Ep. 180: Creating a Non-Toxic Home

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On today’s episode, I’m chatting with certified Integrative Nutritional Health Coach and Interior Designer, Anne Garland of Grass Fed Salsa all about actionable steps in creating a non-toxic home.

Fed and Fit podcast graphic, episode 180 Creating a Non-Toxic Home with Cassy Joy


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Episode 180 Links

  • Visit Anne’s website HERE.
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Episode 180 Transcription

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. My name is Cassy Joy Garcia. I am your very excited host! Because today, we are speaking with Anne Garland of Grass Fed Salsa about creating a nontoxic home. Anne is a certified integrative nutritional health coach and interior designer; that’s very cool, who is passionate about whole home and body detox as well as personalized nutrition therapies tailored to the individual. She’s the creator of several online programs and eBooks; including Ditch your Nutritionist, Autoimmune Accomplice, and The Whole Life Detox, which is launching in January! Congrats, girl!

When she’s not designing hotels; oh, that is such a cool job! Or creating content for her wellness business and website, Grass Fed Salsa, you can find her snuggling up to her 9-month-old daughter, Gigi, her husband James, and their pups, Coen and Kiki. Welcome to the show, Anne!

Anne Garland: Thank you so much! I love being here. This is so exciting.

Cassy Joy: This is so exciting for me! Oh my goodness. We have matching babies.

Anne Garland: Yes! {laughs}

Cassy Joy: {laughing}

Anne Garland: They would totally be buddies, I’m sure.

Cassy Joy: Oh, I love her name. Gigi, that’s so sweet.

Anne Garland: Thanks! It’s her initials, but that’s her nickname.

Cassy Joy: I love it. That’s such a cute, cute nickname. Very, very cute. Austin keeps calling Graysen; we call her Gray. And he’s so used to calling Gus Gus-Gus; our dog. Graysen is Gray-Gray. So we’ve got Gus-Gus and Gray-Gray. And I was like; aw, man. I don’t know that I want Gray-Gray to stick! {laughs}

Anne Garland: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: But it’s cute.

Anne Garland: It is cute.

Cassy Joy: Ok. Tell us a little bit more about your story. What is your degree in, and how did you get interested in nontoxic home design?

Anne Garland: Yeah. I have an undergraduate degree in interior design, and my master’s degree is in human environmental sciences of interior design. So that’s kind of where the interior design aspect of my background started, was all through college and graduate school. And honestly, I was not interested in anything eco-friendly, environmental, because my whole drive behind design school was to graduate and start designing hotels. And just with the research that I had done, designing eco-friendly hotels wasn’t really on the radar at that point.

That’s even what my thesis was on, was cost comparative analysis of finishing and furnishing an eco-friendly hotel versus a conventional hotel. Even after writing this entire thesis, I still just didn’t really have any passion in it, until I started furnishing my own home and getting more interested in reducing all of the toxins in my life personally.

So I started focusing on my house after we moved out; my husband and I moved out of a moldy condo. So we had to start replacing a lot of our furniture.

Cassy Joy: {laughs} Such a visual.

Anne Garland: Yeah, it was bad. So we had to replace a lot of our furniture. We had to get rid of a lot of things. And I just started researching as much as I could on how to be replacing these products that were contaminated with mold, but also that were off-gassing into our house. Just to kind of see; is this really going to affect our health or not.

Then I really started prioritizing it a few years later, during pregnancy, and now postpartum. And now both me and my husband are like; it’s like we know too much. We’re like; at this point, we are spending so much time looking for the right products. Just learning everything about it so we can help set up Gigi for the best life she can possible have.

But while still doing it with; I’m coming from it at a place of aesthetics, because I do have a design background. And also just affordability. So there’s a lot of different things that are kind of prioritized for us.

A lot of the options I’ll be talking about today; they are big investments. So I just want to kind of put a disclaimer out there to everyone to make sure they realize that you can start small, and you can start slowly. It doesn’t all need to happen right away. I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed just because I’m providing this information. This is just a resource for you to come back to as you start making these swaps over time.

Cassy Joy: I love that. Thank you for saying that. I just recorded another podcast on environmental stressors, and I was like; before we get into this, because they’re all scary {laughs}. The important thing is not to panic, and just go with what resonates with you right now. So I love that!

