Tag Archives: health

Time to Detox and balance my life! (The green way)

Sometimes in life you just know you have to make a change. You can feel it and see the signs.

That’s what happened almost four years ago when I decided to end my relationship with over consumption and start the Not Made in China Challenge. I was falling down the rabbit hole; starting to consume more than I ever had before I moved to the States.

Now, here I am again. Making changes. This time the “signs” that I must do so are on my face.

perioral dermatitis

After having a baby, breastfeeding and not eating near as well as I was before baby, my face decided to flaunt a bit of perioral dermatitis. This is a rash like skin condition around the month and nose, found mostly in women, and dermatologists are unsure why it happens. Beauty products too harsh for the skin, hormonal changes, allergy or acne medicines may be to blame. Either way, I don’t like looking “not good” and after trying a bunch of topical remedies (that didn’t work), I came to the conclusion that only way to help my body heal is to go vegan, clean and balanced. (And I must tell you that a dermatologist I went to see, immediately gave me antibiotics! All they want to do is sell medicines! I did not take it.)

Healing comes from within.

First, when it comes to eating plant-based food, that means ZERO cheating. No sprinkles of cheese. No “fine I’ll have the chicken rather than eating rabbit food”. No coffee and no alcohol either (that’s the detox part). I’ve been cooking up a storm these past two weeks (I’m sharing many of the dishes on my instagram account @sustainableanna if you want to see the yumminess!) and my skin is improving. Tuscon spicy lentil tacos anyone?

Second, clean means a vanity clean from junk. I spent last Saturday getting rid of everything toxic. Products containing parabens, SLS, alcohols and such. I’ve been using “mostly” clean products for a while so why keep the old nasties lying around disturbing my bathroom piece? I did get a kick out of how ridiculously few pieces of make-up I own (no need to toss anything!) though. Meredith Tested inspired me further when she published a new blog post on skin care, recommending simply washing my face with raw honey (I know, not vegan!) which is calming, soothing and tastes good. Love it. (Check out Meredith’s zero waste routine here.) I also added some beautiful, all natural, vegan, American-made, compostable products to my cabinet from Meow Meow Tweet.

Make up sustainable life
A pic of the make-up I own (except my mascara and eyeliner)

Third, a balanced life is a life with inner peace. Now, I’ve never been happier than I am right now with our little love-bug-baby, a safe home and a great work-life balance, but I needed to rid more toxins out of my life. Like what?

Like seeing stupid, dumb-ass posts on Facebook from below average IQ people. Facebook just HAD to go. I’ve been hesitant about deleting my profile for a while now, convincing myself I need it to “stay in touch with friends” and “promote my blog”. The truth is FB wasn’t driving very much traffic anyway and the people I really care about have my number. Off. It. Went. (I took the plunge and deleted the whole thing, deactivating it felt like Facebook still had some sort of hold on my personal information.)

Slowly, I am seeing my face clear up. It’s still red in areas and I still have my dermatitis but it’s moving in the right direction. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Though I am not ready for an “after picture” yet, I am feeling optimistic about this clearing for the first time in months (yes, months!) and really good inside. I lost almost all the baby weight I had left to lose in the last two weeks too. Bonus!

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, I want to promote a plant-based, healthy, toxic-free lifestyle.

It doesn’t only benefit us as humans but it helps the environment too. Go green!

AND I want to let you all know what I am up to. Making lifestyle changes takes a lot of time, time away from writing, blogging and sharing.

Are you making any lifestyle changes? Would love to hear your success stories!

Five easy ways to cut back on your dairy consumption (for the sake of your health!)

Yes, dairy.

I first started to cut back on my own dairy consumption in an attempt to reduce acne and breakouts and it worked, however this post is going to be about the cancer building properties of animal based foods, focusing on dairy.

Processed foods, refined sugars, air pollution and chemicals found in cleaning products and lotions all help cancer tumors grow. This is somewhat accepted knowledge by now, but no-one seems to want to talk about the effects that meat and dairy have on our bodies*.

plant food consumption vs disease diagram

Why is dairy so bad for us? Well, we consume a lot of it, and most importantly, the main protein (casein) found in milk, has proven to be an extremely potent fuel in firing up cancer cells, especially for liver, breast and prostate cancer.

