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Green Living: Protecting Your Family vs. Protecting the Environment

The following post is from Emily of Live Renewed:

source: joesive47/

Why do you think it’s important to live a natural and eco-friendly lifestyle? Is it to protect the health of your family and avoid your exposure to chemicals and toxins as much as possible? Or is it because you feel a responsibility to protect the health of the planet and the people living on it, and to preserve the earth’s natural resources for future generations?

It’s probably a little bit of both, right? And many green changes you make to your lifestyle do both things, they protect your family, and they are better for the earth.

But, what if there was a product that was safe for your family, but harmful to the environment? Would you still use it because it was considered safe? Or would you give it up for the “greater good” of protecting the planet?

This is a question I had to ask myself recently while doing research for a post about a product that many of us use in our homes on a regular basis.

The product is Teflon, and it is mainly made up of a toxic chemical that has been labeled “a likely human carcinogen”, however the company that makes the product claims that none of the chemical actually ends up in the final product, so it’s “safe” for consumers to use in their homes. However, manufacturing that toxic chemical does pose great risk to the environment, wildlife, and the people who work in contact with the chemical.

source: iStockphoto

Personal vs. Environmental Health

As I worked through the research, and wrote the post, I focused on the health issues for our families of using Teflon and encouraged people to remove these products from their home because I don’t believe they really are “safe”, and I’m not willing to take the risk when there are fairly easy alternatives.

My thoughts then traveled to the broader issue here. What if it was true that Teflon is safe and posed no harm for us to use in our homes? The fact still remains that it includes a toxic chemical that is polluting our environment and definitely has an effect on the people that work in the plant where this product is made.

So, even if it is “safe” to use in our homes, does that really make it okay for us to continue using it, even though it’s extremely harmful in other ways? And what responsibility does the company have in continuing to produce this product that is so damaging to the environment, even if it is “safe” and helpful to consumers?

The Bigger Picture

These questions don’t just apply to whether or not we should use Teflon pans in our homes. These issues relate to things like flame-retardants in kids pajamas, and chemicals in personal care products, and plastics in just about everything around us.

Some people claim these things are safe for us to use and pose no threat to our health. We don’t always believe them, of course, so we try to avoid them as much as we can to protect the health of our families.

But even if the claims are true, and they are safe for us to use, the production and manufacturing of these products creates long lists of harmful effects to our environment, which then in turn affects the people that live in that environment, which means that ultimately, it does affect us.

So instead of just avoiding things because we believe they are bad for our health, shouldn’t we also avoid things that are bad for our planet, even if they claim to be safe for us to use?

So What Is the Right Answer?

These are big questions, and I’m not claiming I have the answers to them. I’m trying to work through them myself and hopefully start a conversation and encourage us to think about the broader issues involved in caring for creation and protecting the environment in addition to whether something is “safe” for our family to use or not.

What do you base your green living decisions on, personal health or the health of the planet? Should we choose not to use products that are harmful to the environment, even if they’re not harmful to us?

Emily McClements strives to live with compassion and caring for creation in a way that will impact the world. She is a blessed wife and mama to three young children, and blogs about her family’s journey toward natural and simple living at Live Renewed.