Using or Making Non-Toxic Household Products

Using or Making Non-Toxic Household Products

Use the following household items:

  • Lemon:  is useful against most household bacteria and leaves a pleasant fragrance.
  • White Vinegar:  cuts through grease and gets rid of mildew and odours.
  • Cornstarch:  is used to clean windows and carpets.
  • Borax:  cleans, deodorises and disinfects.

Making Cleaning Solutions:

All-purpose cleaner:  Mix a ½ cup of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of borax into 2 litres of water.  Use to clean the shower, bathroom chrome fittings and windows.

Air Freshener:  Having pot plants inside the house reduces odours inside the home.

Bathroom mould:  Mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with 2 parts water and spray onto the mould.  Wait at least an hour before using the bathroom after spraying.

Carpet stains:  Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water and spray onto the stains.  Leave for a few minutes, then clean with a sponge, using warm soapy water.

Heavy Duty Carpet Cleaning:  Mix a quarter cup each of salt, borax and vinegar.  Rub the paste into the carpet and leave for a few hours before vacuuming.

(Source:  eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm)

Eco-living Tips

Eco-living Tips

Eco-Sabbath:  Once a week, for an hour or other set time period, don’t use any man-made resources – no buying, using electricity or answering your phone.

Replace your disposables:  When these run out (razors, batteries, etc), replace them with reusable materials.

Buy used goods:  Furniture, such as tables in good condition, costs a fraction of the price of new.

Make your own resources:  Where possible, making your own goods reduces waste.  Make gift bags out of old cereal boxes and cover with old gift-wrap.

Share:  Share books, magazines, newspapers and games between friends and neighbours.

Use less paper (including paper towels):  Store used kitchen swabs in a small container in the kitchen before washing and reusing.

(Source:  globalstewards.org)

Being Frugal to the Nth Degree

Being Frugal to the Nth Degree

Let’s look at ways in which we save money.

The kitchen and bathroom are the best places to start saving water:

  • Purchase water-efficient appliances when looking to replace existing ones.
  • Don’t be tempted to use dishwashers and washing machines before a full load is created.
  • Plug the sink when washing dishes or vegetables and reuse this water.
  • When waiting for hot water to come out of the tap, collect the cold water that comes out at first, for use in other areas.
  • Install an aerator – when attached to end of the tap, less water will be used, with the same effect.

Save electricity:

  • Avoid using central heating and under-floor heating.  Consider putting in carpets or wooden flooring instead of tiles.
  • Use more blankets and layers of clothing in winter.  In summer, open windows and create more shaded areas.
  • Use the sun to power our home – this is a free source of energy.
Composting

Composting

Available resources are made use of in an eco-friendly home.  Recycle food scraps – making compost means we save money and reduce the amount of waste that is normally thrown away.  Composting is an excellent way to live green.

Find a shady area within the garden.  A compost heap is between one and five cubic metres wide – so it’s large enough to generate enough heat to break down the materials.

A layer of material such as twigs is required to begun with.  Grass cuttings and leaves are then added, and soil is thrown on top.  Manure is added when preferred, and more layers are added in this order until the compost heap is approximately 1 metre high.

Vegetable peels, fruit peels, seeds and cores, shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, lawn cuttings, straw, paper and shredded cardboard are used for composting.

Low Maintenance, Eco-friendly Materials

Low Maintenance, Eco-friendly Materials

Examples of low maintenance, eco-friendly materials are:

  • Bamboo counter-tops
  • Aluminum 
  • Stainless steel
  • Face brick and naturally coloured roof tiles

Imagine a home that requires minimum attention.  Materials that stand up to wear and tear, and which are easily cleaned are the best to look out for.  Along with helping to preserve the environment, making use of such material will leave us with more time and less costs.

And when it comes to eco-awareness, there is no time like the present.  As fresh water supplies are being depleted;  greenhouse gas emissions and pollution are on the rise, what was once a bountiful Earth is now struggling.  These are constructive steps into our future.

4 unconventional ways to save on your water bill (without cutting down on your water usage)

4 unconventional ways to save on your water bill (without cutting down on your water usage)

There is lots of advice out there on how to cut down on your water usage and save money on your water bill. But why deprive yourself of water simply to save a few Rand? We’ve come up with four ways to save money without having to cut down on your water.

Plant indigenous plants in your garden

When a garden is filled with indigenous plants, you will barely need to water or maintain it throughout the year. Indigenous plants can withstand the hot South African summers, while still staying green during winter months. Imagine having to almost never water your garden except in drought months!

Awareness is increasing in South Africa regarding trees and plants that are not native to South Africa. These plants are often referred to as invaders. Invader plants have a way of stifling the growth of native plants by:

  • Stealing moisture during dry seasons
  • Taking up space and crowding other plants
  • Self-seeding prolifically, not giving other plants a chance
  • Growing elaborate root systems that cannot be unearthed
  • Not adding any benefits to animals such as birds and insects

Another aspect to having these plants in your garden is the maintenance. Many of them steal moisture from your soil—meaning you are forced to water your garden more regularly to ensure the survival of indigenous plants. You will be required to trim these plants regularly to ensure they don’t take over. Worst of all, when seeding takes place you are left with hundreds of weeds.