A series of lab tests, for example, using rats, concluded that when cancer genes (or clusters) are present, a diet consisting of 20% dairy protein in fact grows the cancer, while a diet with 5% doesn’t. Switching from a 20% dairy diet down to a 5%, actually stops the growth and even reduces the tumor over time!

It doesn’t matter how organic, local or non-gmo your dairy products are – the building blocks are the same. You’ll think twice about that organic, “all natural” strawberry milk you put in your kids’ lunch box now, I hope.

And sit back and think about this for a second: why would breast milk, by nature designed for another mammal, be good for humans? Do we aim to grow at the rate of a baby cow? We’re the only species on this earth that steals and uses breast milk from another. Awful! Rude!** 

Now, let’s take action.

1. Change your milk.

There are lots of great options to diary, like organic almond, cashew, coconut, oat and soy milk. I promise neither you nor your kids will get sick from protein deficiency. Ask your doctor how many patients he sees for lack of protein in a year (none). Don’t worry about the calcium either, osteoporosis is most common in high dairy consuming countries (like USA and Sweden). Due to the high acidity in animal products the body actually uses our bones’ calcium (a base) to naturalize that acid, meaning the more dairy we consume, the weaker our bones.

2. Change your ice-cream and yoghurt 

Organic coconut milk ice-cream and yoghurt is like the best thing that ever happened to me. Try Nada Moo or So Delicious varieties. Your kids will LOVE this.

3. Change your sautee and frying base

Please note that I am not in any way a promoter of synthetic margarine or high fat oils! Personally I use mostly organic olive oil for any satueeing action. Recently I found a brand made right here in Texas. Shop around, find a vegan option you like, and use scarcely. 

4. Change your sandwich base

Peanut butter, almond butter, olive oil, hummus, avocado, tomatoes… so many foods are delicious on a piece of bread. Still, if you feel you need a sandwich basic, instead of using cream cheese or butter go for vegan mayo. There are lots of great versions, we use Just Mayo from Hampton Creek which comes in a gigangtic jar that lasts forever and saves packaging.

5. Just Cut back!

Sure, I’ll have a pizza and won’t reject a meal with dairy in it at mom’s house. It’s about reducing! Always opt for light or no cheese and skip it all together on bean burgers, fajitas, fries and other foods that don’t “need it”. Learn to enjoy your tea and coffee black. Have your pie without the ice-cream. Get it?

Our bodies are amazing and want to be healthy. Once you remove the constant fuel to the fire, they can handle a slice of cheesecake now and then. (This philosophy also applies to meat y’all.) A plant-based, whole foods diet is the best thing you can feed your body for longterm health (and beauty!).

Please continue to support cancer research with any means you want and can afford. (Just don’t buy useless merchandise!) We still need to find cures. But also remember to create awareness about diet based disease prevention.

Tell your friends and family about the effects of animal based proteins! Do your own research when it comes to disease vs. meat and dairy consumption (it’s a click away) or set up a screening at your house of the Forks over Knives movie (it’ll tell you everything you need to know and it’s on Netflix!).

In addition to all the positive changes to your body’s strength and health, our environment will also thank you for reducing your dairy consumption. Dairy cows fart and burp methane (greenhouse gas), use endless resources (grains, water, lands) and create much more waste per head than humans do.

Got milk?

*Refer to The China study.

**Dairy cows actually have a miserable life, separated from their babies only hours after birth, constantly artificially impregnated while living in small booths for three to four years until they become low grade hamburger meat.

Trust me. I’m somewhat, fashionably, organic.

My sister decided to surprise me with a new statement tee a couple of weeks ago, because she is awesome and this shirt was just right for me. And I promise you can trust me – I am mostly organic.

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I admit that wine, beer, Panera Bread and other inorganic foods do make their way into my body, but I shop organics for myself and my husband, whenever there are options available made somewhat locally. Here in Texas, most veggies are from Mexico.

