Alexx Stuart: How to live sustainably?

Alexx Stuart: How to live sustainably?

Alexx Stuart: How to live sustainably?

Alexx Stuart: How to live sustainably?

Acknowledgement of Country: This interview was conducted on Gadigal Country. We pay our respects to the traditional custodians of this land, past, present and emerging. We recognise their deep connection to the land and their unique cultural heritage, which continues to enrich our shared community.

Alexx Stuart is an educator, activist and creator of Low Tox Life. Low Tox Life started as a blog in 2010. Since then, it's become a popular podcast with over 350 episodes and 5 million downloads, two books published by Murdoch Books and a vibrant community. 

In this interview, Alexx talks about low tox living and its connection to sustainability and circularity. She also shares her low tox tips in the five key areas: food, body, home, mind and planet.

What’s low tox living? How does it intersect with sustainable living and circular consumption? 

Sustainable living could be very different for everyone. My low tox philosophy came from my personal journey as both a learner and teacher. It began with a health crisis and I started to explore alternatives like herbal medicine and better nutrition. This shift broadened my understanding of food sources, additives, packaging, farming methods, and animal welfare.

When I had my son, I started to look into what’s in personal care and baby products. I was horrified. These precious newborns enter the world with up to 200 chemicals, known to be either carcinogenic or endocrine disruptive. Adding to this, we expose them to even more harmful substances with what we then put on their skin.  

Our current lifestyle isn't sustainable or regenerative. It inspired me to support and help people navigate this journey. Drawing from my experience in teaching and coaching, I started sharing my new-found knowledge, leading to the concept of 'low tox living.'

Low tox living focuses on reducing toxins in daily life, with the emphasis on simply doing what we can with what we have, rather than living up to a perfect ideal. It's about making informed choices in a judgment-free space.

I term this 'gentle activism' because real change requires moving beyond divisive terms and ideals to foster a supportive community and work from our overlaps. We can begin with ourselves and our families, gradually forming a powerful collective that reshapes the world. 

These days, people have the pressure of being perfect. We have all these terms like chemical free, zero this and that. It doesn’t make logical sense - “chemical free” isn’t even scientifically possible. Instead it’s driving polarisation and judgements and misguidance. If we want to make progress, we need to work from our overlaps. If that small change you make from a plastic tube to a soap bar or a packet snack to a bowl of carrot sticks and a homemade dip is all you can do right now, that’s already enough. 

To answer your question, low tox living, sustainable living and circular consumption intersect seamlessly. They are all linked, aiming to minimise our ecological footprint, promoting long-term wellbeing for people and the planet. It's something we can achieve if we all work together.

How can we achieve such holistic living? 

Low tox living is a huge concept. I broke it down into awakening areas in my life: food, body, home, mind and planet.

Starting with food, it's the most intimate connection between us and the planet—from soil to mouth and back to soil. The food system connects us to the earth, in either a good or a very bad way.

Think about a pack of chips. Many think you shouldn’t eat it because it’s unhealthy and then you need to use your willpower to avoid it, but what if we saw it for all that it is? The packaging has an environmental impact. It’s hard to recycle. It’s made from petroleum. The raw materials are sourced in an extractive way that are damaging soil. It requires energy to produce the chips and transport across the seas to us, to finally stock them in artificially lit warehouses and then supermarkets. That’s the full spectrum of what junk food is and once you see it, it’s much easier to step away from it. 

The path to connect with food is through local choices. I visit my Saturday farmers’ market in Kings Cross, buy from local sellers who use local ingredients, most of the time. A connected food system is where you know where your food comes from, and have a deeper connection with the person who makes or grows your food. 

People often ask, how can I tell if food is healthy for me? My answer: if it's advertised on a bus, it's likely not the best choice. A lentil farmer or a regenerative dairy farmer can't afford bus ads, but they’re the people to support, not the one with flashy ads. It's these choices that shape the health of our land and planet. All seem too big a leap? Just focus each week on making a tiny shift from products to produce, bit by bit. That’s what success looks like. 

You can apply the same approach to personal care and homes. Do we really need a plug-in air freshener and its packaging? Synthetic fragrances contain Phthalates, which are chemicals linked extensively to endocrine disruption and effects on reproductive health in the scientific literature.

