Going a deeper shade of green in your home doesn’t have to be inconvenient or expensive. We talked to green living guru Kaitlyn Dickie about how to make small changes that can make a big difference to your footprint, to your wallet, and to the amount of garbage you produce.
Shift Your Awareness
Making any change becomes much easier with a slight awareness shift. Most of us shop in automatic mode, so just paying attention can help you make greener decisions. Here are a few ideas to get you started…
- Choose products made of natural materials.
- Instead of a plastic hair or nail brush, look for one made of wood and bristles.
- Instead of food in plastic jars, look for reusable, recyclable glass.
- Buy in bulk and refill existing plastic bottles for everyday use.
- Look for refillable and recyclable packaging.
- Bring your own takeout container and bag and say no thanks to napkins, cutlery, and single-size condiments.
- Bring your own cloth or paper bags when you shop for produce. Better yet, use none for foods that go straight into the crisper or a bowl—like onions, potatoes, garlic, apples, and bananas.
Instead of this… try this!
- Bottles of shampoo and liquid soap
Try: Shampoo and soap bars
- Plastic food wrap
Try: Beeswax wraps (look for ethically sourced), leftovers in bowls covered with a plate or saucer, and waxed paper
- Plastic food containers
Try: Glass, silicone, and stainless-steel containers
- Tubes of toothpaste
Try: Dissolvable tablets
- Deodorizers, scented candles
Try: Essential oils
- Laundry detergent in bottles
Try: Homemade Castile soap, eco laundry balls, which last up to two years, or detergent strips
- Synthetic microfibre dish and cleaning cloths
Try: Cotton cloths and recycled natural fabric clothing for cleaning rags
- Paper napkins
Try: Cloth napkins
Try: Giant DIY paper flowers, streamers
- Plastic-stemmed cotton swabs
Try: Cardboard stems
- Plastic pens
Try: Refillable pens, pencils
- Plastic-boxed breath mints
Try: Whole cloves, chewed slowly
- Tea bags
Try: Loose tea
- Coffee pods
Try: Grind your own
- Packaged sprouts, salad greens, herbs
Try: Sprout/grow your own
In the quest to be germ-free, bacteria-free, and virus-free, we may be doing more harm than good. Antibacterial cleaners result in stronger, more resistant strains and are associated with everything from asthma and chronic headaches to allergies and poisoning, in people and pets. Phosphates in dish soaps, laundry detergents, and cleaners wash into aquatic ecosystems where they cause damage to fish, plants, and animals. Replace all your cleaning products with three simple swaps:
White Vinegar, dissolves dirt and bacteria
- Clean sinks, toilets, countertops, glass, stainless steel, appliances, doorknobs, phone cases, and remote controls. (Do not use on granite or marble.)
- Dissolve mineral buildup in coffee makers, irons and steamers, and shower heads.
- Clean cutting boards by spraying with undiluted vinegar and rinsing clean.
- Polish copper, silver, brass, and bronze.
- Freshen carpets by spraying diluted, with a few optional drops of essential oil.
Baking Soda, mildly abrasive, eliminates odours
- Cuts stains and grease.
- Cleans baking sheets, kitchen and bathroom surfaces, and BBQ grills.
- Grout: Make a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice. Spread on, leave for 15 minutes, then scrub with an old toothbrush.
- Remove driveway and garage oil stains.
- Get rid of tea and coffee stains in mugs.
- Refresh and deodorize.
- Drains and garbage disposals: Pour a little down the drain, and rinse.
- Clean carpets and upholstery. Sprinkle, wait 15 minutes, vacuum.
- Deodorize: Clean closets, under the sink, in your fridge, or shoes.
- Mattresses: Sprinkle on two boxes’ worth, leave for a few hours, then vacuum. Repeat every couple of months. Also discourages mites.
- Adhesive remover: Make a paste out of a little baking soda and oil.
- Brushes and combs: Mix with warm water and soak overnight.
Castile Soap, liquid or solid, biodegradable
- Dishes: Dilute 1 part liquid soap with 10 parts water.
- Dishwashers: Use equal parts liquid soap and water.
- Floors, counters, walls, sinks, tubs, toilets: 1 to 2 parts liquid soap and 4 parts water. (Not for use on waxed wood or marble.)
- Laundry: ½ cup per load.
- Plant insect repellent: Mix 1 tbsp liquid soap in 1 quart of water.
- Makeup brushes: 2–3 drops in 1 cup of water. Soak for 5 minutes, rinse well.
- Hand and body wash: Add a few drops of almond oil for moisturizing.
You know that “new” smell something has when it’s brand-new—like a car, carpet, synthetic curtains or clothing, furniture, electronics, a mattress, or fresh coat of paint? That’s off-gassing! It happens when chemicals, trapped during the manufacturing process, release into the air at room temperature. These Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)—which include benzene, toluene, styrene, and formaldehyde—can be concentrated two to five times higher indoors than out, and cause short- and long-term health effects like headaches; shortness of breath; dizziness nausea skin, eye, nose, and throat irritation; damage to the kidneys, liver, or central nervous system; and some types of cancer.
Watch out for VOCs in these products
- dryer sheets
- air fresheners
- cleaning products
- nail polish remover
- cosmetics and personal
- care products
- household cleaners
- markers and
- other art supplies
Lower the Gas
Just because a product does not smell—or doesn’t smell anymore—doesn’t mean that it is not emitting VOCs. Here’s what you can do to minimize your exposure to emissions:
- Before you buy, check for information on VOC certification and standards, especially in mattresses and furnishings for children. Look for low or no VOCs.
- Unwrap and air out new products in a large, well-ventilated space—outdoors is best—before moving them into a room.
- Let in the fresh air by regularly opening windows and doors.
- Consider using an air purifier designed to remove VOCs.
- Buy pre-owned furniture as it has already off-gassed.
- Keep paints and cleaning products to a minimum, buying only what you need. If you do buy extra, store it in a shed or garage if possible. Dispose of leftover products properly at a hazardous waste collection site.
- Choose eco-friendly cleaning products made with natural ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.
This article was published in The Good Life magazine.