Megan Mikkelson is the host of the Toxin-Free Talk podcast and has many great ideas on how to keep your home toxin-free. Toxins can come in your water, your food, your detergent, and soap, and if you don’t know what to look for, just buying a “green” label won’t always protect you. She has many tips on her website and offers a DIY online course to help detoxify your home.
In this episode, you will hear:
- It’s easier now than ten years ago to find ways to live healthily
- Megan’s DIY online course on detoxifying your home
- The “fragrance loophole” in US regulations
- Be aware of who owns a brand. They may appear “green” but could be owned by a larger company that doesn’t share your values
- Some traditionally plastic packaging has become more green
- Even tech relationships can be toxic, be aware of who you’re following and supporting on social media
- Dryer sheets are terrible for the environment and for your skin
Health and the environment have been my top interests since I was a teen. I went on to get my Masters of Public Health and started a career in health education, policy, and communications. When I become a mom, I dove head first into making our home healthier. I wanted to create a healthy and happy home for our family. Raising my daughters in an environment with minimal toxins – that’s the crux of my “why”. I know deciphering the confusing and misleading marketplace of cleaners and everyday products isn’t always easy. That’s why I created Detox by Design – to share toxin-free living strategies and help you navigate the confusing marketplace, providing the knowledge you need to make safer choices for you and your family. I share tips on how to easily and quickly detox the home through my podcast, Toxin-Free Talk. I also share tips in my Facebook group, Toxin-Free Talk, and on Instagram. I also share weekly tips in my email newsletter.
Get Megan’s free swap guide here – https://www.detox.design/safe-swap-guide
Connect with Megan:
Toxin-Free Talk podcast- https://www.detox.design/blog
Email: [email protected]
- Shield Your Body website: https://ShieldYourBody.com
- Shield Your Body Youtube Channel: https://youtube.com/shieldyourbody
- Host R Blank on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rblank9/
- Shield Your Body on Instagram:https://instagram.com/shieldyourbody
Megan Mikkelsen 0:00
The air that we breathe, we can’t necessarily control how healthy that is. We can’t necessarily control if we live next to a farm where there’s, you know, maybe some pesticides being sprayed, there’s so many different things that we cannot control. But the things that we bring into our home, we do have a choice there. And again, we have that choice to vote with our dollar, and to support companies that are doing the right thing. That’s kind of the reason why I believe it’s really important to change those things in your home. And really our health is, it’s more impacted than we realise by those simple changes that we have the opportunity to make.
Welcome to the healthier tech podcast, the show about building a healthier relationship with modern technology. Now, here are your hosts, R blank and Stephanie Warner.
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R Blank 0:52
So in this conversation with magazine we cover we cover a lot of ground stuff, and it’s on kind of broad issues around toxins, of course, I think Megan has a lot to say on technology. But you know, one of these things that really stood out that I think the listeners are going to appreciate is this marketing loophole around the term fragrance and how important that is for our health.
Stephanie Warner 1:12
Yeah, absolutely. I found the whole interview really insightful. I learned a lot and I love her approach she she makes kind of a daunting, overwhelming what can feel like a daunting and overwhelming topic really, really palatable. And you know, she her approaches, you take some small steps to make big improvements in the health of your environment and what you put around you and on your body.
R Blank 1:37
So let’s get into it. All right, let’s do it. Megan Mickelson is the owner of detox by design and host of the toxin free talk podcast, where she helps people reduce any confusion around living a toxic free lifestyle. Megan has always been interested in health and the environment. She has a master’s in public health, and started a career in health education, policy and communications. It was when she had her first child, she dove headfirst into making a healthy home in which to raise her family. After finding it confusing and misleading to decipher the marketplace for cleaners and everyday products. She created her business detox by design, where she is providing the knowledge you need to make Safer Choices for you and your family. Welcome to the show. Megan,
Megan Mikkelsen 2:25
thank you so much. And I’m glad to be here.
R Blank 2:27
Yeah. And it’s nice to have a chance to talk with you again, as we were just chatting about I was on your fantastic toxin free talk podcast. And that was really enjoyable. So I appreciate having this opportunity to kind of turn the tables a little bit on Yeah, yeah. Okay, so we’re gonna start off with a really hard hitting questions. What is a crunchy mom?
