Learn the basic principles of natural living and 3 types of changes you can make to live a more natural, eco-friendly lifestyle.
Organic. Sustainable. Non-Toxic. If you are in search of a definition of natural living you will find many different opinions, depending on who you ask or which corner of the Internet you search in.
Trying to understand exactly what natural living means can be quite confusing and even intimidating but I’d much rather have it be inspiring! So let’s take a look at some of the ideas behind natural living and I’ll show you some small changes you can make to live a more natural, healthy lifestyle. After that, you get to pick and choose what works for you and your family. Sound good? Let’s dive in!
Natural Living Principles
One of the basic principles behind natural living is to use and eat things the way they are found in nature. In today’s world we’ve come a long way away from using things in their natural state – think of all the products made from plastic and other man-made, chemical-based compounds, and all the factory produced and processed food we eat. It’s not all bad – I can’t imagine life without my trusty computer or my favorite corn chips! Yet we could definitely benefit from reducing our reliance on processed and manufactured products and getting back to things that are made by hand from natural materials.
Another important principle of natural living is connecting with nature and taking steps to take care of our natural world. As we live our busy lives, it’s easy to forget about things like climate change or even how wonderful it feels to take a walk in the woods. It’s also easy to forget all the little things we can do every day to protect our planet.
Let’s explore those ideas a little further!
Natural Living Changes You Can Make
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Take a few minutes to think about your daily routine – all the products you use, the food you eat, how much waste you produce, how much time you spend outside. No matter how crunchy you already are, I bet there are a few changes you can make to embrace a natural, non-toxic lifestyle and do your part for the environment too.
1. Focus on Real Food
“If the label says natural does that mean it’s healthy?”
“Do fruit snacks really count as a serving of fruit?”
“Does all my food have to be organic?”
These are common questions I’ve heard over the years. Feeding our families healthy, real food can be challenging given the demands on our time and money, plus all the greenwashing and confusing information out there.
Here are a few things you can do to navigate the grocery store and get set up to eat well and as naturally as possible:
- Stock up on whole, unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts and minimally processed foods like meat, seafood and dairy
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and stay out of the aisles full of junk food
- Buy organic as often as possible – use the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and your budget as a guide
- Read labels and avoid the worst preservatives and food additives
- Use these tips for eating healthy on a budget
- Look for processed foods made with a small number of real food ingredients (like a Lara bar for instance)
- Shop at farmer’s markets or purchase a CSA share
- Cook your own meals and teach your kids to help
- Make homemade versions of common packaged foods like cookies, oatmeal and spice mixes
2. Switch to Natural, Non-Toxic Products
The biggest problem with all the manufactured and processed products that we use in our lives every day is that they are made with chemicals that can harm both humans and the environment. I’ve written a whole post about the reasons to buy natural, non-toxic products so be sure to read it (or PIN it for later)!
Here are some swaps you can make to replace toxic products with safe products made from natural materials:
- Household products like food storage containers, bottles, cutting boards etc…made from glass, wood and metal instead of plastic
- Cookware made from cast iron, stainless steel or ceramic instead of toxic non-stick
- Clothing, bed linens and table linens made from organic cotton, bamboo, wool and other natural fibers instead of polyester and chemical-infused fabrics
- Personal care and beauty products like shampoo, deodorant and lipstick made without parabens, sulfates, artificial fragrances and other harmful chemicals
- Cleaning products including laundry and household cleaners made with safe, eco-friendly ingredients
- Furniture, mattresses and floor coverings produced without harmful flame retardants, formaldehyde or other off-gassing chemicals
- Use natural health remedies instead of drugs (always consult with your doctor first)
- DIY – make your own homemade cleaning products and DIY beauty products
3. Make Mindful, Eco-Friendly Choices
Most of us have grown up in a culture of abundance. We have all the food we can possibly eat, all the water we care to pour, all the heat we need to stay toasty warm. We are incredibly lucky, but the downside is that we tend to be wasteful. We leave the water running when we brush our teeth. We throw perfectly good food in the garbage. We buy clothing we do not need. This culture of excess is bad for the planet.
It’s time to reexamine our habits and look for ways to conserve resources, create less waste and take care of this precious planet we live on. In my book, Practically Green: Your Guide to EcoFriendly Decision-Making, I have a whole chapter dedicated to conserving, which goes into more detail but meanwhile….
Here are some easy changes you can make to lower your impact on the planet:
- Switch to reusable products instead of disposable (the kitchen and laundry are a great place to start!)
- Conserve water (turn off the tap, use low-flow shower heads and toilets, use a soaker hose in the garden)
- Manage home energy use with a programmable thermostat, timers on lights, weather-stripping and more
- Buy used – shop thrift stores and garage sales or online at Craigslist or local websites
- Repurpose – turn spaghetti sauce jars or yogurt tubs into storage containers, use old t-shirts for rags
- Do without – ask yourself “Do I really need it?” and read my tips for how to buy less and feel great about it
- Grow some of your own food – whether it’s a garden full of vegetables or a couple pots of herbs in containers
- Compost food scraps to create healthy soil for your garden
- Create less waste – read my tips for easy ways to reduce waste at home and some zero waste kitchen ideas
- Recycle everything you can (use earth911.com to find out where to recycle unusual items)
- Buy in bulk and refill containers to reduce packaging
- Shop local or from small socially responsible businesses
- Eat seasonally and locally to reduce transportation and storage costs
- Walk or bike instead of driving everywhere – get outside and enjoy nature!
Whatever definition of natural living strikes a chord with you, I hope this has helped you find a few new ways to shift your habits and lifestyle to be a bit more natural and earth-friendly! Be sure to bookmark or PIN this post to reference later – there are a ton of helpful links in here!
What does natural living mean to you? What are some changes you hope to make in your lifestyle?