4 Easy Ways To Make Your Home Greener

woman with hands to the skyYou want to do your part and help the environment, we know you do. But it all seems so complicated and time-consuming, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. There are a few simple and affordable ways that you can contribute to the health of this planet — and your home.

Now, adding solar panels or upgrading to eco-friendly appliances may not be a realistic change for your household, but a simple rearrangement of your existing things or converting key areas of your home to an eco-friendliness, can be a major contributor to green living.

These habits take minimal time while benefiting the environment—and your wallet. Here are 5 ways to make your home greener and healthier:

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1. Toss conventional cleaning products. Commercially available cleaning products are convenient but they aren’t always your safest—or cheapest—option. If you look at the label on most conventional cleaners, you’ll see a warning: ‘hazardous to pets and humans. That’s why you should alternately spray countertops with white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, each in a metal spray bottle. Using this method kills 99 percent of E. coli, the same way that your conventional cleaner does but it costs pennies and it’s totally safe and nontoxic.

Other household substances can serve as inexpensive cleaners as well. For instance, Greer uses half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda to remove water stains from the shower or to clean chrome and bathroom mirrors. Baking soda on a damp sponge can also be used as a scouring tool.

2. Make the most of your appliances. Running a refrigerator can account for as much as 15 percent or more of a household’s electric bill. But as you know, you can’t just unplug it like you could with a TV or computer when they aren’t in use. However, you should defrost frozen foods in the fridge rather on the counter. One, the refrigerator keeps a constant temperature, which is safer [than leaving frozen meat on the counter]. Also, because it’s a block of frozen whatever it is, it keeps the interior of your refrigerator cooler.

Then, when you transfer food to the oven, don’t line the racks with aluminum foil, as this reduces airflow and uses unnecessary foil. While you’re heating up the oven, why not add other items you need to bake later in the week? Consolidate your baking to save time and energy. For instance, bake five or six potatoes instead of just one, and eat them over the next week.

3. Use light strategically. You can boost the light output and efficiency of bulbs by unscrewing and dusting them. The dust that builds up on the top of light bulbs can be an economic hazard, since built-up dust covering the bulbs limits the amount of light it emits. It also causes the bulb to burn up faster than a clean one.

4. Avoid air leaks. Improving your home’s insulation means fewer drafts and lower heating bills. But if you’re a renter or have a limited budget for insulation, you have a few inexpensive options for reducing drafts and air leaks. Use outlet protectors (the kind you’d use to baby-proof a home) and foam insulating pads to plug air leaks in outlets on exterior walls.

For windows, use rope caulk to weatherproof the perimeter. It’s much more aesthetic than covering your windows with plastic, and you can keep it in a plastic bag to reuse it the next year. Particularly in old houses, this is a very easy, cheap way to prevent drafts.

A Room-By-Room Guide To An Allergy-Free Home

It’s spring, which means allergy season is upon us. If you have mild to severe allergies, you can do a few things to minimize pesky triggers. For example, start with your front door: Use a doormat made of synthetic materials. Why?

READ: The Scary Chemicals In Your Sofa

Natural materials (such as rope or other fibers).can break down and become a good environment for mites, mold, and fungus, which then get tracked into the house. Also, be sure to wash all mats at least once a week.

Other front door tips: Clean dead insects from porch lights. As they decompose, they become an allergen source. Also, put a rack by the front door for footwear, and encourage your family and guests to remove their shoes when entering. This will reduce the amount of dust, mold, and other allergens that are tracked in.

READ: Shocking Places That Germs Live

Your Bedrooms

  • Tackle the dust. Clean behind the bed and dressers, under the bed, and on the top of the ceiling fan. Always use a damp cloth; dry cloths just spread the dust around.
  • Eliminate the following items, which are dust and dust mite magnets: wall-to-wall carpeting, blinds and curtains, down-filled comforters, anything made with feathers, stuffed animals, and upholstered headboards.
  • Make the bedroom a no-pet zone. Keep your door shut so they can’t even cross the threshold.
  • Strip your bed. Wash everything, including the comforter or blankets, in 130°F water. Wipe down the mattress with a damp rag.

READ: Are You Allergic To Your Clothes?

Your Closets

  • Keep clothing in zippered plastic bags and shoes in boxes off the floor.
  • Forgo mothballs in favor of cedar chips, or store clean woolens in sealed plastic or airtight containers. You can also place garments in the freezer for several days to kill moths and larvae.
  • Check corners and walls for mold. You may have a leak you’ve never noticed because it’s in the back of a dark, crowded closet.

Your Bathrooms

  • Check under and behind toilets to make sure there’s no mold growing because of condensation. Make sure toilets are installed properly so water doesn’t leak into the walls or floors, which could encourage mold.
  • Wash the shower curtain in hot water once a month. Or use a shower curtain liner that you can replace inexpensively every couple of months.