Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Organics and leaving the sanctuary

As part of my book project on environmental toxins, I've been cutting all sources of pesticides and toxins from my diet. That means that anything conventionally grown or containing artificial colors and flavors are out. This also means that I have to be very careful not to slip into old habits and absent-mindedly eat something that doesn't fit these parameters.

One of the biggest issues has been eating out or grabbing something on the go. We rarely eat out as it is, but the problem is that there are generally few restaurants, even in Seattle, that serve an all-organic menu. Even if there are organic items on the menu, that doesn't mean that the whole meal is organic. It's the same story with coffee shops. Even if the coffee beans are organic, they don't always offer organic milk and, if you want to eat something there, inevitably you are more likely to find vegan options over organic ones.

The other big issue when going out is going to the bathroom. It sounds strange, but I've started carrying my own liquid hand soap in a little reusable container. Why? Because most public bathrooms don't stock non-toxic soap.

Instead, these soaps are heavily perfumed (in other words, contain endocrine disrupting phthalates), are chock full of the anti-bacterial triclosan and contain various estrogenic preservatives known as parabens. And, don't get me started on air fresheners in these bathrooms - that cloying stench of artificial fragrances that invite another dollop of phthalates into my bloodstream.

Old habits and exposures are hard to avoid but, over time, I'm learning to change my behavior to avoid them. It's been hard and I'm trying not to go a little too bonkers with it. But, if you see me in the bathroom just rinsing my hands, holding my breath and turning a shade of purple, don't be surprised.

Do you pay attention to food ingredients when you go out to eat or just throw caution to the wind? What about something so simple as soap and air fresheners in public or restaurant bathrooms?


Panamamama said...

I have to be careful because of food allergies in my kiddos. Also the air fresheners make them so sick. Never thought about the soap but it is usually smelly. Going to carry my own now! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Your timing is impeccible! Just yesterday my daughter and I were in the church bathroom and she really wanted to use the soap there because it's pink. I told her we would fill a bottle of our home soap for washing while wer'e out.

Now how do I make it pink? I'm thinking beet juice, but that might stain our hands....hmmmmm. We don't use any artificial colorants, or unspeakables. simply put - if the baby can't eat it we won't use it. Ideas are welcome! Thank you.!

Aimee said...

we have no food allergies to worry about, thank God. As far as organic goes, in the house it's organic (or homegrown) animal products and as much as I can afford (in money and in time spent thinking about it) fruits and veggies. When we go out I don't sweat it.

Perfumes and dyes are a bigger deal. I am very sensitive and tend to break out in splotches. Some things (haven't isolated them yet) cause me a delayed, severe reaction that makes me itch intolerably for weeks. The only remedy is enough Benadryl to kill a horse, and I walk around like a zombie.

I buy everything as plain as possible for use at home, but I haven't gone as far as bringing soap with me when I go out. Maybe this is icky, but after I use a public bathroom I just rinse off with plain water and shake dry.

Unknown said...

We tend to eat at only the restaurants that we know are similar in ingredients to what we have at home.

I've found out about a lot of these places because the farmers that supply our food also takes their produce etc. there.

We don't actually eat out a lot.

I had never thought about the soap but now that is freaking me out a bit.

It's funny how you wash your hands incredibly thoroughly when you are out but don't really think about what you are washing them with. Soap will go into my big "mom purse" tonight. last chemical is; deodorant. I am really struggling to find a natural deodorant that works for me. Any suggestions?

Anna @ Blue Dirt said...

We feel lucky if the restaurants have food we can eat. We don't worry if it's organic or not. Honestly there are no organic places to eat within 2 hours of us. We already have 25 years of the toxins built into us from growing up, I don't see how our few meals out is going to be the icing on the cake. At least our kids won't have as much as we do. I have brought my own soap, for the diva cup though, not just for my hands. I don't like the thought of ati-bacterial perfumed soap going in there.

EcoBlogger said...

