Twenty years ago organic food was not so popular, but I sought it out. People would ask me, a struggling single mother at the time, how I could afford organic groceries. The heart of my decision to shop organic was, and still is, the principle of it. I know I’m directly supporting the environmental movement every day, plain and simple.
Today organic groceries can be found in almost every grocery store in America. Healthier, organic food has become the norm for many, and there is more collective knowledge about what organic means.
This message isn’t about healthy food. It’s about sustainable choices. We need to embrace change (yesterday!) and apply what we’ve learned about the food we eat to products we buy for everyday use. The chemicals used in conventional products and their manufacturing are just as dangerous as chemicals used in agriculture.
Observing the explosion of Whole Foods Market all over the map, it’s not hard to imagine a paradigm shift from “more for less” to “less is more.” Are you with me? Great! Read on for seven simple tips to help you keep your mind where your heart is while you’re shopping for everyday items.
1. Think quality, not quantity. Once you adopt a minimalist mentality, it is very difficult to go back. No more going to a dollar store for two items and ending up spending $20.
2. Support local. Read labels to find out where things are made. Unfortunately most items are made elsewhere, but it’s like striking gold when a surprise “Made in America” label is found. When you find products you love made in your region, state or country, latch on and don’t let go. Why not inform friends and neighbors, as well?
3. Disposables and planned obsolescence. Seek out longer lasting, recyclable, reusable or compostable alternatives to disposable or short-lived products you currently use, like diapers, razors, toothbrushes, feminine products, light bulbs, paper towels and napkins, paper plates, plasticware and cups, trash bags, sandwich & storage bags, and grocery bags. If you’re unsure where to find these alternatives, please leave a comment for us below.
4. Think about sources. What materials were used, using what chemicals in the process? For example, cotton fabric is made from soft plant fibers, so it’s perfect for textiles, but cotton is considered the world’s dirtiest crop involving tremendous amounts of pesticides, chemical treatments and water. Organic cotton is an excellent substitute, and as we continue buying more of it, more options will become available.
5. Awaken your senses. Commercial household cleaning products and personal-care products are made with chemicals that are toxic to the people manufacturing them, the people using them, animals that come into contact with them, and the water systems where they end up. You can smell the pollution walking down the cleaning-products isle at conventional grocery stores. If it doesn’t smell like something from nature, don’t buy it. Tip: go to a health food store and sniff the pure essential oil samplers to get a better idea of what non-toxic scents from nature smell like.
6. Educate yourself and others. Tell people what you learn about consumerism, toxics, trash, and great alternatives. We have an opportunity to change the future for the better by educating children. To get my daughter to understand what clothes (something she has a genuine interest in) are made of, we made up a game I’ll call “animal, plant or other.” Her eyes lit up when she realized that the cotton shirt she was wearing was made from plant flowers. When I explained that rayon fabric is mostly made from wood pulp, she was like, “Whaaat?!” In a fun way, that forced her to think about material processes.
7. Take it in stride. Don’t go out and replace everything all at once. I suggest you take it as it comes, which will give you time to research better options. When you need new sheets, buy organic cotton sheets. When you need new razors and toothbrushes, buy Preserve recyclables. And on and on.
“Change is the only constant.” –Heraclitus