Curiously Crunchy

Asking crunchy questions for my family and yours.

Say No to Bottled Water

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Last summer here in Northwest Ohio we had what we lovingly refer to as “Aquapocalypse 2014”. There were higher levels of microcystin — a toxin produced by a type of blue-green algae known as microcystis —in our water than the city recommends (although it was below World Health Organization standards).

The story broke in the middle of Friday night and initially we were told we couldn’t touch the water: no showering, no cooking, no drinking, no nothing. We couldn’t boil it, that made the microcystin more concentrated. What’s a resident to do? Run to the store to buy bottled water, along with hundreds of thousands of our neighbors.

But what’s really in that bottled water and is it better than drinking clean tap water?

Safe Plastics?

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Like I’m sure many of you did, I thought BPA-Free plastic meant our plastic was safe. Now I’m not quite sure. True, BPA isn’t used in most any plastic anymore and they have banned a few more endocrine disrupting chemicals, but my search didn’t turn up anything that made me feel confident in the safety of the PET plastic that most manufacturers use to bottle their water. There have been studies that indicate that there are further chemicals to be weary of inside PET plastic, but nothing incredibly definitive either way.

I don’t like taking those risks, especially with my family.

Not as Pure as You Think

The EWG did an investigation into 10 brands of bottled water. The results were nothing short of nasty. They found disinfection byproducts, caffeine, Tylenol, heavy metals, arsenic, radioactive isotopes, nitrates and ammonia, and a bunch of other chemicals from various solvents, plasticizers, and propellants. Gross.

And the EWG isn’t alone in their investigation of waters. In 2008 Texas Southern University tested 35 brands of bottled water and found that 4 were contaminated with bacteria. In 1999, the Natural Resources Defense Council tested 103 bottled waters and found about 1/2 of them contained contaminants and chemicals.

Our trust that the bottled water companies are actually providing with something better than what’s in our tap is clearly misplaced.

Pollution is a Problem

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According to the EPA, 33 million tons of plastic waste were generated in 2013 and only 9% of the total plastic waste generated that year was recovered for recycling. Americans on average drink more than 73 BILLION half-liter bottles of water every year. Lining them up end to end, those bottles would circle the world 370 times. They also say approximately only 30% of those bottles are recycled. That is crazy.

In addition to waste produced by the bottles themselves, there is the environmental impact of the bottling plants. The Pacific Institute calculates that producing water bottles requires the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, not including the energy to transport them.

So, even if you recycle that bottle, did you think about all the impact of its creation? I never used to, either. But now that you know, perhaps it’s time to switch.

The 411 on Filters

Your best bet for clean drinking water remains in your tap, but perhaps you would rather have something still a little more clean. Home filters are really going to be your best compromise.

A great resource for all things filters is going to be the Environmental Working Group’s Filter Buying Guide, or their comprehensive list of filter types and technologies.

Carbon filters are what Brita filters offer, and also what I have at home. It is the most effective for eliminating any cytotoxin (which microcystin is) besides reverse osmosis (which is expensive).

And finally…

It’s Cheaper!

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Tap water costs about $0.002 a gallon (two-tenths of a penny!!) so the cost of bottled water stacks up to be 1,900 times more than tap water. And at that price, there’s not even the guarantee that it’s any better than what’s flowing out of your tap.

So back to last summer…

After a few hours and waking up the mayor and some other city scientists who did more reviewing and testing, we were told we could pretty much resume our daily lives, except you probably shouldn’t drink the water or cook with it until we got the all clear. Since I know what I know now about bottles vs. filters, should the blue-green algae appearance disturb our drinking water again this summer, I will simply drink exclusively from my Brita filter without a second worry.

Do you drink bottled water? Do you have a water filtering system at home?

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GMOs: Just Label It!

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The National Institute of Health did a study in 2009 saying that we just don’t know enough about GMOs to determine if they are harmful. According to JustLabelIt.org almost 90% of Americans simply want to know what’s in their food. This study shows that labeling GMOs will have little to no effect on food prices. So why is big business so determined to keep the knowledge of what we’re eating away from us? The answer is simple: greed.

