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The Holistic and Environmentally Friendly Home

by Maxine Fox(more info)

listed in environmental, originally published in issue 129 - November 2006

Threats about global warming, Arctic meltdown, increasingly erratic weather patterns: it seems as if every day we hear yet more stories about the ways in which human behaviour is impacting on the environment. But one of the main stumbling blocks on the quest to save the planet is the very size of the planet itself. The problems can seem simply too overwhelming for us, as individuals, to address. As we struggle to survive in an increasingly pressurized and fearful world, our very human reaction is to withdraw into our homes and seek refuge. From the safety of our homes we question the cost, the effort, the viability of individual action, and can all too frequently end up by just carrying on as before. But, in fact, it is from here that we can make the biggest impact of all. For our individual homes are a microcosm of our global home; what this means is that you can make choices from within your home that begin to effect the change towards the kind of world you want to live in.

Environmental friendly home
holistic friendly house


As soon as we begin the process of turning a house into a home, it starts to express the different aspects of our personality: our background, our interests, our aspirations. As our home develops, we see reflected back not only our value system, but also our sense of self-worth. The very powerful messages revealed by our home-making are often under-estimated, but the impact that they have on our subconscious is both real and compelling. It is, therefore, in our own best interest to ensure that the messages we receive from the homes we create are life-affirming in every way.

A tall order? Not so. It simply requires putting a little conscious thought behind the decisions we make on a daily basis.

The basic principle behind holistic home-making is that each choice made in the creation of our homes carries with it many benefits; benefits that support not only our physical but also our emotional and spiritual health. Our primary home is our physical body, and so when thinking about holistic home-making, the first priority is the maintenance of our physical health. Emotional health is ensured when we are able to truly express ourselves, and within the home this means allowing our innate creativity to blossom, using all the elements of design to support and enhance our wellbeing. Finally, we must consider our spiritual health, for as we explore the many options available, we see that what benefits us also benefits others. It is here that we begin to strengthen the ties that bond us to the rest of humanity, as well as all that forms our global eco-system. This act of reconnecting to one another brings with it enormous benefits, not only for our health but also our happiness.


Color friendly wheel

 

A Detoxing Your Body and Home

The single most important thing that any home-maker can do, both for their own health and the health of the planet, is to begin to lessen their dependence on the vast arsenal of chemicals that have insinuated their way into every area of their lives. In whatever arena they are used: in homes, in agriculture, in commerce or industry, the massive increase in chemicals usage is directly behind many of the problems that are manifesting today. Some of the most ubiquitous and, therefore, detrimental chemicals are pesticides. These include the insecticides, fungicides and herbicides that are used to prevent the spoiling of many of the produce and products designed for the home. They may appear labelled as preservatives or disinfectants, but in essence they are the same thing, and not only are they used on food crops but also in household cleaners, personal-care products, insulation materials, floor coverings, furniture and furnishings. Although farmers and manufacturers reassure us that the amounts contained within their particular product are within health guidelines, where are the guidelines regarding the total load our bodies are expected to deal with?

The taking of food, for example, forms one of the most important parts of our day, yet in today’s increasingly ‘chemicalised’ world even this simple act has become tainted. Studies carried out at Emory University in America1 found traces of organophosphorus pesticides, which are widely used in conventional (i.e. non-organic) food production, in the urine of all the children they tested. These traces became undetectable almost immediately the children were switched to an organic diet, only to re-appear with the re-introduction of conventionally-farmed foods. To make its way from their food to their urine these chemicals would have passed through their digestive systems, their blood and their livers, before being finally eliminated via their urinary system. The researchers concluded that switching to an organic diet provided immediate and dramatic protection against exposure to organophosphorus pesticides used in food production. Further studies from the US Environmental Protection Agency in America have concluded that indoor air pollutants now feature in the top five environmental risks to public health.2 If you want to protect yourself and your loved ones from exposure to these chemicals the solution is simple: don’t bring them into your home in the first place.