Ok. Well, that leads very nicely into my next question; what are some of the worst toxic culprits in our home that maybe we could consider replacing with nontoxic options?

Anne Garland: Yeah, so there are; gosh, it’s really hard. What I would suggest switching first, because it is a really easy replacement, is to switch out the way that you clean. And I know you’re a fan of Branch Basics; that’s one that I would highly, highly recommend. That’s a brand of cleaning products that provides a variety of different options for you to choose from.

And the reason why I suggest Branch Basics, and why I suggest a lot of the brands I do, is it’s kind of a one-stop shop. You can go and get any product from Branch Basics, and know that it is going to be a clean, healthy product for you to use. There are other brands on the market; Seventh Generation is one of them. And not dissing Seventh Generation by any means; I use some of their products. But some of them are really clean, and others are not so clean. You can use the EWG app to rank that and see the differentiation between the rankings that their products have. So it’s nice to have one; it’s one less step I have to do. I don’t have to scan the products to make sure what I’m getting is a nice clean product; I can just trust all of them.

And then, if you wanted to have something that you could reuse a lot, I’m a fan of Norwex. And they’re just cleaning cloths. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, Cassy, but they’re cleaning cloths that have antimicrobials built into them. So you actually just need water and a Norwex cleaning cloth, and you’re good to go.

And if you have the time, and you want to invest your time in it, you can also make your own cleaning products through using essential oils and water, vinegar, things like that.

Cassy Joy: Beautiful.

Anne Garland: Yeah, so that would be the first place I would start.

Cassy Joy: Kind of low-hanging fruit.

Anne Garland: Mm-hmm. And the next thing I would say to consider switching out would be your conventional fragrances. Mostly the reason I would say start here is just because it’s not a necessity. A lot of people feel like they really love candles; it’s a habit. They love the ambiance it provides. But it isn’t something that they have to have all the time.

So switching out any type of artificial fragrance. Even if it says perfume on the label; the ingredient label. Those can all be harmful. Even soy-based candles can still be harmful, even though they’re a better option. Certain wicks can be harmful. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to candles.

What I suggest using is if you want to have the ambience from candles, that’s what you really appreciate. Beeswax candles are going to be a really great option, because they actually ionize the air. Which means they’re going to bind to toxins in the air, and eliminate them. And you can also purchase an air purifier, which would do the same thing. But that’s just going to be a little bit more of an investment than beeswax candles.

You could also diffuse essential oils if you want the fragrance. And if for some reason you’re lighting candles because you want to eliminate a smell, you can buy bags of charcoal. It’s really discreet; they’re just in little fabric cases and you can put those around your house and those will absorb odors. So those are some different options for swapping out those conventional fragrances that might be hiding out in your house, and air fresheners and things like that.

Cassy Joy: Oh, I love it. That’s such a good list. And those are definitely things that I feel like I can also wrap my mind around. I did; candles were an interesting one. Because I went through this phase of; alright. I hear you on the candles. This was a few years ago. Not you-you. {laughs} I hear you, science, on the candles. And I swapped them out for soy wax. But I still felt like there was this cloud. I had this little chronic headache during the fall when I really wanted that pumpkin spice smell in my house. And sure enough, I just wound up nixing them altogether and diffusing the occasional oil when we wanted it.

But that was interesting about beeswax candles. Because I know there are probably some listeners that don’t want to give up that soft glow, like you said. So that’s fascinating. And I agree on the cleaning products; those are wonderful swaps. And you wouldn’t know the difference.

Anne Garland: Right, totally.

Cassy Joy: Whereas you may notice the fragrance missing from a candle. When it comes to cleaning products, your windows are going to be just as clean. Your stainless steel still is going to sparkle.

Anne Garland: Right. And if you’re missing that pumpkin spice scent; it’s not exactly a pumpkin spice scent, but it is very fall. I would recommend; if you’re purchasing from Young Living, an essential oil blend they have is called thieves. It’s pretty popular. They coined the term Thieves, but there are other companies producing a similar blend. And it’s usually called Medieval Mix. So if you wanted to go to Natural Grocer’s or Whole Foods to look for essential oils; Medieval Mix is a really great purifying blend that also smells really great.

