Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Going Green

It's quite the catch-phrase these days... going green. You see it everywhere-- on the covers of magazines, on interstate billboards, on food labels, on beauty products, on home appliances... and yet, up 'til now, I've rolled my eyes many-a-time upon considering this new trend. Attributing much of this movement to far left wackos and their Mother Earth mentality, I've grossly ignored much of the hype surrounding the GREEN movement as I've continued in my efforts to simply survive adulthood... parenthood... and all it entails.

Yet over the past several weeks and months, I've come to realize that going green isn't necessarily a wacky sort of thing. I mean, sure... there are certainly those who take it a bit too far (as with anything else in life), but there are also those who have simply refused to accept today's fast-food, fat-saturated, sugar-laden standard... today's norm... and have attempted to set a new course... a healthier course... for their families and for future generations.

After much thought and careful consideration, I've concluded that it's time that I, too, make a few changes in the way we live. As far as our eating habits are concerned-- I'm embarassed to admit the number of times I've rejoiced simply because my kiddos willingly chose a healthy snack (instead of a pile of Doritos). I'm embarassed to confess the number of times I've rejoiced because all the food groups actually made an appearance on our kitchen table during a single day, and better yet, that all were even sampled in some measure or other... as if that was enough. As if that was all it took to adequately/appropriately/even wonderfully feed my family and thus help them to live and grow in a healthy manner. Yes, I'm embarassed.

But now, after a fair bit of research and some lively discussion with a few knowledgeable folks, I've come to realize that healthy living means so much more than that... so much more than a piece of fruit here, an extra veggie there. You see, through a series of "coincidences" (of course NOT coincidences at all but God-ordained meetings), the Lord has offered me a timely wake-up call-- it's time to start taking my family's health seriously... SERIOUSLY... and it's time to start doing so now.

So how are we gonna attempt to go green in this tiny northern Virginia home?? Well, I don't know... exactly. I'm still trying to prioritize and absorb it all. Change itsn't always easy, and it's certainly not inexpensive. But as one blogger suggested-- I'd rather pay more now for healthy living than pay more later for sky-high medical bills.

So... where to begin? Where to begin? I think we'll tackle the pantry first... because several of the foods my family consumes on a very regular basis lend no positive results whatsoever (other than a few sweet moments of sugar-induced bliss!). Stuffed to the gills with preservatives and hormones and steroids and artificial gooks... crammed to the brim with chemicals designed to extend shelf life and to improve travel-ability, to fatten and brighten and redden and strengthen... well, can those unpronouncable 45-letter ingredients actually do us any good? I don't think so. In fact, it's much more likely they'll do just the opposite. So I'm starting to wonder-- why do I want to continue purchasing said products when there are other-- SAFER-- options available? Yes, those "cleaner" choices may cost a bit more in the here and now (and thus require a reworking of our typical weekly meal plan), but as one writer stated (somewhere in my research)... if I can't pronounce it, why would I want to eat it?

So as a result of my ponderings, I've come up with a few ideas I'd like to implement in my effort to set my family on a healthier track... now::

Breads: whole grain breads-- not the store-bought variety, the truly homemade sort. My good friends, Lea & Laura, have been educating me a bit on the benefits of such an undertaking, and I'm beginning to understand just how much better it would be for all of us-- bread made from SCRATCH with grains we mill ourselves. No more Pillsbury instant mixes, no more bread-loaf-in-a-box sort of eating... just real, whole ingredients from start to finish. Yum, yum, yum. Of course, in order to do so, I'll need to make a few purchases as money permits-- a bread mill and a bread machine, for instance, and a few necessary ingredients; thankfully, I can get them all here... in the very near future... hopefully! (And if you're interested in reading a few articles I found particularly refreshing-- and very challenging--read here, here, and here.)

