here are some tips to make sure your letter, phone call or meeting gets the attention it deserves:

  • Introduce yourself (I am a mother, constituent, caregiver, student, community member, concerned customer, etc.)
  • Sum up how the issue impacts you, your family, or the community
  • Explain what you want them to do to help (Feel free to read the petition letter to get some talking points!)
  • Thank them for their time and leave your contact information so they can follow up with you

Tip: You can find the contact information for your MP here.

Vote for a government that has your best interests in mind

Only 68 percent of eligible voters actually voted in the last federal election. Voting is the most important tool that we have to create a future that we are proud of and that we want our children to grow up in. Research election platforms as they are released, and keep an eye out for the types of party commitments that best fit your values.

As Canadians, we have the privilege of being able to speak up on the issues we feel strongly about. Going the extra step to have your voice heard may take some effort, but it will bring us to a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable place for all.

Muhannad Malas is the Toxics Program Manager at Environmental Defence. You can learn more about their current campaigns on Facebook (EnvironmentalDefenceCanada), Instagram (@envirodefence), and Twitter (@envirodefence).