By Vanessa B
Doing your part for the planet doesn’t need to cost extra time or money. In fact, it can even bring savings and health benefits into your life. Here are 5 super easy but effective ways to “green-ify” your home and by extension, your whole lifestyle. Find out why sustainable living can be just another way of living well.
Plants not only provide aesthetic appeal but also improve the air quality in your home. One of the amazing things about house plants is that studies by the EHP and NASA have found that they are actually more effective and cheaper than HEPA filters found on some vacuum cleaners and ventilation systems at filtering out toxins such as volatile organic compounds in the air.
These compounds are released by things like synthetic materials, paints and new furniture, evaporating at room temperature and carrying potential short and long-term health effects.
Growing herbs on your kitchen windowsill is a perfect way to both clean the air in your home and save money. Parsley, sage, basil, and thyme are known to hold up better indoors and in more humid areas.
Clean with green products
Cleaning product companies have fooled the average consumer into believing that we need to use an array of harsh, toxic chemicals to keep our homes clean and that we need to purchase separate cleaning products for every surface.
Many of the chemicals found in these conventional products are often hazardous in that they are carcinogens, neurotoxins, mutagens, teratogens or endocrine disruptors.
As a conscious consumer, you might want to be cautious of just what exactly is masked beneath the pretty packaging and sweet scent of your favourite air fresheners. Many of these products contain phthalates for example, which are known to cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems.
As well as being harmful to the environment, chlorine bleach, a cleaning staple in many homes is highly corrosive and absorbed easily by the skin and stays in the air for a long time, getting into your lungs and remaining on surfaces long after they’ve been cleaned. Hydrogen-peroxide is an eco-friendly alternative that will get you similar results. Other kid and pet safe ingredients you can use to clean around the house include vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.
There are also a variety of green cleaning and laundry products on the market, such as Ecover, L’Arbre Vert, and Frosche to name but a few. These products are effective, pleasant smelling and often come in recycled packaging. They’re also now widely available in your local supermarket or drug store.
There are a number of ways to lower your carbon footprint when choosing the most important materials for the surfaces of your home. Floors, for example, look for FSC wood which is responsibly sourced. Or for an even more eco-friendly, consider bamboo, a highly renewable plant that lends an elegant appeal and similar effect to hardwood.
Cork is harvested without harming the tree and provides a soft, cushiony floor with good insulation and antibacterial properties. Of course, all flooring materials have their individual drawbacks so it’s worth it to do your research and make an educated decision as to what is right for you.
For countertops, green options include recycled glass and the very on-trend concrete option. When choosing paints for walls, doors, or furniture, look for labels with low VOC levels, for a product that is healthier for the planet and for your family. Finally, choose natural over synthetic textiles where possible. A lot of what goes into creating an eco-friendly living space is essentially going “back to basics” and an important part of this is natural textiles.
Textiles play such an essential role in providing the comfort of being at home, whether in the form of window treatments, upholstery, bedding or accessories like cushions and throws, so essential in fact, that they are often overlooked. Linen is a relatively ecologically sound fibre and lends a timeless rustic appeal. Organic cotton is often softer than conventional cotton and free from the residual pesticides and herbicides. Rugs made from jute add texture and warmth if you want to avoid microfibres from synthetic rugs lingering in the air.
Use Appliances Wisely
There are a number of small changes you can make today in your home to lower both your environmental impact and energy costs.
When using your washing machine, bear in mind the saying “unless it’s dirty, wash at 30”. Modern detergents often don’t require higher temperatures than 30 or even 20 degrees Celsius to be effective. Meanwhile, as much as 85 percent of the energy used to wash clothes goes towards just heating the water.
While tumble dryers can be handy for things like towels and sheets, especially in the winter months, try to hang dry when possible. If you have a garden or balcony, make use of it. Sunlight is also an excellent, natural germ-killer.
Also, consider unplugging some “phantom energy-sucking” appliances when you’re not using them and when your older incandescent bulbs burn out, replace them with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs.
In recent years, zero waste has been a relatively niche but a growing movement where people who care about their impact on the environment take steps to make their lifestyle as low waste as possible. This especially applies to disposable plastic items like cups, straws, and cutlery that are intended for one use, to be discarded and end up in landfills or oceans where they don’t break down, taking up space and harming living things. A lot of food is packaged in non-recyclable plastics, especially processed foods.
And while recycling is definitely important, it isn’t necessarily the best long-term solution, as plastics can be recycled only a certain number of times as it degrades each time. Eventually, this material will end up as waste.
To reduce your waste, you can try to buy more whole foods, bring your own bags for produce, compost your food waste and buy in bulk. Added benefits to this can include saving money and even improving your diet with the inclusion of more whole foods. One thing’s for sure – you don’t have to go to the extreme of fitting all your year’s trash in a jar, à la Lauren Singer in order take a few leaves out of the zero waste book and make some small, but effective changes in your home.