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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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I'm Green Inside

Canary In A Coal Mine

When I was in college, I entered a new medical system and had to start with a brand-new doctor. I had been a sickly child, and I was a sickly adult, so I saw this new doctor regularly right at the beginning. On about the third appointment (and the third case of bronchitis, or strep throat or whatever it was), he asked me what I was taking for my asthma. “Asthma,” I asked? He said, “what do you mean, nobody has ever told you you have asthma?” I didn’t know.

How many times I felt like a fish without water, struggling to breathe… now it all made sense.

After that moment, I began taking allergy shots and taking rescue medications for my asthma. But not only that, I also was put on a regime to rid my indoor environment of the dust mites and allergens that were plaguing me. It was during that time where I began to realize how much my indoor air affected my well-being.

Once I began thinking about how the dust mites were affecting me – and protecting myself from them in a variety of ways I will share with you in a later post – I started wondering if maybe other things affected me, too. I used to get rashes on my face from time to time, and it was always breaking out. So just to test a theory, I stopped using perfumed soaps and moisturizers, and started searching for a soap and a moisturizer that might stop my face from breaking out. At the same time I searched for make-up that wasn’t as caustic. It was a search that lasted several months, but eventually, I found products that worked, and my face stopped breaking out. That was about 19 years ago, and my face has been clear ever since!!

Over the next year or two, my awareness grew. I learned to look for natural products weren’t tested on animals, weren’t full of ingredients I didn’t need to be putting on my body, and were much more sustainable. I started looking for shampoo, conditioner, and other personal products.

After a few years of living in different homes through college and afterwards, I learned that there were other indoor materials that could make me sick: formaldehyde in the floors, lead in the walls, mildew on the ceilings…. all sorts of neurotoxins and volatile organic chemicals that don’t need to be there. And I learned how to get rid of them.

Can you guess where I thought about next? What went inside my body. I started cutting out processed foods and fast foods. (I also became a vegetarian, and maybe I’ll go into that at some point but now is not the time.)

The Nut Girl

Well, about five years ago I met a man who was the perfect man for me. We fell in love. And then… he moved in. And he thought I was nuts! No chemicals, no fragrances, no preservatives, no fast food… and what was this air filter always humming in the background? He thought I was nuts.

But the good sport that he is, he went along with it. He stopped using fabric softener, he started using my shampoo, and soon enough he fell in with my indoor environment.

And now? He can’t stand perfumes – sneezes when he smells them. We both get stuffed up when we eat something processed. We both break out when we used some hotel shampoo somewhere. We both truly like breathing clean air, using clean products, and eating natural food.

Some of you reading may think it’s crazy to live our lives this way. I think it’s crazy not to. Putting carcinogenic chemicals in your body, putting neurotoxins on your skin – it’s not enough to do these things because everyone else does. As an asthmatic, sometimes I feel like a canary in a coal mine. Well, here I’m a canary who has cleaned up those toxics so I don’t die. Please learn from me!

What’s The Point Of All This?

We have discussed building our communities, living locally, growing our own food, and generally playing our part to make the world more sustainable. But the truth is that my quest for sustainability began inside my home, the most local place of all. And once I paid attention to the air I breathed, the fluids I drank, and the environment I surrounded myself with, I stopped getting sick, my thoughts became clearer, and I looked and felt so much better than I’ve ever felt. I am a more effective human being that enjoys my life so much more!

So this is a challenge to start changing your indoor environment. Start at the root of your world, where your children live and breathe, where you family spends most of its time. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned over the years about how to green our homes.

Please sign up! Join us – for yourself and your whole family.

Ok, But What Is The Challenge?

To start greening your own home.

First, start paying attention to what you put on your body, in your body, and around your body. Right now.

And then over the next few months, put it all into practice: take solid steps to green your indoor environment.

If you don’t know where to start, follow my articles as I talk about what we’ve done over the next several weeks!


I'm Green Inside

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30 comments to THE GREEN YOUR INSIDES CHALLENGE: Start Greening Your Own Home

  • I’m sticking to what I said on Sunday: You are sssooooo an enabler!! LOL Now we’re going to have to rip out all the carpet, strip the walls and paint with no VOC products. *sigh* I guess it MUST be done since you threw down the gauntlet… what else are we to do?

    And this time, we will be more careful about the color of no VOC paint we use. LOL Are you two going to come to the painting party? WOOHOO!!

  • becky

    i don’t have a blog for the pretty butterfly but i am fortunate enough to still have butterflies all around our home and sometimes even “rescue” them if they flutter by mistake thru the open door into our screen porch. oops- sidetracked there- butterflies do that to me!

    back to the topic here- yes! count me in! i definitely want to take this challenge. so far i’ve been greening my way into cleaning products (mostly down to borax, washing soda, vinegar, baking soda, bar soap) and personal products-baking soda for deoderant and toothpaste. would LOVE some help with shampoo (currently trying a bar variety but it is not going well-a very gunky residue), and lipstick choices as that is the only makeup i use.

