A friend of mind just called to tell me that she happily, but unexpectedly, just found out shes nearly three months pregnant. She wanted advice on how to get organic immediately because even if she hasnt been all that organic up until now, shed prefer to hedge the bets of her unborn child. In this column we talk about lots of specific organic parenting ideas, but I told her that the following eight things will cover the big picture and if she does them shell be able to catch up quick.
Start eating whole foods (as close to how it came out of the earth as possible), paying attention to which items are more and less toxic. Meat is high on the food chain and therefore more toxic; vegetables are lower. For information on joining a community supported farm check out Local Harvest. Avoid packaged foods and try to eat a varied diet that includes plenty of protein, calcium, whole grains and folic acid. (Take a daily vitamin with folic acid as well to be sure youre meeting the requirement.)
Test the tap water at home for contaminants and deal with it a Brita-style carbon carafe pitcher will take care of most issues. Stop drinking bottled water and carry your beverages in something safer like glass or stainless steel there are great water bottles at SIGG and Klean Kanteen to avoid chemical-leaching plastic, as well as help save some earth.
You cant always control what youre breathing the carpet at the bank or toxic bathroom cleaners at work but wherever possible (in the car, at work, at home) open the windows and keep your environment as well-ventilated as possible.
Lose the Teflon and nonstick pans because they cause cancer in mice and rats and are a probable human carcinogen. Store food in glass instead of plastic (Pyrex is cheap and nice-looking), and never microwave food with plastic wrap on it or in plastic containers.
5. Beauty Products
Take stock of your arsenal of beauty products everything from zit cream to moisturizer to nail polish and stop using the ones with chemicals that are potentially harmful to a fetus (who has much greater exposure to toxins pound for pound than you do). This takes more effort than eating organic because, regardless of what their label claims, theres no certification process for these products. Do your own homework by going to Skin Deep at the Environmental Working Group and enter the name of your preferred cosmetic into a database for a rating of its ingredients.
6. Cleaning Products and Insecticides
As with your beauty products, you need to consider your conventional cleaning products and laundry detergents and replace them with green versions. (The ingredients in non-green cleaners are often toxic, not to mention considered trade secrets and rarely listed). Most green products will list their ingredients, and less is usually more. Apply the same approach to any fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides you use to garden.
This is a tough one because theres something about having a baby that makes you want to head down to Home Depot and build something, or at least rip up a carpet and throw some paint on the wall. Resist the urge to renovate, unless you're able to be out of the house for the duration of the work, and then some. There are toxins in the paint, dust, caulk and glue that you shouldnt inhale while gestating, and there are too many potentially toxic dusts and chemicals unearthed when you start tearing things apart. Also replace crumbling foam in cushions they contain brominated flame retardants (PBDEs) that can negatively affect brain function.
Test your home for contaminants like radon and lead and carbon monoxide, and paint over any chipping lead paint with a zero-VOC fresh paint -- Home Depot introduced a no-VOC version last month. This is probably going to be cheaper than having it professionally removed, although green cleaning is more accessible than ever and can probably be located close to home with the help of Google.
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