Ten sane tips for a green, safe and happy life

I wrote a piece about co-sleeping for a client a while back. The post got a mix of pro and anti-co-sleeping comments. Even as a co-sleeping advocate none of the anti-co-sleeping comments bothered me. Not until someone left a comment stating they’d never ever co-sleep because they’d rather be, “Safe than sorry.

I’ve read that comment over and over all week. I keep thinking about the, “Safe than sorry” point and how people say this all the time, especially green parents I know. But how safe is so safe that you start to become sorry?

Should you gas mask your kid?

Sure there are dangers in the world

As a parent, there’s a lot to be concerned about. In fact, I’m probably really good at freaking you out because I blog about pesticidesBPA, icky old plywood, dangerous flame retardantstoxic sunscreen, fake food coloring,  poisonous home cleanersnature deficits, horrid school lunches and even too many food toppings. Seriously, how are you even surviving?

Better safe than sorry” is a slippery slope…

Here’s the thing – I do believe pesticides are lame and that toxic cleaners are a hazard. I don’t think you should stuff your kid with fast food or buy paper towels. It’s wise to be proactive and informed, but when you’re too invested in safety because it’s, “Better than sorry” it can lead to stress, worry and fewer adventures.

In fact, just to show you that you don’t have to be perfect, here are 5 things I’ve done lately that in my opinion aren’t safe, green or healthy, but I’m not THAT worried…

  • Let my kid buy a Dr. Pepper – oh and Skittles.
  • Used Raid on a stupid spider (who probably would have killed me in my sleep had I not) – PS I used it in an enclosed room and didn’t open the windows.
  • I just keep on buying BPA lined cans.
  • I couldn’t find any decent fish, so I bought totally non-decently sourced fish for dinner - hello possible mercury and bad green karma.
  • Let my kid play computer for three hours straight. I was on a deadline at work – but that’s no excuse.

Am I proud of myself for the above? Nope. Am I worried to death though? Nope. I can’t do everything right. I can’t be safe and green and healthy all the time. I’m not super girl. In spite of my shortcomings, my son appears to be growing, happy and such, so what can you do?

If you’re looking to live green, safe and healthy, without all the fuss and stress try the tips below:

1. Aim for balance not perfection: Try for a 50/50 split. Work up from there. For example, I do buy BPA lined cans, but I also make all our organic bread from scratch, with bulk goods. I don’t buy all organic clothing, but we do attempt to buy used clothing before new.

Kids out (alone, in their neighborhood) after sundown will be a-okay

2. Ditch the term, “Better safe than sorry.“: K, I’ll admit, there are times this term fits. For example, your baby should sit in a car seat, you should be around when your child is swimming and your kid should wear a helmet when biking or boarding. That said, today’s parents have taken this to a major extreme. If you’re incredibly panicked about chemicals, germs or think that diapers made with chlorine or co-sleeping will kill your baby dead, you’re seriously too worried.

If you don’t let your kid out of your sight due to fear of child abductions or other harm, thus keeping your kid indoors all day long without any freedom to play and grow, you’re doing way more harm than good. Live safe and green as much as is comfortable, sure, but take some calculated risks too. A life lived in a bubble is no life at all. More tips below:

3. Back off: Backing off is related to the above, but not quite the same. Backing off isn’t always about safety or health. Sometimes you need to back off, just because it’s the right thing to do. Nowadays parents are so focused on their kid’s homework, school, manners, friends and more than they forget to focus on their own needs and goals. Being a good parent and being a good you, means letting everyone experience failure, success, adventure and more, on their own at times. Learn to let stuff be now – including your child’s life (to a point) or you may end up like these parents.

4. Eat organic, within reason: Anytime you eat organic, you cut the pesticides going into your body – it’s not all or nothing. If you can’t switch to all organic, don’t panic. What I usually tell parents is to buy the foods your kids eat the most in organic, then other foods in conventional form. You can also choose organic foods with only marginal price differences. For example, the price of organic bread or butter or coffee compared to conventional is crazy high. But apples, milk, eggs, carrots, potatoes, in-season strawberries and frozen peas cost only a little more in organic form.

5. Clean green and easy: It’s simple to make homemade cleaners (and cheap) but if mixing and matching and labeling bottles stresses you out, don’t bother. You can buy green cleaners for decent prices.

