Natural health is about empowerment, not fear.

For me, anyway.

If you’ve spent more than 5 seconds in the natural health blogosphere, you have probably come across a bit of fear mongering. Everything causes cancer, doctors are evil, and autism is all part of Their Plan. I understand those views completely but they are unhelpful. Let me talk about why I care about natural health anyway.

When you take a look at humanity over the ages, you’ll see we are living in a very “specialized” culture. People have their own set of skills that they provide to others in exchange for money, which is spent on buying other people’s skills (or the goods they create with those skills.) It’s a great system in a lot of ways, and it’s how this huge empire that we live in was built.

I think it’s foolish, however, to apply this concept to our bodies. Which is what we have done – care of the body itself is often delegated to doctors (who may or may not specialize in a certain “function” of the body), the government food pyramid, diet “experts”, pharmaceutical companies, etc. When it comes to life-threatening injuries and emergency situations, this system has been a huge blessing overall. The same can not be said for preventative or wellness.

People need to know how to maintain wellness. People need to know how to respond to minor injuries and illnesses on their own. We can’t always rely on systems, you know? It just won’t stay the same forever. Look at history. That’s not fear-mongering or being pessimistic or anything. It’s simply an unbiased look at HISTORY.

Your body is the only thing you are guaranteed to carry with your throughout your entire life. You may even use it to give life to children, who will have their own bodies to take care of. It is absolutely worth an investment of your time to learn how to maintain and repair yours – and then pass on those skills.

I shared 10 natural living skills I think everyone should learn over on Everblossom.

Fair Trade – Are your Dollars Flowing Ethically?

My illustration called fair trade

You can find “fair trade” written across the label of all kinds of products these days, from coffee to t-shirts. What exactly does it mean? And why is it important to look for this term? Do we need to buy everything fair trade or just certain things?

I didn’t have any of these answers the first time I picked up a bag of fair trade coffee. I just knew that I had heard a little about it and that people I respected talked about fair trade sometimes and that it must be the right thing to do. So that went on for awhile, but as someone who is curious for a living, I had to know the facts. Here they are!

What does “fair trade” mean?

The Fair Trade Federation defines fair trade as “a more equitable and sustainable system of production and trade.” Wikipedia calls it “an organized social movement which promotes standards for international labor, environmentalism, and social policy in areas related to production of Fairtrade labeled and unlabeled goods.”

Why is fair trade important?

The fair trade movement promotes and supports fair wages for workers no matter where they are from. “Fair wages” referring to what makes sense locally. Manufacturers, artisans and craftsmen must earn a wage they can live on and that is relative to other trades in their local economic system in order for a product to be labelled “Fair trade.” Generally, this means that artisans, etc. are paid 15 to 30 percent of the retail price of the goods they’re creating.

Fair trade also applies to the  environment that people work in. Fair trade organizations work hard to ensure safe working conditions for artisans, create economic stability for communities in developing countries, and improve social and humanitarian conditions in those communities to help ensure that the workers can continue working and earning wages.

What to buy fair trade

While it’s good to know what’s behind the production of everything you buy, – every dollar, every penny is a vote! – some items are more likely than others to be produced in an environment that supports human exploitation, whether because of unfair wages (basically slavery), unsafe working conditions, child labor or a combination of these. These items include:
Another way to make sure your dollars are flowing ethically is to support crafters and shop owners who only use fair trade materials in their products! Just another reason why buying handmade is the way to go. 
Do you buy fair trade? Do any of the items on this list surprise you? What would you add?

How to Get People to Respect Your Time

Time goes by so fast 28/52 Multiple Exposure

Whether you’re dealing with a co-worker, family member or friend, it can be very frustrating when someone repeatedly cancels, shows up late or even fails to show up at all when you have plans. While plans sometimes need to be altered due to legitimate last-minute emergencies and changes, no one should be expected to repeatedly put up with having their time wasted. The good news is that you do not have to allow people to treat you disrespectfully. Here are a few ways that you can get those around you to respect your time.

Create a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Doing this is not only a good habit to practice in order to get more done, it shows others that you value your time.

Learn to say “No.” Many of us are in the habit of saying “Yes” every time someone asks for a favor, but this can quickly lead to burnout and cut into a lot of your time. It’s okay to say “no!” Other people’s problems do not have to be your priorities.

