Choosing Better Products

I would love to buy the healthiest of products 100% of the time.  However, like most people, I don’t have unlimited dollars at my disposal. Because of that, I prioritize my spending based on a few basic criteria.

A)  Consumed items are the highest on the list.  This includes the food we eat and the beverages we consume.  The goal is raw food… foods in their basic (intended) form that are then combined with other foods and flavours from other raw foods to create something wonderful and new.  

B)  Next are items that aren’t consumed but can very easily make their way into our blood streams.  We spend a bit more to buy toothpaste, dish soap, shampoo, dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, lotions, etc. that subject us to minimal SLS, Fluoride, Parabens, Scent, Colour, various random chemicals and (gasp!) SPF.  (Yes, that last one is worthy of a post all its own.)

For a couple years now, I’ve used the  Skin Deep site (from the Environmental Working Group) as a great resource.  You can search on the harmfulness of your own beauty products, but here is a list of things to avoid, by category.    With over 65,000 products in its database, you can check out a product’s Overall Score (rated 0-10, lower is better) and read what kind of health concern is associated with it.  As an example, I just checked out the lip balm I use.  It get’s an overall score of 2 (that’s a green light) and health concen “low”.  Pretty good.  (Whew!  Because I really like that stuff.)

C)  Everything else. 

Although the highest priority is given to the food we eat, we simply cannot afford to purchase only 100% organic, free range, home grown, pesticide free, local foods.  I’d like to, but I can’t. 

That’s why I find this list helpful.  This is based on American products, however I can’t help but think it’s a good place to start for those of us on this side of the border as well.  The US Environmental Working Group has tested produce and discovered that these products have the highest pesticide levels.  I’m not sure if it’s driven by the amount of pesticides/fungusides used on those crops, or if some of the product skins are more permeable than others.  Probably both, since none of these products are peeled to be eaten.  Either way, here they are; 

The Dirty Dozen:

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries (American)
  6. Nectarines
  7. Sweet Bell Peppers
  8. Spinach
  9. Cherries
  10. Kale/ Collard Greens
  11. Potatoes
  12. Grapes (not North American)

It would be great to have the latest figures for Canada, and for meat in particular.  I must get on that.  In the meantime, as we get ready to plant our garden (this week!), we will include as many of these as I can manage, that are already consumed regularly by our family.   And I’ve wanted a pair of apple trees for what seems like forever.  Maybe this will be the year to actually get around to planting them.   (I’ll try not to think too much about how, if my procrastinator-self had planted them when we moved into this house, we’d already be enjoying their deliciousness.) 

I recently came across another great resource for those of us wishing to make better decisions about the products we use.  The GoodGuide site covers more than just food and cosmetics, and rates items on the basis of health, environmental and societal factors.  They look at a company’s business ethics, philanthropy, and working conditions.  They go as far as looking at the global supply chain as part of their analysis to understand their resource management and environmental impact and give an overview of products.   I have only compared the two sites on a couple of products and their opinion of those products ranked in relative proximity to one another.  

Since I am someone who tends to challenge the status quo, I don’t really take anyone’s word for anything without doing a little figuring out on my own.  I am all about informed choice.  That’s why I’m thrilled to see these two sites available for people to review the information and form their own opinions.  It’s empowering to make good choices!   A good choice isn’t made on the basis of what people tell you to do.  It’s made by fact finding, soul searching and in some cases, a leap of faith.

And remember, we vote with our dollars. 

We do.  Where we spend our money makes a statement, like it or not.  We are called to be good stewards.  The cumulative impact of dollars going toward ethical and healthy products will ultimately benefit that company and allow them to do even more good, while at the same time taking dollars from companies that continually produce unhealthy foods and beverages for us to consume.   That’s stewardship. 

What would the EWG and GoodGuide say about the products in your home?  How is the ‘food department?’  The beauty department?  The cleaning department?  It’s not hard to change things up in favour of healthier options that are still affordable. 

Baby steps will get you there and you will feel and live better for it!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jen
    May 23, 2011 @ 09:06:28

    I struggle lately with “local” vs “organic”. It was brought to my attention, that one of my favorite family owned farms where we buy a lot of produce…also use a lot of pesticides. Ack! Do I want to stick with my “buy-local” mantra….or alter it to “buy-local…and organic!”…LOL! O course, I’ll be growing my own veggies as well…..but it won’t be enough ….and we don’t have apple tree’s either.

    Right now, I haven’t really focused at all on cleaning/beauty products. In truth….if I have time to clean….I’ll grab whatever I can to clean with! 🙂 Probably someday….but I’m just focusing my attention on whole foods….local when possible. The whole big world of learning/fretting about everything else….compleetly overwhelmes me sometimes.


    • joyandcontentment
      May 23, 2011 @ 09:48:17

      I know what you mean, Jen. Local isn’t necessarily good for you. The one that really gets me is strawberries. I’ve only picked them twice in the last 10 years, because they are so heavily doused with fungicides to combat all the spring rains. I will, however, be planting some this year. I’ll let you know how it goes.

      The majority of my cleaning happens with vinegar and baking soda. Ditching the Windex and Comet is a cheap and easy place to start if you’re looking for those baby steps I mentioned.


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