  • I found out, almost by accident last fall that I’m wheat intolerant, and have been for years. I now eat no wheat or gluten, and it feels so much better! No cramps, bloating, stuffiness and other gross symptoms. I lived like that for years and years, and the sad part is, I believe my Dad did too, and was never diagnosed. Now, whenever I talk to anyone who is diagnosed with Krohns or other digestive problems I gently suggest that they either go on an eliminative diet (cutting out various known problem foods from their diet until they define which is causing them problems) or go to an allergist and get tested. Phew, what a relief! On another note, I’m determined to rip out the carpet in the living room, more than ever now after being reminded of dust mites – *shudder!*

  • TMC

    I love a pretty Doodad!
    I’m on board and all linked up. :)

  • Great post. We do use natural cleaning products and it’s amazing to think how complicated marketers make things seem like they need to be. I’ve switched to a shampoo bar, which is working fine for me, but my husband won’t give up his Pantene for his thick/dry/curly hair. I also use toothpaste without sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) — hard to find, but someone finally turned me on to the fact that SLS was causing the horrible canker sores I suffered for years!

  • Yay for green homes! I think we’re actually about as green as we can get in terms of self-and-home-cleaning products, but maybe I should join this challenge as a challenge to myself to actually *clean* the house. We’re still not sure what causes my boyfriend’s allergies, but the dust levels in the apartment can’t be exactly helping. At least we don’t have carpets…

  • Melinda, I’ll sit this one out. We do almost everything we can at this point – except rip out the carpeting, etc. My son has asthma and is allergic to dust mites and I still remember you so nicey responding to my email on the 90% Reduction group six or eight months ago, laying out what I need to do. Which reminds me. It’s time to change the filter on the hepa filter.

    After my weekend class learning about all the nasty ingredients in safe skin care and shampoo, I’d say that’s one of the easiest places to start AND one that should see quick results.

    While I won’t be posting about this, I do look forward to reading everyone else’s posts to see if there’s anything else I missed that I could do for my son and for our home.

  • This is something that I’m actually working on. I’m just taking it slow. I’ve written down some lists of the most common hazardous ingredients in things and I’m working on switching all our houses cosmetics, hygiene products, and cleaners to more organic and animal testing free products.

    Do you have any suggestions as far as brands go?

  • Count me in!

    It’s the one area I’ve been needing to get into shape. We’ve already done some things but we’re ready to make the leap.(:

  • SHIBAGUYZ, Excellente – I enjoy being an enabler. And yes, green tea is green, powder blue is blue… you could -um- try painting just a little bit to test it out next time. ; )

    BECKY, I LOVE butterflies. And I am particularly proud of this pic I took! I’m counting you in! Thanks for letting me know what you’re looking for – that helps a lot. I’ll be sure to address those, and a whole lot more!

    BLUE FOX, It’s amazing, isn’t it? Once you understand what your body needs, you feel so much better! Ha – yes, I will definitely be talking about carpets!!

    TMC, Awesome!

    CHEAP LIKE ME, So true – I can’t believe how many ingredients are in some of those things! My husband came around eventually, and now he will never go back – there’s hope! ; ) Good point about the toothpaste – I had no idea they were related to canker sores – I used to have them all the time when growing up. P.S. I just saw your bathroom remodel. Beautiful job. Hopefully we can find some cheap, green alternatives for your next remodel!

    SARAH, There are several things inside the apartment that could be worsening his allergies – I’ll make sure to address those, as there are a LOT of people out there suffering from allergies. Glad you’re joining us – I’ll try to surprise you with some things you might not know, though I know you’re going to be tough to surprise! ; )

    GB, Ok, but I hope you do read the posts, as you may find something useful for you and your son! And yes, I remember our first email conversations – I’m glad I could help! (I hope he’s feeling better?)

    Great post about the makeup – definitely a good idea to start with.

    ARADIA, Wow – I love that you have a list! It would be interesting to know what is on the list, if you feel like sharing – I’m sure people would find it useful. I will discuss the brands I use, because I’ve done endless searches for what works for me and hopefully someone else will benefit from that. At the same time, everyone has different skin and hair and living spaces, so what works for me will not always work for everyone else. I’ll do my best to give resources for finding what works best!

    MICHELLE, You’re counted in!!

  • My asthma has been much much better since I stopped living with people who wanted the house to be Clean! (Mum liked the products that have ‘Kapow’ and ‘Bam’ on the bottles) and started living more like a lazy slob. We’ve got plenty of dust, but I don’t get sick like I used to.

  • I’m all linked up and I can’t wait to start following your suggestions and info! I just recently found your site, but I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

  • KATE, Definitely for me it was a combination of eliminating the crazy cleaners and other chemical and fragrance-heavy household items, and cleaning and getting rid of the dust mites and toxins in the house.

    GREENE ONION, Wonderful – I’m glad you’ve found the site!

  • Oh yeah, totally there with you. In fact, we’ve been doing this for years… Both my husband and I have some pretty substantial allergies – then we reproduced! EGAD! Our son has life-threatening allergies and asthma, our other two children both have allergies and asthma to a lesser extent. We’re *very* careful about what comes into our home – and super importantly – what goes into our bodies. My kids have known how to read labels on food products since they were teensy weensy little kids!

