Go Greener: 5 Tips for a Green Home You Might Have Missed

Reader Contribution by Jayme Cook
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According to the EPA, 80 percent of Americans’ exposure to pesticides occurs indoors and up to a dozen measurable pesticides are detectable in the air within a home. An average family household in the U.S. has the potential to pollute their home and environment simply through the products that they use, Redfin says. It’s no longer enough to just recycle; in order to maintain a truly green home, you have to dig a little deeper. To live a healthier, more eco-friendly lifestyle, homeowners must assess their homes with a keen, “green” eye and make eco-friendly choices in all areas of their lives. Here are five ways to go greener.

Photo by Deposit Photos.

Avoid High-VOC Products

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. When people use products containing VOC, they expose themselves and others to high levels of pollutants. VOC cause respiratory irritation, headaches, skin rashes, nausea, among other ailments. Use low-VOC or VOC-free cleaning products and paints in your home and check the following products for VOCs:

• Paints and solvents
• Aerosol sprays
• Cleansers
• Disinfectants
• Air fresheners
• Automotive products

Choose “Certified” Coffee

Though a small act, you take a big step toward supporting sustainability when you choose to brew only coffee with the USDA Certified Organic label. This label means that the coffee was grown using sustainable standards, and is therefore considerate of and compliant with the environment.

Go Greener by Planting More Green

It’s easy to become so focused on the inside, that you overlook the immediate exterior. Planting trees around your house, specifically on the west and south sides can decrease your heating and cooling expenses. Combine that with placing trees strategically to shade the AC unit and your household will save $250 annually, Good Housekeeping says.

Turn Off Electronics Completely

If you plan to continue using your computer but will be away from it for more than 20 minutes, switching the machine to “sleep” mode is recommended. When retiring for the evening, any electrical items left plugged in, even if they are not being used, can create “phantom” electrical draw and encourage electrical surges. If you plug devices like the computer and printer or the television and DVD player, into a certified power strip, then all of the machines can be switched off simultaneously for the evening.

Buy Low-Toxicity Furniture and Decor

Your sofa, canvas painting and dining table have a secret life. Some furniture and artwork pieces release substances into the immediate air during a process called “offgassing.” Though nearly everything offgasses, synthetic and synthetically treated materials offgas toxic chemicals. If you have taken steps to insulate your home well in order to conserve energy, it is actually more difficult for these offgassed toxins to disperse and exit your home, says Redfin. In order to improve and maintain good indoor air quality, consider the following when deciding on furniture and decor:

• Select untreated furniture or furniture treated only with natural stains and finishes.
• In artwork, pieces created with organic cotton are generally not treated with toxic materials, so opt for a colorful tapestry over a painting to be more eco-friendly and experience less toxic offgassing.
• Buy second-hand or vintage furniture because most offgassing has already occured.

Rinsing out your aluminum cans and taking your own canvas bags to the market are great decisions in improving the environment, but to optimize your impact on environmental well-being and the well-being of your family, use these tips to take the next step in going greener.

Jayme Cook is a writer and English professor living in Phoenix. She enjoys punctuation marks, sashimi and the smell of wet paint. Dislikes: people who cut in line.

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