Three out of four people in my family have very fair skin, so we take skin care and sun protection pretty seriously. This is our pool/beach routine and because we do it every time, it happens like clockwork.
We use sunscreen year round, but in summer months, all of us slather it on before we leave the house no matter what. On days we know we are swimming we use Badger or Honest. If we are only going to the park, then we use my daily SPF moisturizer from Devita (I talk about it more here), which isn’t water resistant. Each of these get a top rating from EWG, go on easy and are unscented. And don’t forget the lip balm—I have this in every drawer and bag in my house.
We are also a hat and rash guard family—parents, too (nerd alert!). Thankfully the kids are used to it, so they haven’t put up too much of a fight yet. And rash guards make pool time so much easier—less sunscreen to reapply. We like Hanna Anderson, Coolibar and Lands’ End for these. Hats just make sense—I wish I had been doing it my entire life. The adults wear sunglasses, but the kids prefer goggles when swimming.
Honest makes my favorite new swim diapers. They are so much easier to get on and off and so much less waste because they are reusable. We use the swim diaper like a bikini bottom for my daughter and just throw on the rash guard as the top. For women, you really need to wear a bathing suit under the rash guard top—it feels a bit too loose/revealing without it.
These things are kind of like bike helmets. If it is just a family rule, then there isn’t much arguing and it becomes the norm. Thankfully it doesn’t seem like we stand out too much … many families at the pool are doing the same thing.
As a side note, a friend asked me if I was worried about chlorine in the pool (because she knows I am super cognizant of toxins). No, absolutely not. Untreated pool water poses so many more hazards. Just use well-ventilated pools (rather than indoor pools) and be sure to shower off afterward—we always do. The chlorine does dry out my skin, so I apply organic baby oil all over at night.
p.s. More from EWG on sunscreen safety and toxicity, and also why spray-on sunscreens should be avoided.
Maybe you already know this easy trick for a really bubbly bubble bath—but I just learned it. Instead of waiting until the bath is full and then adding the bubble bath (which always seems to require quite a lot to make it bubbly enough), add the liquid at the very beginning when there is barely any water (just make sure the drain is already plugged). It requires much less liquid and creates tons more bubbles. Children also love watching the bubbles build as the water fills.
If you’d like to know more about how we do baths, go here.
fantastic cloth napkins from Fog Linen
A few years ago, I attempted (and failed miserably) to go paperless in our kitchen. I loved the idea, but I just couldn’t work out a system to ditch my paper towels successfully. But one thing did stick: using cloth napkins at every meal.
We have a dozen white cotton napkins that we keep folded in a big stack. Being white, they are easy to keep clean, and I definitely don’t iron them.
I totally get that this sounds like a lot of extra effort, but the additional laundry is minimal, and it really makes a meal feel so much more special and purposeful (especially those very humble dinners following a sleepless night!). Now those pretty napkins from our wedding aren’t sitting in a closet gathering dust. We use them and enjoy them every day.
Just an idea.
Napkins above from Fog Linen.
If you are looking to reduce toxins in your home, your laundry detergent is a great, effective and really easy place to start. Most popular detergents are potentially very harmful. EWG (the Environmental Working Group) analyzes the ingredients and provides scores for many cleaners on the marketplace (I check everything on here before purchasing). Gain laundry detergent, All laundry detergent, Tide laundry detergent, and Dreft (!!) all receive a failing grade and rank very highly for developmental and reproductive toxicity.
Here’s the good news: this is super easy to fix. Just buy new detergent! The downside is the safe brands can be pricier and aren’t available at all stores. We use Ecover ZERO Laundry Liquid Concentrate, and I usually buy it online (vitacost.com often has the best price). We have an HE front-loading washer, and it seems to work great for our family. I balance the more expensive laundry detergent by making many of my own non-toxic household cleaners for mere pennies.
If you are in the market for a new detergent, here are many options that all receive grade A from EWG (Whole Foods carries a lot of these, and I think Publix has Martha Stewart and Seventh Generation).
1. Ecover ZERO Liquid Laundry Concentrate 2. Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent, Free & Clear 3. Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent, HE Elite Care, Free & Clear 4. Martha Stewart Clean Laundry Detergent 5. Planet 2x Ultra Laundry Detergent, For HE 6. Planet Ultra Laundry Detergent, Hypoallergenic 7. Plant Ulta Powered Laundry Detergent 8. The Honest Company 4-in-1 Laundry Pods, Free & Clear 9. Seventh Generation Natural Powder Laundry Detergent, Free & Clear 10. Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Packs, Free & Clear 11. Seventh Generation Natural Powder Laundry Detergent, Real Citrus & Wild Lavender
Even the green brands (Seventh Generation, Honest, etc), have certain products that do not rank well on EWG. My advice is to check each individual product on EWG (which is totally free to use) and go from there. Sounds tedious, but once you find your go-to products, you won’t have to look again! To me the extra effort is worth it for our health. (Or just stayed tuned here because I’ll be posting about all of the non-toxic products we use! :))
Lastly, I’ve looked into homemade laundry detergent, as many tout this as a very safe and cost-effective method. I’d love to do this, but every recipe I have found that works in an HE front-loading washer includes Borax, which EWG also grades as an F (contrary to popular thought). I have also read about soap nuts, but I need to look into it more (I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews). If you have another method or idea, I’d love to hear!
About two years into our toxin-free journey, I realized our old coffee maker was not as healthy as I thought. Sure the carafe was glass, but I never considered the water well (where the water is heated), was full-on plastic. How frustrating is that? If you are interested in making your own coffee routine more toxin-free, here are some ideas:
How you brew the coffee: Our solution: A percolator. It is completely stainless steel throughout and very simple to use. I am not sure why they went out of fashion! We absolutely love ours—going on four years strong. Ours doesn’t even require filters, although you can easily find them at the grocery store if you’d like. For us, it is one less thing to think about.
Where you store the grounds: I use a glass canister from Target. We’ve had it for years. We also use a wood scoop that my husband turned himself (those plastic scoops can’t be made of anything good, right?)
What you drink it out of: We use ceramic or porcelain mugs. Never, ever drink a hot beverage out of styrofoam or plastic. We use extra tall mugs for taking it in the car—I’ve yet to find a travel mug that I trust. On the rare occasion we do buy coffee out, we make sure it is in a paper cup and we remove any plastic lid.
Coffee itself: Whenever possible, we buy fair trade organic coffee. We are not picky about which kind—whatever is on sale!
A few tips about using a percolator: Some people think it makes weaker coffee. That’s easy to fix—just grind the beans finer and use a little bit more. To turn it on or off, just plug or unplug (might be obvious to some people, but it took me a good five minutes to figure this out ha!). You cannot program it, and it doesn’t automatically shut off, so you will have to remember to do that. Bonus: It has a small footprint, so you can easily store it in a cabinet when not in use.
A final thought: consider ditching the artificial sweeteners. I know it can be so hard, but if you have to add something sweet, try using organic sugar.