By K. R. Cole
We’ve all heard the buzzwords by now: eco-friendly, green, sustainable, etc. The list is long and can be confusing, but the idea is actually quite simple. Conscientious, eco-friendly living is a way of life that aims to keep environmental harm to a minimum while maintaining a clean, healthy, non-toxic, low-waste home. It’s not always just about separating cans for the recycle bin or growing an organic garden. In our homes, there are many small actions we can take and details we can address that help more than you may realize.
Conservation, Sink Style
We use our sinks constantly. We wash our faces, hands, and dishes with that convenient running water. We rinse our toothbrushes and razors with a blast of clean from the faucet. Often though, we leave the water running the entire time, even when we’re not actively using it. Be mindful when you’re at the sink. When brushing, turn the water off after wetting your toothbrush and during brushing, and then back on when you’re ready to rinse. The idea is similar when washing up yourself or your dishes. Water is turned on when it’s needed for wetting, lathering, and scrubbing, shut off when not in use, and turned on again for rinsing.
Turning water off may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s frequently forgotten and must be made into a daily habit. The water you’ll save is significant; it’s possible for one person to save up to 50 gallons a month just by turning the water off while brushing!
Sun’s Out, Clothes Out
Running a dryer can be an energy-using double whammy. The dryer uses a lot of energy to dry your clothes and at the same time radiates a lot of heat. A warmed-up room requires air-conditioning. Enter the sun!
The warmth of the sun and air movement from the breeze quickly and efficiently dries your clothes, saving money and tons of energy. You don’t have to live out in the picturesque countryside to have a clothesline. All you need is clothes line rope, some clothes pins, and two points to which you’ll tie the rope. Clothes line rope can be purchased at supermarkets and home improvement stores and is usually on the same aisle as the clothes pins. You can string the rope from one tree to another, from a fence to another vertical structure, between pergola posts, or from one side of a fence diagonally to the other side. Just make sure your rope is at least 5 feet from the ground so your laundry doesn’t get soiled, and keep it fairly taut. Your clothes will be dry, and your house will stay cool, which takes you away from a double-whammy energy hit and straight into a conservation win.
Many people don’t realize just how many harmful chemicals are in their everyday cleaning supplies and hygiene products. This is a relevant issue since we are in direct contact with our surroundings all the time and since hygiene products are applied to our bodies.
Clear out your traditional cleaners and replace them with eco-friendly, chemical free versions, which are now widely available. Or better yet, look in your pantry and your fridge for simple ingredients that can be used as effective cleaners. Distilled white vinegar is a top-notch cleaner that works on glass, stainless steel, ceramic tile, and laminate countertops and floors for a shine that’s clean and green. Baking soda and salt make great toxin-free abrasives for jobs that need scrubbing. Lemon juice can be used for stain removal, stuck-on foods, garbage disposal freshening, and much more.
Personal hygiene products can be hidden sources of some nasty toxins. Preservatives and other harmful chemicals are commonplace in lotions, hand soaps, cosmetics, toothpaste, and many other products. In addition to containing unhealthy ingredients, these products are often tested on animals.
Luckily, you have options. There are hundreds of hygiene items produced now that exclude all the questionable chemicals you don’t want in your home or on your body. Ingredients are listed right on the bottle. If a product is laden with many chemical names you find hard to decipher, it’s probably best to pick another. Most eco-friendly products will have labels that clearly state the ingredients and animal safeness.
As with cleaning supplies, simple household staples can become effective hygiene products. Baking soda is an excellent toothpaste. Coconut oil is a one-ingredient wonder, useful as a skin and hair conditioner. Try tea tree oil in your laundry and as a topical ointment for its amazing disinfectant properties.
There’s another upshot to using safer products besides making your home a little greener: These chemical-free products are generally made in a more sustainable, less environmentally harmful manner.
Household items such as furniture, linens, and floor coverings are available in hundreds of eco-friendly options. As a vital part of a home, these items are a great place to start when creating a conscientious atmosphere.
Choose linens, including bedding and towels, that are made from fibers that are obtained sustainably. What this means is that these items are made by manufacturers who are dedicated to using materials that can be sourced with minimal environmental harm, produced by fairly paid workers in safe conditions, and are mostly chemical-free.
Bamboo, organic cotton, and hemp are used to make fabrics for everything from hand towels to blouses.
There are several companies manufacturing furniture now that hold sustainability and safety from toxins as high priorities. Woods and materials are obtained in a way that has a less harmful environmental impact, and metal used in the structure of the furniture is often made of recycled goods. Adhesives and other construction components used are formaldehyde-free. The filling and upholstery are made of eco-friendly materials, also. If you’re looking for new furniture, consider these companies.
Instead of purchasing rugs and floor coverings with that heavy chemical smell and synthetic fiber construction, consider covering your floor with something more environmentally sound.
Rugs made with synthetic fibers can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home. VOCs are compounds that easily become gases, filling the air with unwanted chemicals. Opt for natural fibers such as cotton, sisal, and seagrass to keep your home on the green side. When choosing a backing or underlay, avoid foam rubber, plastic, and synthetic latex and choose natural latex instead.
Bring Nature Inside
Don’t forget to bring a little green into your home. Houseplants offer many unexpected benefits. They are more than just colorful decor!
Houseplants act like little air purifiers. They can reduce carbon dioxide, increase oxygen and humidity, and remove pollutants. They are easy to maintain and add a comforting, vibrant element to your home. You won’t need to plug in a purifier if you’re surrounded by nature’s own little air fresheners.
Living an eco-friendly life and having an eco-friendly home is more important now than ever before. Decisions you make for your home decor, home maintenance, and daily activities have a big impact on our planet. Just a few small changes are all it takes to make a house into a conscientious home.
Images used with permission, courtesy of www.shutterstock.com