Megan Mikkelsen 2:49
Oh, gosh. Well, I think when I first thought about being crunchy, it meant kind of just thinking about the Earth First, and just maybe living slightly differently than your typical everyday mom. So if you’re a mom that is reading Parents Magazine, or whatever they might be back when I had kids, when I first had kids, I have a 16 year old and a 13 year old. So 16 years ago, when you would open up Parents Magazine, you probably wouldn’t see anything about BPA, or any sort of environmental or green or toxin free living slant. Today, things are a lot different, thank goodness. But back then the crunchy mom was the one that probably found out about this, I don’t know maybe from living a more crunchy lifestyle as a child. And so they learned growing, learned growing up, or maybe they shopped at a local Co Op. And they they found this information, but it wasn’t. You know, a few years ago, it wasn’t as talked about, it wasn’t as easy to find this information. So that’s what I call a crunchy mom’s a mom that’s conscious. They’re thinking about her health and her family’s health and also the environment and their impacts on the environment.
R Blank 4:01
It’s so you you you started this this firm detox by design to help serve that community. And I love I just love the name. It just kind of it’s almost like an ear worm for me. It just sticks in there. But why don’t you say a little bit about like the work that you do with detox by design.
Megan Mikkelsen 4:21
So originally, detox by design started because I had a Facebook group that I was sharing lots of tips, like how to make your own cleaners, or what kind of laundry detergent is good or how to read an ingredient label. And a friend of mine came to me and she said, you know, Megan, you provide such great information in your Facebook group. But people actually need a little bit more hand holding when it comes to fully detoxing the home. And that’s where detox by design began as a business to really sort of like a personal organiser that comes into the home that teaches you about how you should be remove the toxins from your home and what products to switch, and what products are okay to continue using and which ones you should focus on because they have more impacts to our environmental health. So that’s kind of where it started. And as you probably are aware, businesses morph and change, and you know, COVID happened and, and so, you know, detoxify design has really changed. And it started as a going into the home sort of service based business. And at this point, with COVID, I realised that I can impact more people by having it as an online business. So I have an online course that teaches people how to DIY detoxing the home. And then I also know that people were frustrated with trying to figure out where to buy the products that they could trust, and they knew were going to be good for their family. And so I started my online store as a way to make it easier for for like a one stop shop like, Okay, I need laundry detergent and dishwashing detergent, where do I find these things? And so I started my online store to really serve that purpose for people that were looking for toxin free and eco friendly products. Right? And,
Stephanie Warner 6:10
and why should we think about the products that we bring into our home? Yeah,
Megan Mikkelsen 6:15
so so many reasons. But um, you know, I come back to the point of, we vote with our dollar, every time we spend money, we are voting for either what we believe in, or maybe we are just accepting marketing. And we’re voting for something that we don’t even necessarily understand who’s behind the product, who’s the company that’s making the product where it’s made, so it does start there. But as our as our health is implicated, our environmental health is so important, we are in our homes more today now than we have ever been in our homes. And we are impacted by the things that we choose to bring into our home. And I’ve talked about this a lot on my podcast, toxin free talk, is that, you know, there are so many toxins in our world that we cannot control. You know, we can’t always control the water that we drink, because you know where it’s coming through the tap. And sure you can get a filtration system. But not everyone does that. So you can control it in some ways. But like the air that we breathe, we can’t necessarily control how healthy that is. We can’t necessarily control if we live next to a farm where there’s, you know, maybe some pesticides being sprayed, there’s so many different things that we cannot control. But the things that we bring into our home, we do have a choice there. And again, we have that choice to vote with our dollar and to support companies that are doing the right thing by the Earth and by our health. Or we can just, you know, continue to be complacent, or, or on, not on but like you know, when you’re you’re learning new things, it’s very easy to revert back to the way that you have been. And I truly do believe that you just have to take one small step, keep educating yourself, keep learning, and even the smallest steps make a difference. So that’s kind of the reason why I believe it’s really important to change those things in your home and really our health is it’s more impacted than we realise by those simple changes that we have the opportunity to make.
Stephanie Warner 8:29
Yeah, I absolutely agree and I love that you you’re sharing with our audience that it can feel a little overwhelming. So you know, what is that one step taking it kind of step by step instead of letting yourself get all overwhelmed. And to that point, what would be you know, one or two ingredients we should be watching out for in products that we bring into our home?
