There's an inextricable link between your health and that of the environment. But what if I also told you that you didn't have to spend a ton of money on expensive, boutique-brand cleaning products in order to green-ify your life?
Well, it's true! Here are 11 tips to reduce your daily expenses, all the while saving your health ... and the environment!
1. Make, don't buy, house cleaning materials.
Instead of throwing out your conventional cleaners and springing for all new eco-friendly brands, make your own with some ingredients you likely already have on hand. It’s a great idea to finish the cleaners you have and re-use the spray bottles to make your new, healthy varieties. Then, you can buy just a few essential ingredients in bulk and reduce the amount of packaging you contribute to the waste stream.
For example, white distilled vinegar (or apple cider vinegar) is the ultimate healthy home multitasker. Cheap and nontoxic, it cuts through soap scum, deodorizes, and will make your windows and glass shine. Mix 2 cups water with 1 cup vinegar in a spray bottle (add a few drops of dish soap to cut through residue left from ammonia based cleaners). One 32-ounce bottle of vinegar provides the same cleaning power as two bottles of conventional (and chemical-laden) window cleaner for less than a third of the price.
2. Use wool dryer-balls, not dryer sheets.
Dryer sheets are often heavy on the fragrance, which means they don’t have to list any number of known toxins on their label. Wool dryer balls (not to be confused with plastic dryer balls) not only soften your fabric, but they can reduce your drying time because they separate the clothes as they circulate.
3. Use plants for air purification, not ionic air-purifiers.
According to the EPA, the average adult breathes 13,000 liters of air per day, so it's essential that air is clean. Portable air purifiers are popular, but some can emit ozone, a lung irritant and pollutant. Use houseplants proven by a NASA research to naturally purify the air; one potted plant per 100 square feet should do the trick. The top 10 plants that remove pollutants include: Areca Palm, Lady Palm, Bamboo Palm, Rubber Plant, English ivy, Janet Craig, Dwarf Date Palm, Boston Fern, Ficus Alii and Peace Lily.
4. Use high-efficiency pleated filters, not fiberglass filters.
Your heating and cooling filter may be your main defense against indoor air pollution. But keep in mind that it needs changing at least every 3 months. If you don’t, it means the dirt, dander, and pollen collect and the filter can’t clean anymore.
High-efficiency pleated filters are more effective because they have more surface area for the air to pass through. A cleaner air filter will help increase efficiency and can equal savings on your heating and cooling bills and that’s, well, HOT!
5. Upgrade to energy star appliances.
It may seem cheaper and even greener to just to stick with your older refrigerator or dishwasher. But, consider how much money you’re paying in energy bills and how much energy you’re wasting with your old machines. Switching to appliances rated Energy Star by the U.S. Department of Energy means you’ll save over $100 each year in energy bills, and you’ll use 10% to 50% less energy and water.
6. Use a home filtration system for drinking water. (Don't buy bottled!)
There's no proof that bottled water is any safer than tap water, yet we spend 240 to 10,000 times more for it (yikes!). So if you are concerned about contaminants in your tap water (and you should be), invest in a water filtration system for your home.
With respect to cost per gallon of water, calculated upon the cost per gallon for replacement filters and energy costs, distillation systems and reverse osmosis systems properly maintained typically cost between 35-65 cents per gallon while some portable filtration systems typically costs only 1.6 cents per gallon (versus bottled water which costs approximately $1.22 per gallon).
Plus, when you consider that only 20% of recyclable bottles ever make it to the recycler, you can see the scope of the problem. Instead of buying bottled water, invest once in a reusable stainless steel or glass container.
7. Use glass straws.
Ban disposables and try reusable glass straws. You’ll prevent hundreds of wasteful disposable straws each year from entering the landfill. Plus, they won’t leach toxic plastic chemicals from hot or cold liquids and they come with a lifetime guarantee against breakage. Beverages taste much better, too!
8. Use a coffee mug, not paper cups.
Buy a reusable cup and you’ll not only save cups from going to the landfill, but you’ll save some money on your coffee since Starbucks offers a $0.10 discount when you bring your own cup. Better yet, brew your organic coffee at home.
9. Go solar, not electric.
Once the badge of the green elite, solar is now in the realm of the possible for the rest of us. Innovation and tax credits mean that going solar has never been more affordable. Sit back. Relax. And, watch your meter roll backward.
10. Use surge protectors, not wall outlets.
Surge protectors not only protect your electronics, but they also make it easy to turn all your machines off at the end of the day. Some surge protectors are so smart they can actually turn off your equipment when they sense you are no longer using it! That way you can conserve energy even when you forget to turn them off yourself (and make senior moments a thing of the past).
11. Hang-dry half of your laundry load.
Did you know that the dryer is the second-biggest energy sucker in your home according the California Energy Commission? Dryers cost about $85 annually to run. By making the switch to line drying your clothes, you can save $40 a year, even if you hang just half of your laundry!
With a little upfront investment and eleven simple changes, you can begin to save a stash of cash while doing your part to keep yourself, our planet and your family healthy.