Sitting on my porch on this beautiful spring day, I am enjoying the clean, fresh air. A light wind reminds me to breathe deep and I do so with pleasure. Shades of green all over the yard, the smell of fresh cut grass. Oh, the sweet signs of spring….
If only our homes could be so green. If only it was as fresh on the inside as the outside. Unfortunately, the opposite is true - indoor air can be 10 times more polluted than outdoor, and is very hazardous to our health. Opening the windows isn’t enough, but there are many simple ways to make your home “greener”.
I am a firm believer that green buildings can result in a better quality of life. They have been proven to enhance performance by their occupants: workers in factories, students in classrooms and professionals in offices. On the collegiate end, many high school graduates are seeking out “green colleges”. The National GREEN Schools Campaign plans to green all of the schools in America within a generation. Why? Because green schools save money, conserve natural resources and have healthier students who perform better.
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Shouldn’t we all want the same good health for our homes? So, where do we start? We should start with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and here is why. Research by the EPA shows that people spend 90% of their time indoors. Allergens, such as dust, mold and mildew are prevalent in our homes and closely linked to Asthma and other respiratory illnesses. According to the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention, Asthma is the “leading chronic illness among children in the U.S.” We need to do what we can to battle this epidemic.
The first and easiest baby step – switch to organic cleaners. Get rid of the toxic ones that burn your eyes and lungs. Be aware that labels don’t tell the whole story: look up a product’s MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) online before you trust it in your home. Don’t buy it because it says it’s “all natural” or “organic”, as those terms have no legal meaning and could be simple hog-wash, to use a Southern term.
The key to preventing mold is moisture control, so keep all areas dry, check plumbing and crawl spaces for leaks. Dust mites, common in upholstery and bedding, need to be addressed regularly. Wash bedding regularly, use allergen-proof pillow covers and change the vacuum bag often.
Proper ventilation and natural light are also critical. Changing filters, opening blinds and bringing in sunlight – all significant actions that lead to a healthier home. Houseplants help tremendously. According to Clean Air Gardening, a NASA study recommends at least 15 houseplants in a 2,000 square foot home to help improve the air. Find more information and which plants are best here:
If the idea of a “green house” sounds foreign to you, you are not alone. The concept is gaining in popularity, but still evolving. Recently, a relative overheard me talking about my passion for green buildings. She looked confused and asked, “What exactly do you mean by a ‘green building’, are the walls, floors and everything green”?
All chuckles aside, a “green building” is simply this - a healthy building. It’s not overly cluttered and dusty and it smells good. (“Good” being defined as the scent of our natural environment, not the smells fabricated in labs and bottled in commercial products). Bottom line: it’s easier to find fresh air in a green building.
In Honor Of Planet Earth, I will bring you more tips on “greening” your home, so please contact me with questions. Meanwhile, take baby steps to detoxify your home, enjoy spring and breathe easy…knowing you’re living in a green(er) house.
Tracy Himes (a.k.a. Verde Mom)