Historians have been able to date back New Year traditions to 4,000 years ago. The New Year was originally celebrated by Babylonians and Romans in March when Spring began. It was Julius Caesar that later changed it to January 1 to honor the two-faced god (one facing forward and one facing back) Janus. Historians say that the Babylonians believed that what they did on the first day of the New Year had an effect on their whole year. That’s why most of them returned borrowed equipment and did good deeds. The Babylonians made their resolutions to get favored by the gods. And if they broke the resolution, it was deemed bad luck.
In 1738, Benjamin Franklin wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanack, “Each year one vicious habit rooted out, In time might make the worst Man good throughout.” Which pretty much stemmed the “better ourselves”resolutions that we make today.
In 2008 my New Years resolution was to change my lifestyle to at least 85% organic/non-toxic/eco-friendly by the end of the year. Now when I made this resolution, I knew 1/10th of what I know now. I even felt guilty for the 15% lean-way I was giving myself. It was an impossible resolution, though I didn’t know it at the time. But I wanted to do my part in helping the planet and keeping my baby girl safe.
I started simple by changing out my household cleaners when they ran out. You can always donate your cleaner to friends if you are ready to switch now. (Please do not throw out filled bottles and do not empty in drains!) You can find non-toxic cleaners at every grocery market, but be sure to read and understand the labels. Some big corporations try to trick us with their “all natural” labeling. My favorites are Seventh Generation for cleaning, disinfecting, and dish soap; and Rockin Green for laundry. The most eco-friendly way to go is to make your own cleaners. Lemon juice, vinegar, and baking soda work miracles.
Food was a given. We only bought organic in whatever was available. We still buy organic, but now buy local Organic Valley dairy, local grass fed meat, and local organic fruits and veggies from our farmers market. Organic Valley is a fabulous co-op and there are over 1,600 organic farms in the US. I love knowing that my dairy comes from a farm within 2 hours of my house. Anything that we buy processed is made in the USA and has the USDA organic stamp. This keeps us away from corn syrup and white flours. 🙂
I then researched our local area’s recycling rules. There were things I didn’t know that we could recycle. Like we can take our used cooking oil to the recycling center be changed into fuel. We can also drop off our used or broken appliances. Packing materials, CD and DVD cases, plastic electronic casings, mixing bowls, tooth brushes, legos, detergent bottles, egg cartons, produce bags, and even bread bags can be recycled. We also started finding ways to reuse what we have to cut back on waste and having to buy new. My favorite reused items are: to-go cups (glass bottles), Tupperware (veggie, yogurt, or cheese containers), to-go bags (bread bags), spray bottles (old cleaning bottles), and seedling kits (egg cartons).
The tricky one was personal products. Thanks to www.cosmeticsdatabase.com it’s easy to find safe (and unsafe) products for you and your family. But during this transformation, I learned how deep the toxic products go. You have to look at hand soap, shampoo/conditioner, bubble bath, soap, face/body wash, hair spray/gel, moisturizer, make-up, finger nail polish, lotion, sunscreen, deodorant, toothpaste, razor blades, shaving gel, make-up remover, feminine products, diapers, diaper cream, and the list goes on. This is where it gets overwhelming and you feel like giving up because you have to find products that work as well as the toxic ones. After 2 years of searching, my every day must haves are Clean Well, Earth Mama Angel Baby, Juice Beauty, John Masters, Little Twig, Lavera, Preserve, Joyful Girl Natural, Dr. Bronners, Boiron, and Glad Rags. Again, the easiest thing to do is when your product runs out to then make the switch. Or donate your products to someone. Never throw out or dump into the sink. Most containers can be recycled- even make-up!
Over the past 2 years I’ve also transitioned all of Ella’s toys to wooden/non-toxic. Luckily she was at the age she needed more advanced toys when I started. We donated all of her old ones. I only purchase organic or used clothing and shoes. We switched out our pots and pans to stainless or Green Pan. I make sure we buy energy efficient light bulbs and appliances. And I started composting this year-which isn’t as hard as you’d think.
It’s now about to be 2011 and I’m not sure that I’ve fully met my 2008 resolution. Though, I still strive for it every day. Just doing simple things like cutting off lights when leaving a room, turning off the water when brushing your teeth, buying reusable batteries, making your own cleaners, starting a garden, composting, buying local, buying organic, buying used… all these things add up in the end and make a difference.