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9 Steps to a Greener—And Healthier—Home

Too much sugary food adds excess pounds and health risks. Learn how to reduce your consumption.

Great quality produce just can't be beat!


Modern life offers plenty of comforts and conveniences. Unfortunately, many of the products we use contain toxins that are bad for Mother Earth—and our own health.

Ready to make your home greener and safer? It’s easier than you might think. Here are a few steps to get you started.

1. Clear the Air
Did you know that the air inside your home can be more polluted than outdoor air? To improve indoor air quality, maintain your home ventilation system. Don’t allow smoking in your home, and have your home tested for radon, an odorless and colorless gas that can increase the risk of lung cancer. (Get a do-it-yourself kit or find a professional radon tester in your area at www.epa.gov/radon/radontest.html.) If you have a gas range or other fuel-burning appliances, install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor. And keep in mind that blocked, leaking, or damaged chimneys or flues can release harmful particles and gases. Inspect chimneys and flues annually, and change filters every month or two during periods of use.

2. Decorate With Diligence
Furniture made from pressed wood can release cancer-causing formaldehyde. So, when shopping for new shelving, tables, cabinetry and seating, choose items made from solid wood and natural fibers. Thinking about changing your wall color? Keep in mind that some paints contain harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Choose one of the many low- or no-VOC paints now on the market.

3. Zap Mold
That mold in your bathroom (or elsewhere) may not be as harmless as it looks. More than 80 strains of mold have been associated with respiratory tract disorders. To nix it, combine half a cup of hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar with one cup of water. Spray on the mold and do not rinse.

4. Go Organic
Buy organic produce to reduce your intake of pesticides if you can. Consider shopping at your local farmers market. A USDA study found that 40 percent of farmers at the markets don’t charge a premium for their organic produce. In the grocery store, seek out foods sporting the USDA Organic label.

5. Be Green When You Clean
Be aware of the household cleaners you use. Many contain chemicals that can be harmful to the planet and human health. Keep in mind that claims such as organic, nontoxic and no CFCs on labels are not verified. Scan bottles for the EPA’s Design for the Environment label or Green Seal Certified label, which indicate the product has met rigorous eco-standards.

6. Choose Toys Wisely
Buy children’s toys that are free of phthalate-containing PVC, such as those made by Lego, Little Tikes and Early Start. Phthalates have been associated with birth defects and cancer in lab animals.

7. Rethink How You Banish Critters
Avoid using chemical pesticides in your home and yard. Of the 28 most widely used pesticides, more than 40 percent are believed to increase the risk of cancer, and some may elevate the risk of asthma and neurological damage. To keep pests at bay the healthy way, keep food and garbage in tightly sealed containers, and seal cracks and other access points into your home with caulk. Ask your local garden center about safe alternatives to toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers for your yard.

8. Do a Clean Sweep in the Garage
Don’t let hazardous materials—such as old car batteries, propane or butane tanks, and brake fluid—linger in your garage, where they can release toxins that can leak into your home. Take them to your nearest collection site, where they can be properly disposed of. For locations, see Earth911.org.

9. Clear the Smog in Your Neighborhood
Try to reduce your drive time. When doing errands, combine car trips as much as possible. Better yet, walk, bike or use mass transit when you can. Leaving your car in the garage just two days per week would save 1,590 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

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