Mother Earth Living

Your Natural Home

Creating a cozy hearth for the family

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11/20/2014

Tablescapes
Tabletop decorating has never been this much fun! From the sit-down dinners for a few guests or buffets for many, to bridal and abby showers, holiday dinners with the family and al fresco parties at the beach, in
Tablescapes: Setting the Table with Style (Gibbs Smith, 2008), high-end event planner Kimberly Schlegel Whitman shows how to set a tablet he right way.

The following tablescape design is excerpted from “Formal Dining at Home: Harvest Feast.”

Harvest Feast

Neighbors and lifelong friends Gigi Lancaster and Margaret Ryder are true connoisseurs of tabletop finery. They work well together because their strengths (Gigi’s in linens, Margaret’s in floral arranging) are complementary.

 Harvest Feast Table

Together this duo set an elegant rustic table in front of a roaring fire to host an autumn supper. They creatively and effortlessly combined antique pewter, Gien Rambouillet china and Leontine Linens monogrammed napkins. They selected vintage sugar bowls to serve as wine glasses.

 Harvest Feast PlaceSetting

Canadian pewter flatware in the shape of branches and wonderful candlesticks filled with beeswax taper candles were beautiful beside the monogrammed antique pewter charger plates. An artfully designed hydrangea bouquet was the perfect centerpiece.

 Harvest Feast Centerpiece

The china, depicting endangered animal species, reflected their use of organic and natural elements while underscoring their love of animals and whimsy. This eclectic table also included bowls full of clementines, antique wine decanters and silver chalices decorated with hunting dogs.

Harvest Feast Goblet

It flawlessly mixed candles, flowers, vintage collectibles, antique treasures and modern pieces to create a festive and comfortable atmosphere for guests.

Harvest Feast Accent Table


This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Tablescapes: Setting the Table with Style by Kimberly Schlegel Whitman and published by Gibbs Smith, 2008. Photographs by Scott Womack from Tablescapes; reprint with permission of Gibbs Smith.



11/17/2014

Fall foliage wreath
Photo from Better Homes and Gardens

Fall foliage, tall golden grasses, warm sweaters, and hot cider by the fire—all these things instantly bring harvest season to mind. Fall is colored by earthy tones, like rich reds and orange, and fall decorations are inspired by (or taken from) nature.  When you’re preparing your home for fun fall festivities (not limited to Thanksgiving), keep the following natural inspirations in mind for decorations:

1. Leaves

Don’t leaf the leaves outside! Gather the leaves with the most vibrant colors, the largest leaves, the best leaves you can find in your yard and use them in fun Fall decorations! Make an autumnal wreath or garland by stringing leaves together. Press leaves to dry them and display on cardstock for placards or in picture frames.

 

Martha Stewart Pine Vines
Photo from Martha Stewart

2. Pine Cones

Pine cones add a nice natural touch to just about anything. Put whole pine cones on your lamp finial or as an accent on your table. Or, disassemble a few pine cones and create a dainty pine vine to wrap around a candle stick, vase or glass. (instructions from Martha Stewart). Just be sure to bake the pine cones for a few minutes first to make sure you don’t bring any happy insects into your cozy home.

Fall Gourds
Photo from Midwest Living

3. Pumpkins and Gourds

Who says pumpkins can only be fashionable for Halloween? No one, that’s who. Pumpkins and gourds look great as decorated centerpiece or arranged simply on a mantel, making your home look fresh from the harvest, overflowing with good foods. Dried corn with the husk adds a harvest touch as well

knit throw pillow
Photo from Country Living

4. Sweater Knits

Nothing says fall like sweater season. You can incorporate wonderfully warm cable knits into your décor by making a knit throw, a pillowcase, or even a bowl or mug cozy. Natural wool fibers look best, adding all the cozy warmth without any added dyes (and it’s much easier to coordinate colors!)

Floating Fall Candles
Photo from Better Homes and Gardens

5. Candles

Many people love to sit by a warm fireplace on a cool autumn day, but sometimes it isn’t so practical to have a fire going. Instead, make use of candles to accent occasions or parts of your home. You can also add more by wrapping pillar candles in straw, burlap or leaves, making sure these materials will not be near the flame. You could also float tea candles on a dish over sunken colorful leaves for an evening center piece.

What are your favorite fall decorations?



11/6/2014

Pests are more than just ugly looking critters that chew through your wiring. Many can cause serious health problems for you and your loved ones.

