Going Low Tox

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Have you ever signed up for something and then realised you were taking on a bit too much? Yep we all have. I can see you nodding your head! In fact, I’m a repeat offender but I never learn.

Contemplation

I had been itching to do a low tox course for a few years but resisted due to many other ‘things’ happening in my life. Other courses I was undertaking, a new baby, renovating a house and the list goes on. I call them excuses but maybe it was me starting to realise that I can’t do it all. But you make time for what’s important in your life.

Preparation

I was pretty proud of the changes we have made over the years in our ‘low tox’ journey but my motto is to never stop learning and improving. I’ve been listening to Alexx Stuart’s podcasts for ages and following her social media pages for tips and tricks. So I finally bit the bullet and signed up to do her Go Low Tox course.  It’s an online course run a few times a year that you undertake over a five week period.  As described by Alexx it’s ‘..designed to help you switch and ditch environmental toxins across our day to day choices.’

A new topic is delivered daily…well except on Fridays and Saturdays which are ‘rest’ days (or days to catch up on the week’s content!) And Sundays were meditation days. Me being me was very tempted to skip Sunday’s content but so glad I didn’t as going ‘low tox’ is as much about your emotional and mental well being as it is your physical. I was super excited and eager to learn more information to help us on our low tox journey. I was dedicated to doing this five week ‘intensive’ and keeping up with the content. There was also a private Facebook chat group where you could ask questions, get advice and share your thoughts and products: such an invaluable (and motivating) part. And as part of the incentive to change, there were product give aways to course participants (I received this beautiful shopping bag that is seriously the best) and discounts when buying items from certain ‘low tox’ stores.

Action

And….the day before it started, my husband fell of a ladder at home. A few broken bones in his arm and wrist, two operations and a few overnight hospital visits later he was home. So that was a great start but we were lucky it wasn’t anything worse. However, those hours I spent waiting in the hospital actually allowed me to get through the reading content easily (thanks to the grandparents for being home with the kids to allow them to be as ‘normal’ as possible). And the driving back and forth allowed me to listen to the ‘experts’ being interviewed and recommended podcasts. Every cloud has a silver lining hey?

The first couple of weeks were a challenge. You don’t realise how much another pair of ‘hands’ help around the house…especially with doing things for the kids so you can have some ‘me’ (or study!) time. Feeding them, bathing them, taking them to the toilet, changing nappies, and the list goes on. Luckily his ability to entertain the kids wasn’t affected! Then towards the end of the course, the husband with the broken arm went overseas on a business trip for 10 days. The funny thing is, you cope when you have to and when you know you don’t have the support there. I often didn’t get to the day’s content until 9pm at night. And some days I listened to two lots of interviews in the one day. But I actually looked forward to this little oasis in my learning journey. And the beauty of it was some days I was ‘all sorted.’ Meaning I had nothing or very little to improve, throw out, rehome or replace so it was easy (although still enjoyed the reading and other low tox options to explore). And some days the content was short and sharp so done in no time.

Changes

So enough of my hurdles along the way. Did I do it? What is it about? What changes have I made? Should you do it?

Well you can read about it in more detail here but briefly these are the main topics AND the changes I have made so far. On each of the days, Alexx goes into the ‘tox’ side of things, what to avoid and options to consider moving forward whether it be what you do or product recommendations for all budgets (including DIY ones which are kind of fun).