Very nice post! I'm trying to do a lot of this as well. I'm more focused on reducing and reusing as well as focusing on Organic and non-GMO foods. I acquired and use almost all reusable items (shopping bags, produce bags, water bottles, coffee cups/tumblers, cloth napkins and real silverware). I think the hardest thing for me, is that by doing this, I single myself out amongst coworkers. I drive a smart car, make my own biodiesel and I have a mini recycling station in my office. I’ve made this reputation for myself. Some of it has positively rubbed off on others because, like religion, I don’t push my beliefs on others, but some of the people think I’m a freak and make fun.
One of the biggest contributing factors to this is I’m a US active duty serviceman and that type of mindset doesn’t always fit the mold. My wife and I set up weekend trash walks, we hand out reusable bottles and bags and send out emails with info. We started a blog and have a facebook page. But I’m afraid we may be putting a “too serious” spin on it. I don’t want to scare people away.
Do you have any advice? You seem to have a lot more experience doing this sort thing than I do.
Facebook page: Search for Praescius (it means “aware” in latin)

Sonja said...

Those are very interesting points you're raising.

When I eat out the only thing I usually watch out for is: do I like the food?
I don't eat out a lot (very rarely), and if I do I do it for convenience or with one of my parents. I'm not vegetarian, but I try not to eat meat in restaurants because their meat is not up to my standards.

AS to the soaps etc...I use the liquid soaps in other bathrooms, and I cannot avoid air fresheners, but I hate them. Fortunately air fresheners are not as widely spread as in the US, but I noticed an increase. They're awful.

Olivia said...

Since I am celiac my biggest concern is avoiding gluten when I eat out. If I wanted to add "all organic" to that I would have to stay home. We live on a small island and ya take what ya can get! They can't even figure out gluten so . . . although it's fairly easy to buy/grow our own organic food.

Soap . . . I never see anti-bacterial kind around here - nor air fresheners - but I'm less concerned with what is in the soap than what is in the washroom.

Since I have an obsessive compulsive nature there are certain behavioural road that I just won't go down. I just try to relax and enjoy life as much as I can without fretting and worrying any more than necessary - and is it ever really necessary?

Concrete Gardener said...

I like the idea of entirely cutting all toxins/dodgy stuff out of our lives, but one challenge I have is being in this for the long haul (which I know you are too). So I am building habits gradually, with as few hard and fast rules as possible, so that life change (towards organic, sustainable, home grown living) feels like it's adding quality without adding more stress than I can handle. So that change is always happening, one choice at a time. Anyway, I know you've been doing this a long time so maybe you also went one choice at a time. Any thoughts on how to gain momentum and takes leaps like the one you describe, without feeling (negatively) limited?

Laura Kaeding said...

I tend to avoid using the soap in public washrooms too, figure there's no point anyways, the taps and counter and sink and door handles are already filthy, why waste my time. If my hands are sticky, I'll rinse them, or if there's some "transfer" but aside from that nope. Also, I hate hate hate the air fresheners in bathrooms, they smell so gross and if I'm in there too long my head starts to spin. Good luck in your journey on avoiding pesticides and toxins, if anyone can do it, you can!

DK said...

The soap and air fresheners thing is something I've had to be wary about since I was a little kid. I've had bad chemical reactions and sensitivities ever since I can remember and one of the worst is fragrances and especially in soaps and things. It's why I make my own laundry detergent now. When I would go on road trips with my grandparents, Gramma always made us use the soap and scrub really well even though we weren't allowed to actually sit on or touch the toilets or toilet seats at all. It was only after I had a really bad reaction to the soap at one place that she called my parents and asked if what I had been telling her about being allergic to all soaps except Ivory was actually true like I'd been telling her all along.