Gardens: This spring we'll be building a raised vegetable bed in our backyard, planted with a few seasonal favorites... and maybe a few new things, too. In the past, I've always depended on my mom to deliver her home-grown deliciousness; now I think it's time I give it a shot for myself (though you can be guarnateed I'll be calling her often... very often... for advice!). The boys are excited. Chris is on board (the dogs will surely wreak havoc if I don't fence it in somehow, but that's a whole nother issue). And if we're successful, we'll be enjoying some of our own home-grown deliciousness in the summer months to come (and I'll finally have a place to stick all that compost we've been collecting since last summer :)

Around the house: My friend, Jennifer-- the queen bee of inspiration-- gave me much food for thought in this recent post. In it she detailed several ways she's made the journey towards not only healthier eating but towards simple living as well, and I can't wait to put a few of her ideas to work here in my home. (Make sure you check out all her links-- they're well worth your time!). And, if natural homemade cleaners are your thing (think: simplicity!), read here.

Body care: Ok. I've just gotta share this great little discovery I made the other week, just in case you're anything like me and have had your head in the sand for the past few years (grin). Did you know there's an online safety guide called Skin Deep (run by a group of researchers from the Environmental Working Group) that actually shares with us-- the consumers-- info regarding the safety and chemical hazard levels in our favorite bath & body products? Yep. This group has tested most everything out there, and in the event you're concerned with the goods you're smothering all over your largest sensory organ... your skin... go check it out. (Evidently there are no set standards in the beauty industry-- no set guidelines as found in the food business, for instance-- to regulate various levels and chemicals combinations. So when one manufacturer uses the term "organic" or "natural" to describe his/her popular product line, he/she may very well mean something completely different from his neighbor on the grocery store shelf. So just because your favorite lotion says it's "all natural," be careful-- it may not be as safe as you think.)

So back to this research group-- they test everything... from make-up to lotion to bodywash to lip balm-- and then make the results available to everyone. And guess what I found?? Most of the (very expensive) products that once lined my bathroon shelves were not nearly as good for my skin as I had been led to believe. So they're now being put to good use at our local family emergency shelter (and soon my store-bought cleaners will be, too... once I get around to making a few of the homemade ones as described in the link above). As for my bathroom shelves-- they're now lined with a few replacement products, thanks to the very delightful Body Care purchaser at Whole Foods Market who gave much of her time in an effort to help me understand the ins & outs of "clean" and natural products (I especially love this one for my littlest ones). Want to learn a bit more? Read this article... very interesting stuff.

So there you have it-- the beginnings of a very exciting journey here in the mid-Atlantic region. We're on our way to healthier living as we learn to embrace a few new vocaubulary words: Simple. Green. Organic. Whole. One step at a time. Because I'm beginning to realize how much better I think such living would be for my family. AND because I also want to be a good steward of all God's given me... including His creation and His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Starting now.

And just in case anyone's intereted in a few extra worthwhile reads... a few good starting places perhaps, here are a few links to some very interesting articles... thanks, once again, to Simple Mom :)


Carrie said...

Wow, Girl! I'm impressed! You are really taking the bull by its horns!! I can't wait to have some time to go through all your links! Please do continue to share as you embark on this new journey!

Linda said...

In my case, Heather, it's better late than never. I've been thinking along the same lines but have (honestly) been too lazy to do the research. Thanks for doing so much for me!!! I will have to come back when I have a bit more time and do some reading.
I'm proud of you!!

Jennifer said...

Heather, fabulous post! I look forward to hearing more about how it's all going. Know I am cheering you on!!

I drove down to FL with the kids today... aahh, sun, green grass... I may not come back. : )

gretchen said...

I have a GREAT recipe for general purpose cleaner that I've been using for some time... got it from Deanna K. Also found a site that has a recipe for laundry detergent... thinking about using it once I run out of my All. I've been making bread in my bread machine and then baking it in the oven. Yumola! Thanks for the prayers for Chops. He has already been running around today and wrestling with his brother... unfortunately, I think I'm going to need to keep the magic box on for the next several days just so he sits still and doesn't run around. :( much to my dismay.. but if it gets him to heal so be it. :)