Goals for a green home: • 1. Make your home safe, healthy, and comfortable • 2. Organize—what to do with the stuff • 3. Clean “green”—products and recipes • 4. Green your lawn and garden
Make your home safe, healthy, and comfortable—big ideas:The Quiz • Name at least 3 things the fire department suggests you should have for your home. • What is the colorless, odorless gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer? • From what two sources are you most likely to find lead if your home was built prior to 1978? • Why can a leaky faucet be a health hazard? • Are levels of pollutants usually higher inside or outside your home?
From the fire department—What You Should Know • FYI—a fire grows exponentially—every second counts. Get out and call the fire department. • FYI—the blacker the smoke, the more toxic—building materials today are highly toxic and burn faster than in the past. • Fire causes more death and property destruction in the US than natural disasters every year. • The kitchen, laundry room (dryer—better to line-dry!), and garage are likely places for a fire.
What the fire department says:Prevention Is KEY • Have a clean and clutter-free house. • Clean the lint from your dryer’s lint screen after every use (possibly with toothbrush). Clean the dryer pipe and chamber at least once a year. • Stop using an appliance that is not functioning properly. • Only use an extension cord for short-term use—3 days max. • Have a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) in “damp” environments such as the bathroom and basement. • Avoid using appliances underneath cabinets and watch your candles.
What the fire department says:Smoke Alarms • You should have the appropriate number of smoke detectors for your home—inside every bedroom & at least 1 on the first floor; the basement, garage, laundry room, attic, and any other “isolated” spots are recommended. • Ideally smoke alarms should be interconnected. • Check the batteries 2 times a year and replace at least 1 time a year. • Replace the alarm when necessary (10 years). • The alarm should be UL listed.
What the fire department says:Fire Extinguishers • You should have a minimum of 2 fire extinguishers—more is highly recommended. • Bigger is better as long as you can handle it—typical sizes are 2 ½ lbs. or 5 lbs. • Generally you should have an ABC extinguisher. • Place the extinguisher for the kitchen away from the stove—across the room in a low cupboard. • Keeping an extinguisher in the garage and your car is a good idea. • For questions contact your local fire department.
What the fire department says:Escape Route and Meeting Place • Be sure to have a preplanned escape route—you should have 2 ways out of every room/area of your home. Consider having a ladder for second story rooms. • DO NOT GRAB STUFF—GET OUT ASAP! • Have a designated meeting place outside. • Practice—do your own fire drills.
What the fire department says:More Suggestions • Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector—anything that produces a flame can potentially cause the buildup of CO. • Sprinkler systems are worth it: “Wet can be dried, burnt can’t be revived.” • A fire blanket is useful for putting out minor fires (i.e. on the stovetop) or for putting around someone whose clothes have caught fire.
A note from the fire chief- • “I spoke with you at length regarding the problems firefighters face today from the effects of “lightweight construction.” Fires are simply burning hotter, faster, producing a much more deadly mix of toxic smoke and collapsing in minutes, often with no warning. This recipe makes it very difficult for the fire service to effect rescues and extinguish fires once the fire has a chance to burn uncontrolled for as few as three or four minutes. Even fully career staffed fire departments aren’t arriving on-scene for a few minutes and that is after the fire is discovered, reported and dispatched, all of which may take a couple to several minutes.”
Radon Facts • It’s estimated that radon is responsible for 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. • Radon is a radioactive gas. It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. • Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home via cracks or holes in the foundation. • Radon can build up in any home—new or old, well-sealed or drafty, with or without basements. • Radon can enter a home through well water.
More Radon Facts • Radon levels can vary greatly from house to house. • Every home in PA should be checked for radon. • The DEP suggests you first check for radon using a short-term test (2 days to 90 days)—(price at a local hardware store is $10.99 + $30 for lab analysis). • Radon levels can vary day to day and season to season so follow up with a long-term test. • Radon levels can usually be lowered for about $800-$2,500. • ?s—Contact the Radon Division: 1-800-23RADON.
