Saturday, July 26, 2014

A passion for sustainable living

Posted By on Sat, Jul 26, 2014 at 12:31 AM

  • Courtesy of Danika Carter
My life's mission is to help families live more sustainably, avoid toxic chemicals, and promote holistic health. I’ve been on this journey for more than 15 years and have written more than 350 articles on these issues, and I want to share with you what I’ve learned.

To me, living sustainably is not just about protecting the earth from pollution, it’s about understanding that we are all interconnected and that it’s greedy to live in a way that prevents others from living. Sustainable living encompasses protecting the earth, avoiding harmful chemicals, social justice, holistic health and clean food.

My journey started while I was living in California. Driving from the Golden Gate Bridge through the Marin Headlands toward the beach, I saw birds standing in a pond that was so polluted, there were signs warning people to stay out. It made me sick to see that. While the sign protected humans, the unknowing animals in the area were still exposed, and so was the ground surrounding that pond.

Putting up a sign wasn’t enough; it was just a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.

Around this time I also switched to organic meat and dairy due to concerns about artificial hormones, and became passionate about recycling. I argued with my first husband about why we shouldn’t be using Roundup to clear the firebreak in our green zone behind our property. I didn’t like the thought of putting toxic chemicals in the ground. I was concerned about the soil quality, the wildlife that lived in that green zone (including my cats that liked to venture out there). And, due to our proximity to the Carquinez Straight, I was concerned about contributing to the contaminated water that flowed into the San Francisco Bay. More and more, I was seeing the ways human activity is destructive to our environment.

When I became pregnant in 2005, my interest in knowing about and avoiding chemicals with the potential to harm my baby or myself kicked into high gear. I became obsessed with doing everything I could to protect my growing baby. I switched from what I thought were all-natural personal care products — but actually contained harmful chemicals — to mostly organic products, and I quit using conventional cleaning products and switched to green cleaners.

Eventually, I discovered that many of these “green” cleaners contained ingredients I wasn’t comfortable using in my home or around my child and pets, so I started cleaning my house with ingredients from my kitchen. (Well, my husband did.) We found that not only do our homemade cleansers clean just about everything as well as, or better than, conventional cleaning products, but we were saving a lot of money too.

Since then, I’ve spent several years studying chemicals in personal care products, cleaning products and other household products. I’ve learned how much “greenwashing” there is in the green products industry.

Most people assume that if a product is on the shelf, some government agency has tested it to ensure that it’s safe for people and the environment. Sadly, this isn’t so. There is very little regulation and therefore, the vast majority of personal care and cleaning products on store shelves contain ingredients that may be harmful to our health and/or the environment. Even everyday consumer products in our home can pose a threat to our health; whether it’s the fire retardants in our couch and mattress, or the plastic containers we store our leftovers in — some even contain ingredients linked to cancer.

I don’t expect everyone to be as green as I am (or as I hope to one day be). My mission is to give you the information you need to make the best decision for you and your family based on your needs, concerns, health and budget. So if there is an area of green living that I can help you with, I invite you to share; being an informed consumer is important, but there is so much to know. I intend to use this space to share with you what I’ve learned so you don’t have to spend as much time as I have researching these issues.

I look forward to going on this green-living journey with you.

Danika is a Green Living writer, educator and social media consultant living in Colorado Springs. She has been living here with her husband and two children for the past 9 years. Follow her on Twitter at @YourOrganicLife and join her weekly #EcoWed (Eco-Wednesday) Twitter party every Wednesday evening at 8, featuring a different topic related to sustainable, nontoxic and holistic living. You can also find her at her soon-to-be-launched blog at Contact for details.

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