Written by contributor Stephanie Langford of Keeper of the Home.

Spring is finally upon us.

This is the perfect time of year to pursue a greener and more natural way of living. With the warmer weather, however, there are also hidden toxins in various products and practices that we would do well to avoid.

If you’ve been contemplating moving towards a more natural lifestyle, or slowly working through small changes in that direction, here are 8 simple ways that spring offers a perfect opportunity to practice wholesome, healthy, non-toxic living:

1. Bye-bye bugs

Most insect repellents include DEET in their ingredients (among others), a nasty chemical which is extremely poisonous and remains on (and ultimately, in) our skin long after we spray it.

That doesn’t have to keep you indoors, though. Essential oils like citronella, cedarwood, lavender and cinnamon are effective at keeping the bugs at bay, but are non-toxic and safe enough to be used even on children.

A few options to consider: Bug “bars” like this one or this, All-Terrain Herbal Spray, or Burt’s Bees Herbal Insect Repellent.

Photo by Bruce Guenter

2. Line dry your laundry

Winters where I live in the Pacific Northwest are grey, wet, cool, and did I mention that they’re wet? Line drying is laughable.

Not so in the spring and summer, when the sun reveals its lovely face. Save on energy and dollars while avoiding the toxins found in dryer sheets when you wash as usual, then use a rack or line in your yard (or apartment balcony) instead of the dryer. Not only will clothes smell delightfully fresh, but the sun even acts as a natural whitener and brightener, even removing set in stains, so you can ditch the bleach and harsh stain removers as well.

3. Hello, Farmer’s Markets

Farmer’s Markets in most parts of North America begin to open up between April and June, abundantly full of tasty, nutritious and seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Buying locally and seasonally encourages us to eat the bounty of each season. We learn to appreciate the ebbs and flows of the growing year, enjoy each food at its finest (both in taste and nutritional content), and it becomes more affordable to eat fresh, organic produce and kiss those pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers good-bye.

Try searching Local Harvest to find a Farmer’s Market in your local area. Another option to consider is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which works beautifully for many people. Gardening in your own backyard is another of my favorite options, to supplement what I buy locally.

Photo by cogdogblog

4. Stay hydrated, plastic free

We all know by now that hoarding plastic pre-bottled water in our garage or car trunk isn’t the right way to go about getting in our requisite eight (or more) glasses of H2O per day.

If you haven’t already, invest in one (or even several) high quality stainless steel, refillable water bottles. You’ll avoid harmful BPA and other chemicals leaching out of the plastic bottles, keep unnecessary waste out of landfills and recycling plants, and ensure a supply of pure drinking water to keep you hydrated in the heat.

5. Protect your skin sensibly

If we all had a dollar for every time we’ve ever heard the importance of sunscreen espoused, we’d be rich. Yet, the sun also offers benefits to us— for our moods, our immune systems, our energy. Avoiding the sun and its rays altogether is neither necessary nor wise.

That said, practicing safe sun exposure is important. Avoid the sun during peak times of day (when the sun is at its highest and strongest). Wear light colored, loose clothing to cover up for long periods of exposure. Hats are helpful, especially for busily playing children. Do your best to avoid burning (this is when the greatest sun damage occurs), and be mindful of those with fairer and more delicate skin, infants and toddlers in particular.

When it comes to days when longer sun exposure is unavoidable, consider some of the safer and less chemical-laden sunscreen options available. EWG has an excellent safe sunscreen guide, and their research and recommendations are excellent.

Photo by Bob_Jenkins

6. Deal with weeds (sans chemicals)

Since most store-bought weed killers contain chemicals that are toxic to people (especially children), to animals, and to our water supply, doesn’t it make sense to learn to maintain your yard without them?

Better options for keeping the weeds at bay include:

  • Mulching to smother weeds (shredded bark, wood chips, rocks or gravel, newspaper, etc.)
  • Picking them by hand (easiest when they are small and after a rain or a brief watering)
  • Making your own weed killing formula (like this one or some of these ideas)

7. Choose deodorant, not antiperspirant

It’s important to avoid dangerous toxins like aluminum, and Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex (which is considered carcinogenic) is a common key ingredient in antiperspirants. Not only that, but blocking sweat glands isn’t a wise choice, either, as this prevent toxins from leaving the body, and interferes with our built-in internal “cooling” system.

Deodorant is a better option, and there are plenty of natural ones to choose from. Some common brands that you’ll find in-stores and online are deodorant Crystal Sticks, JASON, or Tom’s of Maine (or check the Skin Deep database for more options). Or, make your own with common kitchen ingredients like baking soda and coconut oil, either in a simple combination, or go fancy and make your own stick deodorant (it’s easy, really).

Photo by stevendepolo

8. Paint those piggies

I’m not a sock gal. Bare feet and sandals are my preference. Painted toe nails make feet cute and having prettily colored toes is just plain old fun.

Toxins aren’t fun, though. Formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates and more. These are some of the nasty and dangerous chemicals lurking in that innocent-seeming bottle of polish.

Thankfully, there are increasingly more options for toxin-free nail polish. A few that I’ve tried or heard good things about include: Piggy Paint (for kids), Honeybee Gardens, Zoya, Suncoat, Peacekeeper, Scotch Naturals and Karma Organic.

What are your natural-living goals for this spring?