Mice

Mouse on counter

A common pest in most rural areas, mice may be considered easier on the eyes than the other creatures we have on this list, but they are by far one of the worst offenders when it comes to health risks. Like most pests, mice will scour your house in search of a meal; however, even if they don’t get into your food they will still contaminate your kitchen area.

Mice constantly dribble urine, meaning any surface they come into contact with instantly becomes contaminated. This steady stream means that any diseases they carry such as salmonella or meningitis, both of which can severely affect humans, will be guaranteed to find their way onto your floors and countertops. What makes this even worse is that mouse urine dries fast, becoming invisible, so you might be placing your bread down on a pile of nasty, mouse-ridden bacteria without even knowing.

Cockroaches

Roaches are a firm favorite for the most disgusting looking pests around, but while they are offensive to look at, the risks they pose to humans are even worse. Cockroaches live in sewer environments and come up into homes in search of food and warmth. While they scuttle about your countertops and kitchen cupboards they are leaving behind bacteria, parasites and pathogens, all of which can affect humans. However, roaches don’t need to contaminate a surface to harm you. They can do it simply by existing. Droppings, urine, decaying roach bodies and shed skin all break down and become air born particles— particles that can pose a serious risk to asthmatics, especially children. The floating roach dust gets into the lungs and causes allergic reactions, proving to be worse for asthma suffers than dog hair, cat fur or even conventional dust.

Bed Bugs

Bed Bug

As it turns out, you really don’t want to let the bed bugs bite. While they are not carriers of harmful diseases or parasites, they can affect you in other ways. Not only can their bites cause rashes, scars and lesions, but they can have serious psychological effects.

Bed bugs are exactly that, bugs that live within the woodwork of your bed. Infestations are very hard to get rid of and can take a long time to destroy, leaving you to sleep in an itchy, pest-ridden bed for extended periods of time. The result of sharing your bed with these bugs can cause anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation and depression. Not only does it cause these psychological problems, but these bugs push their hosts to do whatever it takes to get rid of them. This often leads to property damage, inhalation of dangerous chemicals, and even fire hazards as sufferers resort to burning infested furniture and flooring in pure desperation.

Fleas

Fleas are flightless, but they have powerful legs and can easily jump onto your pet’s fur when they are running through an infested area, such as long grass. These tiny blood drinkers will attach themselves to anything living, including you. While their bites can give you an allergic reaction, and even cause a severe and dangerous anaphylaxis in some people, fleas can have a nastier side if accidentally swallowed. Although this is rare, mostly occurring in children, the fact they are so small means it is easy for them to become ingested. The result of ingesting these minuscule insects is a far more disturbing and harmful infestation, a tapeworm. Tapeworms are large parasitic worms that live in the intestines, munching on your food and growing up to 50 feet long.

You’re not only living creature in your home that fleas, and their potential friends, can affect. While many pet owners use some kind of flea prevention, less commonly known is that animals acquire tapeworm the same way humans do, by ingesting “infected” fleas. Any flea that has eaten tapeworm larvae and is then swallowed by your pet, typically while grooming, can turn suddenly become a far more serious problem.

Rats

Rats

We saved the best for last. Rats are carriers of some of the most dangerous diseases on the planet and without these critters the bubonic plague might not have wiped out so much of Europe.

Rats have powerful teeth and can gnaw their way through pretty much anything, allowing them to reach food and water supplies resulting in contamination. Rat fecal matter and urine can also spread numerous diseases such as leptospirosis, a debilitating illness that causes liver, kidney and heart problems. You don’t even have to consume something contaminated to become infected; simply inhaling their evaporating and decaying waste is enough. Being a larger pest than most, rats also have more aggressive tendencies and are more likely to bite and scratch humans, which could result in other infections such as rat-bite fever.


EBS LogoEBS Ltd are urban pest and bird control specialists who have been operating in London since 2003. The company was founded, and is run, by Jeff Nelson a pest control expert with over 20 years industry experience.



10/22/2014

In a leap of faith, a year ago my family joined Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Midcoast Maine, a 36-unit multigenerational community on 42 acres. My husband and I loaded all our possessions into a truck and uprooted our two young children as we moved from Wisconsin to a quaint coastal community. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by friendly neighbors who helped us unload and unpack. Our children began exploring the property and we all began building friendships within our community. We instantly enjoyed living in our new high-performance home because sunlight fills our living space, fresh air circulates throughout the home and our utility bills are very low.