Studies have found that organic foods contain fewer pesticide residue and antibiotic-resistant bacteria than regular food does. But is it better for us? There are lots of reports on the internet of how organic food isn’t better, stating that studies show no difference in health or chemical levels measured in people eating organic versus people who don’t. I wonder if they were paid by big Agri to report that, because there are also studies proving the opposite, for example that video showing how a Swedish family goes 100% organic – “ekologiskt” – for a period of time and discovers most of the pesticides and toxins disappear from their bodies!

I am not sure what to believe, but my gut tells me it’s better for me.

What I do know for sure, is that organic produce is better for the farmers and the environment! Organically farmed soil has greater microbiological diversity due to crop rotation, cover crops and the use of compost instead of chemical fertilizer. They also use fewer pesticides, better targeted. Where conventional farms use 55% of the budget on pesticides and fungicides, organic farms only use 11%. These practices are great for the laborers too, as they are exposed to significantly less agrichemicals than those working on a conventional farm!

I wrote a bit about organic cotton a couple of weeks ago, in my quest to find the perfect denim, if you are interested in reading more you can do so here.

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Contrary to popular belief, using organic practices in the US does not necessarily mean a better life for the animals. For example, organic milk just happens to come from a cow that is fed organic food and lives on an organic farm. The label doesn’t mean that the cow gets to run outside, eat grass, hang out with its calf when it’s born, isn’t impregnated artificially every year to make more milk or later becomes organic hamburger meat. An organic milk cow is probably just as sad as a non-organic one. (Regulations may be different in other countries though!)

Organic does mean that fewer antibiotics are given to the animals, but I think I have to call that more of a benefit for the consumer than it is for the animals. A miserable life without antibiotics is still miserable. Good thing my new t-shirt only has veggies on it!

Speaking of which, this is a Mexican tee with an American-made print by David & Goliath that my sis found at Bloomingdales. How cool would it have been if the fabric was organic too? I know – a slam dunk! For these pics, I paired my new tee with an old (2013) pair of 7 for all mankind jeans, also made in Mexico actually, and my yard boots.

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Posing in the woods in a statement tee turned out to be great fun! Miss. Shutterluv scouted for locations with good light for future shoots, while I walked around cursing all the plastic waste that had been thrown away in our beautiful nature. Seems people keep forgetting to “not to mess with Texas”! All in all, a typical outing for the two of us :)

Viva organic!

Picture credits: Shutterluv by Ashley

2 years on the challenge: Not made in China GURU – c’est moi!

2015 has been an amazing year! Not because anything particularly amazing has happened, on the contrary, but I have learned so much this year; by dealing with life’s ups and downs, making mistakes and frankly by researching a hell of a lot, looking for answers and watching documentaries.

2014 was all about “surviving” this challenge of mine, just avoiding the made in China traps and looking long and hard at what I actually needed to buy vs. what I wanted to buy. 2015, on the other hand, has taken me and the challenge so much further, turning me into a shop local champ and close to living somewhat sustainably (still have a long way to go!). Shopping not made in China is actually easy now!

During the entire year of 2015, I have participated in buying only these (very) few items made in China:

  1. Plastic frames for prescription eye-glasses for my husband (one pair of sunglasses, one regular pair)
  2. Two pairs of foot-friendly Merrell sneakers for my husband.

Isn’t that an amazingly short list?! Hurray! Glasses and footwear are two of few items, I consider “need to have” so I don’t feel too bad about my felonies! About the sneakers, he got two pairs from China and I got three pairs from Vietnam… so we both went sweatshop there. Anyone else come close to that low number? Take a look around your home, just for fun, to see where your new purchases were made!

I’ve had a lot of people read my blog this year, mostly because I have shared it on social media and people with curious minds have clicked my links. Nothing is more awesome than having someone say “You have made me think of that” or “Because of you I did this”. It means so much to me. I believe that most people want to do right, by each other and by the planet; they just don’t have the simple tools or the knowledge to do so – yet. I am really just trying to inspire while I’m constantly learning more!

