If your New Year’s resolutions list includes living a healthier and more environmentally sensitive life, but you’re intimidated by the cost and inconvenience of going green, here are some small steps to set you on your way.
Most hark back to the days of our parents and grandparents. So take a trip down memory lane and discover that sometimes the good old ways are a better – for you and the environment.
Not long ago we purchased a brown plaid rug for our dining room. It complements our mission furniture – but shows every dropped crumb that previously was lost in the background of our Oriental. A quick trip to Foley’s and I was home with an old-fashioned carpet sweeper.
Soon I was revisiting my childhood, remembering the back and forth motions and the pleasant sound the brushes made as they picked up the crumbs and dirt throughout the house. And then it dawned on me. The carpet sweeper is the ultimate green appliance. No electricity. No plugs. No waste of power. No carbon footprint (at least, not once it’s been manufactured). It picks up dirt on carpet and hardwood floors, it’s easy to operate (your children will probably think it is fun to use), there’s no need to buy bags or replacement parts, and your home will be cleaner. I can’t think of a downside to this one.
2. Clean the air inside your home.
The toxic materials and substances contained in building materials, carpets and cleaning substances may well make the air inside your house or apartment, particularly in these cold winter months, more toxic than the air outside. Make it a habit to open wide the windows of the bedrooms and fill the room with fresh air for an hour at least once a week (you can close the bedroom doors to keep the rest of the house warm). And be sure to open the windows wide if you’re cleaning with toxic materials. (Better yet – replace them. See No. 5.) For more on how to clean the air in your home, see the EPA website.
3. Filter the air – naturally.
I bring my houseplants, which summer in the shade of my front porch, back inside the end of October or beginning of November, just at the point we close up our houses to Larchmont’s cool days. Fortunately, those plants are a natural antidote to the stuffy air that gets locked up inside.
So skip the air fresheners and sprays (aerosols are particularly bad for the environment) and invest in some plants to filter the air. If you’re feeling nostalgic for your great-grandparents’ apartment, you can find a Sansevieria trifasciata, more commonly referred to as a Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or an old fashioned philodendron. You can find these and more unusual specimens at Larchmont Nurseries or Tony’s, both of which have nice assortments of plants that do well in the shade.
4. Leave your shoes at the door.
The largest single source of dirt in your home is what is brought inside on the feet of family and friends. Not only are shoes and boots bringing in the dirt that you can see, they’re also transporting pesticides, lead, antifreeze, fertilizer, pollen and other elements that have no place in your home. (FYI: The EPA says that children are exposed to more pesticides by indoor shoe-wearing than eating non-organic fruits and vegetables). So make it a habit to take off your boots and shoes at the door. Teach everyone to leave their shoes in a boot tray, milk crate or any similar container that can be place near the door. And those slippers your children got for the holidays from your great aunt will get some use.
5. Kick the chemical habit
When you’re at Stop and Shop, pass by the aisle filled with the harsh cleaning products that are hawked on television all day and load your cart with the two basic products that can be used to clean almost anything: white vinegar and baking soda. Hard to believe, but mix either with a little warm water and you’ll be able to clean almost anything. Alternatively, shop for the green cleaning products that are found in hardware stores and supermarkets.
Do you have other suggestions on how to take small but significant steps toward living green? Please post below, or send to me at ESGrotta@verizon.net. We’ll feature them in a future article.