Cassy Joy: Ooh, what a good tip. Thank you.

Anne Garland: Yeah, of course.

Cassy Joy: Ok. So what are some of the potential side effects of living in a home that maybe has not been renovated in a nontoxic manner? If you’re sitting; if someone is listening and they’re cleaning their house, and they’re looking around the walls, and they’re thinking; oh no! This is a 60-year-old home! {laughs}

Anne Garland: There’s so much that could be going on in your house. A lot of people think; ok, I’m going to build my house brand new, because that means I’m going to have less of these side effects and less of these toxins. Less of a risk of mold. But really, you aren’t immune to it no matter what type of house you’re living in. So know that.

What you can do to feel empowered, because that can be kind of discouraging, is to just know that by doing what you can, you’re going to reduce your toxic burden. And your body inherently has the ability to detox from other things. The problem comes in when you’re overburdened. So you’re getting these things outside of your house, inside of your house. From the clothes you wear, the furniture you sit on, all of that. That’s when your body is overburdened, and it can’t handle the toxic load. So by removing certain things; we can talk about other items that you can remove that would be contributing to that toxic burden. A lot of the side effects are going to be mitigated.

So some of the things that you look for; formaldehyde is actually a chemical that’s in a lot of different furniture, building materials, all of that. It’s found in wood adhesives and particle board. And where you’re typically going to see that is in less expensive furniture. Particle board will be used to construct the piece of furniture. And then there’s going to be typically a wood adhesive on top of that to hold down a veneer.

Formaldehyde can actually be linked to cancer. So it’s a human carcinogen. And the great thing is that over time, this will off-gas. It won’t be emitting so many of these VOCs. In the beginning, it’s going to be more extreme. So one thing you could do to kind of mitigate that would be to just let it off-gas in your garage, if you have some ventilation within your garage and you’d be able to make that work.

There are a lot of other chemicals used in tanning leather. The leather tanning process is actually a pretty dirty process. There are some organic tanning methods. But you kind of have to seek them out. So that would be something that I would look into, if you’re planning on purchasing like a patchwork cowhide rug, for example. That was something that we were considering. Or like a leather sofa. Just kind of looking into what the tanning process is.

The one I would suggest trying to avoid at all costs would be a chromium tanning process. And most of the time, you can just contact the company, and they’ll be able to check and see how their leathers are tanned. But these chemicals used in tanning leather and dying fabrics, those can be shown to be another human carcinogen. They can trigger headaches, vertigo, skin and eye irritations. There’s kind of a wide variety; like most things. There are a wide variety of symptoms there.

And the other one that I personally would try to avoid would be flame retardants. Flame retardants have been shown now to be accumulated in wildlife tissue. So we know that our use of flame retardants are getting out into the environment, as well as within the home. It’s also shown to be found in breast milk. They’re hyper present in our environment.

These are linked to respiratory and reproductive issues. So I personally think that, again, because this is one that we’re likely going to be getting exposed to outside of our control. I think when you can reduce it; when there are items within your control that you can choose to purchase without flame retardants, I think that’s a really important one.

Cassy Joy: That’s great. And you know what’s funny; I’m sure you went through this. Well, it sounds like you had a huge leg up on a lot of this research. But when I was researching the baby registry for Graysen is when I really started to learn about flame retardants, VOCs, off-gassing. Where do you draw the line in terms of what you’re willing to bring into the home, and where do you not. And there’s a lot of information out there. So just to reiterate, if you’re curious about; I don’t know if I’m going to be able to find this information. I guarantee that if you reach out to whoever the manufacturers are, they have that information ready for you.

Anne Garland: Totally.

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Cassy Joy: Ok. So, curious now. This is a lot of really great information. What would you say are some of your favorite budget friendly options when looking to make a safer swap? Aside from cleaning products, beeswax, home fragrances. What would you say are some budget friendly things we can do to maybe start switching our homes over?

Anne Garland: Sure. One thing that we had to save up for. We saved for a couple of years for it. But we really wanted to prioritize for a non-toxic mattress. Because we do spend roughly a third of our lives asleep. We knew that we’d be bringing our baby in to co-sleep in our room for the first six months of her life. And we were buying her a nontoxic mattress. So that was something that we really prioritized.