    So thanks for the challenge, Melinda! Count me in!

  • My lists are below.

    Tom’s of Maine
    Yes to Carrots
    Burt’s Bees
    Seventh Generation
    Eco Tools
    Eco Lips.

    Common Ingredient Hazards in Personal Products
    Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA)
    DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, and Imidazolidinyl Urea
    FD&C or D&C followed by a color and a number.
    Lanolin (lanolin oil is usually fine)
    Parabens (usually proceeded by methyl-, ethyl-, butyl-, or propyl-
    PEG(Polyethylene glycol)
    Polysorbate 60 and 80 (contamination risks)
    Propylene Glycol
    QUATS; Benzalkonium
    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate

    Common INgredient Hazards in Cleaners
    Aerosol Products
    Bleach/Sodium Hypochlorite
    Ethoxylated Nonylphenol
    Methylene Chloride
    Parabens (see above)
    Phosphoric Acid
    Sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate
    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

    Avoid polycarbonate which contains buspherol A (BPA). #7 in the recycle symbol or PC on the bottom can idicate Bispherol A

  • I’m looking forward to your future posts on this topic, especially as regards to greening your body. I won’t be able to participate in your challenge, but I’m definitely interested in reading about it and seeing if I can improve my own insides at least a little bit as well!

  • Melinda, one of the things that I’ve learned is that even if you live in a place like LA, the outside air is cleaner than the inside air, so opening windows and stuff is a biggie!

    I … am going to be going challenge free in August in order to preserve my sanity, but I look forward to reading your posts!! :)

  • Like Green Bean, I’m going to sit this one out because we’ve already done these conversions pretty much. I’ll read your posts with interest, though, and cheer everyone on.

  • DINA, I’m definitely counting you in. And feel free to share anything you’ve learned along the way. I can imagine how difficult it is with children who are sensitive. My parents had it tough with my sister and I – I had all sorts of allergies (including an allergy to plastic diapers and anything fragrant against my skin) and my sister was allergic to milk and wheat!

    ARADIA, Wow – thank you for sharing this amazing list! Did you find all of these on a list you found somewhere, or have you been compiling this list? Wow!

    STEPHANIE, Excellent – I’m totally fine with that, most definitely! Thanks for your comment.

    ARDUOUS, Generally that is very true. I had a HEPA filter in LA, and did a lot of work to reduce my indoor pollution, so for me that wasn’t the case. And I would encourage you to do as much as you can in that direction, because the LA air is pretty bad! I will look this up for a future post, but the last time I read about it, somewhere around 30% of the LA basin population has some form of lung disease. Yikes! So I’m glad you’re reading!!

    And boy, I totally understand that after a year-long challenge you’re going to give yourself a break from challenges… you’re excused for at least a month. ; )

    CHILE, Some of these changes will indeed be easy for you veterans – completely understand. But feel free to chime in and share whenever you like!

    This is where I got the list of chemicals to avoid.
    This helped me find a lot of the various products. It also contains a bit more in-depth information about the various chemicals.
    This also helped me find products… though this was based solely on which companies don’t do animal testing.

    I read an article on webmd about polycarbonate.

  • Count Chez Artz in! We’re all linked up and ready to go. I’ve posted a bunch on greening personal care products and greening your food, but there’s always more that can be done and I look forward to reading everyone else’s tips!

  • [...] last couple of days I’ve been struggling with how to begin the Green Your Insides Challenge. And then it hit me that I needed to address this: the reason it is so difficult for anyone to [...]

  • ARADIA, Thank you for sharing those links. I’ve visited Skin Deep several times – it’s a great site!! The other two are new to me, so I will check them out.

    JULIE, Counted you in a couple of days ago but wanted to let you know I’m looking forward to anything you want to add as we go!

  • Melinda, they are pretty great. My mom has a ton of allergies so she loves the Guide to Less Toxic Products.

    I personally really love the caring consumer site. Most of the brands you find from there use very few harmful chemicals or don’t use harmful chemicals in their products if you check them out on Skin Deep. Interesting connection huh?

  • I’ll take the challenge! I currently live at home with Mum (I’m a college student) who is big on toxic chemicals… I’ve been trying to green the house up for a while but maybe this will give me some better incentive! (And help myself, too. I know my chronic headaches are a response to the products she loves to “clean” the house with and make it smell “fresh”)

  • ARADIA, That is a very interesting connection – and it makes sense! People who care, care across the board, wholeheartedly….

    KRISTEN, Excellent! I used to have very bad migraines, and certainly changing my indoor air quality and household products has helped make those migraines far less frequent. I’ll share what has helped me, so that hopefully some of what I’ve learned will help you and mom!

  • [...] I’m sitting down to write about how to Green Your Insides, and it should be up later this evening. I know some of you have been waiting anxiously for that as [...]

  • Liza

    This is quite a up-to-date information. I think I’ll share it on Facebook.

  • lou

    Green the inside of your home with plants. Some plants are particularly excellent at removing chemicals and toxins from the air.

    These in particular: Peace Lily, Philadendron, Spider Plant, English Ivy and the Palm plant.

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