It isn’t the genetically modified food in and of itself that is the problem for me. It is the reason why we created them in the first place that causes me concern: so we can spray them with mass amount of pesticides, and they will survive but the weeds will die. This spraying of chemicals should cause EVERYONE concern.

Monsanto, the country’s most notorious GMO proponent, owns RoundUp (active ingredient: glyphosate). GMOs were created to withstand large amounts of glyphosate, thus killing the weeds and leaving the crop to grow. While there is no data about GMOs themselves, there is data on glyphosate.

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While household RoundUp has 1% glyphosate, commercial grade RoundUp contains 41% glyphosate! [NIH, 2004] Then there’s this juicy nugget: “Roundup may be…considered as a potential endocrine disruptor. Moreover, at higher doses still below the classical agricultural dilutions, its toxicity on placental cells could induce some reproduction problems.” [NIH, 2005] So basically, at doses lower than what’s used on crops this chemical disrupts our endocrine system (the collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things) and has the potential for reproductive issues. Not to mention the “farmers exposed to non‐arsenic pesticides were found to be at increased risk of lymphoma”. [NIH, 2006]

In this 2012 NIH study on rats being fed GMO corn sprayed with glyphosate, they found “In females, all treated groups died 2-3 times more than controls, and more rapidly… Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before controls, the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments. In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5-5.5 times higher… Marked and severe kidney nephropathies were also generally 1.3-2.3 greater. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than controls which occurred up to 600 days earlier.” So these rats suffered cancer, died earlier and faster, had sex hormone disruption, and liver and kidney issues, all from RoundUp and GMO corn. The World Health Organization calls glyphosate a “probable carcinogen”. Based on all that evidence, I would have to agree.

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Guys, they are spraying this on our food. We are eating it! (And let’s be real, it’s running off into our water and we’re drinking it, too…) And it gets better…

Glyphosate isn’t working anymore. We have created glyphosate resistant weeds. Because of this, we have upgraded to a chemical called 2,4-D. It is a component of Agent Orange. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want ANY component of such a chemical anywhere near my food.

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The time is now to stand up and STOP letting agribusiness think that this is ok. We need labels so consumers can vote with their dollars and let the industry know we don’t want these horribly detrimental chemicals sprayed anymore.

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One of my favorite resources for finding Non-GMO foods is the Non-GMO Project. They are a non-profit organization that verifies products throughout the US and Canada by testing the ingredients in the products being produced by these companies. They have pretty strict standards (all listed on their website at http://www.nongmoproject.org) and in addition to their little logo on the packaging of verified products, the website also provides a list of every product they have verified.

Do you watch for Non-GMO verified products when you go grocery shopping?

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We’re a Fitbit Family!

Last year I had a Fitbit Ultra given to me by a friend that I loved… until it fell apart. It functioned, but only in the extra clip and it made it too bulky to wear in my bra (and I didn’t always have pockets). I hadn’t had the money to dive in and purchase a new one until I just decided that I needed to be more active and wanted something to help me.

A few weeks ago Hubbyman and I went to Best Buy and each got a Fitbit. I chose the One because I really can’t stand stuff on my wrist for an extended period of time. I almost never wear bracelets and hate watches, so a clip on monitor was what I needed.  I purchased the Fitbit One for me, the Charge HR for Hubbyman since he doesn’t mind things on his wrist.

They have been really fun so far. We can see how much sleep we’re getting, how restless we are (or aren’t), and we have competitions to see who walked the most steps or climbed the most amount of stairs.

Babykins was so jealous of these nifty little trackers; she was dying to know how much she was moving, too. So I gave her my Ultra. She has been obsessed with making that little activity flower grow. She counts the petals and always wants to know if she has more than me (she usually does).

Do you have a fitness tracker?

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One Bite at a Time

If you’re anything like me, you’ve stepped into the wellness world and had a mini panic attack at everything that you “should” be doing.

This lifestyle is a journey, not an overnight conversion, and can be done with simple steps a few at a time.

Here are my favorites that I’ve incorporated into my life the last year, and some of these options have even saved me money!

