Back To Basics

Ever heard of nanoparticles? Me neither, until pretty recently.

So, nanoparticles are particles – molecules, cell clusters, space junk, whatever you want to call it – that are smaller than our finest cellular membranes are able to filter. Which means that if they’re nasty, we have no defence to the effect they might have on our bodies.

Easy to freak out, hey?

Because how the bloody hell do you and I protect ourselves from every potentially harmful obscure ingredient of every single thing we consume? And I don’t just mean things going in our mouths, but things we inhale, things that touch our skin? Humans are quite porous beings, you see, quite porous indeed. We are vulnerable to many things we can’t even see and won’t necessarily feel, so we have to be careful with what we subject ourselves to.

Nature has engineered plenty of ingenious defence mechanisms over the last few billion years, mind you; we’re not completely helpless. It’s just that like the fact our lungs weren’t designed to contend with lots of cigarette smoke and brake dust from cars, nature also didn’t anticipate for us to come into contact with things like nanoparticles.


Thinking about this has prompted me to seriously reconsider a lot of everyday consumption. Because it’s not just humans that dangerous stuff like nanoparticles could adversely affect. Sure, we’ve normalised things like Netflix and dishwashers, but we’ve got to remember we’re still animals in an ecosystem!

Everything we use and consume comes from somewhere, passes through us, and ends up somewhere else. As inane as that might sound, I’m guilty of forgetting it all the time. So it’s important to consider our actions not just in terms of personal health, but their net impact on the greater environment.

But Rols, life is busy enough worrying about my own health – let alone worrying about the planet’s? Look, I know, but don’t stress it – those are effectively two things the same! Nourishing your body with toxin-free, whole-ingredient based products will have a similarly beneficial effect on the planet compared to more highly processed and chemically-laden alternatives.

Gear that’s bad for your rig also tends to be bad for the Earth, and vice versa.

You get me?

The difference between eating vegetables and junk food, for example, is like the difference between cleaning with natural cleaning products or vinegar and baking soda instead of nondescript fluorescent goop made of endless ingredients you can’t even pronounce. Everything nasty on that label won’t just damage your skin flora and upset your bod, it will then end up in our waterways and negatively impact marine life.

Here’s a general rule of thumb

The shorter the ingredients list, the better.

Be it food, skincare or cleaning products, less is often more, because more variables mean more potential for harm. Aim to consider the Earth as you do your body – a biological organism that has survived billions of years without all those super-engineered chemicals currently being marketed as “essential” for life in the 21st century. How did we survive before? What did we use instead?

Going back to basics is the most direct way to improve health – yours and the planet’s!

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Roland Davies

Roland Davies (a.k.a. "Lucky Roland") is the voice and author behind the Lucky Roland blog and podcast, a curation of eco stories and inspiration that digests the ABC's Environment News in a listenable way to encourage us humans to green up our lives. Roland is also the founder of Emu Parade, a beach clean movement that's working to remove tonnes of rubbish from Australia's most remote beach systems.

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