Megan Mikkelsen 8:51
Yeah, so the number one ingredient that I always look for is fragrance. And the reason why is because well first of all, it’s really easy to remember it’s not some 15 syllable word that you’re not going to remember that looks very similar to another ingredient. But also fragrance is one of those red flags that if the company is continuing to use fragrance they likely are using other not so great ingredients. And the reason why fragrance is not good is because fragrance is actually a it’s a loophole within the US regulation system. So technically fragrance can cover a multitude of other ingredients and they hide other ingredients within the term fragrance. And it’s proprietary so the company has the right to use the word fragrance because fragrance is proprietary so they can hide anything within that term fragrance. And often companies buy fragrance from another company and the company that sells them the fragrance is not required to disclose what’s in fragrance. And so there’s very, very little transparency when it comes to the ingredient fragrance. And there have been studies done that show that up to 2000 different chemicals can be hid hidden within that one term, one ingredient of fragrance. So that’s why I always look for that one first. But as I said earlier, that lack of transparency, is giving you a clue that the company is okay with not being transparent about the ingredients in their product. And so are they really caring about the other ingredients that they’re listing on their ingredient label? Likely not, they are likely not caring as much about the other ingredients.
Stephanie Warner 10:49
That’s right, right. Yeah,
R Blank 10:51
no, no, no, no, that’s right. I thought that was incredibly interesting. I had no idea. So when I hear you talk about about this topic, it reminds me a lot about how I talk about issues related to EMF, which is what I was on your podcast talking about. Right? And, and marketing claims is one of these things that that I like to try to educate people on not just about EMF emissions, but EMF protection. And I had no idea about this, this fragrance loophole as you describe it. I know you talk a lot about why it is we can’t trust these marketing claims. Can you explain that?
Megan Mikkelsen 11:32
Oh, gosh, you know, we are honestly marketed to constantly, it may be changing. It may be an influencer, an Instagram that’s telling us what to buy. Or, you know, I don’t know what else. But you know, marketing happens to us all the time. And we have to pay attention. Because if you are just reading the front label of let’s say, your shampoo, that front label is going to tell you all these great things about this shampoo. But we don’t actually know what’s in the shampoo until we turn around the label and reread the ingredients. It’s very much like food, you know, if you’re trying to eat clean, are you reading the ingredient label? likely you are. And it’s very much the same thing with the ingredients that we have in other products, the products we put on our body, every single day. And that’s another thing that I talk about a lot on my podcast is frequency. And I’m sure it’s very much the same with EMF, it’s just how much are you? How much is your body being impacted by this, if it’s something that you only use once a year, you might not care about it quite as much as something that you put on your face every morning every night. Yeah, I mean, it really does make a difference. Or I talk a lot about laundry detergent being one of the very first swabs that you should make because we put our clothes on our body. And we wear them on 80% of night 80 to 90% of our body all day long. Then we go and we sleep in our bed and we lay our head on our pillow and we have our sheets on top of us. And we’re doing that for eight to 10 hours a night. I mean, all of those that’s that’s a lot of exposure. And so I don’t even remember where the question was, you know, it could be marketing, marketing, client marketing. So you know, let’s go back to laundry. I mean, marketing, this one really kills me. So with marketing with laundry detergent, what do they market most, that you’re now fresh that you use? Everything smelled clean? Guess how they create that smell?
R Blank 13:41
Using this fragrance loophole? Yeah.
Megan Mikkelsen 13:44
And what truly is clean? It’s actually the lack of scent. You’re not smelling right, the dirt, you’re not smelling the body odour, you actually don’t need a fragrance to cover up anything. You need the removal of this. Yeah. And so that’s like the perfect example where you know, it, we have to change our thoughts around products because we’ve been marketed to all the time. You know, I asked that question of people all the time, like the the laundry and you know, smelling fresh because that is a real lightbulb moment for a lot of people where they think Gosh, I really like switching to toxin free laundry detergent, but it just doesn’t smell as clean. Well, you’re in luck because that means that those fragrance chemicals aren’t doing damage to your body anymore. So anyway, the marketing is just we’re just constantly marketed to you. And so we can’t control that all we can do is we can just start to question it and we can start to dig in a little deeper and learn more and learn about who is actually creating the brands that we buy. Like, you know, the the very very calm Even products that are in target and Ulta, and Macy’s or whatever it is, you know, we can look back and who actually owns those brands? And does does the brand’s values align with my personal values? And is that somebody that I actually want to support and continue to vote with my dollar in supporting them?
