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How to Make Your Home More Green

Check out these expert tips on making your home, yard, and even your car greener, cleaner, and healthier.

Cleaner Indoor Air

Dry idea. Battling moisture should be a carefully waged war inside every house. The goal is to avoid mold, since vanquishing it might mean a chemical cleanup that's bad for your health and your home. The sweet spot is 30% to 60% humidity, enough to give your eyes, skin, and throat the water they need but not so much as to encourage funky fungus growth, explains Cole. An inexpensive home humidity monitor will indicate where you are. If you've gone over the top, all you need is a dehumidifier to pull the wet stuff out of the air. Don't forget to check it, empty it, and clean it at least once a week.

Germ warfare. HEPA filters work wonders in more than just vacuums -- they're also fitted into air purifiers, which pull and trap particles like allergens, dust, and mold from the air. HEPA filters rank high on an efficiency scale known as MERV -- or the minimum efficiency reporting value, typically around 17 on a scale of 1 to 20. To make your shopping easy, look for a purifier labeled as a "true" HEPA, which can remove more of the smallest particles faster -- or 99.97% of airborne annoyances as tiny as 0.3 microns in size, which is pretty small. While air purifiers with HEPA filters are a low-environmental-impact, high-efficiency way to raise your indoor air quality, Cole says, manage your expectations: A freestanding unit will only clean the air in an average-sized room, not the whole house.

Smoke alarm. Need another sign it's time to kick the habit? Smoking is one of the most effective ways to ruin the air in your home for everyone who lives there. Secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in nonsmoking adults and for respiratory issues in hundreds of thousands of children, according to an EPA report. Make this a rule in your house: Don't smoke at all or don't smoke inside. To mix toil with trouble, says Marshall, smokers who use harsh cleaners in their homes may find chemicals like ammonia or bleach worsen respiratory symptoms, such as difficult breathing.

Fresh idea. There's nothing like a little fresh air, suggests Marshall. One of the easiest ways to go green for your health is to simply open a window -- the way Mother Nature intended. If you're compelled to use a chemical cleaner to combat mold and scum on shower walls, for instance, make sure you have windows open while you work. Giving chemicals an aerosolized ride into your lungs isn't a good idea.

Environmentally Safe Yard Products

Fertilizer foe. It seems a little backward to play farmer and grow your own vegetables in your backyard, then shower them with a fertilizer that offers no benefit for body or earth. Instead, think natural and compost, Cole suggests. The food waste you throw in the garbage disposal or trash every day, like apple cores and banana skins, can be a nutrient-packed addition to your garden. Cole composts by putting aside his family's daily leftovers and tossing them outside in a pile. By churning the pile once a week, he can be compost-ready in a few months. When summer arrives, the trash has become a treasure, ready for spreading like mulch over the garden to make both food and flowers fabulous.

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