How Green Is Your Home?
5 Weekend Projects to Detoxify Your Space
We spend most of our time inside our home – are we safe there? Thanks to modern technology, buildings and homes are more efficiently sealed than ever, locking us in with all of our household chemicals and fumes. What can we do to keep the environment in our home pristine, and minimize exposure for our families?
Schedule a weekend every month or two to “switch over” a part of your home. Here are some ideas to “go green” in baby steps, and feel great about it each time you convert a part of your life to being less toxic.
- Get rid of sweeteners such as NutraSweet, Equal, Splenda and the like. They are neuro-excitotoxins and should not be in your family’s food or drinks. Key words on the labels such as “lite”, “reduced-sugar”, “diet” and “sugar-free” may be a tipoff to toxic sweeteners.
- Avoid fructose, which has mercury involved in it’s processing.
- Avoid agave nectar for the same reason.
- Clear out your foil and plastic wraps – Replace with waxed paper, parchment paper, and glass containers.
- Get rid of all your aluminum and nonstick cookware – Replace with glass, porcelain, stainless steel, cast iron, terra cotta and enamel-ware.
- Look for ceramic cookie sheets, pie plates and cake pans. Use parchment paper to line aluminum baking trays until you can replace them. Be careful if you’re on a budget – the prices range from the expensive but beautiful Woven Traditions from Longaberger to bargain glassware at Wal-Mart.
- Give away your plastic storage containers and replace with glass containers from the bargain store. Pyrex makes a great line (with plastic lids, but they don’t touch the food), and they work great in the fridge and the freezer.
- Quit microwaving, especially in plastic – start using your toaster oven to warm leftovers. It takes a little more time and planning, but is way better for your and your family. Microwaving also zaps the nutrients right out of your food.
- A study published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli “zapped” in the microwave with a little water lost up to 97 percent of its beneficial antioxidants. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11 percent or fewer of its antioxidants. There were also reductions in phenolic compounds and glucosinolates, but mineral levels remained intact.
- Use a pitcher to filter your water. Tap water is loaded with chlorine, metals, chemicals and prescription medicines. Most water supplies are not tested for residues of medicines, nor are these filtered out. Whole-house filter systems are great, but will never be in most of our budgets. Water filtering pitchers are quite affordable and can make quite a difference in your water quality.
- Avoid bottled water and drinks in packaging containing phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA). There are many affordable glass and stainless steel bottles that will last for many years, and you can refill them for free from your filtered pitcher!
- If you cannot afford a completely organic diet, look for local organic, grass-fed meats, eggs, milk, butter and cheese if you can. Toxins and metals are stored in fat tissues, so it makes sense to put your grocery dollars here first.
- Likewise, go organic for the “Dirty Dozen” – the 12 most polluted vegetable crops, and go non-organic for the “Clean 15” in the produce section.
- Choose wild caught fish and seafood. Wild caught seafood is not only more nutritious than its farm raised counterparts, it has far fewer contaminants. If fresh wild caught fish is unavailable or too expensive, head to the freezer section. A lot of the “fresh” fish in your supermarket was previously frozen anyway.
- Stock your kitchen with environmentally friendly soaps for the dishwasher and doing dishes by hand.
- Here’s a secret:
You don’t have to use industrial strength cleaners to be a good homemaker – don’t be brainwashed by advertising! Use a simple, inexpensive vinegar and lemon spray for your countertops sink and floors, and lighten that toxic load! Add a few drops of lemon oil for a nice shine.
- Scrub your sink out with good ol’ cheap baking soda!
- Throw the lemon peels down the disposal for a quick cleanse that will leave your kitchen smelling great
- You can find simple formulas and recipes for green cleaning solutions at your local library, plus there are beautiful blogs and websites that give tried and true recipes. Pinterest is a great source of formulas for everything from shower stall cleaner to bug killers.
- Plan ahead and go buy large size containers of white vinegar, club soda, baking soda, borax, etc.
- Purchase a few inexpensive spray bottles in various sizes, or save ones you have from other products. (Rinse out thoroughly first!)
- Save those rags – much cheaper than using paper towels, and they won’t leave lint.
- Crunched for time? Your name isn’t Martha? If you don’t have the time or interest to make your own cleaners, make a little room in the budget and purchase “green” cleaning supplies at the store.
