It's hard to believe Earth Day is almost here! When we think about Earth Day and earth-friendly habits, we often focus on the outside world but, at Modern Kids Design, as a team, we also chat about how we can find ways to connect the dots between what we do at home and what we do for the environment outside our homes. Many of our actions, such as recycling or conserving water, aim to protect our Earth and environment. These are highly important green actions that collectively can have an immense impact on the well-being of the planet. But what if we also get passionate about protecting our inside environment too? This Earth Day, we want to invite you to look at things from another angle and focus on the environment inside your home as well. The idea here is that if we take care of our home environment with the same amount of passion, collectively, this too will have a big impact on the environment we share.
Greening Your Indoor Environment
These days, many know that our homes can harbor pollutants, toxins, and other items that can affect our physical health, as well as the health of the planet. But we don't always know what to do about it and thinking about it can even get a little overwhelming. We recommend taking it a step at a time, learning what we can and doing what we can...when we can.
Here are some thoughts and suggestions. Greening your indoor environment this Earth Day and focusing on your micro-environment can help you better connect to the great outdoors and help you connect the dots between the small things we do in our homes and the large effect they can have outside.
Indoor air pollution can actually be worse than outdoor air pollution. This can lead to a host of physical symptoms that we may not actually realize are tied to our physical environment. Poor air quality can lead to asthma, headaches, nausea, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, itchiness, and other symptoms. Use the following tools to help you combat contaminants and clean up your indoor air quality.
Air Purifier: An air purifier can help remove contaminants from the air—but it isn’t a magical solution for a complex problem. You’ll still need to take other actions like ventilating your home and cutting back on air pollutants.
Humidifier/ Dehumidifier: Depending on where you live, you may need a humidifier or dehumidifier to ensure your home has the right level of humidity. Excess humidity can cause mold and mildew growth. Dryness can lead to sinus issues. The ideal humidity level is between 40-50%. If you have a basement, you may find that you need a dehumidifier in your basement and a humidifier in your bedroom. A hygrometer can help you determine your indoor humidity so you can find the right level that works for you and your family.
Change Air Filters: Changing your air filter every 1-3 months (depending on where you live, whether you have pets, and whether you or your family members have any allergies) can help ensure you are getting the best air in your home. Otherwise, you are pushing air through dirty filters and exacerbating the problem.
Natural Cleaners & Sprays: The Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in fragrances, cleaners, and supposed “air fresheners” can leave you feeling less than fresh. Essential oils and plant-based cleaners can do the same job while not harming your indoor environment.
Ventilation: Open up those windows to let some fresh air in! This can help clear out indoor pollution and reduce the chances of mold growth.
Low-VOC Paint: If you want to add a splash of color to your walls, make sure to use low or no-VOC paints or stains.
Vacuum: Vacuum regularly to remove allergens that may settle in your carpets. If you’re in the market for a new rug or carpet, check that it’s made from natural materials.
Bring the Outdoors In: Live plants aren’t just beautiful to look at, they can also help boost your indoor air quality. Bamboo palms, gerbera daisies, peace lilies, spider plants, and English ivy can help remove toxins from building materials (formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, and carbon monoxide) from the air.
While air quality is one of the largest issues affecting our indoor environment, sneaky toxins are right on its heels. Even when you focus on buying organic foods, you may still be harboring some surprising toxins. Keep a lookout for the following fugitives.
Pesticides: We tend to say “buy organic when you can,” and there’s a reason behind it. When you purchase produce and wash it, there can still be residual pesticides on it. Yuck! This is especially the case with certain produce. We love the Environmental Working Group’s research, especially in this area. If you can’t always buy organic, try to buy organic varieties of “the dirty dozen.” On the flip side, the clean fifteen are generally safe for consumption in either organic or nonorganic form.
Here is something else to think about. Home pesticide use (as in what people are using in their backyards for example) is one of largest contributors to environmental pollution. It's been documented that people use more than what is recommended, which of course has a collective impact. Needless to say, it's not good for families, and it's not good for the environment. Thankfully, there are more and more earth and family-friendly options available now.
BPA and Phthalates: What are you storing your leftovers in? If you said plastic, you may be contaminating the food you’ve so lovingly prepared. Phthalates are often found in #3 plastics (PVC plastic), which may be used in plastic wrap, storage containers, and bottles. Check containers before purchasing them and consider switching to glass or stainless steel for food storage and lunch prep. When purchasing cans, make sure they are BPA-free. Both Phthalates and BPA can have disastrous long-term effects on our endocrine systems and that of our children. Skip them whenever possible!
Soaps and Beauty Products: There’s a handful of nasty chemicals that have snuck their way into many everyday products like dish and hand soap, shampoos, body washes, and toothpaste.While we might like to think that if a product has found its way onto store shelves, it must be safe, that is not the case. The FDA has only banned a few ingredients from cosmetics and does not regulate ingredient safety to the extent that many people might think. That goes for certain claims as well, such as “for sensitive skin”. Claims like that have not been verified and are often used as marketing the tools. So what should you avoid? Well, it depends on the product. For soaps, avoid triclosan, triclocarban, and parabens. For other products, review these EWG shopping tips. Check out the EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetics database for more in-depth information.
Earth Day is a time to reflect upon Mother Earth and what we can do to help keep her healthy. Ensuring that our home environments are safe can help contribute to her overall well being by reducing the use of particular products. Combined with larger actions to reduce our carbon footprints, we can each make large strides towards our conservation goals.
As always, feel free to reach out and let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org and what you'd like to read about going forward. If you are curious about the picture this week, we took it in Yosemite. Thanks for reading and Happy Earth Day!