The next is the mind. When we’re connected with our community, we’re happier. I go to my local farmers market, get homemade sourdough and dips, and chat with the stallholders. This feels worlds apart from fluorescent-lit supermarkets and processed chips. You might start doing it for health or sustainability reasons. But over time, these connections bring deeper joy.  

When you're relaxed, happy and motivated, making positive changes becomes easier. Taking steps to care for the planet becomes second nature. Shifts don't have to be drastic. It's about creating a life you love, not someone else's vision. In my instance, I’m living in a small apartment in town. I've got my worm farm. I compost whatever the worms can’t eat at my local veggie garden. It’s your low-tox life, not someone else’s so see what you feel motivated to change and shift towards, and start there. 

Tips for low-tox food 

The top priority is to shift our focus towards our shopping trolleys or baskets and assess the balance between products and fresh produce. Instead of getting caught up in terms like "organic" or "biodynamic," start by moving from processed and packaged foods to fresh produce.

The most important step we can take is to reflect on our shopping choices. Swap packaged foods to fresh produce. Don't aim for instant perfection. Take baby steps. The 80/20 rule is key. Around 80% of what we consume should be nourishing, while the remaining 20% allows for occasional treats.

Here are some tips to eat more wholefood: 

  • Swap chips for carrots with guacamole or a tahini-lemon-yoghurt dip. 
  • Cut up an apple and put it into your lunchbox. Nut butter would do the trick for kids. 
  • Some wonderful wild salmon comes in a tin. You can make patties with it. 
  • Don't always buy peanuts. Swap them for walnuts and pecans - variety encourages diversity beyond our home’s doors. 
  • Diversify your shopping basket. If you’re always buying the same thing, try something different.
  • An organic gluten-free cheese puff is still ultra-processed food. Instead of buying those, invest that money into real food that nourishes you and support local farmers. 

Don’t fuss over organics if you can’t afford it. Cost of living has become so expensive. Ultra processed food though, comes at a cost to your health and the environment so focus there and just change a few items a month from products to produce. It doesn’t need to be perfect. By doing so, you send the market a very powerful message and give farmers confidence to start making transitional steps towards regenerative methods. You’re also nourishing yourself instead of ‘filling up’ and nourishment often means you can eat a bit less to not have it be an expensive exercise overall, making these swaps. 

Tips for a low-tox body 

Let's begin by simplifying things. Do you really need all those products in your routine? Think about how often you use things. Are you overusing products just because the label suggests it? Like shampoo, where they say 'repeat as needed.' It's a marketing trick to get you to use more.

Some important tips include: 

  • Ditch synthetic fragrances in your products. They can mess with your hormones. 
  • Don't be fooled by claims like 'kills 99.9% of germs.' Triclosan, an antibacterial chemical has been proven to have damaging effects on thyroid health. Research shows that a bar soap and water are just as effective as anything marketed as ‘germ killing’. 
  • A good quality, simple soap and water work wonders. Opt in for a bar soap wrapped in paper, not a plastic bottle of gel for hand and shower soaps. 

Globalisation isn't always a negative force. Sometimes, having big companies can lead to significant positive impacts. Weleda, a near-100-year-old company is a globally good force transforming farming practices into regenerative ones, globally. Dr. Bronner is another great example. The company, still family owned, has developed a way to cultivate palms without the destruction of the environment or habitat. They provide schools, shelters, both herbal and conventional medicine in villages in Africa and Sri Lanka.

It's not a black-and-white issue. There are instances of remarkable transformation driven by larger entities. We shouldn't dismiss them just because they're big. It's about recognising the impactful change, whoever’s working to make truly positive change. 

Tips for a low-tox home 

Number one tip is get rid of anything that contains synthetic fragrance, which can be found in products like fabric softeners and air fresheners. It is likely to contain phthalates, exposing you to endocrine-disrupting chemicals into your living space, and can lead to respiratory problems and hormonal disruptions, according to the research. 