The benefits to having a purely indigenous garden are many. Here are a few reasons we planted them in our homes:

  • Indigenous plants work well together. Because they are native to South Africa, they benefit each other; coexisting in a way that cannot take place with other plants.
  • These plants are more likely to stay green all year round. They don’t mind harsh climates, as they have already adapted themselves to our weather conditions.
  • Maintenance such as watering, trimming and shaping is minimal with indigenous plants. They work well together to create unity within your garden—without much effort from people.
  • Indigenous plants also bring life to your home. Because they house birds, insects and small animals, your garden will soon become its own little ecosystem. Another reason why working WITH nature is so much better!

So it’s not only about saving water—it’s also about all these other benefits. Now let’s look at another way to save water…

Harvest rainwater for everyday cleaning

Installing a  rainwater harvesting system on your property is an excellent investment. Rainwater is not fit for drinking, bathing or showering; but it can be used in almost any other capacity in your home. Use rainwater to flush your toilets, washing machine and your outside taps. In fact, any cleaning can be done with harvested rainwater which has been coarsely filtered.

Many people wonder whether rainwater is clean enough to use in the home. The answer is, YES! Basic rainwater collection tanks are perfect for watering your garden. But if you want to take it one step further, then a rainwater filtering system is excellent.

These systems perform three major functions:

  • First of all they collect rainwater more efficiently than regular surface mounted tanks. That’s because they are installed in strategic positions which maximise collection potential.
  • Second, these systems perform general coarse filtering of your water. This takes place by extracting the water from just above the surface—thereby giving you the cleanest portion.
  • Finally, these systems go one step further by distributing the water to certain areas of the home. This includes the toilets, the washing machine and the irrigation system for your garden.

That’s right. If you can get your rainwater tank connected to your plumbing, you can even use it for toilet flushing! This is a system that is usually pre-installed in a ready-built green home; but if you plan on staying in your home for years to come, there’s no reason why you can’t install such a system in your current home.

As mentioned, unfiltered rainwater is not fit for consumption. But some would argue that tap water isn’t either. So why fill your water filter with tap water when rainwater is free? If it’s available and accessible, you may as well use what nature has already given you free of charge! Since most of us use water filters/coolers in our homes, there’s nothing wrong with filtering your rainwater for the purpose of consumption. Simply access your water at the source, collect it in a jug, and fill your water filter. Within a few hours you will have perfectly clean drinking water that didn’t cost you a cent!

Now you may be wondering about the price. What does rainwater harvesting cost? How hard are these systems to maintain?

Although decent rainwater harvesting systems cost a bundle, they provide a return on investment that far surpasses their initial cost. This is a viable long term option for homeowners who want to save on their utility bill.

Maintenance on rainwater harvesting systems is minimal. These systems are designed in such a way that they run themselves. And because there are no complicated mechanics to how they work, they won’t breakdown or malfunction.

Reduce the need for running your taps unnecessarily

Plumbing has slowly evolved over the decades. Today we have awesome systems which will help you save on your water bill. Although these savings are small at first, accumulatively they make a massive difference.

One such system is a heat pump. Heat pumps work in conjunction with three other systems which keep your hot water warm within the pipes. These include:

  • Hot water pipe insulation
  • Insulation of the tank to negate the need for constant heating
  • A linked loop plumbing system to prevent waste

We’ll look at each of these aspects more closely. But first, let’s explore how having hot water immediately on tap ultimately saves water.

You may be surprised to learn how much water is wasted while you wait for it to warm up. Conventional plumbing systems allow water within the pipes to cool down within minutes of your previous use. So every time you need hot water, you have to run your hot water tap for about 15 seconds or more before it warms up.

This wastes A LOT of water! Collectively, litres and litres of water are lost. That’s literally money down the drain.

So let’s now look at the three factors that help you save money on your water bill:

  • Hot water pipe insulation

When hot water flows through pipes, insulation keeps it warm. Insulation material is wrapped around pipes to ensure heat is not lost while the water sits dormant inside. This ensures that hot water is immediately accessible whenever the hot water tap is turned on.

  • Insulation of your water tank

In addition to the pipes being insulated, the tank needs to retain its temperature too. By keeping the water tank insulated, water does not require constant heating. Electricity is saved and so is water—because again, you don’t need to run your tap to get to the hot water. It’s already there!

  • Linked loop plumbing

A linked loop plumbing system is another practical way to keep hot water accessible throughout your home. This again negates the need for running water to get it to the desired temperature. Linked loop plumbing ensures that water is always warm, always accessible no matter where you are in your house.

Use reputable green vendors to fit your plumbing systems

As with all industries, the green home industry in South Africa is rife with low quality materials and installers. That’s why it’s important to find reputable vendors when looking into these systems. Yes, you will pay a little more. But rather that than having to worry about problems down the line.

Here are some you may hear about:

  • Leaking pipes

Leaking pipes may cause you unimaginable problems later on. Because these pipes are built into walls, floor and ceilings, they need to be of a very high quality. Low quality pipes will leak after a few years and breaking down your home to repair them is simply not worth it. And even if you don’t realise you have a leak, your water bill will be ridiculously high despite your attempts to save on water usage.

  • Cheap insulation material

We’ve already seen how insulation of pipes and hot water tanks can save money on your water [and electricity] bill. But if that insulation material comes loose, it’s function is lost. Additionally, if the wrong type of material is used, your insulation won’t be as effective.

  • Poor installation

When a green plumbing system is not fitted correctly, it will not perform as well. If it’s not performing the way it should, it’s not saving you money—and is therefore a useless addition to your home.

