Green Your Home
Did you know the air inside the average American home can be two to five times more polluted than outside air? That only 30 percent of the 17,000 petrochemicals available for home use have been tested for environmental and human safety? And, according to the EPA, the antibacterial soaps and cleaners so popular today may contain 275 active ingredients that are considered pesticides.
Yikes! How can you keep your home clean and comfortable while eliminating these hazards? Using green products can not only reduce your impact on the planet but also make your home a healthier place for you and your loved ones.
Most conventional cleaning products are made from petroleum, not a renewable resource. Today, there are many brands of cleaning products available–even at the supermarket–that are non-toxic, biodegradable and made from renewable sources. Many people are also turning to old stand-bys, such as vinegar and baking soda for cleaning chores.
Dave MacFarland, owner of Clean-Ups of Lehigh Valley, says their first choice is green products. “Although many of our residential clients want us to use their favorite cleaning products, if they don’t, we use Seventh Generation for general cleaning and Bona brand for hardwood floors.” Both companies claim their products are non-toxic and biodegradable.
Mike Cornell, owner of Heaven’s Best Carpet Cleaning-Lehigh Valley, recommends homeowners have carpets cleaned once a year to rid them of dust, dirt and dander that pollutes the air. He notes that Heaven’s Best’s solutions are water-based, environmentally friendly and child and pet-safe. “Our process allows for fast-drying as well,” he says, “usually in an hour, so there is less chance for mold and mildew to start forming.” If you choose to clean carpets yourself, look for such products as Bi-O-Kleen’s Bonnet Cleaner solution and Seventh Generation’s spray solution for spot cleaning. And, straight vinegar or a vinegar/water solution will work well on many everyday spills and spots.
Jef Reyburn, owner of Moyers Service Group, agrees that there’s a green trend in cleaning. Many of his commercial clients are asking for green cleaning programs to help them achieve LEED certification, the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability. “The chemicals we use are Green Seal®-certified to be environmentally safe,” Reyburn says, “and to help prevent ‘sick-building’ syndrome.” Green Seal is a non-profit organization that evaluates products for source, manufacturing, use and disposal.
Remember the days of having to open all the windows when you’re painting? No more, says Jim Capehart of Buss Paint & Wallpaper. Low or no-VOC paints have solved this problem. VOCs are “volatile organic compounds” that can include chemicals like trichloroethylene, methyl tert-butyl ether and chloroform. Who wants these chemicals in your home? “The average paint used to contain 250 grams of VOCs per liter, but most are at 100 or less today,” Capehart explains. Buss carries the Benjamin Moore line of low or no-VOC paints, which more Valley homeowners are using. “Although the price on these paints is higher, they have better ‘hideability,’ which means they usually require no more than two coats for good coverage,” he says. But customers need to be educated on how to use them as they can be trickier to apply because they dry faster.
What about flooring? Bamboo, cork, linoleum and recycled carpeting are all green choices because they are made from renewable resources. One area tile company is taking green a step further by manufacturing their own line of tiles with low environmental impact. Rocco Perugini, owner of Perugini Tiles, uses cured mortar to make concrete tiles with a smooth, tumbled-marble finish. His Santa Lucia tiles are made to customer specifications and save energy because they are not kiln-fired, but allowed to cure naturally. “Keeping things local is really the best,” he says, because the cost, both in time and fuel, of transporting products from long distances only adds to their impact on the environment.
Installing a home water filtration system not only improves water quality but also cuts down your carbon footprint by eliminating single-serve bottles of water. Chris Wells of The Culligan Man explains that a drinking water system produces clean, fresh water at the tap by filtering out such chemicals as chlorine, arsenic, lead and radium. Clean, good-tasting tap water is cheaper than buying water in bottles that may ultimately end up in landfills.
Culligan’s Smart Sensor unit softens hard water (prevalent in the Lehigh Valley), while saving money and the environment. The Aqua Sensor works with the water softener to continuously monitor water chemistry, automatically adjusting to changes and activating regeneration only when needed. In just 10 years, Wells says, homeowners can save more than 2.5 tons of salt and 20,000 gallons of water, environmentally friendly indeed.
And, finally, what are you sleeping on? According to Answers.com, if you live to be 75, you will have spent 22 years sleeping. Having the right mattress can make a big difference not only to your comfort and health but to the health of the planet. Lee Hornick, owner of the Organic Mattress Store (OMS), had problems with chemical sensitivity and searched for the best organic bed. She was so pleased with the result that she and her husband opened the OMS six years ago in Hellertown. “These mattresses are built to last 25 to 30 years,” Hornick says, “and reduce your exposure to chemical off-gassing.” She says they also reduce back pain, lower heart rate with the natural wool lining and “feel wonderful and luxuriously comfortable and supportive.” Although they carry several national brands, they also manufacture their own OMS Private Label line with choices that include 100 percent natural rubber, latex, innerspring and pillow-top models. All other mattress materials…wool lining, flannel cover and cotton webbing…are also organic.
For more tips on making your home more environmentally and people friendly, check out www.planetgreen.discovery.com.