The world is in flux. From rising global temperatures to the disappearance of honeybees, the changing face of our planet is causing many of us to want to get back to our roots, tread lighter on the earth and live a more organic lifestyle. Increasingly we are realizing that we can’t wait—the planet can’t wait—for us to act. Empowered, hopeful and entering a new era of consciousness, we are choosing to make a difference under our own roofs by embracing a simpler, more sustainable way of living.
For many, making the decision to go green is easy, but walking down the actual path of change is sometimes more difficult. We spoke with a few of the country’s top eco-living experts to find how they made the transition and how we all can do the same.
A Movement Underfoot
Sara Snow, host of Get Fresh with Sara Snow on the Discovery Health network, says that over the past few years, she’s seen more people take an interest in where their food comes from, what cleaning solutions they use in their home, and what ingredients are in their body care products.“People want to create the healthiest home possible for the sake of their bodies and the planet,” says Snow, who is also the author of Sara Snow’s Fresh Living: The Essential Room-by-Room Guide to a Greener, Healthier Family and Home.
This newfound approach is affecting everything from the cars we drive to where we buy our food to the soap we use in the shower. Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that reducing toxins in our bodies is critical to staying healthy, according to the Natural Marketing Institute. Meanwhile, the number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. grew more than 13 percent last year. “Eating locally and not using chemicals in everything—these are not new ideas,” says Snow. “They’re simply a throwback to the way our grandparents and great-grandparents grew up.”
Anna Getty, author of the new book Easy Green Organic, says many of her friends chose to transition to a more organic lifestyle because their children had eczema or allergies. Eczema, an inflammatory skin condition, causes red, itchy rashes. Common in infants and children, it is thought to be triggered by exposure to certain household products like soap or detergent. “Making a change because your children are unhealthy is smart,” Getty says. “But you don’t have to wait for something bad to happen. Let’s change as a preventative measure.”
Fork Over for Organic
To make the greatest impact on your health and the environment, Getty suggests switching to organic versions of the foods your family eats the most. By avoiding pesticides and herbicides, organic farming methods keep our soil and waterways cleaner and lessen the risk of long-term damage to our health. To help decide which produce to always buy organic, Getty recommends downloading the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides (ewg.org).
Another good practice is buying locally grown produce. Shopping at farmers’ markets, which often offer fresher and more nutritious food, keeps money in the community and reduces food miles—especially significant since produce grown in this country travels an average of 1,500 miles before it gets sold.
To dramatically cut food miles, consider planting a backyard vegetable garden. For many of us, the desire to plant seeds and grow food is innate and fulfills our 21wish to reconnect with the earth. There has even been an upswing in the number of people raising backyard chickens and honeybees. “People want to take control of their own food production,” says Zem Joaquin, founder of the blog Ecofabulous.com. “Growing our own food means we know where it comes from.”
Face Forward with Natural Beauty
Our increasing desire for what’s healthier, organic and more natural means we are moving away from skin care products made largely with synthetic chemicals. We are seeking out products that are clean, uncontaminated and rooted in nature, with ingredient labels we can comprehend and our grandmothers might recognize.
While “green” living and natural skin care may seem a trend, it’s a sustainable one. Long before these buzz words existed, Weleda began making skin care with only natural materials. For almost 90 years, even as chemicals became the norm in beauty products, Weleda stayed true to its deep philosophy and understanding that organic and Biodynamic® ingredients from our gardens and others around the world are, quite simply, the best for you. “Like nature, our body has a natural rhythm for everything, and we interfere with it when we bombard our skin with synthetic chemicals,” says Weleda esthetician Patricia Pol. “Natural products will restore and support your skin’s inherent rhythm.”
Pol suggests reading product labels closely for major ingredient offenders, including sodium laurel sulfates, phatlates, parabens, petroleum-derived ingredients and dimethicone. “These chemicals are associated with skin irritation, allergies and, in the case of parabens, even cancer,” says Pol, referring to a 2004 study by British researchers that found parabens in breast cancer tumors. “These synthetic chemicals don’t belong in our bodies, and we simply don’t know the effect they have on us over many years of regular use.”
