Published December 12, 2012
Instituting more eco-friendly practices in your home can not only improve your health but also help save you money, experts say.
“Your ecosystem is your home. It’s where you sleep, eat and live,” says eco-friendly designer Robin Wilson and CEO of Robin Wilson Home. “Green is a marketing term that became diluted. Eco-friendly is more honest.”
Whether it’s scented candles, household cleaning products or paint, many products commonly found under sinks and in cabinets contain chemicals that can be harmful to your health and the environment. To help make a home more environmentally friendly, homeowners can buy organic products or make their own solutions.
Household cleaners are designed to kill germs, but they also tend to contain a lot of chemicals that can cause health issues. If you check closely, many products contain a warning of “hazardous to humans and domestic animals,” says Beth Greer, author of Super Natural Home. “It’s important to stay healthy when we are cleaning. It can be counterproductive if what we think is killing germs is doing more harm than good.”
An alternative, which Greer says kills 99% of E. coli and salmonella is white vinegar and peroxide. She fills two spray bottles and uses it on kitchen counters, table tops and cutting boards.
Where and what you sleep on can worsen existing health conditions, according to Wilson. She says that people need to wash or replace their pillows regularly because dust mites have been shown to aggravate allergies. “The average time for people to replace their pillow is six years” says Wilson, and that is way too long. She also suggests buying a hypoallergenic pillow to reduce any possible allergens.
Scented candles can create a warm and inviting environment in a home, but Greer says they can also be detrimental to your health. She cites recent studies that claimed scented air fresheners and candles can trigger allergy symptoms that can aggravate asthma. When scenting a home, she recommends avoiding aerosol sprays and air fresheners and instead boiling a cinnamon stick and open windows. Another trick, spray essential oils over dried flower to make you own scented potpourri. “It can be really inexpensive and it’s not going to trigger asthma or allergies,” says Greer.
Many homeowners take advantage of the winter months to paint walls, but Wilson recommends using low to no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) paint to avoid toxins. Not only is no VOC paint eco-friendly and void of potentially-harmful toxins, but it often tends to only need one coat, which can be a money saver. “With cheaper paint you spend twice as much on labor,” says Wilson.
Eco-friendly can also be applied to your appliances. If you are in the market for a new dishwasher or refrigerator look for one with an Energy Star rating. If you have the space, when buying a new refrigerator go with separate refrigerator and freezer units, says Wilson. Having two separate units, keeps the freezer closed more often, she says. What’s more, she says many people have a separate door or draw style beverage and/or snack refrigerator which enables the main refrigerator to stay closed for the majority of the day.
Many homeowners waste water, which not only damages the environment but increases the water bill. To better control water flow, Wilson says to buy plumbing fixtures--like a faucet or shower head-- that have the WaterSense label on it, which is similar to the Energy Star label. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, products with the WaterSense label “perform well, help save money and encourage innovation in manufacturing.”