Now, even if you save up, it is really, really hard to spend that much money on a mattress when you could get something a quarter of the cost. So, what we did to make that more cost effective. And I want to say we got it 40-50% off by using these three tricks. We used a holiday to get it less expensive. Mattress manufacturers are going to use every holiday they can to give discounts. So we purchased ours; I think it was a fourth of July holiday discount.

And then we got a prescription from our doctor. You just ask the doctor to write you a prescription for a nontoxic mattress. You can give that to the company that you’re purchasing it from, and that will get it for you tax free. And then my husband is the king of bargaining. We also offered to pay cash. So he bargained it down an additional amount; they threw in some pillows and a mattress cover. All the salesman tactics. And we also offered to pay cash, so they took another 3% off for not having to pay credit card fees.

Cassy Joy: Wow; look at you! Do you mind saying which brand of mattress you got?

Anne Garland: Yeah, we purchased Posh and Lavish.

Cassy Joy: Posh and Lavish. Oh, I would say that wrong five times fast. {laughs}

Anne Garland: I know. {laughs} Let’s see; some of the other options. I definitely recommend looking into nontoxic rugs and furniture. Especially if you do have children, and they’re going to be playing, and crawling around, and rubbing around on your rugs. It’s just kind of a good idea to try to get something that’s flame retardant free. Made with natural materials. Wool is actually going to be a great option because it’s naturally stain-resistant.

But, if you can’t afford a nontoxic rug, or nontoxic furniture. You can let, like I said earlier, furniture off-gas in the garage or any well-ventilated space. And then the rug will off-gas quite a bit by letting it sit outside in direct sunlight for several days. And I would just let it sit outside for pretty much as long as you can handle.

I will say, though; after all of our research on trying to find a good nontoxic rug, we found a few cotton rugs. So a natural material, which we loved. It didn’t have a latex backing, and it didn’t have any flame retardants. And they were very, very affordable. Several hundred dollars for really, really large sized rugs. We bought one, and it ended up looking so good that we ended buying a second one in a different color for another location in our house.

So there are some out there. I would just suggest looking for flame retardant free. A few brands that you could look for for that would be New Loom is a good option, and I’m trying to think Safavieh is the one that we purchased. So they have good options. And then finding a cotton, jute, wool, sisal rug. Those are all different materials that are natural materials that you could choose.

Cassy Joy: Wonderful. I love it.

Anne Garland: Yeah. And then the last thing I would suggest; and the jury is still out on this. But it’s something I personally changed because it isn’t super expensive, and it’s just kind of an awareness thing. Would be to try to reduce EMF and EMR throughout your house. And the way you can do this is you can actually test your outlets and electronics to see what’s emitting the most EMF. You can purchase a little EMF detector from Amazon, and it tells you what the electromagnetic frequency is as it’s touching your television, and then 2 inches away, and then maybe 10 feet away back where you’re sitting on your sofa.

And then a few other things I do. I unplug my phone and laptop when they’re fully charged because those do emit electromagnetic frequencies. I turn it on airplane at night, or if I’m holding it near or touching my body, but not using it. So if it’s going in my back pocket, I turn it on airplane mode.

And then we turn off Wi-Fi at night. If that’s something you can’t really get into the habit of doing, you can buy a timer that plugs into your outlet, and it will automatically shut off anything with that timer at a particular time of day. And then we hardwired everything that we could. We hardwired our television, our home office equipment so that we aren’t using Wi-Fi to power those. It’s just directly connected to the internet.

Cassy Joy: Very cool.

Anne Garland: Yeah. So those are little bit; like I said, a little bit of a gray area in terms of toxins. But I just think better safe than sorry while we’re not quite sure of the long-term effects those are going to have on us.

Cassy Joy: Right. Because the studies aren’t necessarily as conclusive as we might want right now. Technology is moving faster than the research than can catch up at this point.

Anne Garland: Totally.

Cassy Joy: Ok. Such great stuff. I would love to ask just a couple of quick questions before we close. Do you have any favorite indoor plants that you use to purify the air?