2015 lookback

There was a time when mankind thought the earth was flat. There was a time when some people said Climate Change wasn’t due to human actions. Wait, oops, that’s now…

So that said, here’s a list of a few easy eco-changes I’ve made this year in addition to shopping made right (here):

  1. I’m now pretty much vegan and some days vegitarian (but I’m not putting a label on it). I made this change in order to save water, CO2, methane emissions, forests, and energy. Basically save the planet! (Yes, I saw the Cowspiracy movie!)
  2. Our household now has 10% solar & 90% wind powered electricity. Finally found a provider serving our area offering only renewable energy! Whooo!
  3. Cut my hair to shoulder length! I’d like to think I did it to save water, shampoo, and products, but I did it to look cute. Still, the savings are a bonus :)
  4. Stopped using my trashcan at work. I noticed the cleaning crew changed the bag every day, even if there was just a tiny thing in it. Now I walk 20 steps to the kitchen. Exercise! And that is 240 plastic bags saved, per year, for ONE person.

It’s 2016! I will keep blogging, keep bugging you all (yay) and keep my optimism and passion for the environment because I believe passion is contagious!

Remember; The Not Made in China Challenge is not just about China. It’s about knowing where your possessions came from, how they were made and how they affect our planet. We all need to process that knowledge and take it seriously. What you choose to buy or not to buy is your vote and your impact on the world market.

This is the NOT MADE IN CHINA CHALLENGE 2016! I am psyched for this year – is this the year I will have ZERO items on my China-felonies count?

Thanks for reading! Come back and visit :)

Please don’t take my tag away from me! (What I learned from Cowspiracy)

Whenever there is a new documentary on Netflix promising to get our wheels turning, we always watch it. Watch, absorb, discuss, research and make necessary changes. So when Leonardo DiCaprio (my favorite eco-celebrity) posted that “Cowspiracy” was available, we knew we had to watch it.

There’s a lot to be learned from watching this amazing movie about how agriculture, raising livestock and eating meat, beef in particular, impact our environment. I will not be able to do the movie justice by attempting to summarize what it’s all about; you have to see it (and listen!) for yourself.

Personally, we knew eating meat was bad for the environment (cow burps and farts = methane), but honestly, we had no idea to what extent.

Water usage, meat vs. plant
Water usage, meat vs. plant

One of the sources interviewed in this fantastic movie said something like; “No meat-eater can call themselves an environmentalist”. Based on the fact that livestock is the largest global source of methane and nitrous oxide pollution, number one reason for deforestation, causes drought and produces excessive amounts of waste, to name a few issues; there’s no doubt that he is right.

This blog is all about tags. I’m always saying we must check the tag to see what something contains, where something is made, what a brand stands for. Tags and labels are important, and when it comes to myself, I like to think my tag says “made in Sweden”, contents: opinionated (150% of daily recommended value) environmentalist. I can’t have my tag taken away from me!! I’ve built a whole blog around my tag! Must eat better!

Land it takes to have a steak.
Land it takes to have a steak.

We saw the movie a few months ago, and since then, low, lower, lowest meat consumption for me and hubby. It’s not like we ate beef several times a week, and I was already doing meat-free-lunch every day, but we’ve stepped up our game dramatically. It hasn’t been a very hard change for me to be honest. But, yes, I do need to work on my vegan-cooking skills. I love cooking, so I am sure I’ll get better in time (that’s the optimist in me talking).

You know we’re saving for our first made right (here) Tesla, and here’s an interesting fact from the movie; switching to an electric vehicle (from a gas driven) will save a teeny bit more CO2 per year, than what switching to a plant based diet from a meat based diet will (only talking CO2 not the other worse greenhouse gases). But, how easy is it to change the purchases at the grocery store today compared to saving up and buying a new car? Exactly, that’s a no-brainer; start at the grocery store. Combined, these two changes are dynamite – in a good way.

We must all admit that we don’t know everything, and we all have the right to be wrong – that’s the cool thing about being human. We are wrong to eat meat in the vast amounts that we are, and the solution is really simple.

This movie got the world talking. It got me and my friends talking. Thank you Leo and Cowspiracy, that is truly grand.

3 gases

Pictures are from Cowspiracy’s Facebook page and copyright Culinary Schools.org. Read more at cowspiracy.com.

Personal note: I reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging I bring into our home, by not buying meats. It’s also easier to check tags on veggies than it is on meats (and processed foods) making it easy to shop local.

“Sweatshop” – Ready to see the (sad) story of your imported clothes?