There are better ways to achieve the same outcomes without chemicals: 

  • Adding natural scents: Add a few drops of eucalyptus or lemon oil on an old tea towel and place it in your laundry wash.  
  • Softening fabrics: Use a third to half a cup of bicarbonate soda or a mix of Epsom salt and bicarbonate soda to soften your clothes in the wash. Your clothes will be fluffy and soft.

Items to remove: Check the labels. Synthetic fragrances are usually written as ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’. This includes fabric softener, air freshener, scented candles and toilet freshener. 

Mold is another big problem in the home. It is not good for our health to live in moldy houses. Trust me. I have been very sick from mold from water damage but people can be exposed also through dirty air conditioning duct work or split systems in private or commercial spaces. Our brains are important and prolonged mold exposure can lead to neuro inflammation. When you’re sick and inflamed, you're not going to be excited to take your veggie scraps down to the community garden, are you? So a healthy home space is important to the whole picture of a healthy world.

Mold comes because of two reasons. One is water damage or dirty air conditioning/duct work. In such cases, you need to get a leak/air conditioning specialist who can find the source of the issue. They can then fix it at its root and take care of any mold that might be behind the drywall, under the house or in the roof space, or in your air vents/units - we need to move from trying to ‘kill’ mould which often angers it, or offers a very temporary solution at best. We need to remove it when we remediate. Mold doesn’t just go away, you need to address the source. 

The second reason is your indoor air humidity. In Sydney, it gets very humid. Prevention is the cure. Here are some tips: 

  • Maintain indoor humidity levels below 60%.
  • Use a digital hygrometer to monitor your indoor humidity. 
  • Invest in a dehumidifier so that you can dehumidify when you can see your indoor humidity is above 60%. 

A lot of people are concerned about using big appliances, but using a dehumidifier is a very sustainable thing to do. You cut back on replacements—building materials, clothes and shoes, because you’ve kept them in use for longer as you’ve prevented mold. It has a huge impact on sustainability and circularity.  

Tips for a low-tox mind

To be a motivated and happy changemaker, you have to do it in a way that feels good, and feels fit for you. You need to be motivated to do it the next day. 

My tips for a low-tox mind are simple, but not the easiest to do:

  • Have a healthy outlook. Be inspired by people who make you feel excited to explore changes. Tune into messages that foster a joyful circular mindset, not guilt or shame.
  • Do a diary audit every Sunday. Review your schedule. Set boundaries. Do things that resonate with your desires and values and be sure to schedule JOY, whatever that looks like for you.

Design a life that fits you better, so that you have a more relaxed nervous system. It means you’ll be more able to make a positive contribution.  

Tips for a low-tox planet 

Everything that we've just talked about, is a win-win. It benefits us directly, but also our planet in a fantastic way. Everything we do naturally feeds into a healthier world. 

The cherry on top for me is to watch your food waste. If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter behind China and the US. People fight over what's on the plate. I'm fighting over what went in the bin.

Wherever you live, there's a composting solution nearby—be it in your backyard, on your balcony, or even indoors. Landfilling scraps release significant methane, far more than the methane produced by cows. By setting up composting, we take charge of mitigating emissions and do something powerful from our corner everyday.

Learn more 
www.lowtoxlife.com

Low Tox Life book
Lox Tox Life podcast

Connect
Linkedin


This interview is part of ReCo Circular Sydney 2023 Series, supported by the City of Sydney Knowledge Exchange Sponsorship program. Explore more free content at: reco.net.au/circular-sydney

Join ReCo to help end plastic waste.

Refillable eco-friendly products, delivered in your local areas

Author

Interviewed and edited by Danling Xiao.

Danling is the co-founder of ReCo and creative director of reco.digital. Danling has an unwavering passion for creativity, spirituality and the pursuit of positive change in the world. Connect with Danling on Linkedin.

Join The Local Reuse Movement
Get 10% Off Your First ReCo Order

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated on product releases, events and circular economy progress.

Thank you! Please check your inbox in a few minutes.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Circular Sydney banner

New things are happening at ReCo Digital. Join us as we learn and grow.

Thank you! Please check your inbox in a few minutes.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Got a sustainability project?

At ReCo Digital, our passion is driving positive change. We integrate sustainability, creativity and technology into our approach. If you're working in a sustainability project, let's connect and explore how we can support you.

Learn more