Lead—Where is it? • In your paint—According to the EPA, the greatest exposure to lead is swallowing or breathing in lead paint chips and dust. Lead paint was banned in 1978. • In your water—Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder, but “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to 8% lead. Brass or chrome-plated brass faucets/fixtures can leach significant amounts of lead into water, especially hot water.
Lead—Where else is it? • Soil—Always remove shoes upon entering your home. • Old painted toys and furniture. • New imported toys—stay alert to recalls. See the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall list at www.cpsc.gov. • Food and liquids stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery. • Some garden hoses—When buying a hose check the packaging to see if it contains lead (this could in be very small print).
Lead—Why is it so bad? • According to the EPA, childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the U.S. • Lead can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, learning and behavior problems such as hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, and headaches. • Adults may suffer from reproductive problems, high blood pressure and hypertension, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain.
Lead—What to do about it • Clean floors, window sills and frames, and other surfaces weekly. Be sure to thoroughly rinse your cleaning tool (i.e. sponge, rag, mop). • Clean up paint chips immediately. • Wash children’s hands often—especially before eating and naps. • Keep play areas clean. Wash pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals regularly. • To help block the storage of lead in your child’s body, serve meals that are low in fat and high in calcium and iron, including dairy products and green vegetables.
Lead—What else you can do • If you suspect lead in your water, let the tap run for 1-2 minutes on cold before using it for drinking or cooking if the water has been off and sitting in the pipes for six hours or more. Note—pregnant women should take extra caution. • Test your water—($10.99 at a local hardware store + $30 for lab analysis fee). • See the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) International website for water filtration information: www.nsf.org. • To remove lead paint you should hire a certified lead “abatement” contractor. • Have your children’s blood checked for lead.
Leaking faucets and pipes- • can be health hazards because they lead to water damage that can promote mold and mildew growth affecting indoor air quality.
Mold—it’s not just fuzzy green stuff • It is possible to develop allergies to mold and experience cold-like symptoms. • Some mold spores can go deeply into the lungs and cause serious illness.
Mold—Where to look for it • Basements and crawlspaces—Consider a dehumidifier. • Any leaks or spills—Check inside the cabinets under your sinks. • The shower—Soap scum is a nutrient source for mold growth. Use a fan vented to outside. • The laundry room—Make sure the dryer is properly vented and don’t let wet clothes or towels pile up. • The kitchen—Cooking spatters and grease film on walls can be nutrient sources for mold. Use the exhaust fan when cooking.
Mold—What to do about it • Prevent it: keep your home clean and dry. • Where mold has already started (or is likely to start due to flooding) you will also need to disinfect the area. This is a time to use bleach. Follow directions on the label or see below—don’t use more than necessary. (Never mix bleach and ammonia together!) • You can use a solution of 1 cup bleach, 1 tablespoon of detergent, and 1 gallon of water for removing mold. Keep surfaces wet for about 10 minutes, then rinse well with water. • Use a toothbrush to clean grout. • If your shower curtain is washable and shows signs of mold, add in bleach with the detergent according to directions. • For large or unreachable areas, hire a professional.
Water in the home • Everyone should be concerned about water consumption in the home. • Water consumption uses a lot of energy. • Leaks can add up—water-wise and $$$. • Check sink pipes for signs of leaks and corrosion. • Place a cup under faucets to see if they catch water when the faucet is turned off. • To check for toilet leaks, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If the water in the bowl turns color before a flush, you have a leak. • Still unsure?—Check your water meter before and after a 3 hour period when no water is being used.
Water-Saving Tips • Use a low-flow shower head. Check your showerhead’s efficiency by placing a 1 gallon bucket under its stream—if it fills in less than 30 seconds, get a new showerhead. • To be even more conservative take Navy showers. • Install an ultra low flush (ULF) toilet. Until then, use a brick in your tank. • To be super-cool ultra conservative, collect your bath water (scoop it into a larger bucket), and use this “gray-water” to flush the toilet. Dump the water directly into the bowl until its contents go down and the water level is refilled.