  • Cheap brands

Green home components should come from reputable green suppliers. There are countless cheap brands out there and many South African installers use these brands—choosing price over quality. Do a bit of research before you get an installer out and make sure they know their brands.

Don’t be discouraged by these possible problems. Fortunately there are companies in South Africa that are serious about delivering a high quality service.

 These water saving strategies are probably very different from the ones you’re used to reading about. And while they are unconventional methods, they are super effective in giving you a return on your investment.

If you’ve never considered green features as a way to save on your water bill, then now’s the time to look into it. As green home development increases, more and more of these methods will be implemented. Accumulatively, when water is saved, it has a huge impact on our planet.

It also has a positive effect on the economy since everyone benefits when water is saved! So, for saving on your pocket, your planet and your peace of mind; implement these systems wherever you can and save our most precious resource.

9 Eco-friendly ways to keep warm this winter

9 Eco-friendly ways to keep warm this winter

Unless you’re a swallow, following the sun to avoid a chilly winter just isn’t possible for most of us. But you don’t have to dread the long, cold nights if you follow the simple tips in this article. Not only will your home be cosier, you’ll be saving money and saving the planet.

Most of our methods for combating the icy blasts of winter involve using electricity. And that’s why we expect to see a spike in our yearly electrical bill between June and August. But with the increasing costs of this source of energy, it makes sense to look for more affordable alternatives. You don’t have to deprive yourself of warmth and comfort—just be smarter about the way you use it.

# 1: Draft-proof your house

The key to keeping your home cosy in winter is insulating it. That way the warm air stays inside, and the cold air stays outside. So take the time to check for any air leaks. Doors, windows, plumbing and wiring holes are the most obvious spots for air leaks.

Arm yourself with a tube of exterior silicon caulk or some insulation strips and get to work patching up the gaps. And don’t forget the gap between your doors and the floor. You can use a simple door sweep to solve this problem.

These are in-expensive measures you can take to insulate your home without impacting the environment. You may still need to use a heater to warm up the air inside your home, but it will be more efficient with proper insulation. And you’ll see a real reduction in your energy bill over the winter months.

# 2: Close the door to unused rooms

Remember, it’s much easier and more energy efficient to heat a small space. So cut down on the area you have to heat by closing doors to unused rooms. You could even roll up a towel or mat and use it at the bottom of the door to stop any air leaks.

That way you aren’t spending energy heating up an area that’s not in use. If it’s unlikely that you’ll need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, then close your bathroom door before you go to sleep. This is good advice when it comes to bathrooms and guest toilets.

Bathrooms are usually completely tiled which makes them very cold in winter. Closing your bathroom door will prevent the cold air from seeping out and finding its way into your bedroom while you sleep and lowering the temperature while you sleep. You’ll sleep better in a room that’s comfortably warm and once again, it will reduce the amount of energy you use to keep your bedroom at the right temperature through the night.

# 3: Use a hot water bottle to heat your bed

The hot water bottle versus the electric blanket always stirs up a passionate debate. From an energy perspective you could argue that an electric blanket is more efficient than boiling a kettle. But that’s only if you use it to warm up your bed and switch off the moment you climb in. But how many people can really resist leaving it off the whole night?

By contrast, a hot water bottle does require more energy, but the effects last longer without the need for continually consuming expensive power. The trick is to wrap your hot water bottle up and place it at the bottom of your bed at least half an hour before you go to sleep. This gives it time to warm the bed up before you get in. And you can un-wrap it during the night to release more warmth as you need it.

You could even use a microwaveable hot water bottle to save on heating costs. And you’ll still have a toasty place to lay your head in winter without putting a big dent in your electricity bill.

# 4: Leave your oven door open after cooking or baking

Winter is the perfect time to indulge in some comfort food. So after whipping up a tray of chocolate chip cookies or a tummy-pleasing macaroni and cheese, leave your oven door open. All the power used to make these delicious things results in a lot of heat that goes to waste if you simply close the oven door once you’re done.

Leave the door open though, and you’ll fill your kitchen with some warmth (and a homely smell) while you enjoy the fruits of your domestic labour. And your kitchen will still be cosy as you get working cleaning up afterwards. If you’re serious about reducing electricity costs and saving the planet, small habits like this can make a real difference in the long run. You should always look for ways to get the most out of the electricity you use—especially in winter.

# 5: Invest in a humidifier

The air in winter is not just colder, it’s also drier. So it’s no surprise that many people use a humidifier in the colder months to make their homes more comfortable. Using a humidifier has a number of benefits:

  • It keeps your skin moist so you won’t suffer from scaly skin and chapped lips.
  • Your wooden furniture will last longer and won’t dry out which often results in shrinking and cracking.
  • You won’t suffer with a dry throat and nasal passages from breathing in cold, dry air all the time.

But the great thing about humidifiers is that they actually save you money on your heating bill. Moist air feels warmer, so you’ll be able to turn down your thermostat and still have a cosy, comfortable house. You need to do your homework though and make sure you’re getting the right kind and size of humidifier to suit your needs. Think about the size of the room you’ll be using it in, and how convenient it is for you to refill it.

If you’re not ready to spend money on a humidifier, you can always buy some indoor plants. They’ll help to add more moisture to the air in your home. Or, you could open the bathroom door after a hot shower and let the moisture and warmth spread out into your home.

