Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Green tips for your home - to detoxify your home (part 2)

You can implement many strategies to ensure your home is greener, environmentally friendly and less toxic, both for you and for the earth. This is part 2 of the way to detoxify your home to ensure it is greener.

1. Carpet
No matter how many times you vacuum, steam clean or wash your carpet, it will still be a haven for little dust mites, dust particles, dirt and human tissue (plus animal tissue if you have any pets). Carpet is probably the worse choice for flooring, because it allows all sorts of dirt, dust and bugs to become trapped and live inside the fibres. It is not a very good flooring choice for people who have allergies, asthma, sinusitis or any other upper or lower respiratory conditions.

Carpet, whether wool or synthetic, produces little fibres that break away from the strands every time you walk over them. These little bits of fibre are one of the items that cause irritation to people who have
allergies, asthma, sinusitis or any other upper or lower respiratory conditions. Synthetic carpet is probably worse than pure wool (or wool blended) carpet, due to the very nature of the fibres in the carpet, which have been processed and treated with so many chemicals on many levels. A lot of energy goes into making carpet, which is not very sustainable for the earth. This is not very environmentally friendly.

If you have carpet flooring, the best advice would be to rip it all up in every area of your house and reveal the wooden floors underneath, or if you are in an apartment, you will need to get environmentally friendly floating floor boards to take the place of the carpet. The next part describes why hard (non-carpeted) flooring is a better choice for floor coverings than carpet.

2. Hard flooring
There are several choices for hardwood flooring, which are the best not just for the environment, but also to your health, irrespective of whether or not you have
allergies, asthma, sinusitis or any other upper or lower respiratory conditions. Hardwood floors do not provide any fibres for the dust, dirt and dust mites to get trapped, which you will breath in every time you walk over the carpet and disturb them.

The advantages of hard flooring are many:

  • Less dust and dust mites - since there are few fibres for the dust mite to live, there should be few of these mites, plus the amount of dust collected will be less
  • Easier to clean - hard flooring is much easier to clean and once it is cleaned, it stays cleaner than carpet. Any spills can be easily mopped up and will not normally cause a stain on most hard flooring types. All that is required is a vacuum and mopping the floor with some mild soapy water
  • Cheaper to clean - hard flooring does not require regular steam cleaning (like carpet requires) to keep clean - it is simply a matter of mopping the floor, which can be done quickly, which means savings on the at least yearly steam clean that carpet needs
  • Better for people with allergies / asthma - people with lower and upper respiratory conditions do so much better and suffer less episodes of illness when they are not exposed to dust and dust mites
  • Modern and stylish - hard flooring looks more modern and stylish compared to some garish or worn away carpet which may have been there for over 20 years. While carpet fashion dates, natural hard flooring does not.
  • Longer lasting - carpet, especially in the high traffic areas, wears away quite quickly, especially the cheaper variety (which tends to be put into most apartments these days). Hard flooring on the other hand, lasts a lot longer, even in the high traffic areas and even if there is a lot of usage of the flooring

Types of hard flooring:

  • Wooden Floorboards - these give a warmth and richness to any room because of their colour and natural material. Wooden flooring can be either long planks or more complicated parquetry. The type to use depends on your budget and taste. It is not recommended to lacquer the floors, as this produces noxious fumes from the toxic chemicals used, but instead to use environmentally friendly, water-based floor varnish, which give more of a matt finish. Floating floorboards can also be purchased which have been varnished with an environmentally friendly product.
    To clean wooden floorboards - simply vacuum or sweep weekly with periodic buffing. Wash with a mop using 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar.

  • Tiles - there are a variety of tile types that can be used for flooring in all areas of a house or apartment, but obviously some are more compatible to certain areas than others. The most commonly used types of tiles are:

    (a) Ceramic/poreclain - these type of tiles are dense and strong, easy to clean, long lasting and does not absorb smell, water or carry allergens. Since ceramic and porcelain tiles are man-made, there is also more flexibility in the tile design.


    (b) Mosaic
    - these type of tiles are basically smaller versions of the other types of tiles and can be made from a wide variety of materials, depending on which area they are to be used in. They are more suited as a feature of a tiled floor, rather than as the whole floor, but can be used on the whole floor. They take more time to be laid as there are so many of them to put together, but the patterns and features that can be created are wonderful.

