Environmentally friendly choices can be integrated into every aspect of your home and your life—and living green doesn’t mean you have to give up on good design. I was recently selected by “O, The Oprah Magazine” and IKEA to be the green expert as part of a national year-long campaign known as “The Life Improvement Project.” Improving your life by making green choices is one way to not only help the environment, but to also live a healthier life—and it doesn’t have to cost a bundle!
Buying upholstery, textiles, and rugs made of natural fibers that have not been treated with chemicals are all wonderful opportunities to incorporate green design into any space. One of my biggest tips when purchasing is to look to see if plant- and mineral-based dyes have been used instead of chemicals. Furniture aficionados: Be sure to keep a lookout for furniture made of reclaimed, salvaged, or recycled materials.
Tips on Buying Green
First and foremost, think local. There are numerous artists, artisans, and furniture makers who utilize reclaimed, sustainably harvested local woods for their designs, as well as environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques.
When purchasing an item, be sure to ask the manufacturer, retailer, or designer specific questions about how their design is sustainable or green. Inquire not only about the material a specific item is made of, but also ask about the process in which the product is made.
Do Your Homework
There are several nationally respected certifying entities that certify green products. Among them are the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (www.greenguard.org); McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, a product and process design firm that certifies companies and products with its Cradle to Cradle Certification; and Green Seal (www.greenseal.org), an independent nonprofit organization that certifies green products and conducts factory visits to oversee the manufacturing process of the products it certifies.
Free or Low-Cost Ways To Be Green
1. Take your shoes off upon entering your home to prevent tracking dirt and pollutants inside.
2. Turn off lights when you leave the room.
3. Unplug appliances when not in use. Dormant appliances still draw power even when turned off.
4. Wash your clothes in cool water instead of hot.
5. Switch from carpet to hardwood—carpeting traps odors and dust mites.
6. Use a low-VOC or zero-VOC paint. The ecofriendly paint brand Mythic Paint is a wonderful choice—all of their paints are zero-toxin and zero-VOC.
7. Switch to low-flush toilets, shower heads, and faucets to conserve water in bathrooms and kitchens.
8. Switch all of your light bulbs to compact fluorescents or LED.
9. Purchase Energy Star appliances.
10. Toss your used coffee grinds into your household plants—they make a great fertilizer.
11. Buy a programmable thermostat and lower the thermostat setting by 5 to 10 degrees.
12. Wash only full loads of laundry.
13. Capture and reuse rainwater to water household plants.
14. Source locally.
Here are some of my favorite do-it-yourself, ecofriendly household cleaners:
The Perfect Cleaner
Baking soda, vinegar, and water—Works like a charm! The baking soda and vinegar form a powerful, chemical-free paste that will help clean some of your toughest stains!
Salt and Water
Salt has natural lifting powers, especially when it comes to hard-to-remove stains, such as red wine.
Lemon Juice and Water
Squeezing a couple of lemons really does go a long way! Lemon juice and water is a wonderful natural glass cleaner!
Toothpaste and Water
It makes a fantastic paste for cleaning tile, has whitening properties, and won’t scratch or leave a residue!
Anyone with kids will want to pay attention to this one—mayonnaise can help loosen and easily remove oil-based stains, such as crayons.
Spray it on! Especially permanent marker stains. It is a miracle worker in removing marker stains, especially on surfaces you may think were ruined!
You can find more of my ideas, as well as green tips from people across the world, through www.thelifeimprovementproject.com
Five-time Emmy Award-winning television personality Cathy Hobbs is the founder of Cathy Hobbs Design Recipes, a New York City-based firm specializing in interior design, home staging, and home staging training. Go to www.cathyhobbs.com to learn more about Cathy, or to ask her a home staging or design question, send a tweet to @cathyhobbs.
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