My journey to living a healthy, minimalistic lifestyle has naturally led me to question the most common of practices we do on a daily basis as a society. What I have learned is that often times, many of the things we consume we do for no other reason but tradition and habit. In some cases we don’t do things because it’s practical or it makes sense, we do it because that is how everyone else does it. We mostly are not considering a better alternative or that something might be unnecessary altogether. It is hard to see our impact on a mass scale, therefore it is easy to overlook the accumulated damage.
What if I told you that some of the items you may or may not purchase on a regular basis for your home are a total waste of money and you could get along just fine without ever having to purchase it again? Not to mention, some of the items I have listed are harmful to your health as well as the environment. The good news is, giving them up doesn’t mean you will have to sacrifice convenience in the long run, although if you are really attached to something it might feel that way in the beginning. Choosing to give up modern conveniences and mass-marketed items will only save you money and create a healthier inner and outer environment.
1) Trash bags and paper towels.
One day several years ago, I was in my mom’s kitchen and noticed she had a big drawer full of plastic grocery bags, as well as a box full of trash bags under her kitchen sink. The environmentalist in me cringed. I think this might be a common picture for many households that is innocently born of habit. Grocery bags serve as great trash bags. There is no reason to have a ton of plastic bags you are not using and to continue buying trash bags. Not to mention they are free. In the city I live in plastic grocery bags are fortunately banned and we are encouraged to bring our own. If you don’t bring your own you get brown paper bags, which is what I use as a trash bag. I “forget” my bags enough times to have a decent stash. You may find yourself taking the trash out more often, but this can be avoided by being conscience of buying waste and packaged stuff and knowing how to organize your trash. We recycle all recyclables and have a designated compost area in our backyard for all food scraps. If you live somewhere like an apartment and don’t have space for a compost pile, you can always buy a larger indoor composting bin and check out what your area offers in terms of compost disposal. You can also donate it to a friend or neighbor in need of compost.
Paper towels do not require much explanation and were probably the easiest thing for me to stop buying many years ago. I simply use cloth hand towels to clean up spills and wipe down surfaces, and reusable plates to serve things on. If you believe it is a matter of convenience, I assure you that there has never been one single time that I wished I had a paper towel right now. Not to mention it has probably saved me a decent chunk of money.
2) Dryer Sheets
Aside from the fact that dryer sheets leave a film on the machine hose that clogs the dryer, these sheets are extremely toxic. You might enjoy that strong florally aroma, but what you are actually breathing in is classified toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that have been linked to nervous system disorders, skin issues, headaches, nausea, dizziness, etc.
If you are concerned about static clothing, you can simply wait to take your clothes out of dryer instead of immediately removing them when they are done drying. Another good alternative is to use wool balls with some drops of essential oil on them. They are reusable and you can use them again and again. For a vegan version, you can buy reusable static eliminator sheets.
3) Candles, air fresheners, sprays, plug-ins.
The mainstream attempt to keep our homes smelling fresh is poisoning us, to be blunt. Candles and air fresheners of all kinds contain toxic and carcinogenic ingredients in them that fill our air with sickness that smells really pretty. I have lived without synthetic scents for so long that now when I go somewhere that uses these things I almost immediately get a headache, scratchy throat and start sneezing. Opt for natural scents like burnt sage, cedarwood, a vase of flowers, or essential oils. My favorite way to make my house smell nice is to put a few drops of essential oil in my diffuser. The sweet thing about a diffuser is that you can use it over and over again. Another fun option is to make your own air fresheners with all natural ingredients.
4) The Microwave.
Do you know what question health conscious Airbnb hosts get asked most frequently?
It’s, “Where is your microwave?”
It is only then that I remember how commonly they are still used. I didn’t even think to get a microwave for my guests! And knowing what I know about them, I won’t be. According to Dr. Edward Group:
” A microwave is a form of non-ionizing radiation. As a matter of contrast, ionizing radiation changes the electromagnetic nature of atoms, or ionizes them. This alters the way they interact with other atoms and molecules around them. X-rays, gamma radiation, and nuclear medicine (CT scans, barium swallows, and mammograms) are types of ionizing radiation. Your food is being zapped by high-frequency waves of heat, and some people argue that this radiation can be harmful to your health. One study by Dr. Hans Hertel explored how microwaves change the molecular structure of food and the effects of that food on the human body. In his study, he found that individuals who consumed the microwaved foods experienced a decrease in HDL cholesterol, a reduced red blood cell count, and fewer white blood cells.”
Sure, a microwave might feel convenient, but it destroys your food and in turn your health. If you find that you have so little time that you cannot use stovetop to heat something up, personally I would question my lifestyle at that point, but I would not justify using a radiation machine to warm my food.
5) Fluorescent Lighting.
These are more commonly used in schools and office buildings, but they are found in homes as well. The lighting we live under isn’t something we normally consider, but studies have shown significant detriments to our health from ignoring our natural sun cycles and living under artificial light. We are sun people and our natural circadian rhythms are synced with the sun. Artificial lighting messes that up and in turn there are health effects such as:
- Eye strain
- Problems sleeping, due to melatonin suppression
- Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder or depression
- Endocrine disruption and poor immune systems
- Female hormonal/menstrual cycle disruption
- Increases in breast cancer rates and tumor formation
- Stress/Anxiety, due to cortisol suppression
- Sexual development/maturation disruption
- Agoraphobia (anxiety disorder)
Not to mention the flickering of fluorescent lights can cause people to have headaches and anxiety. One of the worst common birth practices, in my opinion, is bringing babies into this world under bright, obnoxious, artificial light. It is really telling of the values of the society we live in.
Opt for natural lighting during the day if possible. Open all your window blinds. For night time I use salt lamps and other lighting sources with warm bulbs.
Please comment below with your thoughts! I am curious to know if you already live without some or all of these things or if you were inspired by this information to go without any of it. Until next time…. 🙂