Posted on

The Right to a Green Life

Here, Levi is 3 years old. He is stirring a homemade batch of liquid laundry soap in a 5 gallon container. It’s simple. It’s toxic free. And it’s friendly to the pocket book – no matter the budget.

I was talking to a friend recently, and she was helping me dig deeper into why going green is important to me. I found it was hard for me to describe, as it’s kind of like breathing. In my writing the other day, I was able to clarify for myself. Going green is like teaching our kids not to hit. We do this because we accept and agree that our kids hitting other kids is wrong. It hurts the other child, physically and emotionally, and that’s not right. Going green ensures we have a lifestyle that doesn’t hit each other. That’s the grossest way I can think to describe why this is important. So, going green is the safest, kindest way, we can ensure we don’t hurt each other and future generations.

What does this mean? We know that all sorts of chemicals in our daily use increase the risk of cancer. We know that our industry, our car driving, our polluting the air causes breathing difficulties. We know that industry and agriculture that runs off into our waters causes our drinking water to be contaminated to the point it is not healthy to drink, that is, we get sick. We know that contamination sometimes contains lead which stunts the growth and brain development of children. Sometimes that contamination contains chemicals that cause cancer or other illnesses.

We know that cancer is expensive to treat, sometimes fast progressing, a disease that cripples the people who have it and the families that support the people with it. We know that making people sick prevents them from living their best selves.
I believe that we are given certain things in our lives that help makes us stronger. I believe we all have lessons to learn. I also believe that once we learn those lessons, we have a responsibility to (attempt) to teach others (peers or future generations) our lessons so they can make new, different, and more interesting mistakes.

Causing cancer, or illness, in others is a mistake and we know how to solve it – at least part of it. When, as a society, we do things – use chemicals in our home that runoff in the water, make the air hard to breathe, deplete living things in the water, and ruin our soil – we are making a mistake. We are making a mistake that kills people and makes their lives hard to live. We are the child hitting the other child to the point the other child is in tears and can no longer have fun playing a game.

This game, this game is the game of life, and I believe we all deserve to be able to show up as our best selves with our best feet forward to play our best. When, as a society, we intentionally make choices that cripple other people’s choices, we are ruining their chances of playing the game. We are hitting those people, just as the child who hits another.

In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote in the American Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Our social contract says it’s not okay to hit other people. Clearly, when you hit me, you are infringing upon my right to life and my right to the pursuit of happiness. To clarify that boundary, it has been said by many that, “Your rights end where my nose begins.” In 1882, John B. Finch orated on this matter when discussing prohibition, that is we have the right to eat and drink what we please until that drinking causes us to hit another.

There are so many things in our world that permeate our beings, things that go beneath the surface of our physical bodies, beyond a fist to the nose. As such, we need to expand our understanding of our social contract to include breathing clean air, drinking clean water, and growing clean food in the clean soil. While it is not another person directly hitting us, when these things enter our bodies – beyond our noses – they cause damage. For example, an industry making a thing and polluting our environment causes us to get sick, their right to commerce conflicts with my right to life. That can be reduced to barbarism. You do not have a right to step into my right to life.

That’s why I promote a green life – because it is our right to life, our right to our pursuit of happiness.

Resources

Posted on

Tips on Being Green: Start with Waste Reduction

We need new system design.

Sustainability has been important to me as long as I can remember. I started the journey when I was young, with a book my Aunt sent my family: 50 Ways You Can Save the Planet. Until then, I had no idea the planet needed saving. Since, I’ve paired down that focusing on educating people about the environment is one of the reasons I’m here, on this planet.

Why

Why do we need to educate ourselves on the environment? Because in our hurried society, we are so busy taking care of basic needs that we either forgot, we’re not taught, or a combination, of all the things that we need. The rampant fires, the rising waters, the continued pollution are all reasons why we need more environmental education.

Handily, a friend, in the food buying club world, asked for recent resources on how to do green. Thinking about this, I realized that I don’t turn to too many outside sources anymore.

