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My name is Quentin (pictured here with my son) and I am lucky enough to be a director here at Conscious Skincare. I was a child of the 70’s and grew up not really thinking about organic – it wasn’t even a word we used!
Part of my life growing up was helping my dad with various DIY jobs at the weekend. You didn’t get people to do those kind of things, you just got on and did it yourself. Exposure to paints and chemicals was not even considered as we didn’t bother with any protective gloves, masks or clothing.
For me, this did come at a cost.
Several years ago I was treating a summerhouse with wood stain, still with a lack of awareness of the consequences of exposure. In the evening I noticed a slight tingling in my fingers, and felt unwell. This was the start of an event that culminated about 2 weeks later with being admitted to hospital with shaking so severe I was virtually unable to walk.
Symptoms included no appetite, a strong metallic taste, excess sweating with a metal odour, totally inability to sleep and complete loss of appetite. Severe headaches, nausea, tremors, constant and uncontrollable shaking added a few further bonuses! Fortunately my stay in hospital was short, but they were unable to determine the source of my illness.
Years of chemical accumulation, and not giving a thought to the world of potential toxicity that surrounds us had sent my body into meltdown. Also, possibly sleeping at that time on a new mattress full of chemicals such as fire retardants, effectively tipped my body over the edge.
I did luckily recover over time, although I still suffer from muscle fatigue and tiredness sometimes all these years later. If I had known now what measures I could have taken to help, it would have definitely improved my recovery.
I think that following the kind of 'Conscious Living' lifestyle we now enjoy, along with a constant awareness of the chemical world that we live in certainly helps. These are some of the things our family puts into practice – I hope it helps you!
Did you know your skin is the largest organ in your body and accounts for 70% of your body's composition. It both absorbs and protects.
Hand wash, face wash, shower products, how many times a day do you wash your hands – what soap are you using? What do you wash up the dishes with, what does it contain?
I use our organic skincare products as much as possible because I know what is going into them. I understand where they are made, and I know that they are completely cruelty free. They are a small but important part of the overall picture, but one that you can make an active choice over.
Take a moment to think about the possible toxins that are going into your skincare and which can be directly absorbed into your body. Some chemicals are unable to be broken down by our bodies and can accumulate in fatty tissue. Years of exposure can lead to accumulations of literally pounds of toxins building up in our bodies!
Sourcing locally grown organic food is a always a great starting point, or perhaps growing your own! We are very lucky to have a fantastic farm shop here in Cardigan.
Wherever you are there is usually a good local producer or farm shop nearby. Ours smells of wonderful fresh produce when you walk in. We also supplement fresh fruit and salads with home grown sprouting seeds for example.
Shopping for organic food is more expensive, but in our view a price worth paying. In the 50’s we used to spend 1/3 of household income on food. Now it has dropped to around 15% with the advent of cheap food, with little or no nutritional value. Keeping food a priority in life is expensive but hopefully a beneficial choice you can make. It also helps to support the farmers and producers, and in turn wildlife and the environment.
Did you know different foods contains different amounts of ‘chemical calories’?
What does this mean? Well firstly if you can it is worth paying the price to buy the organic alternative to food that is high in pesticides. i.e food which has has a high chemical load. Analysis shows some food has a much higher content. For example fresh fruit and veg is high, whilst dried fruits are generally much lower. You can read more in the EWG guide to pesticides in produce
During my poisoning experience I tried to find out what our drinking tap water at home contained. The water companies own analysis showed our water contained several banned pesticides (even ones like DDT which have been banned since the 1970’s). These are deemed OK for us to drink as they are ‘within acceptable EU limits’.
Did you know globally, 83 percent of tap water samples tested were also found to contain tiny microplastic particles. This is having a huge impact on our environment as fish and marine wildlife are consuming plastics and microplastics in the oceans as plastic degrades over time.
You can only imagine the impact for our planet and our future health.
We didn’t like the idea of drinking this and installed a filter to our drinking water. You can find some good advice here at the freshwater filter company if you are interested. The filters work really well with great tasting water! At least we are trying to take out some of the nasty stuff present in our daily drinking supply.
Another health decision I made was to remove all my mercury fillings. I read lots of information on the subject. The thought of having some of the most toxic chemicals millimeters away from my brain didn’t fill me with hope! Although the replacement fillings are probably still full of who knows what, I hope that taking mercury out of my system is a better choice.
Exercise is of course really important, and too large a topic to cover here. In combination with the outstanding benefits of regular saunas I have found this to really help detoxify and therefore reduce my chemical load.
A really important subject is our home space and indoor air quality, as it is of course where we spend a great deal of time. Furniture, bedding, flooring, paint, soft furnishings all are giving off potential toxins into the air. This is without adding to it with air fresheners, scented candles, washing powders, sprays etc.
Stop using all artificial fragrance and think about every single item you are bringing into your house. Does it have to be new? Can you buy a used alternative? Could you use some essential oils on a cotton pad as an air freshener?
We had to replace the mattress I suspected of adding to my chemical overload. I could not buy another chemical laden, mass produced item as it is where we spend such a significant amount of our lives.
