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25 Ways to Create a Green and Healthy Home

Experts say simple changes can turn your home into a green home.

Creating a green and healthy home: Shun toxic products

  • Choose non-toxic cleaners: Find eco-friendly alternatives to harsh chemical cleaners, which can cause health problems and pollute the environment as well. Several brands of non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products are available at both natural grocery shops and chain stores. Or make your own: Baking soda is a cheap and effective all-purpose cleaner, scourer, polisher, and fungicide. Switch to natural disinfectants such as tea tree oil or citrus oils. Try borax and white vinegar as a toilet bowl cleaner.
  • Use cloths instead of cleaners: Skip the cleaning products altogether and switch to micro fiber cloths designed to attract dirt on their own. Used damp, the cloths clean most surfaces like glass, stainless steel, brass, wood, and ceramics. When dry, they give off a natural positive charge, which attracts dust. Simply wash the cloths after each use, and you can reuse them again and again.
  • Give bug spray the flick: "You want to minimize the use of pesticides in your home - and that's what insect repellents are," says Philip Landrigan, MD, chair of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and co-author of Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World: 101 Smart Solutions For Every Family. Instead of using repellents, Landrigan says to keep insects out by sealing cracks and holes around doors, windowsills, and baseboards. And keep food stored away and kitchen and eating areas as clean as possible.

Creating a green and healthy home: Grow a greener garden

  • Plant an edible garden: Grow your own salad greens, veggies, and herbs. A garden can help reduce soil erosion and reduce air pollution. Aim to plant a plot that doesn't use a lot of water and tend your garden without using toxic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Instead, purchase organic and earth-friendly garden products at your garden store.
  • Compost kitchen scraps: Eggshells, tea leaves, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peelings - pretty much any organic matter can find a home in a compost pile or bin. Mix with yard trimmings and add water and presto - you have a nutritious soil enhancer, and you're doing your part to reduce landfill waste.
  • Water wisely: Water your garden in the early morning or evening when it's cooler - water evaporates more slowly when it's cool. Water that's been used in sinks, bathtubs, showers or the washing machine - known as gray water - can be used again to water the garden, if it contains only biodegradable soaps.
  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn: Grass cuttings act as natural fertilizer when they decompose. So take advantage of them.

Creating a green and healthy home: Beyond paper, plastic, and glass

  • Use durable goods: Ditch disposable razors for reusable ones. Swap plastic cups and paper plates for ceramic ones. Choose reusable food containers over plastic wrap. Choose rechargeable batteries over the conventional single-use kind.
  • Buy recycled products: Look on labels for products - like writing paper and toilet tissue - with the greatest percentage of post-consumer recycled content. Choose food items like cereals and crackers packaged in recycled cardboard.
  • Find creative ways to recycle household goods: Donate used toys to a worthy organization, or start a toy library in your community, rather than tossing them in the trash. Host a clothing swap for grown-ups, and set up a kids' clothing exchange. Do the same with books. Before you toss that cardboard box in the recycling, let your child turn it into a space ship, robot, dollhouse, or secret hiding space for hours or even days of earth-friendly fun.

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