While it’s good to stay up to date on recent bloggers, I have found that following a few basic principles are more key to living a green life.

And, funny enough, I got on this topic with my husband the other day. Husband never really understood why I preach a green, organic life. In a fit, I expressed, exasperatedly, it comes down to keeping our basic life resources clean so that our kids and their kids can drink from the tap without fear of contamination. So our kids and their kids can walk outside without a gas mask because the air is so polluted. So our kids and their kids can use the earth without fear it’s so contaminated with pollutants they cannot grow healthy food.

Whole Life

The bottom line it’s about a whole life thinking. Thinking in terms of what we need every day and shaping our health around that.

Systems Thinking

It is a simple systems concept, from start to finish. If we reduce the amount of things we take in, we will reduce our output.

Reduce Input

So, what does that mean in the day-to-day? Let’s take a look at the kitchen. In the kitchen we prepare food, we cook food, we consume food, we clean containers that helped with the whole thing, and we store all the unfinished bits. When we reduce our input, we are using reusable containers, for one. When we wash our dishes, we are using chemical-free agents to do our cleaning, so we reduce our input of more chemicals in the ground and through the water filtration process. When we reduce our input into systems, we are reducing our waste. So, we are recycling and composting as much as we can, based on where we live.

Reduce output

A natural consequence of reducing our input will be reducing our output. When we use durable plates and silverware, we simply don’t have to throw away as much. When we use reusable containers for our food waste, we aren’t throwing away plastic bags that held a sandwich. When we buy in bulk, we also have less packaging to throw away or recycle. Coming from this aspect, once you start picking away, one at a time, places where you used to throw something away and you’ve replaced it with a durable good, you’ve already started reducing your waste footprint on the world, and you’ve started being more sustainable.

Whole Foods

A huge place this waste is found is in food. Have you noticed how much packaging it takes to get our food? I’ve seen Kiwis in plastic clam shell containers, not to mention everything on the inside aisles of a grocery store.

An easy way to reduce the amount of output you have is to eat whole foods. Buy apples instead of applesauce. Buy fresh corn instead of canned. Buy heads of lettuce instead of lettuce in tubs. Learn to make your own food with whole ingredients instead of buying cans of soup, sauce, and everything in between. Even if you just pick one thing, you will have begun the waste reduction towards a more sustainable world.

I’m not typically a fan of fad diets, but we have found where they have shifted us into better health after letting go of foods that aggravate sensitivities. A few years ago, we began eating in the “Whole 30” way. Basically, we eat a chunk of meat surrounded by vegetables. Whole 30 advocates argue that the added chemicals to our food is making us sick, so eliminate those, and you’ll feel better. Whether you’re eating paleo, keto, or a vegetarian diet – generally speaking, you’ll be eating more whole foods. Whole fruits, whole vegetables, not preprocessed in some plant. The more you get into these diets, you may find yourself making your own broth, roasting whole chickens, and tending after your own hens to get your own eggs out of your own backyard. All of these steps will simply reduce waste in your home. The bonus being, you’ll eat better too!

New System Design

Another important aspect to sustainability is design. Running on carbon stealing, over built, waste inducing design will not solve our world’s problems.

You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

~ Buckminster Fuller

We need a new way of thinking about things. Paying attention to new technologies (new ways of designing buildings), participating in politics to update codes (seriously, why is greywater illegal?), and buying the new technologies as you can afford it (can’t wait to get my Tesla!). All these things will help move us towards a greener world.

What Will You Do?

So, the next question is – what will you do? First, assess where you are.

My favorite assessment is “My Footprint”. It’s gotten a facelift since the last time I took it, and it’s still quite informative. Full disclosure – here’s the link to my results: http://myfootprint.org/en/your_results/?id=3357605. On my family’s lifestyle, it would take 3.08 earths to sustain us. While this is much lower than the country’s average, seriously 3.08 earths? I only know of one we can access, today.

Try both of these quizzes. My Footprint is great for adults and covers a range of systems that keep us going (http://myfootprint.org), and this Scholastic quiz (for kids) breaks down kid-friendly ways to reduce your impact (http://www.scholastic.com/downtoearth/quiz/howgreenareyou/).