What’s more, natural ingredients are just as effective—if not more so—than their conventional counterparts. “Chemical ingredients simply mask symptoms and often create their own problems,” says Pol. “On the other hand, plant-, seed- and fruit-based ingredients work with your skin to help balance its moisture and oxygen levels. And unlike petroleum-based products, natural care closely matches your skin’s own make-up and works in harmony with our skin so that it can be its healthiest and most beautiful.” Fruits like the pomegranate—the main ingredient in Weleda’s Pomegranate Regenerating Body Care—are rich in antioxidants proven to help support the skin’s natural renewal process and protect it from free-radical damage. Nut oils such as sweet almond oil contain fatty acids that boast anti-inflammatory properties. Essential oils are used to create beautiful, singular and wholly natural, aromatherapeutic fragrances.
Researching brands before you buy will help make your choice easier. When unsure if a product is truly natural, look for third-party natural and organic certification from certifiers like NaTrue or NPA.
Pol recommends starting your transition to natural with a line made especially for sensitive skin, such as Weleda’s Almond Facial Care, which is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, perfect for skin not yet accustomed to potent, natural care. “Sometimes the skin can react as it moves through the detoxification process and learns how to regenerate healthy skin cells on its own,” she says. “Start your transition with products containing soothing ingredients, such as almond, chamomile, calendula or jojoba. After a few weeks, you can gradually move on to age- or skin-type-specific ingredients.” Eventually you will start to see and feel a difference. Your skin will be calm, glowing and balanced—a true reflection of your organic, healthy lifestyle.
Create a Healthy Habitat
At home, simple changes such as switching to nontoxic cleaning supplies will help protect your health and the planet’s. “You can literally clean your entire home using five ingredients from your kitchen: olive oil, white distilled vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and a natural liquid soap,” says Snow. Americans generate more than 1.6 million tons of Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These chemicals can pollute our water and air, triggering asthma symptoms, among other problems. To dispose of unused bottles of household cleaners, seek out a special HHW disposal facility instead of throwing them into the trash. Search for a location by zip code at Earth911.com.
Making changes at home doesn’t need to mean extra effort or money. Consider lowering your thermostat and washing clothes in warm and cold water instead of hot. Then use the money saved on utility bills to purchase green items, such as organic cotton sheets and towels. As for furniture, Joaquin suggests shopping in second-hand stores. Another idea is to choose furniture made from FSC-certified wood or reclaimed materials, which use less of the earth’s resources. The best part is that many of these salvaged pieces have character and charm that newly manufactured pieces simply can’t muster.
Other green choices help create the least toxic environment possible for your family. For instance, you can find low-VOVOC or zero-VOVOC paints, which release fewer toxic fumes into the air. PVC-free shower curtains and toys are also more readily available after concerns of a possible link to cancer were recently raised. Steering clear of these items makes the air in your home cleaner and safer. You will notice the difference.
When it comes to fashion, going green doesn’t have to mean giving up on style. Conventional cotton farming uses about 25 percent of the world’s insecticides. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to find fashionable clothing options made from organic cotton, hemp and linen. “Some cutting-edge designers are doing amazing things with milk fibers, mulberry dyes and responsibly harvested silks,” says Joaquin. Soy dyes are safe and now commonly used in organic fabrics. “Heavy metals in most dyes can be absorbed into your skin, especially if you don’t wash the clothing before wearing it,” says Joaquin.
Many websites provide valuable information and tips for greening your home. Check HealthyStuff.org and Healthy-Child.org for information on alternative products and Ecofabulous.com for sustainable style tips and eco-designs.
Make Change Happen
While the very notion of greening your life may seem overwhelming, fortunately many green experts and companies like Weleda are here to help. And remember: It’s not about a total upheaval or making the transition all at once. “It’s about baby-stepping your way through a series of changes so you are always improving and moving toward a more organic lifestyle,” says Snow. “Try for at least 2 to 10 percent of your grocery purchases to be organic and go from there. Eventually, in a few months or maybe years, you’ll look in your pantry and go, ‘Wow! I’m buying 90 percent organic.’ If we are all willing to make one small change, then collectively that’s how massive change happens.”
It may sound idealistic, but if you change your lifestyle, you really can help change the world. Getty says that when she started adopting eco-friendly habits, her friends soon followed suit. “When you are enthusiastic and love it, the people around you will get excited and inspired, too. It only takes one person to inspire change,” she says. “It will spread like wildfire.” You will feel the difference in your heart and see it in your family’s health and happiness. “In my life, I feel healthier, I look better and I have more energy,” says Getty. “I see how much healthier my children are because of the commitments I’ve made. By more and more people committing to this lifestyle, we can make change happen.” That’s true for each of us—and our greater world. cr
For additional tips and information on healthy, natural skin care and green living, peruse The Weleda Blog at by clicking here