All Belfast Ecovillage homes are built to the passive house standard (although not certified), so we use 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than the typical code-built home. The solar orientation and huge triple-pane windows and doors allow the sun to passively heat our home. The cement slab absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night when the temperature drops, helping to maintain more even temperatures. Generous amounts of insulation and virtually airtight construction allow the heating system to remain idle much of the time. Our heat recovery ventilation (HRV) system constantly supplies a stream of fresh air to the bedrooms, while removing stale air from the kitchen and bathroom.

Belfast Cohousing Ecovillage 

Fresh Indoor Air

Most conventional homes leak lots of air out of the home, thus losing heat and creating drafts in the winter. Because homes built to the passive house standard are virtually airtight, they would have air-quality issues if there wasn’t mechanical ventilation. Exhaust fans are not energy-efficient in cold climates because they vent heated air out of the home without capturing the heat, so our home doesn’t have an exhaust fan in the bathroom or a range hood in the kitchen.

Instead, we have a Zehnder HRV system, which constantly brings fresh, tempered outdoor air into the bedrooms and removes stale air from the kitchen and bathroom. These systems are up to 95 percent efficient in capturing heat from the exhaust air before it leaves the home and transferring it to the incoming air, so we can have both fresh air and energy efficiency, even on the coldest days of the year.

Energy Efficiency

Despite the cold Maine climate, we haven’t needed to use our heating system until late October or early November. On sunny days in winter, our home can heat up 10 degrees or more solely from the sun, with the heating system turned off. Even on winter nights, our heating system turns on sparingly because of generous amounts of insulation in the walls, ceiling and slab; an energy-efficient standing-seam roof; and triple-pane windows and doors.

Our highest electric bill for heat, hot water, cooking and plug loads was during January, for a grand total of $120, at roughly $0.15 per kilowatt hour. I know people who spent more than $1,000 a month on heat alone for a similar-sized older home in our area. We later learned the difference that removing screens from southern windows makes in boosting the heating effect of the sun, further reducing winter heat bills. The upfront cost of the home was greater because of the energy-efficient features, which have an estimated 7.5-year payback period.

Comfort

Even on the coldest winter nights, our home is draft-free, and it’s comfortable to sit by the windows. Our home is heated largely by the sun, which delivers gradual heat. The HRV system helps circulate the heat from the sun in the home, balancing the temperatures between the rooms on the south side (which receives more sun) and the north side of the home. Our last home had a forced-air furnace, and I really appreciate not having dry hot air blowing on me during the heating season.

In the summer, our home remained very comfortable, even with so many south-facing windows. The Unilux windows and one of the doors can tilt in using one hinge at the bottom to allow them to open at the top, providing lots of ventilation. When it’s hotter outside than inside, the HRV system can actually pre-cool the incoming air from the outgoing air.

No Moisture Issues

I’ve lived in several homes that developed mold above the shower, despite diligentuse of an exhaust fan. Even bath towels would get moldy when left on a hook to dry during humid weather. This has not been an issue in our new high-performance house. We chose to forgo having a clothes dryer and even on humid, rainy days we can air-dry laundry inside without mold.

Healthier Living

Although we are mindful of using nontoxic products in our home, it can be difficult to avoid them completely. Having an HRV system constantly supply fresh air to the home helps mitigate the buildup of toxins in the indoor air. In recent years, I’ve found myself developing chemical sensitivities to synthetic fragrances. If I mistakenly light a scented candle or my daughter comes home wearing synthetic perfume, I can boost the speed of the HRV system to increase the amount of fresh air brought into the home to reduce my reaction.

One of our neighbors was experiencing a chemical sensitivity after she had flooring installed in her home. Instead of having to open windows during cool fall weather, she was able to boost the HRV system, which eliminated her symptoms. The HRV system also filters out pollen and dust, a great feature for people who suffer from allergies.

Energy Independence

Over the summer, 11 solar systems were installed at Belfast Ecovillage through a community purchase initiative with Capital City Renewables. By purchasing and installing the systems collectively, members received wholesale rates for solar panels and components. Now 22 of the homes are near net-zero, producing all or most of the power used over the course of the year.

There is an excitement in the neighborhood around energy conservation and green power, which began with the planning of the high-performance houses and expanded with the installation of the solar systems. Our high-performance home and community living are helping us to live our dream of green living.


Sarah Lozanova is an environmental and health journalist with an MBA in sustainable management. She lives in a net-zero house in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in midcoast Maine with her husband and two children.