Stephanie Warner 15:18
Yeah, it makes me think, you know, we talk about fragrance going back to that summit that like clean smell, I think about, you know, you walk down the aisle of cleaning of like, the home scent products, and you can smell it three aisles before you even get there. And it’s a little, like overwhelming and nauseating. And, you know, it makes me think about these products that say, like, natural fragrance natural scent, and I how do we start to determine the difference or distinguish between that and you know, whether it’s like actually a natural scent, or if it’s something that’s actually just in this loophole of, you know, disguising other harmful ingredients? Yeah.
Megan Mikkelsen 16:04
So usually, it is a part of a loophole, it’s usually companies getting smarter about how to market to us. So they it’s, it’s very similar with food with natural flavours, which you may know can hide lots of other not so natural things within the term natural flavours. It’s very similar with natural fragrance. What I do is I email the company and I say, I noticed that you weren’t fully transparent about your natural flavours Can you tell are your natural fragrance? Can you tell me what’s actually in there? And as I said earlier, these companies are buying the fragrance from a fragrance company who is not required to disclose what’s in it. So often you can tell when they answer and they won’t give you some excuse about it being valet free or whatever. But I still don’t want to support a company that is still continuing to not be transparent. And that’s where it goes down to, you know, my personal values is transparency is important. If they’re lying to me about that they’re not telling me about what’s in the product. How can I trust what they’re putting out there? But yeah, back to the natural flavours or natural fragrances, sorry. You know, the natural fragrances? Usually, I’ll find this happens a lot where they will list a tonne of essential oils and ingredient labels. Yeah. And then they’ll also include natural flavours or natural fragrance. I don’t
Stephanie Warner 17:32
think it works for both the concept.
Megan Mikkelsen 17:35
Yeah, the concept of it does work. So you know, they’re saying we do all this great thing by using in some essential oils? Well, why do you have to have natural fragrance in there if you have all of these essential oils, which have an incredibly, truly natural scent to them. And so that’s where I really questioned the ones that, you know, have a bunch of essential oils on They added that natural fragrance, it’s like, okay, well, why do you need it, then why do you Yeah, that’s
Stephanie Warner 18:05
when you’re really being duped. It’s like, get this market this this buzzword that you know, and that was going to cover up all the other things that’s really insightful. And I think I think our audience and I know for myself, I appreciate having that insight. And I
Megan Mikkelsen 18:21
think, you know, the market changes so quickly, right? Which is a good thing, honestly, like when I started this business in this podcast, the whole point is that the market does change, that the market starts to pay attention to the people that are buying and not the number one products that because then we do have an impact on the mass marketed and mass produced stuff. And hopefully those products do become healthier for us and for the earth. So it’s a good thing that the market is changing so quickly. But if you look back two 510 years ago, natural fragrance wasn’t on labels, period. And even essential oils, for most products were not listed on the ingredient label because people were trusting to just read the front of their products. Now consumers are becoming more educated and they are reading the ingredient list. And so the marketing like you were just talking about with inset essential oils and the fragrance, the marketing is now actually getting into the ingredient label list, which is kind of interesting, right just to really look at how the market is changed. Another way that I like to use this example as the market changing and it being a good thing is deodorant has been one of the most ones in my opinion affected by more natural and earth friendly living so used to always be in plastic it used to be highly scented, and there’s still plenty of those products in the marketplace but a lot of the more popular brands, the top sellers they’re even going towards claiming to be more safe and to claiming to not have certain ingredients in They’re in their packaging, and they’re even going towards paperboard packaging. And you’re seeing more of those products in your typical grocery store or target. And it’s a great thing. But as a consumer, you have to pay attention even more, because there’s more opportunity to be duped by these companies. And we usually call that greenwashing which means that we’re being tricked that something is greener or healthier than it really is. And so that’s why you have to pay attention and read your ingredient label on everything you buy, which can get overwhelming. But as I said earlier, just one small step can make a difference. And so just start with that one step, and continue to learn.