With the right humidifier in place you can enjoy the health and comfort benefits of warm, moist air throughout the winter and save on heating costs.

# 6: Change the direction of your ceiling fan

We’ll bet you never thought about this nifty trick. Ceiling fans are designed to spin anti-clockwise and force warm up and away during the summer months. But by reversing the way they rotate you can use this to your advantage in winter. That way the warmth is forced down to where you really need it.

Most fans have a switch that you can use to change the direction in which the blades spin. And this little trick is perfect for rooms with high vaulted ceilings which are difficult to heat up in the winter. Just set the fan on its lowest setting to keep the warm air moving downwards, and your space will feel just as cosy as a smaller room.

Once again, this is a more efficient use of energy than just relying on running heaters at high temperatures for a long period of time.

# 7: Use a space heater and only heat the room you’re using

There’s no need to constantly heat your entire house in winter. It’s expensive and it wastes electricity. So get used to using smaller heaters to warm up the room when you’re in it. That way you stay warm and comfortable without running up a huge bill in the process.

The rooms you use most often are usually the kitchen and living room, so don’t worry about the bedrooms until just before you turn in for the night. Get the heater on while you bath or shower; that way the room will be warm and snug when you come out.

# 8: Put rugs down on tiled floors

Not all homes have carpets in every room, so when winter hits invest in some large, thick rugs to make your floors more comfortable. Unless you have underfloor heating (which can be expensive), heating the tiles in your home is almost impossible.

And while walking barefoot across a cool, tiled floor is heavenly in summer, in the winter it’s a nightmare. So indulge in your passion for interior décor and add some rugs to up the cosiness and save your feet from an unpleasant experience.

# 9: Dress warmly and make a hot drink

It goes without saying that when winter strikes you need to dress warmly. Throw in a cup of tea, coffee or even hot chocolate and you’ll be as snug as the proverbial bug in a rug. It’s easier to raise your body temperature than warming a whole house. And it’s cheaper too.

So get out your blankets, wraps and slippers and enjoy everything that winter has to offer.  After all, it only lasts for a few months every year.

Unless you live in a home that has been purpose-built with expert insulation and double-glazed windows, the truth is that you are going to need to use electricity to maintain a certain level of comfort throughout the winter.

But there are ways to stay warm, save money and conserve energy. Just keep the following in mind:

  • Insulating your home is an inexpensive, sure-fire way to reduce your electricity bill. So look for ways to stop warm air getting out, or cold air getting in and seal them up. You’ll benefit from a properly insulated home in the summer months too.
  • Don’t let the heat you do generate go to waste. Think of all the things that create warmth in your home. You heaters, oven and even your shower can make the air around your warmer. Get the maximum benefit from all of these heat sources and find ways to contain it.
  • Heat smaller areas and save. If you’re not using it—don’t heat it. This is another way of ensuring that the heat you create isn’t wasted.

Green homes must be so well insulated that you hardly notice the change in seasons.  They should feature insulated ceilings and walls, floors and pipes and make use of double-glazed windows and glass doors to render the fluctuations in temperature throughout the year almost non-existent.

Combine that with a hydronics radiant heating and cooling system and you’ll have a comfortable and cost-effective environment. So if you’re in the market for a new home, it’s worth looking at one that already has the insulation you need  for a cosy winter.

How to reduce your home’s carbon footprint—and save money

How to reduce your home’s carbon footprint—and save money

There’s more to green living than simply reducing your impact on the planet. You can actually save money by doing simple things that make a big difference. And where better to make a difference than in your own home?

Reducing your carbon footprint is all about having as little impact on the earth as possible. We all know that climate change is affected by some of the ways we live our daily lives. A large factory may be emitting harmful gasses into the atmosphere. A private person may own an automobile that’s way too large for what he or she needs.

All of these lifestyle choices have an impact on the environment. Reducing your carbon footprint is about making the right decisions in your everyday way of life.

In this article we will discuss small ways you can reduce your carbon footprint in the simple way you live your life at home. And best of all, these methods won’t cost you any extra to implement. It’s a great harmony of living well, living cheaply, and living responsibly towards the planet.

Insulate your home from draughts and air leaks

Insulation in-between external and separating walls helps to maintain the temperature inside the house. This reduces the cost of heating your home in winter and cooling it in summer. If you’re buying a new home, look for one that is expertly insulated.

But insulation goes a lot further than your walls. In summer, a lot of hot air comes into your home when the sun bakes your roof. Ceiling insulation is a must in these cases. A home that has ceiling insulation can be easily identified when the weather outside is uncomfortably hot or cold. You walk in and can immediately feel the difference.

Insulation is all about trapping air inside and preventing external air from coming in. A great way to do this is by insulating your windows and glass doors. Believe it or not, air does travel through glass. But preventing this from happening is easier than you think. Double glazed glass panes can be fitted to your window frames. This special glass can also be used in your glass doors.

So how does double glazing work? Simple. It’s two panes of glass with a cavity of air in between them. This air traps the hot or cold air and keeps your home at a consistent temperature—regardless of the climate outside.

Now if a home is TRULY green, it goes even further to ensure insulation. Floor insulation makes a big difference to ensure your comfort. Not only can air escape through your floor, but under floor heating and/or cooling is best maintained with a floor that contains some form of insulation.