Now that you’ve assessed how green you are, what is an easy first step you can take? Where will you reduce your impact? What change do you want to see? Please share your quiz results in the comments below!

Posted on

Life of Toxicity

Do you read my essential oil newsletter? In it, I talk a lot about removing toxins. I talk about removing toxins from our bodies, from our homes, and even suggest removing them from our minds (toxic energy). But, why? Let me take you on a journey, starting with lunch with a friend, recently.

We were talking about our respective businesses in health, and she started to ask me about how to make laundry less toxic, and what essential oils can be used. I had to pause and take a step back. The oils are awesome, helpful, and can do so many things, certainly, but we must step backward first.

  • What kind of clothing are you wearing? Synthetics? Natural fibers? Both?
  • What kind of detergent are you using? Dye-filled, additive-filled, or natural?
  • Are you using dryer sheets? Did you know they have carcinogenic effects? Have you tried wool dryer balls instead?
  • Have you considered washing natural fibers separate from synthetics, keeping like materials together?

After those things are remedied, then the use of essential oils is a great compliment. Sure, you can use the oils beforehand, but their effect will be greater once the toxic-daily-routine is minimized.

Now, let’s take a look at how my awareness was raised. I was in my early twenties, living at home with my sister and my parents. We were all working adults. And, one of my favorite things to do with my sister was spending our limited disposable income at fun stores at the mall. We’d then, after collecting our purchases, race home, as much as we were willing to speed. No one wanted a ticket! One of our favorite things to do was get peachy-smelling lotions from a favorite store in the mall. A store, that in their title, was named after being natural.

Once home, I’d bathe as I normally do, and, then, I would luxuriate in this sweet smelling lotion. Soon, I noticed that I had a rash over my entire body! Little red bumps that were so populous, my whole body looked red. The last time this happened was when I prayed to God to be allergic to the nasty penicillin I had to have, when 5 years old. I powered through though. I wanted that sweet smelling lotion on my body. I noticed that after a day or two of doing the same thing, the rash lessened. But, triggers were going off in my brain – this can’t be right! Shortly, I abandoned the sweet smelling lotion because I did not like giving myself a rash to smell good.

A few years later, I was diagnosed with eczema. The doctor wanted to make sure my career wasn’t beholden to daily chemical use, like a photographer who develops film, because that would put my skin in a constant state of stress. That was my introduction to sensitization. Once you have eczema, an autoimmune disorder that creates flaky, irritated skin, you don’t go back. You don’t undo eczema. You only manage the symptoms.

So, how do you manage the symptoms? You remove toxins from your daily life. For me, it began with body soap, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, and laundry soap. Getting as pure as possible meant abandoning the brands that were on the shelf, and only if desperate buying the “free and clear” varieties. Getting as pure as possible sometimes meant making my own things. Though, now, I prefer to pay someone to make soap. (Check out my friend Kristina’s soap! It’s only the basics.)

What I was (and still am) experiencing is a term called chemical sensitization. Chemical sensitization means the more exposed to a chemical you are, the more sensitive (or reactive) your body can be to it. I saw the same thing when my slow-to-potty-train son broke out in the same kind of rash after a night of soaked pull-ups. This led to an UNKNOWN diagnosis for his allergies, because he didn’t check positive for eczema. And, for some reason, we cannot do all the tests for all the chemicals. (We have been exposed to more than 80,000 chemicals and counting, and we do not understand the ramifications of all these things.)

We are living a life of toxicity. So many inputs, every single day, and we don’t know how they all interact. It was all these thoughts and more that surfaced when my friend asked how she should deal with her laundry. If you need a first step, pick a natural laundry soap. My favorite oil company makes one. My second favorite is by Biokleen.

What is one thing you can do today to remove toxins from your home?

Posted on

Ladies, Take Off Your Makeup

March 2011, driving to the UP, sporting a rocking red drugstore lipstick. It pretty much only looks this awesome when you put it on.