R Blank 20:44
So So you’ve spoken here, and in other podcasts and interviews about the importance of, of being aware of what you bring into your home because of the impact that these toxins can have on your health and your family’s health. And I’m wondering, and totally separate from questions about EMF, do you view technology itself? As a toxic force?
Megan Mikkelsen 21:10
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think that it’s something that we have to use in our lives. And I think it’s always really good to have a good relationship with technology. And we could get really deep here. And we could talk about like, you know, if something is lifting you up, or something’s taking you down, and how to edit your, it’s, you know, it’s as simple as unsubscribing from certain emails, or it’s unfollowing certain people on Instagram and just having this relationship where you don’t have to be influenced unless you want to be and thinking about, is that positive, or is that negative? So I think it’s like this relationship tech can be an incredible benefit to our life. But it also can impact us physically and mentally. And so we really do need to think about that and make conscious choices. Yeah, no.
R Blank 22:07
So and this comes up a lot in our interviews, the these two concepts of awareness and intent, and which is what I hear you talking about, I’m wondering if you might share a, you know, a taste of what this looks like in your household? Oh, gosh, well, I
Megan Mikkelsen 22:22
have two teenagers, so. And for us, my I have a seventh grader and my sophomore in high school, you know, I’m sure you’ve heard of wait till eighth, we wait too late. And so my 16 year old did not get it fallen until she was in eighth grade. And when she did get that phone, she had some pretty strict limitations on the number of hours for different apps and sort of those sorts of things. And then my seventh grader still does not have a phone. And I will say that she is her only friend, period. And I feel like our friend group is very conscious, they’re very aware. But again, you get marketed to you get usually it’s by your kids, like everybody else
R Blank 23:08
has a phone just about to ask you. Yeah. So how did you?
Megan Mikkelsen 23:12
How did you do all the time?
R Blank 23:14
How did you deal with that?
Megan Mikkelsen 23:15
Um, we just shut it down. You know, it’s just, you know, it’s not good for you, you know, and I think she had her sister, you know, as a model. And so she knows that it’s, we’re not going to cave, so she doesn’t bother us as much. And we do let her use our phones. Because, honestly, if she, if she doesn’t be if she can’t use our phone to do certain things, she really would miss out socially. And so that’s where that balance comes where you have to say yes to some things because you know that it could impact them negatively in other ways. And so you know, she has group texts, but she only gets it when she is around me. And she has a few minutes to look at the phone. So her her the seventh grader her contact with tech is so much lower than a typical seventh graders because she only gets to use my phone for like the small pockets of time. And then for my 16 year old, oh, gosh, like Yeah, we probably should go back and read, fix some things. And you know, we don’t have the limitations on the apps like we probably need to anymore, but we did recently institute a phone curfew, because she was talking to her boyfriend too late at night and and I was like, You know what? No, because this is impacting your health because it’s impacting your sleep because you’re staying up too late. And I don’t care if you’re staying up late reading a book that is completely different than talking on your phone. The other thing that we do at our house is we have all of our charging stations completely separate downstairs so no one sleeps with tech in their room. We don’t have any TVs in our rooms. We don’t have any computers in our rooms. You know that is something that We’ve had for a very, very long time, even though my husband would really love to just
R Blank 25:08
model you model this behaviour for years. Yeah,
Megan Mikkelsen 25:10
we do. Yeah. And, you know, obviously, as you can imagine, my business is very much on my phone or on my computer. And so that’s something that we try to model too, when we have family time, we have phones and computers completely away, we’re not watching our phone and also watching TV at the same time. You know, so just trying to model that and just talking about why talking about why we have to pay attention to how much and again, like I said earlier, like paying attention to, if you are not liking the messages that are coming through on social media, should conscious consciously choosing not to follow that anymore, or, you know, cleaning out your inbox, it’s so, you know, sometimes we see that number on our phone of notifications, I have 1000 emails, how does that make you feel like, I get overwhelmed by that, who wants to feel overwhelmed. So you know, just taking steps to like, say, you know, what, I’m actually in control of this, the technology isn’t in control of me, I’m in control of the technology.
