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Why we live the natural way

aspenI have a longstanding interest in environmental issues, particularly when it comes to the effects of pollutants and chemicals on our health. Once I had my son, this concern for the environment became intertwined with a desire to protect his health. I diapered him in cloth, dressed him in organic clothes, used glass baby bottles, prepared homemade meals with organic ingredients, provided him with wooden toys and researched all the baby products we used on him (baby shampoo, lotions, etc.) to make sure they had low levels of known toxins.

I’m not a scientist. I’ll never know whether any of this made a difference. I’m just a mom who wanted to give her son the healthiest start possible in life.

For me, it’s all about taking a precautionary approach. One of the things I learned in my career was that there is a big difference in the way chemicals are regulated in the United States and Europe. In Europe, regulators follow the precautionary principle — basically, chemical manufacturers have to prove that new formulations are not harmful before they can be introduced. In the United States, our approach is the opposite — manufacturers can introduce new chemicals as long as they’re not proven harmful. That might not seem like much a difference, but in practice it means a great deal. Just think about how difficult it is to prove anything definitively, especially when big chemical manufacturers have millions of dollars invested into their products. My feeling is, why take the risk of causing harm when you don’t have to?

In practice, for us that means that we buy grass-fed, free-range and organic meats and eggs whenever we can. Of course, it is not always in our budget to do so, but we make this a priority because some chemicals and toxins are easily stored in fats. We also try to buy organic versions of the fruits and vegetables on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list (I have the app on my phone, so I can easily check it while I’m at the store). I also try to buy products that have low hazard ratings on the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database, particularly for our son. When it comes to cleaners, I make my own or buy natural versions. We also avoid plastics whenever possible: we use glass storage containers, steel water bottles and primarily wooden toys.

But natural living for me isn’t just about protecting our health, it’s also about setting a good example for our son about what it means to be a good steward of our environment. So we recycle. We buy used items. We reuse items. We live in a community where we can walk to the post office, grocery store, restaurants, library, playgrounds, etc. And we take time to go out in nature and experience the wonderful world around us. After all, there’s not much point in protecting the environment if you don’t get to enjoy it.

What’s important to you when it comes to eco-friendly living?

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