More H20-Saving Tips • Attach a low-flow aerator to your kitchen faucet—you won’t lose water pressure. Look for one with a flow rate of 2.2 gallons per minute or less. • Use the dishwasher. Don’t pre-rinse and be sure it’s full. Use an earth-friendly detergent. • Don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket or a burial ground for bugs—flush only when necessary. • Avoid using the garbage disposal as much as possible. And use cold water when running it. • Catch the cold water from a faucet while you’re waiting for it to get hot.
Buying a new H2O-using appliance? • Always look for the WaterSense label. Products with the label: • Perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts. • Are 20 percent more water efficient than average products in that category. • Realize water savings on a national level. • Provide measurable water savings results. • Achieve water efficiency through several technology options. • Are effectively differentiated by the WaterSense label. • Obtain independent, third-party certification.
Pollutants in the home—Indoor Air Quality • According to Sierra Club’s Green Life, research has shown indoor air quality is often up to 100% worse than outdoor air quality even in big cities. Among the culprits are the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from paints, carpets, furniture, and cabinets.
What’s up with VOCs? • More immediate symptoms that can be caused by exposure to VOCs include nausea, eye irritation, dizziness, and headaches. • Some organics are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. • Many VOCs in coatings and adhesives contribute to the formation of smog by combining with chemicals in the outside air, so using products with fewer VOCs helps everyone breathe easier.
A word about paint+ • Choose paints, stains, sealants, caulks, and adhesives with the lowest possible emissions of VOCs. These release the most gases when wet, but even when dry to the touch, they may keep releasing gases possibly for years. Meanwhile your upholstery, carpets, and drapes act like sponges, absorbing VOCs and releasing them over time. • Most major paint companies now offer at least one low-VOC paint, usually a water-based latex. ($4+ per gallon) • Paints and other coatings dubbed “natural” are usually made mostly from plant- and mineral-based ingredients rather than petrochemicals. But they aren’t necessarily low in VOCs. • Make sure the recommended products are truly low VOC and not merely “VOC compliant”. Green Seal’s rule of thumb for interior paints and primers: VOCs shouldn’t exceed 50 grams per liter for flat paint and 150 grams per liter for non-flat paint.
How to improve indoor air quality • Open windows—especially when painting or cleaning. • Leave your shoes at the door. Shoes track in all kinds of stuff—pesticides, road oil, gunk. • Get rid of wall-to-wall carpet, especially if you suffer from allergies. Synthetic carpets not only emit VOCs, they also play host to dust and dust mites, pet dander, soot, pollen, odors, fleas, and lots of other stuff. • Vacuum and dust regularly. • Apply low- or zero-VOC clear sealants over particle board and other pressed wood products to seal in formaldehyde.
Dust—Beyond Bunnies • Vacuum frequently, ideally with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. It can theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm). • Dust with a rag (microfiber cloth) that picks up dust—may need to be damp. • Use a pillow cover designed as a dust mite barrier. • If your pillow folds in half and stays that way, time for a new pillow.
Where to dust/vacuum • Ceiling fans—before you turn them on! • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors—spider webs and dust can limit their effectiveness. • Light fixtures—dust buildup on light bulbs and lamp shades can limit output and require you to use more lights than needed. • Refrigerator/freezer coils— clean monthly to keep your fridge working efficiently.
A note on refrigerators/freezers • Leave space between the refrigerator/freezer and the wall to allow air to circulate around the coils. • Clean drip trays to prevent mold growth. • Put an outdoor thermometer inside the fridge to make sure it is 34-38 degrees F to keep food fresh without wasting energy. (Freezer should be 0 degrees F.) • If your refrigerator 12+ years old, it’s probably time to replace it. Look for the Energy Star label. • Recycle the old one!
A note on filters • Air filters can help with some air quality problems, but they are by no means a cure-all. • Clean or replace your heating and cooling system air filters—it’s quick and easy and will save your system from working harder than it should. • Clean, efficient fans and filters on dehumidifiers, furnaces, refrigerators, and other appliances allow them to function efficiently and can reduce air moisture and minimize particulate pollution in your house.
