Much of what we can do to nurture and sustain our health is pretty simple: put good in and keep bad out. Sure, that’s a major simplification, and it doesn’t account for things like exercise, quality sleep and other actions that help our bodies work as they should. At the same time, it can be hard to do those things effectively if poor diet or toxic burdens are compromising our health and well-being. (Indeed, the fact that illness makes it tougher to do the things that can help us heal is a terrible irony.)
In a consumer culture like ours, it’s sometimes hard to tell which products are healthier than others – both for ourselves and the environment. (The two, of course, are linked.) Corporations want us to buy, and to buy, we must believe that their products are safe. So of course they don’t go advertising potential risks of any given product or its ingredients. It’s why, for instance, mega-corporations like Monsanto continue to fight so hard against labeling GMOs (genetically modified organisms): Were they clearly labeled, fewer people might buy them, due to concern for both human and environmental health. At the same time, some goods marketed as “natural,” “green” and so on turn out to be other than they seem. And sometimes true claims about positive qualities can distract from more problematic aspects of a product or its production.
So if we want to be sure we make choices that we can feel good about, we’ve got to do our homework. But fortunately, there are a lot of online tools to make it easier. Here are just a few to get you started:
- Local Harvest
Here, you can search for farmer’s markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area. There’s also a store where you can buy products you can’t find locally.
- Organic Consumers Association Buying Guide
The OCA maintains a terrific directory of green and organic businesses, as well as links to other locator tools. (Disclosure: I list my practice here, as do other holistic dentists around the country.)
- Skin Deep Cosmetics Database
What’s really in your shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, makeup and other grooming and cosmetic products? Search this huge database compiled by the Environmental Working Group to find out and learn which brands are safer than others. (And visit EWG’s home page for links to other databases and reports related to personal and environmental health.)