So if you’re searching for a green home, ask your agent about these types of insulation. Having some is great, but having all of them is even better! The more insulation your home has, the more power you end up saving in the long run.  And of course the environment will love you for it.

Replace incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs or LEDs

Compact Fluorescent Light and Light Emitting Diode bulbs are more energy efficient and last longer than regular incandescent bulbs. You won’t have to replace them as often, so you save in the long run. Even turning off the light when you’re not in the room will help to reduce your carbon footprint.

There’s been a lot of publicity about these light bulbs. Truth be told, not enough can be said about how great they are. Not only do they shine brighter, but electricity usage is minimal. These light bulbs are a bit more expensive, but they will last longer than regular bulbs and save you loads on your utility bill.

Use a low-flow showerhead

How can a low-flow showerhead help save the environment? Simply put, water is the earth’s most precious resource. So if you can save it, you’re doing a lot. You’ll still enjoy getting clean, but you’ll use a lot less water. And don’t forget to turn off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth. It’s a little thing that can make a big difference to your water bill.

You like shower pressure? No problem! Many of the low-flow showerheads on the market today can be adjusted in such a way that water pressure is focused and strong. This is done despite the fact that little water gets utilised.

When you think of the slightly higher cost for a showerhead like this, you will quickly see what a good return on investment this is for your pocket and the environment. You save a lot of water in the long run. The longer you have it, the more you get out by saving water. So be sure to include this in your home’s carbon footprint reduction strategy.

Replace old appliances with energy efficient ones

If you need to get a new fridge, freezer, dishwasher or microwave, check the energy star rating before you check the price tag. At the end of the day, an energy efficient appliance will save you more money.

Most people don’t even know that appliances have energy star ratings on the packaging. In short, the more stars such a rating has, the less electricity it uses. This is becoming an important factor to many shoppers all over the world. And yes, South Africans are starting to shop according to energy star ratings too.

The energy star ratings put a lot of responsibility on the manufacturers of these appliances. It adds an extra competitive element to products too. As more and more shoppers begin to recognise the energy star rating system, more and more manufacturers will start to produce appliances that run on less energy.

At the end of the day, the main reason for energy efficient appliances is not predominantly for money saving or better competitiveness. The main reason is to help the environment. You as a consumer and the manufacturing companies are both taking part in an important responsibility—reducing your carbon footprint on the planet.

A water-wise garden strategy

There are many small ways you can save energy and money around the home. But don’t forget your garden. Even if watering your garden doesn’t use energy, harvesting rainwater in tanks will also help you save money by saving you on your water bill.

As mentioned above, water is our most precious resource. It’s important to save as much of it as we can. Rainwater harvesting is an effective way of doing this. When certain parts of your home utilise rainwater instead of municipal water, your carbon footprint is reduced. That’s because using less water in general is beneficial to everyone around the globe.

Now there are various ways you can use rainwater in your home. But you will find that most of your water goes to maintaining your garden. South Africans are avid gardeners. And hey; there’s nothing wrong with that. However there are some simple ways to run your garden in a way that very little water is used.

The first is by planning indigenous plants, shrubs and trees. Plants that are accustomed to the South African climate need much less water than non-native plants. Another way is to fill your garden with lots of pebbles, pots, statues, birdbaths, rocks and pavers. These will negate the need for lots of watering and they will lend your garden an aesthetic quality that will never grow old.

But your biggest water saving method will be to not use municipal water to irrigate your garden in the first place. Now you may be saying that all water is originally rainwater anyway; so besides your water bill, what’s the difference? Well, remember that a lot of rainwater gets lost after it falls over your home. It sinks into the ground, washes down the street or gets soaked up by the sun.

Rainwater harvesting collects as much of this water as possible, and keeps it for when you need it! This puts you in control of when you use a resource that you obtained for free. It prevents waste and ensures a clean alternative to treated water from your municipality.

Can you buy a house like this?

You may be interested to know that many houses already have these strategies in place. But even more importantly, green home developers are building green homes that have ALL of these factors in place. Imagine living almost completely green!

People who live in these homes reduce their impact on the environment. It’s awesome to watch parents raise their children in this kind of lifestyle. Fortunately for us all, more and more South Africans will begin switching to a greener lifestyle—some quicker than others.

It takes no more than a little imagination and effort to make any home a green one. By doing so you are securing a future for future generations. You are also limiting the impact you and your family currently have on the environment. The wonderful truth about living green is that it all works out for the benefit of everyone. Yes, the planet will be smiling, but so will you. You’ll be healthier, happier, and financially better off for implementing these strategies. 

How to conserve resources for a greener living

How to conserve resources for a greener living

The trend towards green living is growing as people are becoming conscious about the environment. Conserving resources is always a good place to start. The first step is to change your own habits in your home, which will not only help save the environment but also costs. You will probably be surprised at how much unnecessary stuff accumulates in your home and ultimately ends up on a landfill.

So, let’s look at ways you can reduce consumption in your home:

Use less paper

Avoid using paper cups and plates: There is no need for paper cups and paper plates if you have a fully stocked kitchen. If you don’t feel like doing dishes, then rather eat out. It’s more costly producing these items and then having them end up on a landfill. You do have to make small lifestyle changes sometimes in return for a greener home. And really, in this case some soap, water and a few minutes of your time is definitely worth it.