Anne Garland: Yeah! So I’m coming at this; most plants are going to help you no matter what. I’m coming at this from a design perspective, and I’m going to give you several different options that I personally have in my house, because they are more of the trendy plants. Like ivy is a plant that isn’t quite as trendy, but is also a really great one to have in your house. I don’t personally have that in my house, because I want them to look really great and trendy, as well.

So the ones that I love; Boston fern is a really great option. This removes formaldehyde in the air. More formaldehyde in the air than any other plant. So that’s number one, get that one in your house. These others are also going to remove formaldehyde, but they also remove benzene and other harmful elements. Palm trees, bamboo, or lady palm, those are all good options. And then the spider plant; those are really fun, large-scale plants that you can bring in. Mother-in-law’s tongue is a really easy plant to take care of. And this one specifically; I don’t know if I’m going to say it right, but it removes trichloroethylene. And that’s a pretty concerning VOC that’s found in wood finishes and adhesives, as well. So that’s a really great one to have.

A rubber plant is a good option. And the rubber plant is actually my favorite alternative to have in your house rather than using the popular fiddle leaf fig tree. So if you’ve seen a big plant on a thick stem, and it’s tall with really beautiful leaves, that’s probably the fiddle leaf. And you’ll see this in every bloggers home. The problem with the fiddle leaf, is that it needs a lot of sunlight, a lot of care. They’re just hard to maintain. So the rubber plant is really good at purifying the air, and a lot easier to take care of.

And then the last one; again, this should be in everybody’s house because it is so, so easy to take care of, is a golden pothos.

Cassy Joy: Mm. Ok, I cannot wait to go buy all the plants. {laughs}

Anne Garland: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: That’s wonderful. Do you have any favorite nontoxic kid lines for décor or bedding?

Anne Garland: Yeah. There are; depending on how much you’re willing to spend, and again what your non-negotiables are. We personally chose Babyletto, because it was very cost-effective. And a really great option. But then if you want top of the top, I would say; Stokke, that’s a great brand. And then Grain Cradle is another one. Those would be good for furniture.

For infant car seats, I would highly suggest getting the UPPAbaby Mesa, because that one, I believe, is the only carseat on the market that is flame retardant free. And then Naturepedic has, I would say, the best baby mattress. There’s Emily Natural as another good brand. We personally chose the newton mattress. And it does have flame retardants, but we really liked that the Newton was a breathable mattress. And it is still a better option than some of the others.

Cassy Joy: Wonderful. So helpful. Thank you so much, Anne!

Anne Garland: You’re welcome.

Cassy Joy: Man. I’m going to relisten to this several times, make sure I get all my notes down. {laughs} If you’re listening and you want to do the same, know that we will have a full transcript over on the blog. Can you tell folks where they can find you and all of your work? And maybe just a little bit about your Whole Life Detox coming out in January?

Anne Garland: Oh, sure. You can connect with me; I’m at Grass Fed Salsa pretty much all over the internet. And so about the Whole Life Detox. Honestly, detoxification is more than just diet. And when you look up a detox, that’s basically what you see. Everybody talking about diets. But it is so much more. So you can detox your home, your body. You can detox your movement, your mindset. Everything. So that’s what my Whole Life Detox program is about. It’s just reducing exposure whenever possible. Making peace with the exposure to toxins when it isn’t within your control. And overall just making an overwhelming process less stressful.

And if you’re interested in that, I do have more information coming. I send out weekly detoxification emails. So if you’re interested in that, you can signup at my website; grassfedsalsa.com/lifedetox.

Cassy Joy: Wonderful. So helpful. Thank you, Anne! I really appreciate you making the time to come on the show today!

Anne Garland: Of course. Thank you so much for having me.

Cassy Joy: Yes, absolutely! And like I said, y’all can find the full transcript. We’ll put all the links to Anne’s work in the show note. And as always, we’ll be back again next week.

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Cassy Joy Garcia

HOWDY! I’m Cassy Joy and I am just so happy you’re here. I’m the founder, Editor-in-Chief, and Nutrition Consultant here at Fed and Fit. What started as a food blog back in 2011 has evolved now into so much more.
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