Last month, in my educational newsletter to my fellow oilers, I talked about the importance of spring cleaning, and I related it to the chemicals on our face. Women are exposed to a range of 150 and 500 chemicals, daily. Most of which we do not know the direct effects. A risk averse person might suggest that the average women is a chemical concoction away from disaster.

Societal norms, aside, maybe it’s time for women to take off their make up?

Societal norms, considered, what does it say when we wear make up every day? Men don’t, in our modern age. If we are going to a play, a night out on the town, both genders are generally expected to dress up a little, comb their hair, brush their teeth – societal hygienic and grooming standards. But, aside from a blip into metrosexuality (isn’t it all beards now?), only a woman is required to cover her face, in a painted on mask, to be considered put together.

Let’s take a pause. I actually love wearing make up. I enjoy the whole process. I equate it to art. I think it’s fascinating the shapes we highlight and create and the colors we play with, with paint for our skin. I even find that a powdered foundation keeps my oily skin feeling fresh, all day. Me and make up? Love it. (The more research-intensive part is finding toxic-free varieties.)

What I would like to link together, though, is this requirement that women put a mask on to look their best. It’s a direct implication that women do not look their best without new skin, new eyes, new cheeks, and new lips. Men can simply walk out of their house, and they are applauded for buttoning their shirts or not sagging in their pants. The expectation is different for women.

What does that continue to say about our society? Yesterday was Equal Pay Day for Women. Yesterday marks the day that white women begin to earn as much as their male counterparts in the workforce. If you add other aspects, such as being black, or Hispanic, their day is not yet here. What does it say, about our society?

It continues to reinforce the message that women cannot and will not be enough. It says that we don’t look the part, and we don’t deserve to play the part.

Clarification, I don’t choose to believe this. I feel that if we succumb to this victim mentality we allow the oppressors to win. And, I will not allow the oppressors to win. Everyone deserves a fair shake at this game called Life. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly, no matter what their skin or gender, or choice of make up. Instead of being a victim, I will, however, kindly challenge these micro-oppressions.

Women are not required to wear make up to look their best. Women are not required to wear a dress, or a pant suit, to be presentable. We, this generation and beyond, are shaking the old beliefs and creating our own, because the old beliefs, the old suit, it just doesn’t fit anymore.

I believe our job is to shake those suits that don’t fit anymore. Our job is to challenge these micro-oppressions when they are, again, layered as norms. Our job is to say, “No, that really isn’t how it is and couldn’t we consider it a different way.”

And, today, I’m saying that about make up. Not only is it generally quite toxic to our skin, it can mask who we really are. If we are to truly show up and change this world, we need to show up as we really are. So, please, take off your make up, and change the world.

More to consider

Men like women to wear less makeup? No, they don’t

Make up at work – from the abstract, “Although many women find pleasure in wearing makeup, the authors conclude that the institutional constraints imposed by the workplace effectively limit the possibilities for resistance.”

We Need to Stop Making Assumptions About Why Women Wear Make-Up — Here’s Why – “At some point – probably high school – I believed that learning how to ‘put my face together’ felt like a necessary right of passage because I am a woman.”

Posted on

Make Your Own Body Butter

Body-Butter A few weeks ago, I ran out of lotion. I sort of despise going to the store to buy new personal care products. The labels confuse me. I don’t understand all the ingredients, what I need, why, what it’s good for. The longer and more chemically the name sounds, it raises more red flags than I care to admit.

So, my lotion ran out. But, I have sensitive skin that needs routine hydration. I have autoimmune issues that exacerbate that sensitive skin, so no matter how hot or cold or wet or dry it is outside, I need hydration for my skin.

What’s a girl to do? Well, not unlike my cooking, I went for whole ingredients. Herein lies the confusion, how do you make lotion? Why do you need certain ingredients.

Confession: I love to read and I love to research. But, if it’s not easily understood, then I pass. In college, I loved digesting complex ideas and trying to understand them. As my son has grown, and my family and I have settled into these roles, though, I find the more complex something is the more of a turn off it is.