Be respectful of other people’s time. Leading by example lets others know that time is important to you and that you expect the same treatment you’re giving them. Be punctual, call when you’re going to be late and treat others the way you want to be treated.

Don’t put up with people who don’t respect your time. If someone in your life repeatedly cancels plans with you, shows up late or otherwise imposes on you, let them know that you’re not going to stand for it. People can only treat you poorly if you let them. If nothing you say changes their rude behavior, you may simply have to stop making plans with them.

You can’t always make people respect your time. But you can always choose how to react to other people’s behavior.

Have you ever had to deal with someone who is disrespectful of others’ time? How did you handle that?

5 Easy Changes for a Healthier Diet

When you’re first starting to eat healthier and cook more, it can be overwhelming to make a lot of changes at once. These are 5 things that are so easy that you barely have to think about them once you get the ingredients home. 
Fruit on the table
  1. Replace white sugar with honey, especially raw, local honey if you can find it. LocalHarvest is a good place to look for a honey source.
  2. Use whole wheat flour in your baking rather than white. 
  3. Switch to whole grain pasta.
  4. Eat oatmeal instead of boxed cereal. You can mix oats with milk and fruit and any other toppings you’d like the night before and stick it in the refrigerator, and it’s ready to go in the morning. Soaking it also increases the nutritional benefits!
  5. Each time you shop for groceries, buy something in the produce section that you normally don’t. Trying new foods is fun and keeps things interesting, and variety is good for you.

Clean Your Home with Natural Products

Replacing standard cleaners with natural alternatives is super easy and frugal to boot. There are lots of great natural products available in stores now, but you can clean pretty much anything if you have white vinegar, baking soda and soap. It’s also nice to have some pretty-smelling essential oils on hand, but not necessary.

“But WHY?” you ask. What’s so bad about standard commercial cleaners? Well:

Many household cleaners contain a volatile organic compound (VOC) called 1,4 dicholorobenzene (1,4 DCB), which can reduce lung function by 4%.
Ethylene-based glycol is used commonly as a water-soluble solvent in cleaning agents, but is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Terpenes, a class of chemicals found in lemon, pine and orange oils, can morph into carcinogenic compounds when they mix with ground-level ozone.
Chlorine, often labeled as “sodium hypochlorite” or “hypochlorite,” is one of the most common chemicals in household cleaners, although scientists won’t handle it without adequate protection. Decades ago, it was made one of the first agents of chemical warfare and for good reason—it’s dangerous. Chlorine can damage eyes, ears, skin and cause severe respiratory trouble.
Ammonia, when in contact with bleach, will release toxic chlorine gas that can be deadly even in small amounts.  

Read more at Bioessential Nutrition.

Our bodies are pretty good at telling us what’s healthy and what’s not. I don’t know about you, but my nose and eyes BURN whenever I smell some cleaners, and if I’m around them too long, I get a massive headache. In contrast, while there are some natural cleaners that I don’t really LIKE the smell of, they certainly don’t hurt my face.

So, let’s take a look at some ways we can replace those products by making our own!

Cleaning windows and glass: White vinegar. That’s all. Put some in a spray bottle and use it just like you would windex. I actually think it works better than windex, but it is definitely harsh on the nose. I’ve heard you can add lemon juice to make it smell nicer.

Natural laundry soap: Making your own laundry soap is SO easy and it’s really cheap. There are lots of recipes online on how to do this, my favorites are this one for powdered detergent and this one for liquid detergent. As long as you use an all natural bar of soap, the end result will be natural too. I like using cheap bars of castile soap for laundry. You can also ask your favorite natural soap sellers on Etsy if they will sell you “oops” soap at a cheaper cost – it doesn’t have to be pretty since you are just melting it down anyway.

You can also try soap nuts, which I haven’t been able to check out yet, but they look rad and I’ve heard only good things!

Cleaning your dishes: Go here again because there is a great recipe for dish detergent. If you don’t have a dish washer, remember to use very, very, very hot water to soak your dishes first and then very hot water to rinse them afterwards to make sure that you kill germs. Presoaking will also make washing the dishes easier. For stuck-on gunk, adding vinegar to the soaking water can help.

