Do it right
Greening your home is as simple as switching to low-energy lighting, vacuuming regularly, and using eco friendly household cleaners.
The furniture, lighting, and textiles that decorate our living rooms can take a toll on our health and the environment. The way we clean this room each week is also important.
With a few simple changes, we can easily detox our living rooms and transform them into healthy, relaxing oases.
Choose Eco-Friendly Furniture
Keep two things in mind when choosing living room furniture:
A basic rule to follow is to avoid purchasing furniture made from plywood or particleboard as these wood products contain formaldehyde-based glue. They off-gas toxins that can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty breathing, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Instead, look for furniture made from sustainable bamboo forests or postconsumer waste products, such as cork or sunflower husks. These low-impact building materials will add character to your living room.
Switch to Low-Energy Lighting
If the lighting in living spaces is too low or too bright, it may affect our health, and it certainly has an impact on energy consumption. Adria Vasil, author of the book Ecoholic (Random House, 2007), explains that only 5 to 10 percent of the electricity consumed by incandescent bulbs is actually converted to light.
As your conventional light bulbs fail, replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs, if not for the environment, then to save money. Compact fluorescent bulbs last about 10 times longer and will probably need to be changed only once every five years.
Carpets and curtains add warmth to a living space, but because they trap dust and chemicals in their fibres, constant maintenance is required. Vacuum thoroughly at least once a week (more if you have pets), preferably using a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
HEPA filters are better for people who have allergies because the filters help remove dust and mold spores from the air and carpets at a minimum efficiency rate of 99.7 percent.
Deirdre Imus, author of Green This! (Simon & Schuster, 2007), also advises using a vacuum cleaner that collects the dirt in a bag. “Bagless models have a tendency to rerelease dust or other particles back into the atmosphere, which can really irritate sensitive members of your household,” says Imus.
She suggests sprinkling baking soda on the carpet before vacuuming to remove odours.
Dust Without Waste
Dust is comprised of a lot of things, such as skin cells and fibres from clothes or furniture, as well as dust mites and their fecal matter. Dust mites can be problematic for people with respiratory problems and can even bring on asthma attacks. No wonder we need to get rid of dust quickly.
Dust with a damp cloth rather than with a feather duster or any sort of dry dusting, which just pushes dust around instead of picking it up. Microfibre cloths, the new wave of dusting technology sweeping the market, also effectively trap dust and dirt. Microfibre cloths are better than a wet paper towel and they’re reusable–simply toss in the wash with a little soap and water; avoid using fabric softeners since softening the fibres in the cloth counteracts its ability to pick up dust.
Microfibre cloths are also better for dusting than the chemical-laden dusting and floor-cleaning cloths that are thrown away after a single use. Although compostable versions of microfibre cloths are available, they still come with a whole lot of packaging that needs recycling–but at least the cloths don’t add to the landfill.
Clean Without Chemicals
Dusting will go a long way when cleaning floors and furniture, but to add that extra sparkle, you need a little polish. An easy floor and furniture polish that doesn’t tax the environment or your health is made from one part vinegar to two parts olive or vegetable oil. Be sure to prepare a new batch of this polish each time you use it so that the oil stays fresh.
Detoxing the living room takes only a few simple changes. Once complete, you’ll enjoy family time in a healthy, environmentally friendly haven.