You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the decluttering movement brought on by Marie Kondo and her popular book and television show. The popularity of her no-nonsense style of decluttering isn’t something that happened by chance. So many of us feel like the world around us is just “a bit much.” Too much clutter, too much waste, too much everything and it’s taking a toll on our health – and the earth.
What has been on my mind lately isn’t just cleaning out a few drawers and making space on my kitchen counter. I’m talking about living a cleaner life, in every way possible – and I bet the thought has crossed your mind, too.
Our health, our environment, the world around us is all suffering from being overburdened. The good news is that it’s never too late to turn it around. There are things you and I both can do today, to start living a cleaner lifestyle and creating a better tomorrow.
Admittedly, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the thought of living a cleaner life. You’re constantly being bombarded with conflicting information. Do this, not that – no wait, you need to do this, and completely avoid that.
It really doesn’t need to be this complicated. Living a cleaner lifestyle isn’t about jumping on the latest trend, but rather a common-sense approach to living that’s aligned with both your body and the world around you. Need proof that living a cleaner life is something that’s completely doable? Here are 5 tips that prove living a cleaner lifestyle is achievable.
Eat More Plants
We’re starting with this one because it’s a major step in living a cleaner life that benefits both your health and the planet. You’ve been hearing for as long as you can remember that you need to eat your fruits and veggies. After all, you need all those great nutrients that can only be found in nature’s bounty. But life gets hectic and grabbing a meal out or making something quick from a box is so much easier. You remember to pop a multi-vitamin to make up for the nutritional lack, so everything is all good, right?
Not quite. Yes, plants provide us with so many vital nutrients, many of which aren’t going to be found in your standard multi-vitamin – but there’s more to the story. Science continues to show us that the more we restrict plants in our diet, the more damaging the consequences. It’s been shown that the more meat and animal products we consume, the greater our risk for serious, chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
It isn’t just that those who eat a diet that leans towards plant-based tend to have a lower body mass index, it’s also that eating animal products put additional stress on the body. When we metabolize red meat and processed meat products, like deli meat or bacon, we produce toxins as a byproduct, and this can cause damage to our vital organs, not to mention inflammation which is the main precursor to many chronic diseases. Cutting back on animal products and favoring a plant-based diet is one of the most important moves you can take towards a cleaner lifestyle.
Eating more plants and less meat is also beneficial to the environment because it reduces your carbon footprint. Depending on who you ask, livestock production is responsible for anywhere from 15% to more than 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the waste products from all these animals? It’s responsible for more than 30% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing meat consumption reduces the demand on the livestock industry, and will eventually help reduce the significant impact on the environment.
Choose Locally Grown Foods
The fewer steps your food takes to make the journey from the farm to your table, the better, and the effects are far-reaching. Choosing locally grown food reduces the stress placed on the environment by transporting foods. That’s lots of carbon emissions that never make it into the environment.
Plus, choosing locally grown foods is better for your health. Not only are you reducing the number of chemicals and preservatives in your diet, but you’re also eating more in tune with how nature intended. I know, if you live in a colder climate you might be thinking that you’d be living off a diet of snow and ice for several months a year. However, spring through fall there’s plenty of nutritious, locally grown foods to enjoy. Try making a weekly date to browse your local farmer’s market or familiarize yourself with local farmers in your area and speak to them about purchasing from them directly.
Packaging can be a big deal for living a cleaner lifestyle in several ways. First, the less packaging your food comes with the better. For instance, the produce section of your grocery store contains little packaging compared to the inner aisles of the store. This also happens to be the section where you’ll find the most nutritionally dense offerings that also happen to place less stress on the environment.
Still, it’s next to impossible to avoid packaging altogether but you can become more conscious about it. Maybe begin by cutting out some processed, packaged food from your diet, and then looking at how you can minimize packaging when it is necessary. For example, consider buying foods like crackers, nuts, and cereal in bulk instead of buying individual packages.
You can also get smart about the type of reusable containers you use to store food. First, make sure any plastic you use is BPA-free, and secondly, start making moves to ditch the plastic altogether. Plastic can leach chemicals into your food, which only becomes worse when there’s a drastic change in temperature – like when you pop your leftovers in the microwave.
It can be expensive to completely replace your food storage system but it’s something that can be more manageable if you start piece by piece. Always bring salads to work? Pack them into glass mason jars instead. Heat leftovers in the microwave for dinner a few nights of the week? Pick up a couple of larger size microwave-safe glass dishes to heat them up in instead. Also, don’t forget to see if your plastic food containers are recyclable before you ditch them.
There’s something about a freshly cleaned environment, whether it’s your bedroom, kitchen, or garage, that provides an immediate mood boost. A clean environment is generally a happier environment; however, this might not be the case if the products you use to clean with are filled with harmful toxins.
Not only do these toxins make it into the air in your home, but they also linger on surfaces that can leave you and your family exposed to their toxic effects. Even after a good rinse of the kitchen counter, the toxic residue can remain. Think about how many times you, or the food you eat, touches these surfaces. There’s also the fact that kids and pets, with more delicate systems, are exposed to additional cleaning toxins on floors and other surfaces.
Take an inventory of your cleaning supplies and spend some time looking over the list of ingredients. Even those cleaning supplies that claim to be “green” can contain ingredients that still don’t make it onto the list of safe, non-toxic cleaning agents.
When in doubt, your pantry is a good place to find safe cleansers for your entire home. Vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, or even salt as a gentle abrasive, all work wonders. Add a few nontoxic essential oils, and you won’t miss your old cleaners at all. You can check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning for more advice.
Go Green for Clean Skin
A regular skincare routine is essential for the health and appearance of your skin. When you think about it, skincare is one area where we’re most vulnerable to exposure to toxins. We cleanse our face, then apply moisturizers and use cosmetics that are absorbed through the porous surface of the skin. Maybe you remember a couple of years back when it was discovered that a primary sunscreen ingredient - avobenzone – became toxic when mixed with chlorine and presented as a possible carcinogen. The simple fact is, that with many ingredients found in standard skincare, there’s just a lot that we don’t yet know.
So, why take chances, or trust that any predetermined “safe” amount of a toxin, especially one with the potential to be carcinogenic, is safe at all?
When it comes to skincare, look for products that contain natural ingredients that are gentle and effective for your skin type. Fortunately, more companies have acknowledged their responsibilities and are committed to producing products that are safe for their users, clean for the environment, and free of animal testing.
Take Small Steps, Starting Today
You don’t have to completely change the way you’re living overnight in order to live a cleaner lifestyle. Each step you take, no matter how small, has a significant impact. Drastic changes aren’t always sustainable, but smaller shifts are. Start with these five steps and begin living a cleaner, healthier life today.