Doing your part for the planet doesn’t need to cost extra time or money. In fact, it can even save you money. Here are 5 super easy but effective ways to greenify your home and by extension, your life. Find out why sustainable living is basically just another way of saying “smart living”.
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 phtalates 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 most 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 safe ingredients you can use to clean around the house include vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda.
There are also a variety of green products on the market, such as Ecover and L’Arbre Vert for laundry and Frosche for cleaning. These are effective, pleasant smelling and often come in recycled packaging.
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, there is 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 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 don’t want he 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 adage ‘unless it’s dirty, wash at 30’. Modern detergents often don’t require higher temperatures than 20 or 30 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 germ-killer.
Plug out “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.
Zero waste is a niche but growing movement where people who care about their impact on the environment take steps to make their lifestyle as wasteless 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 landfill 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 always a long term solution as you may have thought, as plastics can be recycled only a certain numbers 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 your waistline. You don’t have to fit all your year’s trash in a jar to take a few leaves out of the zero waste book and make small but effective changes.
By Fiona Feeney ©FM