10/10/2014

When choosing new windows for your home, the options out there can be a little bit overwhelming. In the first place, it can be hard to determine which window style will not only look best with the overall feel and design of your home, but will also function the best for you. Secondly, choosing the right window is essential to the energy-efficiency of your home, and there are a lot of small details that can make a big impact on your heating and cooling bills. To help make the choice a little bit easier, here are 5 things to consider when selecting new windows for your next renovation, and how you can use this opportunity to save money—and the environment—in a big way.

Save money with energy-efficient windows
You’d be surprised how quickly you’ll start to see energy savings once you make the switch to a more energy-efficient window. Photo courtesy Deposit Photos

1. Functionality and Use

Tired of the Hulk-like strength it takes to force open your old windows? Everybody’s been there. Luckily, a lot of improvements have been made over the years to make the ease of operation the norm, rather than the exception. For example, glider windows sweep open side-to-side, awning windows pivot on a central hinge, and casement windows open completely outward. But don’t think that these windows lack durability just because they’re easy to use. In addition to being made from the strongest materials, all of these styles feature secure locking systems and extra-tight seals to ensure there are no gaps that air can escape from. This thermal efficiency is what helps you save on those energy bills—which is always a big score!

2. Ease of Care

Most windows today are easier to clean than ever before, thanks to thoughtful construction and innovative materials that don’t stain, peel or crack. Awning and glider windows are particularly great options for the upper floors of your home, where it can be difficult to get at any spots or smudges on the outer panes. Both options have removable sashes which allow you to clean both sides without any trouble. Plus, the overall easy of care means gunk and debris has no chance to build up in the nooks and crannies, which can otherwise compromise the insulating properties of your windows. A small detail sure, but one that can make a big difference over time.

Refresh interior and exterior
Most of all, with brand new windows, you’ll be able to enjoy and fall in the love with the views from your home all over again. Photo courtesy Deposit Photos.

3. Size

Remodeling can be a great time to finally increase the size of your windows. Larger pane windows, or architectural bow or bay windows, allow more light into your home which can totally change the mood of your rooms and even make small spaces appear larger. However, because of their size, larger windows can let in more UV rays which can damage and discolor walls and fabrics within the room. Consider energy-efficient glasses like Low E II, LoĒ³-366 and Tempered, which are coated with metal oxides that can block these rays, provide overall greater insulation and prevent any sun damage from ruining your decor.

4. Material

Not all windows are made equal. Traditional materials like vinyl and aluminum aren’t very durable and can wear, warp and crack over time. For your upgrade, consider installing fiberglass windows, which are extremely resistant to seal failures and also never peel, rust, dent or discolor. Increased durability means you’ll never have to worry about your windows being compromised, and you won’t have to re-invest in new windows after a few years like you would with those made of lower-quality materials.

Create new views
Installing a brand new window with any variety of interior or exterior finishes can really refresh the overall look of a room. Photo courtesy Deposit Photos.

5. Climate

If you live in an area with drastic and unpredictable temperature fluctuations, the constant heating and cooling of the air can cause your window to expand and contract more than normal. In old or poor-quality windows this can cause cracks, so you’ll want to consider an efficient alternative that can withstand even the wildest temperature differences without any breakage which can, again, compromise the heat retention in your home.

Now that you know the ins and outs of how your new windows can help increase your energy-efficiency, you can make a more well-informed choice that works with your home, lifestyle, and surroundings. Your local home improvement experts can also give you more advice about which windows are right for you, so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask!


KazlovPaul Kazlov is a “green” home remodeling enthusiast and an industry pioneer for innovation in home renovation. Paul writes for the Marvin Windows NJ blog and strives to educate people about “green” products such as metal roofing and solar. Follow him on Twitter @PaulKazlov.



10/3/2014

Green living is back in style. In fact, environmental awareness and concern has become so heightened that more and more people are joining in on the green revolution by leading a greener lifestyle. Some incorporate eco-friendly products into their lives, such as natural cleaners, while others have started to practice better living habits, for example, turning off lights in an empty room. With various ways to easily achieve a greener lifestyle, you, too, can go green from the comfort of your own home. Today, let’s take a look at one part of your home that should never be missed—your kitchen.