Plants—the “green” purifiers • From Sierra Club’s Green Home: “According to a study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA),plants can be used indoors to purify the air and improve indoor air quality. Green foliage absorbs carbon dioxide and removes formaldehyde and VOCs”. • For an average home of under 2,000 square feet, the study recommends using at least 15 samples of a good variety of these common houseplants to help improve air quality. They also recommend that the plants be grown in six inch containers or larger.
The Top Plants 1. Philodendron scandens `oxycardium', heartleaf philodendron 2. Philodendron domesticum, elephant ear philodendron 3. Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana', cornstalk dracaena 4. Hedera helix, English ivy 5. Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant 6. Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig', Janet Craig dracaena 7. Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii', Warneck dracaena8. Ficus benjamina, weeping fig 9. Epipiremnum aureum, golden pothos 10. Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa', peace lily 11. Philodendron selloum, selloum philodendron 12. Aglaonema modestum, Chinese evergreen 13. Chamaedorea sefritzii, bamboo or reed palm 14. Sansevieria trifasciata, snake plant 15. Dracaena marginata , red-edged dracaena
Plant points • Go for variety— • English ivy, gerbera daisies, pot mums, peace lily, bamboo palm, and Mother-in-law's Tongue were found to be the best plants for treating air contaminated with Benzene. • The peace lily, gerbera daisy, and bamboo palm were very effective in treating Trichloroethylene. • The bamboo palm, Mother-in-law's tongue, dracaena warneckei, peace lily, dracaena marginata, golden pothos, and green spider plant worked well for filtering Formaldehyde. • Consider kids and pets—make sure to avoid poisonous varieties.
Make your home safe, healthy, and comfortable—last points • Trust your nose. If a product smells bad, don’t bring it into your house. But beware of heavily perfumed–fragranced products that are often used to mask chemical odors. • Make sure the door between the garage and your home seals completely, and keep weather stripping in good repair. • Check your home’s sump pump to ensure it is functioning properly. • Be sure air vents between the indoors and the outside aren’t blocked by snow, leaves, dirt, or other debris, depending on the season.
Organize—what to do with the stuff: The Quiz • True or false—You can stop credit card offers from cluttering your mail—and save paper! • How can you stop telemarketers for 5 years at a time? • What does LCSWMA stand for? • What is Earth911.com? • What government agency regulates ingredients in cosmetics?
Organize—Stop the junk from getting into your home • To stop junk mail check out: www.newdream.org/junkmail* www.dmachoice.org • To stop catalogs (or get ones you want)—go to: www.catalogchoice.org • To stop (or get) credit card solicitations go to: www.optoutprescreen.com • To stop telemarketers (and save your sanity) go to: www.donotcall.gov • To stop bills (via snail mail) switch to online bill payments and save 6.6 lbs. of paper + stamps
Organize—tips to deal with and manage the stuff • Set obtainable goals for yourself—i.e. "Today I will organize one shelf in my bathroom closet." • Set aside 15-20 minutes every day, no matter what, and work on one aspect of what needs to be done. It WILL add up! For longer projects, schedule it on a calendar. • Know your personality type when it comes to crossing off your to-do list. Do you do the smaller tasks first to cross off more items on your list, or do you start with the biggest task to get it out of the way? • It may be helpful to know your “Clutter Type”(and then invest in therapy). (See Cut the Clutter and Stow the Stuff edited by Lori Baird). The main types are: the Collector, the Concealer, the Accumulator, and the Tosser.
Organize—tackle the clutter • Start by making a master list of every room in your home that needs attention and what the function of the room should be. As you tackle the room get rid of anything that does not fit the function. • As you are working in each room, have 4 bins with you for immediate action. • Items to keep (relocate in the home) • Items to donate/sell • Items to recycle • Items to trash
Organize—keep tackling the clutter • At the end of every organizing sessiondeal with the bins. • Put items to keep in their proper places. • Empty the trash bin. • Put appropriate recyclables in your official recycle bin. For items that can be recycled, but not from the curb, keep these in the temporary bin, but take action once the bin is full. • For the bin of items that can be donated or sold, take action on this once the bin is full.