Fortunately we discovered Dojo Ecoshop who hand make organic wool mattresses. Rebecca and I tried the different mattress styles and were massively impressed with the quality of the mattresses. Latex cores are wrapped around organic wool outers. We have slept on ours now for several years I can say they are comfortable and affordable in comparison to the cost of mass produced commercial ones as they have a longer lifespan. You can enjoy a great sleep in the knowledge there is nothing harsh from a chemical perspective affecting you!
We also bought wool pillows and a duvet which are great as they are soft and always help to keep your body at the right temperature. It may also be worth investing in a good mattress protector to also help keep those dust mites at bay!
If you are planning on some home decoration it is worth considering the type of paint you are going to use. Have you ever looked at (or tried to) find out what a tin of paint contains?
Paint tends to give off harmful VOC's (volatile organic compounds) for many years after painting. Just the smell during the initial application of low VOC commercial paints is too much for me. We have used Earthborn claypaint for several years and I think the quality is excellent, whether in matt for a wall or a wood paint.
For a fantastic range of paints, great advice, and eco friendly DIY materials I would highly recommend Celtic Sustainables. They stock a comprehensive array of Earthborn clay paints and loads of natural building and energy saving products. It really is such a pleasure to paint without getting headaches from VOC's! You are also safe in the knowledge you are not destroying the indoor air quality for yourself and your children. I am sure you are also familiar with how awful and irritating conventional loft insulation is to use. Check out the natural insulation range that Celtic Sustainables have for some really easy to use wool based products - this stuff feels great and is very easy to use.
You may like to read some great Conscious Living tips by ethical consumer for your home and garden!
In terms of flooring it is important to think about hard floors being better than carpets from a cleaning perspective as they trap less dust and allergens. In addition carpets are also notorious for off-gassing in a similar fashion to paints. Just think about how a room with a new carpet smells! Where does that carpet land up - in landfill.
With wooden floors you also need to think whether glues / varnishes etc are used in the construction and finish of the product. How is the wood sourced? Check it is really FSC certified. One of the best we came across and found to be high quality was MOSA bamboo flooring. This is ethical, great quality and one of the lowest ratings I could find for VOC's. Alternatives like cork may work for you (both insulating and from a renewable source) or linoleum (not made from petrochemicals)!
Avoid laminates and vinyl based flooring. It will off-gas for many years, is not made from renewable resources, and cannot often be recycled.
It does us! Our brains work on an an electrical basis. I am sure that constant wi-fi signals 24 hours a day is a ticking time bomb. I was particularly concerned with it affecting the sleep pattern of children as they are trying to grow and develop.
With modern life it is difficult to get away from wi-fi with numerous devices reliant on ever more powerful routers. One solution is to install a wi-fi router that can have the wi-fi part switched off. You can then get several small plug in devices that fit into your electrical socket into which you plug your device. Hey presto – your broadband signal now goes through the wiring system of your house. You can have your laptop and smart tv functioning as normal without the wi-fi signal on. A great idea that sounds a bit crazy but it does really work. You could of course just limit the wi-fi on to just a short period of time instead, and switch it off at night (or to get the kids off their devices)!
What kind of cleaning products do you use?
For years we have used home made cleaning sprays with a vinegar base. This is very effective and also good to know you are not inhaling anything nasty. Try a simple solution of 50% distilled vinegar, 40% water, a squirt of eco washing up liquid and a dash of lemon juice. You can also add a few drops of antibacterial essential oils like ti tree, peppermint or lavender!
It is also best to use a vacuum with a good HEPA filter to help keep that indoor air free of allergens.
This infographic illustrates how many planets we need to support different groups of consumers around the world. You can also calculate your own ecological footprint!
I follow the premise that if it is possible to buy it second hand and re-use then all the better. It is fantastic that each year more people choose to re-use and buy things second hand. I have just re-painted a lovely old stag wardrobe found in our local second hand furniture shop. It is 60 years old and as solid as the day it was first made.
Of course it is not always possible to do this, but buying from sustainable and ethical companies is a great choice. How about considering the Libraries of Things where you can borrow equipment and all sorts of household items in your local community. What a fantastic idea!
The Compassionate Shopping Guide is provided by Naturewatch Foundation. Naturewatch is an animal welfare charity promoting ethical companies that have a cruelty-free animal testing policy in place. The guide helps you use your purchasing power to influence companies to seek a more ethical animal testing policy. Check it out today! You may also like to read a guest blog Rebecca wrote for Naturewatch on why animal protection is at the heart of our philosophy. Ethical Consumer is also a great source of information.
We are also huge fans of BAM Clothing. They are an ethical UK company which has a really fantastic range of clothing made from sustainable bamboo. Having tried many items over the years we can certainly say these are some of the nicest clothes you can buy! To compliment your BAM clothes we can also personally testify that Will's Vegan Shoes are also fantastic. It is brilliant that there are UK companies out there offering these kind of human and animal friendly products.
SOURCED is a British manufacturer of truck tarp bags and accessories. They produce a range of goods including messenger bags, laptop cases and iPad sleeves in Cornwall. Having purchased these as a present, the quality, look and lifespan are excellent.