Green Your Kitchen
Photo courtesy HisPotion Magazine, via Pinterest

1. Clean Well and Greenify

For a spic and span kitchen, stop using toxic cleaners. Instead, make the switch to natural cleaning alternatives. Although there are many commercial, store-bought cleaners we trust, it’s super cost-effective to make your own homemade, all-natural cleaners. For example, baking soda can be used in many household cleaning recipes thanks to its natural ability to deodorize and polish surfaces. Lemon is another great cleaning ingredient that can be mixed into dishwashing liquid to boost its degreasing abilities. These ingredients will cost you next to nothing, and are likely already available in your kitchen pantry.

2. Choose Wisely: Gas Or Electric?

Gas Or Electric
Photo courtesy Pamekins, via Pinterest

Choosing a stove can be tough. Likely torn between gas and electric, find a stove that best fits in with your budget and lifestyle, and choose whatever you can sustain for at least 10 years to save on materials and resources.

If you opt for an electric stove, be sure the model is energy-efficient by finding out whether it uses induction elements. These consume only half the energy of standard coil elements by transferring the electromagnetic energy to the pan; the cooktop also becomes relatively cool. On the other hand, if you choose to buy a gas stove, keep in mind that the lower BTU (British Thermal Unit) output it has, the higher the energy-efficiency of your stove will be.

3. Go Bulk

Buying In Bulk
Photo courtesy One Good Thing by Jillee

Studies show that two-thirds of the total packaging wastes by volume is attributed to food packaging. To achieve that green kitchen you want, and avoid contributing additional wastes, be sure to purchase items in bulk. This will ensure less packaging and fewer trips to the store, and will also save you money. An important tip in buying in bulk: Make sure that you consume all that you’ve bought, or else it will be an added waste. You can also get discounts by using coupons when buying in bulk.

4. Store Good Foods

Make sure the food present in your kitchen is healthful and organic so you’ll be more inspired to commit to a healthful diet. Cut back on red meat by minimizing its supply during meals; just have one chopped steak for dinner. You can also eliminate meat from your diet completely and look into the benefits of becoming a vegetarian (or frequent vegetarian).

5. The Greener Way to Wash Dishes

When washing dishes by hand, save on water by having one part of your sink filled with soapy water and the other part filled with rinse water, rather than keeping the faucet constantly running. Also avoid running your dishwasher every night. Finally, test the economy feature of your dishwasher; it’s programmed to save water and energy.

6. Cookware That Lasts Matter

Green Cookware
Photo courtesy Better Homes & Gardens, via Pinterest

Investing in good cooking utensils and cookware can also contribute to a green and healthy kitchen. Some products may be a bit pricey, but having sets that will stand the test time will save money in the long run. It will also allow you to avoid instances where you throw the container together with the leftover food.

7. Plants Add a Touch Of Green

Kitchen Herbs
Photo courtesy bloglovin, via Pinterest

Your kitchen can act as an extension of your garden. Plant small plants or herbs in old tin cans, and grow them in your kitchen windowsill. Not only will this lend you a better view while washing dishes, you can directly harvest the herbs for meals.

8. Opt for Kitchen Cloth Towels

People Towels
Photo courtesy Etsy, via Pinterest

Every day, more than 3,000 tons of paper towel waste is being produced by Americans, according to People Towels. In order to help, opt for kitchen cloth towels instead. After using this product, you can wash them to reuse. This will also save you money on constantly restocking paper towels. Just remember, if your cloth towels no longer smell good, it’s time to replace them.

9. Reduce Waste with a Menu Plan

Stop wasting money on food that’s destined for the trashcan by forming a menu plan. Come up with a detailed and interesting weekly plan to help you avoid eating out too much. Or if you do eat out, remember to account for leftovers that can still be enjoyed to avoid throwing away wasted food.


Aby LeagueAby League is a medical practitioner and an Elite Daily writer. She also writes about business and other topics of great interest. Follow her @abyleague and circle her on Google+.



10/1/2014

Although it may seem counterintuitive, indoor air is typically two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. As energy-efficient homes become tighter and tighter with less air infiltration, indoor air quality deteriorates without proper ventilation and mindfulness. With numerous sources of indoor air pollution found within the home, it’s important to minimize them while boosting healthy practices. Thankfully, there are many simple actions you can do for cleaner air.

Indoor Air Quality 

1. Use Natural Fragrances

Although you may associate pine, lemon or botanical scents with cleanliness, synthetic fragrances can emit numerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that evaporate or off-gas into the air at room temperature. Some of these compounds are known to be toxic or hazardous. One fragrance can contain a couple hundred chemicals. Conventional laundry products, cleaning supplies, air fresheners and personal-care products may contain numerous toxins, although it might merely be listed as “fragrance” on the label.