  1. Hydrate

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Everybody knows you’re supposed to drink like a million ounces of water a day (or at least that’s what it feels like sometimes). It’s hard when you don’t enjoy the nothingness taste of plain water. I’ve found, though, if I have iced tea I’ll drink it all day long, and I do. I bought a half-gallon jug and make tea (with a sprinkle of stevia) with Lipton Cold Brew bags every morning at work. All day long I’m filling my cup with something I enjoy that isn’t made of chemicals (like a soft drink) or extra servings of sugar (like juice). There is caffeine but according to my box there is 10mg per 8oz serving (compared to 95mg in 8oz of coffee) so all day I’m getting a steady low dose drip that keeps me alert and hydrated.

If you have kidney stones, speak to your doctor about drinking a lot of black tea because it can possibly exaggerate an already existing kidney stone issue.

  1. Breakfast

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It’s another one of those things everyone knows is good for them, but one I have always struggled with.

I don’t get hungry right away when I get up, nor am I a morning person. I always hit the snooze until the very last possible minute. So to combat my morning anti-hunger I have been on the smoothie train. I throw some combination of whatever fruit is around, usually bananas, frozen strawberries, mangos, peaches, and this last week blueberries since they came in my Door to Door Organics box, with about a cup or so of nut milk (usually almond or coconut), a spoonful of vanilla Greek yogurt, a scoop of protein (switching from whey to hemp this week), and maybe some maca powder or some ice, depending on how I feel or if I remember.

I drink it in the car on my morning commute and it’s pretty fulfilling.

If I feel especially ambitious (usually on the weekend) I’ll try to throw some kale or spinach or something else greem in there too. Jamba Juice makes Fruit & Veggie Smoothie kits which run around $3.00 for 2-8oz smoothies, the ingredients list can be found here. It’s not too bad of a list for a frozen kit from a chain, in my opinion, and it’s still a better option than a chocolate chip muffin or a doughnut.

  1. Personal Hygiene

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I have been switching to products I can make myself as much as possible, partly because it’s better for me and partly because it’s more cost effective.

I use this recipe from DIY Natural for body wash, which includes castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Almond), raw honey, and some oils. I always feel super clean when I’m done and it smells amazing! And like they say on DIY Natural, it lathers great for shaving, too.

For my teeth I use this tooth powder instead of commercial toothpaste, and I try to oil pull when I remember (my morning mouth is always less when I’ve oil pulled the night before). The cost is like a dollar per batch and it lasts a while!

I wash my face with either just water, raw honey, or if my skin is really dry like it was this winter I’ll oil cleanse with almond oil. I very rarely wear makeup, so I don’t need to clean much off my face at the end of the day.

Sometimes I’ll do a honey mask while I brush my teeth at night, and I always use witch hazel as a post-wash toner and finish off with some avocado oil or calendula-infused almond oil to replenish moisture.

I haven’t found a “natural” shampoo/conditioner combination I like yet that is affordable, so for now it’s Pantene or Dove or whatever is on sale at Costco. There are suggestions about using baking soda in water or castile soap as a simple shampoo and diluted apple cider vinegar as a rinse, but with my long curly hair, it just doesn’t work as well for me. So if you find something just isn’t for you, don’t panic. Go back to what does work and keep researching until that time when/if another option appears.

I also make my own lotion and lip balm (my last batch of lip balm made 25 tubes and the supply has lasted almost 18 months!) and they are great, too.

  1. Don’t waste what you have!

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What if you JUST went to Bath and Body Works and bought 3 bottles of soap? Or have a just opened tube of toothpaste or brand new bar of face soap? No worries, just use what you have and when it’s gone, replace it with better. There is no need to throw everything out and start over. Or you can take the unopened containers to a shelter or food pantry to help those less fortunate. Either way, don’t be like me and think you should scrap everything you have. It gets expensive and sad.

  1. Prepare

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(Sorry, not sorry. I couldn’t help but think of Scar!)

This is the hardest part. You don’t realize how much easier all of this can be if you just prepare! Meal plan and keep a good stock of your most used items so you don’t run out. I base the week’s meals off of what is coming in our Door to Door Organics box and I always make sure I have a good supply of castile soap and raw honey.

If we keep taking baby steps, who knows where we’ll be in our wellness journey a year from now!

What baby steps have you taken to make your life more natural?

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