  • Endocrine disrupting chemicals: this was to the scene and educate the course members about why they are doing this and what the ‘high tox’ dangers are that seem to be ubiquitous in our everyday life and everything we touch.
  • Plastic free living: Aargh! I thought I was doing a good job with plastic until this post really made me examine all the plastic in my kitchen, and the kids rooms and well everywhere. There was still alot of work to do. I’ve now made a concerted effort to do as much soft plastic recycling as possible in addition to the normal recycling. I’ve swapped out all my kids plastic cutlery, plates and cups for metal ones and Falcon enamel ware. I’ve got glass containers for freezer storage of food. I’ve ditched my plastic utensils and colanders in favour of wood and metal. I’m using beeswax wraps instead of cling wrap and I store produce in the fridge in cotton bags. Not perfect but a step in the right direction with more on my action list.
  • Home cleaning: I’m pretty set with this. I was already using low tox options and DIY concoctions although some don’t work as well as I’d like so this gave me a few new options. Vinegar and bicarb soda (and essential oils for a lovely aroma) do wonders for so many things!
  • Laundry: Again mostly sorted except I CANNOT find anything that works as well as Napisan for soaking the kids stained clothes. Still searching. But do you know how good pure eucalyptus oil is as a spot stain remover?
  • Face: skincare, cosmetics, mens face and shaving. Another day of content where I was like ‘yep doing that already.’ Except the male personal care products. Work in progress, product by product. Men are fussier than women sometimes! What I did though, was try a few new products from Black Chicken. Slightly more expensive than the ones I currently use but oh so luxurious. And nowhere near the cost of some of those big skincare conglomerates.
  • Body care – scrubs, lotions, suncare and self tanning: Already low tox here too for the whole family. But I loved a few of the DIY body scrub and body cream options to try and be creative with. And one of the big take aways when examining labels with lots of ingredients: once you find one nasty ingredient don’t bother wasting your time looking at the rest because it’s already no longer an option!
  • Personal Hygiene: Yep we’re on track here too. Plus a small win in throwing out that men’s Rexona deodorant and replacing it with the Weleda Sage Deodorant. I myself use the Black Chicken Axilla Paste and have for a few years. Also did you know that most toilet paper is bleached (as are menstrual pads and tampons) and fragranced? More high tox items that we don’t think about.  We currently use the Who Gives A Crap toilet paper which is the best option I’ve found that ticks the boxes. Plus they donate 50% of their profit to build toilets for communities in need.
  • Makeup: I’ve slowly been moving to low tow makeup for years. Everytime something runs out and needs replacing I choose a low tox option. Not that I wear it anywhere near the amount I use to! But I cannot find a low tox eyeliner pen that gives me the precision I need. So my Stila one is here to stay in the foreseeable future. Pick your battles. However if you want a mascara that is fantastic and smells delicious (umm hello blackberries), check out this 100% Pure Black Tea one.
  • Kids: Wow what a minefield. Personal product wise we’re good, but toys are another story. So many endocrine disrupters (specifically phthalates) lurking in everything that surrounds our kids. So we’ve done a clean up, particularly in the bath where the plastic toys are heated which promotes leaching of chemicals. We’ve got Green Toys in there now. Still plastic but from 100% recyclable products and BPA, PVC and phthalate free. And even though I’d swapped our baby wipes over to Joonya a long time ago, nappies were a different story. I just can’t do cloth nappies so now I’m using Tooshies by Tom. And the best thing for nappy rash is plain old coconut oil or papaya (paw paw) ointment (just don’t get one that’s petroleum derived).
  • Hair and nails: Hair I’m good with but loved the new options to try. Nails was another story. I’m just not ready to give up my acrylic nails but have made an effort to stop using Shellac and have replaced all my nail polishes with low tox ones. Yes they went in the BIN! You need to look for ones that are ‘5 free’ or ‘7 free’. Nourished Life have quite a few options in amazing colours.
  • Teeth, fluoride and water filtration: Again we’re sorted here. If you’re wanting to know a little more about fluoride and water filtration have a read of some of my previous posts here and here. We already use low tox toothpaste for all the family (Grants with Xylitol and Weleda Childrens tooth gel), a Zazen water filter and shower head and Vitamin C in the bath water. But I’m keen on giving bamboo toothbrushes a go when we’ve used up our current stash.
  • Cookware and bakeware: Some big ticket items here that still need addressing in our kitchen but we are on the way. I only use glass or ceramic baking dishes and have my Soliteknics pans. But its those ‘teflon’ coated things like pots and slow cookers and sandwich presses that are still problematic. PTFE’s and PFOA’s are chemicals commonly used in these products that have known health concerns. On the list to replace. And why oh why do Thermomix use plastic accessories? This is one of my major disappointments with the product. I’ve sent them some feedback asking for stainless steel accessories to be made available.
  • Bedroom: In here are more of those big ticket items. The mattress, doona, pillows and bedsheets. Many dangerous and known human carcinogens lurk in some of these products that you literally spend years of your life sleeping on. And this is often worse if they are imported depending on their origin. Our (very expensive) mattress is only a few years old so isn’t being replaced in the near future. But at least I’m better informed now when making choices for our kids. In fact I’ve just ordered some Organature pillows for them.
  • Heavy metals, dust and mould in the home: These are everywhere and the problem is often compounded by materials used when building or renovating and when you purchase new furniture. Choose carefully as some things take years to ‘off gas’ but that’s a post for another day. One big take away from this was to make sure you have a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter so all the stuff you suck up doesn’t just get recirculated. Yay my Dyson has a HEPA filter! If you are building or renovating your home (or even just interested in making your current home ‘healthier’), this book by Building Biologist Nicole Bijlsma is absolutely invaluable for your family’s health. My copy has so many sticky notes attached to it of what I need to action.
  • Clothing: We have a lot of work to do here! I don’t think I own any item of clothing that is made of GOTS certified organic cotton. But truthfully, it doesn’t all need too. Just look for companies that have sound human rights, sustainability and environmental ethics. You can usually tell by reading their mission statement. If they are doing something sustainable or enviromental or ethical they will shout it from the rooftops. Cheap clothes have consequences downstream that the consumer doesn’t see. And second hand clothes that still have life in them are a perfect way to help stem the tide of this currently unsustainable and throw away industry.

I also kept a notebook with points each day to follow up, investigate, replace or buy. This kind of enabled me to get through the content but not stress on actually completing the ‘doing’ part on the day. It was there when I got the time. And still is. I have quite a few things in our house that aren’t going anywhere in the short term. But when we are ready to replace or upgrade, I have the tools and knowledge to make a better choice next time.

One of the quotes that we kept being reminded of during the course was this:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou.

Just do it

This course is seriously life changing. It doesn’t matter how far you are in your journey, Alexx has many, many options and alternatives to suit people’s lifestyles and budgets. And she is super encouraging and supportive. She calls it ‘low tox’ for a reason. You really can’t achieve a ‘no tox’ lifestyle so why try and promote the unacheivable. People often take years or decades to get to the point they are at in their low tox journey. The information is there so you can address whatever is relevant for you at this point in time. The ‘low hanging fruit’ I call it. And the rest, often being the harder, big ticket and more expensive things you can have a plan to work towards. And she has a few different options so you can still access the information at a later date if you need to catch up. Or when your ready to tackle it.

There are a few courses out there but in my opinion (and no affiliation here) this is the most comprehensive and practical. If you’re interested (you must be if you’ve read this far), check out Alexx’s website for details and when the next course is running.

And remember its not a race or a competition. Its about sharing, learning and educating within your own community and circle.

Happy ‘low toxing!’

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