A Greener Household
A few simple changes can make your household a greener place. If you aspire to be kind to the planet, your health and your pocket, check out our ten top tips. How many are you incorporating?
1. On the Scent – Choose Essential Oils, Not Synthetic Air Fresheners
In the UK, consumers spend nearly £400 million a year on 225 million aerosols, plug-ins and candles, each promising an alluringly quick, convenient and harmless way to transform the atmosphere in our homes. However, evidence is now emerging that all of these products contain hazardous industrial chemicals which can, among other things, transform the structure of our DNA, interfere with our hormones and cause such lifelong problems such as asthma.
A recent study involving Public Health England’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, warned that plug-in air fresheners produce ‘considerable’ levels of formaldehyde: described by the US government’s National Toxicology Program as a known ‘human carcinogen’. It is most closely linked with cancers of the nose and throat and at the very least, it can cause sore throats, coughs, scratchy eyes and nosebleeds.
A smart alternative to these toxic products are eco-scents, such as 100% pure essential oils. Whether used in a burner, diffuser or vaporiser, essential oils are the safest natural way to add ambience to your surroundings and freshen your home. Not only do they smell amazing, but essential oils have many other benefits. Rosemary, for example, can aid your memory, whereas lavender can help promote natural sleep and patchouli is well known for its mood boosting properties.
2. Laundry – Change Your Cycle, Save Loads
A single load of laundry that is washed and dried at the highest heat setting produces 7.27 lb of CO2, so it is imperative not to waste your loads by running them when they are half full.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, washing clothes at 30C uses around 40% less electricity over a year than washing at higher temperatures, saving around £13 annually on energy bills.
2-3kg of carbon emissions are produced for every hour a dryer is in use. Granted, sometimes it’s a pain pegging all your clothes out on the line and then bringing them in again, but weather and space permitting, this is undoubtedly the most eco-friendly option.
3. Don’t Let it Drip Away – Conserve Water
A dripping tap can waste 20 gallons of water a day. A leaking toilet can use 90,000 gallons of water in a month. Is it time that you got out the wrench and changed the washers on your sinks and showers? Keeping your existing equipment well maintained is probably the easiest and cheapest way to start saving water.
All the water that goes down the drain, clean or dirty, ends up mixing with raw sewage, getting contaminated, and meeting the same fate. Try to stay aware of this precious resource disappearing and turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving. When washing dishes by hand, use the plug or a washing up bowl, rather than letting the water flow continuously.
If you have a garden, naturalise it by using locally appropriate plants that are hardy and don’t need a lot of water. If you have to water, do it during the coolest part of the day or at night to minimise evaporation.
4. Smart Refrigeration … No Peeking!
Most of us know that energy efficient fridges are the wisest choice for both the environment and your pocket, but did you know that simply repositioning your fridge can save you money?
When placed in direct sunlight, your refrigerator will work harder to keep cool. Take a look at your kitchen layout and try to move your fridge into a shady corner of the room wherever possible.
For optimum airflow, place your fridge 7.6cm away from the wall.
Another great tip is to decide what you want out of your fridge before you open its door – peeking inside and deliberating can waste up to £36 per year.
5. A Breath of Fresh Air – Purifying House Plants
In the late ’80s, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America studied houseplants as a way to purify the air in space facilities. They found several plants that filter out common volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Lucky for us, plants can also help clean indoor air on Earth, which is typically far more polluted than outdoor air.
Aloe Vera – This easy-to-grow, sun-loving succulent helps clear formaldehyde and benzene, which can be a by-product of chemical-based cleaners, paints and more. Aloe is a smart choice for a sunny kitchen window. Beyond its air-clearing abilities, the gel inside an aloe plant can help heal cuts and burns.
Spider Plants – Even if you tend to neglect houseplants, you’ll have a hard time killing this resilient plant. With lots of rich foliage and tiny white flowers, the spider plant battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries. As an added bonus, this houseplant is also considered safe if you have pets.
Gerbera Daisies – This bright, flowering plant is effective at removing trichloroethylene. It is also good for filtering out the benzene that comes with inks. Add one to your home office or bedroom.
Snake Plants – Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, this plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom — it will thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping to filter out air pollutants.