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R Blank 26:12
That’s great. Yeah. And just as an aside, I don’t know if everyone knows they can do that they but you can, you can actually disable that little notification bell, right. So it doesn’t tell you how many unread emails so you
Megan Mikkelsen 26:26
disabling notifications from social media is a great idea too, because the apps are created to get you to open them. That’s why they have notifications by now they’re trying to, quote unquote, control, you take your time, and you do have the opportunity to you know, check in and say, Oh, that actually does make me want to do that. So I’m going to turn off that notification or delete the app, or whatever that is, you know, you do have the opportunity to take back your life from technology.
R Blank 27:00
So So returning back, and you might, you might just pull pull, pull something from earlier in the conversation here. But we’d like giving our healthier tech listeners something immediately actionable, like you were saying, taking baby steps to kind of get this going. So what would be like the one thing that our listeners could could implement today to make their environment less toxic.
Megan Mikkelsen 27:26
Stop using dryer sheets, I hope that you’re
R Blank 27:30
Oh, that’s very specific. Very easy. It’s easy.
Megan Mikkelsen 27:33
It’s very easy. And it’s very basic, but dryer sheets are really, really bad for the environment. And they’re also very bad for our health. They actually coat our clothing with the chemicals and the scents, and so they’re just really bad. And if you’ve already done that, yes, I’m so proud of you. The second thing I would say is to find a toxin free laundry detergent that does not use any fragrance. And that can be difficult to do.
R Blank 28:02
And so these alternatives are because I’ve heard you talk about this before an alternative to dryer sheets involves these wool dryer balls. Yes. And the essential oils, yeah, metal and a less toxic laundry detergent. These are all things that people can find in your store. Correct.
Megan Mikkelsen 28:16
They are they are. And I laundry is a hot topic. But I interviewed the laundry expert, Patrick Richardson. And there’s,
R Blank 28:25
there’s a there’s a I’m sorry, there’s a laundry expert
Megan Mikkelsen 28:27
as a book too. And you would not think that a book about laundry would be so good. But it is. It’s I mean, it’s funny. It has so many tips in it. It’s one of those things that you need to keep in your laundry room because he has the solution for every stain for avoiding the dry cleaner. It’s so good. But I had him on my podcast. And I would encourage you to listen to that episode because we talked about everything laundry, and a lot of people are they say, well, the the dryer sheets gets rid of the static. And there’s great solutions for that that we talked about in that podcast episode. So definitely listen to that one. But yeah, laundry sheets. You’ll Yeah,
R Blank 29:08
yeah. So so so not only do you have these products in your store, right, but swapping laundry sheets for dryer balls. This is the kind of information that people can find in your safe swap guide is that yes,
Megan Mikkelsen 29:21
absolutely. Yeah. So it’s a free download. And then once you download it, you get weekly emails from me that really are just kind of sharing the latest and toxin free living and, and about the podcast. I don’t spam people. It’s just you know, occasional email. And yeah, you get my clickable toxin free shopping list that has my favourite toxin free products. So
R Blank 29:43
that’s great. And so we’ll have links to all of that in the show notes. Mag and beyond the links we’re gonna be putting into the show notes. How would you like our listeners to connect with you?
Megan Mikkelsen 29:56
Yeah, well, I have a Facebook group. If you’re a Facebook group lover, it’s called toxin free. talk the same name as my podcast. And then you can find me on Instagram at Megan Mickelson. and my website is detox Dot Design.
R Blank 30:11
Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Megan. This is great. And as I said at the start, you know, this is our second conversation. I hope it’s the second of many I really enjoyed learning about not not only the work that you do with detox, by design, but but also your thoughts, specifically on on the role of technology as as a toxin and how it can be controlled and how we really, so I really appreciate you taking the time to come here on the healthier tech podcast today.
Megan Mikkelsen 30:38
Well, I’m so glad that I could be here and I hope I opened your listeners ears and eyes a little bit to why we need to pay attention and thank you again.
Stephanie Warner 30:46
Yeah, it was a great interview. And I just want to add, I absolutely love your approach to making this topic really simple and approachable. And I appreciate you coming on today.
Megan Mikkelsen 30:55
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the healthier tech podcast. Remember to check the show notes for all the links and resources mentioned in the show. Please like and subscribe to the healthier tech podcast on Apple, Spotify or your podcast platform of choice. Get your free Quick Start Guide to building a healthy relationship with technology and our latest information at healthier tech.co
Transcribed by https://otter.ai