Take Off Your Shoes


Simply taking off your shoes before coming inside can reduce indoor pollutants by 85%, according to Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, executive director and CEO of the non-profit, Healthy Child Healthy World (HCHW). I heard Sarnoff speak at a breakfast last week hosted by Nordic Naturals at the Natural Products Expo. HCHW is currently working with Campbells to phase out BPA in their cans and with the FDA to encourage regulation of GMO food.

Sarnoff pointed to the fact that the IQs of children have increased as lead has decreased in the environment. And, while environmental insults can seem overwhelming, HCHP’s message is simple: “Noone can do everything, but everyone can do something.” Taking your shoes off is one of five steps she suggests for getting more healthy:

1. Avoid Pesticides.

2. Use non-toxic products.

3. Clean up indoor air.

4. Eat healthy food.

5. Be wise with plastics.

Here are some resources for taking these steps:

1. Avoiding Pesticides means limiting your exposure to pesticides in several environments. Eating organic food helps eliminate your intake of pesticides in food. Look for alternatives to toxic products used on lawns, to kill bugs and pests, and use fish emulsion instead of chemicals to feed indoor and outdoor plants. Healthy Child Healthy World has some great tips on avoiding pesticides and suggestions for alternatives.

2. Use non-toxic products. A recent study tested over 200 consumer products for endocrine disruptors and asthma-associated chemicals. Many so-called natural products tested high in these chemicals. Here are the 11 products tested that had no detectable target chemicals and some Tips for Greening your Cleaning and Personal Care Products. 

There are simple, effective, and inexpensive cleaners that can be used at home. I use white vinegar for most things. Mixed with water, it’s great to clean windows. I also use it to clean toilets and surface tops. I use Bon Ami cleanser for sinks, Lemon Oil with Bees Wax for oiling furniture and wood surfaces and Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds for dishes and washing the floor. A few drops of Oil of Oregano and/or Tea Tree Oil can be used as antibacterials if needed.

For personal care products, one really has to read the labels. You can put your products into the rating system of EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to check their level of toxicity.

3. Clean-up Indoor Air is where taking your shoes comes in. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a very detailed Guide to Indoor Air Quality.

4. Eat Healthy Food means eating more organic food. Start some sprouts in a jar in your kitchen. Plant tomatoes in a container outside. Grow a garden. Plant a fruit tree. Shop at the Farmer’s Market. Shop at your local co-op. These are the fruits and vegetables that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggests we buy organic as they are the most commonly contaminated: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce, kale, collard greens. Refer to the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

5. Be Wise with Plastics has to do with becoming aware of our reliance on plastic. I use glass containers with glass lids to store my food in the refigerator. I buy organic milk that comes in glass bottles. I use waxed paper bags instead of plastic to store food, like cheese, in the refrigerator. And, I re-use the plastic bags I get at the grocery story. Stainless steel containers can be a good alternative to plastic, especially for water.

Otherwise, I get confused about plastic. I know, of course, that I want to avoid BPA and phthlates in plastic, but I just try to avoid plastic as much as possible. Here is a Smart Plastics Guide from WHO and the EPA, and a Guide to Safer Children’s Products from the Oregon Environmental Council.

What’s one step you are taking with your family to move in a more natural direction?


Peggy O’Mara  (101 Posts)

Peggy O’Mara founded Mothering.com in 1995 and is currently its editor-in chief. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has lectured and conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League International, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.

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4 thoughts on “Take Off Your Shoes”

  1. Studying herbs and preparing herbal remedies for my family. We had Whooping Cough in the fall and I was picking red clover flowers like crazy, making them into tea. Worked great, coughing was definitely less spasmodic.

  2. I wonder if Canadian homes have a lower level of indoor pollution than American homes, due to the custom of removing ones shoes at the door? (The Japanese do that at well, and even have special house slippers.)

  3. Thanks for this post. I just got concerned with the resource info in number 2, specifically with the link “Tips for Greening your Cleaning and Personal Care Products”. I am confused why lavender and tea tree oil are included in the list of products to AVOID. I’ve read a lot of posts and studies saying that these two are very safe (as lavender can even be used on babies), not to mention, effective (as tea tree oil has anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties),to use for cleaning in the house, and you even mentioned in this same post that tea tree oil can be used for antibacterial purposes if needed. I prefer them over vinegar and water specifically for wiping counters and spraying on surfaces and toys, and even on hands to sanitize when we’re out of the house. Of course, I use them diluted, like 10-15 drops in 250ml water. I hope you can provide relevant information or studies on why these two should be avoided. Thanks again!

  4. Love it, thanks! We are slowly taking baby steps to a greener life.

    As for tea-tree oil, just be careful as it is toxic to cats. So if you have cats, be very careful when using it!

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