A Dozen Ideas for a Greener Home

by Jordan Rubin
Simple changes around the house can also make a big difference for the environment. With inspiration from Jordan’s friend Stephen Hennessey’s In Pink magazine, here are some suggested changes that we all could afford to do:

1. Change your incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent.

Here’s an idea that’s really caught on, but it’s a no-brainer since fluorescent light bulbs burn 12 times as long as regular light bulbs and consume 50 to 80 percent less energy. Install full-spectrum fluorescent light bulbs, which are even better for the environment than compact fluorescent. Full-spectrum lights effectively emit the same kind of light that streams from the sun, as well as ultraviolet rays, which makes this type of lighting extremely healthy since UV light causes the body to produce vitamin D. Full-spectrum lights are more yellowish and also are easier on the eyes, causing less eyestrain.

2. Bring your own shopping bags or reusable canvas bags to the health food or grocery store.

Supermarkets in Europe don’t provide plastic bags for their customers. Instead, paper bags can be purchased for around 25 cents each, so the locals bring leather satchels or recycle paper bags from previous trips. What a simple yet effective “green” habit to get behind. Supermarket chains on this side of the Atlantic should adopt the same “bring your own bag” policy. One warehouse club already has: Costco stopped providing plastic bags for their customers in the summer of 2007, and other retailers will likely follow in their footsteps. Plastic bags, made from toxic polyethylene, are not biodegradable and litter the landscape whenever the wind kicks up.

3. Use rechargeable batteries.

Did you know that you’re not supposed to throw your old batteries in the trash? In most parts of the country, used batteries are considered “e-waste,” just like computers and old TV sets. Batteries contain a high concentration of metals that seep into the ground when the casing erodes. The technology behind rechargeable batteries is improving all the time.

4. Recycle your newspapers, junk mail, and plastic bottles.

Did you know that recycling just your fat Sunday papers alone would save more than a half million trees every week? Make a concerted effort to recycle those, your other daily newspapers, your junk mail and your plastic bottles. Every little bit helps and can make a significant difference.

5. Watch the thermostat.

Keep your thermostat set at a cooler, but tolerable, temperature in the winter and a warmer, but tolerable, temperature in the summer. Also, if you are going to be gone for a while, make sure to adjust your thermostat accordingly—bring it way down in the winter and keep the setting higher in the summer.

6. Clean out the bathroom cabinet.

Many personal care products contain parabens, synthetic chemicals used as a preservative. Try out natural products and see if they work for you.

7. Unplug cell phone chargers when not in use.

Most people may not be aware that electrical devices continue to draw electricity when plugged in—plasma screens, DVD players, and even cell phone chargers. It’s not practical to unplug every electronic device in the home, but we can all be mindful of unplugging our chargers for the iPod, cell phone, BlackBerry, and the like.

8. Think green in the laundry room.

Conventional fabric softeners and static cling products use formaldehyde to make clothes softer. You can substitute a half-cup of vinegar to your wash or dip your favorite essential oil on a cloth and dry with your clothes. Seventh Generation produces some great “green” laundry detergents.

9. Check your cookware.

Pots and pans with nonstick coating are popular with the cook and the person doing the clean up. Yet nonstick pans are coated with perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which has shown up in trace amounts in blood samples taken from people across the country. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that PFOA is in the blood of 95 percent of Americans, and the Environmental Protection Agency advisory panel has labeled PFOA as a likely carcinogen in humans. Environmentally acceptable cookware is stainless steel, ceramic-coated, or stoneware.

10. Choose paper products from recycled ingredients.

It’s getting easier and easier to find toilet paper, paper towels, and paper napkins made from recycled paper that are either unbleached or nonchlorine bleached to keep dangerous toxins out of the environment and off your skin and your food.

11. Use air filters.

This is another idea to reduce toxins in your home. Since indoor air is generally three times more polluted than outdoor air, it behooves you to choose an excellent air filter that removes and neutralizes tiny airborne particles of dust, soot, pollen, mold, and dander. You can also open up your doors and windows to freshen the air—even in the cold winter or the sweltering summer heat, even if it is for a brief time.

12. Start your own compost pile.

All you need is some unwanted space in the backyard, and you can set up a handy compost pile.

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