Recycling • Find out exactly what can and cannot go in your curbside recycle bin. (You may need to remove caps from bottles. Plastics that are #s 1 & 2, but are not bottles may not be accepted. Etc.) • When in doubt of what to do with your recyclables, check www.earth911.org. • Or, in Lancaster County you can also check out LCSWMA (Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority) online at www.lcswma.org. They are located at 1299 Harrisburg Pike, phone # 717-397-9968, email firstname.lastname@example.org. • The Household Hazardous Waste Facility at LCSWMA is open M-F 8:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. and Sat. 8:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m. • Check the website to see “What You Can Recycle & Where”.
Back to organizing—things to do now • Go through your clothes so you know what you have (so you don’t buy duplicates). Donate/sell anything you don’t wear anymore. • Schedule organizing/cleaning/ household to-dos—i.e. Put on your calendar when you need to vacuum your refrigerator coils, when you will practice a fire drill, etc. • Check your medicine cabinets and throw out expired meds and old make-up.
To safely dispose of meds • From the LCSWMA website—The Office of National Drug Control Policy has issued guidelines for the proper disposal of prescription drugs: • Take unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers. • Mix prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, like used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and put them in impermeable, nondescript containers, such as empty cans with secure lids or sealable bags, to further ensure the drugs are not used or accidentally ingested by children and pets. • Throw the repackaged drugs in the trash. • Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless the label or information specifies to do so.
A note about personal care products—BEWARE! • At The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website (www.safecosmetics.org) you can find detailed answers to questions regarding personal care products. Here are a few shortened versions: • ?: “Doesn’t the government certify that personal care products are safe and healthy before they can be sold to consumers?” A: “No. Major loopholes in federal law allow the $50 billion cosmetics industry to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into personal care products with no required testing, no required monitoring of health effects, and inadequate labeling requirements.” • ?: “I don’t wear very much make-up, so I’m probably safe, right?” A: “Unfortunately, that is not a safe assumption, because we’re talking about more than make-up. Even baby bubble bath can contain toxic chemicals!” • ?: “Are our products affecting wildlife, rivers and streams?” A: “A growing number of studies targeting what are known as "PPCPs" — pharmaceuticals and personal care products — are finding our personal care product ingredients in rivers and streams across the country. And some ingredients have been linked to impacts on wildlife;”.
A bit more on “beauty” • From Sierra Club’s Green Home: “Most personal care products are eventually washed down the drain. But wastewater treatment plants do not remove them. They are sent coursing through our rivers and streams, and ultimately our oceans. In the process, they poison aquatic animals and ecosystems.” • “Many beauty products use polyethylene beads to provide scrubbing action. Unfortunately these little plastic particles are too small to be filtered out by sewage treatment plants and go straight to surface waters and to our oceans where they could be mistaken for zooplankton and poison our marine life.” • Check your products on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com, or www.goodguide.com to “find healthy, green, ethical products according to scientific ratings.”
Back again to organizing—final thoughts • “Using what you already have is the best way to keep excess to a minimum!!!”—i.e. food, office supplies, toiletries, clothing, etc. • For example, always check the fridge, freezer, and pantry to see what you have before meal-planning and grocery shopping. (A master grocery list of items you buy frequently is very helpful.) • Put recently purchased items (such as cans) behind items you already have so you’re always using the oldest products first. • Reward yourself for a job—even a little one—well done.
Clean “green”—products and recipes: The Quiz • What kind of vinegar is your best friend for multipurpose cleaning? • What is a microfiber cloth? • What does virgin fiber mean for paper products? • What is the difference between post-consumer fiber and recovered fiber? • What is the purpose of this ► symbol?