All purpose cleaner: Put some of your homemade laundry soap (1 tablespoon powdered or 3 tablespoons liquid) into medium-sized (16 oz. or so) spray bottle, fill the rest up with HOT water, shake it up and use it to clean counters, highchairs, etc. You want to use hot water at first just to make sure everything dissolves together, especially if you’re using powdered soap. You can still use it after it’s cooled down, though.

Carpet refresher: Get a clean, dry jar and pour in one of those little boxes (I think they’re 16 oz.) of baking soda. Add about 15 drops of whatever essential oils you want (or more if you want to get crazy). My favorite combos are grapefruit + tea tree, lavender + tea tree, and peppermint + orange! Now seal the jar and shake it up. You can use it right away, but the longer you let it sit the stronger it gets! Just sprinkle it over carpet, let it sit for 15 minutes or so, then vacuum. You can also just use baking soda, but it’s not as much fun.

The Good Human also has a really comprehensive list of ways to clean anything naturally, including non-everyday things like the oven and showerhead.

If you don’t have time or don’t want to make any cleaners, Seventh Generation makes really great products and they are affordable, too. They even have coupons on their website if you want to try them on the cheap. I especially love their all purpose cleaner. I use it every day in the kitchen and bathroom to sanitize the counters!
I’m not going to lie, natural products don’t always work as well as standard ones. (Except vinegar. Vinegar is a champ.) Most natural living enthusiasts (or something) seem to claim that natural is just as good, but that’s not always true, or else the other products probably wouldn’t even exist. I’m not going to try to pull one over on you. I just don’t really care that I might have to scrub a little harder sometimes.To me, putting in a little extra elbow grease is worth the benefits of using natural products. But, if you do your best to keep things clean as you go, there’s nothing to it really. Remember that housekeeping is a lot easier than house cleaning.

This piece was originally published on my natural living blog, Everblossom to kick off a 31-day series on healthy, green living.

Learning Patience

I recently wrote an article for eHow on helping preschoolers learn patience. I’ll mention here what I couldn’t there: I am not blessed with this virtue. Not even a little. It’s something I have to actively work on all the time. Thankfully, I am learning – but I wish I could hurry up and learn it faster. (See what I did there? hur hur.)

PATIENCE

I think it’s safe to say that most people could stand to be more patient – after all, patience can improve our relationships and decrease stress. On a scarier note, lack of patience can lead to chronic rage and we all know that’s no good.

This article from The Positivity Blog is worth a read. I especially like the following quote from Albert Einstein:

“It’s not that I’m so smart,
it’s just that I stay with problems longer.“

Albert Einstein

The two things that have motivated me the most to try to be more patient are 1. I want to be a good role model for my son and 2. I want to improve my relationships, especially the ones within my family. In becoming more patient, I’ve also realized that it’s just a much less stressful way to live, too.

What really helps me is to look at the bigger picture. When I feel impatient, it’s often because I want what I want and I want it NOW. Whether it’s a project we’re working on, a fitness goal or even something as simple as trying to get out the door with the family, letting go of the moment’s frustrations and focusing on the goal is so helpful.

The BEST Green Smoothie Combos

I’m completely obsessed with making sure that the Worthington clan eats enough leafy green veggies. Since the boys don’t like munching on leaves quite as much as I do, we end up eating (drinking??) a lot of green smoothies. You can add greens to any of your favorite smoothie recipes to boost the nutritional content. Any green will do, but spinach is our favorite because it doesn’t alter the taste of the smoothie one bit.

To make our green smoothies, I usually use a berry, a fruit, a handful of greens and 100%  juice. Here are some combos we really like:

1/2 cup strawberries + 1 peach + 1 cup of spinach + 3/4 cup apple juice

1/2 cup strawberries + 1 banana + 1 cup of spinach + 3/4 cup apple juice

3/4 cup blueberries + 1 peach + 1 cup of kale + 3/4 cup apple juice

1/2 cup blackberries + 1 peach + 1 cup spinach + 3/4 cup cranberry juice

Smoothies are so versatile, so play around with whatever fruits and greens you have on hand. The best part about winging it is coming up with a combination you really like completely by accident.

Happy blending!