As far as holistic home-making is concerned, the joy is that one good decision carries benefits for all. Making the switch to organic on the grounds of our own health also benefits the health of the environment, including both wild animals and birds; our seas and rivers, which often suffer through chemical spills; our pockets, because less money will be needed to clear up the toxic mess left behind; the animals in research laboratories, which will have been used in toxicity tests; as well as offering a much fairer model of trade. Farming communities do not need to be suffering the effects of over-exposure to all those chemicals any more than we do. And despite the chemical manufacturers’ insistence that it is impossible to feed the world organically, farmers in Africa, Asia and South and Central America are showing that by returning to more organically-based mixed farming methods they are actually able to increase yields by as much as 175%, with a reduction in costs by as much as 30%.3 Bought locally and in season, the decision to buy organic produce is one of the most holistically beneficial changes you can make.

Further steps towards detoxing your home would include replacing chemical cleaners with natural methods, such as bicarbonate of soda for scouring, vinegar for de-scaling, lemon for de-greasing and essential oils of lavender, tea tree or lemon for antibacterial action. Visiting the health food store will help you find body-friendly alternatives to the mineral-based personal-care items more usually available, and don’t forget that when the time comes to re-decorate or replace bigger items, the internet is a great place to find companies offering non-toxic paints, varnishes, floor coverings and building materials. By doing so you will be taking a big step towards making your home not only more environmentally-friendly but body-friendly too.

Colour, Light and De-Stress

Once you have cleared your home of chemical blight it can begin to fulfil its primary role, which is to look after you. It is here that things start to get a lot more creative, as in the holistic home, design works not only aesthetically but intuitively too. Colour, lighting, imagery, ornaments, artwork and the placement of furniture, all elicit very real reactions from us, and by becoming aware of those reactions we can begin to consciously manifest a home environment that actively heals those who experience it. Colours are chosen to create rooms that soothe, stimulate, ground or inspire as appropriate to their function. Design is used to augment what natural light is available, allowing optimum access to the healing power of the sun. Artificial light is then introduced for both practical purposes and to create atmosphere and ambience. It is by becoming aware of the impact of design choices that rooms are created that invite us in, inspiring us anew with their vitality and warmth.

Central to any home is its ability to help you de-stress. Here design is used to encourage harmony and reduce tension. By designing wisely, a home can provide a peaceful oasis to a mind stressed by work and family schedules, or to bring gentle encouragement to those facing personal or professional challenges. By thinking about how you wish to experience a room, you will be guided towards choices that support that emotion. A bedroom should be restful, embracing, with no distractions that may arouse a brain preparing for sleep. A kitchen needs to be practical and easy to keep clean, but more importantly we should remember that its primary role is to facilitate the provision of nourishment. Keep this in mind and you will be guided to colours and materials that honour our connection to and dependence on Nature.

By creating rooms that actively support we once again create many benefits. A bedroom that helps confer restful sleep will support your immune system, increase your energy levels, make the day ahead less stressful, and so more likely to be successful. A kitchen that encourages you in to cook freshly prepared food will help your health and your figure far more than one that is cluttered, impractical or gloomy. A re-invigorated kitchen or dining room may even encourage you to invite friends round to do a little nurturing yourself, the benefits of which are of course immeasurable.

Energy, Environment – the Wider World

Given the chance, a holistic home will begin to work real magic, not only in your life, but also in the on-going story of our planet. For not only does the home act as a mirror, reflecting the degree to which an individual honours themselves, their health and their happiness, it also acts as our conduit to the outside world. The choices made in the creation of a home provide the clearest statement possible about the degree to which we honour the rest of the world: our fellow men and women, the animal kingdom, the environment, the planet itself.