Eliminate paper napkins and paper towels: Paper in the home doesn’t only include magazines, newspapers and postage. Think about how many times you have wiped your hands or mouth with a paper napkin or tended to spillage with a paper towel. What’s worse is that paper towels and napkins are not recyclable, so they are definitely items you should scratch off your green home shopping list.

This doesn’t mean you now have to walk around with a dirty mouth or dirty hands after consuming a plate of vegs at dinner. It simply means you should choose an alternative, which in this case could be a cloth napkin, which you can simply wash and reuse.

Magazines and newspapers: It’s not uncommon to find a stack of magazines and/or newspapers in many households, unless it’s a green home of course. But these days, technology allows us to enjoy the same reading experience on a digital device, as electronic versions of most reading material is now available.

Paper receipts: Most businesses, including retailers are making the shift towards a paperless environment. Email receipts are fast replacing their paper counterparts. Help move this paperless process along by simply requesting that an electronic version of your receipt be emailed to you instead, next time you do your grocery shopping.

Audit your mailbox: We all know how annoying ‘junk’ mail can be and as a result, it either ends up being stashed into a drawer or cabinet or thrown in the trash. This means more unnecessary paper either accumulating in your home or unfortunately ending up in the landfills. Avoid this by contacting the advertisers and asking them to remove your name from their mailing list.

Get your bills and statements online: There is obviously mail that you are expecting and wanting to receive, such as your statements and bills. In this case you can contact your service providers and request that they send you digital versions instead. These days most businesses offer paperless alternatives anyway.

Avoid using disposable products: Don’t use plastic shopping bags, but if you already have them in your home then simply reuse them instead of getting more from the retailer when you do your grocery shopping. You can also purchase permanent shopping bags made from cloth or canvas that you can re-use every time you shop.

Also, when doing your shopping check the labels on all the products you wish to purchase and only select products with recyclable packaging.

Reduce your home energy consumption

Choose energy efficient appliances: Select appliances with a good energy rating. This is usually indicated by stars. The more stars, the better the rating.

However don’t be fooled by larger appliances, as their energy efficiency is determined by size versus consumption. Because they are bigger, they will still use more electricity than the smaller ones.

Your fridge and freezer consumes massive amounts of electricity because it operates 24/7, 7 days a week. When looking for a more energy efficient model, consider one that has butane or pentane for insulation.

Some countries are even implementing minimum energy performance standards on all new refrigeration appliances. It’s better to consider these options (if available), rather than those that are “CFC free,” as this is no reflection of their energy consumption.

Be sure to unplug your appliances once you have switched them off. Many appliances have a stand-by mode, which means they still draw electricity even when they are switched off.

Consider insulation for heating and cooling your home: In summer you want to keep your home cool, whereas in winter we want to keep your home warm. Unfortunately this means more electricity consumption, which is not ideal when you are striving to conserve resources in your quest for a greener home. The solution is simple. Insulation. Insulating your roof or ceiling will naturally block out heat in summer and trap warmth in winter.

Prevent Draughts: Draught proofing your home is simple and cost effective. All you need to do is make sure your windows and doors are closed and sealed properly. You can seal doors with draught excluders and get special seals for your windows.

If you have a chimney then get a damper to prevent heat from escaping in winter when your fireplace is dormant and also from entering your home in summer.

Don’t use down lights: Not only do these lights chew up a lot of electricity, but they also cause heat loss by interfering with the ceiling and insulation. A good alternative is Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) or light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs).

Use shading on your windows: A lot of heat enters your home through your windows in summer, especially if they are big and face west, east or north. Blocking the sun’s heat means you don’t have to use extra energy via cooling systems to cool down the interior of your home. In winter, simply close curtains or blinds to help retain the heat inside your home.

Manage your air conditioner effectively: Ideally, if you want an authentic green home, you should avoid using an air conditioner altogether. Consider ceiling fans as an alternative as they are more cost effective and use less energy. However, if you feel you can’t do without an air conditioning system, then use it sparingly.

It helps conserve energy if you keep windows and doors closed while your air conditioning system is active. Remember to switch it on before the heat of the day has already penetrated your home, as this will allow it to cool the interior a lot quicker.

It also helps to invest in a unit that has a thermostat and/or a timer as it will allow you to manage the unit more efficiently by setting the temperature accordingly and enabling it to switch off automatically. Avoid setting the temperature too low, as it will use more energy to maintain it.

Reduce water consumption

Water is a valuable resource and so, saving water is an obvious choice if you want a greener home.

Look out for water-efficiency labels and standards (WELS): This scheme allows various water-dependant appliances, as well as showers, taps and toilets to be rated in terms of water efficiency, which is determined by their number of stars.

Cut down on shower time: If you shorten your shower by just a minute, you could save 150 gallons of water every month. If you prefer to bath, then make an effort to use less water and spend less time in the bath so you aren’t tempted to top up with more hot water when the water cools down.

Harvest rainwater: Save water by watering your garden with collected rain water. This can be done by installing a rainwater tank.

Use recycled greywater: This is used water from your basin, sink, tubs, shower and washing machines. Even though it may contain various household waste material, it can still be used to water your garden. Take note that sewerage water is not greywater.

Invest in a water saving showerhead: Water saving shower heads fully compliment green homes, as they not only help save water but are also great energy and cost savers.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

These activities fully support a greener home environment. Not only do they help you conserve energy, they also reduce the amount of toxic gas emissions which are released into the atmosphere during extraction, manufacturing and disposal of various resources. Take advantage of recycling programs. Simply gather all the recyclable material in your home, such as paper, tins, magazines and other items and drop them off at designated recycling sites.

