10 Ways to Live Less Toxic in 2021

2021: A brand new year to live a less toxic lifestyle. To start, we are kicking off the year with 10 ideas to begin this commitment right now. In your own home. We recommend starting this new year by picking one or two items that you can work toward immediately and then pace yourself in working toward the others.

Living a healthier lifestyle is not a quick fix. What matters most is taking consistent steps where you can and as you are able.


We also recognize that sourcing safer options in this day and age can be a headache. It is difficult keeping up with all of the latest research literature and materials of concern. Our Banned ListSM alone, which is only the first step in the MADE SAFE® certification process, contains over 6,500 substances and materials prohibited from use in our certified products. No one can keep all of that in their head! That is part of the reason why it is our mission to create easier ways for shoppers to identify safer products through the use of the MADE SAFE seal. Our seal represents a rigorous Ecosystem Screening process for products that are paving the way for a healthier future for all.

Look for our ratings of $ – Inexpensive, $$ – Moderately Expensive, $$$ – Expensive, save up.

1. Personal Care Products. $

What: Swap any toxic personal care products with nontoxic options. One of the easiest ways to spot safer products is by shopping the MADE SAFE seal. Don’t do this all at once, but over time as you need things, to help keep the cost manageable.

Why: Personal care products are hugely important for two reasons: first, they are used regularly, and second, they are a common hiding place for many toxic ingredients. A few examples of frequently used ingredients in these products are surfactants like sodium laurel sulfate, preservatives like parabens, and our least favorite catchall: “fragrance.” All of these products carry concerns for health and these are just a small handful of the many ingredients prevalent in personal care products today.

Shop MADE SAFE certified personal care products.

2. Mattresses + Bedding. $$-$$$

What: Nontoxic bedding is an important aspect of creating a safer home. Whether you’re currently looking for new bedding or you’re simply thinking ahead for the next time you replace your bedding, there’s room for improvement. We recommend replacing one thing at a time, as resources allow.

Why: Conventional bedding (mattresses, pillows, sheets, comforters, etc.) are known sources of things like flame retardants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polyester, and pesticides.

Shop MADE SAFE certified mattresses + bedding

3. Cleaning products. $

What: DISPOSE of toxic cleaners safely, or when you finish up what you have REPLACE with safer cleaning options. Consult your municipality to learn how to dispose of hazardous waste safely in your area and opt for purchasing nontoxic cleaners or making your own.

Why: Many conventional cleaners contain (whether intentionally added or as a by-product of manufacturing) chemicals known to cause harm to humans and/or the environment such as secret fragrance formulas, 1,4 dioxane, polyethylene glycol compounds (PEGs), and ammonium quaternary compounds.

Shop MADE SAFE certified cleaning products.

4. Apparel. $$

What: When purchasing new clothing select natural materials like organic cotton, linen, hemp, and sustainably sourced wool and silk. Avoid synthetic materials (such as rayon, nylon, polyester, and acrylic) and look for clothing without treatments (often labeled “stain resistant,” “no wrinkle,” “antimicrobial,” etc.). See our Sustainable Fashion Guide for more tips.

Why: Searching out sustainable textiles will not only help you avoid chemicals such as pesticides and PFAS that could be detrimental to your health, but will also be easier on the environment as natural materials will break down in the environment (unlike plastic-based textiles and persistent chemicals like PFAS).

Shop MADE SAFE certified apparel.

5. Plastics. $

What: Try to minimize your plastic usage and refuse single-use plastics (i.e. the plastic items you use once and throw away). Two resources to help you get started: The Healthy Pregnancy Guide & this article on quitting single-use plastics.

Why: Plastic contains harmful substances such as phthalates, PVC, BPA, BPS, and other bisphenol substitutes. On top of that, plastic does not readily break down in the environment. For these reasons plastic and plastic pollution are negatively impacting communities, ocean and freshwater ecosystems, food, and the planet at-large. 

Shop MADE SAFE certified products with sustainable packaging.

6. Pesticides. $$

What: Reduce your exposure to toxic pesticides. Eat organic food that hasn’t been treated with toxic pesticides, look for textiles and home goods made with organic materials (an easy way to spot these items is to look for third-party certifications such as MADE SAFE or GOTS), and avoid pesticide use on your lawn and in your home. For more on how to limit your pesticide exposure, check out The Healthy Pregnancy Guide.

Why: High-risk pesticides are harmful to human and ecosystem health and are common within our world today. Pesticides such as permethrin can even be found in personal care products like bug spray. MADE SAFE does not permit high-risk pesticides in any certified products. Shop our seal, to avoid these chemicals.

7. Fragrance. $

What: Reduce your use of conventionally-fragranced products where you can by seeking out natural fragrance sources in products with the full fragrance formula listed, or look for third-party certifiers like MADE SAFE who require full disclosure and prohibit the use of ingredients of known or suspected harm.

Why: Fragrance formulas can contain many different undisclosed substances such as phthalates and synthetic musks hidden behind trade secret regulation. Common ingredients utilized in conventional fragrance are endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, carcinogens, and developmental toxins.

For those with sensitivities to fragrance, scent or essential oils, refer to the Fragrance-Free list of MADE SAFE certified products that don’t contain these potentially allergenic ingredients.

8. Cookware. $$

What: If you are in need of new cookware, consider searching out safer cookware options. Safer materials include stainless steel, glass, cast iron, and carbon steel. Avoid aluminum cookware and products labeled as “nonstick.” Read MADE SAFE’s tips on how to swap your cookware pieces and why.

Why: Cookware can contain materials of concern like aluminum (in pots, pans, and foil), nanoparticles (in some quasi-ceramic “nonstick” cookware), and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

9. Rug pads. $

What: Remove any padding underneath your carpeting and opt for nontoxic double-sided tape to prevent sliding instead.

Why: Rug pads often contain foam materials that have been treated with toxic flame retardants. Flame retardants have been linked to many harmful effects like lower IQ, endocrine disruption, hyperactivity, altered neurodevelopment, altered sexual development, fertility issues, thyroid dysfunction, and cancer.

10. New furniture purchases. $$$

What: With any upcoming furniture purchases, be sure to look for items manufactured without the use of toxic flame retardants. Where flammability is a real concern, look for products made with naturally flame subduing materials such as wool or cotton which may not require added flame retardants. Read the labels and warnings and ask the retailer questions! (While you’re at it remember to skip the stain resistant coatings which are made from PFAS chemicals.)

Why: Many furniture items such as couches, recliners, and children’s furniture can also contain foam that has been treated with toxic flame retardants. As mentioned above, many commonly-used flame retardant chemicals are highly toxic to humans and the environment.

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