    (c) Terracotta
    - these type of tiles are a traditional,authentic flooring product that possess a warmth,charm and character. Hand-made terracotta tiles are formed by pressing raw clay into moulds: this produces a durable but low density tile.Compared with denser alternatives terracotta tiles act as an excellent insulator underfoot,almost eliminating the need for assistance from under-floor heating

    To clean
    tiles - simply wash with a damp mop. Natural (non-abrasive) detergents in water can also be used, but not on terracotta.

  • Stone - this type of flooring is more suited to outside areas, but it can be used inside a house too, in a den, rumpus room or family room, as long as some soft, natural-fibre rugs are used to soften the flooring. While stone is a very natural flooring type, it is not suitable for the interior of apartments
    To clean stone flooring - simply wash with a damp mop. Natural (non-abrasive) detergents in water can also be used.

  • Marble - this is a a heavily relied upon natural stone for flooring, especially in upmarket houses and hotels due to it's reliability and because it is a long-lasting, yet very beautiful flooring type. Marble is a natural stone product, very durable and stain resistant. Marble can stain unless it is is sealed on a regular basis, especially in the high traffic areas, but always choose a natural, environmentally friendly sealant.
    To clean marble flooring - simply wash using a damp mop and periodic buffing. Natural (non-abrasive) detergents in water can also be used.

  • Granite - Granite is a fine to coarse grained rock which often contains quartz, feldspar, and mica crystals. It can form as a result of igneous (volcanic) or metamorphic geologic activity. The presence of quartz in granite gives it incredible durability and hardness characteristics. Granite is almost always more durable than marble. Granite is a natural stone product, very durable and stain resistant.
    To clean granite flooring - simply wash using a damp mop and periodic buffing. Natural (non-abrasive) detergents in water can also be used.

  • Slate - this type of flooring is a natural stone, which works well in wet areas (bathroom, kitchen), but also equally well in lounge rooms and other areas of the house. It may need some rugs to warm up bedrooms if used there.
    To clean slate flooring - simply use a damp mop with mild soap-water mixture
In regards to the rugs that can used on the hard flooring, this is much more preferable to carpet because rugs (if they are larger in size) can be washed either on the clothes line, where they can be shampooed and hosed down or in the washing machine (if they are smaller in size).

3. Use your own recycled bags when you go shopping - don't use plastic bags
Using less plastic bags at the shops will decrease the amount of plastic that is in our rubbish dumps. This plastic takes so many years to become decomposed and produces more stress on our planet. Even the environmentally friendly bags are not as effective as taking your own shopping bags to use and reusing these over and over again, every time you go shopping.

4. Buy food in bulk
If you buy your food in bulk, you will achieve two objectives:

  • you will get the food cheaper than if you bought it in small lots and
  • you will use less packaging, which decreases your load on the planet. Bulk food buying is much more environmentally friendly as less packaging is involved and less energy is used to produce the food and packaging.
Consider joining a food co-op, which is a volunteer-based, not-for-profit food provider. Most foods in co-ops are generally organic, are quite well priced and because they are organic, are much better for you and for the planet as they use quite a lot less energy to be produced and have less of a load on the planet, due to the sustainable farming practices used to grow organic food.

5. Use environmentally friendly paint and varnish
The natural paints use less chemicals, which means less energy at factories to produce them, less stress on our planet and ultimately when these chemical paints are used they end up in our waterways, which is one way that they become polluted from the noxious and toxic chemicals in the regular paints. This means plant and marine life in those waterways are destroyed or become very polluted, which in turn affects us when we eat them.

Buy environmentally friendly natural paints and varnish, they use much less chemicals in them, which equates to less energy to produce them and they do not destroy plant and marine life in the same way that the regular, chemical paints do. In addition to this, these types of paints and varnishes are recommended for those people with allergies, asthma and other upper and lower respiratory illness, as they irritate the respiratory linings less. Another good reason to switch now.

If you use these environmentally friendly tips as a way of life, it will decrease your carbon emission footprint on the planet.

Go on, do it, your planet, the only one we have, will thank you for it - and so will your children's children and their children's children, who need to have a sustainable planet Earth to survive.