To reduce your exposure, use mild cleaners that don’t contain fragrances or make your own with essential oils. Avoid using products that have fragrances in the list of ingredients, and be aware that some products labeled unscented even contain fragrance (so read the ingredients list). For healthier personal-care products, refer to the Environmental Working Group's Cosmetics Database, and use baking soda, essential oils or ventilation to remove unwanted odors.

2. Prevent Mold and Moisture

Molds can produce allergens, aggravate asthma symptoms and, in some cases, produce toxic chemicals. They can irritate the skin, eyes, nose, throat and lungs, regardless of whether the person is allergic to mold or not. Wet surfaces can start growing mold in just 24 to 48 hours.

Moisture is the most important factor impacting mold growth. Look for mold growth around leaky plumbing fixtures, around the foundation, and near windows and sinks. Common sources of water include leaks from floods, the roof, plumbing fixtures, humidification systems and sprinklers. Stop the source of moisture entering your home, clean mold where possible, or replace items that cannot be properly cleaned such as carpeting, ceiling tiles or furniture. Avoid breathing in mold when making repairs. For severe water damage, consult an expert.

3. Install a Home-Ventilation System

Some of the super energy-efficient homes of the 1970s were so airtight they developed indoor air quality issues. Stale air and moisture couldn’t exit the home, and fresh air wasn’t coming in. “One thing that a lot of people got wrong when building super tight houses was not ventilating them well,” says Brian Hughes, a carpenter for GO Logic who lives in a virtually airtight home at Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage with a Zehnder ventilation system.“It might not be intuitive that [airtight] homes need to be ventilated.” Hughes believes that heat recovery ventilation (HRV) and energy recovery ventilation (ERV) systems have revolutionized high-performance homes because they allow a constant stream of fresh air while not compromising energy efficiency.

HRV systems extract stale air from the home and supply preconditioned fresh air from outside. In warm weather, Zehnder HRV systems pre-cool the intake air using the exhaust air, without the two streams mixing. In cold weather, the heat from the exhaust air is transferred to the intake air. These systems are up to 95 percent efficient. ERVs transfer both heat and humidity and ERV systems help maintain comfortable moisture levels within the home.These ventilation systems boost indoor air quality by removing moist air, odors, smoke, and fumes and replacingstale airwith fresh, filtered air.

4. Use Low-Emission Products

Many of the goods we use in our homes release VOCs. Many dry cleaners use a solvent called perchloroethylene (PERC), which can damage the brain and central nervous system and is a likely carcinogen. Formaldehyde is found in numerous home products, including particle board, plywood, paints, adhesives and vehicle exhaust, and is a human carcinogen. “It’s the smell in new houses, and it’s in cosmetics like nail polish,” says Otis Brawley, doctor and chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society. “All a reasonable person can do is manage their exposure and decrease it to as little as possible. It’s everywhere.”

To avoid exposure to PERC, look for cleaning businesses that use CO2 or wet-cleaning methods, alternatives that are safe for most clothes or air out recently dry-cleaned clothes before bringing them into your home. To reduce your exposure to formaldehyde and other VOCs, be mindful of the products that you bring into your home. Unwrap and let new furniture and carpeting off-gas in a garage for a few days before bringing it inside. Use solid wood products, or ensure that pressed wood products are sealed on all sides. Use no- or low-VOC paints and adhesives, and increase ventilation during painting projects. Potentially hazardous products often contain warning labels stating to use the product in a well-ventilated area. Whenever possible, find safer alternatives or use such products outdoors and allow projects to dry before bringing them indoors.

5. Grow Indoor Plants

It’s common knowledge that plants add oxygen to the air, but did you know they also remove numerous toxins, including formaldehyde, benzene (found in glue, paint and auto fumes) and trichloroethylene (found in paint stripper and spot remover)? A study by the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, found that indoor plants reduce anger by 44 percent, depression by 58 percent, fatigue by 38 percent and anxiety by 37 percent.

Most common houseplants have been shown to boost indoor air quality. Aloe vera clears benzene and formaldehyde; spider plants remove smog, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene; and snake plants clean smog, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. Aloe vera and snake plants are also ideal for the bedroom because they release oxygen at night.


Sarah Lozanova is an environmental and health journalist with an MBA in sustainable management. She lives in a net-zero house in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in midcoast Maine with her husband and two children.





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