I keep losing track of my car in parking lots because half of the Colorado population seemingly also drives a Subaru Outback. What a difference in the kind of people I'm surrounded by out here compared to my last home. Boston was a great place for my academic self to grind on steady work ethic and put myself where I am now, but there was a big lack of wellness being fostered for people and the planet. I don't feel so strange here wanting to spend my free time outdoors or carrying around a reusable canteen and recycling every piece of paper in sight. Call it the crunchy granola lifestyle (as my friends back home do) but the prevalence of consciousness for the environment and personal health makes me feel right at home.
At the end of January I stripped my wardrobe down even further to the basics, gathered up my minimalist belongings, and packed them into 6 boxes. Now I'm here and in the midst of setting up an apartment to the best ethical, non-toxic, and sustainable standards I can. Take these suggestions into consideration and remember that new habits take time to form.
How do we avoid harm to the environment without making big lifestyle sacrifices?
Environmental consciousness is a tricky concept and I've been toying with the above question. I care so much but also fully aware of the sacrifice it takes to avoid inflicting harm. I'm not going to stop driving or using electricity. That's extreme, right? Making a personal pledge to do what I can, when I can within reason is the best bet for my lifestyle. Outfitting your life can be an investment in future health of yourself and the environment. I suppose this goes along with my philosophy of using functional nutrition as preventive healthcare. It took a lot of research and hours of pondering but overall I'm extremely pleased with how the apartment is turning out. So, cheers to hoping these tips and links can help you too create a more ethical, sustainable, and non-toxic home.
Invest in a non-toxic mattress.
I was surprised when the non-toxic mattress I bought online was delivered and had zero odor. Ever had a new mattress that smells horrific for the first few weeks? Yeah, that's the synthetic, chemical-laden materials it's made and sprayed with. Next to proper nutrition, sleep is vital for achieving optimal health. Giving your body proper rest and time to restore itself can't be substituted by any magic food, pill, or treatment. Like anything, non-toxic mattresses come in an array of qualities, prices, and materials. I found mine via this list from The Good Trade.
Tuck into organic sheets + towels.
Just like with clothes, why would you want to sleep wrapped up in chemicals? Support companies that utilize ethical practices in their factories and sustainable sourcing. Beyond organic, sometimes on products you'll see certifications like Fair Trade or Oeko-Tex. These are essentially guarantees of good company practices. Some good brands to look into include West Elm, Boll & Branch, and Threshold by Target.
Look for fair trade, sustainably sourced furniture.
Believe it or not, more companies than you'd think are focusing on fair trade wood, sustainable sourcing, and recycled textiles. Anyone who has ever bought cheap furniture knows the lack of durability with use. I less-than-fondly remember my ikea coffee table in college that chipped at even the slightest knick. Shop vintage, second-hand, and buy fewer new things of better quality that can last your lifetime.
Purge (your belongings).
Functional living begins with less. This one is more for your own well-being than for the environment. Living with less has felt incredibly liberating for me. I have a rule now that if I haven't touched something in 6 months - 1 year, it gets sold or donated. This stands for clothes, books, knickknacks, you name it. Embracing a rather minimalist philosophy has been extremely useful for moving and generally feeling well in my home.
Consider white walls.
I love blank, white walls. Maybe I ought to partially attribute such a preference to the fact that I did my undergraduate degree in visual art and art history. Being oversaturated with imagery for 3 years made me appreciate black + white everything. But actually, I picked up this preference at Stråla Yoga's home studio in NYC where I did my guide training. They have blank white walls with the intention to create space for your own thoughts, nothing is being forced upon you. White walls might sound boring, but I find myself at ease in the place I go to rest and restore. The feedback from visitors has also been positive with remarks like "wow I feel so calm" and "it's so clean".
Fill up the space with plants.
I'm a plant lady. I had more plants than utensils in this apartment for the first week I lived here. I'm not ready to get a dog or approach motherhood but I'm doing a good job of keeping plants alive and kickin'. Teaching yourself to have a green thumb is both empowering and rewarding. Like hey, I can keep this little thing alive! Indoor plants are useful for purifying the air, removing VOCs, and adding humidity to a space. Plus, as someone who detests clutter, they're real attractive in my estimation. Right now is a funky time to get house plants because the greenhouses that much of the country's house plants are grown in were destroyed during the wild weather events of 2017.
Have a check of the air you breathe.
Forced air isn't awesome for your health unless it goes through some fancy and sophisticated purification. Whatever dust and microbes are in the air vents will be blowing around the room be it air conditioning or forced hot air. Particularly in the summer, you'll learn to self-regulate your own temperature better and (more obviously) won't be using so much electricity when you opt for more open windows and less air conditioning.
Get serious about kitchen waste.
A few posts ago I wrote up the guide to creating a Sustainable + Non-Toxic Kitchen. Some key things to help you do better is to either get rid of paper towels or buy reusable paper towels. Perhaps a compost bin would also be useful. Swap out toxic products for clean ones or create your own to save some serious money. Hot water, baking soda, white vinegar, and some essential oils actually can do the trick for cleaning just about everything in your kitchen. For better-made environmentally products to stock your kitchen, I'm digging EcoMountain Home Store. They're local to Denver, but have an online shop for your convenience.
Make sure there's a recycling bin.
Okay, this might sound too crunchy to handle, but I don't have a garbage can in my bathroom. This forces me to walk to the kitchen where there is ALSO a recycling bin. And when I think about it, most of what I'm getting rid of in the bathroom is made of recyclable paper or plastic. Alternatively, and perhaps more reasonably, put 2 small bins for garbage and recycling in your bathroom.
Outfit the space with conscious goods.
Bamboo utensil organizers, earthenware planters, stainless steel baskets, sugarcane and recycled plastic hangers are just a few of the suggestions I can make. You can even buy recycled notebook paper and pens made from soy-based ink these days. This will come easier as you begin to embrace living with less. Purchases become more intentional and you'll likely be more inclined to do your research beforehand. What a time to be alive with internet access, eh?