6. Soap up without worry: Body care products for kids can be filled with lots of icky chemicals, so it’s smart to worry. But don’t stress. Instead find one decent body care brand that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and just stick to it. Three decent, lower priced body care brands kids can use include Dr. BronnersBubble & Bee Organic and Vermont Soap.

7. Compromise: An excellent example of a green parent compromise is sunscreen. The big bad sun is a danger. So are chemicals in sunscreen. Which is worse the sun or chemicals? What to do? Well, we all know too much sun is bad, but of course, why slather your kid in chemicals year round? Try a compromise. Since you should wear sunscreen (but less of it) in winter, use a conventional, lower-priced sunscreen in the winter and splurge on a safer sunscreen for summer use.

8. Make easy green and safe changes that pack a punch: Not all green choices make the same impact in terms of health and safety – for people or the planet. Also some green choices that do make huge impacts are really hard, like cutting out food packaging, building a green home or buying all organic clothing. Don’t sweat those huge choices. Instead make smaller choices that are easy to implement yet still safer and healthier for everyone. Some good ideas: Recycle more, carry a reusable water bottle or reusable grocery bags, use cloth napkins or make homemade organic ice pops.

Better safe than sorry - or is this okay? She's probably fine.

9. Avoid the million little things if you want: There are a million tiny ways to make your life greener. You can, if you like, hunt down eco-friendly dental floss, organic cotton swabs and perfect hemp socks. You can only buy basketballs made with recycled rubber and continually refill your ink cartridges. Or, you could not do all the tiny green things. You could live green without the eco-dental floss right? The world won’t implode because you didn’t buy natural deodorant – I swear.

10. Ignore liars: If your goal is to live safe and green, your most important objective should be to do it on your own terms. There are a lot of annoying treehuggers out there. Ignore them. Plenty of people will act like they’ve never let a chemical touch their child or wouldn’t think of drinking conventional milk and god forbid if you do. Some of these folks are the type who have taken the whole, “Better safe than sorry” approach too far, but most are mainly talk. It doesn’t really matter which they are, all of them should be ignored. Trust me, no one is perfectly safe and green. If someone’s acting like they are, they’re flat out lying.

P.S. Some of these green and safe zealots write books too. Books you’ll never live up to. If you’re looking for some practical green living books, written by decent normal people, see the links below…

To sum up:

Green and safe living should be a goal, but it’s okay to go slow. It’s fine to compromise. There are dangers in our world, but when you choose to be safe rather than sorry 100% of the time, it’s too much for most to handle. Aim for a stress-free life that’s good enough, not perfect and you’ll accomplish much more in the long run.

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Comments

  1. says

    This post belongs on Free Range Kids as much as it does here. Thanks for a healthy reminder that while we need to keep our kids safe, obsessing about every eventuality can destroy our quality of life.

  2. says

    I LOVE Free Range Kids! I tell everyone I know to read that book. Not that it’s helping a ton of people I know. So many parents I know are freaked about their kids outside. I know kids who literally do nothing but watch TV all weekend long – I’m talking 15 hours a day, because it’s “safer” than outside. Crazy. I agree though, there’s just no need to panic. Some stuff is bad and a danger, but lots of things are okay or good too.

  3. says

    I love this post. :) I always feel like I’m too crunchy for normal society, but not crunchy enough for the “annoying treehugers.” Thanks for letting me feel like it’s okay to be me and NOT be perfect. (And for the record…we rock the co-sleeping in our house!)

  4. Jennifer Chait says

    I’ve felt that way too. In Oregon I was pretty “crunchy” then I moved to Humboldt, when my son was a baby, and although I liked it there, I was no where near “good” or green or attached to my son enough for anyone. I got slack all the time because I vaccinated and god forbid used a stroller once in a while instead of a sling. Worse, my sister, who isn’t at all crunchy, got soooooo much slack from people there that she moved away. Now I’m back in Oregon and getting slack back the other way from people who think organic food is a scam. In ten years I’ve learned that you can’t win, you just end up feeling like a failure one way or the other, so it’s best to ignore just about everyone IMO.

    One awesome thing about readers here is that they’re honestly really balanced. Almost everyone who comments here is nice, not snotty and better yet, realistic. I guess you have to find a decent tribe. Thanks for reading Em :)

  5. Jennifer Chait says

    PS – good for you co-sleeping. All the anti-co-sleeping propaganda as of late is making me nuts.

  6. Jennifer Chait says

    @Beth – I’m glad you liked it. Being perfect is overrated – or so I keep reminding myself ;)

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