1 EWG staffer, 4 New Year’s resolutions

I joined EWG in June 2022, after a series of unexpected events that I can (mostly) attribute to the global pandemic. Though I had always loved learning about ways to create a healthier life for myself, the moment I took the job at EWG, I knew I was about to learn a whole lot more. 

I’m still enjoying learning every day about steps to achieving that healthier lifestyle, but after a year and a half at EWG, I know enough to make four resolutions for actions I’ll take in 2024.

1. Change my water filter cartridges diligently

I think I have owned and used a water filter pitcher for over 10 years now – they are easy to get and feel like something I “should” be doing. But it wasn’t until I started working at EWG that I began to understand why we’re all told to filter our water and what a difference it can make to our health both now and long term. 

I first learned this by browsing EWG's Tap Water Database, seeing that chemicals are often found in drinking water at potentially unsafe levels, including the tap water in my own ZIP code.

Also, I learned the Environmental Protection Agency required water utilities to test for 29 PFAS “forever chemicals.” Early reporting has found over 430 water systems serving about 26 million people in the U.S. have PFAS in their drinking water, but the true scale of the problem may be much higher. A peer-reviewed EWG study estimated more than 200 million Americans may have PFAS in drinking water at 1 part per trillion or higher.

EWG’s guide to water filters that remove PFAS provides options that reduce the amount of forever chemicals in water by 100 percent or very close to it.

Getting the pitcher filter was a good first step all those years ago, but over time it became easy to forget I was using water filter cartridges well past the point of being effective. But EWG’s work on tap water has given me a new appreciation of how important it is not only to filter my tap water but also to be diligent about changing the filter cartridges at the recommended times.

I am committing to this practice for 2024 and beyond by setting filter replacement reminders on my phone. 

2. Save up for a new mattress

I’m careful to not be too hard on myself when it comes to measuring success in reducing  toxic exposures in my daily life. There is always something more we could be doing, another change we could make, but I find these thoughts to be overwhelming. I like to focus on a few changes at a time, each backed by science. And right now, my focus is on changing my mattress.

We hear all the time that we spend a third of our lives sleeping, but for whatever reason, I never equated that statistic with spending a third of my life in very close contact with my mattress. 

It’s been upsetting to learn during my time at EWG about the lack of mattress regulation and safety standards that consider respiratory and skin health. Most mattresses and beds today are made with a variety of petroleum-based chemicals, foam, plastics and flame retardants. Some even contain fiberglass, which can escape the mattress and cause harm. Most of these compounds have not been evaluated for safety, even though they come into close contact with our skin, eyes and nose for at least seven hours a day – even more for babies and children.

With this newfound knowledge, I’m motivated to replace my mattress with one that has been rigorously evaluated by EWG’s scientists. The EWG VERIFIED® program has just begun taking applications for mattresses, and I’m looking forward to choosing one of them for myself in the coming months.

3. Clean up my cleaning products

This one is easy for me to commit to. Years before coming to EWG, I was already using our Skin Deep® database to help me find healthier, safer skincare products and cosmetics. But I’m slightly embarrassed to say I didn’t extend the same concern to the cleaning products I use. 

These products regularly come into contact with our skin, and the chemicals they release, including volatile organic compounds, can contribute to respiratory problems. 

For 2024, I’m committed to using EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and the Healthy Living App to find healthier options for everything stored under my kitchen, bathroom and laundry room sinks. 

On that note, I recently learned from the brilliant founder of Branch Basics, an EWG VERIFIED partner, that I may want to consider keeping all my cleaning products in a cardboard box in the garage when they’re not in use. This practice may improve air quality in the home. It might take some getting used to – but it’s a new year and I’m willing to try it!

4. Emphasize that buying organic is not an all-or-nothing game

Eating more fruits and vegetables may be one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. I’m proud to say it’s not something I have ever had a problem doing and enjoying. For a long time I’ve tried to buy organic whenever possible. 

What I’m resolving to change is the way I talk to others about the barriers to buying organic.  Though I care deeply about supporting organic agricultural practices, I realize not everyone has the access to, or budget for, buying all organic all the time. 

That is why EWG created the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, which I’ve been turning to every time I have a conversation about healthier eating or the cost of food. 

It includes the Dirty Dozen™ list of fruits and vegetables found to be most contaminated with pesticides and the Clean Fifteen™ list of produce found to be least contaminated. 

By pointing to EWG’s guidance about when to prioritize buying organic and how to buy non-organically grown produce more confidently, I hope my friends and family will be more open to changing a few habits at the grocery store.

And on a non EWG-related note, I have a goal to ski more this winter (wearing an EWG VERIFIED sunscreen, of course).

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