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5 small changes to be more natural in the new year

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Whether you're the type to make New Year's resolutions or not, everyone can probably make a few changes for the better. Instead of (or in addition to) lofty goals, try some of these small changes that you can make so you and your family can be a little more green.

1. Start Reading Labels. That's it. No long lectures about high-fructose corn syrup and BPA. Just make it a point to be aware of what's in all of your stuff. Not everything on a label that is long and difficult to pronounce is a dangerous chemical that we have to have a dozen bloggers rallying against, but some should be avoided. Just read the labels on your food, your clothes, and other products and be aware.

2. Grow Plants. It doesn't have to be a huge vegetable garden in your backyard, but a simple houseplant can go a long way towards health and happiness. Think that's crazy? This study says that simple houseplants can purify the air, improve your health, sharpen your focus and increase attentiveness. If you've got a black thumb, check out this list of the easiest houseplants to grow. Some are difficult to kill even if you're trying.

3. Try Natural Remedies. Before rushing out for an antibiotic, or even the Tylenol, see my list of natural pain relief or this list of natural remedies for kids. I certainly don't advocate skipping the doctor if it is serious, but too often we are quick to dole out medicine when some rest or a tablespoon of honey would do the trick.

4. Stay Home More. Not necessarily indoors, but home or within walking/biking distance. Cook at home more often, host birthday parties in your back yard, skip that shopping trip to the mall. Not only will you save money, you'll reduce the amount of fuel you use (and emissions), and contribute less to a whole host of pollutants in the sales-cycle.

5. Make Your Own Household Cleaners. All of those chemicals stuffed into smelly little bottles are completely unnecessary. We're not running operating rooms here, it's a home, and there's just no need to super-disinfect everything. A little bleach around the toilet when you've got little boys? Sure. Formula 409 for every wiping of the counter top? Too much. Vinegar and baking soda can clean just about anything and the internet is bursting with natural cleaner recipes.

Plus, switching out your cleaners is a little less daunting than not driving or cleaning out your diet. Start with laundry soap, I've been making my own for about a year and I'll never go back. It's ridiculously cheap and it works, even on my husband's supersmelly running “support gear”. It's a mix of 1 box borax, 1 big box baking soda, 1 box washing soda, and 3 ground up bars of soap. I've used Fels Naptha, Zote, and Ivory and they're all fine. Quadruple the recipe and mix it all together in a 5-gallon bucket and you've got soap for a year.

Happy New Year!

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