Building a Non-Toxic Life – Part 1: Prioritizing

Every so often I get a call from a person who is completely overwhelmed by the discovery that their house and their lives are filled with toxins. This encompasses cleaning products, laundry detergents, furniture, and of course…personal beauty products.

They want to eliminate the toxins from their lives but don’t know where to start, or how best to prioritize. Panic has set in, and they are on the verge of throwing everything they own out the window! Of course doing that is not practical, economical or ecologically helpful.

Some planning is in order. Here are some suggestions for how to start.

Change whatever you are running out of now. It’s much easier to investigate and make changes one item at a time.  It’s easier to develop a research process that works for you and less wasteful this way as well.

Pick whatever may bring the next biggest reward. Toxicity runs on a continuum, so not everything may need to go, and some changes will reap greater benefits than others.

  • If there are young children in the household, focus on products that they use. Developing bodies and brains are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of toxins.
  • Switching to unscented laundry products can have a huge impact for everyone in the family, since clothing, sheets and towels come in contact with your skin 24/7. “Fragrance” includes thousands of toxic chemicals.
  • Change your body lotion or any product that you put all over your body. We, of course, suggest Herbaliz creams and lotions! They not only have no toxins, they also include herbs that work to improve your health.
  • Changing shampoo and hair conditioner can help, especially if you wash your hair in the shower, because the products will rinse over your whole body. Hair conditioners are among the most toxic body care products.

Other thoughts to help break the process down into manageable bites include making one change a month or picking one toxin to focus on.

The important thing is to not get so overwhelmed that you don’t do anything.

Coming months will be about resources and more specific actions that can help you reach your goals. In the meantime do one thing!

Thanksgiving: Appreciating the Natural World

While Americans prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, it is important to take a deeper look at what we can connect to beyond a table laden with food.

As a person who is intimately involved with plants and herbs, I have a strong respect for the special gifts that come from our earth.

Sage being wonderful in stuffing...The Thanksgiving story I was taught back in grade school was greatly oversimplified. I didn’t learn much about the Indigenous tribe, the Wampanoag, who helped the Pilgrims survive. They were well established in the Massachusetts vicinity and had a full comprehension of their environment and believed in an interdependence with the natural world.

Through observation, they monitored the patterns and cycles of animals, plants, and weather. Their philosophy was to live in harmony with nature and to respect the interconnection between all living things.

Native Americans used crop rotation and irrigation methods before the arrival of the Europeans. For them, a key belief was to take only those parts needed when they were harvesting plants. There was an understanding that elements had to be left to regenerate growth for the following year.

An intuitive comprehension of “sustainability” and working in partnership and harmony with the surrounding ecosphere was key to the Indigenous way of life. (It still is, as Native Americans are leading the national fight as water defenders against intrusive fossil fuel pipelines.)

Our planet faces the challenge of pollution, an overabundance of toxic chemicals in our daily lives, and the exploitation of natural resources with little thought about future generations.

yarrowHerbaliz wants to take time out to give thanks to the unlimited varieties of vegetation that are available to us from aloe to yarrow.

I also want to express my appreciation to the customers who share our philosophy, and are doing their part to support a positive way of interacting with the planet.

So on Thanksgiving, take time to have a quiet moment to reflect on the beauty of our natural habitat and all that it gives to us.

Halloween Hobgoblins: Toxins in Your Personal Care Products

October has always been a time to look forward to falling leaves, crisp air, and the fun of Halloween. Yet this month, I have other scary things on my mind beyond witches and ghosts.

Extreme weather has brought Hurricane Matthew, which has battered and devastated people from Haiti to the United States. Closer to home, I continue to be concerned about the multitude of toxins in our environment, homes, and products. I am encouraged though by the initiatives that grassroots activism has pushed through.

A recent example is the new Chemical Safety law signed by President Obama in June of this year. In addition to correcting shortcomings in the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), one of its key goals is to foster greater “public transparency for chemical information.”

Ingredients to Avoid CardOn the Herbaliz website, we have a page devoted to Toxins to Avoid, a topic I feel strongly about. (We also offer a wallet card listing chemicals to steer clear of.) Some of these substances are better known culprits than others. Yet, too many still show up in allegedly “natural products.” Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, is most frequently used in soaps and shampoos. Ethanolamine compounds (DEA, MEA, TEA), when absorbed through the skin, accumulate in body organs and have been linked with an increased incidence of kidney and liver cancers.

That’s more frightening than a witch’s curse! When you see ghouls, vampires and Darth Vaders walking around on Halloween, you know they are the bad guys.

Unfortunately, there are individuals in the beauty and cosmetic industries – lurking in the shadows – who still implement the use of cruel experiments on animals to test their products. To fight this, three members of Congress (not wearing costumes!), Reps. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Don Beyer (D-VA), Joe Heck (R-NV) and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), are backing The Humane Cosmetics Act (H.R. 2858) which “prohibits testing cosmetics on animals.”

Puppy with pumpkinsHerbaliz is sharing the Humane Society petition to encourage action in contacting local law makers on this bill. It’s easy: a phone call, an e-mail, and a shout out on Social Media will do the trick.

Happy Halloween!

Men Deserve Non-Toxic Skin Care

On a regular basis, I receive inquires from female customers about buying products for the men in their lives. Many of these requests have led to the formulation of new items, including our Face Wash for Men.

When a male client, looking for a product without alcohol and chemicals, asked if I could come up with a solution, our Aftershave was born.

Why is safe skin and scalp care as important for men as for women?

Simply because men are as susceptible to toxins as women are.

Just recently, Megan Boyle of Healthy Child, Healthy World, wrote an article explaining that men’s exposure to chemicals was shown to be linked to issues around couples trying to conceive. (Also check out the the Environmental Work Group’s endocrine disruptors page.)

Soap Saver GiftSo what’s the best way to get started? Here’s my list of the top five products suggestions:

Aftershave: Available in four sizes.

Moisturizing Lotion: Available in four sizes and six blends.

Gardner’s Hand Soap: Perfect for cleaning hands without being harsh.

Ayate Wash Cloth: A facial wash cloth that also exfoliates.

Soap Set: A starter gift that he will love. A bar of Herbal Glycerin Soap of your choice with a slotted, pine wood holder.