6. Clean Green – Use Eco Friendly Cleaning Products
As lives become more over-scheduled and stressful, it’s easy to gravitate towards the latest products that promise to make time-consuming chores easier. Need a bathroom cleaner? On your next trip to the supermarket, you grab one of the many bright and colourful bottles promising to be a quick fix. But do you ever think about what’s in that container? Most are made up of harsh cocktails of chemicals, which can be bad for your health. Every time you use these unnatural products, you are inhaling the fumes they emit, especially if your environment is poorly ventilated. Without rubber gloves, the products will sink into your skin too.
As we rethink which products we’re bringing into our homes, we seek greener solutions. Here are a few common household items that you can use as natural green cleaners:
- Vinegar – Cuts grease, grime and wax build-up, cleans calcium deposits, kills bacteria, germs and mould.
- Eucalyptus Oil – Works as a disinfectant and deodorant, and can attack rust before it sets.
- Baking Soda – Removes stains, softens fabric and deodorises.
- Lemon – Can be used as a disinfectant, and as a way to remove oily stains.
There are also a growing number of alternative green cleaning products on the market at affordable prices, providing a natural way to keep your home clean. From eco-friendly surface cleaners to natural disinfectants, there are a broad range of alternative solutions on offer, from companies such as Green Bear. This is great news for animal lovers who can shop with a clear conscience, knowing that these products will cause no harm to wildlife when they find their way from the drains into estuaries and rivers.
7. Save While You Sleep – Turn Of Your Wireless Router
Research by green electricity company Ecotricity showed a wireless router costs £21.92 a year on average if left on continuously, making it one of the most expensive gadgets in your home to run.
You can turn it off overnight or when you are not using the Internet to save electricity and it will not affect your telephone or usual TV services, even if you have a package deal such as those offered by Virgin Media and Sky. However, anything that runs via the Internet, such as TV on demand or catch-up services, will be disabled.
Also, be careful if you use your mobile phone to access the Internet when your wireless router is switched off. Depending on your data package, the phone charges could quickly outstrip any savings on your electricity bill.
8. Open Up Your Curtains – Get Enlightened!
Have you got into the bad habit of keeping the lights on in your home even when it’s a bright, sunny day outside? If so, you’re not alone. By simply drawing back your curtains and opening your blinds you can make significant energy savings.
Turning off your lights for just one hour a day will save 1.22 pounds of CO2. Over the course of a year, this adds up to 0.216 metric tons. Although that might not sound like much, the overall impact of every household doing this would be enormous.
While too much of the sun’s warm rays can be harmful to your skin, exposure to natural light increases the brain’s release of serotonin. This mood-boosting hormone is associated with helping us feel calm and focused. Low levels of serotonin are linked to a higher risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a form of depression that is triggered by the changing seasons.
9. Magic Carpets – Save on your Heating Bills
The appeal of natural wooden floors in the home is undeniable, but bare floors are not always the kindest to your heating bills. This can be combatted to a certain extent by laying down rugs. They will act as makeshift insulation and will help to keep the room nice and warm if you have the heating on. It also feels much cosier on your feet on a cold morning when you’re not wearing any shoes or socks. Using rugs on wooden floors can help you save between 4%-6% on your energy bills.
The layout of your room can also impact on your heating bills. For example, if you have sofas or chairs in front of radiators, then this will block much of the heat from reaching the rest of the room and it will take much longer for the room to heat up. Even just moving the sofa away from the radiator a few inches can help.
If you have an open fireplace and chimney that you don’t use then you could try moving the sofa in front of it to block some of the cold air coming down. Even better would of course be to block up the chimney if you don’t need it.
10. On the Up – Upcycle and Reuse Everything Possible
It goes without saying that we should all do our bit by recycling, but what about upcycling and reusing household items? These processes often get overlooked.
Do you use cooking sauces that come in glass jars? Instead of merely recycling those jars, you can put them to good use in a wide variety of other ways. A prime example is storing leftover food in them.
You can also do everything with jars from growing small herbs in them to turning one of them into a makeshift piggy bank.
If you remain focused on the ultimate goal of getting a more useful life out of each object, you should be able to discover dozens of creative ways to reuse daily items.