An easy step to take is to become more energy aware. By simply turning the central heating down a few degrees, fixing dripping taps, insulating your loft properly and leaving the car in the garage, you will significantly reduce not only your own bills but also our global energy bill. Other holistically beneficial decisions include buying the best quality appliances that you can afford. Although the initial outlay may be more expensive, appliances that are reliable, and which carry water and energy efficient symbols, offer much better long-term value for money, both in terms of subsequent energy bills and performance.

It is from within our own four walls that we can begin to make choices that will have a direct bearing on the way countless others experience their world; a world that sadly has seen free trade become a synonym for corporate abuse. Over the course of the last three to four decades, trade ‘liberalization’ has cost developing countries billions of dollars. World trade rules instigated by America, Europe and Japan are such that developing countries are actively prevented from working their way out of poverty, as the rich nations continue to protect their own profits through trade tariffs, export subsidies and the dumping of their excess produce on poor countries. The money that is so generously given in aid is clawed back, with added interest, through unfair trade rules that are designed specifically to protect the rich. By far, the most immediate and effective way of saying no to this gross abuse is through judicious use of our consumer power. If you believe in fair pay for a fair day’s work then choosing products that are guaranteed as being fair trade is the only option.

Think about the future you wish to bequeath. If you want to continue to enjoy all the riches this beautiful world bestows, then seek out the stewardship certified products and produce that are guaranteed to come from sustainable sources. If you wish your children to grow up in health and safety, then make choices today that conserve our increasingly precious natural resources. Know that despite all the horrors inflicted on laboratory animals, substances known to be toxic are still allowed into our health and household products, while their true impact on our health remains un-quantified. Become aware of how the legacy of farm animal abuse is beginning to severely impact on our own health through misuse of antibiotics and other drugs, and through the spread of cross species diseases; once again this will mean choosing only organically reared meat and dairy produce.

The more discerning we as customers become, the more the big corporations pay attention. Unfortunately, as they latch on to this expanding new market they are actively using their power to try to weaken what, by law, constitutes fair trade or organic. To prevent this from happening it is necessary for consumers to demonstrate their awareness by only buying products that carry independent certification, such as the Soil Association symbol for organic produce, the Forest Stewardship Council mark for timber, the Marine Stewardship Council for fish from sustainable stocks and the Fairtrade Foundation guarantee for worker’s rights. The standards demanded by these bodies are far more stringent than those laid down by governments, both here and abroad, and they remain independent from those with a vested interest in moving ethical and environmental goalposts.

It is not hard, and the small outlay of conscious effort reaps such great rewards. With each choice made in the creation of a home we send out a clear and unequivocal message to the wider world. By saying no to those who seek to exploit, destruct and then abandon, we begin to create a different world, one that allows for diversity, freedom of choice and a fair deal for all. Rather than passively accepting the world as it is presented to us, we can use our own individual homes to create the kind of world we would like to see, and so begin the process of global redress. In creating a home that respects both your own and your loved ones’ health you make choices that respect human rights as well as animal rights, the home environment as well as the global. With each choice we add momentum to the move towards greater humanity and a sustainable future, and in doing so we create within ourselves the kind of peace that comes from making choices that actively support life: our own and others.

References

1.    Lu CS et al. Quantifying Pesticide Exposure. Rollins School of Public Health. Emory University. 2005.
2.    US Environmental Protection Agency. Questions About Your Community Indoor Health. Boston. 2004.
3.    Marsden T and Parrott N. The Real Green Revolution. Greenpeace Environmental Trust. London. 2002.

Picture Credit

Photograph of a Baufritz house. www.baufritz.co.uk

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About Maxine Fox

Maxine Fox is the author of Holistic Home: The Home-Maker’s Guide to Health and Happiness (Findhorn Press www.findhornpress.com). She spent many years working in young family care, where her interest in holistic wellbeing led to her re-training in the field of complementary health. Based in south-west London, she works in partnership with her husband, offering a holistic design and refurbishment service for the home. Maxine may be contacted on Tel: 020-8948 3731; jimmaxfox@hamsurrey.fsnet.co.uk

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