I used to like to think of myself as a relatively eco-conscious person. I recycled, composted, and diligently washed out my plastic baggies. I grew a lot of our food and tried to can it when I could, and was always proud of the fact that our recycling output at the curb was 3-4 times the amount of our regular trash. I always knew I could do more, but it wasn’t until we started trying to conceive that I really began my quest to try to lead a more natural lifestyle.
After being diagnosed with just about every hormone related affliction that can adversely affect achieving a successful pregnancy, I began to investigate why and how this could’ve happened to me. I was angry. Some women had just one hurdle to get over, while each of my 3 surgeries over the course of a year and a half would uncover another, and another and another. Each time they found something new it would explain why the previous months of fertility treatments, pain, heartbreak and sometimes miscarriages were completely and utterly futile. I felt like I had all the odds stacked against me. I spent what felt like all three years on bed rest, recovering from all of the above, plus many complications like ovarian cyst ruptures, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, and even a rare second bout of mono in the midst of it all at the age of 30. It gave me a lot of time to kill at my computer, and that’s where my real journey began.
It started with toxic chemicals – pesticides and herbicides, BPA, phthalates, PBDEs, and the synthetic estrogens known as parabens. The more I learned, the more I realized it became a question of how could I NOT end up with all these hormone problems when surrounded by endocrine disruptors and synthetic estrogens everywhere I looked! I quickly converted our diet to mostly organic, whole foods, scrutinized every personal care product we use, and I began to phase out plastics in our home as much as possible. Since we were trying to conceive at the time, that led to researching baby gear and toys. I was appalled at the data regarding flame retardants in strollers (I never heard of too many kids being left in strollers in burning buildings?!) and bouncers, PVC in teethers, lead paint on snaps of baby clothing and zippers of boppy covers…you name it. I began to contact companies regarding the origin and makeup of their products, and formulating a baby registry of things that I regarded as “safe.” Keeping an updated list of all the baby products I found that were nontoxic did seem somewhat superficial and materialistic to me. I mean, I had the majority of my baby registry all in place years before I was even pregnant! However, in a strange, therapeutic way, it kept me going through the miscarriages, the failed fertility treatments, the surgeries and the endless physical pain and heartbreak. It was my way of telling myself, “You WILL need this baby registry one day – this will ultimately work.”
Of course no nontoxic baby registry could be complete without cloth diapers, and I found myself deeply immersed in all things cloth diapering. I still am! My daughter has not worn a disposable since our first day home from the hospital, and after over a year and a half, I hope to continue that trend until she’s done with diapers all together. And as far as toys, well, to the dismay of my family I have kept a strict no plastic policy. I only wish they would understand this is not simply a “no plastic toys” rule, it’s a no plastic anything if we can avoid it household rule.
I mentioned I used to be proud of our overflowing recycling bin because we had so little regular trash. Well, now I’m ashamed of it. I used to wash out plastic baggies, and now I avoid them like the plague. I do my best to keep ALL of our waste output to a minimum. This includes buying my milk in returnable glass bottles, and hauling my bags of jars to the co-op and filling them with as many bulk items as possible, including cleaning supplies. I’ve also tried to start making as much as I can from scratch – condiments, bread (in a breadmaker!), snacks and cereal to name a few. The real catalyst for all of this was becoming a stay at home mother. I realize I come from a position where I not only have the luxury of being home with my amazing daughter all day, but I also only have one child. This affords me time that many don’t have. So I chose to push myself. I continue to push myself. I know I can do more.
Once my cloth diapering routine was in place, the leap to unpaper towels, family cloth and mama cloth was more like a tiny step. It just made sense. I do find some of my extra “from scratch” items falling to the wayside now that my daughter is climbing things left and right, and has an innate proclivity for turning mundane items or situations into dangerous ones. Even so, I’m still hoping to move onto my next goal, which is to start sewing more clothing for her. I’ve made a few things, but I know I could do more.
Overall, I think the difference between myself in my 20’s and myself in my 30’s is I’ve set my focus closer to home. I used to think I could help change the world. In my 20’s, I thought I could convince people to change THEIR ways and make a difference. In my 30’s, I’ve turned that focus 100% inward, and I continue to challenge myself to do what I can to make a difference in the microcosm we call home. I realize many people out there do not have the kind of time I have to devote to such things, and perhaps do not live near co-ops with glorious bulk sections that sell milk in returnable glass bottles, but I still believe everybody can do a little something more. So I challenge you, as you read this, to take a moment and think of one small thing you can do to help lead a more sustainable life…and do it.