I talk a lot about pollution, shipping and waste on this blog, as it is the reason why I am on a shop local mission! The health of this planet has such a big place in my heart, so for me, that’s the motivator.

However, I know many people around me relate and are more motivated by injustice, cruelty or by gaining insight into other people’s stories and their welfare. Many donate to save starving children or to better situations for people in need, while I would donate to an environmental organization. The world needs all of us.

That’s why I am sharing this link to a 12 minute episode today, (trailer below) which I first saw on the blog The Delicate Tension a couple of weeks ago. It scared me, but also made me feel like I am definitely on the right path. Long story short; three western youngsters who live to shop, go to Cambodia to experience first hand, the life of a sweatshop factory worker making about $100 a month, in order to understand where and how their clothes were made.

I feel like I am taking a stand against this kind of industry with how I shop. Are we at risk of putting garment workers out of work temporarily if we stop shopping? Probably. But how else do we show the big chains (who use sweatshops) that we don’t accept it? What do you think?

Maybe you have noticed that while this is a “not made in China challenge”, when it comes to clothes I try to buy 100% US made. This is because I consider all clothes to be luxury items; things I want but don’t NEED. (I think we all need to be honest with ourselves when it comes to what clothes we actually need). For me, buying a top from Bangladesh or Cambodia just because I think “it looks cute on me” is not ok per this challenge either, even if the tag per definition doesn’t say China; it’s just not worth the import. (Factory workers in USA don’t make great money either, but there are regulations here I do feel more comfortable with.)

I hope you feel inspired to look at your consumption after watching this clip, just in case my pollution propaganda ain’t working. I’m pretty tough, but this series made me tear up.

If you want to watch the whole series (there are five episodes and it’s worth the time), click here. If the link above for some reason doesn’t work, here’s another to that same video.

Thanks for reading.

I feel like I’m on to something good (a.k.a life without moisturizer)

It’s been six months since I changed up my routine by adding a yummy step did and wrote my initial Simple Sugar Scrubs review on the blog. I’ve used this all natural, facial scrub every night since then, and watched my skin get more and more hydrated from within. I am proud to say I am 100% moisturizer free, or I should say I’ve gone “NO-LO”.

Here’s what my routine consists of:

Step 1. Ole Henriksen on the go cleanser* (vitamin c works for everything). Step 2. Simple Sugars strawberry facial scrub* (since I sometimes break out, I want that salicylic acid!). Step 3. A few drops of SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF (high dollar miracle anti-aging serum).

Done! No toxic moisturizer on my face, evaporating during the night and clogging up pores.

facialI’m not 19 anymore and I do worry about fine lines; I don’t want them. EVER.  I am sure these products (and eating well) are helping me keep them away!!

Did I ever taste the scrub? Yes. Yes, I did. In my defense I had a little at the corner of my mouth, and it happened. And I can confirm – it’s sugar!! Natural and simple; that’s the beauty of it.

* Contains no parabens, sulfates, phthalates and other harsh chemicals

Money is everything – it isn’t how you play the game

Friday fun at our house: Watching a marathon of awesome documentaries (Fed-up, Park Avenue, Pump) which lead me to think a lot about money this weekend.

Money is the single, most powerful tool in this world, and in this country. Money rules the Senate. Money rules the House of Representatives. Money rules the President (I bet he made a nice bonus last week announcing that he will allow drilling in the arctic). Whoever invests the most money gets their bills passed.

It so happens that some of the nastiest people in this country have billions of dollars. Like the Koch Brothers. They are in oil. And yes, they fight environmental regulations and, yes, they push their own agendas thru cover organizations, bills and by buying politicians (mostly Republicans!). They know that money means power and that lots of money means lots of power. So they use it for their own benefit, like pushing for bills that gives tax breaks to themselves and the investment bankers, because that’s the kind of stuff oil tycoons looove (“I love it bro’ ”. “OMG, me too”).

What consumers seem to forget is that collectively, we have power too. We have more power in our wallets than we can ever obtain by voting.

In order to make things better and shift the power, we have to play the same game they’re playing, where money is everything. Together we have the power to bring large corporations out of business (bye, bye Wal-Mart), and the power to help ethical, green, local businesses grow. That’s pretty cool, when you think about it! Right?