Go green in your yard

Composting is also a great way to limit the amount of garbage that ultimately ends up on landfills and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. You can use food, as well as garden waste to produce compost which can then be safely fed back into the soil to help nourish your lawn as well as your plants.

Limit your fuel consumption

Transportation is a big contributor to your carbon footprint and so this is a great area where you can make a big difference. Reduce the number of errands so you use your car less. Instead of doing your shopping weekly, draw up a comprehensive shopping list and do your groceries fortnightly or monthly. If you are going on a long journey to an area you are not familiar with, avoid getting lost and clocking up additional miles by using a GPS.

Ultimately you want to try avoid driving where possible. If you are close enough to your destination, then rather walk or ride there on a bicycle. Not only will this help save fuel and the environment, but it will also have a positive impact on your health.

Avoid entertainment that uses energy: Consider spending more time reading and playing games to reduce the demand on electricity and natural resources.

Consider downsizing: Smaller homes are just easier to manage, especially if you want to reduce your consumption of resources. Smaller homes consume less energy for lighting, heating and cooling. So if you are aiming for a greener home then consider downsizing. There will also be less space to accumulate paper and other unnecessary materials and you won’t need as much furniture or furnishings. If you intend to build your green home from scratch, then be sure to consider green building ideas and techniques as well.

Reducing your overall consumption of various resources contributes to a greener home, as well as a more sustainable living. Furthermore, you will also end up cutting costs significantly which is a great reward when choosing to go green. Remember to share these tips with family and friends. The more people that chooses greener living, the better it will be for the environment and for us all. 

Tips on how to detox your home

Tips on how to detox your home

Your home is your sanctuary, it’s a place where you want to experience peace and good health. These days we are becoming more aware of what constitutes a healthy environment, both outdoors and indoors and so the trend towards greener homes is growing. This means there is an emergent need to eradicate poisonous chemicals and toxins that are both harmful to a home’s occupants, as well as the environment.  

Removing toxins from your home environment is a similar process to detoxifying your body. It’s about removing obstacles that lead to ill health. The process is really simple. Identify the products in your home that are hazardous and replace them with eco-friendly alternatives for a much healthier, greener home.

Here is a list of the most common toxic products, their effects and some non-toxic alternatives:

Pesticides are a common household product. They are designed to kill living organisms such as weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides), fungus (fungicides), rodents (rodenticides), and others. Unfortunately because they are designed to kill, they do harm other organisms, including humans. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 3 million cases of pesticide poisoning each year and up to 220,000 deaths, primarily in developing countries. It’s is often difficult to contain the area during the application of pesticides, so there is a great risk of exposure to other organisms in the same vicinity.

Harmful effects of pesticides: It has been noted that even low levels of exposure to pesticides have adverse health effects. Children and developing organisms are unfortunately the most vulnerable. The effects of exposure range from memory loss, loss of coordination, reduced response to stimuli, reduced visual ability, altered or uncontrollable mood and general behaviour, and reduced motor skills. Other health effects include asthma, allergies, and hypersensitivity as well as cancer, hormone disruption, reproduction and foetal development issues.

Alternatives: For a greener home consider using non-toxic products made from d-limonene.

Ammonia is a very common substance in the home, as it is found in most household cleaners. Ammonia releases fumes that are harmful to the eyes, lungs and skin. Products made with ammonia become even more harmful when mixed with chlorine bleach or other products that contain it. The byproduct of this combination is chloramines gas, which is extremely poisonous and can cause severe damage to the lungs. Ammonia is therefore particularly harmful to asthmatics.

Harmful effects of ammonia: Ammonia is known to burn and irritate the skin and attack mucous membranes. It is highly toxic to the body if accidentally ingested. Ammonium nitrate particles are formed when ammonia fumes come into contact with nitrates in the environment. These toxic particles attach themselves to dust and other household fabrics such as carpets and upholstery.

Alternatives: Replace ammonia with vinegar-based cleaners instead and you can also use regular soap to maintain a clean, but greener home.

Chlorine can be found in many household cleaners. It is also used as a fumigant and often added to water systems because it prevents the growth of certain bacteria. Unfortunately this means chlorine exists in treated tap water as well.

Bleach releases a chlorine gas, which adversely affects the respiratory system. This is why chlorine is often referred to as a choking agent and has also been classified as a chemical weapon. Therefore, eliminating this product shouldn’t only be a consideration for people wanting greener homes, but rather for everyone on this planet.

Harmful effects of chlorine: Chlorine attacks organic matter, skin and is a mucous membrane irritant. Inhalation of chlorine gas can cause coughing and breathing issues, including hyperventilation as well as chest pains, eye irritation, rapid heartbeat and even death. It has also been linked to dementia in elderly patients.

Alternatives: If you have a pool, avoid using chlorine as a disinfectant. Instead, consider silver-copper ion generators and salt water. They are great, safe alternatives.

There are also safer, natural alternatives to chlorine based home cleaning products available such as hydrogen peroxide-based bleaches.

Fabric Softener’s have lovely fragrances, but they are merely covering up the odours released by the toxic ingredients. Your clothes may feel nice and soft as well as be static-free, but this is because these chemicals actually form a layer of lubrication over the fabric.