Laura said...

adventuresindinner - I just switched to Tom's Natural Deodorant, to get rid of aluminum. This was a HUGE step for me - I've always been a Secret girl, cause I don't want them to see me sweat :-) or smell, but after two weeks with the Tom's, I won't go back. Not only does it work great - no smelly pits! - and holds up to my vigorous four hour work day (I work in a school cafeteria during their lunch shift - hot & sweaty all the time) - but I feel so much better, and I don't think it's a mental thing. My arms feel better, my undearms feels better, my chest feels better - I truly believe that the aluminum caused me to be in pain most of the time. My lymph nodes under my arms were always swollen, and that's not the case these days. :-)

Thanks for this post about taking soap with you when you go out. I have severa eczema on my hands, and every week when we go out on our errand day, my hands break out and I'm miserable - I realized it was from the soap in the public restrooms, but didn't think of a solution aside from not washing my hands, which wasn't an option. But how simple to take a bottle of soap with me! Thankfully the soap we use at work, although is is antibacterial, doesn't irritate my skin. I have to use their soap, due to being in contact with food and school children, so it is wonderful that my skin tolerates the chemicals.

Unknown said...

I take my little bottle of Dr. Bronners with me everywhere. I take it to the bathroom at work too. People at work must think I'm strange. You really start to depend on it. Whenever I forget to bring it with me, I cringe at using the sopa provided.

Jennie said...

Ugh I HATE those air fresheners. They smell awful and make me wheeze.

EngineerChic said...

The only thing I do differently is I eat as little meat as possible when I travel. On the plane I get the vegetarian meal. In restaurants I order veggie options. If I'm in a crowd where I don't get to order (common in Asia), I eat as many veggie-centric & rice-centric dishes as I can and avoid meat. I figure all the toxins are concentrated in meat, and the meat isn't free range, so that's the best I can do. I travel 25% - 40% for my job, so travel is a way of life for me.

Barbara said...

This is a very interesting post. I've never really considered hand soaps and air fresheners and all the bad stuff that's in them. Now I will. I know that any of those plug in air fresheners make me sick to my stomach and give me headaches so I'm sure they are full of bad chemicals. I'm curious about your thoughts on the scented candles.


Lisa said...

When I travel I bring my own hand soap and when out I use really hot water by itself then organic hand sanitizer. Toxic soaps break me out in a rash.

I have food allergies so I'm VERY careful what I eat. I haven't had fast food in almost two years other than Chipotle. In town I will only eat at one restaurant and out of town I'm picky. They may not all be organic but they are places that use better ingredients and understand food allergy means I could die and to be damn sure my food doesn't touch mushrooms. haha

Cold House Journal said...

Just a tidbit: I find elsewhere in reading on the web that phthalate air concentration rises with ambient temperature (makes sense, if it's being off-gassed as a volatile from various sources in the home). Anyway, this is another plus for turning down the thermostat : ) Maybe you can work a paragraph on the FY Buns Challenge into your toxin book...

gloria said...

Thank you for making me feel not so alone in my nuttiness!

I thought I was the only one who investigated the hand soap in public bathrooms and who removed, if possible, the myriad "air freshener" methods before using the women's restroom. I had not thought about bringing my own soap (Dr. Bronner's, yes!)--what a great idea.

I applaud your wanting to eat organic ingredients and to support businesses that use organic ingredients. I think (1) spending our money the way we want our world to be and (2) explaining to businesses and individuals why we're spending the way we are contribute to making those changes real.

Thanks for sharing your process and for starting/maintaining these conversations.

louisa @ The Really Good Life said...

Unfortunately the best dedicated organic restaurant near us closed down last year but there are a number of places embracing the slow food movement and they tend to select quality items for their menu - not all organic but usually one or two things that are mostly if not entirely organic -- which is a start. If the main part of my meal is organic and/or local, I'm usually happy.

As for the other issue, I don't like to use soap in public restrooms because it's usually as highly, offensively perfumed as the air fresheners, ick. If I'm eating a meal using my hands in any way, I'd rather take a chance with my just-hot-water-washed hands rather than hands that smell like that.

Dmarie said...

I am only just discovering the advantage to organic foods and also the dangers of plastic from can liners leaching into foods. Before we go organic though, we will use up what's in our pantry/freezer. Because organics are not always easy to come by, I figure I'll lose weight once I switch to all organics! As for the soap in rest rooms, great idea, thanks!!

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

I rarely leave the house anymore. My little homestead is paradise.