What you buy is your political stance and ultimately your “vote”. Don’t just sit back and say you can’t change things, because that is not true. Here are some examples.

  1. When you buy American made goods – your vote says that you don’t approve of sending work overseas.
  2. When you buy all natural bath, body and cleaning products – you’re telling the manufacturers that it’s unacceptable to add parabens, petrochemicals and other toxins to these products.
  3. When you buy organic produce – you help support organic farms and clearly stat that you won’t accept chemical pesticides and GMOs in the food that your family eats.
  4. When you buy local – you vote for strengthening your own community.
  5. When you say no to Coca-cola and Pepsi – you tell the marketplace that you don’t accept highly processed sugars being added to your drinks.

The list goes on (and on, and on).

If we already know that the political game is corrupted by wealth, isn’t it time we all started playing? We may not like the game, but we can still be the winning players.

Start using your power this week! Put that processed food back on the shelf and leave that made in China sweater on the rack.

Be the change.

Testing this barefoot walking thing… in some cute trainers

In order to strengthen our feet, my husband and I decided to explore the world of trainers without offset and much cushion. The theory being that shoes which allow a more natural movement of your feet, make them stronger. Feet should function as they “were designed to” (back from when people were running around barefoot I guess). So, I dove into unknown-origin-online-shopping, with only my feet in mind.

I decided on a pair of Nike Free 1.0 Cross Bionic Trainers. These trainers have a low profile and Nike promises they’ll give me a virtually barefoot feel, enhanced stability and a more natural stance. They arrived a few days after the “click to purchase”; fit perfectly, super soft, light and cute. Where are they made? Vietnam.

Vietnam. Per definition that is not a felony of the challenge (phew!) but still a polluting import from the east.

BUT, I am excited to try this trend and theory out, to see if my feet really do get stronger. After my first few test-walks (they say you should wear them for a few months before attempting to run, and gradually increase the time and distance you walk in them to not overstrain your feet) I must the say the ball of my foot feels a little tingly, almost like when I’m walking in heels. In this case, some kind of soft, flexible, super comfy heels. That must be my muscles getting a workout, right? Knee muscles and calves actually tense up a bit too.nike

A while back a friend and I were actually discussing footwear vs. the not made in China challenge. His point of view; if you have already found the perfect running shoes, for your feet, should you really compromise that perfect fit for the challenge?

That’s a good question, and I honestly don’t have the answer. Maybe not. What could be more important than our bodies’ wellbeing? And keeping our feet healthy is a big part of that, I think. In order to maintain the energy to work on changing the world, we need good shoes and strong feet. We do have a long way to go (walk) and lots of work to do in our quest for sustainable living. I hope my Nike imports can play a part in it!

It’s about time you reduce your (merchandise) calorie intake

As of Sunday January 4th I’ve completed my first year of my “not made in China challenge”. And with that, this one year commitment has officially made me consider this my new lifestyle.

Still, living a not made in China life is like being on a constant diet, you always have to consider your options and read tags. There’s no getting around that.

Let’s say Chinese goods are like carbs… People will tell you; “Not all carbs are bad!” “Carbs won’t hurt you.” They’ll say that they manage to lead a healthy lifestyle while including carbs. Still, cutting out carbs completely, seem to help people get healthier and reduce their overall calorie intake. They may spend more money on healthier choices but their overall grocery bill stays the same, since all sugary, carby things (read cookies, candy, soda, cereal) actually add up quick! We can all live without such foods – so why spend the money?

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Not made in China is a diet that has reduced my overall consumption drastically.

There are many want-to-have-products without a domestic or not made in China alternative. It’s unfortunate, for me, but ultimately that means zero merchandise-calorie intake. Yes, I may spend more on one specific item than what a China-shopper would spend, but add up all my spending and it’s nowhere near what I spent the year before (the challenge).

It’s like I’m buying the fruits and veggies of merchandise, the stuff that’s really nutritious for our country; supporting small businesses, US entrepreneurs and locally made products. And the fact that very often these local products are organic or eco friendly, well that’s just a bonus.

Nothing or no one will convince me to change my view on this!

Enjoy the blog in 2015!! Let’s all shop local and reduce our footprint!