There are huge amounts of harmful chemicals in fabric softeners which include, but are not limited to: enzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, ethanol, a-terpineol, chloroform, pentane etc. You will find a comprehensive list on the internet.

Harmful effects of fabric softeners: It can cause central nervous disorders, respiratory issues, liver and kidney damage as well as loss of muscle coordination.

Alternatives: Invest in garments that are made from organic cotton, as they are much softer. Purchase a natural non-toxic fabric softener which can be found in most health stores that you will be visiting often anyway while planning your greener home. If you don’t want to spend money, then you can also make your own! Baking soda is a great, safe alternative. Washing your clothes in cooler water also helps.

Formaldehyde is commonly found in glues that are used with various woods, boards and carpeting during home renovations, construction and when making low cost furniture. It is also found in paint, varnish, adhesives, floor finishes, wall paper, cardboard and paper, as well as in some hair care products and nail polish.

Harmful effects of formaldehyde: It has been identified as a human carcinogen. Symptoms of exposure include headaches, nasal irritations, watery eyes, and burning in the nasal passages. It can also cause coughing, asthma, nausea rashes, allergic reactions and in some cases has been linked to birth defects.

Alternatives: Buy solid wood furniture instead as it doesn’t contain formaldehyde or if you prefer pressed wood products, then ensure that they are adequately sealed with a plastic laminate coating. Replace regular paints with Low-VOC and Zero-VOC paints which are commonly found in most paint stores. Ensure proper ventilation where exposure cannot be avoided.

Nonstick cookware and bakeware: Teflon is a product used for nonstick surfaces. It contains perfluoroalkyl acid, a synthetic material that is harmful to humans and animals. Exposure can occur when the cookware or bakeware is scratched or overheated.

Harmful effects of perfluoroalkyl acid: it has been linked to ADHD, high cholesterol, thyroid disease as well as infertility.

Alternatives: Opt for alternative nonstick cookware, such cast iron, glass or stainless steel. And replace your non stick cookware and bake ware immediately if you notice chips or scratches.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl) is found in many household items, ranging from food packaging, toys to shower curtains and building materials. It is known to be the most toxic plastic to both the environment and our health. PVC is made from a chemical called vinyl chloride, which is a known human carcinogen according to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).  One shower curtain made from PVC can release more than 100 chemicals into the air. Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) is often added to PVC to make it more flexible.

Harmful effects of PVC: Some of the chemicals released by PVC products can cause developmental damage as well as damage to the liver and central nervous, respiratory, and reproductive systems.

Alternatives: Simply avoid packaging with the #3 or the letters “PVC” on it, which can usually be found next to the recycling symbol. Substitute PVC containers with glass containers and use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic ones. Some manufacturers are starting to become more aware of the dangers associated with PVC and are supporting the green home trend by excluding it when producing textiles, wall covering and various furniture items.

Anti-bacterial soaps: Many antibacterial products found in the home include triclosan which is meant to prevent bacterial infection. Triclosan can be found in antibacterial soaps, cosmetics, detergents, surgical cleaning agents, toys and some toothpastes. In 2013, the FDA issued a consumer update citing the need for additional studies of its potential hazards and developmental effects, which is definitely a red flag. Furthermore anti-bacterial soaps can create antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Harmful effects of anti-bacterial soaps: There are many health risks associated with triclosan, some of which include dermatitis, allergies, immune, thyroid reproduction and brain development issues. By using anti-bacterial products we become more resistant to the bacteria, which only forces it to become stronger by mutating into more harmful strains.

Alternatives: The best method to remove bacteria from our bodies is to use plain soap or pick a liquid soap that includes alcohol instead of triclosan. Work up a lather and wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Don’t forget to clean under your nails, the cuticles and palms. Use a clean towel to dry your hands.

Radiation is found everywhere in the home. So when striving for a greener home, you need to think beyond chemicals. Radiation is produced by electronic devices and appliances. Sources of electronic radiation include: Cordless phones, cellular phones, cordless baby alarms, microwave ovens, wireless routers, radios and Bluetooth devices.

Harmful effects of radiation: Although radiation produced by electronic devices and some appliances is of a very low frequency, the cumulative effect can be harmful to our bodies. While there is not much scientific research, certain proposed health problems have been linked with radiation. These include: Irregular behavioural patterns in children, disrupted sleep patterns, frequent headaches, stomach issues, skin cancer, hypersensitivity and increased blood pressure, feeling of melancholy or depression and exhaustion and fatigue.

Alternatives: It’s not easy to rid your home of all these electronics. Some people may do so to achieve the ultimate green home, but it depends what extreme you want to go to. Instead, you can invest in an electric filter as well as special paints (Y-paint and air pure paint) to block out the radiation, as well as window shielding film. Bed canopies and shielding floor mats are also a good investment for the bedroom, as they will protect you from harmful radiation which disrupts your sleep by interfering with your brain wave patterns.

Detoxifying your home doesn’t have to be a daunting project. There is no need to get stressed out about it, as this will also have a negative impact on your health and your home environment. Take it one step, one room, one cupboard and one product at a time.

You may be satisfied with the alternative, greener products and therefore happy to eliminate them, but in some instances this may not be the case. If so, then simply take the necessary precautions to limit or prevent exposure completely. For example wear protective clothing and masks when cleaning and ensure sufficient ventilation. But remember, the more toxins you can eliminate the better as it will be one step closer to a happier, greener home.

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