guest blog: your environment & your health

your environment & your health: small picture changes lead to big picture differences

By Andrew Mackie


In Architecture school, my primary study was the experience of the built environment.

Studying at the Institute for Building-Biology, my primary concern became more specific: the connection between the built environment and our health.

This doesn’t in any way preclude spatial experience. Certainly a beautiful, calm space will be better for you than a brutal, frenetic, harsh space.

But this isn’t the whole picture. Not by a mile.

Our body experiences it’s surroundings on many levels; through all of our senses and through countless systems beneath the sensory level.

So why is our environment so important to achieving or maintaining our health goals?

Before I get into the answer, it is important to note that we are remarkably gifted at handling and processing harmful things. And this is good and bad news. On one hand, it allows us to deal with reasonable levels of exposure to natural toxins, illnesses and stress. On the other hand we can, at least temporarily, feel pretty good and live pretty well on mediocre food (or worse…), not enough sleep, breathing bad air, etc. etc.

We are invincible…Until we aren’t.

And we find out the hard way that making better choices might have been a good idea.

Fact is, our body is a sponge.Natural Cleaning Products

This goes well beyond the food, drink and supplements that we put into our bodies. We soak up everything around us, for better or for worse.

I often use the statement: ‘What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in your body.’

For proof of this, we don’t need to look any further than the connection between breast cancer and aluminum (and other stuff) in anti-antiperspirant. Or the increased risk of all kinds of respiratory problems resulting from breathing chlorine in our shower water.

The evidence is there. These choices matter.

Now what?

Knowing this, we now have the opportunity to think about everything around us, whether it’s our paint, our furniture, our dish soap, the same way we think about our food. We can read ingredient lists, and learn how to assess what’s in there, and whether it’s good for us or bad for us. We can ask more questions, and ultimately demand more from the people and places we get our items from.

Unlike food, the answers won’t always be easy to come by. Ingredients are not always required to be listed. Proprietary secrets are allowed. Information can be deliberately misleading. Salespeople will often be uneducated to these concerns.

What then? Then you have to dig deeper. Do more research. Ask more questions to more people. And at the end of the day, if you are unsure, pass.

Sound like a big deal?

It takes a bit of getting used to, same as with food. And similar to food, common sense and logic, in many cases, apply. If something seems like it might be bad for you, there’s a good chance it is. If something has a long list of chemical ingredients, it’s probably best avoided. Think of it as a quest for the simplest, purest and most natural ingredients and materials possible.

This is also where history comes in. Look for pure, simple materials that have stood the test of time. Both for quality and health. (A glass water bottle has less question marks than a new ‘healthy’ plastic one….)


women in bedA good example an item that addresses these concerns is the Healthy Mattress.

When a client is first looking to make changes towards a healthier, cleaner life, we recommend they start in the bedroom. Why? Because this is, by any measure, your most important space. First off, you spend more time here than any other single space. (maybe rivaled by your office, on a busy week…) But beyond that, it’s also where your body goes to heal, replenish and recover. Do you agree that you’ll recover better in a pure, clean environment? (Do you feel better after spending a day out in nature?)

In the bedroom, you are closest to your mattress, sheets and pillows. They are up against your bare skin, and you are breathing the air an inch away. The problem is is that most mattresses are made from nylons, polyesters and synthetic foams. These aren’t great on their own, and also need to be treated with an assortment of chemicals (including known carcinogens. Look up HBO’s ‘Toxic Hot Seat’ documentary for an expose on this issue) for flame retardancy.

Enter the ‘Organic Mattress.’ Sound good? Hey, admitting that there’s a problem is the first step. And it’s a big one. But you still need to go in ready to ask questions. Because unfortunately, it isn’t quite as simple as just putting an ‘Organic’ label on it. Unfortunately, many mattress makers think it’s enough to add some natural Organic cotton to the cover and label it healthy. Unfortunately, to be labeled ‘natural’ latex foam, you only need to be using 20% natural ingredients. What’s the other 80%? That’s where we want to, like food, dig into the ingredient list. You’ll find all kinds of stuff in that 80%: synthetic foams, petroleum by-products, additives, preservatives, even the flame retardant chemicals. Is 20% good enough?

In our mattresses we go for 100%. We go for 3 ingredients.

  1. Unbleached, undyed organic cotton.
  2. Pure Natural Latex Foam.
  3. Wool. (why wool? Not only does it make the bed more comfortable, by regulating moisture and temperature, it also doesn’t burn. So they pass the safety tests without the need for chemical additives.)

And as an added healthy bonus, they are super comfortable. Which helps you get a great sleep. Which is also pretty good for you. Also, if you aren’t ready to switch to a new mattress right now, many people feel a big difference just by changing to a natural pillow.

The moral of the story: Ask questions first, buy when you get all the answers.


The great thing about making the healthy choice for you, is that it also represents healthier choices all the way down the supply chain. By taking care of your immediate environment, you are also taking care of the greater environment. This starts at the farm: natural & Organic farming means less chemicals going into the environment, less exposure to farmers, less residual on the end products, less getting under your skin. You can look at the whole manufacturing, processing and shipping process the same way.


At Rivas, our goal is to be the World’s Healthiest Home Store. As such, we want to have answers to all your questions, and provide good, positive solutions to suit your lifestyle. We carry a wide range of home and lifestyle items. From non-toxic, Zero VOC paint and other home building supplies, to Organic mattresses and bedding, to kids clothing and toys, and much more. All guaranteed safe and healthy. And for the things we don’t carry, we still like to offer answers to help you find what you need. So don’t hesitate to stop by or give us a call with any question or concern.




About Riva’s – A Clean Living Eco Store

andrew-mackie-150x150Finally, not everything causes cancer.

There isn’t anything more important than your wellness. And your wellness is our business. At Rivas you can find everything you need to suit your clean lifestyle. Our commitment is to find you the best, healthiest and most fashionable things you need to turn your home into your sanctuary.

From the clothes in your closet, to the spa-quality products that keep you looking great; from your floors and walls, to the bed you sink into every night, when you choose to shop at Rivas, you know that you are choosing to surround yourself with the finest and purest materials on the planet. You will feel great, and generations to follow wil thank you. Because making better choices today is the only way to guarantee a safe world for our kids and grand kids to inherit.

Our Mission

To provide the best Clean Living options for everyone in North America.
To create a fun environment to work, shop and learn.
To work with companies that promote better environmental and social policies in every step of production.

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