- Choose laundry products that are “fragrance free”. Did you know that “unscented” is not the same as “fragrance free”? This is a bit of advertising trickery, as “unscented” is a fragrance additive, used to cover up chemical odors. To make matters worse, the masking chemicals usually contain phthalates which disrupt the hormones in our bodies. So choose “fragrance free” every time!
- White vinegar works beautifully as a fabric softener for clothes that will be going into the dryer. Don’t worry –your clothing will come out of the dryer soft and supple, and you won’t be able to detect a whiff of vinegar! It is not effective for items that will be line-dried or laid out flat to dry.
- Store your new cleaning supplies next to the old ones they will replace, and as you use up the old ones, start using your new non-toxic cleaners.
- You spend a third of your day in bed, yet this blissful haven may be a big source of toxins and chemicals – Wrap your mattresses in an inexpensive plastic waterproof mattress cover, available at discount department stores for a few dollars apiece. (Dust mite covers and fabric covers don’t help) By law, all mattresses in the US are treated with flame-retardant chemicals that are a significant source of toxins and metals. Antimony (a heavy metal almost identical to arsenic), boric acid (yes, the roach killer!) silicon (silica glass, a known respiratory hazard and carcinogen), melamine, formaldehyde, decabromodiphenyl oxide and ammonium polyphosphate are the main chemicals being used to meet state and federal flammability standards.
- I love superheroes as much as the next kid, but get rid of your child’s brightly colored and/or chemically-treated flame-retardant pajamas. Replace with plain cotton pajamas that are flame-retardant due to their shape being cut close to the body, not chemicals. Now you’re a hero for getting all those dyes and chemicals away from your child’s skin!
- Buy natural shampoos and lotions, etc. in the bathroom.
- Consider using a fluoride-free toothpaste such as Tom’s of Maine.
- Switch to an aluminum-free deodorant.
- Keep some Epsom Salt handy for soothing detox baths in the evening. Epsom Salt contains magnesium for calming and sulfur for kicking toxins out of your system.
- Anytime you need to remodel or fix things around the house, plan ahead and look for “green” alternatives for everything from paints to concrete to carpet.
- Choose paint that has zero VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). Even “Low VOC” paint has a nasty odor, so be sure it’s zero VOC’s.
- Use water-based polyurethane to finish floors and furniture.
- Avoid OSB and particle board-type products that have been drenched in chemicals.
- Carpets are a big source of toxins – that “new carpet smell” is very toxic. Choose a carpet and padding that have low or no chemicals in them. Ask your installer to use a carpet glue that is non-toxic.
- Okay all you tart-warmer and plug-in addicts! Quit using artificial scents, you are just infusing your home with clouds of toxic chemicals. Relax, genuine essential oils smell great and are free of all those nasty toxins. Or, toss some cinnamon sticks and orange slices in a pot and simmer on the stove – this smells fabulous and creates a naturally fragrant home. Make the switch!
- Open your windows and let some fresh air and sunshine in as often as possible.
- Take off your shoes at the front door. This dramatically reduces what is carried into your home!
- Stop SMOKING! Period. You know why.
- If you regularly have your home sprayed with pesticides, work with the company that provides this service to use non-toxic alternatives if possible.
- Never use toxic insect repellants on yourself or your children. Use one of the new, safer alternatives made just for kids.
- Lice shampoos are neurotoxins. Occasionally an infestation of lice rolls through even the nicest schools and daycares, and your child may get caught in the mess. If your worst nightmare comes true and your child has them, check with a compounding pharmacy for a non-toxic alternative. Tea tree, lavender and rosemary oils are commonly used as nontoxic treatments. No neurotoxins necessary!
- Traditional dry cleaners use very toxic chemicals and known carcinogens in their processing. Llook for one of the new eco-friendly “green” dry cleaners in your area. They will likely use one of two non-toxic methods – professional wet-cleaning or liquid carbon dioxide cleaning. Don’t have a green cleaner nearby? Then at the very least, be sure to take the plastic off when you bring clothes home, and let them air out for several days on an outdoor covered porch, not in your home.
- Take a deep breath – lose the hand sanitizer. It is thought to be a hormone disrupter, plus a few germs are good for exercising our immune system! Ok, ok… if you must, make your own perfectly safe and nontoxic hand sanitizer at home!
- Compact fluorescent bulbs – A bright idea? Although these little guys are great at saving energy, they are not completely safe until either the mercury content is eliminated, better disposal methods are developed, or both. It’s dangerous to ignore the toxic mercury content in these bulbs!
Remember, “Go Green” and help your family stay healthy!