So, when looking at a recipe, I found I want simple, easy to understand, just like my cooking desire of 5 ingredients or less.

Lotion added water. Body butter was straight plant fats, which meant simpler though there was a bit in the process. I opted for the body butter, because the whole thing felt simpler. Comparing some recipes, the ratio seemed to be 1 part plant oil to two parts plant butter, and for every 1 cup of body butter about 10 drops of essential oil. I decided on my amounts not unlike making soap. You figure out how much you want in an end product, and adjust accordingly. I figured 3 cups of finished product would be enough. And, I then proceeded to make about 4 cups! (Oops!)

Recipe & Technique

Materials

  • 1 bowl filled with ice
  • 1 bowl, smaller, to nest in iced bowl later
  • I crockpot for slow melting of fats
  • Container(s) for finished product
  • A stick blender for mixing

Ingredients

Butters

  • 1 cup mango butter
  • 1 cup shea butter
  • 1 cup coconut oil (counting as a butter because of consistency)
  • A few shavings of coconut butter

Oils

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup jojoba oil

Essential Oils

  • 10 drops clary sage
  • 10 drops geranium
  • 10 drops lavender

I found this didn’t scent my body butter as much as I wanted. Next time, I’ll up the geranium and lavender to 15 or 20 drops each. And, next time, I’ll maybe have ⅔ cup each of the mango and shea butters and coconut oil.

Process

Add all plant butters and oils (except essential oils) to your crockpot. Put on low, and let sit until all oils are melted. One blogger noted that letting her oils melt together for 20 minutes refined them enough that the finished product wasn’t grainy. I forgot about my crockpot for a bit, so my oils sat for nearly two hours. Note, many recipes instruct you to use a double boil method. I don’t like it. Something about the steam and hot bowls that turns me off. I found the crockpot method works best for my “fix it and forget it” world.

When the oils are sufficiently melted together, you now need to cool them. After they had been in the ice bath for about 5 minutes, I added my essential oils and I began mixing with my stick blender. I didn’t have enough ice, so while I was using my blender to mix up the oils, I noticed it wasn’t coming together as well as I liked. I refrigerated the mixture for about an hour. Some recipes skip the ice bath and say to refrigerate for 2 hours.

I compared the process to making a meringue or whipped cream. The oils cooling, the mixing to change the texture, it felt the same. So, that’s what I used as my guide to know when I was done. Once the oils were cool enough, whipping them up was quite fast. The yellow color quickly changed to the thick white you see pictured above. I made enough to fill that container plus another.

About the Essential Oils

Clary Sage

The oil of clarity and vision, it gives courage to see the truth, see limiting beliefs, encourages openness to new ideas and perspectives. The body system affected by clary sage is largely the hormonal system, which is why it can help balance hormones and soothe monthly discomfort associated with menstrual cycles. Clary sage also soothes nervous tension and lightens mood. I chose it for this body butter because of it’s calming properties and how it is soothing to the skin.

Geranium

The oil of love and trust. Need I say anymore? It seems so obvious to me that for something I am putting on my body, it should absolutely include proving love, trust, and emotional healing. Geranium can even encourage forgiveness, and it fosters human love and connection. Geranium primarily supports emotional balance and skin. With skin, it promotes clear, healthy skin. It can also helps calm nerves and lessen stress. And, as a bonus, it supports liver health! We like to say, with using essential oils there are side benefits.

Lavender

Lavender is widely known for and used for its calming and relaxing qualities. But, did you know that it’s also the oil of communication? While it can soothe occasional skin irritations, helps skin recover quickly, and even ease muscle tension it can also promote emotional balance. It encourages positive emotions of open communication, being released, expressive with emotional honesty, and being heard.

Posted on

Use Essential Oils in the Laundry

One of my favorite ways to use essential oils is in the laundry. I like slathering my wool dryer balls with an oil of my choice. Not only do the dryer balls reduce drying time, but then I get an all-natural clean smell for my laundry – with therapeutic benefits.

A few tips using essential oils in the laundry.